Friday, October 28, 2005

And in Other News

Let's step back from the brink of Fitzmas to see what else has been going on in the world these last couple of days (yes, I know... it's hard to believe there was anything else happening besides this thread and Harriet... what was her name again?).

Hooray! Sulu's Gay! (This announcement did not surprise Mrs. F.) From the AP:
George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu steered the Starship Enterprise through three television seasons and six movies, has come out as a homosexual in the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in "Equus," helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality.
I'd been willing to give Iran some rope on their ambitions (nuclear and otherwise), but this didn't help their cause; from Agence France Presse:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" triggered widespread outrage and prompted Israel to describe the regime in Tehran as "a clear and present danger".

"We believe that Iran is trying to buy time ... so it can develop a nuclear bomb," said Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem.

"Iran is a clear and present danger," he said at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In Washington, the White House said the words of the hardline Iranian president also underlined US concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"It just reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear operations," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
From Iraq, Juan Cole comments on the news that Sunni political parties are coming together:

Three small Sunni parties formed a coalition list on Wednesday. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the National Dialogue Council and the People's Gathering will join forces to contest the December 15 elections.

Before anyone gets too excited about this development, it should be noted that Reuters goes on to report,
' "Our political program will focus more on getting the Americans out of Iraq," Hussein al-Falluji, a prominent Sunni who took part in talks on the constitution, told Reuters. "Our message to the American administration is clear: get out of Iraq or set a timetable for withdrawal or the resistance will keep slaughtering your soldiers until Judgment Day." '
The Christian Science Monitor adds:
This vigorous new effort to participate is a complete reversal from the Sunni position last year that voters should boycott polls to select the transitional national assembly. But if the coalition has decided to join in a process it once rejected, it is also beginning to articulate a Sunni political agenda that is Islamist, vehemently anti-American, opposed to foreign troops, and discreetly pro-insurgency.

Many of the old Sunni leaders are gone, entangled in the insurgency, or in jail. These new leaders are hoping that they can begin to reverse a political posture that was hobbled in part by the January boycott.

"We will insist on participating in the next election by the help of almighty God," says Adnan Dulaimi, head of a group called Ahl Iraq, who has a reputation for religious devotion and toughness that elicits respect in some and fear in others.

The political platform of this evolving Sunni coalition, named the Iraqi Accord, still lacks focus beyond ensuring Sunnis aren't persecuted by a Shiite government. Nonetheless, the groups in the coalition so far are drawing up a list of candidates and have begun calling for Sunnis to vote in December elections.
And about that hand-holding last spring between President Bush and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah... seems that many are doubting that the Saudis will be able to come up with extra oil production capacity; from the NYTimes:
Last spring, the White House publicly embraced plans by Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production capacity significantly. But privately, some officials and others advising the government are skeptical about some of those Saudi forecasts.

The United States relies on a few producers to maintain enough spare capacity to keep prices and markets stable, even during war or disaster. As oil prices have climbed over the last few years amid surging demand and tight supplies, the Bush administration has looked to the Persian Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, to pump extra oil.

But doubts about Saudi Arabia's assurances of how much it can expand capacity - and for how long - have been raised in a secret intelligence report and in a separate analysis by a leading government oil adviser, according to a federal government official and the oil expert.

If those skeptical assessments are correct, the administration's hopes of increasing supplies would become still more difficult to fulfill. Washington's expectations about oil production from Iraq and the United Arab Emirates have proved overly optimistic, and the White House has failed to heed advice about both those countries from industry and government specialists, according to documents and interviews.
But a senior intelligence official, who insisted on remaining anonymous because he was not permitted to speak publicly on the issue, said that the Saudi plans to increase production by nearly 14 percent in the next four years were not enough to meet global demand. Even the Energy Information Administration recently scaled back its expectations of how much more oil the Saudis could pump in 20 years.
Smells like Peak Oil to me. Oh, and speaking of upcoming cataclysms; from Reuters:
The Mediterranean region will suffer most in Europe from global warming and changing land use this century, with more droughts damaging everything from farming to tourism, an international study said on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Europe, low-lying Alpine ski resorts were likely to go out of business, forests would expand, many species of animals and plants would be driven north and winter floods would worsen in rivers from the Rhine to the Rhone.

The report, by 16 European research institutes and published in the journal Science, is the most detailed forecast yet of the impact for west Europe of climate change by 2080, twinned with changes in land use linked to shifting populations and policies.
That should be enough to tide you over for a bit.


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