Thursday, October 12, 2006

Morning News Roundup (12 October)

BushCo's Wars
  • US President George W. Bush dismissed as "not credible" an independent US study which estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion. But the study author stood by the findings, which estimated that one Iraqi in 40 had died as a result of the conflict. The study compared the death rates from the period before the war to the period from March 2003 to June 2006.

    But the author of the study, Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, defended his findings as reliable and based on methods commonly used by researchers in the health field.

    "We use a cluster survey sampling methodology and this is something that is widely used in international health," said Burnham, co-director of the center for refugees and disaster response at Johns Hopkins.

    The survey method is used to confirm government figures for health indicators and "it's increasingly used to look at mortality rate in conflict," Burnham said. "The confidence interval is a range within which we are 95 percent certain we have the correct answer." [AFP]

  • The Shiite-dominated parliament Wednesday passed a law allowing the formation of federal regions in Iraq, despite opposition from Sunni lawmakers and some Shiites who say it will dismember the country and fuel sectarian violence. The law includes a provision that regions cannot be formed for another 18 months, a concession to Sunni concerns.

    The federalism law sets up a system for allowing provinces to join together into autonomous regions that would hold considerable self-rule powers, a right given to them under the constitution adopted last year in a national referendum.

    "This is the beginning of the plan to divide Iraq," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Sunni National Accordance Front, which boycotted the vote along with al-Sadr's party and the Shiite Fadila party. [WaPo]

  • A new report in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry finds that while a high percentage of soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, many do not show symptoms right away. More than 600 injured soldiers were followed after they returned from Iraq. They found that after one month, 4.2 percent had probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 4.4 percent had depression; at four months, 12.2 percent had PTSD and 8.9 percent suffered from depression; at seven months, 12 percent had PTSD and 9.3 percent had depression. [IPS]

NRG
  • High prices are for the first time in two decades prompting oil demand in developed countries to contract, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

    In 2006 the need for oil in members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will have shrunk 100,000 barrels a day to 49.4m b/d. This small but symbolically important re-duction is the result of the slowing of the US economy as well as its moves away from heating oil to using natural gas, the cheaper alternative, according to the OECD’s energy watchdog. [Financial Times via EuroTrib]

  • Leonard Allen, who runs a small solar panel company here, finally has something good to tell callers, he says. For the first time, he can promise it won't take 50 years to recoup the money they spend on a rooftop solar system.

    Canada's Ontario province has ordered local utility companies to pay homeowners or businesses for any electricity they generate from small solar, wind, water or other renewable energy projects, beginning next month.
    [...]
    In Ontario, the program has already brought a rush of activity. Homeowners in Toronto are climbing onto roofs to add solar panels. A cooperative of small investors is raising money to build five large wind turbines to harness Lake Huron winds. Others are eyeing the locks of a St. Lawrence Seaway canal for small hydro-turbines. Farmers are looking at manure piles and figuring the profits of using organic decomposition to create methane gas that can make electricity. [WaPo]

  • Starting Sunday, most diesel pumps across the nation will flow with fuel that is dramatically cleaner, the first step in a decades-long effort to curb air pollution that can trigger asthma attacks, cause cancer and take years off lives. The new fuel contains considerably less sulfur than the dirty diesel it replaces, a change that is expected to reduce harmful soot and other forms of pollution by 10 percent. [ChiTrib]

Domestic Potpourri
  • According to sources, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) received an invitation Wednesday to appear before the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, but a specific date was not disclosed.
    ----------
    [I]nvestigators for the House ethics committee are bearing down on three senior members of Hastert's staff to determine when they learned of Foley's actions and whether they passed on their knowledge to the speaker.

    "The three -- chief of staff Scott Palmer, deputy chief of staff Mike Stokke and counsel Ted Van Der Meid -- have formed a palace guard around Hastert (R-Ill.) for years, attaining great degrees of power and unusual autonomy to deal with matters of politics, policy and House operations. They are also remarkably close. Palmer and Stokke have been with Hastert for decades. They live together in a Capitol Hill townhouse and commute back to Illinois on weekends. [Roll Call (sub) and WaPo via Daily Muck]

Big Blue Marble
  • Years of rivalry between the Islamic Hamas movement, which now dominates the government, and the more secular Fatah, which was ousted from power in January elections, is spilling over into a struggle for power. There have been clashes between Palestinian factions before, particularly in Gaza where clan rivalries are frequently the rule of law. But what distinguishes the troubles this time is the power of Hamas and a worsening economic crisis.

    As soon as Hamas formed a government after winning January's elections, Israel withheld $60m (£32m) in monthly tax revenues and the international community halted direct financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. That, combined with frequent Israeli closures of the crossing points into Gaza, has prompted a severe economic crisis and left hundreds of young men, who have ready access to weapons, without salaries. [The Guardian]

  • At least 85 people were killed and more than 400 wounded when a new military offensive met with ferocious resistance from Tamil Tiger rebels in northern Sri Lanka, both sides said. The renewed fighting hit Sri Lanka's hopes of a political settlement to end bloodshed a day after peace broker Norway announced a deal between the two sides to resume negotiations in Switzerland later this month. [AFP]

  • The United Nations' top humanitarian official offered a grim assessment Wednesday of the situations in Iraq, Darfur and the Palestinian Territories, appealing to Arab, Asian, US and EU leaders to help find viable solutions to the unrest. He also said that violence in Iraq has "spiraled out of control" and called on Sudan's trading partners in Asia and Arab countries to put pressure on Khartoum to accept an international peacekeeping force for Darfur. [Beirut's Daily Star]

'08 Watch
  • Former Va. governor Mark Warner (D) has scheduled a morning press conference in Richmond, reportedly to announce that he will not run for president in 2008, a source with direct knowledge of Warner's thinking said. [WaPo; more details later]

  • OK Democrats, deep breath. Despite Obama's undeniable magnetism and star power, he's not your guy. Not yet.
    [...]
    Given his national profile and formidable political talents, he could have been a potent spokesman for Democratic causes in the Senate. Instead, he has refused to expend his political or personal capital on a single controversial issue, preferring to offer anodyne pieces of legislation and sign on to the popular efforts of others.
    [...]
    There are, to be sure, ways Obama could prove his mettle, not to mention his priorities. He could, say, make universal healthcare coverage his public obsession or demand an end to the war in Iraq. He could fight for full public financing of all campaigns, or seek a national living wage.

    But until then, if Obama gleams, Democrats have no way of knowing if it's because he's truly an action hero or because he's refused to step out of his packaging. And until that question is answered, the hardened fighters they know are preferable to the attractive cipher they don't. [Ezra Klein at The American Prospect]

[ posted with ecto ]


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