Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Morning News Roundup (12 December)

BushCo's Wars
  • At least 57 people have been killed and more than 220 injured after a suicide attacker detonated a large bomb in a central Baghdad square. The man detonated an explosives-packed pick-up truck after reportedly attracting crowds of Shia labourers to his vehicle with the promise of work. [BBC]

  • A group of prominent Saudi clerics have called on Sunni Muslims around the world to mobilise against Shiites in Iraq, although a statement they issued fell short of calling for a jihad, or holy war. The statement appearing on Saudi Islamist Web sites on Monday said Sunni Muslims were being murdered and marginalised by Shiites, backed by Iran, and the US-led forces.

    Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam, backs the Shiite-dominated government of Nuri al-Maliki largely because it fears that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites could lead to the break-up of its northern neighbour and spill over its borders. [Pakistan's Daily Times via Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

Sinking in a Pool of Polls
  • Negative assessments of the war in Iraq -- the central issue in last month's midterm election -- continue to hold down President Bush's job approval ratings and could cast a pall on the final two years of his presidency.

    In a new Post-ABC News poll, seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq -- the highest percentage since the March 2003 invasion. Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting.
    In this poll, 36 percent approve of how Bush is handling his job, which is the second lowest percentage in Post-ABC polls since Bush took office in 2001; 62 percent disapprove. [WaPo]

  • Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly and getting worse, and think it's time for the U.S. either to change its strategy or start getting out, according to a CBS News poll.

    Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting, but with new tactics, while 50 percent say the U.S. should begin to end its involvement altogether. Only 4 percent say the U.S. should keep fighting as it is doing now.

    Just 21 percent approve of President Bush's handling of the war, the lowest number he's ever received, and an 8-point drop from just a month ago. Most of that drop has been among Republicans and conservatives. Three-quarters of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling Iraq.

    Approve of Bush's job handling Iraq

          Now     11/14

    GOP   47%      70%

    Dem    5%       3%

    Ind   17%      23%

Climate Crisis
  • Ice is melting so fast in the Arctic that the North Pole will be in the open sea in 30 years, according to a team of leading climatologists. Ships will be able to sail over the top of the world and tourists will be able visit what was, until climate change, one of planet’s most inaccessible landscapes.

    Researchers assessing the impact of carbon emissions on the world’s climate have calculated that late summer in the Arctic will be ice-free by 2040 or earlier - well within a lifetime.
    Their finding may, however, already be out of date and something of an over-optimistic forecast, said Professor Chris Rapley, head of the British Antarctic Survey. He said a recent study by the Global Carbon Project suggests emissions are rising more than twice as fast as in 2000 which is likely to speed up ice-loss even further. [London Times]

  • In 2000, carbon dioxide emissions were rising less than 1% annually. Today they are rising more than 2.5% annually. The world added 7.9 billion metric tons of carbon in 2005 alone, up from 6.8 billion in 2000. The news comes from an analysis by the Global Carbon Project that BBC reported on.

    And while this news may not get the same headlines as the unfolding tragedy in Iraq, it is no less tragic. We need to decrease emissions to far below 2000 levels by 2050, to avoid catastrophic warming. The more we add now, the more we have to cut later–and the less time we have to achieve those cuts. [Climate Progress]

  • Hobart scientists are heading to Antarctica to study the cause of enormous cracks forming in the Amery Ice Shelf. The cracks began forming around a decade ago and are growing at three to five metres a day. The fractures threatened to break off a 900-square-kilometre piece of the Amery Ice Shelf, which is about the size of Tasmania. [ABC (Australia Broadcasting Corp)]

  • Some people like biodiesel because it is renewable and pollutes less than regular diesel fuel. Others are intrigued by its potential to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. That political and environmental allure has generated plenty of buzz this year.

    What no one has demonstrated yet is whether biodiesel, as a business, can compete on the key factor for many consumers — price.

    Imperium Renewables, a Seattle-based startup, has been obsessing over a business model it believes can beat regular diesel at the pump. The company says biodiesel can win at what it calls the "triple bottom line" of environmental, political and economic benefits.

    The strategy relies on economies of scale. Imperium is building the nation's largest biodiesel refinery at the Port of Grays Harbor on the Washington coast, capable of supplying 100 million gallons a year — one-tenth of all the diesel burned in the state.

    Once finished in June, the plant will depend on varied raw materials, technical know-how and efficient transportation to make biodiesel priced on par with diesel. Imperium says it can compete as long as crude oil stays above $43 a barrel. [Seattle Times]

Domestic Potpourri
  • In one of its final acts, the Republican Congress modestly increased the nation’s domestic oil and natural-gas supplies, permitting more drilling for oil and natural-gas in the Gulf of Mexico. When Democrats take control next month, they will attempt to change the direction of energy policy, focusing more on shrinking demand, especially for gasoline and other products that rely heavily on imported oil.

    The House will consider a variety of incentives for vehicles that burn 85% ethanol or so-called biodiesel, where vegetable oils are substituted for petroleum. President Bush is an enthusiastic backer of ethanol, and boosting federal support could be an area where the White House and the new Congress find common ground.

    Senate Democrats will consider more direct approaches to curbing fossil-fuel demand, including raising efficiency standards for auto makers, forcing them to make cars that get more miles per gallon of gasoline [WSJ's Washington Wire]

  • In a recent interview, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), the incoming House intelligence committee chairman, could not identify the Muslim roots of Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Asked by a reporter whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite, Reyes replied incorrectly, “Predominantly — probably Shiite.” Other members on the committee and several top counterterrorism officials also failed the quiz. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

Obama Watch
  • The senator was in New Hampshire over the weekend, sporting what's getting to be the classic Obama look. Call it business casual, a jacket, a collared shirt, but no tie.

    It is a look the senator seems to favor. And why not? It is dressy enough to suggest seriousness of purpose, but without the stuffiness of a tie, much less a suit. There is a comfort level here that reflects one of Obama's strongest political assets, a sense that he is comfortable in his own skin, that he knows who he is.

    But, in the case of Obama, he may be walking around with a sartorial time bomb. Ask yourself, is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of "GQ" to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable. [CNN's Jeff Greenfield]

  • But if Barack Obama goes around wearing a jacket, collared shirt and no tie, do I figure he's trying to look like a happening dude from a GQ spread (maybe, ok, check), trying to appeal to the youth vote (sure, check), looks like your average tech executive (sure), just likes to dress that way (sounds right)?

    Do I think he reminds me Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

    Wow. I've got to say I really didn't see that coming.

    I'm not saying I'm outraged exactly. It's more like curiosity. Kind of like I want to sit down with Jeff and a few Rorschach cards. Bizarre. No tie is the Ahmadinejad look? [Josh Marshall at TPM]

  • In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.

    A month ago, the Rev. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in Doug las County preached to his 2,100-member congregation about integrity and grace in the aftermath of the Ted Haggard drugs-and-gay-sex scandal. Now, the 54-year-old Barnes joins Haggard as a fallen evangelical minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin but grappled with a hidden life. [Denver Post]

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