Monday, January 08, 2007

Morning News Roundup (08 January)

FYI - things will be light around here for me for the next couple of days as I tend to my day job, which is heating up this week due to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and Macworld tradeshows. In addition to regular work, I'll be covering new product announcements over at the Amazon tech blog.

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • 17,310: Number of Iraqi civilians and police officers who “died violently in the latter half of 2006, according to Iraqi statistics, a sharp increase that coincided with rising sectarian strife since the February bombing of a landmark Shiite shrine.” The Health Ministry’s full death toll was 22,950 for 2006. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki declared on Saturday that he was commencing an open-ended operation to restore security in Baghdad, “regardless of sect or politics”. One of his aides has said he would commit some 20,000 Iraqi troops to the operation – roughly equal to the “surge” in US forces expected to be the centrepiece of Mr Bush’s new strategy.

    One key question is whether or not the push will concentrate primarily on insurgents based in Sunni areas or whether the prime minister will risk alienating his support base by tackling Shia militias as well. [Financial Times]

BushCo's Wars (Foreign and Domestic)
  • Conservatives who supported Bush’s reelection are expressing outrage over the administration’s broad use of anti-terrorism laws to reject asylum for thousands of people fleeing religious, ethnic, and political persecution. Barrett Duke, a public policy analyst for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “I think it’s essentially a reaction of fear to the current terrorist danger.” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

    The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.
    Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled. [The Independent]

Climate Crisis
  • Vehicular emissions are rising in nearly every European country, and across the globe. Because of increasing car and truck use, greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing even where pollution from industry is waning. The 23 percent growth in vehicular emissions in Europe since 1990 has “offset” the effect of cleaner factories, according to a recent report by the European Environment Agency. The few places that have aggressively sought to fight the trend have taken sometimes draconian measures. Denmark (where bicycles have become even more popular), for example, treats cars the way it treats yachts -- as luxury items -- imposing purchase taxes that are sometimes 200 percent of the cost of the vehicle.

    High taxes on cars or gasoline of the type levied in Copenhagen are effective in curbing traffic, experts say, but they scare voters, making even environmentalist politicians unlikely to propose them. When Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, revealed his “green” budget proposal, it included an increase in gas taxes of less than two and a half cents per quart. [NYTimes via my Hugg]

  • Here's a great summary from the Seattle Times of the benefits and cost of compact fluorescent light bulbs -- a great FAQ to share with those new to CFLs. It also provides a link to this handy Excel spreadsheet from the Energy Star site that shows that CFLs will save you much more money in the long run over incandescents.

  • In Brooklyn, eight members of a cold-water-braving organization known as the Coney Island Polar Bear Club walked toward the waves, some wearing nothing but swim trunks. The Polar Bears held a moment of silence, turned their backs on the Atlantic and headed toward the boardwalk, a protest, albeit an underdressed one, against global warming, they said.

    The unseasonably warm spell shattered records around the city and the state as well as throughout New Jersey and Connecticut. In Central Park, the high temperature at 1:37 p.m. — 72 degrees — broke the date’s previous high of 63 degrees in 1950, the National Weather Service reported. [NYTimes]

Gore Watch
  • As the Democratic field for 2008 takes shape, one big remaining question is whether former vice president Al Gore -- winner of the popular vote in 2000, an almost-candidate in 2004 and now the public face of the movement to address global warming -- will be in it.
    [I]s Gore ready to enter the ring one more time? Don't count on it, say his closest advisers. "There are no secret meetings going on to plan the Gore campaign," said Carter Eskew, a longtime confidant of the former vice president.

    But neither Eskew nor any of the small cadre of Gore's closest advisers would entirely rule out such a bid, leaving the same small but substantial amount of wiggle room that Gore himself has left in his public pronouncements. [WaPo]

Big Blue Marble
  • Russian oil supplies to Poland and Germany have been cut at Poland's eastern border with Belarus, Polish pipeline company PERN said on Monday and a Russian company accused Belarus of diverting the flow. The development comes amid a row between Minsk and Moscow over Russian crude which is pumped through Belarus on its way to customers in the European Union. About 100 million tonnes of Russian crude pass through pipelines in Belarus each year on the way west to customers in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia, as well as Germany and Poland. [France24]

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