Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Morning News Roundup (10 January)

Another quick one today as I'm dancing as fast as I can to keep up with work-related stuff and will be for the rest of the week, which also brings a bloggers summit with Old Fogey (who's flying in for a visit) and a trip to the doctor to check on the growing, kicking child inside Mrs. F.

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • US and Iraqi forces fought a significant street battle at Haifa Street in the Karkh section of Baghdad on Tuesday. Ground forces were supported by US fighter jets and helicopter gunships. The fighting left 50 persons dead, which the US said were Sunni Arab insurgents. The Shiite government of Iraq announced the discovery of several terrorist storehouses in the course of the operation.

    In contrast, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni religious association, described the operation as a "bloody sectarian massacre." The Sunni Arab narrative, enunciated over the weekend by MP Adnan Dulaimi, is that the Shiite militias are attempting to drive Sunni Arabs from their neighborhoods in the capital, and that the Mahdi Army had attacked Haifa Street Sunday and been driven back. [Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

BushCo's Wars
  • “Pentagon insiders say members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have long opposed the increase in troops and are only grudgingly going along with the plan because they have been promised that the military escalation will be matched by renewed political and economic efforts in Iraq.” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • For thirty some years, the Republicans - including Bush until recently - have been telling everyone who will listen that the US lost Vietnam because Washington took over the war and made a mess of it. As we live in a democracy and not a Pinochet-style military dictatorship, I've never liked that argument and found it to be a cheap excuse for the US failures in Southeast Asia. So now that we are three and a half years into the Iraq fiasco, where Bush has told the public over and over that the military will decide, now he is telling us that he will override their decisions. Bush has been forcing policy on them for some time but to date has made every effort to avoid it looking that way.

    So now that he is officially ramming change down there throats and with a Congress and public who has no faith in his ability to lead, why should anyone give him the freedom to make an even bigger mess? The reverse-Midas touch president has struck out too often and created too many problems, so why should we let him screw up again? If this was "three strikes and you're out" he would be back in the locker room, if not on the bus, gone long ago. [Americablog's Chris in Paris]

  • One should never underestimate the sheer volume of a president's megaphone. But beyond a certain point, it really does matter what he says.

    It is clear by now that President Bush has no interest in heeding all the calls to reverse course in Iraq and that in (Wednesday) night's speech he will call for an escalation, not an exit.

    But how will he convince American voters -- and the Democratic Congress -- to give him another shot? The public is so unhappy with the situation in Iraq and so deeply mistrustful of Bush's leadership there that yet another razzle-dazzle PR blitz with the same stale talking points just isn't likely to do the trick.
    Will the president continue with his divisive, dismissive and deceptive rhetoric -- or will he level with the American people, engage his critics and forthrightly explore the risks and rewards of his plan? Because if he does the latter, he just might restore some of his credibility on this important issue and win back some public support. [Dan Froomkin at the WaPo]

Climate Crisis
  • Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in the past 112 years -- capping a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" that was driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, the government reported yesterday.

    According to the government's National Climatic Data Center, the record-breaking warmth -- which caused daffodils and cherry trees to bloom throughout the East on New Year's Day -- was the result of both unusual regional weather patterns and the long-term effects of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    Many researchers are concerned that rising temperatures could lead to widespread melting of the polar ice caps, resulting in higher sea levels and more extreme droughts and storms. But NOAA also pointed to one silver lining: The unusually warm temperatures from October to December helped keep residential energy use for heating 13.5 percent below the average for that period. [WaPo]

  • Nearly 360 U.S. mayors representing more than 55.5 million Americans have pledged to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The effort and its leader -- Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels -- have been lauded by the "King of Climate Change," Al Gore, and celebrated in the pages of Vanity Fair.

    But although the vows may have generated warm, fuzzy feelings about helping Mother Earth, an early analysis finds that the cities are not on track for making needed cuts in planet-warming pollutants. The cities signing on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement want to meet or beat the goals of the international Kyoto Protocol, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Every state but South Dakota has a city onboard.

    Not only are the cities expected to miss the mark, a report released by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance on Monday states, "Many will miss their goals by a wide margin."
    The report, "Lessons from the Pioneers: Tackling Global Warming at the Local Level," focused on 10 cities considered leaders in the area: Seattle; Austin, Texas; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Berkeley, Calif.; Boulder, Colo.; Cambridge, Mass; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Salt Lake City.

    It emphasized the need to pass climate-protecting policy at the state and federal levels to help the cities succeed. It encouraged the mayors to standardize their methods for calculating emissions and to share with each other approaches that are working -- improvements that are all under way, those involved said. [news]

Energy Matters
  • The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the agency that runs the Metro bus service in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, estimates that it saved almost $450,000 in 2006 by using biodiesel, which is fuel made from an organic compound, such as soybeans. Metro's 390 buses used about 3.6 million gallons of fuel last year - half of which was biodiesel. [Cincinati Enquirer via Awake at the Wheel]

Domestic Potpourri
  • It's probably less of an olive branch than a recognition of reality, but George W. Bush has now abandoned efforts to get four of his most controversial judicial nominees through the Democratic-controlled Senate. As the Associated Press reports, William Haynes, William G. Myers III and Terrence Boyle have asked that their names be withdrawn from confirmation consideration. A fourth Bush nominee, Michael Wallace, checked out of the process last month. [Salon's War Room]

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