Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Morning News Roundup (16 January)

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, nearly three times the number reported dead by the Iraqi government.

    The Iraqi Health Ministry did not comment on the report, which was based on information released by the Iraqi government and hospitals. The government has disputed previous figures released by the U.N. as "inaccurate and exaggerated."

    The same day the figure was released, two back-to-back explosions struck a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74. [WaPo]

  • "I think the Iraqi people owe the, the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem, here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq." George Bush from Sunday's 60 Minutes (see video at Crooks and Liars) [quote via BarbinMD at Daily Kos]

BushCo's Wars
  • A group of more than 50 active-duty military officers will deliver a petition to Congress on Tuesday signed by about 1,000 troops calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. “Any troop increase over here will just produce more sitting ducks, more targets,” said Sergeant Ronn Cantu, who is serving in Iraq. [WSJ's Washington Wire]

  • President Bush's address to the nation last week failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war.

    Six in 10 have little or no confidence the Iraqi government will be able to take responsibility for handling security there by November, as Bush suggested. And by more than 2-1, those surveyed oppose his plan to send an additional $1 billion in economic aid.

    His overall job-approval rating dipped 3 points, to 34%. [USAToday/Gallup poll]

  • President Bush is by any reasonable measure extremely unpopular. Not unpopular -- extremely unpopular. Mid-low forties is unpopular. Mid-low thirties is extremely unpopular. Almost, but not quite unprecedented in the modern era for such a sustained period of time. The Iraq War is one of the few things that rivals his unpopularity. And the public, after signaling deep opposition to the war at the polls, sees this extremely unpopular president come before them to announce that he's expanding the really unpopular war. And if that's not enough he has the quavering look of a degenerate gambler begging his wife, half cockily half desperately, for one more chance.

    Shocking that it didn't come off well. [Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo]

Climate Crisis
  • The government's ability to understand and predict hurricanes, drought and climate changes of all kinds is in danger because of deep cuts facing many Earth satellite programs and major delays in launching some of its most important new instruments, a panel of experts has concluded. The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA's earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. [WaPo]

  • Now, where the maps showed only ice, a band of fast-flowing seawater ran between a newly exposed shoreline and the aquamarine-blue walls of a retreating ice shelf. The water was littered with dozens of icebergs, some as large as half an acre; every hour or so, several more tons of ice fractured off the shelf with a thunderous crack and an earth-shaking rumble.

    All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines. Nunataks — “lonely mountains” in Inuit — that were encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds, exposing a new chain of islands, and a new opportunity for Arctic explorers to write their names on the landscape.

    “We are already in a new era of geography,” said the Arctic explorer Will Steger. “This phenomenon — of an island all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere and the ice melting around it — is a real common phenomenon now.” [NYTimes]

  • A bill proposed by Senators McCain, Lieberman and others wants to cap greenhouse gas emissions including those from transportation and power generation to 2004 levels by 2012, with further reductions thereafter.

    The bill would put pressure on automakers to make their vehicles more fuel efficient, but could also convince them to market more pure electric and plug-in hybrid autos. If there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of plug-in hybrids and EVs on the road by 2012, that reduces the amount of total greenhouse gases produced by the transportation sector. [Wired's Autotopia]

  • Among the barrage of energy-related bills already unleashed by the 110th Congress, one of the most progressive comes not from the newly empowered Democrats but from Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, a zealous proponent of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Just as peculiar, one of the bills that most rankles environmentalists comes from Democratic golden boy Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois.
    The importance of the Stevens bill "isn't in the details," says the Sierra Club's Dan Becker. "The importance is that an extremely conservative Republican and longtime opponent of CAFE has come out with a fairly decent and very interesting fuel-economy bill. His turnaround on this issue is a profound signal of change -- on par with Nixon going to China." Becker says he heard from Capitol Hill staffers that Stevens introduced the bill because he's worried that his home state is melting.
    Obama joined with Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning to introduce the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007. Coal-to-liquid (CTL) technology uses a highly energy-intensive process to convert coal into diesel fuel for cars or jet fuel for airplanes -- an appealing prospect to the coal industry in Obama's home state of Illinois, but not to enviros and others concerned about global warming. Obama, who got a 100 percent approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his environmental voting record in the Senate last year, is now getting grumbles from greens and thumpings from the press for backing the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. [Grist's Amanda Griscom Little writing in Salon (viewing of Web ad required)]

  • ABC will fairly soon announce an end date to its Wednesday drama "Lost" -- which, in turn, will cure viewers of the extreme anxiety from which they are suffering because none of the important questions ever get answered on this weedy tangle of a series. The idea is to bring back viewers who have abandoned the show out of frustration, and everybody lives happily ever after...
    Of course, ABC can announce "Lost" will end at the close of Season 6, but there's no knowing whether that actually will happen. Isn't "The Sopranos" heading into its third " final" season? [WaPo]

  • I usually give the Golden Globes (list of winners) short shrift and instead focus on my near-annual Oscar party, but the looser atmosphere and the availability of alcohol tends to spark more off-the-cuff and hilarious commentary on stage. Check out the best bits over at Amazon's Screening Room blog, but here are my favorites:
    "I am speechless. I am literally without a speech. It seems odd to me that in the weeks leading up to this event, when people are falling over themselves to send you free shoes, free cufflinks, free colonic irrigations for two, nobody offers you a free acceptance speech. There seems to be a gap in the market. I would love to be able to pull out a speech by Dolce & Gabbana." -- Best Actor in a Drama winner Hugh Laurie

    "I used to think that prizes were damaging and divisive until I got one. And now they seem sort of meaningful and real." -- Best Actor in a Miniseries winner Bill Nighy

[UPDATE] Kat (see comments), I will fulfill your wish:

: : : : : : : : : :

Go to the Cracks in the Facade main page.

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At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully someone will upload Sascha Baron Cohen's speech. Oh my god, I was laughing so hard and trying to text a friend at the same time. Good stuff!


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