Thursday, January 18, 2007

Morning News Roundup (18 January)

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • A series of explosions and shootings rocked Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens, police said. Three car bombs detonated within minutes of each other near a vegetable market in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad. At least 10 people died and 30 were wounded, a police officer said. Another bomb exploded in central Baghdad at rush hour, killing four people and wounding 11, two other police officers said. One said the death toll was expected to rise. [news]

  • Iraq "is not witnessing a war of ethnic or sectarian cleansing" says Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister. He thinks that Bush and Rice's comments are helping the "terrorists." And Ahmad Chalabi's still running the de-Baathification commission. [Foreign Policy's Passport]

BushCo's Wars
  • Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC's Newsnight programme. Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

    Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility. But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said. [BBC]

  • The Bush administration said yesterday that it has agreed to disband a controversial warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency, replacing it with a new effort that will be overseen by the secret court that governs clandestine spying in the United States.
    Many Democrats and privacy advocates who had questioned the legality of the program argued yesterday that the administration had effectively conceded defeat by agreeing to place its surveillance efforts under the secret judicial panel whose members approve wiretaps and searches under FISA.

    "The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Providing efficient but meaningful court review is a major step toward addressing those concerns." [WaPo]

  • I have to say that I find the celebratory tone that I have seen here and there to be quite odd and unwarranted. There is nothing to celebrate here. We shouldn't be grateful when the administration agrees to abide by the law. That is expected and required, not something that occurs when the King deigns that it should and we then celebrate that he has agreed to comply with the laws we have enacted. Moreover, the administration has been violating the criminal law -- i.e., committing felonies -- for the past five years in how they have been eavesdropping on us. [Glenn Greenwald]

Climate Crisis
  • Legislation to control global warming that once had a passionate but quixotic ring to it is now serious business. Congressional Democrats are increasingly determined to wrest control of the issue from the White House and impose the mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions that most smokestack industries have long opposed.

    Four major Democratic bills have been announced, with more expected. One of these measures, or a blend of them, stands an excellent chance of passage in this Congress or the next, industry and environmental lobbyists said in interviews.
    nytimes-climatebills.jpgSome scientists and economists have expressed concern in recent weeks that the discussions here is overly focused on emissions caps, with too little attention on what they say is an essential need, greatly expanded government-financed research on nonpolluting energy technologies.

    Richard G. Richels, a climate expert and an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute, an organization in Palo Alto, Calif., that conducts energy studies for the utility industry, said a carbon dioxide cap would mainly prompt industry to deploy existing cleaner technologies that provide gains, but fail to come close to solving the climate problem. [NYTimes; also check out this graphic of the four proposed bills compared to doing nothing]

  • Think back to the hottest summer you can remember. Now imagine a summer like that every year. For those of us who are still around by the end of the 21st century, this is what we can expect, according to a new index that maps the different ways that climate change will hit different parts of the world. The map reveals how much more frequent extreme climate events, such as heatwaves and floods, will be by 2100 compared with the late 20th century.

    The results are presented on a global map (see image), in which the areas experiencing the greatest changes are shown in the darkest shades. Swathes of the tropics and high latitudes are coloured a foreboding brown, signifying the most marked changes. [New Scientist via Hugg]

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. It is now 5 minutes to midnight. Reflecting global failures to solve the problems posed by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis, the decision by the BAS Board of Directors was made in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates. [BAS press release; see also this graphic from the NYTimes showing the distance from midnight over the last 60 years]

Obama Watch
  • Tom Toles from the WaPo:

A Bite of the Apple
  • Apple set a new quarterly record today, marking a $1 billion profit on revenue of $7.1 billion for the fiscal first quarter of 2007 ending 30-Dec-06. Yes, that's "billion" with a B, and represents a significant increase over the $565 million profit netted in the first quarter of 2006. It also eclipses the $546 million profit from the last quarter.
    As expected, iPod sales were particularly strong, with 21 million iPods moved during the quarter, compared to 14 million sold in the year-ago quarter and 8.7 million sold in the last quarter. However, Mac sales remain strong as well, shipping 1.6 million computers. That compares to 1.2 million sold in last year's quarter and 1.61 million in the Q4 2006 time period.
    Online music sales from Apple's iTunes Store rose 20 percent, finance chief Peter Oppenheimer said during a call with analysts. [TidBITS and Wapo]

  • Apple is planning a special announcement for the Super Bowl that may herald a major music agreement, according to a source speaking to the Toronto Sun. Potentially corroborating the unconfirmed report of an impending Beatles launch on Valentine's Day, the source claims that Apple will use the February 4th football event to air an ad announcing the availability of at least some of The Beatles' remastered catalog on iTunes just ten days later. CD versions of the albums are only likely to be available by June, the newspaper says. [Electronista]

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