Saturday, December 30, 2006

End of the Amazon Rainforest?

Profoundly disturbing. The Amazon as savannah:

GLOBAL warming could spell the end of the world's largest remaining tropical rainforest, transforming the Amazon into a grassy savanna before the end of the century, researchers said yesterday.

Jose Antonio Marengo, a meteorologist with Brazil's National Space Research Institute, said global warming, if left unchecked, would reduce rainfall and raise temperatures substantially in the ecologically rich region. "We are working with two scenarios, a worst case and a second, more optimistic, one," he said.

"The worst case scenario sees temperatures rise by five to eight degrees by 2100, while rainfall will decrease between 15 and 20 per cent," Mr Marengo said. "This setting will transform the Amazon rainforest into a savanna-like landscape."


Shocking News!

Cheney is in favor of successors pardoning their predecessors for gross and terrible crimes against the nation.

Who coulda guessed?
"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested in a flag-draped casket. "Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon."

He followed up with: "Take a lesson, presidential contenders in '08, lest I shoot you in the face."



Such too little, too late displays are even more nauseating than America's overt glee at Hussein's slaughter:
The European Union (EU) leaders and officials expressed on Saturday the EU's opposition to the death penalty against former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

"The passing of Saddam Hussein closes a long, painful chapter in the history of Iraq. While the EU opposes capital punishment as a matter of principle, Saddam's trial and punishment mean that those who commit crimes against humanity cannot escape justice," EU commissioner on external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

The commissioner made the comment in a written statement in response to the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was hanged earlier on Saturday.


We're Not the Only Nation That Rewards Incompetence

Write a "dodgy dossier," win a knighthood!
John Scarlett, who took responsibility for the error-ridden dossier that justified the war in Iraq, is knighted in today's New Year's Honours list. The award will enrage peace campaigners, who have accused the veteran spymaster of saving Tony Blair's skin over the flawed case for the invasion.


So, Everything's All Better Now

Saddam has been slaughtered.

Everything is coming up roses, right?


Friday, December 29, 2006

A Little Good News

Still too low, and still not federal, but...

Seven states — Arizona, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — are raising their minimum wage. The federal minimum is $5.15 an hour. The new wages go as high as $7.50 an hour.

"We've made Massachusetts the best state to live in for struggling working families," said Carl Nilsson, an activist for poor people, citing the higher minimum wage and an earlier state law that requires health care insurance for all.



Sigh. Sitting here in Philadelphia, so far from the little ones...


About Bloody Time

Send these bastards away for life:
A deadly gunfight on a bridge in the anarchy-filled days following Hurricane Katrina became a symbol of the city's loss of control. Now, more than a year later, seven police officers face charges in the shootings.

A grand jury indicted the officers on murder or attempted murder charges Thursday in the Sept. 4, 2005, deaths of two men and wounding of four other people on the Danziger Bridge. One of the victims was a mentally retarded man, Ronald Madison, who had been shot seven times — five times in the back, according to the coroner.

"We cannot allow our police officers to shoot and kill our citizens without justification like rabid dogs," District Attorney Eddie Jordan said.


Just Great

Because Japanese nationalism always leads to such good results:
On a pleasant November morning, some 300 Japanese executives paid $150 each to hear a lanky math professor named Masahiko Fujiwara give a secular sermon on restoring Japan's greatness. Mr. Fujiwara spoke quietly, without notes, for 80 minutes. His message, a sort of spiritual nationalism, rang loudly, though: Japan has lost its "glorious purity," its samurai spirit, its traditional sense of beauty, because of habits instilled by the United States after the war.
Fujiwara's remedy is for Japan to recover its emotional strength. He says that Japan "can help save the world" - but its youths are lost in a fog of laxity and don't love Japan enough.
The new nationalist sentiment is seen in popular magazines that use provocative language to advocate a more militaristic Japan, question the legitimacy of the Tokyo war-crimes trials, and often cast racist aspersions on China and Korea.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe engineered two historic changes - transforming the postwar Defense Agency into a full-scale Defense Ministry, and ushering in a law requiring patriotic education in schools. The new law requires teachers to evaluate student levels of patriotism and eagerness to learn traditions. The Asahi Shimbun warns that this may "force students to vie to be patriotic in the classroom."

"A nationalistic reawakening from Japan's old pacifist identity, is leading to a domestic restructuring of Japan," says Alexander Mansourov, Asia specialist at the Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. "Along with a new defense ministry, a new national security council, and new intelligence agency, there's debate over whether to go nuclear, a debate on pre-emptive strikes on North Korea."


Better Late Than Never

Hopefully, this legislation will pass quickly:
The government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is preparing legislation to compensate thousands of gays and lesbians who were imprisoned and in many cases tortured during the regime of General Francisco Franco.

Under Franco's Fascist dictatorship homosexuality was a criminal offence. Tens of thousands of gays and lesbians were rounded up and imprisoned.

The most famous gay man persecuted by the regime was the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca who was executed by a Nationalist firing squad in Granada in 1936.

Towards the end of the regime the government opted to send gays to mental hospitals rather than prisons. But in most cases the treatment worsened with many victims being given experimental drugs and electric-shock therapy to "cure" them.

Even after Franco died, persecution of gays continued and the law allowing courts to jail gays remained on the books until 1979.


Lieberman: This Fire Needs Gasoline!

What a genius:
The American people are justifiably frustrated by the lack of progress, and the price paid by our heroic troops and their families has been heavy. But what is needed now, especially in Washington and Baghdad, is not despair but decisive action -- and soon.
To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Russia Annexing Belarus?

Very tense situation:

Russia has never been shy about using its enormous natural gas and oil resources — and its neighbors' lack of the same — as a not-so-subtle diplomatic weapon. Last New Year's Eve, amid icy blasts of winter, Russia's state-owned Gazprom turned off the gas on democratizing Ukraine, which has often tacked the other way from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the other former Soviet republics under his thrall. This year, however, the focus is Belarus, the nouvelle Stalinist state run by Alexander Lukashenko, a man who has tried to appear to be Putin's acolyte. On Jan. 1, unless Belarus agrees to pay double what it used to for Russian gas ($105 per 1000 cubic meters instead of the current $46), Moscow will cut off gas supplies and leave its erstwhile ally in the cold. Other observers believe something more shadowy than a pure grab for more money is in the works: a reincorporation of Belarus into a reconfigured Russian Federation. "It does feel like war is about to break out within days," says journalist and human rights activist Irina Khalip in a phone call from the Belarus capital of Minsk. "People are stockpiling fuel and warm clothes."


Cross Your Legs

I'm reminded of the grand old days of Theodore Roosevelt exhorting American women to procreate so as to counter the dread invasion of dark people.
Pregnant women in Germany who are due any day now might be hoping their children arrive on or after Jan. 1, 2007, so they can collect up to $33,000.

The government is offering the baby bonuses in the hope that German women will have more children to stabilize the country's dwindling birth rate, the BBC reported.

German women have an average of 1.37 children. An average of 2.1 is needed to keep a population stable.

One of the country's ministers recently spoke about "the lights going out."

Parents of babies born after the first of they year will be eligible to receive up to $33,300 to ease the financial burden of parenthood.

Those born even one minute before Jan. 1 will not be eligible for the cash.


Somalia Under Siege

You can bet the bank that Bush won't raise a finger about this conflict, no matter what happens:
Ethiopian tanks rolled into the outskirts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, yesterday after Somalia's Islamist movement abandoned its bases in the city.

Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies were wresting back control over Mogadishu as Islamist fighters, surrounded and outgunned, fled in convoy early in the morning towards the southern port city of Kismayo, the only town now controlled by the Somali Council of Islamic Courts. Other militiamen discarded their uniforms and joined clan-based militias in the capital. A number of Islamist leaders left the country.

Gunfire echoed around the capital as news of the withdrawal spread. SCIC bases were looted and several people were killed in a return to the anarchy that plagued the city before the courts came to power six months ago. Within hours, warlords who had been driven out by the Islamists were reclaiming their turf, including the presidential palace and the city's main port.

Somali prime minister Ali Mohamad Gedi said parliament would impose three months of martial law to prevent a return to anarchy. "In order to restore security we need a strong hand, especially with freelance militias," he told reporters.


Three! Whole! Hours!

I for one stand in awe of our Dear Leader's stamina:

President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.


Our House, Our God

We don't want to confuse the "faithful," now, do we? Interesting how a bishop can get away with insulting the intelligence of his own followers:
The Roman Catholic bishop of Cordoba in southern Spain has rejected an appeal from Muslims for the right to pray in the city's cathedral, a former mosque.

Juan Jose Asenjo rejected the request made by Spain's Islamic Board in a letter to the Pope.

It had asked that the cathedral become an ecumenical temple where believers from all faiths could worship.

The bishop said such a move would not contribute to the peaceful co-existence between people of different religions.

On the contrary, he said in a statement late on Wednesday, the joint use of temples and places of worship would only generate confusion amongst the faithful.


Repeal DADT

Well done, Meehan:
Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) said Wednesday he will reintroduce legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." early next year.

Meehan said that 112 Members of Congress from both parties have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.

"I will also be asking for the first Congressional hearings on gays in the military since 1993. I know that when my colleagues see and understand the evidence against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," they will be motivated to join me in the fight for repeal," Meehan said in a statement released by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"We cannot afford to keep losing the talent and contribution of patriotic, gay Americans who want to serve. Our military success depends on having the best and brightest Americans in our armed forces. The best and brightest includes lesbian and gay Americans, too."


Not Our War

Out of Iraq. Now.

“I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting,” Major Voorhies said.

A two-day reporting trip accompanying Major Voorhies’s unit and combat troops seemed to back his statement, as did other commanding officers expressing similar frustration.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Setting Us Up

How many different ways can the US be played, I wonder. Bush did precisely what bin Laden and al-Qaeda wanted us to do. And now Saddam Hussein is playing his execution masterfully, ensuring that he will live on as a martyr, a rallying point from which to attack the US. Well done, Bush:
Saddam Hussein, due to be hanged within 30 days, said in a letter made public today that his execution would be a sacrifice for his country and called on Iraqis to unite and fight US forces.

"Here I offer myself in sacrifice. If God almighty wishes, it (my soul) will take me where he orders to be with the martyrs," Saddam said in the hand-written letter obtained from his defence lawyers in Jordan after it was posted on a website.

"If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity."


Circling the Wagons

I say we put these lawyers to work, overtime:

President Bush is bracing for what could be an onslaught of investigations by the new Democratic-led Congress by hiring lawyers to fill key White House posts and preparing to play defense on countless document requests and possible subpoenas.

Bush is moving quickly to fill vacancies within his stable of lawyers...


Yay Plutocrats!

Just about the most pathetic, lickspittle, lapdog op-ed I've seen in some time:

Politicians are in a tizzy over how much corporate leaders make — about $8 million this year for CEOs of S&P 500 companies, according to the Financial Times. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has even introduced a bill titled "The Protection Against Executive Compensation Abuse Act."

Yes, CEO pay — including the record bonuses paid this year to heads of Wall Street firms such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — is attention-grabbing and has increased sixfold over the past 25 years.

But, as economists Xavier Gabaix of MIT and Augustin Landier of NYU concluded in a study in July, that increase "can be fully attributed to the sixfold increase in market capitalization of large U.S. companies during that period." CEOs get paid more because they run bigger, more valuable companies.

With 5% of the world's population, the USA is home to half the world's largest companies. Our system of compensating CEOs has served the nation well. Let's not let politicians mangle it.


Only Transsexual Lesbians Can Marry Women

This Ohio law vividly demonstrates the absurdity of current, anti-gay marriage laws:
Couples planning to marry in Clark County, Ohio are asked if either person is transsexual. It is believed to be the only jurisdiction in the country where people are asked to swear they are not transgendered before receiving a marriage license.

Under Ohio law a person's birth gender is the only one considered legal. It does not bar transsexuals from marrying but means that a male to female transsexual can only marry a woman.


"Do you solemnly swear you are not a transsexual..." the Clark clerk asks people when they apply for a marriage license.


Um, Sorry About the Torture, Kinda

Another "boldish" and "decisivesque" move from Bush:

The US is telling its overseas allies that it has stopped "extraordinary renditions" and needs their help to empty Guantánamo's prison cells. But human rights groups dispute this assertion and a question mark hangs over 200 "war on terror" detainees who could be held indefinitely without trial.

European diplomats say Washington is reacting to pressure from parliamentary investigations, lawsuits from former prisoners, and calls by friendly governments, including the UK, to close Guantánamo, the prison camp at a US naval base in Cuba.

However, the administration's response is seen as confused and inadequate. Analysts attribute this to internal divisions over how far to roll back controversial counter-terrorism practices - including torture, secret prisons, detention without trial, and renditions - as the price for rekindling transatlantic relations.


About Time

Amazingly, the Bush administration is reacting to actual facts, for a change:

The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence.

The administration's proposal -- which was described by an Interior Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity -- stems from the fact that rising temperatures in the Arctic are shrinking the sea ice that polar bears need for hunting. The official insisted on anonymity because the department will submit the proposal today for publication in the Federal Register, after which it will be subject to public comment for 90 days.