Four at Four is an afternoon briefing of four (yes only four) important or interesting stories in the news. Please look for it Monday through Friday somewhere between 4 p.m. Eastern to 4 p.m. Pacific.
There is still a bright spot in the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Russia. According to The New York Times, The U.S. and Russia are cooperating in destroying arms.
In a little more than 2 minutes, the missile component burned itself out, the latest piece of Soviet-era nuclear hardware to be destroyed under an American taxpayer-funded effort known as Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction.
The brainchild of Senator Richard G. Lugar and Sam Nunn, then also a senator, the effort, which had its 15th anniversary this week, has grown into one of the principal areas of enduring collaboration between Russia and the United States.
Programs under its umbrella have helped Russia and other former Soviet states account for, secure and destroy nuclear, chemical and biological materials and the equipment related to their delivery as weapons, though some elements have suffered delays and bureaucratic resistance, and a renewed climate of secrecy in Russia has made negotiations and access difficult at some of the weapons or material storage sites.
Still, in all, nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads have been deactivated, and silos, mobile launchers, submarines and strategic bombers that were once integral to their deployment and potential use have been destroyed. In addition, the effort has helped to safeguard highly enriched uranium from research reactors and nuclear power plants, and blend it down to a state of low enrichment — still useful for generating electricity, but not as material for a nuclear device.
Today is a bad day for whales. Reuters is reporting, that a U.S. appeals court ends ban on Navy sonar tests. The lawsuit was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council because they claim the Navy’s “sonar, which shoots bursts of sound, is so loud it kills whales.” In the opinion, the split three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said whales are come second to America’s “defense”:
“The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote. “But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries… The safety of the whales must be weighed, and so must the safety of our warriors. And of our country.”
The navies of landlocked Afghanistan and civil-war embroiled Iraq must be an enormous threat to America.
The Federal Reserver doesn’t look like it’s going to cover the risky bets of the mortgage speculators. The Washington Post reports that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the Fed won’t let markets disrupt U.S. economy.
But Bernanke also made clear that the Fed has no desire to bail out investors who made foolish bets. “It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve — nor would it be appropriate — to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions,” Bernanke said, an apparent rebuke of critics on Wall Street who would like the Fed to cut its federal funds rate, a decision that would likely ease some of the locked up markets for home mortgage and other debt.
The Independent has a great story about Anthony Battersby and Rachel Feilden, a couple of Brits, who have revived a historic watermill in Tellisford, England to generate electricity. “Since going live in January, Battersby and Feilden have sent 140,000 kilowatt (kW) hours to the National Grid. That’s enough annually to power 60 homes and, thanks to a range of green energy premiums, the couple are in line to earn £25,000 a year from selling their electricity, not to mention saving 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”
The article suggests that “if small hydroelectric projects on all Britain’s streams and rivers could be tapped it would be possible to produce 10,000 gigawatt hours of electricity – or 3 per cent of our total energy needs.” There are likely to be old mills in the United States, especially in New England, that could be similarly restored and converted for green hydropower.
So, what else is happening?