Tag: 4@4

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports Leaders take small steps towards action on climate change.

    For a man known for his diplomatic reserve, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was unusually upfront about his frustration with the pace of talks for a treaty to stop global warming yesterday. “The world’s glaciers are now melting faster than human progress to protect them – or us,” he said at the opening session of his climate change summit.

    While the NY Times reports Proposals lag behind promises on climate. “Domestic political battles still trump what United Nations officials had hoped would be a sense of global urgency” to address climate change.

    In speech after speech, presidents and prime ministers of countries large and small spoke with soaring promises about the importance of confronting the problem for future generations. But when it came down to the nuts-and-bolts promises of what they were prepared to do in the next decade, experts and analysts were disappointed that there were no bold new proposals, particularly from the United States.

  2. The CS Monitor has a round-up of the news of Australia’s worst dust storm in 70 years with a Dust storm covers Sydney in red. A massive dust storm turned Sydney an eerie red on Wednesday. “Such storms could grow bigger and more frequent with climate change.”

  3. The Guardian reports Thinning glaciers driving polar ice loss, satellite survey finds. “A comprehensive satellite survey of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has revealed an extensive network of rapidly thinning glaciers that is driving ice loss in the regions.”

    “The survey, compiled from 50m satellite measurements taken between February 2003 and November 2007, shows glaciers thinning at all latitudes in Greenland and along key Antarctic coastlines. Thinning penetrated deep into the interior of the ice sheets and continues to spread as ice shelves melt into the sea.”

Four at Four continues with Max Bacu$ and Afghanistan.

Four at Four

  1. The Hill reports Obama defends U.S. inaction on climate change. Speaking at the U.N. Climate Change Summit this morning, “President Barack Obama downplayed congressional delays in climate change legislation as he worked to win over world leaders who are skeptical of America’s commitment to the issue.”

    “The good news is that after too many years of inaction and denial, there is finally widespread recognition of the urgency of the challenge before us,” Obama said. “We know what needs to be done.”

    While the NY Times reports Obama opens the U.N. Climate Conference with a call for unity. The world “cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress,” Obama said.

    China and the U.S. account for nearly 40 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. “President Hu Jintao of China committed his country to reducing carbon emissions, but he qualified his commitment, saying that the size of the cuts would depend on the growth of his nation’s economy, rather than an absolute number.”

    The Guardian reports China fails to deliver challenge to major carbon emitting countries. While Hu “broke new ground” today, he “failed to deliver measures that would galvanise the stagnant negotiations towards a global treaty to fight global warming… Hu failed to set a figure, or a date by which China’s emissions would peak.”

Four at Four continues with Obama’s caught in Afghanistan’s vise, 75 percent of all Americans drive to work alone, and CIA torture caused false memories.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports President Barack Obama ready to slash US nuclear arsenal. “Obama has demanded the Pentagon conduct a radical review of US nuclear weapons doctrine to prepare the way for deep cuts in the country’s arsenal… Obama has rejected the Pentagon’s first draft of the ‘nuclear posture review’ as being too timid, and has called for a range of more far-reaching options consistent with his goal of eventually abolishing nuclear weapons altogether”.

    Obama seeks proposals to drop the nuclear arsenal to hundreds rather than thousands of warheads, narrowing the conditions under which such weapons would be used, and explore “ways of guaranteeing” weapon reliability without testing or new weapons.

  2. The NY Times reports Europeans say the U.S. lacks political will to tackle climate change. “Ahead of this week’s climate talks at the United Nations, the Europeans also expressed little hope that the United States Senate would act on a climate bill before the Copenhagen talks begin.”

    “The Obama administration is trying to satisfy European demands for firm targets and timetables, while reassuring a wary Senate that it is not signing on to a system that would impose steep economic costs on the United States that are not shared by developing countries like China and India.”

    “Fundamentally dividing the United States and the European Union are questions on how any global climate agreement would be monitored and enforced.” The European Union wants internationally binding targets that can be monitored and enforeced. The U.S. prefers a honor system called “pledge and review” where there is no international enforcement.

    The Guardian reports China and India expected to seize initiative at New York climate talks. “The UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, said today that he expects China’s president, Hu Jintao, to announce a series of new measures tomorrow that would put the country well ahead of America in dealing with climate change.” India too is planning to make “aggressive cuts.

    “China and India now appear to be demonstrating a new willingness to act – even in the absence of a firm commitment from America”.

    Part of Asian nations motivation may be growing concerns for the region’s water supply. Global Post reports on The coming war for water.

    There are many reasons for the Kashmir conflict. But perhaps the most important of them is the water that spews into the sky at my feet.

    When the British drew the borders partitioning India and Pakistan, their cartographers failed to consider the run of the rivers that would feed the two countries. Kashmir’s accession to India granted New Delhi control over the headwaters of the Indus – the lifeline of civilization in what is now Pakistan since 2600 B.C. And although a treaty for sharing the water was worked out in 1960, its foundation has begun to crack under the pressure of the two countries rapidly growing populations and the specter of climate change…

    Both countries’ huge populations are still growing, and because most of the available water comes from the disappearing glaciers of the Himalayas they are extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Four at Four continues with an update from Afghanistan and the bailout bill is coming due and the U.S. is still broke.

Four at Four

  1. The CS Monitor reports the Obama administration’s ocean task force releases report that could bring forth sweeping changes in the way the U.S. manages oceans and offshore energy development. The new comprehensive ocean management plan (pdf) guides federal agencies to restore and protect U.S. coastal and oceanic areas.

    “At its core, the plan would set up a new National Ocean Council to guide a holistic ‘ecosystem-based’ approach intended to elevate and unify what has long been a piecemeal approach by US agencies toward ocean policy and development – from oil and gas exploration to fisheries management to ship transportation to recreation.”

  2. The Guardian reports NATO offers to include Russia in defense planning, saying that “missile shields being developed in the US and Europe could be integrated with Russian systems”.

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the new NATO secretary-general, said his goal was to have NATO and Russia “plugging in to” integrated missile defense system.

    “Our nations, and our forces deployed in theatre, will all become increasingly vulnerable to missile attacks by third parties,” Rasmussen said in a speech in Brussels.

    “We should explore the potential for linking the US, Nato and Russia missile defence systems at an appropriate time … both Nato and Russia have a wealth of experience in missile defence.

    “We should now work to combine this experience to our mutual benefit.”

Four at Four continues with Afghanistan and Smashing Pumpkins.

Four at Four

  1. The LA Times reports Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is focus of corruption probe.

    The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her, according to officials in federal law enforcement and the Interior Department.

    The criminal investigation centers on the Interior Department’s 2006 decision to award three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Over the years it would take to extract the oil, according to calculations from Shell and a Rand Corp. expert, the deal could net the company hundreds of billions of dollars.

    The investigation’s main focus is whether Norton violated a law that prohibits federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in dealings with the government that could benefit the firm, law enforcement and Interior officials said.

  2. The MercoPress reports OECD warns of 25 million jobless in industrialized countries. “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says the global recession could cost 25 million people their jobs.”

    Fifteen million jobs have been lost so far, and up to 10 million more could go by the end of 2010, the OECD said.

    The unemployment rate across the 30 most industrialised nations in the OECD was 8.5% for July, the highest since World War II. It was 5.6% at the end of 2007.

    The group said that the rate could reach a new high of 10% by the end of next year, with 57 million people out of work, if the recovery fails to gain momentum.

Four at Four continues with an update on Afghanistan, organic fraud, final years of Wobegon, and a cool new dinosaur.

Four at Four

  1. The LA Times reports the Senate to consider limits on carbon dioxide emissions. “The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hear testimony today and Thursday about the economic effects of limiting carbon dioxide emissions.” I think focusing on economics is amazing short-sighted.

    “In doing so, the senators will be bombarded with information and lessons from the EU’s Emissions Trading System… The volatility experienced in Europe has American legislators and analysts worried… Lawmakers are also concerned about the effect of carbon regulation on energy prices.”

    “The bill before Congress would initially give away the vast majority of permits, although it would eventually shift toward auctioning most of them. President Obama said he wanted to auction all of the permits from the start. But negotiations with the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats and other representatives from coal-rich states led to the shift in approach.”

    The CS Monitor reports the White House ties new gas mileage standards to global warming. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood announced “he nation’s first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, which it said clarifies rules for automakers and takes a big step toward meeting climate change and energy security goals. The new regulations tie emissions and fuel economy standards together, requiring the new light-duty vehicle fleet to average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016”.

    Meanwhile, The Guardian reports a Chinese government adviser warns that 2C global warming target is unrealistic. China will not keep global warming below 2C warned Dai Yande, deputy chief of the Energy Research Institute and adviser to China’s government.

    “You should not target China to fulfill the two degree target. That is just a vision. Reality has deviated from that vision,” said Dai. “We do not think that target provides room for developing countries.” China argues that its priority must be economic growth to relieve poverty among its vast population…

    “Twenty percent of the world’s population takes 80% of wealth and emits 70% of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Four at Four continues with drug prohibition, Afghanistan, and sex, drugs, and petroleum.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports that acording to Europe, the United States is planning to weaken a Copenhagen climate deal. “Key differences have emerged between the US and Europe over the structure of a new worldwide treaty on global warming. Sources on the European side say the US approach could undermine the new treaty and weaken the world’s ability to cut carbon emissions.”

    The dispute between the US and Europe is over the way national carbon reduction targets would be counted. Europe has been pushing to retain structures and systems set up under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on climate change. US negotiators have told European counterparts that the Obama administration intends to sweep away almost all of the Kyoto architecture and replace it with a system of its own design…

    It could take several years to negotiate a replacement framework, … a delay that could strike a terminal blow at efforts to prevent dangerous climate change…

    Europe is unlikely to stand up to the US…

    The US is pushing instead for each country to set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target… Legal experts say the phrase is designed to protect the US from being forced to implement international action it does not agree with.

Four at Four continues with Afghanistan, Somalia, a tortured al-Zaidi free from Iraqi prison, and Bush’s PDB overcompensation for past inadequacies.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports a Judge rejects the settlement between the Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over Merrill Lynch bonuses.

    The $33 million settlement “does not comport with the most elementary notions of justice and morality,” wrote Jed S. Rakoff, the judge assigned to the case in federal court in Lower Manhattan…

    “It is quite something else for the very management that is accused of having lied to its shareholders to determine how much of those victims’ money should be used to make the case against the management go away,” the judge wrote…

    The proposed settlement, the judge continued, “suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the S.E.C. gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger; the bank’s management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth.”

  2. Bloomberg reports Nobel Prize- winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says the U.S. has failed to fix the underlying problems of its banking system.

    “In the U.S. and many other countries, the too-big-to-fail banks have become even bigger,” Stiglitz said in an interview yesterday in Paris. “The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.” …

    “It’s an outrage,” especially “in the U.S. where we poured so much money into the banks,” Stiglitz said. “The administration seems very reluctant to do what is necessary. Yes they’ll do something, the question is: Will they do as much as required?” …

    “We’re going into an extended period of weak economy, of economic malaise,” Stiglitz said. The U.S. will “grow but not enough to offset the increase in the population,” he said, adding that “if workers do not have income, it’s very hard to see how the U.S. will generate the demand that the world economy needs.”

  3. The LA Times reports U.S. officials troubled by fake currency flowing from Peru. “A flood of high-quality counterfeit U.S. money from Peru is perplexing federal authorities, who say the shadowy networks that are responsible are also engaging in other criminal activity that poses a threat to national security. Over the last year, authorities and banks have recovered at least $7.8 million in fake notes across the United States that they believe were manufactured in Peru, according to Secret Service statistics.”

Four at Four continues with an update from Afghanistan.

Four at Four

  1. The CS Monitor reports Eight years after 9/11, Taliban roils 80 percent of Afghanistan. “Long considered one of the most stable and peaceful parts of the country, the northern provinces have seen rising violence as heavy insurgent activity has spread to 80 percent of the country – up from 54 percent two years ago. (See map.) Under increasing pressure in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, militants who have long sought to extend their reach have turned their attention to the north, where NATO has established a second supply route in the wake of debilitating attacks on its southern” supply route.

    Meanwhile, the LA Times reports Doubt raised on troop boost in Afghanistan war. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she sees little support in Congress or elsewhere in the country for sending more troops to Afghanistan, signaling trouble for President Obama’s new strategy at a critical point in the war.”

    “I don’t think there’s a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or the Congress,” Pelosi said.

    Since today marks the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, I just want to note that Obama has kept the U.S. safer than Bush did up to this point in the comparative time in office.

Four at Four continues with Obama supposedly unites Democrats on health care, Some Dems are surprised that Buffett thinks the rich don’t pay their share in taxes, EPA slows 79 mountaintop mining projects, U.S. must act on climate change legislation, and hippos in Columbia.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports the Poverty rate rose in 2008. The U.S. poverty rate increased to 13.2 percent in 2008, up from 12.5 percent the prior year according to a report from the Census Bureau.

    The 2008 poverty line for a family of four was $22,025. “According to the census data, 39.8 million residents lived below the poverty line in 2008.” 15.4 percent, or 46.3 million people, are without health insurance.

    The share of children who were uninsured declined, to 9.9 percent from 11 percent in 2007, apparently because of the federal government’s special efforts to insure low-income children. But the share of adults aged 18 to 64 without health insurance climbed slightly, to 20.3 percent in 2008 from 19.6 percent in 2007…

    In another sign of both the recession and the long-term stagnation of middle-class wages, median family incomes in 2008 fell to $50,300, from $52,200 the year before. This wiped out the incomes gains of the previous three years, the report said. Adjusted for inflation, median family incomes were lower in 2008 than they had been a decade previously.

Four at Four continues with drive for banking reform sputters as bankers continue looting, an ICC war crimes investigation into U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and a deadly update from Iraq.

Four at Four

  1. Jonathan Landay of McClatchy reports on how Four U.S. Marines die in Afghan ambush.

    We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition.

    “We will do to you what we did to the Russians,” the insurgent’s leader boasted over the radio, referring to the failure of Soviet troops to capture Ganjgal during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation.

    Dashing from boulder to boulder, diving into trenches and ducking behind stone walls as the insurgents maneuvered to outflank us, we waited more than an hour for U.S. helicopters to arrive, despite earlier assurances that air cover would be five minutes away.

    U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines – despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.

    “We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today,” Marine Maj. Kevin Williams, 37, said through his translator to his Afghan counterpart, responding to the latter’s repeated demands for helicopters.

    Landay writes “the operation had obviously been betrayed”. “Several U.S. officers said they suspected that the insurgents had been tipped off by sympathizers in the local Afghan security forces or by the village elders”.

  2. Vanity Fair reports on how the looting worked in “Good Billions After Bad“.

    As the Bush administration waned, the Treasury shoveled more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in tarp funds into the financial system-without restrictions, accountability, or even common sense… Much of it ended up in the wrong hands, doing the opposite of what was needed…

    By and large, the cash that went to the Big 9 simply became part of their capital base, and most of the big banks declined to indicate where the money actually went. Because of the sheer size of these institutions, it’s simply impossible to trace…

    A.I.G., the largest single tarp beneficiary, wasn’t even a bank… A.I.G. was able to pay off its counterparties 100 cents on the dollar. The largest payout–$12.9 billion–went to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment house presided over by Paulson before he moved into his Treasury job.

    And Huffington Post reports on How the Federal Reserve bought the economics profession. “The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession”. (Hat tip Jerome a Paris.)

    Elsewhere, the CS Monitor reports the United States is no longer the world’s most competitive nation. “The global economic downturn was a big reason for the US losing its top spot to Switzerland in this year’s report, which measured a broad range of factors affecting an economy’s business climate. Not surprisingly, confidence in its financial institutions and its auditing and accounting standards deteriorated in the wake of the crisis.”

    The downturn hurt most nations except for Brazil, India, China, Australia, and Canada. “The first three nations are members of the BRIC – Brazil, India, and China – whose large domestic markets and solid rankings on education, healthcare, training, and labor efficiency helped insulate them from the slump.”

Four at Four continues with Guantánamo photos, big bases in Iraq, and NASA.

Four at Four

  1. A look at some of today’s news coming out of Afghanistan:

    • McClatchy reports the U.S. Military is leery of Afghanistan escalation with no clear goals. Soldiers and military observers in Afghanistan, along with “some top Pentagon officials are warning that dispatching even tens of thousands more soldiers and Marines might not ensure success.”

      Neither President Obama nor the Pentagon “has clearly defined America’s mission in Afghanistan… The administration’s stated goals in Afghanistan have ranged from eliminating the threat posed by al Qaida – which is based in neighboring Pakistan, not in Afghanistan – and building a stable democratic state, depending on what administration official is speaking and when.”

      Making the situation worse, corruption is rampant in Afghanistan.

      The corruption extends from police who resell U.S.-supplied gasoline and water, to mid-level Afghan military commanders who siphon off money that’s intended to purchase food for their troops, to the top of the Karzai government… Many Afghans have all but given up on corrupt government security officials, instead turning to local warlords and Taliban leaders to help them survive.

      U.S. officers in Afghanistan said Afghan security forces also are helping smuggle weapons the Taliban use to attack U.S.-led troops from Pakistan into Afghanistan. In addition, said a senior Afghan officer, weapons and ammunition supplied to the Afghan army and police are also being stolen and sold to the Taliban.

    • A news analysis from the New York Times asks Will more troops curb terror? After nearly eight years, “a war that started as a swift counterattack against those responsible for the murder of 3,000 Americans, a growing number of critics say, is in danger of becoming a quagmire with a muddled mission.” It has always been a muddled mission.

      According to Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, despite the administration’s claims to a new approach in Afghanistan, “the truth is they want to try harder to do what we’ve been doing for the last eight years”.

    • The Guardian reports a Rift widens between US and Germany over botched Afghanistan air strike. “Berlin defended the raid as ‘militarily necessary’ to protect German troops, even though it went against the express orders of the new US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, to safeguard civilians.”

      McChrystal has apologized for the U.S. airstrike and is distancing himself from it being ordered. “The US has expressed private criticism of the German commander in Kunduz for calling in an air strike based on the assessment of one Afghan informant on the ground that all those people around the tankers were Taliban and on grainy aerial photographs.”

    • While Germany offers a defense of the fuel trucks airstrike, reports the NY Times. “The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, pushed back Tuesday against international criticism over an airstrike ordered by the German military”. In an address before Parliament, Merkel said while she “deeply regrets” the casualties of “innocent” persons, she said there is a rush to “premature judgments”. Parliamentary elections in Germany are on September 27.

    • Meanwhile, the LA Times reports Afghanistan’s Karzai passes 50% of vote, but partial recount is ordered. “The U.N.-backed commission that must certify the vote ordered a partial recount due to fraud allegations, only hours before a tally indicated for the first time that President Hamid Karzai had garnered enough votes for a first-round victory.”

      Karzai has 54.1 percent with 92 percent of the ballots counted. Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival, trailed with 28.3 percent.

      The recount could take up to three months, commission officials said, which could set the stage for a lengthy bout of political paralysis amid fears of ethnically motivated violence by supporters of the two main contenders. Karzai is a Pashtun, the country’s largest ethnic group; Abdullah is identified with the Tajik minority of northern Afghanistan…

      Securing some kind of credible outcome will now be an extremely difficult task, dashing the hopes of many in the international community who saw the election as a key benchmark toward creating a stable democracy in Afghanistan.

    • BBC News adds Recounts ordered in Afghan vote. The Election Complaints Commission said “there should be a recount where any single candidate received more than 95% of valid votes, in any polling station where more than 100 votes were cast.”

    • The NY Times adds Fraud confirmed in Afghan election. “The United Nations-backed commission serving as the ultimate arbiter of the Afghan elections announced Tuesday that it had found ‘clear and convincing evidence of fraud‘”. “The confirmation of significant fraud places the Obama administration in a difficult position as it seeks to shore up domestic and international support for the expanding Afghan war.”

    • The CS Monitor reports the Taliban strikes more high-value targets with bomb attack at Kabul’s airport. “A suicide bomber in Afghanistan struck the heavily fortified airport in the nation’s capital today, killing at least two people and wounding six”. A NATO base inside the airport appeared to be the target of the attack.

    • McClatchy reports Four Marines walk into insurgent ‘trap’ in Afghanistan. “Four U.S. Marines died Tuesday when they walked into a well-laid ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province. Seven Afghan troops and an interpreter for the Marine commander also died in the ambush and the subsequent battle, which lasted some seven hours… It was the largest number of American military trainers to die in a single incident since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.”

Four at Four continues with Iraq violence and U.S. aspirations, Pakistanis suspicions of American imperialism, and Mexico’s worsening drought.

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