Tag: 4@4

Four at Four

  1. The LA Times reports the Pacific Ocean ‘dead zone’ in Northwest may be irreversible. Unlike other “dead zones” that are caused by agricultural and other pollution, the vast oxygen-depleted “dead zone” off the coast of Oregon and Washington is permanent and was brought about by the changing climate.

    “I really think we’re in a new pattern, a new rhythm, offshore now. And I would expect [the low-oxygen zone] to show up every year now,” said Jack Barth, professor of physical oceanography at Oregon State University.

    The National Science Foundation released a “multimedia report that said the number of dead zones worldwide was doubling every decade. According to the report, in the Pacific Northwest “the areas of hypoxic, or low-oxygen, water that long have existed far offshore began to appear closer to land in 2002, a phenomenon that may mean they are even deadlier to sea life that exists near the ocean floor.”

    “What we’re seeing is changes in the oxygen content of the water and the winds that drive the ocean and cause that flushing,” Barth said, calling it a “double whammy.”

Four at Four continues with foreclosures, derivatives, climate change, and my farewell.

Four at Four

  1. The AP reports Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner makes time to talk to Wall Street bankers even on his busiest days.

    When Wall Street bankers call, Geithner picks up the phone. According to records of his appointment calendars obtained by a FOIA request, Geithner talks to bankers “immediately after hanging up with President Barack Obama and before heading up to Capitol Hill, between phone calls with senators and after talking with the Federal Reserve chairman”.

    The excutives of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs can get a hold of Geithner almost whenever they want and “sometimes several times a day” unlike members of Congress. For example:

    In the first seven months of Geithner’s tenure, his calendars reflect at least 80 contacts with [Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd] Blankfein, [JPMorgan CEO Jamie] Dimon, Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons or Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.

    Geithner had more contacts with Citigroup than he did with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the lawmaker leading the effort to approve Geithner’s overhaul of the financial system. Geithner’s contacts with Blankfein alone outnumber his contacts with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    Geithner’s world view is entirely warped by Wall Street self-interest.

Four at Four continues with the Taliban saying they are not a threat to the West, the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, and a tropical fish famine.

Four at Four

  1. Americans want high-speed and improved passenger rail. The AP reports $50B in high-speed rail applications submitted. Twenty-four states are seeking $50 billion for high-speed rail projects, “more than six times the money designated in the economic stimulus plan.”

    Add to that, the Federal Railroad Administration received in August “214 applications from 34 states totaling $7 billion for corridor planning and smaller projects, which would include trains traveling less then 110 miles per hour, the rate defined as high-speed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

    The CS Monitor reports that alone, California wants $4.7 billion in high-speed rail stimulus. That is more than half of the “roughly $8 billion of the federal stimulus funds set aside for high-speed rail projects.”

    Not enough money is being dedicated to improving America’s passenger rail infrastructure.

Four at Four continues with climate progress and U.S. roadblocks, 8th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, and Saturn’s super-sized ring.

Four at Four

  1. McClatchy reports Gates to Army: We’ll follow Obama’s orders on Afghanistan. Defense War Secretary “Robert Gates told a gathering of Army officers Monday that the Pentagon would follow any strategy that Obama orders.”

    “Speaking for the Department of Defense, once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability,” Gates told the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington.

    Gates’ remarks may be a rebuke of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who last week publically said White House plans were “short-sighted” if they did not increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Gates said the Pentagon and military should offer “our best advice to the president candidly — but privately.”

    Meanwhile, the CS Monitor asks McChrystal’s Afghanistan comments: insightful or sedition?

Four at Four continues with Pakistan, Sonia Sotomayor, and big dinosaur footprints in France.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports Two deadly attacks on remote posts highlight Afghan risks.

    Insurgents carried out a bold daylight strike on two bases on the Pakistani border, killing eight Americans and four Afghan security officers in the deadliest attack for American soldiers in more than a year…

    The provincial police chief, Muhammad Qasim Jangulbagh, estimated that about 300 militants took part… The Americans fought back with helicopters, heavy guns and airstrikes, but the insurgents were persistent and the battle lasted into the afternoon…

    The LA Times adds the attacks were a “Fierce and tightly coordinated onslaught” by “insurgents”. “The Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force blamed ‘tribal militia.'”

    Also, the LA Times reports this latest Assault points out U.S. vulnerabilities in Afghanistan. This “was precisely the kind of attack” that U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal wants to avoid by “ordering troops to withdraw from such small outposts, concentrating instead on defending population centers”.

    By coincidence, Saturday’s battle came at a time of renewed scrutiny of an attack that took place in Nuristan in July 2008 and came to be known as the Battle of Wanat. In it, a thinly manned American-Afghan outpost was nearly overrun by insurgents, and nine U.S. soldiers — about one-fifth of the American contingent there — were killed in desperate close-quarters combat.

    The Washington Post reports the Battle of Wanat is a Symbol of the U.S. military’s missteps in the Afghan war. “The rocket-propelled grenade and rifle fire was so intense that most of the soldiers spent the opening minutes of the battle lying on their stomachs, praying that the enemy would run out of ammunition.” At the end of the battle on July 13, 2008, nine U.S. soldiers were dead and 27 were wounded.

    Back in the U.S., The Hill reports President Obama’s decision on Afghanistan strategy due in ‘a matter of weeks according to Retired Gen. James L. Jones, the president’s national security advisor. “We have time on the president’s schedule,” Jones said. “He’s going to devote an enormous amount of his time to lead us do this.”

    Whatever Obama chooses, “I can assure you that the president of the United States is not playing to any political base,” Jones said.

    Of course, that is because Obama will ultimately play to the M-I-C base. Foreign Policy reports The CIA finds job security in Afghanistan.

    Popular discussions of U.S. alternatives for Afghanistan focus on three options: McChrystal’s beefed-up counterinsurgency campaign; a counterterror campaign using special operations raids and drone strikes; and abandonment…

    One thing all of these options have in common is a requirement for greater CIA participation…

    Afghanistan seems bound to provide job security for the CIA.

    Lastly, the CS Monitor wonders Is U.S. strategy in Afghanistan working? “Counter-insurgency methods” have now become the U.S. military’s “preferred method of conducting warfare in an era of global terrorism and stateless enemies.”

    Many worry that the US has tilted too far toward a trendy new type of warfare that is eroding its conventional capabilities and might lead it to commit to more expensive, open-ended conflicts 40 years after Vietnam.

    “I think the notion of using the Army to change entire societies … is highly problematic,” says Col. Gian Gentile, head of the military history program at the US Military Academy at West Point.

    “President Obama has defined the mission in Afghanistan as rooting out Al Qaeda and preventing a return of the Taliban to power”. However, “nowhere in McChrystal’s memo did the words ‘Al Qaeda’ appear. The definition of what it means to defeat Al Qaeda had expanded – from disrupting, capturing, or killing its operatives to creating conditions that wouldn’t allow their return.”

Four at Four continues with China accuses the U.S. of climate “sabotage”, Supreme Court will look at business law, and U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Four at Four

  1. The CS Monitor reportys U.S. job losses worse than expected. “In September, the Labor Department reported Friday that the economy lost a net total of 263,000 jobs, up from a downwardly revised 201,000 in August… The unemployment rate inched up to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent.”

    McClatchy adds the Unemployment rate is at the highest level in 26 years. “The jobs report was sure to call the Obama administration’s economic stimulus efforts into question, since government hiring fell by 53,000 jobs… Labor Secretary Hilda Solis tried to put a positive spin on the report, noting that jobs are disappearing at a slower pace than they were earlier in the year.”

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the “alternative” U-6 unemployment rate is now 17.0 percent.

Four at Four continues with climate change threatening national parks, the Southeast’s drought, and businesses using bicycles.

Four at Four

  1. The NY Tims reports the EPA moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “Unwilling to wait for Congress to act, the Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it was moving forward on new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of power plants and large industrial facilities.”

    “We are not going to continue with business as usual,” Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “We have the tools and the technology to move forward today, and we are using them.”

    The proposed rules, which could take effect as early as 2011, would place the greatest burden on 400 power plants, new ones and those undergoing substantial renovation, by requiring them to prove that they have applied the best available technology to reduce emissions or face penalties.

    The LA Times adds the New rules would force industrial plants to minimize emissions. The rules “would cover the sources responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the EPA said”.

    Meanwhile, The Guardian reports Senate Democrats unveil climate bill calling for a 20% cut in emissions. Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer unveiled on Wednesday legislation titled the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The bill “would push for a 20% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050” which is “more ambitious” that the 17% cut passed by the House in June.

Four at Four continues with UN fires American diplomat in Afghanistan, Obama’s war in Afghanistan, and ‘homegrown’ terrorists.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports the Number of Earth’s species known to scientists rises to 1.9 million, “according to the world’s most comprehensive catalogue of plants and animals. The new figure has been boosted by 114,000 new species discovered since the catalogue was last compiled by Australian researchers three years ago – a 6.3% increase.”

    The ‘Number of Living Species in the World’ report compiled ford the Australian government claims to be the world’s “only comprehensive catalogue of plants and animals in the world”. The report estimates the actual number of species on earth is closer to 11 million.

    Elsewhere, Wired reports Megafauna extinctions were not entirely humans’ fault. “Studies that have mostly blamed the arrival of humans for die-offs among Australia’s large mammals 50,000 years ago missed the role played by a changing climate, new research suggests.” The “long-term drop in diversity also appeared among small creatures, and the types of species that disappeared suggest climate change played a role”.

  2. Nature News reports China’s Three Gorges dam may be a methane menace. “Marshland created when China’s Three Gorges Reservoir is partially drained during the summer may be a significant source of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, researchers say.”

    “Scientists have become increasingly concerned about the greenhouse gases released by submerged grass and trees when land is flooded to create dams. When such organic matter decays, it releases methane and carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. Methane is particularly troublesome as it has more than 20 times the warming impact of CO2.”

    While in Canada, the Globe and Mail report that Researchers seek a ‘preheater’ for oil sands. As early as five years from now, Canadian and German researches plant to use geothermal energy in northeastern Alberta “as a sort of ‘preheater’ for major oil sands mines, which use 40-degree Celsius water to separate oil from sand.” Seven percent of Canada’s natural gas output is now used to heat the water and the demand is expected to “grow substantially”.

  3. The Guardian reports an Increase in sea levels due to global warming could lead to ‘ghost states’ “with governments in exile ruling over scattered citizens and land that has been abandoned to rising seas”.

    “As independent nations they receive certain rights and privileges that they will not want to lose. Instead they could become like ghost states,” said Francois Gemenne, of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. “Industrialised countries have a duty to provide adaptation funding to make sure the costs of migration do not have to be met by the countries where the migration will happen.”

    Nature News adds Climate change will hit developing world harvests the hardest. “Developing countries could see large drops in crop yields by 2050 if climate change is left unchecked, according to a US report, potentially leaving as many as 25 million more children malnourished compared to a world without global warming.”

    “The results show that southern Asia will be hit particularly hard by climate change, with some of the largest losses in crop production. In a worst-case scenario, the models show that farmers in this region could see a nearly 50% drop in wheat production by 2050 compared with potential production with no climate change.”

  4. The LA Times reports census data show falling income in the U.S. and the Percentage of people living in poverty has reached an 11-year high. “In 2008, the median household income in the United States plummeted 3.6% from the year before… In 2007 it was $52,163. A year later it dropped to $50,303, the lowest level since 1997. The nation’s poverty rate, meanwhile, rose to 13.2%, the highest level since 1997.”

    “The new data also cast a spotlight on the recession’s principal victims: children, minorities and those who weren’t born in the United States. The number of children younger than 18 living in poverty increased from 13.3 million in 2007 to 14.1 million in 2008, the census says, with minority children more likely to be poor. Last year, 34.7% of black children and 30.6% of Latino children lived below the poverty line, compared with 10.6% of white children.”

    Elsewhere, the Globe and Mail reports Deflation may be taking root in global economies. “Fuelled by continuing overcapacity, shrinking credit, reduced corporate spending and falling consumer demand, deflation is on the rise in its old stomping ground of Japan and taking root in the battered U.S. and European economies.”

Four at Four

  1. Spiegel has an interview with Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who says of Afghanistan: ‘This Is No Longer a War of Necessity’. Haass makes some interesting observations, including:

    • “Whoever leaked General McChrystal’s memorandum, acted unfairly and unprofessionally.”

    • “Even if terrorists were to be denied Afghanistan, they could operate out of other countries. We should also reconsider whether what happens in Afghanistan is essential for the future in Pakistan which, frankly, matters more to the United States.”

    • I am no longer sure what happens in Afghanistan is still essential to the war on terrorism. Afghanistan is thus a war of choice — Mr. Obama’s war of choice.

  2. For The Guardian, George Monbiot writes Stop blaming the poor. It’s the very rich who are burning the planet. “It’s no coincidence that most of those who are obsessed with population growth are post-reproductive wealthy white men: it’s about the only environmental issue for which they can’t be blamed.”

    Bbout one sixth of the world’s population is so poor that it produces no significant emissions at all. This is also the group whose growth rate is likely to be highest…

    Many of the emissions for which poorer countries are blamed should in fairness belong to the developed nations…

    While there’s a weak correlation between global warming and population growth, there’s a strong correlation between global warming and wealth… So where are the movements protesting about the stinking rich destroying our living systems? Where is the direct action against super-yachts and private jets? Where’s Class War when you need it?

    It’s time we had the guts to name the problem. It’s not sex; it’s money. It’s not the poor; it’s the rich.

  3. The Washington Post reports the U.S. says the Taliban has a new haven in Pakistan. Anonymous U.S. officials say the Taliban is launching cross-border raids into Afghanistan “from safe havens around the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta”. A “remote and arid Pakistani border region” that Americans “know relatively little about… have no capacity to strike there, and have few windows into the turbulent mix of Pashtun tribal and religious politics”.

    “Our intelligence on Quetta is vastly less. We have no people there, no cross-border operations, no Predators,” said Anne Patterson, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.

    Pakistani officials, for their part, are more concerned about Taliban attacks inside Pakistan than across the border into Afghanistan. “Our concern is whether Pakistan really controls its territory. There are people who do not threaten Pakistan but who are extremely important to us,” Patterson said.

  4. Mother Jones reports on ‘The Case of the Missing Torture Documents‘.

    Classified Bush-era documents on the administration’s controversial interrogation and rendition programs are missing, according to a recent court filing submitted by the Obama Justice Department. But a Justice Department spokeswoman says the documents may not actually be gone; they may never have existed-even though Bush administration records say that they do. Welcome to the Case of the Disappearing Torture Documents. This is more than just a bureaucratic whodunit. There’s a possibility that government officials purposely destroyed records pertaining to detainee abuse.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports the president of the World Bank predicts the U.S. dollar is set to be eclipsed. World Bank president Robert Zoellick warned the the U.S. dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency. The dollar will be replaced by the Chinese renminbi and the euro.

    “The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency. Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar,” Zoellick said.

  2. The NY Times reports an Oil spill is seen as a warning. An oil well off Australia’s northwest coast “has been spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Timor Sea since Aug. 21, when a blowout forced the evacuation of all 69 workers on the platform. Emergency crews have been working overtime to contain the spill, but officials say it could take about three more weeks to plug the leak.”

    The oil slick is now “25 miles wide and 85 miles long” and along with “more than 50 wells were drilled in the tropical waters off western Australia” could threaten the marine life of the reefs and atolls. As it is today, “conservationists worry that the spill could take a heavy toll on marine animals that feed and travel on or close to the ocean’s surface.”

  3. The CS Monitor asks How can 40,000 troops fix chronic corruption in Afghanistan? The White House is concerned “that the Afghan government has become so rotted with corruption that it cannot consolidate the gains the US military makes.” Afghanistan may be a “narco-kleptocracy” where government positions go “to the highest bidder and opium money fueling corruption on a massive scale.”

    Gen. Stanley McChrystal “made fighting corruption a top priority of his assessment… He wants to use the 40,000 additional troops to protect Afghans from all threats – including their own government.” So, how can U.S. soldiers fight Afghan government corruption?

  4. The Guardian reports U.S. inertia could scupper world climate deal in Copenhagen. American “ignorance about the risks and reality of global warming” will likely ruin any chance of an agreement to “control greenhouse gas emissions at December’s climate talks in Copenhagen” according John Schellnhuber, an advisor to the German government.

    “If the US doesn’t move then nothing will happen.”

    He added: “The US in a sense is climate illiterate. It is a deeper problem in the US, if you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change. Even in Brazil and China, you have more people who know the problem, who think that deep cuts in emissions are needed.” …

    “The political chances seem very slim that something will happen in Copenhagen and even in the years after,” he said.

    A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate would be needed to ratify any international climate treaty.

Four at Four

  1. McClatchy reports U.S. ignores doubts, pledges billions more for Pakistan. “The U.S. Senate approved legislation Thursday to triple civilian financial aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years”.

    This despite corruption allegations of the Pakistani government. “Separately on Thursday, an anti-bribery watchdog, Transparency International, warned that Pakistan has dismantled its laws against official corruption”.

    Meanwhile parts of Pakistan’s ISI is likely still backing the Taliban and Pakistan has been rapidly expanding its nuclear program. The “billions of dollars in… military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.”

    Through its foreign aid, the U.S. is funding the Taliban and Pakistan’s nuclear program. Once against the U.S. is being played for the fool and we’re footing the bill.

  2. The Guardian reports India offers UN annual update on carbon emissions and proposes a non-binding annual report on greenhouse gas emissions.

    “India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, has offered to report once a year to the United Nations on how successfully the country is curbing greenhouse gas emissions – another concession to the demands by developed nations ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit talks in December.”

    “The report would spell out whether India was on track to meet its ‘domestic targets’ on curbing emissions growth without being enforceable under a new treaty… A similar communication is already published once every six years and quickly forgotten.”

    Meanwhile, The Guardian adds the World consumption plunges planet into ‘ecological debt’, according to a report by think-tank the new economics foundation (nef). “Rich consumers are still voraciously gobbling up the world’s resources” faster than the planet can renew them.

  3. The LA Times reports Five U.S. troops were killed in southern Afghanistan. Three soldiers died in a roadside bomb explosion. Two “were killed immediately and one died from wounds suffered… In other incidents, one American died of gunshot wounds suffered during an insurgent attack about 6 a.m. today, and another died of wounds received while on foot patrol later in the day.”

    Although foreign casualties tend to make headlines, Afghans are dying in far larger numbers, undercutting NATO efforts to win hearts and minds.

    “Sure the Taliban didn’t give women rights, and young girls couldn’t go to school,” said Gul Mohammad, 60, a shopkeeper in Kabul, the capital. “But they were good with security. There were no kidnappings, no thieves stealing from our shops. We need security.”

  4. The Washington Indpendent reportS Documents suggest the Department of Defense failed to probe alleged war crimes. “The case of Mohammed Jawad, an adolescent tortured by Afghan police and then abused again by U.S. interrogators, suggest that not only certain CIA interrogations, but interrogations by the Department of Defense demand a broader investigation as well.”

    In addition to the CIA, it appears “that U.S. military interrogations also violated well-established laws and appear to have violated the Justice Department’s legal guidelines as well.”

    Despite a military commission judge’s ruling “that Jawad was mistreated in U.S. custody, however, no one has ever been punished or otherwise held accountable. His lawyers say that despite repeated requests, the Defense Department never investigated whether its officers had violated the law.”

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports the Taliban widen Afghan attacks from base in Pakistan. The U.S. military has been ‘surprised’ by the “level of sophistication and organization” being used by the Taliban to carry out attacks from Pakistan.

    Anonymous American officials “said the Taliban’s leadership council, led by Mullah Muhammad Omar and operating around the southern Pakistani city of Quetta, was directly responsible for a wave of violence in once relatively placid parts of northern and western Afghanistan.”

    According to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, “Mullah Omar’s insurgency has appointed shadow governors in most provinces of Afghanistan, levies taxes, establishes Islamic courts there and conducts a formal review of its military campaign each winter.”

    In addition, parts of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are still supporting the Taliban. American officials suspect “the ISI is likely to strengthen bonds to the Taliban as Pakistan hedges its bets.”

    “The Taliban is trying to create trouble elsewhere to alleviate pressure” in the south, said one senior American intelligence official. “They’ve outmaneuvered us time and time again.” …

    “We assess that the primary focus of attacks in northern provinces such as Kunduz is to create a perception that the insurgency is spreading like wildfire,” the American official in Afghanistan said…

    “The Taliban have proven themselves capable of strategic planning,” the official said.

    The Guardian reports the U.S. is launching a new Afghan counterinsurgency strategy. McChrystal is quietly redeploying troops under his command from remote areas to protect population centers.

    His approach is “aimed at bolstering popular support for the government in Kabul”, which is “tainted by corruption and election rigging, amid growing recognition that if the politics fails the war will be lost.”

    There are growing doubts in Kabul that the situation can be rescued, with a sense of deep gloom and foreboding about the future of western engagementsettling on many western diplomats in the capital.

    The diplomats say that the fiasco surrounding Afghanistan’s presidential election has, in the words of one official, “destroyed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy at the first hurdle”. Karzai is also being blamed by many ordinary Afghans for unpopular Nato airstrikes in which civilians are killed.

    “In Afghanistan realities often drown out wishful thinking and the election has brought corruption and legitimacy to the forefront of concerns,” says one of the city’s most experienced foreign observers. “All the options are bad, I simply can’t see a way out.”

Four at Four continues with Obama chairing the UN Security Council, water on the Moon, and an Anglo-Saxon gold hoard.

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