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FEATURE

The Value of Real Climate





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In honor of the Bush Administration's "achievements" in manipulating global warming data, declaring the Polar Bear threatened (um, maybe, after a year of study, they'll agree it is emission caused, but then FoxNews doesn't agree with the premise, so...), and now, with that really big piece of ice falling in the sea...

I thought it might be a good time to look at those who are actually trying to acheive something vis-a-vis global warming and, for that, I turn to realClimate.org.

Put together by Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Science's Institute, and his colleagues, Real Climate is a factual look at the climate with a bit of politics thrown in.

From Gavin Schmidt's latest post:

Inhofe's last stand

Part of me felt a little nostalgic yesterday watching the last Senate hearing on climate change that will be chaired by Sen. James Inhofe. It all felt very familiar and comforting in some strange way. There was the well-spoken 'expert' flown in from Australia (no-one available a little closer to home?), the media 'expert' from the think tank (plenty of those about) and a rather out-of-place geologist. There were the same talking points (CO2 leads the warming during the ice ages! the Medieval Warm Period was warm! it's all a hoax!*) that are always brought up. These easy certainties and predictable responses are so well worn that they feel like a pair of old slippers.

Of course, my bout of nostalgia has nothing to do with whether this was a useful thing for the Senate to be doing (it wasn't), and whether it just provided distracting political theatre (yup) in lieu of serious discussion about effective policy response...

http://www.realclimate.org/...

And then there was Dr. Schmidt's review of Michael Crichton's polemic on (against) global warming:

Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion

In a departure from normal practice on this site, this post is a commentary on a piece of out-and-out fiction (unlike most of the other posts which deal with a more subtle kind). Michael Crichton's new novel "State of Fear" is about a self-important NGO hyping the science of the global warming to further the ends of evil eco-terrorists. The inevitable conclusion of the book is that global warming is a non-problem. A lesson for our times maybe? Unfortunately, I think not...

http://www.realclimate.org/...

Dr. Schmidt is not the only contributor. Real Climate is a veritable 'who's who' of climate science, including: Dr. Michael E. Mann: "Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC)," Caspar Ammann: "A climate scientist working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)," Rasmus E. Benestad: "A physicist by training and work with climate analysis on a Norwegian project called RegClim, and have affiliations with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (met.no) and the Oslo Climate Group (OCG)," Raymond S. Bradley: "Director of the Climate System Research Center (www.paleoclimate.org) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences," William M. Connolley: "A climate modeller with the British Antarctic Survey," Stefan Rahmstorf: "Research at the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, at the Institute of Marine Science in Kiel and since 1996 at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany (in Potsdam near Berlin)," Eric Steig: "Isotope geochemist at the University of Washington in Seattle," Thibault de Garidel: "Post-doctoral associate at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, "David Archer: "A computational ocean chemist at the University of Chicago," and Raymond T. Pierrehumbert: "The Louis Block Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago."

All of whom post their own reports, essays, opinions and responses to questions.

For Exxon's press releases, I'll check with Bush and FoxNews.

For reality, I'll fact-check with Real Climate

FEATURE

UK Report urges distance from US





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UK think-tank, Chatham House, has just released this report:

"which assessed British foreign policy since 1997, says Mr Blair's successor would also have to rethink Britain's role within the European Union and distance it from the US."

In a call for a rebalancing of UK foreign policy, the report determines that the "'disaster' of Iraq and Tony Blair's failure to influence US policy will overshadow his time as prime minister," and "The 2003 invasion and the post-war 'debacle' have damaged Britain's international influence."

Tony Blair’s successor(s) will not be able to offer unconditional support for US initiatives in foreign policy and a rebalancing of the UK’s foreign policy between the US and Europe will have to take place.

A "rebalancing of of the UK’s foreign policy between the US and Europe will have to take place."

Bush and Co. shifting the balance of power to the EU? Was that in the plan?

Was there a plan????

While the report goes on to offer some support for some of Blair's other positions (establishment of the International Criminal Court, global warming and Kyoto Accord, calling for an I/P two-state solution, military campaigns in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, most of his work with Clinton), it paints Blair's ability to influence Bush as:

The post-9/11 decision to invade Iraq was a terrible mistake and the current débâcle will have policy repercussions for many years to come. The root failure of Tony Blair’s foreign policy has been its inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice – military, political and financial – that the United Kingdom has made.

Which leads to the report's conclusion:

His successor(s) will not make the same mistake. For the foreseeable future, whoever is prime minister, there will no longer be unconditional support for US initiatives in foreign policy. Nor will it make much difference who is in power in the United States.

...a new US president, from either party, will certainly make things easier in view of the extraordinary public hostility that George Bush has
generated in Britain and elsewhere. However, like Suez 50 years ago, the Iraq débâcle marks a watershed in British foreign policy that will alter the relationship with the United States for many years to come.

Again, here's the link to the Chatham House report and the BBC story about same.

FEATURE

60 Minutes Opens the Nazis' File Cabinets





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Tonight, 60 Minutes ran a piece called: Revisiting the Horrors of the Holocaust

For the first time, secrets of the Nazi Holocaust that have been hidden away for more than 60 years are finally being made available to the public. We’re not talking about a missing filing cabinet - we’re talking about thousands of filing cabinets, holding 50 million pages. It's Hitler’s secret archive.

[video]
[transcript]

More from the 60 Minutes episode:

The Nazis were famous for record keeping but what 60 Minutes found ran from the bizarre to the horrifying. This Holocaust history was discovered by the Allies in dozens of concentration camps, as Germany fell in the spring of 1945.

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, the documents were taken to a town in the middle of Germany, called Bad Arolsen, where they were sorted, filed and locked way, never to be seen by the public until now.

Anne Frank?

The 60 Minutes team also found the file of "Frank, Annaliese Marie," better known as Anne Frank. It’s her paper trail from Amsterdam to Bergen-Belsen, where she died at the age of 15.

They also have the actual Schindler's list, along with the detailed records of 17 million human beings from the Nazi camps -- from the Nazis' own file cabinets.

Another excerpt:

Their names are listed in notebooks labeled "Totenbuch," which means "death book." The names are written here, single-spaced, in meticulous handwriting.

"Here we see the cause of death: executed. And you can see, every two minutes they shot one prisoner," Jost explains.

"So they shot a prisoner every two minutes for a little over an hour and a half?" Pelley asks.

"Yes. Now look at the date: it’s the 20th of April. That was Adolf Hitler’s birthday. And this was a birthday present, a gift for the Führer. That’s the bureaucracy of the devil," Jost says.

"The devil's in the details," the CBS correspondent reports.

FEATURE

Who Runs Iran?





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Who runs Iran? Given that they're holding elections, I thought it would be a good idea to post a short description.

Who runs Iran?

Iran has combined an Islamic theocracy with a limited democracy -- with the theocracy being the ultimate authority. The military, the judiciary and main councils (Expediency and Guardian) all report to the Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). He is appointed by the clerics that make up the Assembly of Experts, the real power in Iran.

The Assembly of Experts and councils are up for election this week.

Here is an interactive link to a BBC analysis of Iran's government.

Here is the link to the State Department's 10/06 profile on Iran.

Some history:

Iran was not always a theocracy. As Zoroastrians, the original Iranians were tolerant toward other religions. They also had freedoms that were unheard of in other parts of the ancient world. Their Elamite court system allowed for a king or satrap (ruling governor or local king) to be held to account by the lowest servant and Elamite property laws protected a system of land ownership by both sexes.

For a complete history of Iran, see this link

Iranian Revolution

Iran changed significantly after the Iranian Revolution.

There were many events that led up to the Revolution.

Here is some info on its suppression of dissent.

There are also stories coming out of Iran currently that its judiciary is performing a wide range of executions against various minorities, including the Khuzestani Arabs.

There is also the story of this sixteen year old girl who was executed for "crimes against chastity."

And this one and this one about execution of gay teenagers.

Iran has also been accused of attempting to export its revolution:

Iran's relations with many of its Arab neighbors have been strained by Iranian attempts to spread its Islamic revolution, a strictly ideological goal. In 1981, Iran supported a plot to overthrow the Bahrain Government. In 1983, Iran expressed support for Shi'ites who bombed Western embassies in Kuwait, and in 1987, Iranian pilgrims rioted during the hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Nations with strong fundamentalist movements, such as Egypt and Algeria, also mistrust Iran. Iran backs Hizballah (in Lebanon), Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

State Department Profile 10/06

And of seeking to build nuclear weapons:

An IAEA report in November 2003 provided evidence that Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), had concealed secret nuclear activities for eighteen years.

Holocaust Denial

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has raised controversy through his denial of the Holocaust and the conference he held that questioned its existence.

Here an article with a collection of responses to the conference.

There has also been a controversy surrounding the wording of Ahamedinejad's statement on Israel's right to exist. There has been no question, however, that he has stated his objection to the establishment of Israel post-WWII. Here's a link to a post on the history of Iran and Israel (from another diary) that Ahmadinejad doesn't talk about.

It should be noted, that some Iranians may not agree with Ahmadinejad, as Daniel's tomb is regularly visited by both Jews and Muslims.

The Rise of Mahdism

Equally (or more) worrisome to many is Ahamedinejad's seemingly apocalyptal belief in the reappearance of the 12th Imam.

To understand the implications of an absolute belief in this theology, see this link.

Note, it is the 12th Imam, Muhammad_al-Mahdi, that the Mahdi army follows, as well.

Conclusion

Iran is a complex country with a rich heritage that is currently an Islamic theocracy with a limited version of democracy that is subordinated to the clerics who actually run their government.

Their president, Ahamedinejad, who is considered a hardliner by the standards of Iranian politics, has been pushing for Iran to become a nuclear state, has stated that the Holocaust was a myth, and has professed himself to be a follower of the "end-time" theology of the 12th Imam.

According to the State Department profile, Iran has been accused of attempts to export its theology through violence:

The Department of State's Patterns of Global Terrorism report stated that "Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism"

In conclusion, while it is true that their founders were Zoroastrians who followed the Elamite system of government and were ancient promoters of human rights and freedom of religion, a position that many ordianary Iranians may still support, their current government, according to Human Rights Watch's latest press releases and summary, does not follow that ancient model and has been given, by Human Rights Watch, the society rating of "Not Free."

Here's that link to the BBC's analysis of the Iranian government.

And to the State Department profile.

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