President Bush holds hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, while Dick Cheney chats up an underling at Crawford, Texas. With oil prices at $55 a barrel and comeptition heating up, the administration is trying to mend fences after the Saudi bashing that followed 9/11. The Saudis promised gradually increased production, but no immediate remedy to skyrocketing prices.
DISCOVERING ENVIRO- ECONOMICS IN PANAMA
With fresh water used to operate the locks in the Panama Canal running out, The Economist reports that inventive environmentalists have demonstrated how conservation can provide a cheaper alternative to keep the system going. The trick is to share the cost among the companies who need the resource the most, and to provide an accurate measure of the relative costs. (Economist, April 25, 2005)
KNOCKING THE WORLD OFF BALANCE
The first part of Elizabeth Kolbert's 3-part series on global climate change is now available on the New Yorker's website. Not only are glaciers disappearing at an alarming rate, but the warming of the permafrost may trigger a chain reaction that could accelerate the whole process of global warming. (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, April 25, 2005)
AN OIL TSUNAMI ALERT
The fact that the price of crude oil is approaching $60 per barrel and the production costs for the same barrel fluctuates between $1 and $10 shows that common economical theories are not valid any longer, something new is in the air and the question is how to interpret today’s vibrations... (Kjell Aleklett, Energy Bulletin, April 26, 2005)
-Financial Times: Saudis see the immediate problem resulting from limited refinery capacity in the U.S.
FUTURE OIL AT MORE THAN $100 A BARREL?
Matthew Simmons, a key advisor to President Bush, cautions that the Middle East may have been overestimating its oil reserves. "This is a new era," Mr Simmons told a conference of oil industry analysts, government officials and academics in Edinburgh. "There is a big chance that Saudi Arabia actually peaked production in 1981. We have no reliable data. Our data collection system for oil is rubbish. I suspect that if we had, we would find that we are over-producing in most of our major fields and that we should be throttling back. We may have passed that point." (John Vidal, The Guardian, April 26, 2005)
-BBC on alarm at the oil industry Meeting in Edingburgh
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: RELIANCE ON SAUDI OIL DIFFICULT TO PREDICT
The issue is not whether Saudi Arabia and the Gulf will play a critical role in world energy supplies. It is rather how much petroleum capacity they can
develop and export... In a draft report, Cordesman points out that estimates of how much oil the Middle East can produce have become highly politicized. Cordesman's report runs 45 pages, pdf, and contains the most useful currently available documentation on the situation. (Anthony Cordesman, CSIS, April 20, 2005)
U.S. SUSPICIONS OF IRAN MAY SOUR INDIA-PAKISTAN GAS DEAL
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's George Perkovich and Revati Prasad comment on the fact that India and Pakistan are trying to overcome decades of mistrust by cooperating on a pipeline that would bring natural gas from Iran through Pakistan to India. The 1,625-mile, $4 billion pipeline is the most economical way to get natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India, and it may be one of the most cost-effective confidence-building options in one of the most volatile nuclear high risk parts of the globe, yet it now risks being sabotaged by resistance from the White House and Congress, who are threatening sanctions against anyone who participates. ( George Perkovich , Revati Prasad, CEIP, April 18, 2005)
THE BOLTONIZATION OF U.S. INTELLIGENCE
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern suggests that rewarding John Bolton now that everyone knows about his repeated attempts to intimidate intelligence analysts into accepting false or inaccurate information will send a clear message to the intelligence community that the White House is more interested in sycophantic team players than objective analysis. (Ray McGovern, TomPaine.com, April 25, 2005)
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF AN IRAQI TUNNEL?
Since last January's elections in Iraq, increasingly desperate U.S. officials have been dusting off a vocabulary that preceded the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. As with Iraq, that war was based on faulty assumptions which the White House found difficult to abandon. Tom Engelhardt writes in Tom Dispatch.com, "If the American statistics of slaughter had been accepted by both sides as the ruling logic of the Vietnam struggle, the United States should have won that war any day from the mid-1960s on. That they didn't and that the defeat in Vietnam, however sanitized and reformulated in American pop culture, remains so tenaciously in memory, especially among our military and political leaders, makes any comparison between Vietnam and Iraq a mobius-strip-style experience. After all, our leaders implicitly, in their actions if not their words, compare the two all the time..." (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, April 25, 2005)
DARFUR STILL KILLING 10,000 PEOPLE A MONTH
The International Crisis Group notes that one year after the N'djamena Ceasefire Agreement of 8 April 2004, Darfur remains violent, insecure and deadly. More than 2.4 million residents of the region-- a disproportionate number of them women -- have been driven from their homes; at least 200,000 have died from violence and disease and malnutrition exacerbated by the conflict. Recent weeks have seen continued attacks by pro-government militia against civilians, regular clashes between the rebels and those militia, increased targeting of humanitarian workers and their vehicles, and greater violence in and around camps for internally displaced persons...(ICG, April 26, 2005)
BLAIR IN TROUBLE OVER IRAQ
The scandal over the fact that Tony Blair apparently concealed an opinion from his attorney general questioning the legality of the Iraq war has led to the defection of at least one labor member of parliament, and could result in others abandoning Blair during the full force of an election campaign. (Colin Brown, The Independent, April 26, 2005)
BERLUSCONI SLAMMED BY FORMER ITALIAN HOSTAGE OVER U.S. ARMY INVESTIGATION
Italians suspect that the U.S. leaked the report of a joint investigation in order to limit Italian options. The report finds that U.S. soldiers in Iraq were not responsible for a friendly fire incident that resulted in the death of an Italian secret service agent protecting a freed Italian journalist. The U.S. claims that the car carrying the former hostage was traveling too fast and ignored hand signals made in the dark by U.S. soldiers manning an impromptu roadblock. The report has been seized on by Italy's political opposition just as Berlusconi is trying to put together an acceptable coalition government. (Reuters Alertnet, April 26, 2005)
U.S. FORCES DISMISSAL OF TOP U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATOR WHO BLEW WHISTLE ON U.S. DISAPPEARING DETAINEES IN AFGHANISTAN
The Independent's Nick Meo reports from Kabul: "The UN's top human rights investigator in Afghanistan has been forced out under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticising the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons...Cherif Bassiouni's report had highlighted America's policy of detaining prisoners without trial and lambasted coalition officials for barring independent human rights monitors from its bases. (Nick Meo, The Independent, April 24, 2005)
WHITE WASH FOR THE ARMY'S TOP BRASS?
The principal reaction to the U.S. Army's investigation of command involvement in the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere has tended to be disbelief. The most favorable interpretation is that commanding officers lost control over their own enlisted troops. A more plausible explanation is that the systematic torture and humiliation was probably ordered by someone at a higher pay grade than the generals who were being investigated. The investigation lacked the authority to interrogate Donald Rumsfeld or the Commander-in-Chief in the White House. Republican Senator John Warner has promised a detailed investigation onced the Army terminates its inquiries, but in a largely rubber-stamp Congress that seems unlikely. (Paul Harris and Peter Beaumont report on the Army investigation in Salon, April 25, 2005)
CALLS TO INVESTIGATE RUMSFELD
When the Pentagon vigorously opposed the U.N.'s efforts at creating the International Court of Criminal Justice, which holds individuals responsible for ordering war crimes and crimes against humanity, no one seriously expected the U.S. to be a candidate for eventual prosecutions. That could be changing. Human Rights Watch details a comprehensive list of charges being compiled against U.S. activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
-Human Rights Watch calls for a special prosecutor to investigate Donald Rumsfeld
-Human Rights Watch details the extent of the abuse
-Complete HRW report in pdf format
-ACLU provides online access to U.S. Army documents relating to abuse of prisoners (2,200 documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act are now available in pdf format at: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/041905/
For critics, Senate Republican leader Bill Frist's video appearance at an ultrarightwing Evangelical Christian rally crosses the line separating religion from government.
ATTACK BY THE THEOCONS
Beltway cynics see Senator Frist's determination to participate in the "Justice Sunday" broadcast last weekend as a bid to build support from the extreme right for the next U.S. presidential election. Michelle Goldberg, writing in Salon, noted that the mood at the heavily advertised religious pep rally was somewhat paranoid, with many of the speakers loudly protesting their right to express their evangelical views on politics. Frist's 4-minute video presentation was fairly bland, but it was his readiness to associate the prestige of the Senate leadership with hardline fundamentalists that disturbed most observers. "We are not calling for people to be moral, we want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ," intoned Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Frist's presentation concentrated on his "nuclear option" intended to override the filibuster in order to force a Republican majority vote on a selection of judges that Democrats feel are unfit for service, The long range goal, of course, is setting down the battle lines for the battle to fill the next opening on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Michelle Goldberg, Salon, April 25, 2005)
-Senator Frist's video talk
-The National Council of Churches objects
"This campaign, which they are calling 'Justice Sunday,' should properly be called 'Just-Us' Sunday." --General Secretary Bob Edgar.
-Democrats show unexpected backbone
THE ASSAULT ON THE U.S. JUDICIARY AND CONSTITUTIONAL CHECKS AND BALANCES
The technique is to inflame passions on hot-button issues, ranging from abortion to homosexuality, in order to tap into the deep vein of voters on the previously neglected Christian far right. Law Professor Marci Hamilton, author of "God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law" (Cambridge University Press 2005), deconstructs the argument, in FindLaw.com and notes that the angry attacks being directed against the U.S. judiciary have little to do with law or precedent. (Marci Hamilton, FindLaw.com, April 21, 2005)
HOW WE GOT HERE
Karl Rove, the architect of the neocon takeover of the White House, used commercial databases and the latest computer technology to locate isolated pockets of rightwing evangelists who might tip a sharply divided electorate in favor of the conservative dream of completing the "Reagan Revolution." Rove's goal was nothing less than changing forever the fundamental structure of the U.S. government . PBS' Frontline interviewed top reporters from the Washington Post and a wide range of political experts on how Rove accomplished his mission. The film is now viewable on line, with additional interviews and background material, from Frontline's website. (Frontline & The Washington Post, April 2005)
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