WikiLeaks Documents Amplify Concerns About Iran’s Military Threat

November 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The illegal revelation of more than 250,000 State Department documents last weekend by the WikiLeaks organization is a damaging setback for U.S. foreign policy that will strain relations with important U.S. allies, undermine U.S. national security interests, and complicate international cooperation on many issues, including the war on terrorism.

This third installment of stolen documents follows previous WikiLeaks document dumps on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like the two previous actions, this reckless release of the diplomatic cables erodes trust in the U.S. government and puts at risk American diplomats, military personnel, and intelligence professionals, as well as the foreign officials and activists that they interacted with in the course of their duties.

One of the most startling revelations to come out of the sordid WikiLeaks affair is that secret U.S. intelligence assessments concluded that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that are much more capable than the ballistic missiles Iran was previously known to possess. According to a February 2010 diplomatic cable, Tehran received 19 BM-25 missiles from North Korea that were based on a Russian design for a submarine-launched missile. The BM-25 missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, are estimated to have a range of up to 2,000 miles, which would give Tehran the ability to strike at Moscow and other European capitals. The maximum range of Iran’s previously known ballistic missiles was thought to be 1,200 miles.

This news indicates that Iran has secretly engaged in more extensive military cooperation with North Korea’s isolated regime than was previously known. It may also mean that the extent of nuclear cooperation between the two rogue regimes has been much deeper than previously suspected.

The leaked cables are also full of expressions of concern from Arab leaders alarmed about Iran’s nuclear program. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged U.S. officials to “cut off the head of the snake.” Another cable quotes the king as warning that if Iran developed nuclear weapons, “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia.” Bahrain’s ruler, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, argued “forcefully for taking action to terminate [Iran’s] nuclear program by whatever means necessary” and maintained that “the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

The WikiLeaks documents also contained candid and sometimes unflattering assessments of foreign leaders that are sure to ruffle feathers in many foreign capitals: British Prime Minister David Cameron was described as a political lightweight; French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was reported to be “an emperor with no clothes” who has a “thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style”; Afghan President Hamid Karzai was said to “float along on paranoia” and was dismissed as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts.”

The exposure of these candid cables undermines U.S. diplomatic efforts on a wide range of issues. Effective diplomacy requires building mutual trust with foreign leaders and maintaining the confidentiality of information shared about global issues, negotiations, and policy debates. The WikiLeaks revelations will put a chill on future diplomatic interactions because foreign officials will be more reluctant to speak frankly for fear of seeing their words publicized in future leaks. Such concerns will not only constrain diplomacy and information-sharing between the U.S. and other governments; it could spill over to limit information-sharing within the U.S. government.

It is extremely unfortunate that international efforts to defeat terrorism, prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and build stable democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan have been compromised by the criminal disclosure of thousands of documents with no apparent purpose but to embarrass and undermine the U.S. government.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Another extreme drought hits the Amazon, raising climate change concerns – With exclusive commentary by forest scientist Simon Lewis

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Drought in the Amazon (1 month assesment period, through 16  October 2010).  Source: University College London,

We know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event.

That’s from an email to CP by forest scientist Simon Lewis, a leading expert on the Amazon (see Scientists: “There are multiple, consistent lines of evidence from ground-based studies published in the peer-reviewed literature that Amazon forests are, indeed, very susceptible to drought stress”).

The figure above is from the University College London Global Drought Monitor via a post by WWF’s Nick Sundt, that I am reposting below.  It represents a 1-month assessment period, through 16 October 2010.

Amazon drought, BrazilBut first, here’s a excerpt from an article (with a video) by the Global Post that Lewis recommends, “Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon: Droughts are growing more severe. Has the world’s largest rain forest reached its tipping point?”  In the photo, “Brazilians cross the muddy bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon River, in the city of Manaus, Oct. 26, 2010.”

The world’s largest rain forest was dangerously dry, and may well be drying out.

October marked the end of one of the worst Amazon droughts on record — a period of tinder-dry forests, dusty cropland and rivers falling to unprecedented lows. Streams are the highways of the deep jungle and they’re also graveyards for dead trees, usually hidden safely under fathoms of navigable water.

But not this year, and the drought’s significance extends far beyond impeded boats.

While the region has seen dry spells before, locals and experts say droughts have grown more frequent and severe. Scientists say there’s mounting evidence the Amazon’s shifting weather may be caused by global climate change.

The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

“Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.”

Phillips led a team of dozens of researchers who studied the damage caused by a severe 2005 drought to trees and undergrowth at more than 100 sites across the Amazon. His findings, published in the journal Science, are troubling.

Through photosynthesis, the rain forest absorbs 2 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year. But the 2005 drought caused a massive die-off of trees and inverted the process. Like a vacuum cleaner expelling its dust, the Amazon released 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2005. All told, the drought caused an extra 5 billion tons of heat-trapping gases to end up in the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Europe and Japan.

It still remains to be seen whether the rain forest’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases has been permanently harmed. “We can’t say for sure — it could be happening now,” Phillips said. “Often you don’t know you’ve passed a turning point until you’ve already passed it.”

Phillips said he’s worried about yet another drought following so closely after the last. Along the edge of the forest in Peru and Bolivia, there were more fires this year than any year on record, he said, along with reports of substantial damage to plants in the normally wet northwestern Amazon.

“The humid tropical forests have evolved at pretty high temperatures but there’s a temperature at which you don’t see them on the planet,” said Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “And some tropical forests in the world now are starting to be exposed to temperatures they’ve never experienced.”

(Courtesy Greg Asner.)

Asner recently completed a study of world rain forests showing just how extensive the damage could be. He took 16 leading models for predicting the next century of climate change and essentially created a map — showing hotspots where they all agreed rising greenhouse gases would substantially change the forest.

He found that higher temperatures and shifts in rainfall could leave as much as 37 percent of the Amazon so radically altered that the plants and animals living there now would be forced to adapt, move or die. When other man-made factors like logging are taken into account, the portion of affected forest could be as high as 81 percent.

Asner said melting polar ice sheets aren’t the only climate change sentinels out there. The world’s largest rain forest — drained, drying, sometimes burning — is on the front lines, too, and just as threatened.

“I hate to pit myself against the polar bears,” he said. “But we’re talking about the Amazon, the majority of the biodiversity on the planet is in the humid tropical forests.”

Locals call the Amazon’s annual dry spells “the burning season,” named for the forest fires landholders regularly set to make room for crops and cows. In past decades, fires kindled on the jungle’s edges burned themselves out once they advanced a few yards into permanently damp virgin forest.

But that changed with the 2005 drought, said Foster Brown, an environmental scientist at the federal university in the Brazilian state of Acre….

“The ecosystems here have become so dry that instead of a being a barrier to fire, the forest became kindling,” he said. “We’ve changed from a situation where a relatively small part of the region would be susceptible to fire to the entire region being susceptible to fire.”

Burned forests aren’t the only evidence of drought. This year, one of the Amazon River’s biggest tributaries, the Rio Negro, dropped 13 feet below its dry-season average — to the lowest level on record. Channels in some areas have become little more than winding belts of mud — leaving boats stranded and remote communities cut off from supplies….

“Everything has changed. We don’t know when we can plant. We plant and then the sun kills everything,” Mariazinha said. “If it continues like this, we expect a tragedy.”

And the point she pressed upon her visitors was, perhaps they should be worried, too.

“I ask you,” she said, “as someone who lives in the outside world who knows the tragedy that’s happening there — is there anything we can do?”

Here is what Lewis has to say about the drought:

We need to be a little cautious when looking at these unpublished results as we don’t know the exact details of the techniques used to generate the maps. But, we know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event, was anomalous as did not occur in a El Nino year, hit South-Western Amazonia hardest (a different pattern to El Nino related droughts), and was associated with high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (not Pacific sea surface temperatures as in El Nino years). Now in 2010, we again have a severe drought, again hitting South-Western Amazonia hard. Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and the north-west movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone seem ripe for careful study to improve our understanding of the 2010 drought.

The good news for the Amazon is that deforestation rates have been radically reduced since 2005, so in that sense the Amazon is doing well. The bad news is these droughts kill trees and promote fires, which are very damaging to forests and leaves them more vulnerable to fire in the future, potentially leading to a drought-fire-carbon emissions feedback and widespread forest collapse.  Most concerning of all is that while two unusual droughts clearly don’t make a trend, they are consistent with some model projections made well before 2005: that higher sea surface temperatures increase drought frequency and intensity, leading later this century to substantial Amazon forest die-back.

We ought to remember that every ecosystem has it limits, a point of where they radically change. The open question is whether such a point is being reached in some parts of the Amazon. While little is expected of the climate change talks in Cancun next week, the stakes, in terms of the fate of the Amazon are much higher than they were a year ago in Copenhagen.

And here is an excerpt from a World Wildlife Foundation post by Nick Sundt.

The Amazon region is experiencing the third extreme drought in a dozen years — and it may turn out to be the worst on record. The droughts coupled with recent research findings, suggest that rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will rapidly increase the frequency and severity of droughts in the region. The implications for people, biodiversity and climate are ominous.

As the map below shows, most of the Amazon region was afflicted by drought in mid-October 2010, with large areas in the north and west experiencing exceptional drought – beyond extreme.  Drought conditions, which now are improving, have been concentrated in Brazil, but extend into parts of neighboring countries including large areas of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia.

According to the classification system used by the University College London (UCL) Global Drought Monitor, exceptional droughts normally should not occur more than a couple of times  in a century. Typical impacts include “exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies.” According to UCL,  nearly 8.7 million people live in the locations shown above (which include smaller areas outside the Amazon) that are experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

The drought results from a combination of above normal temperatures over much of the region combined with low precipitation.  As the figure below illustrates, most of the Amazon region received less than 75% of normal rainfall between 1 July and 30 September.  Large areas have received far less precipitation, in many cases less than 25% of normal.

Brazil, Percent of Normal Precipitation, 1 July - 30 September  2010.  Source: NOAA.

In a press release on 22 Oct (Seca pode bater recorde na Amazônia / Drought may hit record in the Amazon), Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia or IPAM) said:

“The drought of 2010 still hasn’t ended in the Amazon and could surpass that of 2005 as the region’s worst during the past four decades. In the Western Amazon, the Solimões River reached its lowest level in recorded history. In Manaus, the level of the Rio Negro (Black River) is approaching that of 1963 – the lowest in a century. Even if this doesn’t occur, the forest will have already experienced three extreme dry spells in just 12 years, two of which occurred during the past five years: 1998, 2005 and 2010. And this is not including the drought of 2007, which affected only the Southeastern Amazon and left 10 thousand sq. km. of forest scorched in the region…`The Amazon that had wet seasons so well-defined that you could set your calendar to them – that Amazon is gone,‘ says ecologist Daniel Nepstad of IPAM…”

Among the consequences of the drought are extremely low flows on many of the region’s rivers.  On 24 October 2010, the Rio Negro, a major tributary of the Amazon, reached an all time low of 13.63 m at Manaus, edging out 1963 when water levels reached 13.64 m (Monitoramento Hidrologico: 2010, Boletim no 33 – 29/10/2010, by the Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais or CPRM).  In contrast, just last year, the river saw an all time record high of 29.77 m as the region experienced devastating floods. (Relatorio da Cheia 2009 [PDF] [2010], by CPRM).  See photos of the flood [PDF]. Records for the Rio Negro extend back 107 years.  See also Flooding Near Manaus, Brazil, NASA Earth Observatory, 19 August 2010.

Writing for the New York Times upon his return from Iquitos, Peru, Nigel Pitman reports that “people were deeply upset by the lack of rain.”  He explains: ”Long dry spells like these in Amazonia wither crops and worsen air pollution and cut off whole towns from the rest of the world, when the arm of the river they’re on turns to mud. They also destroy forests” (Drought in the Amazon, Up Close and Personal, 12 November 2010).  Satellite imagery on 19 August showed a pall of smoke concentrated over Bolivia  (see Fires in South America, NASA Earth Observatory, 8 September 2010), where drought conditions allowed fires to burn out of control, prompting the Bolivian government in mid-August to declare a state of emergency.

Dr Richard Bodmer of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (University of Kent) and the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported on the impacts the drought is having on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon.  Among the species affected:  the pink river dolphin (see photo below).  “The conditions have resulted in fewer dolphins observed throughout the Samiria River,” says Dr.  Bodmer.  “Overall, pink river dolphin numbers have decreased by 47 per cent and the grey river dolphin by 49 per cent compared with previous years’ population estimates. The dolphins have been forced to leave their habitats in the Samiria River and find refuge in the larger channels of the Amazon.” See Amazon drought results in dramatic fall in pink river dolphin populations (press release from Earthwatch).

Pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)  in the Rio Negro, Brazil.  © Claudio Marigo / WWF.

For an outstanding series of photographs documenting the impacts of the drought, see Estiagem na Amazônia posted by Último Segundo (22 November 2010).  See also the Reuters video (6 Nov 2010) below for discussion of some of the major consequences of the drought.

Above: Brazil Looks to Ease Amazon Drought, Reuters Video, 6 November 2010.

The 2005 Drought

Just 5 years ago — in 2005 — the Amazon experienced an extreme drought that prompted the government of Brazil to declare a state of emergency in most of the region. In The Drought of Amazonia in 2005 (by José A. Marengo, Carlos A. Nobre, Javier Tomasella in the Journal of Climate, February 2008), researchers said:

“In 2005, large sections of southwestern Amazonia experienced one of the most intense droughts of the last hundred years. The drought severely affected human population along the main channel of the Amazon River and its western and southwestern tributaries, the Solimões (also known as the Amazon River in the other Amazon countries) and the Madeira Rivers, respectively. The river levels fell to historic low levels and navigation along these rivers had to be suspended. The drought did not affect central or eastern Amazonia, a pattern different from the El Niño–related droughts in 1926, 1983, and 1998.”

The 2005 drought in the Amazon also was notable for its impacts on the global carbon cycle.  Though the exact magnitude of the impacts are a matter of debate within the science community (see Amazon drought raises research doubtsNature News, 20 July 2010), there is evidence that the drought along with elevated air temperatures sharply reduced net primary production (NPP) in the Amazon. NPP is a measure of the amount of atmospheric carbon plants pull from the atmosphere and incorporate into biomass.  Where NPP is reduced, less carbon is fixed by plants and more is left in the atmosphere to disrupt climate.

In Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009 (Science, 20 August 2010) researchers using satellite data found that global NPP dropped precipitously in 2005 to its lowest level of the decade.  The largest contributor to the drop was a decline of NPP in the Amazon rainforest that they attributed largely to elevated temperatures and the severe drought.

Similarly, scientists using records from long-term monitoring plots in the Amazon reported in Science a year earlier (6 March 2009) in Drought Sensitivity of the Amazon Rainforest that the drought had a large impact on carbon flows. They note that the Amazon’s old growth forests process 18 Petagrams (or Gigatons) of carbon each year — more than twice the amount emitted annually by burning fossil fuels (1 Petagram = 1015 grams = 1 billion metric tonnes = 1 Gigaton). “Relatively small changes in Amazon forest dynamics therefore have the potential to substantially affect the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and thus the rate of climate change itself,” they said.

They estimated that the drought reduced the biomass carbon balance by 1.2 to 1.6 Gigatons of carbon.  “The exceptional growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2005, the third greatest in the global record, may have been partially caused by the Amazon drought effects documented here,” they add. “Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change.”

The scale of such drought-induced changes in the Amazon’s carbon budget can be contrasted with the magnitude of Brazil’s carbon emissions from other sources, and with global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.   The Brazilian government estimates that in 2005, carbon emissions from land-use and landcover changes (including deforestation) were 1.3 gigatons of carbon and accounted for 77% of Brazil’s carbon emissions from all sources in 2005  (Segunda Comunicação Nacional do Brasil à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima [PDF], Coordenação-Geral de Mudanças Globais do Clima, Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Brasília, 2010).

That is at the low-end of the range of 1.2-1.6 gigatons of carbon that may have shifted to the atmosphere in 2005 as a result of the Amazon drought.  In other words, 2005 carbon emissions associated with the drought may have equaled or  exceeded those from deforestation in Brazil that year. Furthermore, at the global level, the range of emissions that may have resulted from the 2005 drought is equivalent to roughly 16-22% of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in 2005 (about 7.4 gigatons of carbon).

The 2010 Drought

Just as the 2005 drought was preceded by an El Niño (from Apr-May-June 2002 through Feb-Mar-Apr 2003), the 2010 drought was preceded by an El Niño (May-June-July 2009 through March-April-May 2010).  Consequently, the Amazon experienced well below normal precipitation during the rainy season that normally stretches roughly from September-November through March-May.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in The South American Monsoon System Summary, July 2009-June 2010 [Powerpoint] that precipitation from July 2009 through June 2010 was well below normal over the Amazon basin, consistent with the expected impacts of an El Niño.  Furthermore, precipitation was much lower than during the 2002-2003 rainy season associated with the 2002-2003 El Niño that set the stage for the 2005 drought.

Similarly, as in 2005, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical North Atlantic ocean in 2010 were elevated during the dry season (normally April-September). The maps below show the global temperature anomalies for September 2005 and September 2010 (around the usual end of the dry season) and show that SSTs in the north tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean in both years show a similar pattern.  Likewise, the surface temperatures over the Amazon during both years were elevated — though were substantially higher in 2010.

September 2005 surface temperature anomalies.  Source: NASA

Global Surface Temperature Anomalies, September 2010. Source:  NASA.

The Monthly Tropical North Atlantic Index (TNA) (a measure of the average monthly SST anomaly in the region) has been at record high levels (and above the values for 2005) for every month of 2010 through September. The TNA for October was second only to that of 2003. The separate Caribbean SST Index (CAR) has not been at record levels for most months, but has been anomalously high and for most months has been above 2005 levels.

For both the TNA and the CAR indices, the long term trend is upward.  See for example the long-term trend for the Tropical North Atlantic Index for the month of September below.

Above: The North Tropical Atlantic SST Index for the Month of September, 1951-2010. SST anomalies (relative to 1951-2000) averaged over the region of the tropical Atlantic between Africa and the Caribbean (the region is indicated by NTA on this map) for the month of September from 1951 through 2010.

As in 2005, these high SSTs in the Tropical North Atlantic are resulting in one of the worst coral bleaching episodes on record in the Caribbean, as well as energizing one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.  See our recent posting, Sea Surface Temperatures in Tropical North Atlantic Rise to Record Levels in 2010, With Impacts from the Amazon to Canada (16 November 2010).

Are the high SSTs — as in 2005 — also associated with the Amazon drought conditions during the 2010 dry season?  The answer is most likely “yes,” but the nature of the connection and the role of other factors (such as the 2009-2010 El Niño in the tropical Pacific) will have to await the published research results of scientists.  Similarly, we will not know the impacts of the 2010 drought on the cycling of carbon to and from the Amazon until scientific assessments are conducted and research results are published.

The Climate Change Connection

What connection might these droughts have to rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere and what might we expect during the course of this century as GHG  concentrations continue to rise?

The connections between rising GHG concentrations on the  El Niños is a matter of scientific interest and debate.  El Niño-Southern Oscillation patterns in the tropical Pacific appear to be changing and some research suggests the changes may be related to climate change (see El Niño in a changing climate, Nature, 24 September 2010).  However, the science is very much unsettled, so we cannot say anything definitive about the relationship between rising GHGs and the El Niños that preceeded the 2005 and 2010 droughts.

In the case of rising SSTs in the tropical Atlantic — another major contributor to the 2005 drought and likely to the 2010 drought  –  the connection to rising GHG concentrations is better understood, though there is uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact relative to other variables.

When asked about the degree to which rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere were contributing to the trend of rising  sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said at a Congressional briefing on 30 June 2010 that the temperatures could not be explained without accounting for rising GHG concentrations.  He said that while some researchers thought the rising GHG levels might account for 60-80% of the temperature anomaly, he estimated that about half was due to rising GHGs.

This is consistent with research results published in Geophysical Research Letters on 29 April 2010.  In Is the basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic Ocean related to atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming?, Chunzai Wang and Shenfu Dong of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, conclude that “both global warming and AMO [Atlantic multidecadal oscillation] variability make a contribution to the recent basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic and their relative contribution is approximately equal.”

If the rise in SSTs in the tropical north Atlantic are being driven in part by rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, and if those SSTs are implicated in the Amazon drought of 2005 and potentially in the drought of 2010, then rising GHG concentrations are among the factors likely contributing to those droughts. However, researchers have not at this point definitively attributed either drought to rising atmospheric GHG concentrations.

More importantly rising atmospheric concentrations of GHGs in the future will continue to affect tropical sea surface temperatures in both the Pacific and the Atlantic,  and research indicates that this — in combination with rising air temperatures over the Amazon – will increasingly dry out the Amazon. In Amazon Basin climate under global warming: the role of the sea surface temperature (Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 27 May 2008), researchers analyze these connections.

Using a model from the UK’s Hadley Centre, they focused on a period centered around the year 2050.  The analysis suggests that SST anomalies in both the tropical Atlantic and Pacific would combine to reduce Amazon Basin rainfall, “leading to a perennial soil moisture reduction and an associated 30% reduction in annual Amazon Basin net primary productivity (NPP). A further 23% NPP reduction occurs in response to a 3.5°C warmer air temperature associated with a global mean SST warming.”

In Drought under global warming: a review (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 19 Oct 2010) Dr Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 assessment “project increased aridity in the 21st century, with a striking pattern that suggests continued drying” over many land areas including “most of Americas.”  While acknowledging the uncertainties, he says that the model results appear “to be a robust response to increased GHGs.”  He adds: “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling [the model results]…a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades” in Brazil and many other land areas.

Approaching — or passing — a Tipping Point

The possibility of increasingly arid conditions along with more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon — and the regional and global implications — is a matter of growing and grave concern.  In a report to WWF, The Amazon’s Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse [2.49 MB pdf] (Dec 2007, WWF), IPAM’s Daniel Nepstad concludes:

Synergistic trends in Amazon economies, vegetation, and climate could lead to the replacement or damaging of more than half of the closed-canopy forests of the Amazon Basin over the next 15 to 25 years, undoing many of the successes currently in progress to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Counteracting these trends are emerging changes in landholder behaviour, recent successes in establishing large blocks of protected areas in active agricultural frontiers, important market trends favouring forest stewardship, and a possible new international mechanism for compensating tropical nations for their progress in forest conservation, that could reduce the likelihood of a large-scale dieback of the Amazon forest complex. In the long term, however, the avoidance of this scenario may depend upon worldwide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are large enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than a degree or two.”

More recently (in late 2009 and before the 2010 drought), in Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector [PDF], WWF identified the prospect of more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon and the related rainforest dieback as being among the ”tipping points” that could be passed in coming decades, with ”significant impacts within the first half of this century.”

Given the current drought in the Amazon, the report’s discussion of the 2005 Amazon drought should raise some eyebrows:

“…until more recently, 2005-like droughts may have had a frequency of between 1-in-40 and 1-in-100-years. Recent work, however, suggests that, with the now elevated concentration of GHGs  [greenhouse gases] (currently ~430 ppmv CO2e [parts per million, volume, of carbon dioxide equivalent],compared with 280 ppmv CO2e pre-industrial), the return period is of the order of 1-in-20-years and this is likely to increase to 1-in-2 and above by between 2025 and 2050 if stabilization at 450 to 550 ppmv CO2e is achieved (with a higher probability if it is not).”

Given that the 2010 drought is comparable to the 2005 drought — and that they are only five years apart, we already may be closer to a return period of 1-in-2 years than the research suggested.

About the implications of an increase in the frequency of 2005-like droughts, the report says:

“The 2005 drought impacts were relatively severe. However, the social, environmental and economic consequences of such a significant increase in the frequency of 2005-like events are far more than the sum of 2005 impacts x drought frequency. What is currently termed ‘drought’, with such a significant increase in frequency, becomes the norm implying a potentially radical change in hydrological systems in affected regions, with knock-on effects for people, environment, and economy.”

For an excellent discussion of the 2005 and 2010 droughts, climate change and the implications for the Amazon, see the video below from GlobalPost, Rumble in the Jungle: Is the Amazon Losing the Fight Against Climate Change? by Erik German and Solana Pyne.  See also their online article, Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon (GlobalPost, 3 November 2010).

– Nick Sundt

Climate Progress

Exclusive: In Letter, Gates Dismissed McCain’s Concerns About DADT Study

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In late September, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing his concerns that the Pentagon’s Working Group review of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was operating under the assumption that “the policy will be repealed,” rather than studying if it should be changed. “I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and the survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered,” McCain wrote in a letter dated September 28, 2010.

Responding to the Senator’s request in a previously unreleased letter obtained by the Wonk Room dated October 25, 2010, Gates explained that the review was not a “referendum” on the policy, stressing, “I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.” He also emphasized that the final report would inform military leaders of the impacts of lifting the ban and help guide Congress in its decision making:

GATES: I instructed the working group to obtain the input of Servicemembers so that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I, as well as the Service Chiefs, can more fully understand how a change in the DADT policy may impact unit cohesion, military readiness and effectiveness, recruiting and retention and family readiness. […]

The Chairman and I fully support the approach and the efforts of the working group, as do the Service Chiefs. We are confident that the working group’s report will provide us with the information we need to appropriately advise the President, and, if requested to do so, to provide our fully informed views to Congress as it considers legislative action.

[Read a copy of Gates’ letter HERE]

Unfortunately, Gates’ response did not assuage McCain, who reiterated his opposition to the study during a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press, hawking the same talking points. But the Senator is one of the only players involved who is concerned about the scope of the report. Two of the four Service Chiefs — Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead and Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz — are on public record as endorsing the comprehensive nature of the review. Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos — who has expressed concerns about the “risk” of repeal — also predicted that the Pentagon’s review of the policy would inform the military about how best to implement a repeal and allow the Marines Corp to change the policy “smartly.”

Similarly, during a hearing last week, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

Cross-posted on the Wonk Room.


Exclusive: In Letter, Gates Dismissed McCain’s Concerns About DADT Study

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In late September, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing his concerns that the Pentagon’s Working Group review of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was operating under the condition that “the policy will be repealed” rather than studying if it should be changed. “I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and the survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered,” McCain wrote in a letter dated September 28, 2010. [Read a copy of McCain’s letter HERE]

Responding to the Senator’s request in a previously unreleased letter from October 25, 2010, Gates explained that the review was not a “referendum” on the policy, stressing, “I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.” He also emphasized that the final report would inform military leaders of the impacts of lifting the ban and help guide Congress in its decision making:

GATES: I instructed the working group to obtain the input of Servicemembers so that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I, as well as the Service Chiefs, can more fully understand how a change in the DADT policy may impact unit cohesion, military readiness and effectiveness, recruiting and retention and family readiness. […]

The Chairman and I fully support the approach and the efforts of the working group, as do the Service Chiefs. We are confident that the working group’s report will provide us with the information we need to appropriately advise the President, and, if requested to do so, to provide our fully informed views to Congress as it considers legislative action.

[Read a copy of Gates’ letter HERE]

Unfortunately, Gates’ response did not assuage McCain, who reiterated his opposition to the study during a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press. But the Senator is one of the only individual concerned about the scope of the report. Two of the four Service Chiefs — Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead and Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz — are on public record as endorsing the comprehensive nature of the review. Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos — who has expressed concerns about the “risk” of repeal — also predicted that the Pentagon’s review of the policy would inform the military about how best to implement a repeal and allow the Marines Corp to change the policy “smartly.”

Similarly, during a hearing last week, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told Senate Armed Services Committee, “We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

Wonk Room

New Plant Raises New North Korean Nuclear Concerns

November 21, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Today’s New York Times brings news of a new North Korean nuclear facility that could put the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program back on the front burner of world politics:

North Korea showed a visiting American nuclear scientist earlier this month a vast new facility it secretly and rapidly built to enrich uranium, confronting the Obama administration with the prospect that the country is preparing to expand its nuclear arsenal or build a far more powerful type of atomic bomb.

Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama at a moment when his program for gradual, global nuclear disarmament appears imperiled at home and abroad. The administration hurriedly began to brief allies and lawmakers on Friday and Saturday — and braced for an international debate over the repercussions.

The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building that had housed an aging fuel fabrication center, and that were operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.” The North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running, he said.

American officials know that the plant did not exist in April 2009, when the last Americans and international inspectors were thrown out of the country. The speed with which it was built strongly suggests that the impoverished, isolated country, which tested its first nuclear device in 2006, had foreign help and evaded strict new United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed to punish its rejection of international controls.

Previously, we know that North Korea has received from Pakistan’s renegade nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, and from the Iranians. The speech with which the facility was constructed would seem to suggest that they are indeed getting help again, especially considering North Korea’s impoverished economy.

The United States is denying that this was done without the knowledge of our intelligence services, but the tone of the report and the reaction seems to suggest that, at the very least, we had no idea of the scope of this new facility:

The White House is clearly eager to use the new information to show that North Korea, in violation of United Nations mandates, continues to make significant progress toward advancing its nuclear program, even though it remains under international sanctions for its past violations.

American officials were sent to China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, the other members in the moribund “six-party talks.” The Obama administration also hopes to persuade China, by far North Korea’s most important source of political and economic support, to put more pressure on the government of Kim Jong-il, which has shown signs of becoming more militaristic as it undergoes a leadership transition.

China has been hesitant to cut off trade or fuel to the North, and it appears determined to support its longtime, if difficult, ally during its succession process. But in the past China has taken modest steps to support a tougher line when North Korea has tested nuclear weapons or missiles, defying international commitments.

The question is what North Korea’s motives are here in revealing that they have vastly expanded their ability to enrich uranium. While that might be seem like a simple question, reading the tea leaves out of Pyongyang is a task as difficult as it was to figure out what was going on inside the Kremlin during the Cold War. It’s fairly well accepted now, for example, that the nuclear crisis of the early 90s that was “solved” when former President Carter met with Kim Il Sung was prompted as much by the knowledge that the elder Kim was dying and North Korea’s ongoing famine as it was by a desire by the North to actually obtain nuclear weapons. There are similar suspicions this time around that Pyongyang’s motives are, as always, multi-faceted:

The most obvious is to create a new bargaining chip to try to force Mr. Obama to pay off the country. “It’s typical of North Korea, to see if we will reward them” for suspending operations or dismantling the facility, said one senior administration official.

But there are other possible explanations. Just as the North used the sinking of a South Korean warship this year to build the credentials of its leader-in-waiting, Kim Jong-un, the son of the current leader and grandson of the country’s founder, this effort could be designed to show that the North must be accepted as a nuclear state along with the major nuclear powers and Pakistan, India and Israel.

Administration officials said they had no intention of reopening negotiations with the North unless it “demonstrated a seriousness of purpose and constructive action” to live up to its past promises to dismantle its nuclear facilities.

Another possibility, which administration officials declined to discuss, is that the North ultimately intends to build a new generation of hydrogen bombs or thermonuclear weapons, far more powerful than anything in its current arsenal.

Whatever the motivation, though, I think this new story suggests that a nuclear North Korea is here to stay, at least for as long as there is a North Korea.

Outside the Beltway

Illinois – Northwestern: Wrigley Field NCAA Football Stupidity … Safety Concerns, One Way Football

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

GO WEST YOUNG MAN … It is the only way the teams will be allowed to play due to safety concerns. They knew the spacial concerns of the dimensions of Wrigley Field over a year ago and signed off on this any how.

Who Thought this was ever safe?

Only one end zone will be used for offense Saturday at Wrigley Field for the Illinois-Northwestern game because of safety concerns, the Big Ten announced Friday, and the Chicago Cubs said the decision caught them by surprise.


NCAA rules state the field dimensions must have adequate space surrounding the playing surface: “Limit lines shall be marked … 12 feet outside the sidelines and the end lines, except in stadiums where total field surface does not permit. In these stadiums, the limit lines shall not be less than 6 feet from the sidelines and end lines.”

Here are the ridiculous ground rules for the game. Rumor has it that the game will be played with 8 men, instead of 11, flag football rules will apply and the rushers must count to 3 Mississippi before they can rush the QB. Good Grief!

The Illinois-Northwestern NCAA football game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field is a complete joke. Sure it is cool when sporting events are played in venues that they are not normally played in. Watching the NHL play an outside hockey game at Fenway Park was beyond fantastic to watch. However, who ever the brain surgeons were who dreamed up the idea and worse, signed off on the idea to have a football game played in a venue that could barely hold the foot print of a football field should be ashamed. The NCAA, Big Ten, Chicago Cubs and Chicago politicians all have egg on their face.

The reason that was provided for the last minute change was player safety. However, why was player safety not a concern up until the other day as what changed? The foot print of a football field in Wrigley Field resembled the late Chris Farley wearing a speedo.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had said this week he would have different game plans for each end zone to avoid the possibility of injury.

Cubs president Crane Kenney released a statement Friday saying the Big Ten and both universities approved the field dimensions in relation to player safety. As recently as last week, the Cubs said in the statement, the Big Ten “participated in a field walk-through and raised no issue with the field dimensions.”

The Cubs also said they “are surprised by the Big Ten’s last-minute statement regarding changes for tomorrow’s Northwestern-Illinois football game at Wrigley Field, Let there be no doubt: The safety of the student-athletes has been — and remains — the No. 1 priority since the concept of this game was first discussed more than a year ago, and all parties have gone to complete lengths to ensure student-athlete safety for this contest.”

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Scared Monkeys

House Committee on Homeland Security Expressed Concerns about “Gate Rape” on September 22

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson sent Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole a letter on Friday expressing concern that the TSA did not review privacy and civil liberty concerns before implementing the new “gate rape” procedures at airports. The letter demands additional information on the pat-downs and calls on Pistole to reconsider them.

But most troubling, it reveals that at a member briefing on the new protocol conducted on September 22, the Committee expressed concern about the pat-downs.

As you know, on September 22, 2010, the Committee on Homeland Security held a Member briefing on a pilot that TSA was conducting at Boston Logan International Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to evaluate enhanced passenger screening protocols. At that time, Members viewed a demonstration of the protocols and expressed concern about their intrusiveness as well as about the risk of inconsistent nationwide implementation and urged TSA to work to educate the traveling public on the need for these reforms. Subsequently, TSA, over a two month period, began implementing these new protocols at our Nation’s airports.

While some of this appears to be a belated attempt to raise privacy issues about the “gate rape,” Thompson rightly points out the Administration’s failures to fulfill privacy and civil liberties requirements.

In the absence of an Executive branch level Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that would evaluate decisions such as this, it was crucial that the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy Officer and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties thoroughly evaluate and publish written assessments on how this decision affects the privacy and civil rights of the traveling public. To date, the Department has not published either a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) nor a Civil Liberties Impact Assessment (CLIA) on the enhanced pat down procedures. Without a published PIA or CLIA, we cannot ascertain the extent to which TSA has considered how these procedures should be implemented with respect to certain populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. By not issuing these assessments, the traveling public has no assurance that these procedures have been thoroughly evaluated for constitutionality.

Now, Thompson has been successful in the past at forestalling abusive surveillance by raising precisely these kinds of privacy issues, notably when he prevented Michael Chertoff from implementing a satellite surveillance program in the US. But that was when the Democrats had a majority in the House. In just weeks, Thompson will lose his gavel and Peter King-who used to materially support terrorists in Ireland but now loves to fearmonger on terror-will take over.

Which means Pistole and the Obama Administration will probably just blow off this request for some proof that gate rape has passed constitutional review.

Related posts:

  1. Feingold
  2. Gitmo Judge: Rape Threats Are Okay If They Don’t Work
  3. The Privatization of Citizen Informant Networks


Cornryn to Senate Republicans: Instead of primarying the candidates I recruit, come to me with your concerns

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Does this qualify as unfair criticism of Jim DeMint? Much depends on the answer, you know. Sen. John Cornyn said during a closed-door meeting Tuesday that he expects colleagues to bring their concerns to him about candidates he recruits as National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman — and not to help mount challenges against them, Republicans […]

Read this post »

Hot Air » Top Picks

Taser incident in East Lansing High School raises concerns

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

East Lansing Police are defending the use of a taser on a 17-year-old student at East Lansing High School last week, reports the Lansing State Journal.

Marcus Reid, 17, has been charged with two counts of hindering, obstructing and assaulting a police officer and one count of disorderly conduct from a Thursday incident at the high school.

The Journal reports a school officer, who had just been assigned to the school, was escorting a 17-year-old woman off school property because she had been suspended when Reid intervened. The officer called for back up and seven East Lansing Police officers responded to the school. A third student, an unidentified minor, also engaged in the scuffle with officers.

The suspended student, 17-year-old Hodan Sharif, faces one count of disorderly conduct and one count of disorderly obstruction criminal charges. The minor will face disorderly conduct charges in probate court, the paper reports.

Police say they had to use the taser on Reid because they could not subdue him with other methods. But Reid’s mother says the incident was excessive force. She alleges her son ended up with a hairline fracture from the incident, something police deny. Police say he never complained of being in pain while in the city jail.

Dionnedra Reid said over the weekend that her son, a junior, already was being held down on his back by four other East Lansing police officers when another officer Tasered him twice in the chest. Reid said she watched a videotape of it Friday with school officials. Monday, she said she objects to the use of police officers to enforce school discipline, such as escorting a suspended student from the grounds of the school.

Police refused to comment on Dionnedra’s complaints. They also note that the officer had just been returned to the school after budget constraints had lead the police department and the East Lansing Schools to eliminate the school officer post. The post was reinstated just before former Chief Tom Wibert left for a new job in Texas.

School officials and police say they are reviewing the incident.

Michigan Messenger

Foreign concerns and Obama’s weakened Presidency

November 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Reactions in many parts of Europe and Asia are muted although the debacle of the Democrats and Barack Obama in the midterm elections may change domestic politics for a long time or even make him a one term President. Most are waiting to see how he handles his weakened Presidency in coming weeks before revealing their cards.

The main concern is about the quality of governance in America. Fear is growing of Congressional gridlock so severe that putting faith and trust in American leadership in world affairs would be a high risk proposition. So relations with Germany, France, Russia and China are likely to become more difficult despite public statements of friendship and cooperation. That will cause problems for US foreign policy just as Obama tries to start exiting from Afghanistan next year and put more pressure on Iran to accept international strictures on its nuclear fuel development program. He needs the support of these countries for both objectives. Pakistan, which is already an unreliable ally in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, will surely become more unruly and seek more compensation for its role in helping the US.

Although the midterm elections are a purely domestic affair, the dramatic losses in both Congress and Senate are being viewed as Obama’s failure to keep his finger on the pulse of the American people. For outsiders, this is a big surprise since he won the 2008 Presidential election because of his superior grasp over what the people want and hope for. A President out of touch with his people is a poor politician in a democracy. This issue goes to the heart of political governance and Presidential leadership.

The reaction is muted so far because everyone understands the complexity and violence of American politics and a reversal in midterm elections does not necessarily indicate a President too weak to bang heads together to uphold his principles. But it is astonishing that Obama and his political advisors are so distant from their own political base as to suffer such historic losses making it much harder to push legislation through either House.

With some Republics baying to ensure that he becomes a one-term President, further political reversals or failures to win battles in either House will open the floodgates of foreign governments’ concern. The White House may find its key foreign policy initiatives, especially in international security and economic cooperation, blocked or mired in various international forums.

The tension between American liberals and conservatives used to be healthy. It spurred competition to achieve better results. But it has turned into war causing the failure of bipartisanship in Congress after Obama’s rise to power on a wave of what now looks like misplaced expectation.

The midterm debacle was caused by many mistakes that analysts and historians will unravel in coming months. But for many outside America, the election results are a comment less on Obama’s mistakes than on the robust changes in the practice of democracy. Rulers and policy makers may think they know what is best for the people. But this election has asserted that the people do not care to be ruled by those who do not listen or merely half-listen to them. It turns out that language of hope and soaring positivity no longer suffice to win voter support as they did in 2008 when Obama appeared from nowhere to seize the White House.

Outsiders may take these democracy lessons to heart and work harder in their own elections not to lose their supporters through inattention or miscommunication. But foreign affairs are ruled by each country’s assessment of its national interests. If coming months indicate a weakened President, drumming up foreign support for his administration’s agenda on key international issues will become harder.

The Moderate Voice

Voter Concerns: Jobs, Economy, Constitution

November 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

By Tim Lynch

Here’s an interesting excerpt from November 1 NBC Nightly News:

Brian Williams, anchor:  Where’s the electorate?

Chuck Todd, correspondent, reports on a new survey where voters were asked the following: “‘Send us a message.  Tell us what message you would love to send with your vote tomorrow.’  Well, most people said, ‘Tell these members of Congress to focus on jobs and the economy.’  … However, look at what Republicans and tea party members said.  They said, ‘Yes, we’re focused on the economy, but we also want you to return to the principles of the Constitution.  Now, what this means is limited government.’”

NBC News/Wall Street Journal — Return to Principles of the Constitution

Republicans 41%; Democrats 8%; Independents 22%; Tea Party 50%

For Cato work on the Constitution, go here, here (pdf), and here.

Voter Concerns: Jobs, Economy, Constitution is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

Cato @ Liberty

2010 Rove Dismisses 2004 Rove’s Deep Concerns About Secret Money In Elections

October 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation today, former Bush advisor Karl Rove defended “flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want people to know they’ve contributed,” as host Bob Schieffer put it, saying his Crossroads GPS group and other conservative organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a right to spend unlimited amounts of money on this year’s elections without disclosing their donors. The network of special interest groups led by Rove is expecting to raise $ 250 million to influence this years’ elections, almost all of it from millionaires and billionaires.

But as ThinkProgress reported last week, Rove sang a different tune in 2004 when he said, “I’m against all the 527 ads and activities,” referring to a tax designation of some outside political groups, including his own American Crossroads. “I don’t think they’re fair. I don’t think it’s appropriate. They’re misusing the law. They all ought to stop,” he said at the time. Today, Schieffer confronted Rove with the video ThinkProgress highlighted, asking him, “so why is it that if they were so bad back then that they’re so wholesome now?” Watch it:

Rove responded by saying “I wish we had a different system,” but that his group and the others were merely a response to the “liberal groups” which “have been using undisclosed money for years and years and years and years,” he said, pointing to unions. But as Schieffer and others have noted, unions’ memberships and agendas are well known and public, while the agenda and motives of Rove’s wealthy donors are unclear and hidden. Moreover, Rove ignored the fact that President Obama took a strong stance against secretive outside groups supporting his 2008 campaign, marginalizing Democrat-aligned groups.

But when Scheiffer asked Rove — who at that point had stated that we need “a different system” at least three times — whether he would commit to working towards a stronger campaign finance regime, Rove dodged, declining to commit to anything or say what a “new system” might entail:

SCHEIFFER: If you feel so strongly about it would you pledge this morning that you’ll work to have new campaign laws where we make all of these contributions transparent and we’ll know who is giving them?

ROVE: I’m for a new system, Bob. I’m focused on 2010. Right now I’m focused on trying to level the playing field. When you have an organization that spends $ 87 million. It’s announced it’s spending $ 87 million. We’re the big player but we don’t like to boast about it. That’s the amount of disclosure. We’ve tolerated this for decades. The system may need something else.

Rove did pledge, however, that his groups will act as a conduit for billionaires to secretly funnel money into American politics for years to come, saying his Crossroads groups will “serve as a permanent counterweight to the activities of the labor unions and these liberal groups.”


Addressing Your Concerns About the New Site Design

October 21, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Hey NBers. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for the shaky roll-out of the new site design. I understand that there has been a lot of frustration with some missing features, and elements of the new layout. I want to make sure your concerns are addressed.

read more – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Strong concerns that jihad teams in Europe have selected targets and are ready to commit mass-murder

October 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

There are some indications that this is true in America as well. I was in a train station in a major city a few days ago, and the place was being patrolled by large numbers of uniformed military personnel. As I’ve had occasion to be in that station several times in the last few weeks, I can say with certainty that the military patrols a few days ago were not just routine, even in this post-9/11 world.

Ironic, isn’t it, that ABC publishes this “exclusive” on the same morning that they’re preparing to run yet another large-scale whitewash of the ideology that gives rise to these mass-murder plots.

“Exclusive: Concern That Terror Teams Have Selected Targets, Ready to Strike
U.S. Weighs Travel Alert For Europe Because of Threat of Terror Attacks,” by Richard Esposito, Rhonda Schwartz and Kirit Radia for ABC News, October 2:

Strong concerns that terrorist teams in Europe have selected their targets, completed their surveillance, eluded capture and are now ready to strike at airports and tourist attractions have prompted the State Department to ready a highly unusual travel advisory for Europe, multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources tell ABC News.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials have information that the teams could at any time launch a “Mumbai style” terror attack that targets civilians for death or hostage taking. The 2008 Mumbai attack used small arms and explosives to kill 175 people and paralyze the Indian city for days.

The current concerns are for scenarios that include opening fire at airports in Europe as well as executing similar attacks at “soft” targets like tourist attractions or hotels.

According to ABC News sources, the terror plotters have moved through the surveillance stage, checked back in with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and have received the go-ahead to strike.

Officials said earlier that Osama bin Laden had approved or blessed the attack plan.

The suspects reportedly include British and German citizens, who may be of Pakistani or Afghan ethnicity….

Jihad Watch

Quran Destroyer Randall Terry Dismisses 9/11 Families’ Concerns About Politicizing Terror Anniversary

September 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

While Rev. Terry Jones ultimately canceled his plans to burn Qurans at his Gainesville, FL church today, and said he will “not ever” attempt the stunt again, infamous Christian-right activist Randall Terry followed through on his scheme to destroy the Islamic holy book, tearing pages from an English copy this morning in front of the White House.

Jones’ plan sparked huge protests in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, but Terry wasn’t phased by military leaders’ warnings that burning the Quran could engager U.S. troops, explaining, “The only reason I will not burn it at the White House is because to burn anything on the Capitol grounds is a felony.” Terry said he stood “in solidarity” with others who planned to destroy Qurans today, including far-right Christian activists in Springfield, TN, Amarillo, TX, and Cheyenne, WY.

As ThinkProgress has noted, some families of 9/11 victims have condemned the politicization of the anniversary of the terror attacks, saying protests related to the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero today “disrespect the memories of our loved ones on this sacred day.” When asked about this by ThinkProgress, Terrry dismissed the victims’ families concerns, saying “sorry” insincerely, and adding that he wouldn’t “let the tail wag the dog:”

Tomorrow, tea party activists will rally on the National Mall for a “Taxpayer March on Washington.” Activist Andrew Beacham, who actually performed the Quran ripping while Terry explained which passages were being desecrated, told ThinkProgress that he has been actively affiliated with both the tea party and the related 9/12 movement:

When asked why he was desecrating Islam’s holiest book, Beacham said, “there is only one religion and that is Christianity.” Asked about ripping versus burning the Quran, Beacham casually replied, “same diff.” Beacham and Terry were joined by about four other protestors, who carried signs with messages such as, “9-11 = Koran + Sharia Law,” “Obama: Sharia or Constitution?,” and “Can violence be peaceful? Islam thinks so!”

Terry is veteran right-wing rabble rouser who is best known for his ugly anti-abortion demonstrations, but seems willing to exploit any cause de jour to garner attention for himself. He’s burned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in effigy, launched a contest to encourage people to make videos burning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in effigy, and warned there would be “violent convulsions” if the Affordable Care Act doesn’t ban abortions.

Think Progress

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