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Massive Investment Needed Against Climate Change

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 7:29 PM EDT

Hey, compared to the cost of the war in Iraq, this is fire sale. Plus, a whole lot more effective for homeland security [read why]. A new UN report presented in Vienna says that more than 200 billion dollars will be needed by 2030 just to keep greenhouse gas emissions at today's levels. According to AFP, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change estimates that between 0.3 and 0.5 percent of global gross domestic product, and between 1.1 and 1.7 percent of global investment, will need to be spent on addressing climate change. This will include investing in technology research and renewable energy. It will also require energy efficiency for transport, industry and construction, as well as supporting agroforestry, and implementing sustainable forest management. The report also states that, in the short term, energy efficiency remains the most promising means to reduce emissions. . . So, have you changed to flourescent light bulbs yet? Are you riding that bike? It's well known in the bike industry that most Americans ride their new bikes a full 18 miles before garaging them forever. Come on. Our cheapest fuel remains human fat. JULIA WHITTY

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Tuesday? Peruse Music News Day

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

Instant Karma

  • Is Amnesty International's support for abortion rights a problem for Christina Aguilera or Avril Lavigne, both of whom contributed tracks to AI's Instant Karma album, and may or may not be pro-life? The London Sunday Times says "maybe," the Guardian says "balderdash," and then takes it up a notch, skewering the very idea of a resurgence in right-wing rockers. Take that.
  • 78-year-old singer-guitarist Bo Diddley is reportedly stable after suffering a heart attack in Florida. The legendary blues-rock musician also suffered a stroke in May.
  • Lou Reed has recorded a brand new track with Vegas alterna-rock stars The Killers. The song is called "Tranquilize" and will appear on the upcoming compilation of Killers rarities later this year.
  • Okay, fine, everyone else is reporting on this: Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins assured a topless female audience member at the UK's Reading festival on Sunday that "American girls are sluts too."
  • Buju Banton Calls Protestors "Stupid"

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 4:50 PM EDT

    Buju Banton

    Dancehall superstar Buju Banton continued walking a confusing line on the topic of anti-gay lyrics this week, after protests against his appearance at the Reggae Carifest in New York. It has been both confirmed and denied that Banton signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, and this week the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lodged a protest against Carifest for inclusion of Banton and Bounty Killer for the violently anti-gay lyrics in some of their songs. NY1 talked to Banton about the protest, and he either denied promoting hatred or continued to promote it:

    Banton said has a message for people who say he's promoting hatred. "I would say to them they are ignorant, they are stupid, even though they proclaim to be intelligent," said Banton.

    The New York Times reported Banton did not perform his infamous hit, "Boom Boom Bye" (which contains the lyrics that most upset protestors) at the sparsely-attended festival. NY1 talked to attendees who seemed nonplussed by the affair: "It's just music, so I feel when people make their music they have freedom of speech… I go to gay parade, I come to reggae music, but they don't push us to go out there and bash gay people."

    Dueling Accents: Dems Visit the South

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 4:19 PM EDT

    Hillary Clinton gets a lot of guff for her now-you-see-it now-you-don't Southern accent...

    ...so it's worth pointing out that Barack Obama has one, too.

    Sen. Tim Johnson to Seek Reelection

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 3:46 PM EDT

    Later today, ABC News will have an exclusive on-air interview with the South Dakota senator, who is recovering from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him. But here's the big news hook:

    Johnson, a Democrat whose seat is key to his party's tenuous hold on the Senate, does not intend to retire next year.
    "Throughout, Senator Johnson talks candidly with Mr. Woodruff about his daily struggles and his determination not only to return to the Senate next week, but to seek re-election in 2008," the network said in a release.

    People wonder why the Democratic leadership in the Senate has trouble getting anything done. Well, a 51-member majority isn't really a majority with one senator from the party in the hospital, one senator a quasi-Republican, and four senators on the presidential campaign trail. Welcoming Tim Johnson back into the fold, as a healthy member of the party, is a step in the right direction.

    (H/T Political Wire)

    Bruce Springsteen Announces Fall Tour, Free Download of New Single

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 1:51 PM EDT

    Bruce
    The New Jersey rocker (who's seemingly a bigger influence than ever lately) has announced his first tour with the E Street Band in four years, set to kick off in October, in Hartford, Connecticut. Their new album, Magic, is out October 4th, but they're offering the first single free for a week from iTunes (and various other websites who've taken the initiative). "Radio Nowhere" is a driving, reverby, uptempo number, kind of like "Jenny (867-5309)" except about 100 times ballsier. The UK Guardian says it's like "Springsteen singing Interpol," and while I'm not sure I'd go that far, it's pretty good. Download it from iTunes or grab an mp3 from the Guardian.

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    Fredo's Last Supper

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 12:25 PM EDT

    bush_gonzo_dinner300x210.jpg

    After this photo was taken, Alberto Gonzales stepped onto a small fishing boat with one of President Bush's children. At the last moment, the child was called away and an ominous looking man in a fishing hat took the child's place. Drifting in the middle of the lake with the man in the hat sitting behind him, the man nicknamed "Fredo" began to say the Hail Mary. And this is how Alberto Gonzales met his end.

    Update: Alas, I am not the first to think along these lines.

    The Murky Fundraising of Presidential Libraries

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 11:28 AM EDT

    TNR has a good article about the lack of oversight and transparency in presidential library fundraising, and the potential for abuse it creates. We've seen the problem before:

    In 1993, George H.W. Bush pardoned Edwin L. Cox, Jr., who had pled guilty five years earlier to bank fraud. Eleven months later, Cox's father pledged support for the Bush library and is now listed as a donor in the "$100,000 to $250,000" range. Likewise, in the late '90s, Denise Rich reportedly pledged $450,000 to Clinton's library at the same time her ex-husband, Marc Rich, was seeking a pardon for racketeering and tax- evasion charges.

    Two things make the problem relevant again today. First, Bush is trying to raise a whopping $500 million for this presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, which means tons and tons of fundraising now, while Bush is still in office and capable of being swayed on policy decisions by particularly large donations. (By the way, Methodist ministers are appalled at the idea of GWB's library being at SMU.)

    Second, Hillary Clinton is running for president while her husband's library is accepting donations. There is a strong system of oversight for presidential campaign fundraising (just see opensecrets.org), but there is nothing you can do if you want to see who is donating to Bill Clinton's library. Surely it is time for the FEC to step in.

    Iraq Corruption Probe Widens... Again

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 9:49 AM EDT

    I wrote last week of an Army contracting officer in Kuwait, who, with the collusion of his wife and sister, allegedly took almost $10 million in bribes from corrupt contractors. It was said to be the largest case of fraud yet uncovered during the Iraq reconstruction.

    Well, as reported in this morning's New York Times, it may wind up being a drop in the bucket. Investigators from the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Justice Department, and the FBI have uncovered a network of criminality much larger than anything previously conceived. It involves "the purchase and delivery of weapons, supplies, and other material to Iraqi and American forces" and amounts to "the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict there." Among those under investigation is Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, a contracting officer who reported directly to General David Petraeus, the current commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Now, it comes as no surprise that reconstruction operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from incompetence, waste, and fraud. What does surprise, though, is the scale of wrongdoing slowly emerging from news reports. From the Times:

    The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes...
    Investigations span the gamut from low-level officials submitting false claims for amounts less than $2,500 to more serious cases involving, conspiracy, bribery, product substitution and bid-rigging or double-billing involving large dollar amounts or more senior contracting officials, Army criminal investigators said. The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.

    If keeping track of all this corruption is confusing, have no fear. Here's an incomplete timeline of events, cobbled together from the Times article:


  • May 2006: Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and then chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requests a federal oversight committee to look into reports of missing weapons and equipment purchased for use by Iraqi security forces.
  • October 2006: The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issues a report, citing discrepancies in American military records with regard to the location of weapons issued to Iraqi security forces.
  • July 2007: The GAO finds even larger problems, noting that the American military "cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi security forces as of Sept. 22, 2005."
  • August 2007: Reports emerge that federal investigators believe the loss of these weapons may be the result of widespread corruption within the military contracting system.
  • In the department of better late than never, the Pentagon is taking action. Its Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead a team of 18 investigators to Iraq early next month to examine contracting practices. Army Secretary Pete Geren is also expected to announce later this week the creation of a special panel to identify problems in the military contracting process.

    Senator Larry Craig's Real Problem: A "Wide Stance" While Peeing (Just Saying...)

    | Tue Aug. 28, 2007 3:52 AM EDT

    Ok, I leave it to the boys to sort out plausibility; I report (what the WaPo's OffBeat blog reported), you decide:

    Readers probably remember Florida State Rep. and Idiot of the Year nominee Bob Allen (R), who blamed his alleged bathroom solicitation of an undercover male cop on a fear of black people. Craig's arrest seems a little less idiotic, at least thus far. The 62-year-old was merely accused of playing footsie under the stall door (I haven't a square to spare), and then "brush[ing] his hand beneath the partition between them." Craig contends that it's all a big misunderstanding, explaining to police, "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom."

    Update: Craig has withdrawn from the position of Romney co-chair. Too many jokes in that sentence to pick between them.