2012 - %3, September

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 12, 2012

Wed Sep. 12, 2012 7:43 AM PDT

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan—U.S. Army Spc. Richard Foust, an infantry team leader with 3rd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Brigade, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, pulls security on a rooftop in the predawn hours of Aug. 29, 2012 , in Janabad, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

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US Ambassador to Libya Killed in Benghazi; Romney Says Obama "Sympathizes" With Attackers

| Wed Sep. 12, 2012 6:19 AM PDT
US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi yesterday, according to multiple reports.

Four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi Tuesday. The attackers were armed with guns and rockets and were reportedly angry about a YouTube film that made derogatory statements about Islam and its central figure, Mohammed. In a statement released to the press this morning, President Barack Obama "strongly" condemned the "outrageous attack," saying that the slain US personnel "exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."

There were also protests at the US Embassy in Cairo, where Republicans seized on a weak initial statement from officials there to paint the Obama administration as soft-on-Islam (the US Ambassador to Egypt, Anne W. Patterson, is career diplomat who also served as Bush's Ambassador to Pakistan). The initial statement (which appeared before the attacks on the embassies) and a few since-deleted tweets apologized for the offending video and criticized the "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Though the White House told Politico it hadn't approved the statement, GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of sympathizing with the embassy attackers, saying

I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

Likewise, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted yesterday that "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic." So the official Republican response to Americans being killed abroad yesterday is that the president of the United States is on the side of the killers, so vote Romney.

Despite the persistent Republican fantasy that the United States conducts diplomacy the way that Sean Hannity used to treat Alan Colmes, it's not clear a Republican President would have reacted differently to initial reports. In 2006, when European newspapers published cartoons denigrating Islam's prophet Mohammed, the Bush administration similarly affirmed free speech rights but said that "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive."

Can Eating Your Veggies Save You From Cancer?

| Wed Sep. 12, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

The American dietary habit of loading up on processed junk and cheap meat at the expense of fruits and vegetables may be doing more than making us put on too much weight. It also may be making us more susceptible to dying from cancer.

That's the implication of a new study from Washington State University researcher Gary Meadows, published in Cancer and Metastasis Reviews (abstract here). Meadows identified a gap in cancer research: Most studies focus either on preventing cancer altogether or treating the initial cancer tumor, he told WSU News. But cancer turns deadly when it spreads to other organs—that is, when it metastasizes—and little work had been done to understand genes that slow or halt metastasis, so-called metastasis-suppressor genes.

Walmart Is Biggest Corporate User of Solar

| Wed Sep. 12, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

SEIASEIADespite claims from a certain Republican vice-presidential candidate that the failure of Solyndra was a sign of a "make-believe market" for solar power, and grumblings from Republican congressmen and Mitt Romney about the merits of investment in solar power technology, a new report today indicates that many of the country's biggest companies are still committed to bringing more sunlight into their energy portfolios.

Walmart uses more solar power than any other US company, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. All told, the twenty companies on the list had 279,122 kilowatts of solar installed by mid-2012, accounting for roughly twelve percent of America's total solar capacity.

That Walmart would top the list isn't a huge surprise, given that it's the biggest company on Earth, but still, encouraging, right? Now if it could just clean up that pesky supply chain...

Romney Campaign Attacks Obama Over Mythical Apology to Embassy Attackers

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 10:21 PM PDT

From Mitt Romney tonight:

I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

What actually happened:

Before the protesters attacked the compound, the U.S. mission in Cairo [] said in a statement: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”

The embassy statement was not a response to the attacks because it was issued several hours before the attacks even occurred. The Washington Post helpfully passes along the actual first response to the attacks from the Obama administration:

“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. “As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.”

....She added that although the United States “deplores” any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, “there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

As always, classy behavior from Romney HQ.

Why Obama is Avoiding a Meeting With Benjamin Netanyahu

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 3:56 PM PDT

Here's the latest from Reuters:

The White House has rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet President Barack Obama in the United States this month, an Israeli official said on Tuesday, after a row erupted between the allies over Iran's nuclear programme.

An Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu's aides had asked for a meeting when he visits the United Nations this month, and "the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president's schedule will not permit that".

Andrew Sprung takes this as evidence that "Obama has learned when not to negotiate, and how to back adversaries into a corner when he has public (or world) opinion on his side." Maybe so. Certainly I don't believe for a second that Obama couldn't have rearranged his schedule to meet with Netanyahu if he'd wanted to.

But I think the main reason for Obama's reticence is hidden in plain sight: the source for this story is an "Israeli official." In other words, it comes from Netanyahu himself (via an aide), trying once again to create an incident at Obama's expense. Basically, Obama understands quite keenly that a meeting with Netanyahu is a no-win situation. Netanyahu almost certainly won't get everything he wants, and Obama can't trust him not to immediately begin leaking the most damaging possible version of the meeting to his pals in Congress. For all practical purposes, he knows perfectly well that he has to treat Netanyahu as an arm of the Republican Party whose main goal is to prevent his reelection.

Given that, it's much better to simply pretend that scheduling conflicts make a meeting impossible. Netanyahu can complain, but unless he's willing to flatly call the president a liar, he can't make anything stick. It's just a scheduling conflict. Bill Kristol will write an aggrieved op-ed about it in the Weekly Standard, but that's about as far as it will go.

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Climate Change Will Extend Hay Fever Season by 6 Weeks

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 2:27 PM PDT

This story first appeared on the Guardian website.

Hay fever sufferers face longer pollen seasons and highly allergenic new strains from invasive plants, a new report on the health effects of climate change on the UK warned on Tuesday.

Global warming will cause earlier flowering, possibly extending the hay fever season by six weeks, and enable new species to grow in the UK. Pollen is also getting more potent, packing more allergen into each grain.

The report, from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), analyses a wide range of risks including killer heatwaves, increased flooding, greater food poisoning and new infectious diseases carried by mosquitoes.

"There is no doubt that climate change poses a wide range of challenges to public health in the UK," said David Heymann, chairman of the HPA.

Dick Cheney Sets New World Record for Being an Asshole

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 1:44 PM PDT

Really, you almost have to admire the sheer balls this takes:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at President Barack Obama late Monday night after it was reported that the president has attended fewer than half of his daily intelligence briefings.

"If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden," Cheney told The Daily Caller in an email through a spokeswoman.

This came on the same day that Kurt Eichenwald told us what he'd learned after seeing a series of daily briefings from the months prior to 9/11. Presumably Dick Cheney saw them all too:

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration [i.e., Cheney's clique of neocon nitwits -ed.] considered the warning to be just bluster....In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name....On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.”....On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews.

....On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

August 6, of course, was the infamous daily brief titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." — the one that prompted George Bush to tell his briefer, "All right. You've covered your ass."

Honest to God, Dick Cheney really is the world's biggest asshole, isn't he? And for the record, it turns out that sometimes Obama reads the daily brief and sometimes he attends briefing sessions. Either way, though, he certainly seems to pay more attention to them than either George Bush or Dick Cheney ever did.

Via Wonkette.

Debating Organics in The New York Times

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 12:47 PM PDT

The New York Times' "Room for Debate" feature is tricky: They give you a tiny amount of space (300 words) to opine on what typically is a huge and knotty problem. In the wake of the recent Stanford study on organics (which I commented on here), the Room for Debate folks invited me to weigh in on the question of whether organics are worth the money. Other participants include Marion Nestle, NYU nutrition professor and veteran food-industry watchdog; Raj Patel author of Stuffed and Starved and a fierce critic of the corporate-dominated global food system; Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish writer who has made a career of, if not denying climate change, than comforting fossil fuel interests by arguing that climate change just isn't that big of a deal; and Christy Wilcox, a grad student in molecular biology and blogger for Scientific American whom I have sparred with before. Read our Room for Debate forum here. Enjoy!

America Roaring Back Under President Obama!

| Tue Sep. 11, 2012 11:37 AM PDT

Good news, everyone! Average household income is way up under President Obama! I even have a PowerPoint slide to prove it:

Isn't that great news? And where else but right here on this blog are you really seeing these statistics?

Many thanks to Fox News for the inspiration. I sure find them inspiring, anyway.