If you know anything about Siberia, it is that Siberia is cold . You may also associate it with gulags, Stalin, or the USSR's forced relocation of various ethnic groups, but even if you don't, the cold you've heard about. In fact, Siberia is home to Oymyakon, a hamlet of 800, and the coldest continuously inhabited place on the planet.

This past winter, Oymyakon hosted droves of Russian reporters in huge fur jackets who had come to report on an especially cold winter. Twice, temperatures dropped to -60.2 C, or nearly -86 F, marking one of the coldest winters the village of once-nomadic reindeer herders has suffered in nearly a century.  It was so cold, Russia Today reported, that human life virtually ground to a halt. 

 

But not these days. Today (which is really tomorrow there) , and yesterday, and for the past two weeks, Oymyakon has been in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave. On Thursday, temperatures were recorded at just under 32 C, or nearly 90 degrees. (32.6 C is the highest ever recorded temperature), with weekend temperatues in the high 80s.

What does it mean? This past Tuesday, the White House released a report saying that global warming has already begun to affect Americans . Could climate change be altering Siberia's famous frigidity too?

Yesterday marked the summer solstice. What better way to usher in the warm weather than with the environment, science, and health news from our other blogs?

Yours, for the low, low price of $70: Republicans estimated the cap-and-trade provision in the Waxman-Markey bill would cost each American thousands. The real price tag? About $70 per person.

The VAT came back: Kevin Drum's glad to see value-added tax (similar to a national sales tax) back on the table as a possible way to partially fund national healthcare. Meanwhile, James Ridgeway explains why health co-ops would be a cop out

Dubious survey of the day: That new poll that says Americans want to be able to choose between private and public plans? Meh. 

 

 

 

What's Next in Iran?

The BBC reports that a day after Saturday's crackdown in Tehran, things were quiet on Sunday.  The Guardian suggests this might be the beginning of the end:

Protesters who have shaken the authorities by venting anger en masse at the "stolen" elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office spoke of a hiatus, even a despair, settling on the movement after yesterday's Saturday's clashes killed at least 10 and wounded scores more.

But in Time, Robin Wright says this may be the calm before the storm, partly thanks to the widely circulated video of a woman known as "Neda" being gunned down on Saturday:

Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history.

....Shiite mourning is not simply a time to react with sadness. Particularly in times of conflict, it is also an opportunity for renewal. The commemorations for "Neda" and the others killed this weekend are still to come. And the 40th day events are usually the largest and most important.

If Wright is correct, Tuesday could be a pivotal day.  Stay tuned.

Another dispatch from Tehran, this one from an Iranian protester, the friend of Iranian American grad student (and former MoJo intern) Matteen Mokolla. Translated in full:

 

Iran Update

The New York Times: "Estimates of the death toll in clashes [Saturday] between security forces and demonstrators protesting what they called a fraudulent presidential election varied. State television said that 10 had died, while radio reports said 19 people had been killed.  Major streets and squares of Tehran were saturated with police and Basij militia forces. There were reports of scattered confrontations with the police, but there was no confirmation of any new injuries Sunday evening.".....LA Times: "There was uncertainty over what might unfold next. Would protesters rally again despite the government's blunt warnings it would use force to clear the streets, as they did Saturday? Or were both sides recalibrating strategies to keep the nation from sliding into further chaos?"

Juan Cole: "The regime has arrested Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, daughter of the former president, who spoke at a pro-Mousavi rally, along with 4 other members of that family. This step is typical of an old Iranian ruling technique, of keeping provincial tribal chieftains in check by keeping some of their children hostage at the royal court."

Roger Cohen reporting from Tehran: "I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering.".....Shahram Kholdi: "There is a division in the ranks of the police, which in a way is a good sign. Two close friends [...] were stopped at a check point and their car trunk was full of posters and green bands. The constables took them to their immediate commander who confiscated all the material and ordered them to be arrested. However, as they were taken to another check point where the district commander was, he overruled his superiors [...] As they got in the car to leave the station, the district commander told them that they have to be extra careful and told them Movaffagh Bashid (meaning roughly 'good luck').".....Andrew Sullivan: "Just watch this pitched battle in the streets between a crowd and the riot police (via BBC Farsi). And watch it to the very end, as the police suddenly turn tail and run."

Chatham House on irregularities in the vote: "The massive increases from 2005, the collapse of regional variations, and the absence of any clear correlation between increases in turnout and increased support for any candidate on their own make the results problematic.".....BBC: "Iranian authorities have asked the BBC's correspondent in Tehran to leave the country within 24 hours."

Al Arabiya: "Iran's religious clerks in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.".....The Lede: "More splintering among Iran’s clerics is reported by Reuters.".....Fareed Zakaria: "Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today — legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.".....Bill Clinton: "Basically, this is about a government trying to deny the modern world."

Matt Yglesias relays that the costs of the Waxman-Markey climate bill will be moderate—less than a dollar a day for the richest Americans. In fact, the poorest Americans should see a benefit of about $40/year from the bill. Ryan Avent wonders how long "GOP legislators will continue to use the bogus $1,600 cost per household per year figure they’ve been touting?" and puts his money on "indefinitely." It's worth pointing out that the only way to counter this kind of misinformation in politics is for the Associated Press and similar organizations to report the lie as the news; i.e., "John Boehner said today that the Waxman-Markey climate bill would cost $1,600/year per family, repeating a widely-debunked lie that Republicans have repeatedly cited in their arguments against global warming legislation." That won't happen, of course, because mainstream journalistic organizations seem to believe once two or more people disagree on something, there is no such thing as a fact.

A Report from Tehran

Shahram Kholdi, a graduate student in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Manchester, has extensive contacts in Iran, and he just shared the following email report with academic colleagues on a private listserv. He's allowed it to be posted publicly with references to sources excised:

Chart of the Day

Republicans have been screaming blue murder for months about the cost of the cap-and-trade provision of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.  It's going to cost us $1,600 each! No, that's wrong: it's going to cost us $3,100 each!  Head for the hills!

So Rep. Dave Camp, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means committee, asked the Congressional Budget Office for a verdict.  And guess what?  The net cost turned out to be — at most — $175 per household by the year 2020.  That's less than $70 per person:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion — or about $175 per household. That figure [...] does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG emissions and the associated slowing of climate change....Overall net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income.

Low income households would fare even better.  The CBO's table of net costs is below.

Compare and Contrast

From McClatchy:

President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.

In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.

From the Associated Press:

Gay rights groups expressed dismay with the Obama administration Friday over its championing of the Defense of Marriage Act, a law the president pledged to try to repeal while on the campaign trail.

The government filed a motion late Thursday to dismiss the case of Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who are challenging the 1996 federal act....It repeated several arguments made under Bush, including the argument that a union between a man and a woman is "the traditional, and universally recognized, version of marriage."

From the Los Angeles Times:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama wooed environmentalists with a promise to "support and defend" pristine national forest land from road building and other development that had been pushed by the George W. Bush administration.

But five months into Obama's presidency, the new administration is actively opposing those protections on about 60 million acres of federal woodlands in a case being considered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

....Whatever the strategy, the result has been a series of cases in which President Obama appears to be taking positions in court that run counter to his stated goals....The Interior Department this spring, for example, defended a Bush plan to lease western Colorado's picturesque Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling....Administration lawyers have also fought environmentalists in court over a coal mining technique known as mountaintop removal.

Hope and change, baby, hope and change.

As demonstrators continue to protest what was clearly a rigged election, police are responding with ”water cannon, batons, tear gas and live rounds,” according to the BBC today. For those who want to follow what’s going on in Tehran’s streets, I’m listing some sources for breaking news and ongoing updates. With the government trying to effect a news blackout, this is first-hand reporting on the fly–and at considerable risk to those providing it. 

Tehran Bureau, which describes itself as “an independent online magazine about Iran and the Iranian diaspora,” is running this Twitter feed, describing developments as they happen.

Our old colleague Laura Rozen is constantly updating a series of news links on Iran on The Cable, the blog she runs for Foreign Policy. It includes on-the-scenes reporting from Tehran Bureau and other on-the-ground sources, as well as a roundup of the best reports from more traditional Western and local new sources, official statements, and the like. She’s heard that in Washington, State and White House officials are glued to it.