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Global Warming Saps Halliburton Profits

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 1:07 PM EDT

Halliburton reported yesterday that lower natural gas prices and less drilling in North America due to a late winter affected their first-quarter profits. In fact, Halliburton shares took their steepest dive in 8 months, dropping nearly 10%. The company is the "world's second-largest oilfield services company" and issues affecting them often herald industry-wide trends.

The slump in profits was caused, analyst James Halloran told Bloomberg, by a late winter (quite possibly global warming related). A late winter meant that the ground froze later, so heavy drilling rigs could not move across Canadian and northern US oilfields until later in the season. That translated into fewer completed drilling projects. Not to mention, with the warmest winter on record this year, people may be using less gas and oil to heat their homes.

"Last fall, there's no question there was a weather issue," Halloran said. "And prices have not been exactly booming for people. My guess is there's been some ongoing reluctance to get large drilling projects going again."

One of Halliburton's "large drilling projects" affected by the weather is in Alaska's North Slope, a place heralded by National Geographic as "largest remaining piece of US wilderness" Drilling in valuable wilderness areas is just one of the reasons Halliburton shareholder meetings are regularly protested. No wonder they moved their HQ to Dubai.

--Jen Phillips

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"The Unit": Nearly as Violent as "24"

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 11:47 AM EDT

unit.jpgIt occurred to me last night while desperately trying to find something besides "The Unit" on TV: "24" has taken a lot of heat for the violent tactics of its agents, but no one is talking about "The Unit." Why just last week, the black ops unit that gives the show its name rescued a young woman from a cult, and took her sister along to help. When they found the young woman in bed with the cult's leader, the sister killed him in a fit of rage. The unit concealed her crime to protect their cover, even lying to the local police officer who investigated. My best guess as to why the show doesn't get more attention is that it's incredibly boring, and sexist to boot. (The show spends half its time focusing on the wives, who talk almost exclusively about how important their husband's work is.)

Weird Weather Watch: A Month Worth of Rain in an Afternoon

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 11:46 AM EDT

New Delhi, India, received two-thirds of an inch of rain in seven hours last Monday, surpassing March monthly averages in a single day. The temperature plummeted to nine degrees below average for the day.

Closer to home, Baltimore surpassed record rainfall for the date by more than an inch last Friday, with 2.14 inches of the wet stuff. West of Baltimore, Maryland got heavy snow, and a vehicle in the president's motorcade was involved in one of the many accidents the storm caused, as the president headed to Camp David for the weekend.

Hillary Responds to 1984-style YouTube Ad, Code Pink Sings to Her

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 9:25 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton has finally responded to the pro-Obama 1984-style ad on YouTube characterizing her as "Big Brother," TPMcafe reports. The amateur video has caused quite the stir. As Jonathan wrote yesterday, the three versions of the ad "have had a combined viewership of more than 1,300,000, and have an average rating of more than four stars." And some were wondering if this would mean trouble for the New York senator. But from me to Hillary, I have to say, nicely played.

"I haven't seen it but I'm pleased that it seems to be taking attention away from what used to be on YouTube and getting a lot of hits, namely me singing 'The Star Spangled Banner.' Everybody in the world now knows I can't carry a tune," said Clinton. "I thank heavens for small favors and the attention has shifted, and now maybe people won't have to tune in and hear me screeching about 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"

This interview was posted just hours before a big fundraising event for her campaign here in Washington, which brought in $2.7 million and a bunch of Code Pink women. Reps from the anti-war group were there to remind Hillary that America wants her to take a stronger stance on the war. (Hillary's refusal to apologize for voting to authorize the war has caused concern among Democrats.) And they were singing. Yup. I still have Frere Jaques in my head.

"Are you listening, are you listening? Hillary, Hillary. Boys and girls are dying, politicians lying. Bring them home, bring them home."

Gore Challenged to Debate "Foofaraw of Pseudo-Science"

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 1:36 AM EDT

Okay, I know this doesn't look for reals, but Lord Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has challenged Al Gore to a Climate Change Challenge (for the fancy cursive you'll have to click on the link). Here's what Monckton recently sent to Gore's Tennessee home:

The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question "That our effect on climate is not dangerous," to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President's choosing.

Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President's prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet.

Uh, yeah, truth is surely his endgame. Monckton had this to say about An Inconvenient Truth:

"A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

That science is based on a solid corpus of scientific evidence backed by thousands of scientists, including those involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for starters, and there is documentation aplenty of the truths laid out in Gore's film on Exxon's involvement in climate policy for the U.S. government. How do we know? Because science writer Chris Mooney was the one to unearth the documents and write about the series of events detailed in the movie, for Mother Jones in May 2005. I factchecked the article myself and have a foot-thick file of government documents backing up all of the ways ExxonMobil and the US govt have way-laid climate science. (Oh, and for those of you who want to use "foofaraw" in your next Scrabble game, find the definition here).

Monckton's is merely an effort to distract us into thinking that there is actually anything to debate (his challenge is a hot discussion topic at the official-sounding, Exxon-funded Center for Science and Public Policy.

His Lordship says,

"If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge."

Al, tell him yes, as soon as "a serious, science based challenge" materializes, you're there.

Gore Challenged To Debate "Foofaraw of Pseudo-Science"

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 1:11 AM EDT

Okay, I know this doesn't look for reals, but Lord Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has challenged Al Gore to a Climate Change Challenge (for the fancy cursive you'll have to click on the link). Here's what Monckton recently sent to Gore's Tennessee home:

The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question "That our effect on climate is not dangerous," to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President's choosing.

Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President's prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet.

Uh, yeah, truth is surely his endgame. Monckton had this to say about An Inconvenient Truth:

"A careful study of the substantial corpus of peer-reviewed science reveals that Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, is a foofaraw of pseudo-science, exaggerations, and errors, now being peddled to innocent schoolchildren worldwide."

That science is based on a solid corpus of scientific evidence backed by thousands of scientists, including those involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for starters, and there is documentation aplenty of the truths laid out in Gore's film on Exxon's involvement in climate policy for the U.S. government. How do we know? Because science writer Chris Mooney was the one to unearth the documents and write about the series of events detailed in the movie for Mother Jones in May 2005. I factchecked the article myself and have a foot-thick file of government documents backing up all of the ways ExxonMobil and the US govt have way-laid climate science. (Oh, and for those of you who want to use "foofaraw" in your next Scrabble game, find the definition here).

Monckton's is merely an effort to distract us into thinking that there is actually anything to debate (his challenge is a hot discussion topic at the official-sounding, Exxon-funded Center for Science and Public Policy.

His Lordship says,

"If Mr. Gore really believes global warming is the defining issue of our time, the greatest threat human civilization has ever faced, then he should welcome the opportunity to raise the profile of the issue before a worldwide audience of billions by defining and defending his claims against a serious, science-based challenge."

Al, tell him yes, as soon as "a serious, science based challenge" materializes, you're there.

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Citizen Journalists In a Wired World

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 7:30 PM EDT

In response to the likes of Wikipedia, MySpace and YouTube, Wired has launched its own brave new media world. It's called Assignment Zero, and is the latest in "new, new journalism" crowd sourcing experiments.

Wired's idea for radical transparency is simple: put a ton of citizen journalists to work by asking them not just to comment on the news, but have them report it. It's a blogger's paradise. But their idea isn't new. Spin.com offers a similar program for music enthusiasts, allowing them to cover live music events as "Spin Correspondents and get a website byline."

Rolling Stone's in the the game, too. Their I'm From Rolling Stone reality show was essentially televised crowd sourcing for hipsters hungry for a gig with the magazine. Remember Gannett a year ago announced its big crowd sourcing plans to turn its newsroom into an "information center" that asks local residents to help with stories?

Crowd sourcing engages people by putting them right into the action. It has the power to improve content and encourage a broader dialogue from the ground up.

Widespread civic participation in newsgathering is exciting for journalism and content creation. That said, crowd sourcing is also chaotic, unorganized and a little shady. Media organizations can rake in tons of free content while continuing to merge and purge unchecked. And, general public trust in the media is still riding a little low on the hips. Maybe this will help, maybe not.

One 2005 study found that only 45% of the public thinks news organizations generally get their facts straight, a 2007 study says that less than half of Americans have a favorable view of the press, and a 2004 Gallup Poll suggests that people don't particularly trust journalists and haven't since at least the 70s.

So, when pollsters start evaluating citizen journalists about the quality of the new, new journalism they've helped create, what will the people think then?

—Gary Moskowitz

James Hansen Testifies to Climate Science Meddling

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 7:30 PM EDT

The Bush administration once again faces charges from James Hansen, a foremost climate scientist, of interfering with science in order to downplay global warming. Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and was one of the first experts to warn of the threat of climate change.

The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, during its second hearing on Monday, released a memo stating that documents "appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change." From New Scientist:

In written testimony, Hansen said: "In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now."

The committee also heard a former White House aide attempting to defend his editing of government reports on climate change. Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House's Council on Environmental Quality from 2001 to 2005, said editing was part of the normal review process between agencies.

Right. Just for the record, before he joined the White House, Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute and now works for ExxonMobil.

The committee [first] heard of this top-down pressure on climate scientists during the first hearing in January. Former government scientist Rick Piltz said that Cooney had tried to downplay the consequences of climate change in government documents.

In a 10-year policy plan, Cooney and Brian Hannegan, also at CEQ, made at least 181 edits to emphasize scientific uncertainty regarding the effects of climate change and 113 changes to minimize the importance of human contributions to global warming, according to the committee's memo.

For example, Cooney replaced "will" with "may" in the sentence: "Warming temperatures will also affect Arctic land areas." He also deleted this sentence: "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment."

Do these guys really think they're going to escape the mayhem? Or are they all believers of that latter-day oxymoron, Intelligent Design?

Blanco Decides Not To Run Again--Leaves With A Reputation Somewhat Worse Than She Deserves

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco announced this evening that she does not intend to seek a second term as governor. Only a few days ago, she announced her intention to run, but had a change of heart. She will be remembered as the governor who bungled both Katrina and post-Katrina, and that is not an accurate picture of her governorship.

Let me start by saying I have never been a very enthusiastic supporter of Blanco, who holds two types of views--conservative views, and non-conservative views she feels she has to hide from the public. But it was important to me that in the last election, she defeat Bush-boy Bobby Jindal, a fast-talking ex-White House bureaucrat whose views are rigidly right-wing and extreme Christian right. One of the things that helped Blanco win, in fact, was her campaign's emphasis on Jindal's belief that all abortions--with no exceptions of any kind--should be illegal.

Since she has been governor of Louisiana, Blanco's activities have fallen into three areas: 1. stupid things she is said to have done which she did not do; 2. stupid things she did do; and 3. good things she did for which she received no credit.

A victim of an especially vicious Rovian campaign during Hurricane Katrina, Governor Blanco was simply not guilty of most of the accusations of incompetence hurled at her. The record bears this out, but many Louisianians, looking for a scapegoat and refusing to believe that George W. Bush would abandon them, were quick to jump on the "blame Blanco" bandwagon. She never recovered from the smear campaign.

Later, she put her name on the "Road Home" program created by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and that name has stuck. The Road Home--better known as the Road to Nowhere-- has to be one of the most mishandled, user-unfriendly, ghastly government programs to come around in a long time. People who had no houses and had to live out of state in order to make money were told that they would not get Road Home funds, even though they wanted to return to Louisiana. Thousands of people who signed up for the program were asked to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops, it was like dealing with FEMA all over again.

Applicants waited and waited, but no money came. Finally, after months, most of them received letters telling them they had been turned down, or giving them checks for a very small amount. Some were turned down for not having houses, though their houses were standing, plain as day. When the frustrated, enraged citizens placed calls to find out what had gone wrong, they were repeatedly told "I don't know," "I can't answer that," and "I have no idea" by contract employees whose company, hired by Blanco, botched the entire program.

The final blow came last week when HUD's federal office declared that Louisiana was wrongly requiring homeowners to wait for a series of small reimbursements rather than giving them the option of taking a lump sum. According to HUD, the state's method of distributing the money would trigger long delays for environmental and other regulations.

Finally, on to the good things. Blanco is the first governor in Louisiana history to stand up to the federal government and demand that Louisiana receive its fair share of oil and gas revenues. Blanco threatened to not permit any leases until the state receives its rightful share (which would, by the way, turn Louisiana's fate around dramatically).

Blanco also stood up to the federal government over the issue of Louisiana's environment, something else Louisianians do not see from their governors (the governor who proceeded Blanco became famous for helping to trash the environment). She was successful in halting a scheduled offshore lease sale because the federal government's assessment of the sale failed to include environmental damage done by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She also vetoed a proposed natural gas port because whose construction would have hurt Gulf fisheries, and forced the energy company to change its design to a closed loop system port.

Rep. Jindal is again running for governor of Louisiana, and the Democratic candidate may be former Sen. John Breaux, who is now a lobbyist, and who periodically loves to tease the state with talk that he may run for governor. This time, he may really do it, Breaux is very popular in Louisiana and he already has a state health plan ready to present.

For her part, Blanco made a total mess of Louisiana's post-Katrina efforts. But she is not the completely incompetent, clueless governor that Karl Rove and the news media would have us believe.

Join the Club? More Killing of the Adorable and Defenseless

| Tue Mar. 20, 2007 7:12 PM EDT

babyseal.jpg

A baby polar bear, on which Jen reported earlier, isn't the only cute creature in peril this week: according to the Humane Society of the United States' countdown clock, there are only seven days left until the world's largest marine animal slaughter kicks off in Canada.

The (subsidized) seal industry's hunt, which lasts until May 15th, killed more than 300,000 seals last year, and while whitecoats are off-limits, most of those "harvested" were less than three months old.

If just the idea of baby seals being clubbed to death isn't disturbing enough, you can watch a horrifying video of fishermen chasing them around on bloody ice and bludgeoning them with hooked clubs. The hunt has been responsible for over a million allegedly inhumane seal murders since 2003, but that's just one of the animals' problems: that whole global warming thing means the ice on which they're born and grow up is melting, which, according to Canadian government estimates, was responsible for a 75% mortality rate among pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2002.

Despite claims by the Federal Fisheries Minister that the hunt is "humane and sustainable," the HSUS' year-long Canadian seafood boycott cost the country $350 million in exports to the US, and some European officials are calling for EU-wide action. Since this year's killing quota hasn't yet been released, animal rights groups are urging people to contact the Canadian government while there's still time.

- Nicole McClelland