Current Events

The Latest German Scandal

The case of Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish citizen who was allegedly tortured as a detainee in Afghanistan and Iraq, has developed into the latest scandal for the German government. It also reflects negatively on the alleged American inhuman treatment of “political prisoners” in those countries–especially when there is no evidence that those prisoners, like Kurnaz, are related to terrorism in any way. And it reveals the dubious role German politicians have apparently played–secretly collaborating with the Bush administration, while publicly condemning American actions in Iraq.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 29:

“The career of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appears to be in jeopardy as unease about his conduct in the case of Gunatánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz continues to grow. The German papers accuse him of hypocrisy, indecisiveness and even racism. Pressure is growing on… Steinmeier to reveal exactly what he knew about the case of Murat Kurnaz, the German-born Turkish citizen who was held in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp for over four years. Steinmeier is in trouble because of reports that he did not take up a CIA offer to send Kurnaz back to Germany in the fall of 2002 — condemning the detainee to four more years in the camp. A parliamentary committee is investigating the case and recently heard Kurnaz’s disturbing testimony of how he was tortured in a camp in Afghanistan and in Guantánamo. There has been no evidence that Kurnaz is connected to terrorism in any way. Politicians from the Christian Democrats (CDU), who are in a coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD), to whom Steinmeier belongs, went on the offensive Monday… Germany’s newspapers were Monday unanimously critical of Steinmeier’s behavior and pointed out the contradictions in his assertions up until now.

“The center-right Die Welt… writes: ‘Instead of clearly deciding on a course of action and accepting the consequences … (the government) muddled its way through. The half-heartedness with which the coalition camp is now on the one hand criticizing, and on the other defending Steinmeier doesn’t suggest that very much has changed.’

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘We have to congratulate … Steinmeier and ex-interior minister Otto Schily on their well-scrubbed consciences: Neither of them is aware of any guilt in the Kurnaz case, and they apparently have nothing to do with the things which indisputably went wrong. … Steinmeier and Schily explain it like this: First of all the whole story is false; secondly, we didn’t do anything to the man; and thirdly, he deserved what we did do, or want to do, to him — because he’s a Turk and a security risk. Murat Kurnaz was born and raised in Bremen and has never lived anywhere else… Germany is pursuing a policy of domestic security which obviously transforms politicians into cynics. If that is the case, then there is clearly something wrong with German security policy.'”

How Germany Applies Its Blue Laws

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 26:

“With residents of a Berlin neighborhood deeply unhappy about the opening of a new Scientology center, city officials have found a creative way of limiting the church’s activity. Because Scientology is considered a business and not a church in Germany, it falls under the country’s rigid Sunday closing law [banning sales on Sunday]… The Church of Scientology has long struggled to gain a foothold in Germany. In 1995, the German Federal Labor Court ruled that Scientology is ‘neither a religion nor an ideology.’ In the eyes of the Germans, it’s just a business, no different than other American imports like Wal-Mart or McDonalds… Scientologists will be free in Berlin to stop passers-by on the street and speak to them — unlike in Hamburg, where the city district where the Hamburg Scientology center is located has banned such activities… Any normal church is free to sell postcards, books or any other educational or fundraising goods on that day, but the Church of Scientology will be banned from offering courses or selling any goods on Sundays.”

Germany Issues Warrants Against CIA Agents

AFP reported on January 31:

“Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 people believed to be CIA agents over the alleged kidnapping of a Lebanese-born German national… German authorities are probing allegations by Khaled el-Masri that he was abducted by US agents in the Macedonian capital Skopje on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to a prison in Afghanistan for interrogation before he was released five months later in Albania. Masri has said he was tortured while imprisoned… [The prosecutor’s office said:] ‘According to the information we have, the suspects listed in the arrest warrants are believed to be so-called code names of CIA agents. The investigation will now focus on learning the actual names of the suspects.’ Public broadcaster NDR had reported earlier that most of the CIA employees sought lived in North Carolina in the United States. NDR noted that the German arrest warrants were not valid in the United States and that US authorities had refused to cooperate with the investigation. If the suspects were to travel to the European Union, however, they could be arrested… Masri is also pursuing a 75,000-dollar compensation claim against the CIA in US courts.”

Former Chief of the CIA’s Europe Division Speaks Out

In an interview with Spiegel Online, dated January 25, the former chief of the CIA’s Europe division, Tyler Drumheller, made some strong allegations regarding US foreign policy. We are publishing the following quotes from his interview:

“… never before have I seen the manipulation of intelligence that has played out since Bush took office. As chief of Europe I had a front-row seat from which to observe the unprecedented drive for intelligence justifying the Iraq war… The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy… We made mistakes. And it may suit the White House to have people believe in a black and white version of reality — that it could have avoided the Iraq war if the CIA had only given it a true picture of Saddam’s armaments. But the truth is that the White House believed what it wanted to believe.”

USA and Europe At Odds Again?

The New York Times reported on January 30:

“European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran… In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons. At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry…

“’We are telling the Europeans that they need to go way beyond what they’ve done to maximize pressure on Iran,’ said a senior administration official. ‘The European response on the economic side has been pretty weak.’… The main targets are Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, all with extensive business dealings with Iran, particularly in energy. Administration officials say, however, that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the current head of the European Union, has been responsive.”

Keep Your Eyes on Somalia

The Associated Press reported on January 31:

“Somalia’s interim government began imposing martial law in areas under its control, the prime minister said, as rising violence threatens its tenuous grip on power… The three-month long emergency law was announced on Jan. 13 but was never implemented. Its imposition came as African leaders meeting in neighboring Ethiopia failed to make up a shortfall of 4,000 troops for a peacekeeping mission to Somalia. Fears are mounting that Somalia could again be plunged into civil war without a peacekeeping force. Since the Islamic movement was ousted by Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and war planes, factional violence has again become a feature of life in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. “Ethiopia has begun withdrawing its forces, and diplomats are warning it could create a power vacuum that Islamic fighters could take advantage of… The U.S. has accused the Islamic group [in Somalia] of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Osama Bin Laden has said Somalia is a battleground in his war on the West. The U.S. launched at least two airstrikes against fleeing Islamic fighters, although details of the attacks are unknown.”

Scientists to Issue a New Report on Global Warming

AFP reported on January 28:

“Hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists muster in Paris on Monday to frame a report expected to issue the bleakest assessment yet about global warming and its effects on the weather system. On Friday, they will issue the first update in six years of the scientific evidence for global warming… In alpine areas, glaciers are melting and snow cover is shrinking. The North Pole’s summer icefield is a mere fraction of what it once was. Permafrost in high northerly latitudes is retreating. The oceans are becoming more acidic through absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2).”

The Associated Press added on January 28:

“Later this week in Paris, climate scientists will issue a dire forecast for the planet that warns of slowly rising sea levels and higher temperatures. But that may be the sugarcoated version… They ‘don’t take into account the gorillas — Greenland and Antarctica,’ said Ohio State University earth sciences professor Lonnie Thompson, a polar ice specialist. ‘I think there are unpleasant surprises as we move into the 21st century.’ Michael MacCracken, who until 2001 coordinated the official U.S. government reviews of the international climate report on global warming, has fired off a letter of protest over the omission.The melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are a fairly recent development that has taken scientists by surprise. They don’t know how to predict its effects in their computer models. But many fear it will mean the world’s coastlines are swamped much earlier than most predict.

“Others believe the ice melt is temporary and won’t play such a dramatic role… University of Alabama at Huntsville professor John Christy said Greenland didn’t melt much within the past thousand years when it was warmer than now. Christy, a reviewer of the panel work, is a prominent so-called skeptic. He acknowledges that global warming is real and man-made, but he believes it is not as worrisome as advertised.”

The Associated Press added on January 29:

“As the panel [of scientists] meets [in Paris], the planet is the warmest it has been in thousands of years — if not more — and international concern over what to do about it is at an all-time high…  ‘We’re hoping that it will convince people that climate change is real and that we have a responsibility for much of it, and that we really do have to make changes in how we live,’ said Kenneth Denman, one of the report’s authors and senior scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis. It has been an unusually warm winter in some parts of the world, and awareness of the consequences of climate change is growing.

“Last week, President Bush referred to global warming as an established fact, after years of arguing that not enough was known about global warming to do anything about it…

“While critics call the panel overly alarmist, it is by nature relatively cautious because it relies on input from hundreds of scientists, including skeptics and industry researchers. And its reports must be unanimous, approved by 154 governments — including the United States and oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia.”

AFP published the following on January 29:

“There is no longer any doubt about the reality of global warming and the speed at which it is developing is a ‘major risk’, a senior expert says. ‘Is the climate changing? For the past few years there is no longer any doubt about it,’ said Herve le Treut, [the director of the dynamic meteorology laboratory at the Pierre-Simon Laplace institute in eastern France and] one of the world’s top climate scientists who muster in Paris on Monday. ‘Is the climate changing due to human activity, the response is more and more certainly, yes,’ le Treut [continued]. He said scientists were becoming more confident in their evaluations as events had backed up previous predictions.” reported on January 30:

“Scientists and government officials are finishing a much-awaited report expected to say that climate change is real, serious and that human influence on it is undeniable.”

AFP added on January 30:

“Earth’s surface temperature could rise by 4.5 C (8.1 F) if carbon dioxide levels double over pre-industrial levels, but higher warming cannot be ruled out, according to a draft report under debate by the UN’s top climate experts. The draft — being discussed line by line at the four-day meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — grimly states that the evidence for man-made influence on the climate system is now stronger than ever… It considers it ‘very likely’ — a probability of more than 90 percent — that the [temperature] rise since the mid-1900s was caused by man-made greenhouse gases. In its last report, in 2001, the IPCC said this probability was ‘likely,’ or 66 percent or less.”

President Bush on Global Warming

On January 29, NPR published an interview with President Bush. He was specifically asked whether he meant global warming, when he spoke in the State of the Union address about “the serious challenge of global climate change.” President Bush responded to this question, as follows:

“Absolutely, and it’s a serious challenge. And one of the things that I am proud of is this administration has done a lot on advancing new technologies that will enable us to do two things – strengthen our economy, and at the same time, be better stewards of the environment. In 2002, I talked about an energy efficiency standard, which says new technologies will enable us to grow our economy, and at the same time, improve the environment, and we’re meeting certain standards that I set for the country.

“And what kind of technologies? Well, if you’re really interested in global warming and climate change, then it seems like to me that we ought to promote technologies to advance the development of safe nuclear power. It’s a renewable source of energy, and at the same time has no emissions to it. But also, we’re advancing clean-coal technologies. The goal is to have a zero-emission coal-fired plant. And then, in the State of the Union, I talked about another aspect of economic security and environmental quality, and that is changing the habits – or changing how we power our cars. And I want more people driving automobiles with, you know, ethanol, for example, or biodiesel. And I believe the goal I set, which is a very bold goal, of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years is an attainable goal, but it’s going to require the Congress funding the research and development initiatives that I have put in my budgets. And I expect them to do so.”

Were Scientists Pressured to Downplay Global Warming?

In a bizarre twist of events, The Associated Press reported about pressures on scientists from governmental agencies  to downplay global warming. The article stated:

“Two private advocacy groups told a congressional hearing Tuesday that climate scientists at seven government agencies say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming. The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ from a report.”

Is Climate Change Threatening Australia?

The Associated Press reported on January 31:

“Average temperatures in Sydney will rise by about 9 degrees during the next 65 years, with devastating consequences including 1,300 more heat-related deaths per year, according to a government study released Wednesday. With Australia gripped by its worst drought on record, the issue of climate change has emerged as a battleground in this year’s national elections. Prime Minister John Howard has come under renewed criticism for not ratifying the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, making Australia the only major industrial nation other than the U.S. to reject the treaty that mandates lower emissions of global-warming greenhouse gases…

“As a major exporter and consumer of carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels, Australia rates as one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas producers per capita. Howard says the Kyoto Protocol’s steep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions would hurt Australia’s economy by handing a competitive advantage to China and India, which are not bound by the treaty. Australian power companies issued a report Wednesday that said expanding the use of nuclear power and retrofitting coal-fired power stations to capture carbon dioxide is the best way to slow greenhouse emissions. Howard said he agreed with that recommendation.”

Is Global Warming Man-Made?

Not all scientists agree, however, that global warming is man-made.

The Drudge Report stated the following on January 31, 2007:

“Two powerful new books say today’s global warming is due not to human activity but primarily to a long, moderate solar-linked cycle. ‘Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years,’ by physicist Fred Singer and economist Dennis Avery was released just before Christmas. ‘The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change,’ by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark and former BBC science writer Nigel Calder (Icon Books), is due out in March.

“Singer and Avery note that most of the earth’s recent warming occurred before 1940, and thus before much human-emitted CO2. Moreover, physical evidence shows 600 moderate warmings in the earth’s last million years. The evidence ranges from ancient Nile flood records, Chinese court documents and Roman wine grapes to modern spectral analysis of polar ice cores, deep seabed sediments, and layered cave stalagmites.

“Unstoppable Global Warming shows the earth’s temperatures following variations in solar intensity through centuries of sunspot records, and finds cycles of sun-linked isotopes in ice and tree rings. The book cites the work of Svensmark, who says cosmic rays vary the earth’s temperatures by creating more or fewer of the low, wet clouds that cool the earth. It notes that global climate models can’t accurately register cloud effects.

“‘The Chilling Stars’ relates how Svensmark’s team mimicked the chemistry of earth’s atmosphere, by putting realistic mixtures of atmospheric gases into a large reaction chamber, with ultraviolet light as a stand-in for the sun. When they turned on the UV, microscopic droplets—cloud seeds—started floating through the chamber.’We were amazed by the speed and efficiency with which the electrons [generated by cosmic rays] do their work of creating the building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei,’ says Svensmark.

“‘The Chilling Stars’ documents how cosmic rays amplify small changes in the sun’s irradiance fourfold, creating 1-2 degree C cycles in earth’s temperatures: Cosmic rays continually slam into the earth’s atmosphere from outer space, creating ion clusters that become seeds for small droplets of water and sulfuric acid. The droplets then form the low, wet clouds that reflect solar energy back into space. When the sun is more active, it shields the earth from some of the rays, clouds wane, and the planet warms.

“‘Unstoppable Global Warming’ documents the reality of a moderate, natural, 1500-year climate cycle on the earth. ‘The Chilling Stars’ explains the why and how.”

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