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Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 05:28 PM PDT

Good News on Global CO2 Emissions

by Magnifico

Greenhouse gas emissions
"Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn," the International Energy Agency reported today in press release.

The 2014 global emissions of carbon dioxide remained at 32.3 gigatons, unchanged from 2013.

"This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today," IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said.

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The Overnight News Digest is nightly series dedicated to chronicling the day's news of import or interest. Everyone is welcome to add their own news items in the comments. Tonight's OND chronicles news from around the globe.

 

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  • Spiegel - Targeting Turkey: How Germany Spies on Its Friends
    It was mid-July, and … a spy for the Americans had been exposed inside Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the government in Berlin ordered the CIA's top official in Germany to leave the country, demonstrating to Washington that it refused to put up with just anything. Berlin seemed to be going on the offensive.

    It didn't last long. Four weeks later, Chancellor Angela Merkel's team is backpedaling. On Friday, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the BND -- even if apparently unintentionally -- had eavesdropped on a telephone conversation by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The revelation made Merkel's dictum, "Spying among friends? That's unacceptable," ring a bit hollow…

    SPIEGEL has learned from sources that Turkey is one of the BND focuses included in the BND order profile, making the country an official target for the foreign intelligence agency's espionage efforts. The fact that the German intelligence service, at the behest of the government, has targeted a NATO ally could undermine recent efforts by the German government to resolve tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

    Turkey's reaction has thus far been muted, with Ankara apparently at pains to avoid a potentially damaging confrontation. Germany's ambassador to Turkey on Monday was asked by the Foreign Ministry in Ankara to come in for a meeting, but both sides insisted the atmosphere of the conversation was "friendly." Later on Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that, if the reports were true, such espionage would be "absolutely unacceptable."
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The Overnight News Digest is nightly series dedicated to chronicling the day's news of import or interest. Everyone is welcome to add their own news items in the comments. Tonight's OND showcases news from around the world.

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  • Bloomberg - World breaks temperature record for June after hottest May
    The average temperature of Earth’s surface last month exceeded all Junes before it, since record keeping began in 1880, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    That may sound familiar, because it’s the same language used to describe the month of May, which was the hottest month of May ever recorded.

    The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces in June was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit (0.72 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average. In daily weather, 1.3 degrees is hardly noticeable -- on a planetary scale for the month, it’s extreme.

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The Overnight News Digest is nightly series dedicated to chronicling the day's news of import or interest. Everyone is welcome to add their own news items in the comments. Tonight's OND showcases news from around the world.

Top Story


  • Space - 'One Giant Leap': As Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45
    Forty-five years ago today, humanity took a giant leap from its birthplace onto the surface of another world.

    On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong clambered down the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar lander and pressed his boot into the moon's gray dirt — a simple if clunky step, witnessed by billions from afar, that stands as perhaps the most memorable moment in all of human history.

    "The whole world stopped to watch what was taking place," space historian Roger Launius, assistant director of collections and curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, told Space.com. "I think it would not be an overstatement to say that."

    […]

    This stunning achievement required the investment of about $25 billion, experts say — well over $100 billion in today's dollars. (During the height of the Apollo program, NASA's share of the federal budget was about 4 percent. Today, that figure hovers around 0.5 percent.)
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I rcecall that last month Rep. Paul Ryan made an astute observation of American capitalism in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 19, 2013:

Ryan, who is Catholic, was asked about Pope Francis' recent sharp critique of capitalism. Ryan stood up for the free enterprise system as a way of alleviating poverty as well as being consistent with Catholic teaching...

"The guy is from Argentina, they haven't had real capitalism in Argentina," Ryan said. "They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don't have a true free enterprise system."

One month later, the headlines really prove Rep. Ryan's point.
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Newly declassified documents made public in the National Security Archive at George Washington University show how the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Americans who were opposed to the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This new documentation underscore the persistent, systemic abuses within the NSA on violating American citizens privacy.

In the summary of the declassified documents, "Disreputable if Not Outright Illegal": The National Security Agency versus Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Art Buchwald, Frank Church, et al., the archivists, Matthew Aid and William Burr, explain what type of Americans fell on secret NSA watch list programs in the past. They write:

The names of the NSA's targets are eye-popping. Civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King and Whitney Young were on the watch list, as were the boxer Muhammad Ali, New York Times journalist Tom Wicker, and veteran Washington Post humor columnist Art Buchwald. Also startling is that the NSA was tasked with monitoring the overseas telephone calls and cable traffic of two prominent members of Congress, Senators Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Howard Baker (R-Tennessee).
The NSA fought disclosure of this information for five years before being compelled by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) to declassify and release the information.
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Stanislav Petrov had just settled into the commander's chair for night duty when the Soviet Union's early-warning satellite system reported that all hell was breaking loose.

"Suddenly the screen in front of me turned bright red," said Petrov. "An alarm went off. It was piercing, loud enough to raise a dead man from his grave."

"The computer showed that the Americans had launched a nuclear strike against us."

The uneasy quiet inside a secret bunker at Serpukhov-15 was disrupted just past midnight on September 26, 1983 by the warning of an incoming attack. The data from the satellite indicated a missile had been launched by the Americans. In a moment, another launch was detected, and then another. Soon, the system was "roaring".

This was not a drill. According to the data scrolling across the screen, the Soviet Union was under attack by five intercontinental ballistic missiles. "The warning system's computer, weighing the signal against static, concluded that a missile had been launched from a base in the United States."

There was precious few seconds to pause. On the panel in front of the 44-year-old lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defense Forces "was a red pulsating button. One word flashed: 'Start.'"

"For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock," he said. "We needed to understand, what's next?"

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Alan Grayson
(Cliff1066™ / Flickr/ Creative Commons)
Alan Grayson is whipping against the resolution for the authorization of military force in Syria. He was interviewed on Tuesday by Molly Ball of The Atlantic. In the interview, Grayson explained why he is "confident it will be defeated in the House" of Representatives.

"A very substantial number of Democrats and Republicans have come out against attacking Syria, and we have begun the process of informing our Democratic colleagues about what their other colleagues are saying," Grayson said and confirmed that he is working with Republicans to halt the authorization push.

"You're going to see Democrats and Republicans lining up against [the military authorization]," he said.

Grayson explained that he didn't "feel at liberty to go into a lot of detail about that at this point" about how he was working across the aisle to stop the authorization, but the congressman from Florida 8th congressional district is well posited to work with his Republicans colleagues in stopping the march to war. In July, Slate reported that Grayson "is now the most effective member of the House", having passed more amendments than any other member. Grayson and his staff "resurrect or mold bills that can appeal to the libertarian streak" of Republicans and then "lobbies his colleagues personally."

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For the first time ever, wind power was the #1 source of new electricity generation in the United States last year.

Wind energy is now the fastest growing source of power in the United States – representing 43 percent of all new U.S. electric generation capacity in 2012 and $25 billion in new investment...

In the first four years of the Obama Administration, American electricity generation from wind and solar power more than doubled.

This upbeat assessment comes from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), which released two new reports on America's wind energy production and manufacturing.

Nine states rely on wind power for more than 12 percent of their annual energy consumption, with Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota exceeding a 20 percent share. For the past two years, "the price of wind under long-term power purchase contracts averaged just 4¢ per kilowatt hour."

Installed wind power capacity doubled from 2011, but such dramatic growth is in jeopardy because production tax credits are expiring.

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President Obama is considering a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, The New York Times reports in an anonymously sourced article. Obama is winding down the U.S. military campaign by the end of 2014. U.S. troops are scheduled to be reduced down to 34,000 by February 2014. However, those troops may not stay past the end of the year.

Obama is becoming "increasingly frustrated" with Karzai and their relationship "has been slowly unraveling". The Obama administration had been negotiating with the Karzai government over conditions to leave a "residual" U.S. force in Afghanistan post-2014, but those talks have not gone well.

Total military withdrawal of the 63,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan "has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario" to now as viable alternative. Obama is giving "serious consideration" to the "zero option", which would leave no American troops in Afghanistan after next year.

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The military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi from office is the second coup d'état since 2011. Egyptian presidents serve at the discretion of the Egyptian military. This should surprise no one. The military has no reason to support democracy in Egypt either.

I find it very disappointing that the Obama administration has supported the Egyptian military with billions of dollars in aid. Less than two months ago, Secretary of State John Kerry "quietly" approved $1.3 billion of military aid to Egypt.


All such aid is “carefully considered,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, but it was felt the funding was necessary to help “preserve important regional interests.”

[...]

Psaki defended Kerry’s approval of aid for the fiscal year 2013 saying it was in US national security interests and helped such things as “maintaining access to the Suez Canal and the interdiction of weapons smuggling.”

The miliary aid was given "despite rights concerns".
Under U.S. law, for the $1.3 billion to flow the secretary of state must certify that the Egyptian government "is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law."
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An estimated 25,000 bumblebees and many other pollinators have been killed by suspected pesticide poisoning in a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. This is the single, largest known incident of bumblebee deaths in America.

One of the 25,000 dead bumblebees
Photo: Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian
The bees have been dying, dropping from trees, since Saturday and, as of this afternoon, bees are still dying, The Oregonian reports.
The bees were still dying on Wednesday. Yellow-faced bees fell from the trees, twitching on their backs or wandering in tight circles on the asphalt. Some honeybees and ladybugs were also found dead. A few dead bumblebees even clung to linden flowers, while hundreds littered the lot.
"Bumblebees are the single most important natural pollinator in Oregon," said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for the Xerces Society.
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