Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

No evidence of wrongdoing in Minnesota Senate race Tim Pawlenty told Chris Wallace today that there is no evidence of fraudulent election practices in the contentious senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, and that there was no truth to the rumor spread by Coleman's lawyer that ballots had been found in the trunk of an election official's car. "As of this moment we know of no actual evidence of wrongdoing or fraud in the process," Pawlenty said.

Waxman challenges Dingell for Chairmanship of House Energy and Commerce Committee Dingell, the longest serving representative in the House and the number one apologist for the auto industry and a thorn in the side of environmentalists, is being challenged by Henry Waxman, who has chaired the House Oversight and Governmental Affairs Committee since January 2007 when Democrats took over as the majority party. Waxman has a strong environmental record, and his performance at Oversight indicates he would be tough on the auto, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries that are regulated by the Energy and Commerce committee. Waxman is a skilled, savvy operator, and he knows how to count votes. If he didn't think he could pull this off, he wouldn't be mounting the challenge. We'll be watching this as it develops.

Lieberman's fate will be decided Tuesday The Senate Democratic caucus will decide by secret ballot whether to strip Traitor Joe of his Homeland Security gavel on Tuesday. Does it piss anyone else off that the weaselly Senate Democrats aren't going to have to cast this vote on the record?

Gulf states look abroad for arable land With increasing populations, dwindling water supplies and escalating food prices, gulf states are quietly changing the way they feed their people. Where they used to almost exclusively buy their food on the open market, now they are looking abroad for arable land that they can lease or buy outright to produce the food to feed their populations.

More study needed to learn about how climate change displaces humans: As highlighted in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review (FMR) - which focuses on climate change and displacement - humanitarian and development workers are under pressure to respond to the consequences of global warming without really knowing what they're up against. The U.N. deputy high commissioner for refugees, Craig L Johnstone, describes the status quo in stark terms - arguing that we've hit an "analytical stone wall" and are in "desperate need of a better understanding of the size and the characteristics of this issue". Oli Brown, a programme manager with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, notes in an article entitled "The numbers game" that even the generally accepted estimate of 200 million climate migrants by 2050 from Oxford University professor Norman Myers was calculated - by the academic's own admission - using some "heroic extrapolations". "Intuitively we know that climate change migration is likely to be a serious issue in future. We just don't know how serious," Brown writes. "And it is hard to persuade policymakers of its importance without concrete (or at least more sophisticated) figures."

More dismissals from the Colombian Army: Colombia fired 10 army officers and three soldiers on Sunday in a widening scandal over the killing of innocent civilians that threatens to further complicate a U.S. trade deal bogged down over human rights. The soldiers and officers are accused of shooting seven young men in the northern province of Cordoba and passing the bodies off as leftist guerrillas killed in combat. Here's to the notion that President-elect Obama will put a stop to trade with Colombia's right-wing government.

That ship has sailed, Macca: Paul McCartney says it's time an experimental Beatles track saw the light of day. McCartney says he wants to release "Carnival of Light," a 14-minute experimental track the Fab Four recorded in 1967 but never released. The band played the recording for an audience just once, at an electronic music festival in London. It reportedly includes distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and shouts of "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?" from McCartney and John Lennon. Look, there are no "lost" Beatle songs or tracks--it's a gimmick. What's there is there and what's done is done. Let it go.

Airstrike in Gaza: An Israeli air strike has killed four Palestinian militants in the northern Gaza Strip, officials have said. The Israeli military said the strike, east of Gaza City, had targeted gunmen preparing to fire rockets at Israel. It came as the Israeli cabinet met on Sunday to discuss the fragile five-month-old ceasefire and whether to lift a blockade on the territory.

Methane gas explosion in Romanian mine: Two gas explosions at a colliery in south Romania have killed 12 miners and at least eight others are being treated for serious burns, officials say. Four were killed when they went to the aid of those caught in the first blast at the mine in the town of Petrila. A union representative said conditions underground were very difficult as the mine is one of Romania's deepest. It is one of the country's worst accidents since seven miners were killed in a blast nearly two years ago.

Censorship everyone can agree upon: YouTube has removed a number of videos glorifying the Columbine High School killers, after a BBC investigation. Videos found on the site praised Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - also known as "Reb" and "Vodka" - for carrying out the shooting, in which 13 people died. The killings near Denver, Colorado nine years ago, were romanticised in some of the videos which have now been removed.

Teacher shortages in Scotland force schools to recruit overseas: A local authority is recruiting teachers from abroad to tackle a problem with filling vacancies at its most rural schools. Aberdeenshire Council - which is advertising more than 90 posts - said recruitment was a challenge. Highland Council also revealed five of its 16 advertised posts had been vacant for more than three months. Meanwhile, probationers - thousands of whom seek jobs each year - are also being lured to work in England.

That soon? SETI, (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak and host of the weekly radio show "Are We Alone," predicted during a recent conference in San Francisco that "We'll find ET within two-dozen years", according to CNET News staffer Daniel Terdiman. The prediction is based on a few qualifiers. The first is the assumption made by researchers within SITI that the power, range and speed of the Allen Telescope Array with 42 radio camera dishes currently on line and a projected total of 350 dishes will evolve into new technologies capable of distances and speed unfathomable presently. Secondly, an obvious component is necessary funding for evolving technologies. The current Allen Telescope Array , (ATA) was made possible by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft making a $25-million donation to SETI. Mr Allen flipped the go- switch in 2007 for the initial 42 radio-camera dishes phase. Since that time ATA has produced amazing images, including atomic hydrogen disposition, heretofore stifled by a lack of exactitude. The completed project will include a total of 350 separate dishes and collectively may act as one virtual dish spanning 2700 miles across. Further funding for ATA is critically needed.