Who Will Win the Battle of Global Warming?

Yes, folks, it’s back in the news, and with good reason. Climate change is on the front burner in Washington, where the Senate is taking up the climate change bill the House passed recently. It’s also being debated at the G-8 summit in Italy.

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In the Senate, one should keep in mind a climate bill has been rejected three different times. We ought to pray there isn’t a fourth, but the politics of the environment isn’t always a cut and dried thing, Al Franken’s swearing in not withstanding.

What’s troubling about the latest round of “what should we do about the environment?” is the strong pushback against the idea that global warming is even a problem. Don’t believe me? Keep in mind that Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe once called global warming “the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people”. He’s still at it, and at the same time arguing about the cost, and whether US action alone will make any difference.

That’s where the G-8 comes in.

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Despite most developed countries agreeing in principle with the notion of fighting global warming, some countries are resisting the idea, especially during this time of economic crisis. That’s all the cover Senate Republicans need. Their thinking goes like this. If countries like China and India aren’t ready to work on the problem, why should the US? At the root of their argument, however, is Imhofe’s skepticism about the need for any action at all. Global warming, the argument gores, just doesn’t exist.

Al Gore speaking at Oxford and comparing the threat of global warming to that of the Nazis only pours gasoline on the flame. To top it off, the media seems to be giving more and more time to scientists who side with Inhofe. Some have fall back positions. They argue against the need for unilateral action, then the need for immediate action, then the need for any action at all.

Part of the problem is that the consequences of inaction could take years to be made manifest in a tangible way. Despite what many of us say about making the world a better place for those coming behind us, if we have to sacrifice in any real way, our words ring hollow. The Republicans know this. That’s why they try to link nuclear power with solar energy in legislation. They don’t figure any of them (or us) will be around for the next Chernobyl. Or will we?

Reasonable people may disagree about how long it will be before the effects climate change smack us in our collective face. Yet the science is there. The world, no matter what the temperature where you may be now, is getting warmer, little by little. The question is whether our Beltway lawmakers have the guts to tackle the issue.

What do you think? Do they?

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Uighurs Back in the News- How Much Do We Really Know?

We posted about the plight of the Chinese Muslim minority group the Uighurs some time ago. Then, the question was whether the US would resettle a small number of them freed by the courts in this country.

Now, they’re back in the news, and again, American media is largely playing catchup. This time, the Uighurs are making news in their homeland as they clash with Han Chinese in the western desert region of the country.

The violence, which flared over the weekend, has left 156 dead and more than 1000 injured. The Chinese government, apparently fearing whatever governments fear when people freely express themselves, have locked down the regional capital of Urumqi. They’ve also taken the trouble to cut off cellphone and Internet service. They want accounts of what’s been going on to be their accounts. However, things reportedly aren’t going exactly as the government has planned.

Hundreds of Uighur men, woman, and children are defying police and crashed a state run tour of the riot torn area for Chinese and foreign journalists.

Sometimes stage managing of human misery doesn’t work.

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The protestors want the government to release Uighur men they say have been detained after the violence started. Make no mistake. This is the worst ethnic violence in China for some time. And what is at its root? Could it be the inability of Uighurs to freely practice their Islamic religion without government interference?

There’s also the issue of continuing tense relations between the Uighurs and the Han. The Uighurs charge the Chinese government favors the Han when it comes to jobs and services. In fact, the rioting that took place last weekend reportedly began as a peaceful protest demanding an investigation into a deadly brawl between Uighurs and Han that took place thousands of miles away. Despite the paucity of information western news media have had access to, new technology has played as great a role in this situation is it has in Iran.

Published reports say the calls for protest by Uighurs were spread through Web sites and the most popular instant messaging program in China.

That would explain why the government prioritized shutting down cell service in the region, as well as cutting off Internet service. Hopefully, it won’t work.

Despite our ignorance and suspicion about Uighurs living in the US, their situation in China cries out for our scrutiny and concern.

Violence, be it religious, ethnic, racial, whatever, ought to be condemned. Despite the secretive nature of the Chinese government, they’re not immune to international calls for justice and fairness.

What’s happening to the Uighurs makes you wonder. What other people around the world are crying out for a level of basic humanity from their government and their fellow citizens?

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I’ll bet there are more than a few we don’t know about.

The question is, do we care?

Two Journalists Get 12 Years- For What?

We may never know what “grave crime” journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee committed that got them sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean gulag.

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We do know they were detained at the border with China back in March, and there are those who think the North Korean government will use the pair as some sort of bargaining chip with the US.

If that’s the case, President Barack Obama will find himself in the same box he does when it comes to the country’s nuclear program. North Korea’s government is secretive, and the motive for its actions aren’t always clear.

In this case, those motives are clear as mud. Lee and Ling are reporters for Al Gore’s Current TV, a network, by the way, worth watching.

al-gore_current-tvThere are conflicting reports about the story they were covering. Suffice to say it may not have been flattering to the North Koreans, but how would they know that in advance? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. This government is low enough to use the lives of two reporters as a means to gain a political end. They certainly won’t be the first, but they ought to be the last.

Is the North looking to avoid sanctions the UN is considering for their nuclear weapons testing? Many in the US diplomatic community think so. Those sanctions are being pushed by the US. Secretary of State Clinton says the two issues are “separate and apart” from each other. Does that mean the US isn’t prepared to offer any concessions to North Korea in order to free Ling and Lee?

There’s talk of a high level diplomatic mission to the North. Two prominent names mentioned are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore himself. The latter has maintained a low profile so as not to be perceived as politicizing the effort to free the pair. Richardson says there’s much diplomatic groundwork to be laid before any such effort would have a chance of success. Despite such daunting talk, however, there is some hope. Richardson himself helped arrange the release of US prisoners back in the 1990s. And he also points to the fact that neither reporter was charged with espionage as another hopeful sign.

Yet this entire ugly affair points out a critical vulnerability in US foreign policy. How do you deal with nations that are willing to  jeopardize the lives of our citizens by locking them away in prisons where large numbers of people die of malnutrition and neglect? Do you try diplomacy, or do you take a hard line and simply condemn the action while pushing ahead for sanctions?

There is no easy answer, is there? You tell me.

Uighurs! Will Europe Take GITMO Detainees? Not if We Don’t!

One of the more bizarre aspects of the debate over where to relocate some inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay is this. Several European countries which had previously agreed to take some of them are now hesitating. Their reason?

It’s the reluctance to do the same right here in the USA.

We’re not talking about the high risk terror suspects who will remain locked up. We’re talking about people both military and federal courts said should be freed.

The Obama Administration planned to resettle about 50 detainees in a number of European countries, who had agreed to take them in. The drumbeat of opposition in the Congress to allowing detainees on US soil has until now largely been centered on those who would remain detained. Now, however, the ante has been upped in the case of 17 Chinese Uighur detainees.

Who, you may ask? Uighurs are Chinese Muslims, and all 17 were captured in Afghanistan after the Sept., 11th terror attacks.

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Last October, a federal judge said none posed a security threat and should therefore be freed. Problem is, their attorneys say to return them to China would condemn them to certain imprisonment or possibly death.

The German government had tentatively agreed to resettle nine of the Uighurs in Bavaria, where a community of them already exists. However, the inability of the Obama Administration to reach agreement on resettling several of them in Northern Virginia has seen Germany’s willingness evaporate. The central question here is whether these people represent any security threat, either to the US or Germany.

The US courts have said no, and in fact have ordered the release of 21 GITMO detainees, including the Uighurs.

That’s not good enough for some members of Congress, who want no detainees on US soil, no matter what the courts may say. So then the question must be asked, not of the Europeans but of us. When and under what circumstances are we willing to admit the detention of some of those at Guantanamo was wrong?

We know some of our elected representatives on both sides of the partisan divide have no interest in this fundamental question of justice.

This is not, by the way, a call for freeing dangerous people onto the streets of America, and our elected officials know this (or should). We locked these people up. Dealing with the relocation of the innocent among them is our responsibility, not Europe’s.

So how do we solve this?

The Uighurs and their situation is metaphor for a lot more than simply where they end up. Do we trust our court system? Isn’t this at some point about the rule of law?

You tell me.