Pentagon seeks $190 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan


Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday asked Congress to approve nearly $190 billion more in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In prepared testimony to a Senate committee, Gates said the Bush administration sought the money for more training and equipment for the U.S. military, including new armored vehicles that give extra protection to troops against bomb blasts. The funds were for the 2008 fiscal year beginning October 1.

More money was also needed to train and equip Iraqi security forces as well as to improve U.S. facilities in the region and “consolidate our bases in Iraq,” Gates said. Reuters obtained a copy of his remarks in advance of his testimony on Wednesday.

In asking for the money, Gates said he was aware of the controversy surrounding the unpopular war. Since September 2001, Congress has appropriated $602 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“I know that Iraq and other difficult choices America faces in the war on terror will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the president, and in the wider public debate,” Gates said.

But he said U.S. troops had done far more than had been asked of them, and “like all of you, I always keep our troops — their safety and their mission — foremost in my mind every day.”

The administration had already asked Congress to approve

$147 billion for the war effort in the coming fiscal year. Gates said it was seeking another $42 billion more, bringing the total war funding request for fiscal 2008 to $189 billion.

The biggest chunk of the new request would go for force protection, including $11 billion for fielding about 7,000 more of the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, which have V-shaped hulls to disperse the impact of bomb blasts. This amount is being sought in addition to 8,000 MRAPS already funded or requested, Gates said.


Gen. Sean Hannity And Fox News Lay Out Their War Plan For Attacking ‘Ticking Bomb’ Iran


The Fox News network is now in full drumbeat mode, trying to promote a war against Iran.

Last night, armchair General Sean Hannity did his part to beat the Iran war drums. On Hannity and Colmes, the bellicose host devoted half the show to previewing “what a U.S. strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would look like“:

HANNITY: Mission: Iran Showdown. The objective: destroy and disable Iran’s top nuclear facilities, impact its ability to process and enrich uranium, delay its ability to manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons, all while crippling the ruling regime.

The network also announced that this Saturday at 9 pm, it will air a “Fox News investigative piece” entitled Iran: Ticking Bomb. The show will be hosted by Dan Senor, the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Fox has also been parading one pro-Iran war voice after another.

Earlier in the evening, Hannity hosted former UN ambassador John Bolton to discuss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the United Nations. Asked by Hannity “when will America and must America at some time respond militarily,” Bolton responded, “well, I think it’s entirely appropriate.”

Later in the evening, Hannnity brought AEI’s Michael Ledeen and Ret. Col. Chuck Nash on the show to validate the need to bomb Iran. The two analysts are both hawks advocating “regime change” in Iran. Ledeen agreed with Hannity that America should attack “terrorist training camps” in Iran. Nash was open to the military option, but preferred other means.

On Monday, the network displayed a graphic that appears to sum up the fear-mongering feelings about Iran at Fox News: “Is war the only way to stop Mahmoud?

UPDATE: Last month, Brave New Films put together a video showing how Fox’s rhetoric towards Iran is eerily similar to it’s pre-war rhetoric on Iraq. Watch it HERE.

Instead of sending HUMANS to Mars 11 times, the USA sent them on a Mission to Iraq


   Way back in the day (2004), President Bush promised to send people to Mars. NewScientist reported that the cost of the mission was “expected to cost $40 billion to $80 billion”. That really seemed like a lot of money. A year earlier, in 2003, Bush sent his country’s soldiers into Iraq. It is believed that as of September 27, 2007, the war in Iraq has cost the USA a whopping 454 Billion dollars! (and here’s even a more pessimistic estimate reported at The Boston Globe in 2006)

If the original Mars estimate was accurate, that means that instead of going to Iraq, the USA could have funded somewhere between 5 and 11 independent human missions to Mars! By “independent“, I mean Mars mission programs that start from the ground up, and do not leverage each other’s technology, research, or manufacturing. In reality, it would be much more likely that technology advances would be shared, as well as NRE costs, lowering the mission costs for all involved. That is, many many more than 11 missions could have been sent.

Maybe if the Bush cabal thought there was oil on Mars they’d have told everybody that’s where Saddam was hiding weapons of mass transportation.

Bush to Skip U.N. Talks on Global Warming


WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — Dozens of world leaders are to gather at the United Nations on Monday for a full agenda of talks on how to fight global warming, and President Bush is skipping all the day’s events but the dinner.


Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, is hoping to jump-start negotiations on replacing the Kyoto Protocol.

His focus instead is on his own gathering of leaders in Washington later this week, a meeting with the same stated goal, a reduction in the emissions blamed for climate change, but a fundamentally different idea of how to achieve it.

Mr. Bush’s aides say that the parallel meeting does not compete against the United Nations’ process — hijacking it, as his critics charge. They say that Mr. Bush hopes to persuade the nations that produce 90 percent of the world’s emissions to come to a consensus that would allow each, including the United States, to set its own policies rather than having limits imposed by binding international treaty.

“It’s our philosophy that each nation has the sovereign capacity to decide for itself what its own portfolio of policies should be,” said James L. Connaughton, the president’s chief environmental adviser.

Mr. Bush’s approach sets the stage for a new round of diplomatic confrontation. And it raises the prospect that he could once again put the United States in the position of objecting to any binding international agreement intended to slow or reverse the emissions linked to rising temperatures.

Whether Mr. Bush prevails remains to be seen, but the effort is the last chance in his presidency to shape the debate after years of being excoriated for keeping the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement that limits the emissions of greenhouse gases from most industrialized countries.

“The leadership role of the United States is absolutely essential,” said Timothy E. Wirth, a former senator and an environmental official in the Clinton administration, who is now president of the United Nations Foundation. “Unless the United States decides that it wants to be a major and committed leadership player in this and make very specific commitments, much of the rest of the world is effectively going to hide behind the skirts of the United States and not do anything.”

The growing scientific consensus that humans contribute to rising temperatures and sea levels — reflected in melting glaciers, shrinking Arctic ice and the concerns raised by former Vice President Al Gore — has pushed the issue to the top of a crowded diplomatic agenda at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

So has the expiration in 2012 of the binding restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol, which was intended to reduce participating countries’ emissions of greenhouse gases below the levels recorded in 1990.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, scheduled Monday’s forum — diplomatically speaking, a “high-level event” — to jump-start talks on how to replace Kyoto, saying an agreement needed to be reached by 2009 to avoid “any vacuum” after its restrictions lapse. Negotiators are to begin those talks in December in Bali, Indonesia.

“Climate change is a challenge to our leadership, skills and vision,” Mr. Ban said at the United Nations Headquarters last week, “and we have to address that challenge boldly.”

About 80 heads of state or government are expected at the meeting, and 154 leaders and officials have signed up to speak. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will represent the United States, though Mr. Bush will attend a closed-door dinner on Monday night. Michael Kozak, a National Security Council official, called the event a “working-dinner format.”

Mr. Bush’s meeting in Washington this week, to be held over two days, involves 15 countries, or major economies as the White House calls them, as well as the United Nations and the European Union. The 15 countries are the major emitters of greenhouse gases.

They include the members of the group of industrialized nations, as well as other large countries with developing economies, like Indonesia, Brazil, China and India. Developing countries did not face emissions limits under Kyoto, which was one of the major reasons the United States ultimately opposed it. China, like the United States, has also gone on record as opposing mandatory caps in the future.

Mr. Bush, long skeptical of reports of human-driven climate change, proposed for the first time this year negotiating a “long-term global goal” for cutting emissions, while persuading countries to agree to invest more in research on alternative energy sources and lower trade tariffs for products that reduce emissions. While opposing a binding cap on emissions, either domestically or globally, he has supported some mandatory measures, including increases in renewable fuels like ethanol and higher fuel-efficiency standards, efforts his administration once resisted.

Briefing reporters before the week’s meetings, senior aides emphasized that each nation should decide for itself how to reduce emissions.

“The president’s central proposition is really this: Tackling global climate change requires all major economies developed and developing to work together,” said Dan Price, a deputy national security adviser. “And it requires each to make a contribution consistent with its national circumstances.”

Critics argue that the administration’s approach is not aggressive enough because it remains essentially voluntary.

“There’s no serious environmental problem that’s ever been solved by voluntary measures,” said David Doniger, climate policy director at the National Resources Defense Council.

He cited the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 agreement that required countries to ban substances blamed for depleting the earth’s ozone layer. That protocol was amended Friday, with American support, to speed up the phasing out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons used in home appliances, refrigeration equipment and air conditioners.

European leaders, including allies like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, have also supported setting mandatory caps on emissions. At the Group of 8 meeting this summer, Mrs. Merkel pushed for a 50 percent reduction by 2050 but had to settle for compromise language after President Bush made it clear the United States would not agree to it.

Mr. Bush’s aides are sensitive to the accusation that the White House has ignored climate change.

They said that the administration’s embrace of voluntary measures and some mandatory steps, like requiring renewable fuels to be mixed with gasoline, was having effects that would be lasting.

Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change Partnership, a business group that supports some actions to limit emissions, said there was cautious support for Mr. Bush’s talks, though it was tempered by the administration’s previous record.

“It will take an awful lot,” Mr. Fay said, “to overcome the skepticism that has accumulated over the last six years.”

John M. Broder contributed reporting from Washington, Andrew C. Revkin from New York and James Kanter from Paris.

NASA : “Men on Mars” by 2037


In 2057, “We should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars,” hopes Michael Griffin.The NASA administrator addressed an international astronautics congress in Hyderabad, India on Monday.

A few years back, President Bush announced an ambitious plan to return to the moon by 2020 and use it as a stepping stone for manned missions to Mars and beyond.

“We are looking at the moon and Mars to build a civilisation for tomorrow and after that,” Griffin added in while addressing heads of the world’s space agencies.

NASA’s “Phoenix” spacecraft is scheduled to land on the northern plains of Mars in 2008 and determine whether or not life could be supported on the Red Planet.

The Mars rovers “Opportunity” and “Spirit” have resumed their three year old mission this month after surviving severe dust storms.
Amid a renewal of global interest in space exploration, missions to the moon and Mars are at the top of the agenda for the 2,000 space scientists, astronauts, satellite manufacturers and launchers who gathered in Hyderabad.“As of now, it appears space tourism may be the only way out to make space transportation economical. Though space tourism will generate funds, we have to evolve a mechanism to train the prospective tourists and ensure their safety. We do not, however, regulate space tourism, as there is no such provision in the US Space Act,” Griffin added.

Photo in the News: Bizarre Object Found Circling Star


An object recently detected orbiting a neutron star is among the strangest planet-mass bodies ever found, astronomers say.

Instead of circling around a normal star, the low-mass object—likely the “skeleton” of a smaller star—orbits a rapidly spinning pulsar, or neutron star.

The neutron star spins hundreds of times a second—faster than a kitchen blender.

The odd mass, which was spotted on June 7 by NASA’s Swift and Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellites, orbits the bigger star in a little under once an hour.

The body is located about 230,000 miles (370,149 kilometers) away from the star—slightly less than the distance from Earth to the moon.

Neutron stars usually slow with age, but the gas spiraling from the bizarre object has likely maintained, or even increased, the star’s speed.

The star siphons off gas from the orbiting body, as seen in the above artist’s illustration. The gas flow occasionally becomes unstable and causes the bright outbursts that can be seen from Earth.

Astronomers suspect the system was once two stars, which formed billions of years ago. Eventually the larger star went supernova, leaving behind the neutron star, while the smaller star expanded into a red giant.

It’s unknown whether the smaller star will survive much longer, however.

“It’s been taking a beating,” Hans Krimm of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement. The neutron star, after all, has been siphoning away its mass for billions of years.

“But that’s part of nature.”

Global Warming Could Cause World Crop Collapse


With the U.N.-affililated Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) already warning of declining grain harvests due to extreme weather, a U.S. study released last week suggests that global warming could cause world agricultural systems to face possible collapse by 2080, with countries in the south being the hardest hit.

India, Pakistan, most of Africa and most of Latin America would be the areas most affected, according to the Washington-based Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. India, which is fast becoming the world’s most populous nation, could stand to see its agricultural yield to fall 29 to 38 percent.

William Cline, the study’s author and a well-known economist, notes that global yields for major crops have actually slowed down. “There’s already a sign that there is fatigue in the Green Revolution,” he said, noting that the average annual growth in yields during the 1960s and 1970s was 2.6 percent per year – yet by the 1980s and 1990s it had slowed to 1.8 percent.

“The problem is that you need the technical change to keep up with demand for food,” emphasizes Cline. “I estimate that the global demand for food after you take into account higher population, as well as higher incomes, would about triple from now to late in the century.”

While some analysts believe that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in fact will benefit crops, citing laboratory studies that show a yield increase of 30 percent, Cline counters that farm field studies have demonstrated that benefits from so-called “carbon fertilization” is closer to 15 percent and eventually leveling out.

Conversely, food production in northern countries, especially in industrialized nations, could increase due to the effects of global warming increasing the length of the growing season. Cline cautions however that it will not meet world demand for food.

Already, there is an increasing competition between human and wild/domesticated animals for food supplies – worldwide meat production is increasing and most of it depends on grain – ultimately bringing into question the future sustainability of such a trend.

Using modelled projections on temperature and rainfall, the study’s results could also be further aggravated by unpredictable factors such as crop pests, severe droughts and water shortages.

“Governments and millions of poor people in developing countries have limited ability to cope with such changes,” said Nancy Birdsall, president of the Centre for Global Development. “At least a billion people live in the poorest countries that are likely to be worst hit by this slow-moving crisis. This will be a serious problem for us all.”