December 2007


Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a presumed suicide attack, a military spokesman has announced on TV. Earlier reports said Ms Bhutto had only been injured and taken to hospital.

Ms Bhutto had just addressed a pre-election rally in the town of Rawalpindi when the bomb went off.

At least 15 other people are reported killed in the attack and several more were injured. Ms Bhutto had twice been the country’s prime minister.

She was campaigning ahead of elections due in January.

Full article here.

Reuters has an interesting Fact Box this morning about China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund:

BEIJING, Dec 19 (Reuters) – China’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC), made its biggest investment to date on Wednesday, taking up to a 9.9 percent stake in Morgan Stanley for about $5 billion.

Here are some facts about the fund:

* CIC has total initial capital of $200 billion. The process of injecting this capital has just been completed, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday.

* CIC’s first investment, a nearly 10 percent stake in Blackstone Group that cost $3 billion, has lost more than 30 percent of its value since the private equity giant’s IPO in June.

* Its second investment, for about $10 million, was in the Hong Kong IPO of China Railway 601390.SS0390.HK.

* A British broker, after combing through shareholder registers, said in late July that CIC had also bought a stake in BG Group, a British gas company.

See the full piece here.

WASHINGTON — The United States lost a long battle when Russia, as it announced on Monday, delivered nuclear fuel to an Iranian power plant that is at the center of an international dispute over its nuclear program. Iran, for its part, confirmed on Monday plans to build a second such plant.

In announcing that it had delivered the first fuel shipment to the power plant, at Bushehr in southern Iran, on Sunday, Russian officials said that while the fuel was in Iran, it would be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring agency for the United Nations. Russia also said the Iranian government had guaranteed that the fuel would be used only for the power plant.

The Bush administration took pains not to criticize the Russian move publicly, even expressing support for outside supplies if that led Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.

“If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich,” President Bush said Monday. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich.”

But from the American standpoint, the timing could not have been worse, coming just two weeks after the release of a United States intelligence estimate that concluded that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate also concluded that Iran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, undercutting a central tenet of the Bush administration’s basis for maintaining international pressure against Iran.

Full article here.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Iran tested a newly-developed ballistic missile on the day of the Annapolis conference, Channel 10 reported Wednesday.

The Ashoura missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers and is capable of reaching Israel, US Army bases in the Middle East and eastern European cities.

According to the report, the new missile is an improvement to the existing Shihab-3 missile. The Ashoura uses solid fuel instead of the Shihab’s liquid fuel, giving it a significantly faster launch sequence which is harder to detect.

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Muhammad-Najjar had announced the development of the new missile on the day of the summit, but had not specified whether it had actually been tested.

According to the country’s IRNA news agency, Najjar said the missile was named the “Ashoura,” meaning “the tenth day” in Farsi – a sacred reference among Shi’ite Muslims to the martyrdom of the third imam.

The Iranian defense minister said that “the production of the new missile was one of the Defense Ministry’s greatest achievements.”

Analysts believe much of Iran’s military production has benefited from assistance from Russia, China and other countries, but many of their weapons development claims have not been independently verified.

Recent weapons development has been motivated by Iran’s standoff with the US over its controversial nuclear program.

The Shihab-3, which means “shooting star” in Farsi, has a range of at least 1,300 kilometers.

In 2005, Iranian officials said they had improved the range of the Shihab-3 to 2,000 kilometers, a range equal to that of the new missile reported Wednesday.

Experts also believe Iran is developing the Shihab-4 missile, thought to have a range between 2,000 and 3,000 kilometers that would put much of Europe in range.

Well, that’s one way of expressing your displeasure about being left off of the tea party invite list …

The New York Times’ Andrew C. Revkin writes:

In the 20 years I’ve been covering global warming, it’s been hard to find a lot of laughs. There have been a few moments — like when I was standing too close to an open-water gap in the floating sea ice at the North Pole, until a bearlike Russian camp worker pulled me back, explaining in broken English that a tourist had fallen into the 14,300-foot-deep, 28-degree water that way the year before. That’s about as funny as it gets on my beat. 

… The tourist survived. Actually, come to think of it, that was the same day a beautiful Russian woman (the runner-up in the Mother Russia pageant) popped out of a tent dressed in an ice-length sequined gown, tiara and white fur coat, and began dancing with Santa Claus.

Maybe this is a funnier beat than I thought. As if to prove that, and just in time for the holidays (or a break from dissecting the latest nonpapers at the Bali talks), now comes “101 Funny Things About Global Warming” (Bloomsbury USA, January 2008), the first book of climate cartoons (the first one I know of, anyway). It is assembled by Sidney Harris and 20 other masters of the scribbled line.

Just in time for Christmas, for the giggling climate-catastrophist in your clan. Full article here.

But apparently Ron Paul does.  Note to my supporters:  I don’t want a blimp.  Politics is silly enough already without a bunch of blimps bumping into each other over New Hampshire.

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate John McCain warned on Monday that Al-Qaeda could trigger a major US economic crisis with just one successful attack on a Middle Eastern oil installation. The Arizona senator argued that terror groups understood America’s reliance on foreign oil — and did not believe it had the will to find alternative energy sources.

“Al-Qaeda plans for attacks on oil facilities in the Middle East to destroy the American economy,” McCain said, in prepared remarks released by his campaign ahead of a speech in South Carolina.

“We’re one successful attack away from an economic crisis,” McCain said, adding that US enemies knew the damage a disruption of supplies would wreak on the US economy.

Full article here. One of my campaign principles, incidentally, is that energy independence “must be the core initiative underlying our future foreign policy.”  I’m just sayin’ …

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