April 2009


Severe droughts could devastate sub-Saharan Africa following a recent decades-long drought that killed 100,000 people in Africa’s Sahel region, scientists say.

Sub-Saharan Africa often suffers droughts, but the group of specialists reported on Thursday that global climate change will make these dry periods more severe and more difficult for the people who live there.

The prediction is contained in a study published in the journal of Science by the scientits at the University of Arizona, US.

“Clearly, much of West Africa is already on the edge of sustainability, and the situation could become much more dire in the future with increased global warming,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climatologist and co-author of the study.

Via Aljazeera English.

Pirates commandeered a United States-flagged container ship with 20 American crew members off the coast of Somalia on Wednesday, the first time an American-crewed ship was seized by pirates in the area.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the company that owns the ship said.

The ship was taken by pirates at about 7:30 a.m. local time, 280 miles southeast of the Somali city of Eyl, a known haven for pirates, a spokesman for the United States Navy said. It is owned and operated by Maersk Line Limited, a United States subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, the Danish shipping giant.

The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates this week off the Horn of Africa, one of the most notoriously lawless zones on the high seas, where pirates have been operating with near impunity despite efforts by many nations, including the United States, to intimidate them with naval warship patrols.

Via New York Times.  Arrrr.  Obviously, we hope our American crew and all aboard are allowed to return home unharmed.

I have an idea about a way to curtail these activities:  send them ships filled with reality TV stars, one after another after another.  Imagine a ship filled with Real World/Road Rules alumni, or perhaps another one with the contestants from a new series of Survivor, “Survivor: Somalia.”  When the pirates find themselves unable to collect ransom on them, they’ll soon grow weary of the whole venture.  Then perhaps they’ll retire to dry land and fall into Internet scamming, or another less violent hobby.

UPDATE, from the New York TimesAt about noon Eastern time, some twelve hours after the hijacking, a Pentagon official speaking on condition of anonymity said that “it is our understanding that the crew has taken back control of the vessel.”

WASHINGTON — Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.”

Via Wall Street Journal.  Seems like an awful lot of time and money invested in disrupting our electrical supply when we are more than capable of doing that ourselves.  On a regular basis.

When oil prices collapsed from $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008 to $35 a barrel in January, American drivers, Congress, government bureaucrats, and the mainstream media refocused on other, more pressing issues, like executive bonuses. Peak oil likely occurred between 2005 and 2009; oil production will now embark on a long slow decline. The world isn’t prepared.

Matt Simmons, energy analyst and author of Twilight in the Desert, recently told Reuters

“We are 3, 6, maybe 9 months away from a price shock… These prices now are dangerously low. The lower prices fall, the less oil will be produced and the greater the chance of an oil spike…. [And] unless oil demand falls by 10 or 15% per annum, which it is not going to do, then we don’t need to wait for oil demand to come back before we have a supply crunch.”

In this scenario, low oil prices will continue to take oil fields out of production and reduce exploration. Once prices recover, companies will have trouble gearing back up due to the credit crunch, resulting in production-increase delays.

— From an Op Ed by James Quinn, at Minyanville.

CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldova’s president on Tuesday said violent protests against an election win by his Communist Party amounted to a “coup d’etat” and said opposition leaders had embarked on a “path to the violent seizure of power.”

“Everything that they have undertaken in the last 24 hours cannot be described as anything other than a coup d’etat,” Vladimir Voronin said in a television address, referring to opposition leaders, after demonstrators ransacked the president’s office and parliament.

Opposition leaders, Voronin said, “have embarked on the path of violent seizure of power” and the authorities “would resolutely defend the state against the leaders of the pogrom.”

Via Reuters.