What’s happening, World?

Now that our Federal election day so closely approaches, a few of us are starting to remember that the ROTW (Rest of the World) is out there, and that tonight’s town hall gabfest might not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, and in any case sometime early next week the wall-to-wall election coverage will need to end.

Perhaps those who have been paying attention to things happening outside Australia over the last month or so could use this thread to get the rest of us up to speed on recent events.


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48 responses to “What’s happening, World?”

  1. Davey

    Well, here in the Netherlands Gillard’s support for a republic (post QEII) made the news yesterday. Meanwhile, coalition talks between the three right/centre right parties continue to drag on, now more than two months after the elections. The previous governing party (CDA) is getting itself into all sorts of bother about a minority coalition with the liberal VVD party, with support from Wilders’ far-right PVV. At the same time Wilders, ass-hat that he is, plans to make an anti-Muslim speech at Ground Zero. It would be nice to think he is an aberration, but with 25 seats in the new parliament, I’m afraid not. I think Wilders and Abbott would get along famously.

  2. Robert Merkel

    The floods in Pakistan remain disastrous. Send funds through the usual suspects.

    In the USA, federal politicians are working themselves into a frenzy because somebody wants to build a Muslim community center two blocks from the WTC site. Meanwhile, unemployment is still around 9.5%, but that’s clearly a lower priority.

  3. Ute Man

    We are now into the fifth year of declining oil exports from Saudi Arabia – their domestic consumption being the leading suspect.

    Shadows of portents of the future of Africa

    On the upside, a nice bicycle has never been cheaper.

  4. Patrickb

    Hey Davey, I might be in Amsterdam in November. Is there any change to the coffee shop regime? I keeping from Miranda Devine that the Netherlands is about to throw off this 60s anachronism. Wilders is a tool.

  5. Katz

    Russia is about to activate an Iranian nuclear reactor.

    Saudi Arabia advocates a military strike against Iran.

    Scary.

  6. Ken Lovell

    The biggest story in the USA by far is the attempt by a bunch of Islamofascists to build a 100 storey mosque on the wreckage of the World Trade centre using nothing but the bones of slaughtered infidels for materials. Islamofascists from all over the world will then make pilgrimages to Ground Zero, or ‘Manhattan’ as it used to be called, to walk around the mosque seven times crying “Death to America”.

    Naturally the liberals are in league with the Islamofascists, leaving it to the gallant Republicans to warn us of the danger. Over and over again, in an endless series of totally unhinged posts that have no relationship whatsoever with reality. The viciousness and irrationality on display are truly frightening. Which would not be so bad except that most of the Democrats from Obama down are falling over themselves to show how much they share the pain.

    What a fucked up country. And we’re its loyal apologist and ally. Why?

  7. akn

    Those Saudi’s! No wonder the whole Arab speaking world just loves ‘em.

    Otherwise: Pakistan. Heads up. This is global warming big time. We will not be able to give enough aid as events of this scale continue all over. My garage guy is Pakistani and very distressed.

  8. Nana Levu

    I read that article on Saudis advocating a military strike against Iran. On a close reading it seems the sub heading did not match the intent of the article. To say that “More importantly, by means of this action, Tehran is moving its conflict with the international community into high gear, and [in this case] some may consider the military option to be the best solution . [Delaying recourse to this option] may lead to a point where it is impossible to implement it – if Tehran manages to produce a nuclear bomb of its own.” This is not Saudi advocating a strike but rather saying some may advocate.

    Gwynne Dyer had a piece early this month arguing that a strike against Iran was unlikely http://www.lfpress.com/comment/2010/08/06/14947021.html

  9. Davey

    No change to the coffeeshop regime as far as I can tell – some have been shut down because they’re too close to schools, and some along the Belgian border have been relocated … but everything else is ‘smoking’, as they say.

  10. Davey

    and yes Wilders = tool.

  11. Lefty E

    Well, interestingly enough, in East Timor the news is the executive govt (as opposed to the legislature, which remains firmly opposed) is now toying with the East Timor “solution” idea; provided it can be deployed to augment their own development needs ie be on the south coast (where they want the oil refinery as well).

    But they arent too keen, and will happily see it slide off the agenda. However, they may play ball if the payout for them is big enough.

    The Church, however, has come out strongly opposed last week, and urging the exec to support the legislature’s stance. I’d say it will take a lot of moolah to get it over the line. Plus the Timorese wont stand for any detention or crap like that. There’ll be freedom of movement etc.

    My overall guess still is: wont happen. But the door is slightly ajar: for any big spender…

  12. paul walter

    No, just Pakistan, what other posters mentioned on different aspects.
    Hasn’t the gap in fortune between Pakistan and Afghanistan and Australia has been stupendous over years and decades.
    american politics?
    meh

  13. Robert Merkel

    Gwynne Dyer is right.

  14. Wozza

    akn@7

    Here we go again. Weather masquerading as climate.

    There is absolutely no evidence that what happened in Pakistan was caused by global warming. To the extent that it was a weather issue (which it obviously was – but I say “to the extent” because it was also an issue of fucked up irrigation systems laying more sediment in rivers and preventing natural water flows), it was caused by unusual jetstream behaviour blocking the movement of weather systems. The same jetstream behaviour that caused the Moscow heat wave. Even the Silly Moaning Herald, usually at the forefront of the global warming is to blame for everything lobby, gets this:

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/weather-blocker–jet-stream-stops-and-causes-disasters-20100812-120th.html

    Jetstream behaviour of this sort is relatively frequent. There is evidence correlating it to low solar activity – unproven, but at least as proven as a climate change link (and no climate change models predict this sort of event).

    Sorry for the lecture, but I get thoroughly pissed off with “if it’s hot or disastrous, it’s climate change; if it’s cold or benign, it’s only weather” tendency. More of Russia was actually cooler than average at the time of the Moscow heatwave than was hotter than average

    If we want to turn this into global warming around the world stories, how about New Zealand meteorological bureau sued over falsifying temperature data to exaggerate global warming?

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4026330/Niwa-sued-over-data-accuracy

    OK, sure, transparent and ultimately meaningless stunt, but it will be very interesting if this goes to court to see the record and the processes, which do sound prima facie at least a bit dodgy, subjected to rigorous evidence and science-based scrutiny.

  15. Patrickb

    @9
    Great, I’ll see you at Cafe Gollem on the 14th.

  16. Paul Burns

    Venezuela and Colombia have made peace after the election of the new Colombian president. About a week ago. See, the world’s not all bad.

  17. sputnik

    I saw a tweet, can’t remember who by, yesterday, something along the lines of:
    “fair’s fair, we’ve been building Ground Zeros next to hundreds of Iraqi mosques for the last 9 years #groundzeromosque”.
    I admit I had to look up what is was referring to as we’ve had something of a news blackout at our place lately.

  18. Ken Lovell

    Tigtog it’s the US equivalent of Tampa 2001; an issue where all the fear and hatred of Muslims can be vented in an apparently respectable cause.

    The new version of religious freedom in the US seems to be that you can practise any religion you like, as long as it’s not Islam. The whole confected controversy is tantamount to accepting the ‘we are at war with Muslims’ thesis that psychopaths like McCarthy and Pipes have been spruiking for years.

    The lack of self-knowledge on display is staggering. One self-righteous clown after another proclaims how uniquely tolerant Americans are, how the very idea of prejudice is anathema to them. Why, even after the provocation of September 11, they didn’t lash out at Muslims! The people of Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen might not agree, but then they are foreigners and don’t really count.

  19. Emily Litella

    What’s all this guff I hear about people who want to build a Moscow next to Ground Zero? Manhattan is crowded enough as it is! There are something like 5 million people in Moscow — how are we supposed to fit 5 million more Russians down there — even if we build some more skyscrapers in the meat-packing district? Plus they already have their own subway in Moscow, we don’t need another one! Where would we put it? In those old abandoned IND stations off of DeKalb Avenue? Even they’re not big enough!

    If people want to build a Moscow in New York, let them put it in Brighton Beach, where at least it’s…

    What’s that? Really?

    Oooohh, that’s very different then.

    Never mind.

  20. Brian

    Wozza @ 15, have a look at this one for an informed view.

    Kevin Trenberth:

    “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

    Trenberth also says you can get more snow than heretofore, but in a shorter season.

    Gavin Schmidt:

    “If you ask me as a person, do I think the Russian heat wave has to do with climate change, the answer is yes,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher with NASA in New York. “If you ask me as a scientist whether I have proved it, the answer is no — at least not yet.”

    When complex systems change it’s silly to attribute events to a single source. But to rule out global warming and particularly AGW as having any effect at all is heroic indeed. And we know that heroism is often based on stupidity.

  21. j_p_z

    Ken Lovell @ #20: Your silliness is a thing of extraordinary beauty.

    Don’t ever change, Boopsie.

  22. Baraholka

    Lefty,

    The Church, however, has come out strongly opposed last week

    Why is Steve Kilbey opposed to an East Timor processing centre ? Must have been interviewed in an Unguarded Moment…

  23. Gummo Trotsky

    Also in the US – Ross Terrill at The Weekly Standard is backing Tones for PM because he’s just the guy to knock some sense into Obama and restore the golden age of the “eight-year Bush-Howard axis” (not to be confused with The Axis of Evil).

  24. adrian

    From the Weekly Standard article:

    Gillard faces a thoughtful conservative, Tony Abbott of the Liberal-National party, in a close tussle, and the result is important to U.S. interests. Gillard would support Obama’s worst foreign policy instincts, while Abbott would resist them.

    If Abbott is a thoughtful conservative, god save us from a thoughtless one. And how can the writer come to any conclusion, even an erroneous one, about foriegn policy in an election utterly devoid of any mention of anything outside our borders other than teh boats?

  25. silkworm

    There is absolutely no evidence that what happened in Pakistan was caused by global warming.

    This is not strictly true. While it is true that it is difficult to prove the link between global warming and the Pakistan floods (and the Russian fires), it is not true that there is “no evidence.” The temperature of the northern Indian Ocean has increased 1.1?C since the 1970s, and we know that warmer air holds more water vapour, making the monsoons that much more deadly. The difficulty of quantifying how much of the stalled jetstream is due to global warming and how much is due to this year’s El Nino means that it is difficult to quantify the level of blame that can be apportioned to the fossil fuel industries. Nevertheless, some level of blame resides there, and many of us strongly suspect that it is the apportioning of blame to the fossil fuel companies that drives right-wing ideologues like wozza to attribute these events solely to natural causes like solar activity and deny totally any effect from carbon dioxide.

  26. Lefty E

    Heh @ baraholka.

  27. terangeree

    Even weirder (or maybe not so weird) is that objection to the place (and, from what I’ve read, it is more akin to a Muslim version of the Y.M.C.A. than an actual mosque) increases in vehemence the further the objector is away from Manhattan.

    Meanwhile, BHP Billiton is launching a $39 billion hostile takeover bid for Potash Corp., the world’s largest fertiliser company.

    The Japanese Post Office have discovered a colonial legacy in the form of AU$55,000,000 in unclaimed bank accounts (including interest) belonging to people in the “Japan Co-Prosperity Sphere” between 1940 and 1945.

    And in Osaka, commuter train drivers with JR West have been caught muffling a safety warning device that is part of their Automatic Train Protection system (it is a voice recording that says “Stop!” when they’re approaching a railway station).

  28. Fran Barlow

    Brian said:

    When complex systems change it’s silly to attribute events to a single source. But to rule out global warming and particularly AGW as having any effect at all is heroic indeed. And we know that heroism is often based on stupidity.

    One writer for, of all papers, The Telegraph (UK) put is well. If you cast a six-faced die 300 times you expect that on roughly 50 occasions, the number will turn up six. If it turns up six on 52 occasions or 48, you probably can put that down to natural variability. On the other hand if it turns up six 150 times, you do know that something is quite odd. If you investigate and find the die has been “loaded” to favour six, you will not doubt that amongst those 150 occasions that the cast returned six were about 100 occasions when this was the result of the loading of the die.

    Even then though you won’t know and won’t be able to prove which of those sixes would have occurred anyway and which were the result of the corrupted die. Nor will you be able to say with confidence whether either of the next two throws will produce a six and if one arises, locate its cause. But if you were hoping to use the die in a fair game of chance, would you use the loaded die? Of course not.

    So too it is with climate change. It is doubtful if we will ever prove that this or that severe weather event is the result of observable climate change, and ieven if we do get to the point when we can do that, it will be moot for being much too long after the event. OTOH, events like this give us a practical grasp of how disastrous weather events (regardless of their cause) affect humans, and if we are confident that more of these will occur as a result of climate change then attributing specific causality in any particular case is not needed. Perhaps the pakistan floods, and the flooding of the Oder-Neisse, and the mudslides driven by flooding in north-western China and Russia’s bushfires and heatwaves and 20,000 or so extra dead, and the unseasonable rains in Kenya have nothing to do with climate change. But if one or more of these were attributable to climate change, (which, given their patterns of development is more likely than not) what, with hindsight, should we have done 30 years ago, and what should we do to avoid authoring further such events 30 years from now?

  29. Wozza

    Brian – agreed, largely. I was responding to what was an explicit attempt to link a particular weather event to global warming. We are saying more or less the same thing, though as, and perhaps it shouldn’t be, is my wont I was putting it somewhat more combatively.

    Though I think your quote from Schmidt supports something that a lot of people have long thought about his objectivity – “I have no evidence but I’m going to come out swinging for one side anyway.”

    Silkworm – sorry, it is strictly true. Find me a climate model which predicts jet stream movements of this sort, and you will prove your point, but until then there is literally no evidence. And there is in particular no evidence to be derived from the temperature of the Indian ocean and water in the monsoon – how on earth does this affect the jet stream?

    “we know warm air holds more water vapour”. Indeed. Doeasn’t apparently hold in Australia though, since we will be dryer as global warming proceeds. OK, the implication I am making there is simplistic I agree, and I would resile from it if challenged, but it does illustrate the equally simplistic nature of your argument re global warming = surface temperature = Pakistan underwater.

  30. Martin B

    “we know warm air holds more water vapour”. Indeed

    Indeed not.

    Air doesn’t ‘hold’ water vapour, warm or not.

    Warm water evaporates more readily than cold water. The presence of other atmospheric gases is (essentially) irrelevant.

    See Bad Metoerology.

  31. Martin B

    …found on the internet right next to ‘Bad Orthography’ :-)

  32. paul walter

    Yes, 20 is correct. He’s held off lumping us in with them, so I’ll say it for him, and agree. The truth is a thing of beauty, but sometimes it is epic only in its desolation.

  33. Casey

    Ken Lovell @ #20: Your silliness is a thing of extraordinary beauty.

    But what’s your take on the matter? Cause I would be interested.

  34. silkworm

    your argument re global warming = surface temperature = Pakistan underwater.

    That is not my argument and you know it. That is your strawman argument, and it is motivated by your right-wing mission of deflecting any blame from the oil and coal polluters.

  35. Fran Barlow

    MartinB said:

    Air doesn’t ‘hold’ water vapour, warm or not.

    This is formally correct, since the presence of water vapour in the air is driven by the temperature of the water and the temperature of the air mass above it. Because water vapour is a GHG it drives up the temperature of the air causing more evaporation. So it’s easy to see why this can be interpreted as warm air holding more water vapour.

    In fact, as BenSanter (2007) points out, total atmospheric moisture content over oceans has increased by 0.41 kg/m2 per decade since 1988.

    So the air is warmer and atmospheric H20 is higher. Were it cooler, the air would be drier. This was confirmed post-Mt Pinatubo. IIRC there are about 20 studies that show about a 6-7.5% increase in water vapour in the lower troposphere per degree celsius of warming. Accordingly, as a lay description of the process, warm air holds more water vapour id probably near enough, even if it lacks precision.

  36. Wozza

    As an expert pedant myself, Martin, I would have to say that that is gold standard.

    Not only does it make no difference to the point being argued, it entices me into further areas of pedantry and a downward spiral in a discussion already well off topic.

    Look up Boyle’s law. The presence of other atmospheric gases is not irrelevant at all, since they establish air pressure and rate of evaporation at any given temperature.

    And thank you Silkworm. One always knows the argument is done and won when the old “you’re a tool of evil big oil” is all the other party has.

  37. silkworm

    One always knows the argument is done and won when the old “you’re a tool of evil big oil” is all the other party has.

    That is not all that we have, and you know it. More disingenuousness from a denialist-inactivist. As for the scientific argument, it is our side that has won it, not yours, loser.

  38. Ootz

    How many ‘flood in Pakistan’ events can global humanitarian aid efforts cope with over the next decade?
    How will this flood affect global market of rice and other staple food, such as chickpeas, traditionally grown in and exported from that area?
    If this flood is not related in any shape or form to AGW, how will we cope when we will get the AGW effects on top of these seemingly ‘natural catastrophes’?

  39. moz

    And in important news from everywhere on earth, it’s Ramadan. Depending on exactly where you are outbreaks of peace, violence, floods or pestilence can be expected. Or possibly all of the above.

  40. Martin B

    The presence of other atmospheric gases is not irrelevant at all, since they establish air pressure and rate of evaporation at any given temperature.

    No, the partial pressure of other gases does not affect the rate of evaporation unless they can chemically react. From a microphysical picture, the other species are equally likely to stop condensation or evaporation, so make no difference to the net rate. You misunderstand Boyle if you think it says something different.

    I understand that this is irrelevant but
    a) some of us regard accurate science to be important, and
    b) this is the internet. :-)

    Since you asked I actually think the original subject of discussion has been well established. Individual events can never be attributed 100% to climate change, it is an increase (or decrease) in the rate of them that can be so attributed. In this view it makes some sense to give a fractional attribution of all such events to climate change. It is also reasonable to say that an event is representative of the effect of further climate change.

  41. Wozza

    Martin if you really believe that pressure has no impact on water evaporation/condensation, then no further conversation is possible.

    Heard you the first time Silkworm. It wasn’t actually a viable argument, outside the playground, then either.

  42. Ambigulous

    Apparently there have been some war-like disturbances in Mesopotamia.

    Though why that nice Mr Abraham Lincolon would send his soldiers over there is quite beyond my understanding.

  43. Martin B

    Oh well, I guess all I will say is that it appears that in the outside world, accurate understanding of science is still facing an uphill battle. :-)

    Wozza, if you are sick of arguing with me, look here.

  44. Ken Lovell

    Re the mosque: Sadly, No! reports on the desecration of another Ground Zero, although this one seems not to have caused such an outpouring of wingnut faux outrage.

  45. Fran Barlow

    Interesting timing … given our discussuion baout the aptness of the description of warm air as holding more water vapour

    This video Climate Crock of the Week: CO2 is Plant food

    The Sinclair series video is worth watching for its assault on one of Miscount Monkton’s favourite retail delusionist points, but Kevin Trenberth whose qualifications in atmosphweric science don’t need my endorsement uses this forumation explicitly. The article then goes on to discuss the point about warming and the increased frequency of severe weather events such as Pakistan’s flooding.

    So very germane …