Wednesday, 31 January 2007 : Friendship of circumstance: Why the US-India love affair may fail

Friendship of circumstance: Why the US-India love affair may fail
By - Sachin Kalbag

Article in the influential Foreign Policy magazine says it is not yet time for the US and India to raise their champagne glasses

WASHINGTON DC: Barbara Crossette, writing in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, an award-winning magazine by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has said that though India is the flavour of the month in the US, the reality is that the two democracies have very little in common and a lot to pull them apart.

The author of the piece, foreign policy commentator and former Chief South Asia Correspondent for the New York Times, Barbara Crossette, gives five reasons why the US-India love affair - centred around the nuclear deal - may not work. The US and India are not natural allies, she says, because it is a friendship of circumstance.

"It was not until the collapse of its champion and friend, the Soviet Union, that Delhi saw reasons to improve ties dramatically with the United States," Crossette writes in the piece titled 'India: Think Again'.

"Though the world's most populous democracy seems to be increasingly in sync with free-market American thinking, India's interests often conflict with those of the United States. Consider India's relationship with Iran... Iran and India reached a "strategic partnership" in 2003, cementing the "historical ties" between the two nations.

India is now chafing at Western demands that it stop backing Iran's right to develop its nuclear capacities."

Crossette contends that India is not yet a responsible world power because it "has a history of interference in the politics of its weaker South Asian neighbours." She specifically mentions the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and India's covert support to Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka during the 1980s as examples if India's domineering nature in the region.

She also talks about India's support to US-basher Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's for a UN Security Council seat.

The author has doubts about India surpassing China in economic terms, saying population might be the only thing it might beat China at. Crossette asks readers to prove the US contention that India is becoming a high-tech, middle class nation saying 500 million of its people still do not have basic sanitation.

"The information technology sector in India, which accounts for just 4 per cent of GDP, employs only 1 million people," she says. "Although some parts of the country are becoming world centres of research and development in technology, just 32 out of every 1,000 Indians have access to the Internet."

Another reason why India could not be a natural ally of the US is its scant regard for human rights. Crossette says that human rights abuses in India are "far more prevalent than in other democracies." Of special mention is Kashmir, "whose people consider themselves ethnically and historically separate from India."

Crossette writes: "Most Muslim Kashmiris have become united in their contempt for Indian rule. Over the last two decades, tens of thousands of people on all sides have died in Kashmir; thousands more have been arrested or "disappeared."

Human rights groups have decried abuses on both sides. But extrajudicial killings by the Indian military are common and well documented. It is a stinging indictment of democratic India."

Giant mirrors in space that deflect the sun's heat

Apocalypse never? Science could yet save the day

Giant mirrors in space that deflect the sun's heat, carbon 'scrubbers' that clean up the atmosphere - where governments have failed to tackle global warming, science could yet save the day, says Steve Connor

Published: 31 January 2007

Scientists are thinking the unthinkable. What can be done to save the planet from global warming if political measures fail? If governments cannot agree on the necessary cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions, can engineering projects such as giant mirrors in space save the world?
This week, more than 2,000 of the world's leading climate scientists will issue their formal assessment of the threat posed by rising temperatures. In its fourth report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to say that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are causing average global temperatures to rise towards a tipping point where climate change will become dangerous, and potentially irreversible.
The document will not look at how to mitigate climate change - that will be dealt with in a later report - but some scientists are already thinking about the kind of large engineering schemes that might have to be deployed if policies for cutting CO2 emissions get nowhere. These range from capturing it at power stations and burying it underground, to launching spacecraft loaded with reflective tinfoil to deflect solar radiation.
Such mega-engineering schemes fall into two broad categories. One is aimed at curbing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which would lessen the greenhouse effect that exacerbates global warming. The other focuses on deflecting solar radiation back into space by increasing the albedo, or reflective power, of the Earth, or by using mirrors.
Capturing carbon and storing it underground is already happening in a few pilot projects. There are two ways of doing this. One is to remove carbon from hydrocarbon fuels - namely, oil, gas or coal - before it is burnt. The second way is post-combustion, by removing CO2 from power-station emissions and then burying it underground.
The Norwegian state oil company, Statoil, and BP already remove CO2 from North Sea gas as it emerges from the field. They then pipe it back underground to enhance further gas recovery - and reduce carbon emissions in the process. Removing CO2 post-combustion from power stations requires the fitting of "scrubbers" to chimneys that can absorb the gas.
Both are expensive. A power station with effective scrubbing technology would consume between 10 and 40 per cent more energy than one without, but such a power station could reduce its carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent.
Klaus Lackner of Columbia University has proposed an extension of this idea, by dotting the landscape with windmill-like machines fitted with scrubbers that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The advantage of such a scheme is that it could be placed anywhere in the world - a desert rich in solar power, for example, or windy islands in the open ocean - and the technology need not be too efficient provided there are enough scrubbers to offset man-made emissions.
"The trick is to absorb enough carbon dioxide and to get rid of it quickly enough by burying it in long-term deposits," says John Shepherd of the Southampton Oceanography Centre. "This is the only scheme that could potentially reduce global levels of carbon dioxide to pre-industrial levels."
Other schemes focus on improving the efficiency of the world's natural carbon sinks. For instance, scientists have postulated that sprinkling iron filings over the ocean would have a fertilising effect on marine plankton. In theory, this could improve the absorption of CO2 by encouraging giant algal blooms that draw down atmospheric carbon. But there are problems.
"I think this is a non-starter," says Dr Shepherd. "Experiments show that you can initiate a bloom, but the majority of the algae die or are eaten within days, releasing carbon dioxide back into the system."
Another approach is to tinker with the amount of solar radiation that hits the Earth. Changing the planet's albedo by as little as 1 per cent could have a significant impact on global warming. An advantage of this approach is that CO2 levels could be allowed to rise to perhaps four or even eight times pre-industrial levels, which would boost agricultural output with improved carbon fertilisation.
John Latham, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, is working with Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University to increase the albedo of low-level clouds over the oceans, by atomising sea water to produce droplets that enter the clouds and make them whiter and more reflective.
"The scheme could produce a global cooling, sufficient to balance the warming resulting from a doubling of the atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration, by seeding clouds in three oceanic regions which together cover about 3 per cent of the Earth's surface," Dr Latham says. "The only raw material required is seawater, the amount of global cooling could be controlled and, if necessary, the system could be switched off, with conditions returning to normal within a few days."
Another way of altering atmospheric albedo has been proposed by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany. He suggests that the release of sulphate particles in the upper atmosphere would reflect sunlight and heat back into space. The idea is based on the way that a volcanic eruption releases sulphur into the air, resulting in discernible global cooling. Weather balloons, aircraft or even artillery shells could be used to put the sulphate aerosol into the atmosphere, Dr Crutzen suggests. "Such a modification could also be stopped on short notice, if undesirable and unforeseen side effects become apparent," he says.
Perhaps the most ambitious plan of all involves for solar reflectors. A fleet of tiny aluminium balloons could be released into the upper atmosphere, or a giant mirror could be placed in space at the point of lowest gravitational pull between the Earth and the sun.
The idea has been proposed by Lowell Wood of the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He is a disciple of Edward Teller, the military scientist who first suggested the idea. Dr Wood believes that removing less than 2 per cent of solar radiation would avert dangerous global warming - although it would cost billions.
Many unanswered questions remain about these mega-technological fixes, but perhaps the biggest of all is whether they are safe. James Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia theory of Earth systems, has suggested that the mega-engineers should take the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath. Their first priority, he says, should be to do no harm to the Earth and the life on it. Otherwise the cure for global warming could end up being worse than the illness.
The big ideas
Capturing carbon
Carbon is removed from hydrocarbon fuels before they are burnt, or from power station emissions, and then buried.
Carbon scrubbers
Windmill-like machines that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Such machines could be located anywhere in the world.
Carbon sinks
It is hoped that sprinkling the ocean with iron filings would have a fertilising effect on marine plankton, a natural carbon sink, thus improving the absorption of atmospheric carbon.
Reflective clouds
The albedo (reflective power) of clouds could be enhanced by atomising sea water to produce tiny droplets that enter the clouds and make them more reflective, thus deflecting heat from the Earth.
Sulphate aerosols
Weather balloons, commercial aircraft or artillery shells would be used to release sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere, to reflect sunlight and heat back into space.
Mirrors in space
A giant folding mirror or a fleet of tiny aluminium balloons would be released into the upper atmosphere to deflect solar radiation before it reaches the Earth.

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Detox for the soul

Famous? Done something you regret? Not sure how to salvage your reputation? Just check into rehab, says Zoe Williams

Wednesday January 31, 2007
The Guardian

Jade Goody has gone into rehab, admitted for "depression and stress". "Jade has struggled since leaving the [Big Brother] house a week ago and learning that she has become the most hated figure in Britain," a friend told the Sun. I wish I had a friend who formed such succinct sentences. It makes you realise how much your own friends blether on. Here's the sequence of events, as I understand it: Jade calls Shilpa Shetty "Shilpa Poppadom" and "Shilpa Fuckawallah" and tells her she should spend time in "the slums"; she exits house; defends own reputation; realises she's on a sticky wicket; "collapses" with stress; is "told by GP that he was going to refer her to the Priory", but seems to have entered said institution under her own steam; is "now being monitored by doctors, while they decide what treatment to give her".This is a funny old business, isn't it? The stress-induced collapse is always so fishy. It's such an unusual response, when most people, under stress, just absent-mindedly eat ginger biscuits. In cases of rehab for addiction, where a person has got themselves into a fix from which they must, for their own wellbeing, be rescued and rehabilitated, doctors pretty much know what to do. "A heroin addict, you say? Let's monitor her while we decide whether or not to take away her heroin . . . Oh, depressive? You watch her pacing up and down, I'll just go and Google Prozac, see if that might work."
I hate to call anyone a fraud. It seems such a petty accusation, set against existing tabloid charges of "racist", "bully" and "fat". Celebrity stress is not exactly the most serious of medical conditions. It doesn't even sound that medical. You might just as well refer yourself to a creche.
I do not, however, think this is self-indulgence on Jade's part. Rehab, in this instance, is being used as a one-stop redemption shop. It's a neat mea culpa previously used by Mel Gibson, after his antisemitic outburst last August, when he asked a police officer if he was a "fucking Jew" and shouted "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world". Mel, of course, wasn't the first star ever to enter rehab - indeed, going into rehab on the advice of a doctor, or a judge, with handcuffs on is as old as the Hollywood hills - but Gibson illustrates neatly the more modern variant of self-referral. It is a way of atoning that you can do really very fast, and of course, it's not that much of a hardship either. You were never medically referred, so when you get there, doctors don't know what to do with you except watch you. And a lot of these people are actors. They are used to being watched. Mel said, after his curious explosion, "I am not a bigot; hatred of any kind goes against my faith." But naturally, this was not sufficient - words have never been quite vast enough to convey atonement, which is why in the olden days they used to make up Songs of Atonement.
It seems to be particularly in misdemeanours of bigotry that only residential self-flagellation will do - to complete the prejudice triptych, along with Jade's racism and Mel's antisemitism, Isaiah Washington, star of Grey's Anatomy, rehabbed himself for his anti-gay remarks (he called one of his fellow actors a "faggot".) He said, "I regard this as a necessary step toward understanding why I did what I did and making sure it never happens again."
The only thing that comes close to (actually, thinking about it, probably surpasses) bigotry for hot social shame is sexual harassment, for which Mark Foley institutionalised himself last year. The Republican congressman, who sent sexually inappropriate emails and messages to teenage boys, explained: "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioural problems." It's rather American, isn't it, blaming alcohol for the fact that he couldn't stop badgering his staff for sex? In England, one might be tempted to respond, "Matey, we all like a drink, but I certainly don't employ 16-year-olds and then spend the day sexy-mailing them, even when I've had an absolute skinful."
So where did this come from, this self- disciplining (in the most literal sense)? I've seen the seeds of it in children; a friend of mine's kid will do a running commentary on his own naughtiness, finishing off with suggestions for an appropriate punishment, so that when he has really pushed it, and upset everyone, and ruined everybody's day, he'll shout, "Now I've been really bad! Oh, lock me in the car!" I don't, however, think Mel Gibson got the idea from my friend's naughty kid; on the contrary, it comes from the judicial system, in which - far more frequently in America, it must be said - stars are exempted from custodial sentencing by agreeing to a spell in Betty Ford.
There's a distinctly different tang to that kind of offence, though: Winona Ryder did rehab instead of prison for her shoplifting. She would never have had to redeem herself with us, her public, for such an offence, since a) nobody really minds a shoplifter - it feels like a nice, of-the-people crime, and b) she had already redeemed herself with her lovely Marc Jacobs court outfits.
Andy Dick (you know Andy Dick! You will find him in the not-very-famous-but-makes-lists-of-famous-people-with-addiction-problems-look-longer section of the library), Charlie Sheen, Nicole Richie . . . oh, there are tons of them. They were mainly addicted to painkillers. What this really rams home to me is how much better American painkillers are than ours.
The question remains: how much of an atonement is it when you admit yourself and you're not even really addicted to anything? What happens when you get to the Priory? Do they still go through your luggage and make you go to the group therapy, or are you allowed to just sit about looking glum? Doesn't that drive the proper addicts crazy? Is it like AA - do you still have to go round all your family and friends when you get out, apologising for the time you arrived at their wedding/ bar mitzvah [not that] drunk, [really not at all] whacked out on drugs, [no more] unreliable and flaky [than the next man]? And if it is rehab lite, must one go residential? Couldn't Jade have said sorry with a detox? Couldn't she just have given up wheat, then put out a press release? "I may be guilty of racism, but I've eschewed doughnuts in penitence and, by the by, beaten my bloat!" ·

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Don't be fooled by Bush's defection: his cures are another form of denial

The president's avowed conversion on climate change is illusory. He is just drumming up new business for his chums

George Monbiot
Tuesday January 30, 2007
The Guardian

George Bush proposes to deal with climate change by means of smoke and mirrors. So what's new? Only that it is no longer just a metaphor. After six years of obfuscation and denial, the US now insists that we find ways to block some of the sunlight reaching the earth. This means launching either mirrors or clouds of small particles into the atmosphere.
The demand appears in a recent US memo to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It describes "modifying solar radiance" as "important insurance" against the threat of climate change. A more accurate description might be important insurance against the need to cut emissions.
Every scheme that could give us a chance of preventing runaway climate change should be considered on its merits. But the proposals for building a global parasol don't have very many. A group of nuclear weapons scientists at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California, apparently bored of experimenting with only one kind of mass death, have proposed launching into the atmosphere a million tonnes of tiny aluminium balloons, filled with hydrogen, every year. One unfortunate side-effect would be to eliminate the ozone layer.
Another proposal, from a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, suggests spraying billions of tonnes of sea-water into the air. Regrettably, the production of small salt particles, while generating obscuring mists, could cause droughts in the countries downwind. Another scheme would inject sulphate particles into the stratosphere. It is perhaps less dangerous than the others, but still carries a risk of causing changes in rainfall patterns. As for flipping a giant mirror into orbit, the necessary technologies are probably a century away. All these fixes appear more expensive than cutting the amount of energy we consume. None reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which threatens to acidify the oceans, with grave consequences for the food chain.
The demand that money and research be diverted into these quixotic solutions is another indication that Bush's avowed conversion to the cause of cutting emissions is illusory. He is simply drumming up new business for his chums. In his state of the union address last week, he spoke of "the serious challenge of global climate change" and announced that he was raising the government's mandatory target for alternative transport fuels fivefold. This is wonderful news for the grain barons of the red states, who will grow the maize and rapeseed that will be turned into biofuel. It's a catastrophe for everyone else.
An analysis published last year by the Sarasin Bank found that until a new generation of vegetable fuels, made from straw or wood, is developed, "the present limit for the environmentally and socially responsible use of biofuels [is] roughly 5% of current petrol and diesel consumption in the EU and US". Bush now proposes to raise the proportion to 24% by 2017. Already, though the rich world has replaced just a fraction of 1% of its transport fuels, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that using crops to feed cars has raised world food prices, with serious consequences for the poor. Biofuels fall into the same category as atmospheric smoke and mirrors - a means of avoiding difficult decisions.
But at least, or so we are told, the argument over whether or not manmade climate change is happening is now over. On Friday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes the first installment of its vast report, which collates the findings of the world's climate scientists. Though conservative in its assumptions, it shows that if you persist in believing that there is no cause for concern, you must have buried your head till only your toes are showing. If even Bush now grudgingly acknowledges that there's a problem, surely we've seen the last of the cranks and charlatans who had managed to grab so much attention with their claims that global warming wasn't happening?
Some chance. A company called Wag TV is currently completing a 90-minute documentary for Channel 4 called The Great Global Warming Swindle. Manmade climate change, the channel tells us, is "a lie ... the biggest scam of modern times. The truth is that global warming is a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media ... The fact is that CO2 has no proven link to global temperatures ... solar activity is far more likely to be the culprit."
So it's the same old conspiracy theory we've been hearing from the denial industry for 10 years, and it carries as much scientific weight as the contention that the twin towers were brought down by missiles. The programme's thesis revolves around the deniers' favourite canard: that the "hockey-stick graph" showing rising global temperatures is based on a statistical mistake made in a paper by the scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes. What it will not be showing is that their results have been repeated several times by other scientists using different statistical methods; that the paper claiming to have exposed the mistake has been comprehensively debunked; and that the lines of evidence used by Mann, Bradley and Hughes are just a few among hundreds demonstrating that 20th-century temperatures were anomalous.
The decision to commission this programme seems even odder when you discover who is making it. In 1997 the director, Martin Durkin, produced a similar series for Channel 4 called Against Nature, which also maintained that global warming was a scam dreamed up by environmentalists. It was riddled with hilarious scientific howlers. More damagingly, the only way in which Durkin could sustain his thesis was to deceive the people he interviewed and edit their answers to change their meaning. After complaints by his interviewees, the Independent Television Commission found that "the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing" and that they had been "misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part". Channel 4 was obliged to broadcast one of the most humiliating primetime apologies it has made. Are institutional memories really so short?
So the whole weary business of pointing out that the evidence against man-made climate change is sparse and unable to withstand critical scrutiny, while the evidence in favour is overwhelming and repeatedly confirmed, must begin all over again. How often must scientists remind the media that a handful of cherry-picked studies does not amount to the refutation of an entire discipline?
But with Bush's defection, the band of quacks making these claims is diminishing fast. Now the oil and coal companies that support such people have changed their target. Instead of trying to persuade us that man-made global warming is a myth, they are seeking to divert us into doing everything except the one thing that has to happen: reducing our consumption of fuel. It is another species of denial.
George Bush's purpose - to insulate these companies from the need to cut production - is unchanged. He has simply found a new way of framing the argument.