April 9, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 15


Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“We do not want to do anything that the companies feel would be negative in their competitive environment.”

— Rhode Island cable TV regulator Eric Palazzo, on his move to keep secret formerly public information about cable companies such as Cox and Verizon (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
An investor’s guide to presidential candidates
Rhode Island: Secrecy affirmed for cable TV
The ends of the Internet?

*War & Terrorism*
Uneasy France steps up to NATO role

*Environment & Health*
Global warming: Something to sneeze at


TOP STORIES

* An Investor’s Guide to Presidential Candidates

Pondering a donation to a presidential candidate? Looking for the right choice given the needs of your special-interest group?

Friends — look no further than Opensecrets.org, a data-rich Web site published by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Using a handy drop-down menu, Open Secrets provides a quick and easy reference guide to which special interest groups and which candidates are most copacetic.

Lawyers and lobbyists prefer Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with more than $15 million and $13 million in donations, respectively, as of March 20.

The communications and electronics sector also prefers Democrats, donating more than $7 million to Obama and more than $6 million to Clinton.

Agribusiness, on the other hand, had opted for Republicans — but their top choices, Romney ($744,750) and Giuliani ($717,144) turned out to be losing bets.

In the defense sector, Clinton ($307,425) far outstripped Obama ($195,132) and even McCain ($227,274)

The financial, insurance and real estate sectors are all investing heavily in Democrats, with more than $18 million going to Clinton and $15 million to Obama.

Other special-interest sectors include energy, transportation, health, construction and labor.

It’s worth noting that even though each sector clearly has its preferences, they all invested generously in every single candidate, from the primaries right up to the present.

Source:

“Selected Sector Total to Candidates”
Center for Responsive Politics, March 20, 2008

PREVIOUSLY ON NEWSDESK.org:

“Who Wants to Buy A President?”
Newsdesk.org, March 27, 2008

* Rhode Island: Secrecy Affirmed for Cable TV

Rhode Island’s lead cable TV regulator has agreed to keep secret previously open data about the business operations of the three cable providers in the state.

Cox Communications, Verizon Communications and Full Channel TV successfully lobbied the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to prevent public access to details from their annual reports, including how many customers they have and financial information.

The Providence Journal newspaper has filed a request with the state to review the secrecy decision.

According to the Journal, Eric Palazzo, the state’s lead cable regulator, said, “we do not want to do anything that the companies feel would be negative in their competitive environment.”

Linda Lotridge Levin, a journalism professor at the University of Rhode Island, said the move goes against open-government practices, and could negative effect on consumer choice and rights.

Source:

“Secrecy granted to cable TV providers”
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island), April 3, 2008

* The Ends of the Internet?

How shall the Internet come to an end? Let us count the ways.

GigaOm.com, an online media service focusing on emerging technology, outlined 10 specific ways in which the Internet as we know it could conclude.

These include everything from hostile lawyers and the end of net neutrality, to technical problems, such as a hacker-assisted virus that disrupts the “self-healing” mechanism of Internet routers.

And what about all those spam emails?

The millions of “enslaved” computers linked together in “zombie networks” that crank out spam could be put to far more dire purposes, notes Gigaom blogger Alistair Croll.

The Internet society should also be nervous about “massive physical infrastructure failure,” Croll writes, in which intentional attacks on key network hardware terminates online access around the world.

And don’t discount the human capacity to make a bad situation worse.

Whether it’s mass extinction resulting from climate change or other disasters, or the emergence of “walled gardens” and “fragments” — in which ideological groups and censorious governments such as China stymie the natural propagation of information online — the future of the Internet may not be as rosy as we think.

Source:

“10 Ways the Internet (As We Know It) Will Die”
Gigaom, April 6, 2008


WAR & TERRORISM

* Uneasy France Steps up NATO Role

Playing for a larger role in NATO, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said his country will send 700 or more troops to Afghanistan — but the move has spurred harsh criticism at home.

During last week’s NATO summit in Bucharest, Sarkozy also said that France will seek a return to the military command structure of NATO, a position it has not held since the 1960s, when then- President Charles de Gaulle pulled out.

Socialist opposition leader Jean-Marc Ayrault said the mission in Afghanistan “makes no sense and has no goal” and warned that France is heading for another Vietnam, according to news reports.

Some opposition lawmakers even called for a no-confidence vote or a vote of censure against Sarkozy.

Polls show that 68 percent of the French public is opposed to sending more troops to Afghanistan, with only 15 percent supporting the idea, according to news reports.

During his campaign for the presidency, Sarkozy suggested that France would not long maintain a military presence in Afghanistan, but after winning office, he changed his tune.

Sarkozy visited Afghanistan in December and, after meeting with President Hamid Karzai, said, “It is absolutely necessary that Afghanistan does not become a state which falls in the hands of terrorists, as we saw with the Taliban.”

France already has a 1,600-person-strong force in Afghanistan, but Sarkozy had been under pressure from other NATO members to contribute more.

Canada had warned that it would have to pull out of the mission if other member nations did not contribute more troops.

It now says it will stay until 2011.

News reports disagreed on the size of France’s new force, but London’s Independent newspaper quoted an unnamed British source as saying, “The numbers are not the key thing; It is the effect it will have. The consequences are that it will bind Canada in, and it will release the Americans to take on the Taliban.”

Ayrault said the recent moves are evidence of Sarkozy’s “Atlanticist obsession.”

Separately, a Taliban spokesman told Agence France-Presse that Sarkozy had broken a promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Taleban accuse Sarkozy of U-turn”
BBC, April 5, 2008

“Sarkozy comes to Bush’s rescue with 1,000-strong force for Afghanistan”
The Independent (UK), April 4, 2008

“French opposition kicks up a storm over Sarkozy’s Afghan troop plan”
Earthtimes (UK), April 1, 2008

“Harper won’t look past 2011 for extended Afghan mission”
Ottawa Citizen, April 3, 2008

“Sarkozy changes French tune, offers more troops”
New Europe, April 7, 2008

“Gaullist no more?”
The Economist, April 3, 2008


ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH

* Global Warming: Something to Sneeze at

As if deadlier storms, new diseases, compromised agriculture, rising sea levels and endangered polar bears weren’t enough to worry about, add hay fever to the list of global warming concerns.

Studies show that allergy-related pollens are blooming sooner, for a longer period of time and in greater quantity as the climate warms, according to news reports.

“It’s an incredibly complicated issue,” Dr. Martin Citardi, a specialist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle.

“[T]here’s evidence that spring arrives today earlier than it did two or three decades ago,” he said. “That means that pollen levels are greater than they otherwise would be.”

University of Massachusetts professor of aerobiology Christine Rogers told the Associated Press that “it’s probably the strongest signal we have yet of climate change … It’s a huge health impact. Seventeen percent of the American population is allergic to pollen.”

One such allergy sufferer, Kimi West, told North Carolina’s News 14 her allergies are now so bad she has to get shots.

“Actually the strength had to go up on (my shots) because the pollen is coming sooner and sooner,” she said.

A researcher at the University of New Mexico told the Las Cruces Sun-News, “I think we can say over the long term there will be more allergy problems here. Fifty years from now, the average pollen count will be worse than it is now.”

The Calgary Herald reported one study that found warming will cause pollen-spreading weeds in cities to grow four times larger than weeds in rural areas.

“This frankly should be a no-brainer, given what’s happening,” U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Lewis Ziska told the Herald. “Even though we know what’s happening, there isn’t any effort at the moment to try and synthesize this and to make projections for how much of an impact it will have.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Allergies may grow like weeds as Earth Warms”
The Calgary Herald, March 28, 2008

“Global Warming Rushes Timing of Spring”
Associated Press, March 19, 2008

“It could be worse, allergy sufferers”
Houston Chronicle, March 20, 2008

“Two local cities ranked high for pollen”
News 14 Carolina (N.C.), March 28, 2008

“Note to allergy sufferers: Season is peaking”
Las Cruces Sun-News (N.M.), March 28, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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