China Ignores World Bank Guidelines In African Lending

Ahead of next week's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Paul Wolfowitz, head of the World Bank, has called into question China's lending processes with regards to African countries.

It seems that the Chinese have been ignoring a voluntary set of guidelines known as the "Equator Principles" in their lending, preferring instead a more hands-off approach. The point behind the Equator Principles is to ensure that lenders review the social and environmental impact of the projects they are funding. The goal being to minimize the negative impacts.

Antarctic Melting Has Definite Human Cause

Scientists studying the 2002 collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf believe they have conclusive proof that the cause is human in origin.

The 2002 event can now be pinned down to a specific change in climate, which is in turn linked to human-induced global warming, the authors say. Some argue that this is the first single event proved to have been caused by manmade climate change. "It's close to being evidence," says Ted Scambos, lead scientist of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

It is believed that westerly winds circulating the south pole have strengthened over the past 50 years. They believe this to be caused by an increase in CO2 emissions combined with the CFC created ozone hole.

EPA Demands More Efficient Computers

Starting in July of 2007, PC manufacturers will need to produce machines that are significantly more efficient to garner the EPA's coveted "Energy Star" rating:

On average, the revised requirements for the Energy Star program will require PCs to be 65 percent more power efficient than current models.

Chinese Bring Patent Suits In U.S. Courts

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

As China's economy continues to grow at an amazing 11%, Chinese companies are starting to flex their muscles outside there own borders. First content to settle, circumvent, or lose and move on in patent suits, they're now ready to bring the battle to American companies.

This year, Netac, a manufacturer of computer flash memory products based in Shenzhen, China, brought a patent suit against a New Jersey rival in a federal court in Texas, in what is believed to be the first time that a mainland Chinese company has sued an American one for patent infringement.

No Child Left Behind Holds Some Back

The purpose of the Bush Administration's monstrously long and complex No Child Left Behind Act is to close the gap in achievement levels between students with a long term goal of 100 percent proficiency in the 2013-2014 school year.

Proficiency in reading and math is measured in grades 3-8, 10, and at graduation. Schools that under-perform can lose money and even be closed down if they fail to meet the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) goals set forth in the legislation.

Teachers, like any professional given a defined goal that they must meet to keep their job, focus on preparing students for the proficiency exams. This has, no doubt, done some good for under-performing students; but, what has it done for students that excel? It seems to hold them back as attention is diverted in classrooms to the kids that are furthest behind.

2006 Election Update

Trending in polls continues to look strong for Democrats, but will it be strong enough to take control of either house? Previously, I took a look at the tracking of Electoral Vote and CQ Politics and spoke a bit about their methodology. Taking an average of their tracking, I forecasted the following outcome then:

House: R-221, D-214
Senate: R-51, D-49

Taking the same averages today, the results are a little different, but probably still nothing to bank on:

House: D-222, R-213
Senate: R-50, D-50

So, is the Democratic strategy of tying republicans to a failed Iraq policy working? Let's look a little deeper:

Justice Department Violent Crime Probe Coverage

For anyone who missed the story, there has been a spike in violent crime; and, the Justice Department, under Attorney General Gonzales, has vowed to investigate. Kind of a non-story really, but it has gotten its share of column inches in the papers, enough so that it provides some interesting fodder for contrasting the writing styles of the iconic liberal and conservative media for bias.

First, the criticism from the left:

Washington Post: Some police officials have blamed the rise in crime on federal budget cuts. The Bush administration has cut grants for state and local crime-fighting programs on the grounds that they have outlived their usefulness or have underperformed.

North Korea: What's Being Done Besides Finger Pointing?

Talk to a Republican and they'll rant a litany of the failings of the Clinton Administration, which ended January 20, 2001, to keep North Korea out of the Nuclear Club. Talk to a Democrat and they'll tell you that it is the Bush Administration's consistent policy of disengagement (refusing direct talks) that is to blame. Consider this moderating quote from Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell:

"It's difficult to say that the Clinton policy failed, but it's crystal clear that the current policy has failed. You need a carrot-and-stick approach -- you can't just use the stick."

I do believe that the Clinton Administration was lax in it's dealings with many of the threats facing the U.S. and its interests, preferring to put out fires rather than work to prevent them. In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea entered into the "agreed framework," negotiated by former president Jimmy Carter, under which North Korea would receive two light water reactors in exchange for abiding by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and handing over its old reactor rods. This deal, had it been kept, would have left North Korea without material for weapons.

Serbian Party Elects War Crimes Defendant As Leader Ahead Of Parliamentary Elections

The largest party in Serbia, the Serbian Radical Party, has elected indicted war crimes defendant Vojislav Seselj as its leader as the country goes into parliamentary elections this December.

While the party is the largest in Serbia, they are not expected to win a majority of seats nor are they expected to be able to form a coalition government.

Warm Winter Expected Thanks To El Nino

Several sites are reporting on a Department of Energy report forcasting lower fuel costs this winter in North America as a result of a warmer than average pacific ocean (a.k.a. the El Nino effect)

U.S. Lax In Product Safety

While countries around the world move toward tighter restrictions on products that contain toxic chemicals, the U.S. Is falling behind to the point of accepting imports of products that cannot be sold in their country of origin. L.A. Times quote:

Destined for American kitchens, planks of birch and poplar plywood are stacked to the ceiling of a cavernous port warehouse. The wood, which arrived in California via a cargo ship, carries two labels: One proclaims "Made in China," while the other warns that it contains formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical.

Because formaldehyde wafts off the glues in this plywood, it is illegal to sell in many countries — even the one where it originated, China. But in the United States this wood is legal, and it is routinely crafted into cabinets and furniture.

Afghanistan Continues To Slip Away

As the American military and people are distracted by the War in Iraq, the United States' first victory in the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' continues to slide into defeat. Consider this lede from an Oct 2 Associated Press article:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and urged support for efforts to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" and their allies into the government.

Surprised by that? I was. I'm not surprised by the recognition that a war against an armed insurgency would be long and potentially futile. I'm surprised that that is coming from the Republic Majority Leader in the Senate.

It is also surprising the extent to which that sentiment undercuts the activities of NATO allies. Consider the appeal from the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Richards, for more troops to bolster his 32,000 man force:

He said the south of the country, where NATO troops have fought their most intense battles this year, has been "broadly stabilized," which gives the alliance an opportunity to launch projects there. If it doesn't, he estimates about 70 percent of Afghans could switch their allegiance from NATO to the Taliban.

Administration Using Signing Statements To Grab Power

A 27-page report prepared by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service calls the Bush Administration's embracing of signing statements a "comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power."

Consider the 2007 Pentagon Budget, which forbids the use of intelligence garnered through illegal methods. Bush's response:

In Bush's signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of ``the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch."

A Tale Of Two Forecasts

For anyone following the coming elections, decent projections of the outcome can be hard to come by. Personally, I look for projections that let me know what the projected make-up of congress will ultimately look like. To that end, I keep my eyes on two sites: electoral-vote.com and cqpolitics.com.

Electoral-vote.com builds their ratings of district results based on poling trends. As it stands today (10/4/2006), they are showing nearly a tie in both chambers.

Cqpolitics.com compiles their ratings in an undisclosed manner that seems to take into account some poling, historical trends and current events. As of today, they show republicans with a 15 seat majority in the house, 5 seat majority in the senate, and 4 state deficit in governor races. They do have some seats in each race they believe have no clear favorite so they don't attribute them to either party; they are: 12, 7, and 8 respectively.

North Korean Diplomat Makes Vague Threat Of War

Buried in this Reuters story, a North Korean diplomat makes an interesting statement:

"These kinds of threats of nuclear war and tensions and pressure by the United States compel us to conduct a nuclear test," North Korean embassy spokesman Pak Myong Guk told Reuters in Canberra.

"Now the situation around the Korean peninsula is very tense," Pak said. "It may be breaking out (in) a war at any time, I think."