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Candide’s Latest: Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Baghdad Under Siege?

From Patrick Cockburn in the UK Independent: “Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital. As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration. Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement. The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south. Dusty truck-stop and market towns such as Mahmoudiyah, Balad and Baquba all lie on important roads out of Baghdad. In each case Sunni fighters are driving out the Shia and tightening their grip on the capital. Shias may be in a strong position within Baghdad but they risk their lives when they take to the roads. Some 30 Shias were dragged off a bus yesterday after being stopped at a fake checkpoint south of Balad.” [See the full story].

The New York Times isn’t quite there yet, but it might as well be: “A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict,” Michael Gordon writes. “A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting. The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad. In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory. The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace,” an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos.” As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.” And so, the slide:

The End of Mount Rainier

“[S]cientists on mountains all over Washington, the most glacier-covered state in the Lower 48, are trying to determine how glaciers are changing. What they are finding here and elsewhere is worrisome: Many of them, such as the South Cascade Glacier in the remote North Cascades, are shrinking quickly — and some are on the verge of disappearing,” the Seattle Times reports. “While glaciers have ebbed and flowed through the region for millennia — the land where Seattle now stands was once beneath more than half a mile of ice — scientists say global warming is at least partly to blame this time. And it would be more than a sentimental loss. It could mean less water powering some of the region's hydroelectric dams, filling some drinking-water reservoirs, irrigating farm fields and ushering spawning salmon upstream."When people ask me, 'Will glaciers disappear in my lifetime?' I answer, 'Some of them will disappear; all of them are going to get a lot smaller,' " said Andrew Fountain, a glaciologist at Portland State University who is cataloging changes in U.S. glaciers. […]The total volume of the glaciers in North Cascades National Park fell by 8 percent between 1958 and 1998, according to one of Fountain's studies. That would be enough ice to fill Lake Sammamish more than twice. In the same period, only 2 percent of the glaciers in the North Cascades grew in size. The South Cascade Glacier, a remote ice field near Glacier Peak, has shrunk almost every year since 1959, when the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began tracking it closely. In 2003, it was half the size it was in 1923, scientists estimate.” Oddly, the Seattl;e Times then bends over backwards to say that human factors are not necessarily the cause of all this. And from Australia: October the hottest, driest month on record.

Australia’s Torture Debate

Australia’s army chief has contradicted the Attorney-General by stating that sleep deprivation is considered an illegal and "inhumane" interrogation tactic under Defence Force codes of practice,” the Age reports. “Philip Ruddock sparked controversy last month, when he said that sleep deprivation was not torture, rather a form of "coercion". Yet according to Defence's "interrogators' handbook", sleep deprivation — a method used by the Japanese in World War II — is against the Geneva Convention. "Detainees are not to be deprived of sleep," said Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy yesterday, reading from the classified manual in a Senate Estimates Committee. "Deprivation of sleep is considered inhumane." General Leahy's comments come as the lawyer for David Hicks — the Australian detainee in the US's Guantanamo Bay prison — said his client was being subjected to such tactics. US military lawyer Major Michael Mori said Hicks had been held in solitary confinement in a constantly lit concrete cell for the past seven months, a disorientating environment that had affected his mental health.” See the full story

When you make silly no-tax promises

Canada's “federal government slapped a levy Tuesday on income trusts — which pay little or no corporate tax — to stem a growing revenue bleed and curb the growth of a vehicle it says threatens Canada's economy,” the Globe and Mail reports. “The surprise move breaks a major Conservative campaign promise to avoid taxing trusts. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he had no choice because he feared that increasing numbers of corporations were preparing to convert to trusts — a trend he said threatened Ottawa's tax base.”

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