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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

News Items 10/14/08

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NASA has kept October 2009 as the target launch date for Mars Science Laboratory, despite hardware and software delays.  It is the flagship mission in NASA’s plans for Mars.  Decisions to be made for future missions depend on data gleaned from MSL.  MSL is a wheeled rover, and much larger than Spirit and Opportunity (which continue to function!).  After landing in July 2010, MSL should be able to move up to 20km away from the landing site.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken a closer look at Saturnian polar storms.  After pictures of Saturn’s south pole a couple years ago showed a hexagonal band surrounding a giant cyclone, scientists’ interest was piqued.  They wanted to take a look at conditions over the north pole and compare the two.  Conditions turned out to be similar between the two poles.  Clouds are circling Saturn’s north pole at about 325mph, vastly higher than wind speeds found over Earth.  It turns out that vigorous convective storms form inner rings of both cyclones, much like hurricanes do on Earth.  The difference between storms on the two planets is hurricanes move across Earth’s oceans while the cyclones over Saturn’s poles don’t move.  Fascinating stuff.

Republicans’ inability to admit responsibility for anything continues.  The sub-prime mortgage crisis?  CONServatives are saying it’s the fault of poor people.  And the government.  Which is strange, since this is what really happened: more than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.  CONServatives got exactly what they wanted in 2005 and 2006 after winning elections in 2004: no government regulations on those private lenders.  CONServatives are busy pointing their fingers at everyone else, again.

John McCain has lied 132 times so far in the 2008 presidential race.  Heroes don’t lie.

George Bush sets yet another all-time record – 73 percent disapproval [h/t DailyKos]:

Banks around the world are being nationalized.  Do CONServatives realize that their president and their party’s elected officials in Congress and their party’s appointments to the government have socialized massive portions of the U.S. economy?  In the future, any time a corporate-con talks about how Democrats want to socialize things and how horrible it would be if they got away with it, it will be easy to point to the largest socialization project in world history.  The Republican “socialization” talking point is now moot.

Erin Rosa has a piece up at Colorado Independent about one of the Amendments Coloradans will vote on this year.  Amendment 54 would restrict political contributions by certain unions and from family members of union officials.  Advocates for A54 have described it as being a ‘clean government’ intiative.  Why then have $405,000 in individual contributions come in … from anonymous sources.  Unsurprisingly, the nonprofit accepting these donations has ties to the Independence Institute, a right-wing “think-tank”.

A majority of Coloradans want a new administration to decide how to treat 4.4 million acres of roadless areas in forest lands.  It’s another vote of no confidence in the current administration’s 8-year long effort to open up the public’s forests to loggers, drillers and miners.

20 out of 22 candidates for federal office in Colorado haven’t responded to Environment America’s questionnaire.  There are a lot of things going on in America and in Colorado right now – I understand that.  But I’d sure like to go into 2009 equipped with the answers to the following questions:

Do you support or oppose mandatory limits to reduce global warming pollution 80% by 2050?

Do you support or oppose producing at least 20% of America’s electricity from clean power sources?

Do you support or oppose additional subsidies to build new nuclear power plants?

Do you support or oppose more federal funding for public transportation?

Do you support or oppose increasing fuel efficiency standards to at least 50 mpg by 2030?

A majority of respondents support issues 1, 2, 4 and 5.  A minority support additional subsidies for new nuclear power plants.  Overall, good news.  Garnering additional answers will help activists channel their efforts appropriately next year.

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