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10.24.03
Politics and Economy:
News You May Have Missed
More on This Story:
MOYERS: Before we leave you tonight, here are some recent stories we've been passing around our shop and wanting to share with you.

BRANCACCIO: The Associated Press reports that global warming is bringing far-reaching changes in the Sierra Nevada.

That's the mountain range that runs down the spine of California. Its snow pack supplies the golden state with two-thirds of its water.

A new study estimates that as temperatures rise, the snow line could climb 1500 feet by the end of this century. What difference does that make? Well, it could mean a lot less drinking water for a population that's expected to increase five-fold during the same period.

MOYERS: Also this week, the NEW YORK TIMES reported that China's economic growth is producing a surge in emissions of greenhouse gases — the very stuff that leads to global warming. China already puts more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than any country except the United States. According to the GUARDIAN newspaper in London, global warming is likely to create 150 million environmental refugees in the coming years — that's more refugees, the paper says, than will be created by war or political chaos.

BRANCACCIO: Global warming was the agenda at a conference in Moscow. Nations in the Arctic region gathered to discuss what they're going to do when warmer weather starts to melt their landscapes.

The environmental minister of Norway said: "Climate change is the biggest and most serious environmental threat we face."

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a different view of things. He has joined with President Bush to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. That's an agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases around the world.

Said President Putin: "Maybe it would be good and we could spend less on fur coats and other warm things."

MOYERS: That brought a smile and this press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, which applauds Mr. Putin's stand.

And just who is the CEI? It's a group funded by ExxonMobil and others in the energy lobby. For the past six years, while the earth has been getting undeniably hotter, the institute has been trying to block the release of this report. Commissioned by the national science foundation, it says that a major part of the rise in greenhouse gases is a direct result of the burning of coal, oil and natural gas-the conclusions presumably don't sit well with CEI's backers.

BRANCACCIO: And now for an update on a story we reported on earlier this year. Folks in Anniston, Alabama got some closure concerning those PCBs polluting their drinking water.

Monsanto and an allied company, Solutia, have now agreed to pay $700 million to settle lawsuits filed against them by more than 20,000 Anniston residents. The companies will also have to fund clean-up projects, a research facility, an education trust and some medical care.

  • Article: THE WASHINGTON POST, September 13, 2003
  • Article: "$700 Million Settlement in Alabama PCB Lawsuit," THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 21, 2003 "$700 Million Settlement in Alabama PCB Lawsuit"
Better PCBs than MTBE, it seems… because if a bill now making its way through Congress is passed, taxpayers affected by the chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether may end up paying for their own cleanups.

MTBE is an additive put into gasoline to help keep auto emissions a little cleaner, but it has leaked into the ground, polluting drinking water in hundreds of communities. About three quarters of MTBE is produced by companies in Texas, the home of House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who is pushing the plan in Congress to protect those companies from pollution lawsuits.

MOYERS: You may also have missed this story. Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey has returned from a tour of Iraq and informed his constituents that all is indeed well there.

Wearing a flakjacket and riding in a blackhawk helicopter, Mr. Frelinghuysen said: "From the air, Baghdad looked remarkably prosperous and totally undamaged." He also reports that American soldiers were "very positive" about their work, but unhappy with the American press coverage. Here's what the Congressman said: "After the war was over, the Dan Rathers of the world and others who were embedded in the front, returned home. Now they have third rate reporters there."

BRANCACCIO: NEWSWEEK reports that trips like the Congressman's are all part of a plan. In the administration's shake-up of its Iraq policy, one of the four new high-level committees will make sure the American people know more of the good things happening in the war on terror.

The congressional leadership has created a new Web site to report what they say are "the real stories" of what is happening in Iraq. The site includes pictures of Congressman Frelinghuysen and his Republican colleagues on the recent visit.

MOYERS: One other note on the attempt to win hearts and minds: The WASHINGTON POST reported on Tuesday that the Bush administration has ended media coverage of scenes like these — dead American soldiers being brought back from war. The order was issued back in March on the eve of the invasion and somehow escaped attention.

BRANCACCIO: The Associated Press says that President Bush has threatened to veto the $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan if Congress converts any Iraqi rebuilding money into loans instead of outright gifts. There was also a recent report that although six in ten Iraqis are unemployed, U.S. subcontractors are hiring cheap labor from South Asia to do much of the work of reconstruction, thereby increasing their profit margins.

  • "Contractors in Iraq Accused of Importing Labour and Exporting Profit," FINANCIAL TIMES, UK, 10/14/03.

The Web site tracking the cost of the war in Iraq puts the total as of about 9:50 eastern time tonight at eighty-one billion, two hundred and twenty four million, seven hundred and eighty thousand dollars and climbing. The war is costing more than $1500 dollars a second…

MOYERS: That's from our clip file to yours…for our sources, Web sites and bibliography, go to pbs.org and connect to NOW.

David and I will be back next week. I'm Bill Moyers. Goodnight.

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