Asia/Pacific:
♦ A couple of great posts on Melanesia at the Strategist.  The first has to do with empathy, and the second, an overview of conflict.
Might actually happen: North Korea is expected to close its reactors within the month.  One U.S. hero if it does: Christopher Hill.
India stands firm against US and EU at G-4 talks–for WTO rounds–for agricultural subsidies.  See U.S. politics below, this entry. . .

The Middle East:
♦ The International Crisis Group’s Robert Malley & Aaron David Miller brilliantly and concisely explain why the current Bush Administration tactics for polarized Gaza and the West Bank won’t work.  ICG does such great work, well-researched, and it’s disheartening when they are so constantly ignored.  You can sign up for weekly updates at their site (also at RG Topic sidebar).  Also, Palestinian women get a voice.
Afghanistan: The Taliban shifts to terror tactics.  Also, Joshua Foust has been doing some good reporting and out of the box thinking about Afghanistan this week.  Multiple posts: Start here, with “Staying the Course”, and then work your way to the most current.   On the way, you’ll get Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan insurgency and some other analysis worth reading.
Iran: Stricter sanctions, and generally, more bad mouthing from all over the world in a subtle(?) manner.  Australia talks about an averted 2004 hostage crisis, which has little or no bearing on present developments; Israel presses for better, uh, human rights in Iran; and the cognitive disconnect between the Islamic Republic and the rest of the world is again emphasized with the Sir Salman controversy.  Leave Mr. Rushdie alone.
Iraq: Fighting in Baquba. Fears of sectarian violence as Iraqi troops take charge of the area.  61 die in a Shi’ite Baghdad mosque.  The limits of power . . . .

U.S. Politics:
♦ Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, want to change the Farm Bill by reducing subsidies and using the money for resource protection and rural development.  He’s done a lot of research on the Farm Bill since the last time, and he’s definitely got the right idea.  And though RG is tracking the farm bill–Ken Cook’s MulchBlog has the most issue-based, primary information. 
♦ Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan’s conflicts are not being helped: the plight of Jeans Cruz is only one example.  What pencil-pusher turned him down?  And what about all the rest?  This is unworthy of us, and will require a sustained public awareness on the local and national level.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices, June 22:  UP again.  Brent crude, USD 70.38; West Texas intermediate, USD.  According to the WSJ and Salon.com, demand increase is higher than this time last year, and forecasters are predicting another six months of high prices at the least.  Upstream, supply is still difficult; downstream, refineries still unbuilt.  You might think even longer-term for those high prices.
♦ China’s demand has gone up 7.3%, shipping from sources such as Venezuela.  Since the easiest-to-ship customer for states like Venezuela would be North America, this represents significant change in distribution tracks as well as simple demand.
♦ Screwed again: BP lost assets in Russia in the late 1990’s; a combination of judicious diplomacy and greater technological expertise allowed them to finally recoup some of those losses with the formation of TNK-BP, a joint endeavour between the (Russian) company they lost and themselves.  Now TNK-BP has been forced to sell a large, profitable gas field site, Kovytka, in Siberia to who else? Gazprom. 
♦ The petro-state window of opportunity is short.
♦ New CAFE standards for American cars.  New lightbulb technology.   

Political Economy:
Chugging alongWe  could blame the latest adulterated products recall on China manufacture; or we could look at some managerial disconnects of the parent companies that outsource there.  Both bear responsibility, but the failure in leadership belongs to the parent company, whose Web site is hereNote: I’m not against offshoring, but I am against bad or indifferent management.  And–apropos of nothing–these things have always given me the creeps.

Funny:
♦ Like ten thousand million other people, I do check the lolcats at Icanhascheezburger.com–and here is kitty-cat commentary on your diminishing privacy.

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