In a major success for the US space program, the Mars rover mission Curiosity successfully executed a series of complex maneuvers to land on the surface of Mars late Sunday night. The Mars Science Laboratory is the most complex spacecraft ever to land on another planet. Well, from Earth, at least. The mission, like all US deep space and interplanetary missions, is run out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech in Pasadena, California.
** QUICK HITS. More video of the Mars landing is coming up. … Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak resigned today as Taliban attacks increase. This came as an apparent surprise to President Hamid Karzai, who must now scramble for a replacement amidst a rising lack of parliamentary confidence in his administration. … Fighting intensified for the fifth day in a row in Syria’s largest city. … President Bashar al-Assad finally surfaced today after a few weeks out of the public eye, in tandem with a senior Iranian envoy. He had been missing from public view since the bombing which assassinated much of his inner circle in mid-July. … Speaking of Iran, the drumbeat for war in the Israeli press has been quite notable in recent in recent days.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … RECALLING TOTAL RECALL.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met in the Roosevelt Room with the White House Rural Council to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
At 2:20 PM Pacific, Obama attends a fundraiser at the W Hotel.
At 3:20 PM Pacific, Obama attends another fundraiser at the W Hotel.
Obama will campaign on Wednesday and Thursday in swing state Colorado.
The president had a sigh of relief over last Friday’s improved jobs numbers, and there are some upcoming signs of more improvements in the economy.
So conservative Republican challenger Mitt Romney, anxious to change the tone of things after weeks of being hammered on his secretive finances and string of gaffes on the global stage, is now attacking Obama for supposedly being soft on welfare.
It’s an attempt to get some separation between Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Which is also what Romney protege Meg Whitman tried in his 2010 California gubernatorial campaign against Jerry Brown.
It had some effect until Clinton denounced the effort.
Which Clinton, who is, lest one forget, making the nominating speech for Obama at the Democratic national convention, will do.
Romney is also trying to distract from his problems by having Karl Rove and other such folk say that this week is likely the week in he announces his vice presidential nominee.
Considering the names I hear bandied about, it’s of comparatively little import, in my view. But we’ll get to that when it comes, for a time, at least.
Obama is certainly not sighing in relief about China’s response to his administration’s criticisms later on Friday of the People’s Republic’s increasingly aggressive moves to try to lock down sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.
A PRC foreign ministry spokesman on Saturday criticized the US for its still soft intervention. Which is quite soft, in the sense that it is still rhetorical, and focuses on widely accepted international conventions about the maritime economic zones of nations, which China’s claims violate, and advocacy of a multilateral solution to the welter of conflicting claims made by the various nations on the South China Sea, of which the PRC is only one.
I found it interesting that China chose to use a foreign ministry spokesman rather than a more senior figure to push back on the US stance. That does indicate a certain lack of confidence in the PRC position, despite the fact that the US is clearly distracted by the ongoing Gulf crisis and the recent drumbeat for war against Iran in the Israeli press.
Perhaps sensing the weakness of the response, China then upped the ante by summoning the US deputy chief of mission in Beijing for an additional protest.
But it was only the DCM, not the ambassador.
So China again raised the temperature a few degrees by using its official press organs — of which there are many — to tell the US to “shut up” about the South China Sea.
Now that’s the hysterical reaction I’m looking for!
In brighter news, Obama also has the successful Mars landing of the big rover Curiosity to tout.
More to follow on that.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
Oil analysts say a major fire at one of the country’s biggest oil refineries will push gas prices above $4 a gallon on the West Coast. The blaze broke out yesterday at a massive Chevron facility in Richmond near San Francisco. Hundreds of residents went to hospitals complaining of adverse health reactions, and thousands more were advised last night to stay indoors with all possible blockages of doors and windows against the acrid fumes.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events.
The legislature is back in session for a month, with state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg vowing that this time it will pass some public pension reforms.
Not a moment too soon for Brown’s purposes in passing the November revenue initiative.
The legislature will also do a bunch of other stuff of great interest to the narrow interests of the highly lucrative lobbies of Sacramento, if not of most people in California.
** GORE VIDAL: REMEMBERING A BRILLIANT, CONTROVERSIAL LEGEND OF THE SORT WE DON’T FOSTER ANY MORE. … From my August 3rd essay.
** ROMNEY’S DANGEROUS BUFFOONERY. … From my August 1st essay.
** SUNRISE IN CALIFORNIA? … From my July 26th feature.
** CHINA MOVES SWIFTLY ON NEW “CITY” ENCOMPASSING SOUTH CHINA SEA, GULF CRISIS SIMMERS. … From my July 24th feature.
** THE DARK KNIGHT SHOOTINGS: “ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE PUSH.” … From my July 21st column.
** MITT WHITMAN = MEG ROMNEY. … From my July 19th column.
** CRISES CHAOTIC AND BUBBLING: THE GULF AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. … From my July 17th essay.
** WHY THE CLINTONS NEED OBAMA TO WIN: UNCERTAINTY AS HILLARY PUSHES THE BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT. … From my July 13th essay.
** A TICKET TO RIDE: HIGH-SPEED RAIL MOVES FORWARD ON A HISTORIC (AND BUMPY) TRACK IN CALIFORNIA. … From my July 11th feature.
** DARK KNIGHTS, AVENGERS, BONDING RETRO ACTION HEROES: HOW LONG WILL THE SUPERHERO PHENOMENON LAST? … From my July 7th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $21 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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