Under the Radar
ENVIRONMENT — EXXON TO ‘SOFTEN’ ITS PUBLIC IMAGE ON GLOBAL WARMING: ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson has promised investors that it would “soften” its public image on global warming, but made clear that it would not actually be changing its basic position. Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst who was at the meeting with Tillerson, noted, “Although the tone has changed, the substance remains the same.” Tillerson also attacked Royal Society in Britain, stating it had “inaccurately and unfairly” depicted Exxon as a climate change skeptic. Exxon told the Guardian that it plans to work on explaining better its basic position on global warming: “Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the factors that contribute to climate change. This is an extremely complex issue but even with the scientific uncertainties, the risk (of global warming) is so great that it justifies taking action.” But Exxon’s record shows anything but action on climate change. According to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Exxon has “funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.” The big-oil front group the Competitive Enterprise Institute has received $1.6 million from Exxon since 1998, using the funding to distort global warming research and attack any meaningful action to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
VETERANS — VA ‘BUCKLING’ UNDER RISING DEMAND CREATED BY IRAQ WAR: “As the Iraq war approaches its fourth anniversary,” wrote Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, “the Department of Veterans Affairs is buckling under a growing volume of disability claims and rising demand for medical attention.” So far, more than 200,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at VA medical facilities — three times what the VA projected, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis. “More than one-third of them have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, acute depression and substance abuse. Thousands more have crippling disabilities such as brain or spinal injuries. In each of the last two years, the VA has underestimated the number of veterans who would seek help and the cost of treating them — forcing it to go cap in hand to Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding.” The VA medical system “has a reputation for high-quality care,” but the high volume of new claims has created waiting lists that “run as long as several months,” understaffed Vet Centers, and a “bureaucratic nightmare” for those receiving disability checks. In a report written earlier this year, “The Economic Costs of the Iraq War,” Stiglitz calculated the true costs of the Iraq war would exceed a trillion dollars, assuming all U.S. troops were home by 2010. The cost estimate included “expenditures not in the $500bn CBO projection, such as lifetime healthcare and disability payments to returning veterans.”
IRAQ — SEN. COLLINS, OLIVER NORTH COUNTER CLAIM THAT COMMANDERS IN IRAQ WANT MORE U.S. TROOPS: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a leading advocate of escalating the Iraq war, has said he decided to back an increase in U.S. forces only after “speaking with our military commanders on the ground.” After returning from a trip to Iraq, Lieberman wrote in an op-ed, “In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops.” Some have questioned Lieberman’s basis for supporting escalation. “The colonels will always say they need more troops,” former Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly said recently. “That’s why we have generals.” However, there are also indications that Lieberman may not have been accurate about the desire among commanders in Iraq for more U.S. troops. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who traveled Lieberman in Iraq, had a much different impression from military officials. As American Prospect reporter Greg Sargent noted, Collins reported that “not a single commander came anywhere near saying anything that could be construed as desiring — or even supporting — any kind of large scale increase,” while “only one American commander [based in Anbar province] said an increase might help — a small increase [roughly 3,000 troops] that could be solved by a reallocation.” Fox News analyst Col. Oliver North expressed similar sentiments in a column last week. “Not one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me that they wanted more U.S. boots on the ground,” North wrote. “In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite: ‘We don’t need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops,‘ was a common refrain.”