February 9th, 2012
UK Daily Mail
By Mark Duell
A 32-year-old model who held the record for the world's largest implants has walked away from a car crash after her breasts acted as an airbag.
Sheyla Hershey, who has 38KKK breasts, was driving home to Houston, Texas, after a Super Bowl party on Sunday when she crashed into a tree.
The mother was charged with drink-driving after the incident and allegedly was not wearing a seatbelt when she lost control of her Ford Mustang.
Huge assets: Sheyla Hershey, who has 38KKK breasts, was driving home to Houston, Texas, after a Super Bowl party on Sunday when she crashed into a tree
Her car spun around and hit a tree during the crash but she denied the drink-driving charge in court on Monday, reported the Daily Mirror.
Hershey, who once had 38MMM breasts, was released on bail and is due to appear in Montgomery County Court again next month on March 28.
A request for comment and more details on the case to Montgomery County Sheriff's Office by MailOnline was not immediately returned.
Hershey lost her 38MMM breasts due to a life-threatening infection, before having new implants that made her feel 'almost whole again'.
An infection that set in after her 30th breast enlargement operation led 5ft 3in Hershey to undergo an emergency operation in June 2010.
Mugshot: Hershey's car spun around and hit a tree during the crash but she denied the drink-driving charge in court on Monday
Operations: She lost her 38MMM breasts due to a life-threatening infection, before having new implants that made her feel 'almost whole again'
That left her with unattractive sagging skin where her implants had been, but she was obsessed with maintaining her Guinness World Record.
'Not having my breasts was killing me, I didn't know if I could make it through 2012 without them,' Hershey said last November.
'My breasts had become part of me and I was deformed without them. It is a miracle. I never thought I would have my breasts back again.'
She ignored the wishes of doctors and her husband Derek, 29 - who all feared the trauma of yet more surgery could cause a new infection.
Car: The mother was charged with drink-driving after the incident and wasn't wearing a seatbelt when she lost control of her Ford Mustang
Car damage: Hershey was released on bail after the accident and is due to appear in Montgomery County Court again next month on March 28
Hershey organised a tour of cosmetic surgery practitioners in Latin America last September and went to Cancun, Mexico, for the operation.
She had 2,500cc of saline liquid implanted into her breasts, before having more saline gradually introduced in her hometown of Vitoria, Brazil.
'I increased slowly over a two-month period and now my breasts are back at 4,300cc of liquid and are 38KKK,' Hershey said.
Hershey, who has spent $100,000 in a decade to maintain her breasts
February 9th, 2012
The ‘People’s’ Convention?
The Washington Free Beacon
The organizers of the upcoming Democratic National Convention are doing everything possible to get around the same financial restrictions they once promoted in a concerted effort to make sure that America’s wealthiest individuals, corporations, and lobbyists contribute their “fair share” to the convention.
Host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling, formerly of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, insisted that convention leaders were not attempting to sidestep the fundraising restrictions. Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan, she said, had simply been “educating Beltway types about the new rules.”
“All of this is brand new,” Emmerling tells the Washington Free Beacon. “A convention has never been funded this way before, so there are a lot of false assumptions about what we’re doing.”
Democrats are billing the upcoming Democratic National Committee’s annual convention as a “People’s Convention,” funded by “the people.” At President Obama’s request, the host committee in Charlotte—which must raise $36.6 million to pay for the convention—has promised to refuse donations from corporations, lobbyists or other special interest groups, including unions. Individual contributions are limited to $100,000.
But living up to these ambitious self-imposed rules is proving more difficult than party leaders expected. Local sources say the DNC is approaching wealthy Bank of America executives in an effort to unload some of its premier convention packages. A number of these executives have been shocked at the audacity of the proposition, given the administration’s attacks on not only the bank but also on wealthy Americans in general. President Obama and his Democratic colleagues have repeatedly charged that wealthy Americans are not “paying their fair share” to the federal government in the form of taxes.
Steve Kerrigan, the committee CEO, recently convened a meeting with lobbyists and other Beltway power brokers at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington D.C. Democratic sources told Bloomberg that Kerrigan, a former national political director for Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), touted an expensive array of convention “packages” that were aimed at attracting ultra-wealthy donors.
One of the options is the $1 million “Presidential” level, which includes a “premier uptown hotel room” and “concierge services,” as well as the $500,000 “Gold Rush” package.
Convention leaders have also sought to court ultra-wealthy donors by moving the president’s acceptance speech to Bank of America Stadium (the bank is headquartered in Charlotte), the 74,000-seat home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the decision was intended to allow “greater participation from all walks of life.” However, Democratic sources confided that the move would allow convention organizers “to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors,” according to Bloomberg.
February 9th, 2012
By Richard Engel and Robert Windrem
Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.
The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.
The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.
The Iranians have no doubt who is responsible – Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known by various acronyms, including MEK, MKO and PMI.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describes what Iranian leaders believe is a close relationship between Israel's secret service, the Mossad, and the People's Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel. “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information. And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”
Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs. In one case, he said, Mossad agents built a replica of the home of an Iranian nuclear scientist so that the assassins could familiarize themselves with the layout prior to the attack.
Much of what the Iranian government knows of the attacks and the links between Israel and MEK comes from interrogation of an assassin who failed to carry out an attack in late 2010 and the materials found on him, Larijani said. (Click here to see a video report of the interrogation shown on Iranian televsion.)
The U.S.-educated Larijani, whose two younger brothers run the legislative and judicial branches of the Iranian government, said the Israelis’ rationale is simple. “Israel does not have direct access to our society. Mujahedin, being Iranian and being part of Iranian society, they have … a good number of … places to get into the touch with people. So I think they are working hand-to-hand very close. And we do have very concrete documents.”
Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.” All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.
As it has in the past, Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment. Said a spokesman, "As long as we can't see all the evidence being claimed by NBC, the Foreign Ministry won't react to every gossip and report being published worldwide."
For its part, the MEK pointed to a statement calling the allegations “absolutely false.”
The sophistication of the attacks supports the Iranian claims that an experienced intelligence service is involved, experts say.
In the most recent attack, on Jan. 11, 2012, Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan died in a blast in Tehran moments after two assailants on a motorcycle placed a small magnetic bomb on his vehicle. Roshan was a deputy director at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and was reportedly involved in procurement for the nuclear program, which Iran insists is not a weapons program.
Previous attacks include the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
In the case of Roshan, the bomb appears to have been a shaped charge that directed all the explosive power inside the vehicle, killing him and his bodyguard driver but leaving nearby traffic unaffected.
Although Roshan was directly involved in the nuclear program, working at the huge centrifuge facility between Tehran and Qom, Iran’s religious center, at least one other scientist who was killed wasn’t linked to the Iranian nuclear program, according to Larijani.
Speaking of bombing victim Ali-Mohammadi, whom he described as a friend, Larijani told NBC News, “In fact this guy who was assassinated was not involved in the nitty-gritty of the situation. He was a scientist, a physicist, working on the theoretically parts of nuclear energy, which you can teach it in every university. You can find it in every text.”
“This is an Israeli plot. A dirty plot,” Larijani added angrily. He also claimed the assassinations are not having an effect on the program and have only made scientists more resolute in carrying out their mission.
Not so, said Ronen Bergman, an Israeli commentator and author of “Israel’s Secret War with Iran” and an upcoming book tentatively titled, “Mossad and the Art of Assassination.”
Israel has long used assassination against its enemies, "hoping that by taking out individuals, they can alter, change the course of history," says Ronen Bergman, an Israeli commentator and author of "Israel's Secret War with Iran" and an upcoming book tentatively titled "Mossad and the Art of Assassination."
Bergman said the attacks have three purposes, the most obvious being the removal of high-ranking scientists and their knowledge. The others: forcing Iran to increase security for its scientists and facilities and to spur “white defections.”
He explained the latter this way: “Scientists leaving the project, afraid that they are going to be next on the assassination list, and say, ‘We don't want this. Indeed, we get good money, we are promoted, we are honored by everybody, but we might get killed. It isn't worth it. Maybe we should go back to teach … in a university.’”
There are unconfirmed reports in the Israeli press and elsewhere that Israel and the MEK were involved in a Nov. 12 explosion that destroyed the Iranian missile research and development site at Bin Kaneh, 30 miles outside Tehran. Among those killed was Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, director of missile development for the Revolutionary Guard, and a dozen other researchers. So important was Moghaddam that Ayatollah Khamenei attended his funeral.
Unlike the assassinations, Iran claims the missile site explosion was an accident; the MEK, meanwhile, trumpeted it but denied any involvement.
Indeed, there may be other covert operations carried out either by Israel acting alone or in concert with others, according to Bergman.
“Two labs caught fire,” said Bergman, enumerating the attacks. “Scientists got blown up or disappeared. A missile base and the R&D base of the Revolutionary Guard exploded some time ago, with the director of the R&D division of the Revolutionary Guard being killed along with … his soldiers.”
Bergman added, “So, a long series of … something that was termed by an Israeli (Cabinet) minister … as ‘mysterious mishaps’ happening and rehappening to the project. Then the Iranians claim, ‘This is Israeli Mossad trying to sabotage our attempts to be a nuclear superpower.’”
Dr. Uzi Rabi, director of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, said the supposed accidents could all be part of “psychological warfare” conducted against Iran. “It seems logical. It makes sense,” he said of possible MEK involvement, “and it’s been done before.”
Rabi, who regularly briefs Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Iran also said the ultimate goal of the range of covert operations being carried out by Israel is “to damage the politics of survivability … to send a message that could strike fear into the rulers of Iran.”
For the United States, the alleged role of the MEK is particularly troublesome. In 1997, the State Department designated it a terrorist group, justifying it with an unclassified 40-page summary of the organization’s activities going back more than 25 years. The paper, sent to Congress in 1998, was written by Wendy Sherman, now undersecretary of state for political affairs and then an aide to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The report, which was obtained by NBC News, was unsparing in its assessment. “The Mujahedin (MEK) collaborated with Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the former shah of Iran,” it said. “As part of that struggle, they assassinated at least six American citizens, supported the takeover of the U.S. embassy, and opposed the release of the American hostages.” In each case, the paper noted, “Bombs were the Mujahedin's weapon of choice, which they frequently employed against American targets.”
“In the post-revolutionary political chaos, however, the Mujahedin lost political power to Iran's Islamic clergy. They then applied their dedication to armed struggle and the use of propaganda against the new Iranian government, launching a violent and polemical cycle of attack and reprisal."
U.S. officials have said publicly that the information contained in the report was limited to unclassified material, but that it also drew on classified material in making its determination to add the MEK to the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images file
Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
The MEK and its sister organizations have since the beginning been run by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, a husband-wife team who have maintained tight control despite assassination threats and internal dissent. Massoud Rajavi, 63, founded the MEK, but since the U.S. invasion of Iraq has taken a backseat to his wife.
The State Department report describes the Rajavis as “fundamentally undemocratic” and “not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran.”
One reason for that is the MEK’s close relationship with Saddam Hussein, as demonstrated by this 1986 video showing the late Iraqi dictator meeting with Massoud Rajavi. Saddam recruited the MEK in much the same way the Israelis allegedly have, using them to fight Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq War, a role they took on proudly. So proudly, they invited NBC News to one of their military camps outside Baghdad in 1993.
“The National Liberation Army (MLA), the military wing of the Mujahedin, conducted raids into Iran during the latter years of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War,” according to the State Department report. The NLA's last major offensive reportedly was conducted against Iraqi Kurds in 1991, when it joined Saddam Hussein's brutal repression of the Kurdish rebellion. In addition to occasional acts of sabotage, the Mujahedin are responsible for violent attacks in Iran that victimize civilians.”
“Internally, the Mujahedin run their organization autocratically, suppressing dissent and eschewing tolerance of differing viewpoints,” it said. “Rajavi, who heads the Mojahedin’s political and military wings, has fostered a cult of personality around himself.”
The U.S. suspicion of the MEK doesn’t end there. Law enforcement officials have told NBC News that in 1994, the MEK made a pact with terrorist Ramzi Yousef a year after he masterminded the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. According to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Yousef built an 11-pound bomb that MEK agents placed inside one of Shia Islam’s greatest shrines in Mashad, Iran, on June 20, 1994. At least 26 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 200 wounded in the attack.
That connection between Yousef, nephew of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and the MEK was first reported in a book, “The New Jackals,” by Simon Reeve. NBC News confirmed that Yousef told U.S. law enforcement that he had worked with the MEK on the bombing.
In recent years, the MEK has said it has renounced violence, but Iranian officials say that is not true, that killings of Iranians continue. Still, through some deft lobbying, the group has been able to get the United Kingdom and the European Union to remove it from their lists of terrorist groups.
The alleged involvement of the MEK in the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists provides the U.S. with a cloak of deniability regarding the clandestine killings. Because the U.S. has designated the MEK as a terrorist organization, neither military nor intelligence units of the U.S. government, can work with them. “We cannot deal with them, “ said one senior U.S. official. “We would not deal with them because of the designation.”
Iranian officials initially accused the Israelis and MEK of being behind the attacks, but they have since added the CIA to the list. Three days after the Jan. 11, 2012, bombing in Tehran that killed Roshan, the state news agency IRNA reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. claiming to have “evidence and reliable information” that the CIA provided “guidance, support and planning” to assassins directly involved in the attack.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately denied any connection to the killings. “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” Clinton told reporters on the day of the attack.
But at least two GOP presidential candidates have no problem with the targeting of nuclear scientists. In a November debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed “taking out their scientists,” and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called it, ”a wonderful thing.”
The MEK’s opposition to the Iranian government also has recently earned it both plaudits and support from an odd mix of political bedfellows.
A group of former Cabinet-level officials have joined together to support the MEK’s removal from the official U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list, even taking out a full-page ad last year in the New York Times calling for the removal of the MEK from the U.S. terrorist list. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy were among those whose signatures were on the ad.
“There’s an extraordinary group of bipartisan or even apolitical leaders, military leaders, diplomats, the United States … the United Kingdom, the European Union, even a U.S. District Court in Washington, said that this group that was put on the foreign terrorist organization watch list in 1997 doesn’t deserve to be there,” Ridge said in November on “The Andrea Mitchell Show” on MSNBC TV.
U.S. politicians also have been pushing the U.S. government to protect the 3,400 MEK members and their families at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. With the departure of U.S. troops, the MEK feared that Iraqi forces, with encouragement from Iran, would attack the camp, leading to a bloodbath. At the last minute, however, agreement was brokered with the United Nations that would permit the MEK members’ departure for resettlement in unspecified democratic countries. As of this week, there’s been little movement on the planned resettlement.
Jassim Mohammed / AP file
Iranian fighters with the National Liberation Army, the military wing of the MEK, clean armored personnel carriers in 1997 after a field exercise near Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
The Iranians see what’s happening as terrorism and hypocrisy by the United States. They have forwarded documents and other evidence to the United Nations – and directly to the United States, they say.
“I think this is very cynical plan. This is unacceptable,” said Larijani. “This is a bad trend in the world. Unprecedented. We should kill scientists … to block a scientific program? I mean this is disaster!”
Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and also a senior fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that if the accounts of the Israeli-MEK assassinations are accurate, the operation borders on terrorism.
“In theory, states cannot be terrorist, but if they hire locals to do assassinations, that would be state sponsorship,” said Byman, author of the recent book, “A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism.” “You could argue that they took action not to terrorize the public, the purpose of terrorism, but only the nuclear community. An argument could also be made that degrading the program means that you don’t have to take military action and thus, this is a lower level of violence and that really these are military targets, where normally terrorist targets are civilians.”
But ultimately, Byman said, there is a “spectrum of responsibility” and that Israel is ultimately responsible.
Ronen Bergman, while not speaking on behalf of the Israeli government, suggests that there is a justification, citing an oft-repeated but disputed quote in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s said that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.
“Meir Degan, the chief of Mossad, when he was in office, hung a photograph behind him, behind the chair of the chief of Mossad,” notes the Israeli commentator. “And in that photograph you see -- an ultra-orthodox Jew -- long beard, standing on his knees with his-- hands up in the air, and two Gestapo soldiers standing -- beside him with guns pointed at him. One of -- one of them is smiling.
“And Degan used to say to his people and the people coming to visit him from CIA, NSA, et cetera, ‘Look at this guy in the picture. This is my grandfather just seconds before he was killed by the SS,’” Bergman said. “’… We are here to prevent this from happening again.’"
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Richard Engel is NBC News' chief foreign correspondent; Robert Windrem is a senior investigative producer.
February 8th, 2012
Will reduced solar activity counteract global warming in the coming decades? That is what outgoing German electric utility executive Fritz Vahrenholt claims in a new book. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he argues that the official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science.
The articulate utility executive is nervous at the beginning of the conversation. He is groping for words -- not a common occurrence for the practiced provocateur. After all, Fritz Vahrenholt, 62, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, has been a rebel throughout his life. "Perhaps it's just part of my generation," he says.
He is typical of someone who came of age during the student protest movement of the late 1960s, and who fought against the chemical industry's toxic manufacturing plants in the 1970s. His party, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), chose him as environment senator in the city-state of Hamburg, where he incurred the wrath of the environmental lobby by building a waste incineration plant, earning him the nickname "Feuerfritze" (Fire Fritz). He worked in industry after that, first for oil multinational Shell and then for wind turbine maker RePower, which he helped develop. Now, as the outgoing CEO of the renewable energy group RWE Innogy, he is about to embark on his next major battle. "I'm going to make enemies in all camps," he says.
He wants to break a taboo. "The climate catastrophe is not occurring," he writes in his book "Die Kalte Sonne" (The Cold Sun), published by Hoffmann and Campe, which will be in bookstores next week.
He has only given the book to one climatologist, Jochem Marotzke, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, to read prior to its publication. Marotzke's assessment is clear: Vahrenholt represents the standpoints of climate skeptics. "A number of the hypotheses in the book were refuted long ago," Marotzke claims, but adds, on a self-critical note, that his profession has neglected to explain that global temperatures will not increase uniformly. Instead, says Marotzke, there could also be phases of stagnation and even minor declines in temperature. "This has exposed us to potential criticism," he says.
While books by climate heretics usually receive little attention, it could be different in Vahrenholt's case. "His fame," says Marotzke, "will ensure that there will be a debate on the issue."
The book is a source of discomfort within Vahrenholt's party. No one with the SPD leadership is willing to comment on the theories of their prominent fellow party member, from former Environment Minister and current SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel to parliamentary floor leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was given an advance copy of the book.
A lecture Vahrenholt was scheduled to give at the University of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany was recently cancelled.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Vahrenholt, in the week before last, you made the surprising announcement that you are resigning as head of RWE Innogy. And now your book "Die Kalte Sonne," in which you deny the climate catastrophe, is appearing. Were you forced to step down because your ideas could damage RWE's new green image?
Vahrenholt: No. My contract would have expired at the end of the year, anyway. Besides, I will continue to be a member of the company's supervisory board for another three years.
SPIEGEL: How have your fellow executives responded to your provocative prediction that it will get colder instead of warmer in the coming decades?
Vahrenholt: This is not an RWE book. Aside from CEO Jürgen Grossmann, I didn't give an advance copy to anyone in the company. Grossmann, at any rate, found it so engrossing that he read the entire book in one night.
SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, your precipitous withdrawal from RWE management is reminiscent of the scandal surrounding Thilo Sarrazin, who was forced to resign from the board of Germany's central bank in 2010 following the publication of his controversial book on immigration and integration.
Vahrenholt: This isn't a precipitous withdrawal. Besides, I don't need Thilo Sarrazin as a role model. I also didn't need a role model when I drew attention to risks in the chemical industry in my 1978 book "Seveso ist überall" (ed's. note: Seveso is Everywhere -- a reference to the infamous Seveso chemical spill in 1976 in Italy). Today, I want new scientific findings to be included in the climate debate. It would then become clear that the simple equation that CO2 and other man-made greenhouse gases are almost exclusively responsible for climate change is unsustainable. It hasn't gotten any warmer on this planet in almost 14 years, despite continued increases in CO2 emissions. Established climate science has to come up with an answer to that.
SPIEGEL: You are an electric utility executive by profession. What prompted you to get involved in climatology?
Vahrenholt: In my experience as an energy expert, I learned that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of a political than a scientific body. As a rapporteur on renewable energy, I witnessed how thin the factual basis is for predictions that are made at the IPCC. In one case, a Greenpeace activist's absurd claim that 80 percent of the world's energy supply could soon be coming from renewable sources was assumed without scrutiny. This prompted me to examine the IPCC report more carefully.
SPIEGEL: And what was your conclusion?
Vahrenholt: The long version of the IPCC report does mention natural causes of climate change, like the sun and oscillating ocean currents. But they no longer appear in the summary for politicians. They were simply edited out. To this day, many decision-makers don't know that new studies have seriously questioned the dominance of CO2. CO2 alone will never cause a warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Only with the help of supposed amplification effects, especially water vapor, do the computers arrive at a drastic temperature increase. I say that global warming will remain below two degrees by the end of the century. This is an eminently political message, but it's also good news.
SPIEGEL: You make concrete statements on how much human activity contributes to climatic events and how much of a role natural factors play. Why don't you publish your prognoses in a professional journal?
Vahrenholt: Because I don't engage in my own climate research. Besides, I don't have a supercomputer in my basement. For the most part, my co-author, geologist Sebastian Lüning, and I merely summarize what scientists have published in professional journals -- just as the IPCC does. The book is also a platform for scientists who apply good arguments in diverging from the views of the IPCC. The established climate models have failed across the board because they cannot cogently explain the absence of warming.
SPIEGEL: You claim that the standstill has to do with the sun. What makes you so sure?
Vahrenholt: In terms of the climate, we have seen a cyclical up and down for the last 7,000 years, long before man began emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. There has been a warming phase every 1,000 years, including the Roman, the Medieval and the current warm periods. All of these warm periods consistently coincided with strong solar activity. In addition to this large fluctuation in activity, there is also a 210-year and an 87-year natural cycle of the sun. Ignoring these would be a serious mistake …
SPIEGEL: … but solar researchers are still in disagreement over whether the cycles you mention actually exist. What do you think this means for the future?
Vahrenholt: In the second half of the 20th century, the sun was more active than it had been in more than 2,000 years. This "large solar maximum," as astronomers call it, has contributed at least as much to global warming as the greenhouse gas CO2. But the sun has been getting weaker since 2005, and it will continue to do so in the next few decades. Consequently, we can only expect cooling from the sun for now.
SPIEGEL: It is undisputed that fluctuations in solar activity can influence the climate. Most experts assume that an unusually long solar minimum, evidenced by the very small number of sunspots at the time, led to the "Little Ice Age" that began in 1645. There were many severe winters at the time, with rivers freezing over. However, astrophysicists still don't know the extent to which solar fluctuations actually affect temperatures.
Vahrenholt: Many scientists assume that the temperature changes by more than 1 degree Celsius for the 1,000-year cycle and by up to 0.7 degrees Celsius for the smaller cycles. Climatologists should be putting a far greater effort into finding ways to more accurately determine the effects of the sun on climate. For the IPCC and the politicians it influences, CO2 is practically the only factor. The importance of the sun for the climate is systematically underestimated, and the importance of CO2 is systematically overestimated. As a result, all climate predictions are based on the wrong underlying facts.
SPIEGEL: But you are doing exactly what you criticize climatologists of doing: Using a thin body of data, you make exact predictions. In your book, you estimate the sun's influence on the climate down to the last 0.1 degrees. No one can do that.
February 8th, 2012
By TIM ARANGO
BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.
Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.
The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.
The swift realization among some top officials that the diplomatic buildup may have been ill advised represents a remarkable pivot for the State Department, in that officials spent more than a year planning the expansion and that many of the thousands of additional personnel have only recently arrived.
Michael W. McClellan, the embassy spokesman, said in a statement, “Over the last year and continuing this year the Department of State and the Embassy in Baghdad have been considering ways to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy’s operations.”
Mr. McClellan said the number of diplomats — currently about 2,000 — was also “subject to adjustment as appropriate.”
To make the cuts, he said the embassy was “hiring Iraqi staff and sourcing more goods and services to the local economy.”
After the American troops departed in December, life became more difficult for the thousands of diplomats and contractors left behind. Convoys of food that had been escorted by the United States military from Kuwait were delayed at border crossings as Iraqis demanded documentation that the Americans were unaccustomed to providing.
Within days, the salad bar at the embassy dining hall ran low. Sometimes there was no sugar or Splenda for coffee. On chicken-wing night, wings were rationed at six per person. Over the holidays, housing units were stocked with Meals Ready to Eat, the prepared food for soldiers in the field.
At every turn, the Americans say, the Iraqi government has interfered with the activities of the diplomatic mission, one they grant that the Iraqis never asked for or agreed upon. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s office — and sometimes even the prime minister himself — now must approve visas for all Americans, resulting in lengthy delays. American diplomats have had trouble setting up meetings with Iraqi officials.
For their part, the Iraqis say they are simply enforcing their laws and protecting their sovereignty in the absence of a working agreement with the Americans on the embassy.
“The main issue between Iraqis and the U.S. Embassy is that we have not seen, and do not know anything about, an agreement between the Iraqi government and the U.S.,” said Nahida al-Dayni, a lawmaker and member of Iraqiya, a largely Sunni bloc in Parliament.
Expressing a common sentiment among Iraqis, she added: “The U.S. had something on their mind when they made it so big. Perhaps they want to run the Middle East from Iraq, and their embassy will be a base for them here.”
Those suspicions have been reinforced by two murky episodes, one involving four armed Americans on the streets of Baghdad that Iraqi officials believe were Central Intelligence Agency operatives and another when an American helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing because of an unspecified mechanical failure on the outskirts of the capital on the banks of the Tigris River.
“The aircraft that broke down raised many questions about the role of Americans here,” said Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a leading Shiite political party and social organization. “So what is the relationship? We’re still waiting for more information.”
The current configuration of the embassy, a 104-acre campus with adobe-colored buildings, is actually smaller than the original plans that were drawn up at a time when officials believed that a residual American military presence would remain in Iraq beyond 2011. For instance, officials once planned for a 700-person consulate in the northern city of Mosul, but it was scrapped for budgetary reasons.