Monday, January 23, 2012

Bits and Pieces - January 23, 2012

There was a gigantic solar flare a few days ago, and those who live further north are seeing some wonderful auroras. Here's a photo gallery. (h/t to RG)

Once diseases have disappeared because of vaccines, it's all too easy to believe that the hazards are mainly in the vaccines.

President Obama's proposed reorganization of business-oriented departments would remove the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the Department of Commerce and put it in the Department of the Interior. Is this likely to be a problem?

An interview with Mikhail Prokhorov, who plans to challenge Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency.

Prime Minister Putin's statement on ethnicities in Russia. Dealing with the various ethnic groups that made up the Soviet Union was one of the problems that Mikhail Gorbachev didn't spend much time on while nationalistic groups made plans to leave the Union. Russia still has that problem, and Putin seems to be hoping that strong words about patriotism will deal with it.

Peter Beinart wants to know why the media aren't pointing out that the same Republicans who are calling for war with Iran also were all for war with Iraq.

The European foreign ministers have agreed to impose an oil embargo on Iran starting July 1. That means we'd better get negotiations going soon. Unfortunately, Iran hasn't formally replied to the invitation.

I won't pretend to understand all this, but the bottom line seems to be that divisions continue in the Iranian government. If people in the US government understood those divisions better, they might be able to lever them into negotiations. But it seems more likely that these divisions will just gum up the negotiations.

And, um, Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, is headed to Israel. The US's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a visit there last week. Must be the season.

A couple more good articles on the Iran situation by Tony Karon and Yousaf Butt.

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