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The stupidest policy on the face of the Earth

The Economist has a great cover story about the rising price of food, a main reason for which is a U.S. policy that supports the development of ethanol made from corn (the rise of Asia is another major factor, but that's a good thing). Read the piece for the full account of what is going on and why it is so dangerous, but in the meantime, ponder this graphic:

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Morning Brief, Friday, December 7

Asia

AFP/Getty Images

Human Rights Watch reports that the number of Burmese monks and others killed in the junta's autumn crackdown is far higher than the government has admitted. More here.

An oil spill off the coast of South Korea has dumped some 10,000 tons of crude into the Yellow Sea.

Helene Cooper shares some details of Bush's letter to Kim Jong Il, which the North Korean has hailed in the North Korean state media.

Middle East

The U.S. military is planning to create a civilian jobs corps for Sunni Arab "concerned citizens" after failing to get the Shiite-led government to integrate them into regular security forces.

A female suicide bomber killed 16 and injured 31 members of a tribal "awakening council" in Muqdadiya, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, NATO foreign ministers agreed to push for new U.N. sanctions on Iran despite the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Iran shuttered its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Lebanon's presidential vote was delayed for a seventh time.

Europe

NATO troops will remain in Kosovo to prevent violence that may follow a key deadline next week.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's presence in Lisbon despite an EU ban is creating waves in Europe. 

French labor unions are threatening to go on strike next week. Dog bites man.

A small, homemade bomb exploded in the Paris office building that houses French President Nicolas Sarkozy's former law firm, killing a secretary. An arrest has already been made in what looks to be some kind of weird stalker thing, not terrorism.

Elsewhere

The CIA is under fire for destroying tapes it made of interrogations of al Qaeda detainees.

Violent crime dropped in South Africa during 2007, though murder rates remain incredibly high.

Under fire in the Congo, the World Bank has been forced to admit that it didn't take Pygmies' concerns into account.

Osama bin Laden's driver told the FBI that his boss had expected 1,500 deaths on 9/11 and that he helped bin Laden escape from Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Today's Agenda

  • Northern Ireland's leaders are visiting the White House.
  • British author Doris Lessing delivers her Nobel Prize lecture.
  • NASA will give it another go after yesterday's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis was postponed.
  • It's Pearl Harbor Day.

Yesterday on Passport