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OBAMA CANCELS PUTIN SUMMIT AMID SNOWDEN TENSIONS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Already faltering, President Barack Obama's five-year effort to reboot U.S.-Russian relations finally crashed Wednesday, as the White House abruptly canceled his planned face-to-face summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
The effort to upgrade the relationship has fallen victim to the rapidly shrinking common ground between the former Cold War rivals, including extreme differences over the Syrian civil war, Russia's domestic crackdown on civil rights and - the final straw - the asylum granted to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
The U.S. and Russian foreign and defense ministers will sit down in Washington later this week, but Obama canceled his planned early September summit in Moscow with Putin because of what the White House called a lack of "recent progress" on a wide array of critical issues. Such steps are not taken lightly, and the decision will almost certainly herald a new frostiness in already chilly ties.
"We have informed the Russian government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda," the White House said in a statement, citing deep differences over missile defense, arms control, trade, global security and human rights. "Russia's disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship," it added.
The Kremlin responded quickly, voicing its own disappointment with the canceled summit and blaming it on Washington's inability to develop relations with Moscow on an "equal basis." Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, added that the decision was "clearly linked" to the Snowden case, a situation that he said wasn't of Russia's making.
While Snowden might have been the immediate catalyst for canceling the summit, the seeds of renewed U.S.-Russia discord were planted more than a year ago when Putin re-took the Russian presidency. On returning to power, he adopted a deeply nationalistic and more openly confrontational stance toward the United States than had his chosen successor Dmitry Medvedev, whose 2008-2012 tenure roughly overlapped Obama's first term in the White House.
NOAA REPORT CARD FOR 2012'S CLIMATE: MORE WARMING
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new massive federal study says the world in 2012 sweltered with continued signs of climate change. Rising sea levels, snow melt, heat buildup in the oceans, and melting Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheets, all broke or nearly broke records, but temperatures only sneaked into the top 10.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday issued a peer-reviewed 260-page report, which agency chief Kathryn Sullivan calls its annual "checking on the pulse of the planet." The report, written by 384 scientists around the world, compiles data already released, but it puts them in context of what's been happening to Earth over decades.
"It's critically important to compile a big picture," National Climatic Data Center director Tom Karl says. "The signs that we see are of a warming world."
Sullivan says what is noticeable "are remarkable changes in key climate indicators," mentioning dramatic spikes in ocean heat content, a record melt of Arctic sea ice in the summer, and whopping temporary melts of ice in most of Greenland last year. The data also shows a record-high sea level.
The most noticeable and startling changes seen were in the Arctic, says report co-editor Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at the data center. Breaking records in the Arctic is so common that it is becoming the new normal, says study co-author Jackie Richter-Menge of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H.
Karl says when looked at together, all the indicators show a climate that is changing over the decades. Individually, however, the story isn't as simple.
Karl says surface temperatures haven't risen in the last 10 years, but he notes that is only a blip in time due to natural variability. When looking at more scientifically meaningful time frames of 30 years, 50 years and more than 100 years, temperatures are rising quite a bit, Karl said. Since records have been kept in 1880, all 10 of the warmest years ever have been in the past 15 years, NOAA records show.
Depending on which of four independent analyses are used, 2012 ranked the eighth or ninth warmest year on record, the report says. Last year was warmer than every year in the previous century, except for 1998 when a record El Nino spiked temperatures globally. NOAA ranks 2010 as the warmest year on record.
They don't have to be records every year, Karl says.
Overall the climate indicators "are all singing the same song that we live in a warming world," Arndt says. "Some indicators take a few years off from their increase. The system is telling us in more than one place we're seeing rapid change."
While the report purposely doesn't address why the world is warming, "the causes are primarily greenhouse gases, the burning of fossil fuels," Arndt says.
The study is being published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
The Climate of 2012 report: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2012.php