Gas tanker attempts winter Arctic crossing

You may have seen that the 2012 edition of FP's "Stories You Missed" is now online. Go look at it!

In addition to being issues that were undercovered in the past year, the list is also intended to highlight some big stories that may become bigger issues in the year to come. For instance, back in 2009, the list was highlighted by the first commerical ships to travel the northeast passage through the Arctic from East Asia to Western Europe. Today, I see, the BBC is reporting that a natural gas tanker is making the trip, and in mid-winter no less:

The carrier, Ob River, left Norway in November and has sailed north of Russia on its way to Japan.

The specially equipped tanker is due to arrive in early December and will shave 20 days off the regular journey.

The owners say that changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market make the Arctic transit profitable.

This year's Stories You Missed list also revisits this Arctic to look at how the energy boom is impacting the region's indigenous population.



China irks neighbors with passport map

Generally, when passports become an issue in border disputes it's because of who they're being given to. But China has managed to irritate its neighbors just by designing a new passport:

China's newly revised passports [show] Arunachal Pradesh state and the Himalayan region of Aksai Chin as Chinese territory.

Inside the new Chinese passports, an outline of China printed in the upper left corner also includes Taiwan and the South China sea, hemmed in by dashes. The change highlights China's longstanding claim to the sea in its entirety, though parts of the waters also are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Vietnam is refusing to stamp the new booklets and the Philippines is considering doing the same. Taiwan's president has also spoken out against the new passports. India has taken a more creative approach by stamping Chinese visas with a map showing the "corrected" version of the border. 

I also suspect other countries locked in territorial disputes may pick up on this tactic. It wouldn't be surprising if the printers in La Paz are already churning out new booklets depicting the Bolivian seashore