Opinion | How Technology Saved China’s Economy – By Ruchir Sharma – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Sharma is an author, global investor and contributing opinion writer.

Credit…China Network/Reuters

“Landing in Shanghai recently, I found myself in the middle of a tech revolution remarkable in its sweep. The passport scanner automatically addresses visitors in their native tongues. Digital payment apps have replaced cash. Outsiders trying to use paper money get blank stares from store clerks.

Nearby in the city of Hangzhou a prototype hotel called FlyZoo uses facial recognition to open doors, no keys required. Robots mix cocktails and provide room service. Farther south in Shenzhen, we flew the same drones that are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. Downtown traffic flowed smoothly, guided by synced stoplights and restrained by police cameras.

Outside China, these technologies are seen as harbingers of an “automated authoritarianism,” using video cameras and facial recognition systems to thwart lawbreakers and a “citizen score” to rank citizens for political reliability. An advanced version has been deployed to counter unrest among Muslim Uighurs in the inland region of Xinjiang. But in China as a whole, surveys show that trust in technology is high, concern about privacy low. If people fear Big Brother, they keep it to themselves. In our travels along the coast, many expressed pride in China’s sudden rise as a tech power.

China initiated its economic miracle by opening to the outside world, but now it is nurturing domestic tech giants by barring outside competition. Foreign visitors cannot open Google or Facebook, a weirdly isolating experience, and the trade deal announced Wednesday by President Trump defers discussion of those barriers.”

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN | Environment | Oct 2018 The Guardian

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.:

Source: We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN | Environment | The Guardian

Greta Thunberg’s Message at Davos Forum: ‘Our House Is Still on Fire’ – By Somini Sengupta – The New York Times

“Ms. Thunberg, a climate activist known for speaking bluntly to power, rebuked the crowd for promises that she said would do too little: reducing planet-warming gases to net zero by 2050, offsetting emissions by planting one trillion trees, transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

“Let’s be clear. We don’t need a ‘low carbon economy.’ We don’t need to ‘lower emissions,’” she said. “Our emissions have to stop.”

Only that, she said, would enable the world to keep temperatures from rising past 1.5 degrees from preindustrial levels, which scientists say is necessary to avert the worst effects of climate change. She and a group of young climate activists have called on private investors and governments to immediately halt exploration for fossil fuels, to stop funding their production, to end taxpayer subsidies for the industry and to fully divest their existing stakes in the sector.

Scientists have said emissions must be reduced by half in the next decade to reach the 1.5-degree target. The opposite is happening. Global emissions continued to rise, hitting a record high in 2019, according to research published in December.”

Thank you Greta Thunberg.  Here is one of many good comments I endorsed:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

Such an articulate and impassioned cry from a member of the generation who will be left holding the bag of climate crisis.

Nobody with the power to do anything will be alive when their inaction translates into an uninhabitable planet.

This isn’t a simple abdiction of reponsiblity. It’s wholesale abandonment of the powerless, the children who today see imending doom but lack the authority to stop it.

Reply67 Recommended
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David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment
Thank you Greta and Somini and the NYT for this story. I hope Greta, that you can take a break soon, and go to college, or university, as it is often called. Taking some time for yourself wouldn’t muzzle you, and might be helpful.
I read somewhere, some souce like the NYT, that historians of science and engineering have noted that it takes about 50 years for any civilization to radically change from one major technology to another. If this is true, then it will be a stretch for the world to completely move off of fossil fuels by 2050.
Also, what the IPCC reported last fall, was according to their newest work, we have about 10 years to really change direction, and make dramatic progress. I don’t think they thought in ten years we could get to zero emissions, so they put in a more realitic goal.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

see the source article in my next post.

Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way – By Thomas Fuller – The New York Times

By 

Photographs and Video by 

“COOINDA, Australia — At a time when vast tracts of Australia are burning, Violet Lawson is never far from a match.

In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.

Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.

These programs, which are generating important scientific data, are being held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.”

Opinion | I’m a Liberal Who Thinks Immigration Must Be Restricted – By Jerry Kammer  – New York Times

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Mr. Kammer is a senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Credit…Michael George Haddad

“In 2001, when I was the new Washington correspondent for The Arizona Republic, I attended the annual awards dinner of the National Immigration Forum. The forum is a left-right coalition that lobbies for unauthorized immigrants and expansive immigration policies. Its board has included officials of the National Council of La Raza, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as well as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association and the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

After dinner, the group’s executive director, Frank Sharry, made a pitch to business allies who wanted Congress to allow them unfettered access to foreign workers. “You guys in business get all the workers you want, whenever you want them,” he proposed. “No bureaucracy.”

“Sold!” yelled John Gay, a lobbyist for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Mr. Sharry quickly added that the deal must include advocacy for “three little, tiny pieces of paper: a green card, a union card and a voter registration card” for unauthorized immigrants.

For me, a reporter who had long covered immigration in the Southwest and Mexico, the exchange was a revelation about the politics of immigration in Washington. Business lobbyists like Mr. Gay — conservatives who seek loose labor markets so employers can keep wages down — align themselves with liberal activists like Frank Sharry to pursue policies that serve their groups.

Who, I wondered, was lobbying for the American workers competing with the new arrivals? The answer, I learned, was no one. As the former labor secretary Robert Reich once put it, “There’s no National Association of Working Poor.”

This mismatch of political influence, combined with the social and fiscal consequences of a wave of low-skilled immigrants, led me to believe that immigration should be restricted so that its power to invigorate our country is not eclipsed by its potential to harm workers. I think immigration, like capitalism itself, should be regulated in the national interest, not shaped to serve the free-market libertarianism of the right or the post-national humanitarianism of the left.

That’s why I call myself a liberal restrictionist.I have long considered myself a moderate liberal, in part because Democrats have always been the allies of working people. For many decades, liberals were outspoken in their alarm about illegal immigration.”

Opinion | Why Does America Hate Its Children? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“The other day a correspondent asked me a good question: What important issue aren’t we talking about? My answer, after some reflection, is the state of America’s children.

Now, it’s not entirely fair to say that we’re ignoring the plight of our children. Elizabeth Warren, characteristically, has laid out a comprehensive, fully financed plan for universal child care. Bernie Sanders, also characteristically, says he’s for it but hasn’t provided details. And as far as I can tell, all the other Democratic presidential candidates support doing more for children.

But policy toward children has attracted far less media attention than the debate over “Medicare for all,” which won’t become reality anytime soon — let alone the so-called Warren-Sanders “spat.” And my guess is that even well-informed voters have little sense of the grim exceptionalism of America’s child-oriented policies, which are Dickensian compared with those of every other advanced country.

A few numbers may be in order here.

Every advanced country mandates some form of paid leave for new mothers, typically three or four months — every country, that is, except America, which offers no maternity leave at all.
Most advanced countries devote substantial sums to benefits for families with children; in Europe these benefits average between 2 and 3 percent of G.D.P. The corresponding number for the United States is 0.6 percent of G.D.P.
Even where the United States does help children, the quality of that help tends to be poor. There have been many comparisons between French and American school lunches: French schoolchildren are taught to eat healthy meals; American children are basically treated as a disposal site for farm surpluses.”

 

Opinion | John Kerry: Diplomacy Was Working Until Trump Abandoned It – The New York Times

“Presidents make lonely, difficult decisions about the use of force to protect our interests — usually with the solace of knowing at least that diplomacy had failed. The tragedy of our current plight is that diplomacy was succeeding before it was abandoned.”

Opinion | Remembering Ella Baker on Martin Luther King Day – By Barbara Ransby – The New York Times

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Dr. Ransby, a historian, is the author of “Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement.”

Credit…Jack Harris/Associated Press

“When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1964, he observed that anytime an award is given to “the dedicated pilots of our struggle who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit,” the prize is also bestowed on “the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”

Ella Josephine Baker, a black North Carolina native who migrated to New York in the 1920s, was a major part of that ground crew for over 50 years, and her legacy lives on in today’s social movements.

Her political activism began in Harlem in the 1930s. She worked with the cooperative movement during the Great Depression; supported the campaign against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia; and opposed the racist conviction of the famed Scottsboro boys.

Baker was a field secretary and director of branches for the N.A.A.C.P. in the 1940s, and she traveled throughout the Jim Crow South, organizing against discrimination and recruiting people to the Civil Rights Movement. She worked alongside King and others in the Southern Christian Leadership Council in the 1950s and was a mentor to the young activists who founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1960. S.N.C.C. went on to lead the “Freedom Rides,” in which participants risked life and limb to desegregate interstate transportation, and then to organize “Freedom Summer,” a massive voter registration drive targeting disenfranchised black southern voters.”

Opinion | Senate Republicans Are Bathed in Shame – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Ben Wiseman; Photograph by Drew Angerer/Getty Image

“The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump began on Thursday when John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, directed all of the senators to stand and raise their right hands. Ever since I can’t get two questions out of my head.

The first: How in God’s name — and it was in God’s name — can the Republicans who have already decided to acquit President Trump take a solemn oath to administer “impartial justice”? They’re partial to the core, unabashedly so, as their united march toward a foregone conclusion shows. A mind-meld this ironclad isn’t a reflection of facts. It’s a triumph of factionalism.

The majority of the party’s senators have said outright or clearly signaled that they have no intention of finding the president guilty and removing him from office. Yapping lap dogs like Lindsey Graham and obedient manservants like Mitch McConnell have gone further, mocking the whole impeachment process.

So the oath they took: How does that work? Did they cross the fingers on their left hands? Do they reason that American politics has reached a nadir of such fundamental hypocrisy and overweening partisanship that no one regards that pledge as anything but window dressing?”

Opinion | Nobody Cared When Nashville Drowned – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Larry McCormack/The Tennessean, via Frist Art Museum

“NASHVILLE — On the Saturday I had set aside to visit a new exhibit at the Frist Art Museum, it rained so hard I was afraid to leave the house. Nashville was built on the Cumberland River, and even those of us who live far from its banks are invariably a stone’s throw from at least one creek that drains into the great Cumberland or one of its tributaries. A deluge falling on saturated soil will flood the creeks and leave water pooling on low-lying roads. “Turn Around Don’t Drown” is a truism I conscientiously heed.

The exhibit I planned to visit that day, ironically enough, was a retrospective of the devastating 2010 flood that dropped more than 13 inches of rain on this area in 36 hours — obliterating, twice over, the previous two-day rainfall record. The Cumberland River crested more than 11 feet above flood level, leaving 10,000 people displaced in the region and 26 others dead, including an elderly couple who drowned when their car was swept off the road not far from my house.

Area landmarks were shut down for months. Opry Mills, a massive mall on the banks of the Cumberland, was closed for nearly two years. Nearby, the Opryland Resort & Convention Center had to evacuate 1,500 hotel guests, and the first floor of the Grand Ole Opry House itself was completely submerged. Twenty-four feet of water entered the Schermerhorn, Nashville’s transcendently beautiful symphony hall, where the losses included two Steinway concert grand pianos. Soundcheck, a sprawling rehearsal and equipment-storage facility in East Nashville, took a nearly fatal blow, with millions of dollars of instruments — belonging to both session musicians and industry superstars — lost to the water. It all felt almost personal: What would Music City be without the music?”