Opinion | What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage

“Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

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 – The New York Times

In Ecuador, cameras across the country send footage to monitoring centers to be examined by police and domestic intelligence. The surveillance system’s origin: China.

By Paul MozurJonah M. Kessel and Melissa Chan


QUITO, Ecuador — The squat gray building in Ecuador’s capital commands a sweeping view of the city’s sparkling sprawl, from the high-rises at the base of the Andean valley to the pastel neighborhoods that spill up its mountainsides.

The police who work inside are looking elsewhere. They spend their days poring over computer screens, watching footage that comes in from 4,300 cameras across the country.

The high-powered cameras send what they see to 16 monitoring centers in Ecuador that employ more than 3,000 people. Armed with joysticks, the police control the cameras and scan the streets for drug deals, muggings and murders. If they spy something, they zoom in.

This voyeur’s paradise is made with technology from what is fast becoming the global capital of surveillance: China.”

Source: Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State – The New York Times

Opinion | Can Exxon Mobil Protect Mozambique From Climate Change? – By Leigh Elston – The New York Times

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By Leigh Elston
Ms. Elston writes about the energy industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

March 26, 2019

A A A family stranded after Cyclone Ida in the Buzi District of Mozambique last Thursday.CreditCreditSiphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
“MAPUTO, Mozambique — On Tuesday evening, five days after Cyclone Idai hit central Mozambique and the rains started, thousands of survivors were still stranded, waiting to be rescued from trees or the roofs of houses.

On that same evening, far from the floods, I was in an air-conditioned office here in the capital with a group of bankers and oil industry executives, hearing about how rich and happy Mozambicans would soon be. Standard Bank was presenting a new report on the billions of dollars it predicted the Mozambique government will earn from the giant natural gas projects the American oil companies Exxon Mobil and Anadarko plan to start building in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado this year.

We observed a minute of silence for the victims of the flood. What was not observed was the possibility that climate change, driven by the oil and gas industry, had any responsibility for the natural disaster.

If the Standard Bank report is right, Mozambique will earn $80 billion to $100 billion over the next 30 years from Exxon’s project alone. Anadarko’s project is estimated to deliver $67 billion. Those are huge sums in a country whose gross domestic product is estimated to be around $14 billion.

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With that kind of money, the government could hire around 850 doctors and 17,600 teachers, build 3,200 low-cost homes and provide 4,000 hospital beds, the bank estimates.

It could rebuild Beira, Mozambique’s fourth-largest city, 90 percent of which is estimated to have been damaged or destroyed by Cyclone Idai, and the town of Buzi, home to 200,000 inhabitants, which is totally submerged.

It could also fund a proper climate risk management and resilience program, which would be able to provide better warning of disasters, giving people time to evacuate, and improve rescue and relief efforts. It could finance the building of houses, schools, hospitals and roads better able to withstand storms and flooding.

This should be a priority. Mozambique ranks third in Africa as the most exposed to weather-related hazards, including cyclones, droughts and floods — the number and intensity of which are likely to increase.”

via Opinion | Can Exxon Mobil Protect Mozambique From Climate Change? – The New York Times

Thank you Leigh Elston for this tragic and disturbing story. It breaks my heart, because, I sense deeply, that it is beyond my powers to help the poor and middle class of Mozambique, or to stop the government from stealing the wealth of the country, while contributing to the ruin of the planet’s environments.

Opinion | A Comeback for African National Parks – By Patrick Adams – The New York Times

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By Patrick Adams
Mr. Adams is a journalist who reports on solutions to social problems.

Feb. 20, 2019

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is a rare success story. The number of large mammals there has increased more than 700 percent over the past decade.

Image: CreditCreditChristopher Scott/Gallo Images, via Getty Images
The earth’s sixth mass extinction, scientists warn, is now well underway.Worldwide, wildlife populations are plummeting at astonishing rates, and the trend is perhaps most starkly evident in Africa’s protected areas — the parks, game reserves and sanctuaries home to many of the world’s most charismatic species.

Between 1970 and 2005, national parks in Africa saw an average decline of 59 percent in the populations of dozens of large mammals, among them lions, zebras, elephants and giraffes. In at least a dozen parks, the losses exceeded 85 percent.

One of those was Gorongosa National Park, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, in central Mozambique.

Once a premier safari destination, Gorongosa suffered through a brutal 16-year civil war. When the fighting finally ended in 1992, the park was a shambles: More than 95 percent of its large mammals had been wiped out — slaughtered for food and the purchase of arms. Abandoned for another decade, it might well have gone the way of so many other protected areas: downgraded and downsized, converted to cropland or opened to mining.

via Opinion | A Comeback for African National Parks – The New York Times

Opinion | Israel’s Got Its Own Refugee Dilemma: African ‘Dreamers’ – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

TEL AVIV — It’s been obvious to me for some time that the Israeli-Arab conflict is to wider global geopolitical trends what Off Broadway is to Broadway. If you want a hint of what’s coming to a geopolitical theater near you, study this region. You can see it all here in miniature. That certainly applies to what’s becoming the most destabilizing and morally wrenching geopolitical divide on the planet today — the divide between what I call the “World of Order” and the “World of Disorder.”

And Israel is right on the seam — which is why the last major fence Israel built was not to keep West Bank Palestinians from crossing into Israel but to keep more Africans from walking from their homes in Africa, across the Sinai Desert, into Israel.

So many new nations that were created in the last century are failing or falling apart under the stresses of population explosions, climate change, corruption, tribalism and unemployment. As these states deteriorate, they’re hemorrhaging millions of people — more refugees and migrants are on the road today than at any other time since World War II — people trying to get out of the violent and unstable World of Disorder and into the World of Order.

The Broadway versions are the vast number of migrants from failing states in Central America trying to get into the U.S. and from the Arab world and Africa trying to get into Europe. The Off Broadway version is playing out in Israel, to which, since 2012, roughly 60,000 Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia have trekked — not to find kosher food, Al Aqsa Mosque or the Via Dolorosa, but stability and a job.

via Opinion | Israel’s Got Its Own Refugee Dilemma: African ‘Dreamers’ – The New York Times

Yes, yes yes. Ugh. Tom Friedman asks the right difficult questions.

I recommended the two most popular comments:

Enough Humans
Nevada

I was expecting a doctrinaire recommendation that Israel take anyone that can make it to its borders be accepted for asylum. Instead you conclude with realistic questions to which no one has answers. Also, I noticed that over population was the first on the “list” of problems. Hopefully human overpopulation deniers will reconsider their positions – too many humans is the root cause of all environmental problems including climate change and the sixth mass extinction of non-humans happening right now.

JohnB commented April 24

J
JohnB
Staten Island

The Israelis have the right idea — I wish America was that sane!

Sub-Saharan Africa is the one place in the world where, for whatever reason, birth rates have not dropped very much and the population continues to explode. It is projected that by the end of this century the population of Sub-Saharan African is going to quadruple to 4 billion people — nearly half of the world’s population! Many of them are understandably going to want to live anywhere but Africa, so there is a tsunami of African migrants on the horizon. Any nation — large or small — that doesn’t take serious measures to secure its borders will find itself overwhelmed, and sooner rather than later.

U.S. Lifts Ban on Some Elephant and Lion Trophies – The New York Times

The United States has moved to allow hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, acquired in certain African countries with approvals granted on an individual basis.

The decision, reported in a memorandum published last week by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, overturns an Obama-era ban on some trophies and contradicts public statements by President Trump, who had endorsed the restrictions.

In November, agency officials moved to lift the ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The new policy supersedes and broadens that decision, officials said.

Traditionally, the agency has considered imports of trophies from certain endangered species on a nation-by-nation basis. The Endangered Species Act stipulates that in order for such trophies to be approved, exporting countries must demonstrate that hunting enhances survival of a particular species in the wild — by reinvesting the money into conservation, for example, and by supporting local communities.

via U.S. Lifts Ban on Some Elephant and Lion Trophies – The New York Times

In Los Angeles- a Billionaire Doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong Takes On an Ailing Newspaper – The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — He was perhaps the least famous billionaire in a city brimming with wealthy celebrities.

But Patrick Soon-Shiong, 65, a doctor who turned a cancer drug into a multibillion-dollar biotech empire, emerged on Wednesday as a major figure in Los Angeles life with his surprise $500 million purchase of The Los Angeles Times and its sister newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Dr. Soon-Shiong has a long — and sometimes checkered — history in the medical field going back to the 1990s, but has kept a relatively low profile in the political, cultural and philanthropic doings of the city. He now faces the challenge of stabilizing a newspaper engulfed by turmoil and diminished in resources.

His is an immigrant’s tale that captures the story of Los Angeles today: a Chinese doctor who was raised in South Africa before coming to Los Angeles to make his fortune. He is worth an estimated $8 billion, and has been called the richest man in Los Angeles. He is a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, having bought Magic Johnson’s 4.5 percent stake in the team in 2010 before setting his sights on what friends said he viewed as the ultimate prize of social cachet: the 136-year-old, award-winning newspaper that has long displayed the city’s ambitions to the world.

Dr. Soon-Shiong was already a major shareholder at the newspaper, joining the board of Tribune Publishing, which later became known as Tronc, in May 2016. In purchasing The Times, he has accomplished what eluded some of the most established business leaders here who have flirted for years with buying it — Eli Broad, David Geffen and Austin Beutner among them.

via In Los Angeles, a Billionaire Doctor Takes On an Ailing Newspaper – The New York Times

War’s Other Victims: Animals – The New York Times

In 1996, when war broke out in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, just 31 northern white rhinos remained in Garamba National Park, the last stronghold of this endangered species. Armed militias reached the park less than a year later, and half of the park’s elephants, two-thirds of its buffalos and three-quarters of its hippos disappeared in three short months.

Poaching of northern white rhinos also resumed, despite conservationists’ best efforts. Today, after a succession of armed clashes, only three northern white rhinos survive — all transplants from a zoo in the Czech Republic, and all confined to a single Kenyan conservancy.

That the rhinos’ habitat included a part of Africa plagued by human conflict was “desperately unfortunate,” said Kes Hillman-Smith, a Nairobi-based conservationist and author of “Garamba: Conservation in Peace and War.” “The endless wars there have taken their toll on all the wildlife in the region.”

Many case studies have demonstrated that war can affect the survival of local populations, sometimes threatening entire species. But the research is mixed: In some cases, conflict actually seems to aid animals.

via War’s Other Victims: Animals – The New York Times

Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

“KIGALI, Rwanda — The Rwandan government released an independent report on Wednesday accusing French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide, risking further strains to already icy relations between the two countries.

The report, commissioned by the Rwandan government and conducted by a Washington law firm, alleges that French military forces trained their Rwandan counterparts, supplied them with weapons even after an arms embargo, and gave cover, under the auspices of a United Nations-sanctioned humanitarian mission, in the last moments of a genocidal campaign.

Researchers and the Rwandan government say they cannot get France to make good on earlier commitments to fully open its archives or otherwise investigate the country’s role.

“What happened in the early ’90s and even before, in the lead-up to the genocide, is something France will have to come to terms with,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign minister of Rwanda. “Rwanda is not going away. We’re not going anywhere.”

Archival documents show that the French government was a close ally of the Rwandan regime that planned and perpetrated the mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. Historians say a son of François Mitterrand, the French president at the time, was also a close friend of the Rwandan leader whose government organized the genocide.”

via Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

For excellent reading on the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, I recommend Strength In What Remains, by Tracy Kidder.     From http://www.tracykidder.com;

“The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classics Mountains Beyond Mountains and The Soul of a New Machine returns with the extraordinary true story of a young man and his will to survive.

In this remarkable book, New York Times bestselling author Tracy Kidder once again delivers the masterful story of a hero for these modern times.

Deo grew up in the mountains of Burundi, and survived a civil war and genocide before seeking a new life in America. In New York City he lived homeless in Central Park before finding his way to Columbia University. But Deo’s story really begins with his will to turn his life into something truly remarkable; he returns to his native country to help people there, as well as people in the United States.

An extraordinary writer, Kidder has the remarkable ability to show us what it means to be fully human, and to tell the unadorned story of a life based on hope. Riveting and inspiring, this may be his most magnificent work to date. Strength in What Remains is a testament to the power of will and friendship, and of the endurance of the soul.”

Hunt Elephants to Save Them? Some Countries See No Other Choice – The New York Times

“Even where this conservation strategy seems to work, however, some critics question the contradiction inherent in hunting threatened and endangered species.

“Any trophy hunting of an endangered species is by definition unsustainable, as it cannot sufficiently contribute to the survival of the species to justify removing individuals from the population,” said Elly Pepper, a deputy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

via Hunt Elephants to Save Them? Some Countries See No Other Choice – The New York Times