Opinion | America Has No Reason to Be So Powerful – By Stephen Wertheim – The New York Times

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Mr. Wertheim is the author of “Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.”

Credit…Illustration by Doug Chayka; Photographs by Don Mason, Shilo Watts, Joel Carillet, narvikk and rusm, via Getty Images, and mikanoka, via iStock

“The next president, whoever he is, will not determine the future of America’s role in the world. Joe Biden does not recognize there is a problem. President Trump has no answers.

Three decades into the “post-Cold War era,” still named for what preceded it, the United States possesses no widely shared, deeply felt purpose for vast global power. America’s armed dominance today occupies a position similar to that of liberal immigration, free trade or private health insurance a decade ago. Taken for granted by political elites, it is nonetheless ripe for challenge beneath the surface.

One source of challenge comes from recent experience: America’s wars have projected mayhem across the greater Middle East and brought militarized violence home to American streets. Another source is prospective: As both liberals and conservatives rack up debt, they will face pressure to cut the gargantuan, trillion-plus sum lavished annually on national security.

But the most profound challenge is rooted deep in the past. If many Americans no longer understand why their country should police the world, it is for good reason: U.S. military supremacy has outlived its original purpose.”

Opinion | The Biggest Risk to This Election Is Not Russia. It’s Us. – By Fiona Hill – The New York Times

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Ms. Hill was senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019.

Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

“Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, revealed this week that he had recently met his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva and warned him that “there would be absolutely no tolerance for any interference” in the November election.

This was a pointless exchange. It misrepresents how Russia actually interferes in our affairs. The Russian state does not meddle directly. It delegates to proxies, who amplify our divisions and exploit our political polarization.

And the truth is, Americans must recognize that the United States is ripe for manipulation. With a month to go before Election Day, we are ripping ourselves apart.

When I was at the National Security Council, I had similar meetings with Mr. Patrushev and other Russian officials; we met in Geneva, in Moscow and in side rooms at international summits. With the national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, we called them out for intervening in our 2016 elections. We warned them not to repeat their operations in 2018 and 2020.

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Our Russian counterparts never admitted to anything. They professed surprise at the uproar in American politics. They had done nothing. The United States, they said, had “gone mad.”

ImageNikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council.
Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The uproar, we countered, was their fault. They had lost the entire American political class. Their actions pushed our bilateral relationship into a destructive spiral.

We would then run through the now widely reported facts about what Russian operatives had done. Russia’s 2016 campaign was a creative mix of old-style propaganda techniques and new cybertools. On the one hand, Russia state-backed media outlets magnified the most divisive U.S. political conflicts. On the other, Twitter bots and WikiLeaks spread disinformation and revealed hacked emails. Russia’s Internet Research Agency analyzed U.S. public opinion and hired individuals to pose as Americans on Facebook.

Opinion | Could the Amazon Save Your Life? – By Mark J. Plotkin – The New York Times

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Dr. Plotkin is an ethnobotanist who has spent more than three decades working in the Amazon.

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

“Western medicine is the most successful system of healing ever devised and is becoming more so as technology improves and synthetic medicines proliferate. But Mother Nature has been synthesizing weird and wonderful medicinal chemicals for over three billion years, many of which chemists could not predict or devise in their wildest dreams.

They should go to the Amazon.

Over more than three decades, I’ve worked, collaborated and lived with the forest’s shamans as I learned some of their secrets. In the dreamscape of Amazonia flourishes an abundance of astounding species of plants and animals that have provided society with a pharmacopoeia of medicines of astonishing range, from contraceptives to treatments for high blood pressure and malaria, a dental analgesic and surgical muscle relaxants and chemicals that expand the mind.

The region is so vast and impenetrable that much within it remains undiscovered. No wonder the richness of the landscape and the impressive medicinal knowledge of the Indigenous peoples inspired bewilderment and wonder in early visitors from Europe.

As early as the 1600s, the Dutch physician Willem Piso observed several “very effective” local treatments in Brazil, writing, “These Indigenous people, in spite of their total lack of scientific training, have passed on many noble, secret antidotes and medicines unknown to classic science to the next generation.”

Opinion | Captain Chain Saw’s Delusion – By Chris Feliciano Arnold – The New York Times

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Mr. Arnold is the author of “The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First-Century Amazon.”

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

“Amid political strife and smoke visible from space, the future of the Amazon has rarely been so hazy. Environmentalists see a vanishing rainforest of global consequence. Indigenous leaders see an ancestral home still being exploited by settlers after 500 years of genocidal violence. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, sees valuable acreage wasted by “cave men” and Marxists.

Sixty percent of the world’s largest tropical forest lies within Brazil’s borders, and since 2006 I’ve traveled thousands of miles in the Amazon, witnessing how the river and its people have experienced a century’s worth of ecological and cultural change in a generation. For a few weeks last year, record-setting fires in the region focused the world’s attention with an intensity reminiscent of the Save the Rainforest campaigns of the 1980s, but this year, the land is burning during a pandemic that has interrupted travel, stymied environmental protection efforts, and emboldened miners, loggers and ranchers to encroach on Indigenous land with impunity.”

Opinion | Amazon 4.0. How to Reinvent the Rainforest – By Bruno Carvalho and Carlos Nobre -The New York Times

By Bruno Carvalho and 

Bruno Carvalho is a scholar of urbanization. Carlos Nobre is a climate scientist.

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

Rainforests are unique ecosystems of immense complexity that nurture an incredible diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms. Bulldozers and chain saws don’t care about that.

Some people think of rainforests as faraway places that have little to do with their day-to-day existence. But millions of people live in cities and settlements throughout the Amazon. Many endure precarious conditions and become sources of cheap labor. The forest is sometimes destroyed in their name, with the justification that it develops and improves the economy. In Brazil, deforestation rates are breaking records. And if we continue to destroy the forest, we can expect dire consequences — not just for the region, but for the planet.

Over the past 50 years, human intervention has been increasingly disrupting the ecological balance of the Amazon. Climate change has led to an increase in temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius across the basin, and to more frequent severe droughts. The droughts of 2005, 2010 and 2015-16 were among the worst in more than 100 years. Since 1980, there’s been an increase in the duration of dry seasons by three to four weeks in the more degraded areas of the Amazon.

The Arctic Is Shifting to a New Climate Because of Global Warming – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

 

“The effects of global warming in the Arctic are so severe that the region is shifting to a different climate, one characterized less by ice and snow and more by open water and rain, scientists said Monday.

Already, they said, sea ice in the Arctic has declined so much that even an extremely cold year would not result in as much ice as was typical decades ago. Two other characteristics of the region’s climate, seasonal air temperatures and the number of days of rain instead of snow, are shifting in the same way, the researchers said.

The Arctic is among the parts of the world most influenced by climate change, with sharply rising temperatures, thawing permafrost and other effects in addition to shrinking sea ice. The study, by Lara Landrum and Marika M. Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., is an effort to put what is occurring in the region in context.

“Everybody knows the Arctic is changing,” said Dr. Landrum, a climate scientist and the lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “We really wanted to quantify if is this a new climate.”

In other words, she said, “has the Arctic changed so much and so fast that the new climate cannot be predicted from the recent past?”

Using years of observational data from the region and computer models, the researchers found that sea ice is already in a new climate, in effect: The extent of ice in recent years is consistently less than what would be expected in even the worst year for ice in the mid-20th century.

Arctic sea ice has declined by about 12 percent per decade since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s, and the 13 lowest sea-ice years have all occurred since 2007. This year is expected to be a record or near-record low for ice extent, which will be determined by the end of this month as the summer melt period ends.”

Konrad Steffen, Who Sounded Alarm on Greenland Ice, Dies at 68 – The New York Times

“Konrad Steffen, an Arctic scientist whose work showed that climate change is melting Greenland’s vast ice sheet with increasing speed, died on Saturday in an accident near a research station he created there 30 years ago. He was 68.

Police investigators said he had fallen into a crevasse in the ice and drowned in the deep water below.

A fellow scientist at the station, Jason Box, said the crevasse, or large crack, was a known hazard. But he added that high winds and recent snowfall had made visibility poor and landmarks harder to spot.

The small group at the site — christened Swiss Camp by Dr. Steffen — was installing new equipment when he walked off to perform another task. Over the next few hours, Dr. Box said, they assumed that Dr. Steffen had gone back to his tent for a nap. But when they finished their work he was nowhere to be found.”

The Consumer – Fluorocarbon refrigerants damage our environment, Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment https://www.environment.gov.au/

“Did you know that the refrigerants contained in air-conditioners and refrigerators can be extremely harmful to the environment? Many refrigerants, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) damage the ozone layer, while others are extremely potent greenhouse gases.

In fact, one kilogram of the refrigerant R410a has the same greenhouse impact as two tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of running your car for six months.

That’s why Australia has specific laws that prohibit the importation of gases like CFCs and regulates the importation of synthetic greenhouse gases.

Refrigerants leak into the atmosphere from faulty or poorly maintained equipment, or when equipment is improperly disposed of.”

Source: The Consumer – Fluorocarbon refrigerants damage our environment, Australia

The Refrigerant Story: From R-22 to R-410A | Goodman Manufacturing

“For Centuries, scientists, inventors and outside-the-box thinkers have been trying to manipulate substances in order to alter the temperature of the indoors!

1756: Dr. William Cullen, a Scottish physician and professor, published “Of the Cold Produced by Evaporating Fluids and of Some Other Means of Producing Cold.”

1758: Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley, a professor at Cambridge University, experimented with the cooling effect of certain rapidly evaporating liquids.

1824: Michael Faraday, a self-declared philosopher, discovered that heat would be absorbed by pressurizing gas, like ammonia, into a liquid.

1840: Physician and inventor, Dr. John Gorrie, wanted to reverse the effects of yellow fever and “the evils of high temperatures.”1 As a result, he developed a machine that created ice through compression. Gorrie was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.1

1876: German engineer Carl von Linden patented the process of liquefying gas setting the stage for the modern air conditioner.2

The Evolution of Refrigerant

Modern air conditioning appears to be an evolutionary invention that was built upon a series of successful (and not so successful) concepts. It took 80 years from Dr. Gorrie’s primitive ice-maker method for a group of individuals to develop a safe, non-toxic and easily-produced substance that could be used to provide indoor cooling for the masses.

In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne and Robert McNary created chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. The compounds produced were “the world’s first non-flammable refrigerating fluids, greatly improving the safety of air conditioners.”3

One of the compounds developed was R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that became a standard refrigerant utilized in residential air conditioners for decades to come.

But as they say, history has a way of repeating itself.  Decades later, scientists would discover that chlorine, a component of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, is damaging to the ozone layer.  As a result, R22, the standard residential air conditioner refrigerant, was included in the 1987 Montreal Protocol list of substances that were to be phased out of production over time for new air conditioners and heat pumps.”

Source: The Refrigerant Story: From R-22 to R-410A | Goodman Manufacturing

 

 

Opinion | How Mexico’s Drug Cartels Are Profiting From the Pandemic – By Ioan Grillo – The New York Times

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Fernando Carranza/Reuters

“MEXICO CITY — The CCTV footage taken just after dawn on June 26 shows a dozen armed men crowded in the back of a truck blocking a road in Mexico City’s wealthy Lomas de Chapultepec district. Minutes later, the gunmen fired over 150 rounds at the armored car of the city’s police chief, Omar García Harfuch. Three people died in the attack, including two of his bodyguards; Mr. García Harfuch survived gunshot wounds in the clavicle, shoulder and knee. “Our Nation has to continue confronting cowardly organized crime,” he tweeted from his hospital bed.

The brazen attack has shaken a city easing out of the coronavirus lockdown. Mr. García Harfuch blamed the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which the Mexican government has targeted in a joint operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, freezing thousands of bank accounts linked to the gangsters. Striking near the heart of power could be an attempt to make the Mexican government back off as it reels from the pandemic, which has killed more than 30,000, and a plummeting economy.

There is no shortage of losses to mourn in 2020: loved ones dead from Covid-19, jobs, freedom of movement amid lockdowns. But there are winners: certain tech companies and medical suppliers, and drug cartels. As President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico meets with President Trump this week in Washington, they should be looking at the cross-border issues of drug and gun trafficking.”