Opinion | Europe’s Plea to Congress: Keep the Iran Pact – By Delphine O- Omid Nouripour and Richard Bacon

By Delphine O, Omid Nouripour and Richard Bacon

“The most important and promising step taken toward nonproliferation in the past 20 years — the one with the most impact — is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. A document 159 pages long, it was signed in Vienna with the Islamic Republic of Iran almost three years ago by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. It is not only a historical landmark — the crowning achievement of 12 years of intense diplomatic negotiations — but also a safeguard against a nuclear Middle East.

Yet President Trump and his administration have threatened to pull out of this compact. America’s withdrawal would put the agreement at high risk; it might also prompt the Iranians to leave the pact, starting a nuclear race in the region. It would drive a wedge in the trans-Atlantic partnership and drive Europe into a kind of forced marriage with the Russians and Chinese to save at least part of the deal.”

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Building a Better Coral Reef – By DAMIEN CAVE and JUSTIN GILLIS – NYT

ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, off Australia — After a plunge beneath the crystal-clear water to inspect a coral reef, Neal Cantin pulled off his mask and shook his head.

“All dead,” he said.Yet even as he and his dive team of international scientists lamented the devastation that human recklessness has inflicted on the world’s greatest system of reefs, they also found cause for hope.

As they spent days working through a stretch of ocean off the Australian state of Queensland, Dr. Cantin and his colleagues surfaced with sample after sample of living coral that had somehow dodged a recent die-off: hardy survivors, clinging to life in a graveyard.

“We’re trying to find the super corals, the ones that survived the worst heat stress of their lives,” said Dr. Cantin, a researcher with the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville.”

David Lindsay:

Scientist are fighting back against the die off of the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs throughout the world, without knowing their chances of success.
Citizens are fighting back.
I am motivated to reduce my carbon footprint. This February, I had Earthlight Technologies put 17 more solar panels on the roof of my house, in addition to the 24 that C-Tec Solar installed three years ago. I can now plug in my new used 2014 Prius Hybrid Plug In, and drive around Hamden in a short-range electric car, that is fueled by the solar panels instead of gasoline. It only has a range of 10 miles, but it is a start. Earthlight also installed a EVSE outside my house, which is sometimes called a car charger. It is actually a Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. It supplies electricity to the car charger built into my vehicle. With a new surplus of solar electricity, I can now start converting the natural gas systems of the house over to electrical systems.

Posted in Australia, climate change and the environment, Climate Change Remediation, David Lindsay, The Sixth Extinction | Tagged | Leave a comment

Damage to Great Barrier Reef From Global Warming Is Irreversible-Scientists Say – The New York Times

SYDNEY, Australia — An underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef two years ago spurred a die-off of coral so severe that scientists say the natural wonder will never look the same again.

Scientists said nearly one-third of the reef’s coral were killed when ocean temperatures spiked in 2016, a result of global warming, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.The damage to the reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, has also radically altered the mix of its coral species, scientists said.

“The reef is changing faster than anyone thought it would,” said Terry P. Hughes, the lead author of the study and the director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Queensland.

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How to Navigate the Complicated World of Credit Card Points – The New York Times

By Lucas PetersonApril 11, 2018There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but investing in a credit card rewards program can land you pretty close to the mark. Credit card points are generally more valuable than points or miles attached to a specific airline or hotel group. The reason? Flexibility. With a trove of credit card points, you can get flights, hotel rooms or even cruises. While Capital One and Bank of America are coming into their own, the three major players in the travel rewards game are American Express, Chase and Citi. Here’s a basic rundown of their current programs.

David Lindsay:

This is all beyond my budget. I don’t travel enough to benefit from these cards. However, I’ve done well, with the Citibank Drivers Edge card, which gives me cash back, around $1500 to $2000. every time I buy a new car, or now, a used car. Since I’m buying cars for two adult children, this benfit works repeatedly, before the dollars expire after three years. It has helped me get into a used 2014 Prius plug in hybrid that gets 50 mph city and highway.

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Opinion | Earth, Wind and Liars – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“. . . . .  In the long run, these tactics probably won’t stop the transition to renewable energy, and even the villains of this story probably realize that. Their goal is, instead, to slow things down, so they can extract as much profit as possible from their existing investments.

Unfortunately, this really is a case of “in the long run we are all dead.” Every year that we delay the clean-energy transition will sicken or kill thousands while increasing the risk of climate catastrophe.

The point is that Trump and company aren’t just trying to move us backward on social issues; they’re also trying to block technological progress. And the price of their obstructionism will be high.”

Posted in Climate Change Deniers, Climate Change Politics, Paul Krugman | Leave a comment

Opinion | When a Politician and a Lawman Try to Play the Hero- the Lawman Usually Wins – by Gail Collins and Brett Stephens – NYT

Bret Stephens: Gail, I know we need to discuss James Comey’s new book and President Trump’s Twitter neuralgia about it, but I wanted to get your thoughts about the attack in Syria in response to the gas attacks — the suspected gas attacks, I should say — near Damascus.Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as a top adviser in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, said “It will not stop the war” and “is illegal under international law.” Yet she praised it because “it at least draws a line somewhere and says enough.” What do you think?

Gail Collins: There had to be a response, and it had to be one that wouldn’t put Syrian civilians in the line of fire. In a perfect world we’d have been in serious negotiations to try to end the violence before the strike occurred. In a perfect world there wouldn’t have been that presidential chest-thumping. In a perfect world we wouldn’t, for God’s sake, be calling it “Mission Accomplished.”So I guess I think that given the guy we’ve got in the White House, it was about the best we could have hoped for. How about you?

Bret: I’m surprised to find myself writing this, but I think the strike was a waste of perfectly good cruise missiles. We did nearly the exact same thing last year, and it did nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad from slaughtering his own people and using chemical weapons on them. If we really believe, as I do, that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated, then we can’t allow the guy who used them to come away from the strike unscathed and — given that he’s immediately renewed his offensive in the area — emboldened.

The strike really was classic Trump: A show of force mainly for the sake of show, without any strategy behind it. Iran has entrenched itself in Syria alongside Russia, while Israel is quietly preparing for war on its northern front. The administration looks likely to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal next month, but little thought seems to have been given to what comes after. In all, just another reminder that the Trump disaster is global.”


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Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust – The New York Times

The queasy truth at the heart of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which is so far the company’s defining disgrace of 2018, is that its genesis became scandalous only in retrospect. The series of events that now implicate Facebook began in 2014, in plain view, with a listing on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where users can complete small tasks for commensurately modest sums of cash. In exchange for installing a Facebook app and completing a survey — in the process granting the app access to parts of your Facebook profile — you would get around a dollar. Maybe two.

This was a great deal, at least by the standards of the time. Facebook users were then accustomed to granting apps permission to see their personal data in exchange for much less. It was the tail end of a Facebook era defined by connected apps: games like FarmVille, Candy Crush and Words With Friends; apps that broadcast your extra-Facebook activities, like Spotify and Pinterest; and apps that were almost explicitly about gathering as much useful data as possible from users, like TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited app, which let you share a digital pushpin map with your friends.

via Cambridge Analytica and the Coming Data Bust – The New York Times

Disturbing. The Bloomberg article in the following comment is worse.

I posted this piece above to my Facebook account, writing:

Facebook is much worse than I realized. This article is ugly, the one before it from Bloomberg is really scary. A call to reformers. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think these marketers in the Bloomberg story, are connected to all the telemarketers that keep calling my house all day.

Look Ahead

is a trusted commenter WA 56 minutes ago

Must read article from Bloomberg about how Facebook and others help scammers.

“They go out and find the morons for me” says one scammer.


If tobacco companies can be compelled to pay for anti-smoking public service announcements, then perhaps Facebook, Google and other data aggregators could be recruited in a fight against scammers, phishers and other fraudsters they have enabled.

As of now, there is no “fight”. It is simply a global criminal free-for-all, with the US in particular passively observing the crimes.


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Ad Scammers Need Suckers- and Facebook Helps Find Them – Bloomberg

It was a Davos for digital hucksters. One day last June, scammers from around the world gathered for a conference at a renovated 19th century train station in Berlin. All the most popular hustles were there: miracle diet pills, instant muscle builders, brain boosters, male enhancers. The “You Won an iPhone” companies had display booths, and the “Your Computer May Be Infected” folks sent salesmen. Russia was represented by the promoters of a black-mask face peel, and Canada made a showing with bot-infested dating sites.

They’d come to mingle with thousands of affiliate marketers—middlemen who buy online ad space in bulk, run their campaigns, and earn commissions for each sale they generate. Affiliates promote some legitimate businesses, such as Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc., but they’re also behind many of the shady and misleading ads that pollute Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest of the internet.

Robert Gryn says users of his tracking software place about $400 million worth of ads a year on Facebook.PHOTOGRAPHER: ANGIE SMITH FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK
The top affiliates—virtually all of them young men—assemble a few times a year to learn the latest schemes and trade tips about gaming the rules set by social networks and search platforms. They think of themselves as kin to the surfers-slash-bank-robbers of the 1991 movie Point Break, just more materialistic, jetting from nightclub to Lamborghini race while staying a step ahead of the authorities. One San Diego crew took in $179 million before getting busted last year by the Federal Trade Commission for violating three laws governing online conduct.

The Berlin conference was hosted by an online forum called Stack That Money, but a newcomer could be forgiven for wondering if it was somehow sponsored by Facebook Inc. Saleswomen from the company held court onstage, introducing speakers and moderating panel discussions. After the show, Facebook representatives flew to Ibiza on a plane rented by Stack That Money to party with some of the top affiliates.

It was hard to believe that Facebook would cozy up to disreputable advertisers in mid-2017 as it was under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and the media over revelations that Russian trolls had used the platform to influence the 2016 presidential election. Officially, the Berlin conference was for aboveboard marketing, but the attendees I spoke to dropped that pretense after the mildest questioning. Some even walked around wearing hats that said “farmin’,” promoting a service that sells fake Facebook accounts.

via Ad Scammers Need Suckers, and Facebook Helps Find Them – Bloomberg

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Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership to Shield Farmers From Trade War – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that he was directing his advisers to look into rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the White House tries to come up with ways to protect the agriculture sector, which could be badly hurt by the president’s trade policies.

Rejoining the trade pact would be a surprising change in policy for Mr. Trump, who long criticized the deal and withdrew from it last January, in his first major trade action. The president has long maintained that he prefers to negotiate trade deals one on one, a tactic he says gives the United States better leverage over its trading partners.

But the risk of an escalating trade war with China has panicked American farmers and ranchers, who send many of their products abroad. China has responded to Mr. Trump’s threat of tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods by placing its own tariffs on American pork, and threatening taxes on soybeans, sorghum, corn and beef.

China’s aggressive response to Mr. Trump’s tariffs is aimed squarely at products produced in the American heartland, a region that helped send him to the White House. A trade war with China could be particularly devastating to rural economies, especially for pig farmers and soybean and corn growers. Nearly two-thirds of United States soybean exports go to China.

via Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership to Shield Farmers From Trade War – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Dear fellow readers, If Donald Trump wants to show he can learn, and is willing to embrace the Trans Pacific Partnership, one of Obama’s smartest, most sophisticated, and most difficult to explain treaties, we should all applaud! (Applause.)

Unfortunately, it will have its negative effects. I was looking forward to all those red, agricultural states, turning blue in anger over Trump’s dumb as doornails tariff war with China.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Posted in Foreign Trade Policy, Globalization and Trade | Tagged | Leave a comment

Opinion | Staring Down on Syria – by Brett Stephens – NYT

On Saturday I took my family to have a closer look at Syria.

This was on the Golan Heights, from a roadside promontory overlooking the abandoned Syrian town of Quneitra. The border is very green at this time of year, a serene patchwork of orchards and grassland, and it was hard to impress on our kids that hell on earth was visible in the quiet distance.

But I wanted them to see it — to know that Syria is a place, not an abstraction; that the agonies of its people are near, not far; that we should not look away. Later that day, in a suburb of Damascus, Syrian forces apparently again gassed their own people.

It’s fortunate for Israel that it did not bargain the Heights away during the ill-fated peace processes of the 1990s: Had it done so, ISIS, Hezbollah or Iran might in time have trained their guns on Israeli towns below. The strategy of withdrawal-for-peace has not been vindicated in recent years, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza. It’s a point Donald Trump obviously missed when he insisted last week on U.S. withdrawal from Syria, likely encouraging the apparent chemical attack he now threatens to punish.

via Opinion | Staring Down on Syria – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
I almost support Brett Stevens. He has made a strong argument. But the commentor JW is right in his remarks here, echoing the caution by Madeleine Albright on the Steven Colbert show the other night. We need a policy, a strategy, and the same for the aftermath.
I propose looking at a major campaign, to take out most of or all of Assad’s airforce. That would be the beginning of the enforcement of a no fly zone over major parts of Syria, where the people we support or would protect live. To do this, we should enlist NATO and the US Congress, very quietly. The NYT reported a few years ago that Assad’s government has very sophisticated, Russian-built, anti-aircraft defenses. These defenses would have to be degraded to essentially inoperable.
If congress says no, I would repeated the limited strikes like last year, just to show the flag and some mettle. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much before, but it did probably reduce the amount of ethnic cleansing by chemical weapons, which civilized nations and people should oppose with force.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
Posted in Brett Stephens, David Lindsay, Syria | Tagged | Leave a comment