How Record Heat Wreaked Havoc on Four Continents – By Somini Sengupta- Tiffany May and Zia ur-Rehman – NYT

By Somini Sengupta, Tiffany May and Zia ur-Rehman
July 30, 2018

Expect more. That’s the verdict of climate scientists to the record-high temperatures this spring and summer in vastly different climate zones.
The continental United States had its hottest month of May and the third-hottest month of June. Japan was walloped by record triple-digit temperatures, killing at least 86 people in what its meteorological agency bluntly called a “disaster.” And weather stations logged record-high temperatures on the edge of the Sahara and above the Arctic Circle.

Is it because of climate change? Scientists with the World Weather Attribution project concluded in a study released Friday that the likelihood of the heat wave currently baking Northern Europe is “more than two times higher today than if human activities had not altered climate.”

While attribution studies are not yet available for other record-heat episodes this year, scientists say there’s little doubt that the ratcheting up of global greenhouse gases makes heat waves more frequent and more intense.

via How Record Heat Wreaked Havoc on Four Continents – The New York Times

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Worried About the I.R.S. Scam? Here’s How to Handle Phone Fraud – By Christine Hauser – NYT

By Christine Hauser
July 26, 2018

Lee Meyer, a retired New York City schoolteacher, recently began getting strange telephone calls on weekday afternoons. A woman claiming to be a Treasury Department official left a message and a phone number, Mr. Meyer said, telling him he needed to settle a “tax-fraud charge” or else he would be hauled in front of a “magistrate judge.”

His reaction? “I laughed,” he said. “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Mr. Meyer, 83, did not return the calls, having learned long ago what law enforcement and consumer protection officials say many Americans need to remember: The Internal Revenue Service does not call people and threaten legal action or harass them over debts.

The Justice Department recently highlighted that message when it announced it had broken up a vast I.R.S. impersonation operation in which conspirators in the United States coordinated with call centers in India from 2012 to 2016, causing “hundreds of millions of dollars” in losses to more than 15,000 victims.

via Worried About the I.R.S. Scam? Here’s How to Handle Phone Fraud – The New York Times

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Opinion | Trump Has No Idea What His Tariffs Have Unleashed for Farmers – By Robert Leonard – NYT

By Robert Leonard
Mr. Leonard is the news director for the radio stations KNIA and KRLS.

July 26, 2018


A farm near Amana, Iowa.CreditScott Olson/Getty Images
“KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Today President Trump is visiting Dubuque, Iowa, where every year at harvest time, millions of tons of grain come via rail and truck to be loaded onto barges on the Mississippi River and shipped to Mexico, China and much of the rest of the world. Harvest puts coin into the hands of farmers, and they and their communities — indeed all of America — profit. Not this year.

The president is here to trumpet a $12 billion plan to aid American farmers. Why do they need aid? For Iowans, it’s because 33 percent of our economy is tied, directly or indirectly, to agriculture, and Mr. Trump recklessly opened trade wars that will hit “Trump country” — rural America — hardest and that have already brought an avalanche of losses. Indeed, the impact of his tariffs will probably be felt by family farms and the area for generations.

So perhaps visiting Dubuque is the least he could do.

The cost of being shut out of overseas markets for soybeans, beef, pork, chicken and more will be in the billions. Once those markets are gone, they will be difficult to recover. Commodity prices continue to drop, and good weather suggests an excellent crop is in the making, which will drive prices further down.

Brazil is ready to step in with increased soybean production, and China has already shifted its purchasing power there.

via Opinion | Trump Has No Idea What His Tariffs Have Unleashed for Farmers – The New York Times

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Opinion | Why Your Phone Service Is So Expensive – by David Leonhardt – NYT

Many Americans pay close to $100 a month for smartphone service. And this pricetag isn’t some natural reflection of the service’s value. In many other countries, smartphone plans cost much less.

The economists Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago and Mara Faccio of Purdue estimate that Americans pay $50 billion per year more than they would if they instead were paying European prices — for the same quality service. That translates into about an additional $30 per month for every American household.

Zingales discusses this research in a Times op-ed and argues — correctly, I believe — that it highlights the problem with antitrust policy in the United States. We have allowed companies to grow too large, to the point that many of them have outsize power. They can raise prices, as they are doing in the cellphone market, as well as hold down wages and unduly influence government policy.

via Opinion | Why Your Phone Service Is So Expensive – The New York Times

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Opinion | America First or Trump First? – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

The second I finished watching President Trump fawning over Vladimir Putin in Helsinki — refusing to defend the conclusions of his own intelligence services about Russia’s interference in our 2016 elections — I knew I was seeing something I’d never seen before. It took a few days to figure it out, but now it’s obvious: I was seeing a U.S. president put Russia first, not America first.

On each key question — how much Russian agents were involved in trying to tip our elections, how that issue should be further investigated, and Putin’s behavior on the world stage generally (like his government’s involvement in the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, the murder of Russian journalists and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.) — Trump embraced Putin’s explanations and excuses over the judgments of his own spy agencies, Justice Department, European allies and bedrock American values.

via Opinion | America First or Trump First? – The New York Times

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Opinion | Resign- Mike Pompeo. Resign- John Bolton. – by Bret Stephens – NYT

Before the word “resignation” became a euphemism for being fired, it connoted a sense of public integrity and personal honor. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, showed both qualities when they resigned from the Nixon administration during the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973. Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, did likewise when he resigned during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

Assuming Mike Pompeo and John Bolton still have their own senses intact, they too should resign following the epic disgrace of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday. So should their senior staff.

I don’t suggest this lightly. I’ve known both men for years, respect them, and wrote friendly columns when they took their current jobs. I share many of their hawkish views, and have applauded some of the administration’s controversial foreign policy decisions, particularly the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

I’m also cognizant of two factors weighing against resignation. First, cabinet members and other senior White House officials owe a president deep loyalty whatever their policy differences — the sort of loyalty George Marshall showed when he declined to resign as secretary of state despite his fierce opposition to Harry Truman’s decision to recognize Israel.

via Opinion | Resign, Mike Pompeo. Resign, John Bolton. – The New York Times

David Linday

I agree with those commenters who say the president has committed treason. Here is comment that I also endorsed though:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“By continuing to serve the president, Pompeo and Bolton and their top aides are not — as they doubtlessly tell themselves in humiliating moments like this one — cleaning up after him. They are covering up for him.”

I’d use another word: “enabling,.” As they sit their silently, clearly uncomfortable with, hints of benign smiles on their faces, they form a wall of complicity with a president who is out for himself, even if that means embracing an autocrat.

I’ve wondered too just what Pompeo and Bolton are doing by participating in this wretched administration that violates just about everything they’ve stood for all their professional lives.

I may not have agreed with them, but I never doubted their patriotism and desire to serve America.

They look like so many pictures on a wall, disposable, and immovable, with no impact on a presidency run amok.

It’s also tiring to hear the most likely excuse, “if we don’t stay, things will get worse.”

So let them! Let the world and America see the full impact of the president’s folly. Don’t protect him or lend the aura of respectability.

If you can’t rein the president as he blows up 70 years of US foreign policy making, then leave.

Your departures just might bring more Americans to their senses as they follow the Pied Piper of Putin over a cliff.

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Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them? – By HENRY FOUNTAIN – NYT

The country lost most of its trees long ago. Despite years of replanting, it isn’t making much progress.

By HENRY FOUNTAIN
OCT. 20, 2017
GUNNARSHOLT, Iceland — With his flats of saplings and a red planting tool, Jon Asgeir Jonsson is a foot soldier in the fight to reforest Iceland, working to bring new life to largely barren landscapes.

Jon Asgeir Jonsson, who works for a private forestry association, with larch saplings in western Iceland.
The country lost most of its trees more than a thousand years ago, when Viking settlers took their axes to the forests that covered one-quarter of the countryside. Now Icelanders would like to get some of those forests back, to improve and stabilize the country’s harsh soils, help agriculture and fight climate change.

via Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them? – The New York Times

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Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon – by Anne Barnard and Josh Haner – NYT

Anne Barnard, the New York Times Beirut bureau chief for the past six years, and Josh Haner, a Times photographer, went to Lebanon’s cedar forests to see how the trees are today.
JULY 18, 2018

BAROUK CEDAR FOREST, LEBANON — Walking among the cedars on a mountain slope in Lebanon feels like visiting the territory of primeval beings. Some of the oldest trees have been here for more than 1,000 years, spreading their uniquely horizontal branches like outstretched arms and sending their roots deep into the craggy limestone. They flourish on the moisture and cool temperatures that make this ecosystem unusual in the Middle East, with mountaintops that snare the clouds floating in from the Mediterranean Sea and gleam with winter snow.

But now, after centuries of human depredation, the cedars of Lebanon face perhaps their most dangerous threat: Climate change could wipe out most of the country’s remaining cedar forests by the end of the century.

As temperatures rise, the cedars’ ecological comfort zone is moving up the mountains to higher altitudes, chasing the cold winters they need to reproduce. But here in the Barouk forest, part of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, south of Beirut, there isn’t much farther up to go. If the climate warms at the rates expected because of the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, some scholars say that by 2100 cedars will be able to thrive only at the northern tip of the country, where the mountains are higher.

In the north, though, there are different problems. Lebanon’s densest cedar forest, the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve, has lost more than 7 percent of its trees to insect infestations unknown before 1997. They are directly tied to a warming, drying climate.

via Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon – The New York Times

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How to Combat China’s Rise in Tech: Federal Spending- Not Tariffs – by Farhad Manjoo – NYT

One program, Made in China 2025, outlines a road map for China to become a world leader in advanced manufacturing (things like robotics, aircraft and machine tools). Another plan calls for China to achieve dominance in artificial intelligence. Based on similar initiatives, the Chinese have already seen big wins. Americans invented the modern solar power industry, but thanks to Chinese government intervention, China’s solar industry leads the world. So does its high-speed rail system.

The Trump administration objects to China’s tech visions. It has cited Chinese government support for tech as a primary reason for imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. But its objections only put the disconnect in stark relief. If the United States is worried that the Chinese will win the future because they’re actually spending money to win the future, why aren’t we doing the same?

“It is a waste that we are not using the rise of China as a galvanizing cry to invest more in science and technology in America,” said Yasheng Huang, an economist who studies Chinese politics and business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He has argued that rather than imposing tariffs to respond to programs like Made in China 2025, Americans should respond as we did in 1957, when we sharply increased government spending on science after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1.

via How to Combat China’s Rise in Tech: Federal Spending, Not Tariffs – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

Excellent piece by Farad Manjoo. He writes:”The Trump administration objects to China’s tech visions. It has cited Chinese government support for tech as a primary reason for imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. . . . If the United States is worried that the Chinese will win the future because they’re actually spending money to win the future, why aren’t we doing the same?

“It is a waste that we are not using the rise of China as a galvanizing cry to invest more in science and technology in America,” said Yasheng Huang, an economist who studies Chinese politics and business at the MIT’s School of Management. He has argued that rather than imposing tariffs to respond to programs like Made in China 2025, Americans should respond as we did in 1957, when we sharply increased government spending on science after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1.”

Yes, and, along with more investment, such efforts like the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, are essential to our taking leadership in helping set the rules of trade, and discouraging intellectual property theft, and environmental degradation. Staying in the Paris Climate Agreement, and instigating a massive carbon tax would also help. Invest in the future, not the past. Clearly, we need better leadership.

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

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