Here in Boston, today could be the hottest day of the year so far and tomorrow will likely be about the same. We may hit 100 degrees and it will feel even hotter. The Boston Globe published some “heat hacks” to help people cool down. Here are a couple of examples:
If you’re tossing and turning in bed and having trouble falling asleep in the blistering heat,Consumer Reports offers this interesting trick: Put your sheets and pillowcases in a sealable plastic bag and stash them in the freezer so they’ll be nice and cold when you hit the hay….
New York State Office for the Aging suggests…“Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them.. … The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.” [….]
Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.
I might try that last one. This reminds me of the scene in The Seven-Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe explains how she keeps her panties and potato chips in the fridge next to the champagne.
A relentless heat wave gripped the country from the central states to the East Coast Saturday, prompting cancellation of the New York City Triathlon and producing cracked and buckled roads in some Plains states. Some East Coast cities braced for temperatures in the triple digits.
As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast.
An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater.
Daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s or higher plus high humidity will result in heat indices as high as 115 for some, forecasters said.
Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston were bracing for weekend temperatures in the triple digits. New York City and Baltimore were under a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert that is expected to continue through Sunday.
In addition, forecasters warned that overnight temperatures were not likely to fall far enough to bring relief, pariticularly in larger cities, like Chicago, St. Louis and New York City.
CBS News is posting live updates: Massive heat wave blamed for at least 6 deaths.
Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, the district’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials will be monitoring the dangerous temperatures from an operations center.
“This is going to be one of the most severe heat events that we’ve had in the last several years,” Rodriguez said.
While midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago will be affected, the East Coast is expected to take the brunt of it. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned the heat can be a silent killer. Doctors are warning to watch out for signs of heat illness. Symptoms can include headache, muscle cramps, nausea. another sign is a lack of sweating.
Extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the world. There are direct health effects like heat stroke, which occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to organ failure, and heat exhaustion.
But high temperatures can also worsen conditions like high blood pressure and can limit the effectiveness of certain medications. Heat can also exacerbate air pollution, which in turn can send people to the emergency room due to breathing problems….
While it may cool off after the sun sets during a heat wave, it may not cool off enough for people who have been exposed to high temperatures all day. That leads to a higher cumulative exposure to heat.
One study examining the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed upward of 70,000 people found that nighttime temperatures were a key indicator of the health risk from high temperatures. There’s also research that shows high nighttime temperatures disrupt sleep. Without relief from the heat, the stresses on the body mount.
Over the weekend, forecasters expect evening temperatures will stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat index remaining above 90 degrees, in some areas along the East Coast. That will make it hard for some to cool off. Health officials advise staying hydrated, wearing light clothing, and avoiding the outdoors.
It’s worse if you live in a city.
Part of the reason temperatures stay high after sunset in many parts of the country is because of the urban heat island effect. Dense cities with their concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt soak up more heat than their rural surroundings, causing temperatures to rise further than they would have otherwise during the day. In the evening, those artificial surfaces continue to dissipate their accumulated heat, keeping denizens from keeping cool.
Our efforts to keep cool can also paradoxically make cities heat up. Air conditioners venting hot air outside can contribute to urban warming, and if the electricity that powers them comes from fossil fuels, they can increase the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that “July 2019 is likely to be the hottest month ever measured.”
For the next several days, a vast blanket of oppressive heat will smother the eastern two-thirds of the United States, subjecting tens of millions of people to searingly hot days and forbidding, unrelenting nights. From the southern Plains to New England, inescapable humidity will meet broiling air to produce heat indexes in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
We are not simply talking about a series of sweltering afternoons. Even hours after the sun sets, air temperatures could hang well above 90, dipping below the 80-degree mark only in the moments before dawn. The heat index in some big cities—including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—may sit above the mid-80s for 72 hours straight.
“July is shaping up to be the warmest July on record—and probably the warmest month ever measured, since July is the hottest month of the year,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, told me. “Obviously, we still have half the month to go. But so far, it’s on track.” (Since most of the planet’s land surface is north of the equator, and since land heats up faster than the ocean, the Northern Hemisphere’s summers are the hottest months of the year for the whole planet.)
If that mark is realized, then two months in a row will be the hottest of their type ever measured, since last month was the hottest June ever recorded. And the odds are good that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record, Hausfather told me. Either way, it’s a near-certainty that the past six years, including this one, will be the hottest six years ever measured.
Today might be a good time to refer back to David Wallace Wells’ 2017 article at New York Magazine. The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.
Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built….
But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.
Wells has expanded this article into a book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. You might also want to check out his article archive at New York Magazine.
So I wrote a whole post without talking about the monster in the White House. If you really want to read some politics stories, check these out:
Alex Shepard at The New Republic: It’s Not Strategy, It’s Racism.
Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Joy of Hatred. Trump and “his people” reach deep into the violent history of public spectacle in America.
The New York Times: Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats.
The New York Times: U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker.
What stories are you following today?
We’re having an incredible heat wave in Boston, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hot just about everywhere. Today it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees here. Anyone who believes the climate isn’t changing is delusional.
Maybe the sharks are affected too, because we’ve had some Great White close encounters here in Massachusetts lately. The Boston Globe: Shark sightings force swimmers out of the water in Plymouth, Cape Cod.
Swimmers at Plymouth and Wellfleet beaches looking to catch a break from the oppressive heat were forced out of the water Monday afternoon after sharks were spotted lurking nearby.
Plymouth beaches were closed after a great white shark was seen off Manomet Point. Red flags were flying at the beaches as crews investigated, the Plymouth harbormaster tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were about a quarter-mile from Marconi Beach in Wellfleet when they saw a great white shark at around 1:45 p.m. They reported it to beach officials, and lifeguards promptly pulled everyone out of the water, Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore, said. The beach was closed for an hour as a standard precautionary measure.
Also from the Globe: ‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat.
State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.
“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”
In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.
“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”
Here’s the video. Be sure to put it on full screen and wait for the close-up.
Seriously though, have we already lost the fight to reverse climate change? That’s the argument put forth by Nathaniel Rich in last week’s New York Times Magazine: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.
Check out the full story at the NYT.
Today there are some interesting primary elections and one special election to watch. Will we see portents of a blue wave in November?
Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday to test whether Democrats will get their “blue wave” on Election Day this fall.
The most heated race to watch is a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where a Democrat hasn’t won since the 1980s. Despite big spending by Republicans, a huge ground push, and even campaign appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, polls show the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, might actually beat Republican Troy Balderson.
Washington state’s top-two primary will be a similar test of how Democrats might perform in historically conservative districts.
In a governor’s race in Michigan and a House race in Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats will test whether the future of the party is rooted in its progressive wing.
To win back a House majority in November, Democrats will have to triumph in historically red districts, as they did in Pennsylvania earlier this year when Conor Lamb pulled off a surprise victory. Some big wins on Tuesday night could be another sign that a wave year is possible.
Read the details at Vox.
On Sunday, we watched Trump incriminate himself and throw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Will Don Jr. be indicted? Charles Savage at The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr.’s Potential Legal Troubles, Explained.
“I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. But his participation in the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, as well as another meeting, has put that claim under scrutiny.
Ahead of the meeting with Russians, an intermediary promised Donald Trump Jr. that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He wrote back, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
In a meeting three months before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with another small group offering to help his father win the election. It included an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes who run Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. The younger Mr. Trump responded approvingly, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The New York Times.
Of course we all know by now that “collusion” is just another word for “conspiracy,” which can be a crime.
….lawyers instead talk about conspiracy: an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they end up doing so. A powerful tool for prosecutors, conspiracy charges allow them to hold each conspirator responsible for illegal acts committed by others in the circle as part of the arrangement. To convict someone of such a conspiracy, prosecutors would need to obtain evidence of an agreement to commit a specific crime….
A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a “thing of value” by any foreigner in connection with an American election — or even an express or implied promise to take such action, directly or indirectly.
Depending on how a grand jury interprets the facts the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has gathered about the two Trump Tower meetings, it could find that the foreigners violated that law — and that Donald Trump Jr. conspired in that offense.
Another provision of the same statute makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help — again, even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence about Donald Trump Jr.’s words and actions as a solicitation, he could also be vulnerable to direct charges under that law, experts said.
Notably, the statute can be violated even if the promised or requested help is never provided.
Read the rest at the NYT.
At The Washington Post, William Ruckleshaus, who served as deputy attorney general under Nixon writes about Trump’s behavior: Only one other president has ever acted this desperate.
President Trump is acting with a desperation I’ve seen only once before in Washington: 45 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon was fixated on ending the Watergate investigation, just as Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.
In fact, in some ways, Trump is conducting himself more frantically than Nixon, all the while protesting his innocence. Nixon fought to the end because he knew that what was on the tape recordings that the prosecutor wanted would incriminate him. We don’t know what Trump is hiding, if anything. But if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, why not let Robert S. Mueller III do his job and prove it?
On the way Trump and his minions are attacking the investigation:
…the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake.
The vehemence and irresponsibility of the rhetoric attacking the Mueller investigation tear at the very structure of our governance. Men who have sworn to use and protect our institutions of justice are steadily weakening them. Should the president finally decide to fire Mueller and put in place someone who will do his bidding, the country could be thrown into a political crisis that would scar our democracy and further erode the trust of our people in our governmental institutions.
We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.
Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There are a lot more interesting reads out there today. Some to check out:
Rolling Stone: Rick Wilson: Trump’s Tweets May Actually Be His Undoing.
The Washington Post: Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: How Trump Radicalized ICE.
What stories are you following today?
It’s September, but it feels like July here in Boston. We’re having another heat wave, and the same is true in many other parts of the country. Fortunately, most of us will get some relief later in the week.
Hot temperatures have dominated parts of the Midwest, Plains and East during the first week of September, with highs topping out well into the 80s and 90s at times. While some might be enjoying this late-summer heat and humidity, others are probably ready for the air to have more of a fall feel east of the Rockies. For those in the latterI’ camp, we do have some good news on the horizon thanks to a rearrangement of the jet stream pattern.
For the Midwest and parts of the East, temperatures will drop to near-average or even below-average levels as the week progresses. In fact, some cities in the Midwest may see high temperatures fall 20 degrees or more from early week into mid or late week. Even more impressive is the temperature drop from highs early this week to lows later in the week. For example, Chicago had a high of 92 degrees on Sunday but will see lows in the 50s late in the week, a drop of more than 30 degrees.
Before the cooler air arrives in the Northeast, daily record high temperatures will be threatened in multiple locations, including New York City, Philadelphia, Hartford and Boston on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the West Coast will see the opposite impact from this pattern change with temperatures soaring above average all the way into the Pacific Northwest.
Read all the details at the link.
From the Weather Wisdom column at The Boston Globe: September heat wave begins today and continues through Wednesday.
Back in 1881, the mercury rose to a stifling 102 degrees in Boston for the hottest temperature in the record books during the month of September. This was also one of the hottest days ever in Boston.
Typically our highs would be in the 70s closing out the first week of September, during a cool year we might stay in the 60s while other warmer years would reach the 80s. Today marks only the 5th time since records began in Boston we have reached 90 degrees on September 7th.
Heat Wave Number 2
Having already eclipsed the 90 mark, it’s almost a sure bet we are beginning a 3 day heat wave. Remember, heat waves are 3 days or more in a row when the high temperature reaches at least 90 degrees. Tomorrow and Wednesday are even hotter and as the humidity slowly climbs the heat indices could get near 100 degrees for a few hours either or both days.
The map below shows highs in the mid-90s tomorrow. This would be the 9th time Boston has reached 90 on the 8th of September. The record for tomorrow is 95 and there is a chance would could tie that record.
Another 90 degree day on Wednesday will make it an official heat wave. There are only 3 days where it’s reached 90 on the 9th and this year should make 4. The record Wednesday is 91 and we would likely set a new record.
On days like this, I can’t help thinking about our changing climate and how it will affect future generations. This is another reason why we must elect a Democratic president next year. President Obama has been able to make some progress on this issue through executive orders; to build on his efforts, we desperately need to elect Hillary Clinton president and hope that she can bring along enough Democrats to regain the Senate.
From The Hill: Democrats pin hopes on Hillary for winning back the Senate.
The battle for control of the Senate rests on the outcome of the presidential race, strategists in both parties say.
Since 1860, no party has been able to climb out of the minority to capture the Senate during a presidential election year without also winning the White House….
Democrats appear well positioned to knock off two Republican incumbents, but whether they can stretch the number of Senate pick-ups to the necessary four or five while defending two of their own vulnerable seats remains to be seen.
The election map favors Democrats. They are defending only 10 Senate seats, while Republicans are protecting 24, including seven in states carried by President Obama in 2012.
But Democrats are running against the grain of history by trying to keep the White House for three consecutive terms — a feat last accomplished by Republicans in 1988, when Ronald Reagan left office with a 53-percent approval rating. Obama’s approval rating, by comparison, stands at 45 percent, according to Gallup.
Just one more reason why we need to support Hillary. “The article quotes “Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist, lobbyist and fundraiser.”
“Ted Strickland can beat Rob Portman if Hillary Clinton is winning Ohio. Pat Toomey, no matter how good he looks on paper and the problems we’re having with the primary, I think if you get to November and Democrats are winning Pennsylvania by a huge number, Toomey’s in a lot of trouble,” he said
“If Democrats don’t win the presidential race, I don’t think we’ll win the Senate,” he added.
The map of key Senate races largely matches up with the map of presidential battlegrounds.
Aside from Wisconsin and Illinois, where Republican incumbent Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) are fighting for their political lives in blue states, the most competitive Senate contests are in presidential swing states.
Johnson trails former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin by five points, according to a mid-August Marquette Law School poll, and Democrats predict Feingold will raise more money.
Kirk, meanwhile, lagged six points behind Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in a late-July survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm.
More details at the link.
Getting back to climate change, The Washington Post had an important article yesterday: New studies deepen concerns about a climate-change ‘wild card.’
Two new studies are adding to concerns about one of the most troubling scenarios for future climate change: the possibility that global warming could slow or shut down the Atlantic’s great ocean circulation systems, with dramatic implications for North America and Europe.
The research, by separate teams of scientists, bolsters predictions of disruptions to global ocean currents — such as the Gulf Stream — that transfer tropical warmth from the equator to northern latitudes, as well as a larger conveyor system that cycles colder water into the ocean’s depths. Both systems help ensure relatively mild conditions in parts of Northern Europe that would otherwise be much colder.
The papers offer new insight into how rapidly melting Arctic ice could slow or even temporarily halt the ocean’s normal circulation, with possible effects ranging from plunging temperatures in northern latitudes to centuries-long droughts in Southeast Asia….
One study, by three scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, uses computers to model how Greenland’s rapid thawing could affect the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, the system that pushes cold, dense saltwater into the deep ocean and helps transport warm water northward, helping to warm Europe’s climate.
Their report, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says previous research may have underestimated changes to the ocean from the huge influx of fresh, cold water from melting ice sheets. Using new methods, the German scientists were able to estimate more precisely how much ice would melt and how all that added freshwater would affect ocean circulation. In the ocean, colder water normally tends to sink, but cold freshwater — less dense than saltwater — stays near the surface, disrupting the normal flow.
The researchers concluded that we’ve already gone pretty far down the road on climate change, but there are still things society can do the prevent the worst scenarios from coming to pass.
A second paper, by a team of Texas scientists, sheds new light on how the Earth’s climate responded during a similar thaw from the planet’s geological past. About 12,000 years ago, rising temperatures at the end of the last ice age released huge volumes of cold freshwater, disrupting the ocean’s circulation systems and sending parts of the Northern Hemisphere back in to the freezer. Scientists refer to the era as the Younger Dryas period.
The study in the journal Nature Climate found a wide range of impacts, some of which lingered for centuries. While the far-northern latitudes experienced rapid changes — including an 18-degree Fahrenheit temperature drop in Greenland in less than a decade — droughts and other weather anomalies in the southern Pacific persisted for 1,000 years.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Is it possible we’ve reached a turning point? Jonathan Chait thinks so: This is the year humans finally got serious about saving themselves from themselves.
Here on planet Earth, things could be going better. The rise in atmospheric temperatures from greenhouse gases poses the most dire threat to humanity, measured on a scale of potential suffering, since Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany launched near-simultaneous wars of conquest. And the problem has turned out to be much harder to solve. It’s not the money. The cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels, measured as a share of the economy, may amount to a fraction of the cost of defeating the Axis powers. Rather, it is the politics that have proved so fiendish. Fighting a war is relatively straightforward: You spend all the money you can to build a giant military and send it off to do battle. Climate change is a problem that politics is almost designed not to solve. Its costs lie mostly in the distant future, whereas politics is built to respond to immediate conditions. (And of the wonders the internet has brought us, a lengthening of mental time horizons is not among them.) Its solution requires coordination not of a handful of allies but of scores of countries with wildly disparate economies and political structures. There has not yet been a galvanizing Pearl Harbor moment, when the urgency of action becomes instantly clear and isolationists melt away. Instead, it breeds counterproductive mental reactions: denial, fatalism, and depression.
It’s a long read. Chait covers the history of efforts to reverse climate change and then offers hope.
For human to wean ourselves off carbon-emitting fossil fuel, we will have to use some combination of edict and invention — there is no other plausible way around it. The task before the world is best envisioned not as a singular event but as two distinct but interrelated revolutions, one in political willpower and the other in technological innovation. It has taken a long time for each to materialize, in part because the absence of one has compounded the difficulty of the other. It is extremely hard to force a shift to clean energy when dirty energy is much cheaper, and it is extremely hard to achieve economies of scale in new energy technologies when the political system has not yet nudged you to do so.
And yet, if you formed a viewpoint about the cost effectiveness of green energy a generation ago (when, for instance, Ronald Reagan tore the costly solar panels installed by his predecessor off the White House roof), or even just a few years ago, your beliefs are out of date. That technological revolution is well under way.
For one thing, the price of solar is falling, and rapidly. In a March 2011post for Scientific American’s website, Ramez Naam, a computer scientist and technological enthusiast, compared the rapid progress of solar power to Moore’s Law, the famous dictum that described the process by which microchips grew steadily more useful over time, doubling in efficiency every two years. The price of solar power had fallen in two decades from nearly $10 a watt to about $3. By 2030, he predicted, the price could drop to just 50 cents a watt.
Read the whole thing at New York Magazine.
Those are my offerings for today. I’m going to turn was feeling sick on Sunday and Monday and I’m still a little wobbly today. Take, care, Sky Dancers and I hope the floor over to you now, because I’m recovering from a nasty stomach virus. I hope you have an enjoyable day.
Today is day 5 of the latest heatwave, which isn’t scheduled to break here in southern New England until Sunday. I don’t think I’m capable of writing very much today–we’ll see how it goes.
From USA Today: Heat wave scorches central, eastern USA
A killer heat wave brought the hottest weather of the summer to much of the nation Wednesday, and at least two more days of broiling temperatures are forecast before cooler weather slides in over the weekend.
About 130 million people are sweltering through the heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, reports AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
High daytime and nighttime temperatures, high humidity, intense sunshine and lack of wind will continue to make these areas “seem like the middle of the tropics,” he said.
High temperatures in the 90s are again likely Thursday and Friday all the way from the Plains to the Northeast. Heat advisories and warnings are in place from the Dakotas to New England.
Boston Bombing Aftermath
Quite a few people in New England are all hot and bothered about the August 1 cover of Rolling Stone–a glamorous photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The photo accompanies a long article by Janet Reitman, who has a reputation as a good investigative journalist.
The cover copy suggests that Reitman will reveal how sweet little Dzhokhar became “radicalized” into a “monster” who participated in the Boston Marathon bombing. I read the article, and was disappointed to find that it is mostly a rehash of material that was covered long ago in The Boston Globe and The New York Times. Reitman appears to have interviewed some of Tsarnaev’s high school friends, but again they offered no new insights. Reitman had scheduled an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who was born and raised in Boston. In the wake of the controversy, Reitman cancelled, which is also disappointing. Why not go on and defend her story?
I can’t say I’m all that bothered by the cover, since the photo was also featured long ago in The New York Times and other publications, but I can respect that for survivors of the bombings it seems pretty dismissive of their suffering to glamorize the perpetrator. Here are a few links on the topic–see what you think.
Erik Wemple at The Washington Post: To Rolling Stone detractors: Please
The Boston Globe: Why Boston reacted right to Rolling Stone
In other news related to the Boston bombing suspects, friends of three men who were brutally murdered in Waltham in September 2011 have been talking to the media. Susan Zalkind, a friend of Erik Weissman appeared on the Rachel Maddow show this week.
Susan Zalkind, a close friend of Eric Weissman who was found murdered with two of friends in a Harding Avenue home in September 2011, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday to discuss her investigation and reactions to the case, which is officially under investigation. However, authorities reportedly believe accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his friend Ibragim Todashev committed the murders as a drug ripoff. Tsarnaev was killed during the April 19 shootout with police in Watertown. The Federal Bureau of Investigation shot and killed Todashev in his Florida home in May after allegedly attacking agents. Todashev had been in the process of writing a confession implicating himself and Tsarnaev in the murders.
Other friends of the three murdered men talked to CNN, and High Times Magazine has the video. Friends believe that police didn’t take the investigations of the murders very seriously once they concluded that the three men were drug dealers.
Meanwhile, the FBI is refusing to release the Todashev autopsy. From Russia Today:
The FBI has ordered a Florida medical examiner’s office not to release the autopsy report of a Chechen man who was killed during an FBI interview in May over his ties to one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers.
The autopsy report for Ibragim Todashev, 27, killed by an FBI agent during an interrogation which took place in his apartment on May 22 was ready for release on July 8. However, the FBI barred its publication, saying an internal probe into his death is ongoing.
“The FBI has informed this office that the case is still under active investigation and thus not to release the document,” according to statement by Tony Miranda, forensic records coordinator for Orange and Osceola counties in Orlando.
The forensic report was expected to clarify the circumstances of Todashev’s death.The Bureau’s statement issued on the day of the incident provided no details of what transpired, saying only that the person being interviewed was killed when a “violent confrontation was initiated by the individual.”
Back in May Ibragim Todashev’s father showed pictures of his dead son’s body at a press conference in Moscow, revealing he had been shot six times.
“I only saw things like that in movies: shooting a person, and then the kill shot. Six shots in the body, one of them in the head,” Abdulbaki Todashev said.
Student Loan Interest Rates
A group of Senators have made a deal on student loan interest rates, according to Politico.
Key bipartisan Senate negotiators met in Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s Office late Wednesday and emerged confident that they could finally put the vexing issue behind them.
“It would save students in 11 million families billions of dollars,” said Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “We’d like to be able to do this together and we hope that we can come to a decision right away because families need to make their plans.”
Alexander, the top Republican on education issues, said their proposal would apply retroactively to students who have already drawn federal loans at higher rates which went into effect on July 1.
A Senate aide familiar with the talks said the bill could go on the floor as soon as tomorrow. Leadership aides said that’s implausible but not impossible. Otherwise the bill would get a floor vote early next week.
Of course Republican members of the House will probably have different views on this. I have no idea if this is a good plan or not, and I’m too hot to care. I won’t live to see my student loans paid off, that’s all I know for sure.
Michael Hastings Fatal Crash
Russ Baker’s site Who What Why recently published an interesting (and not too wacky) article on the car crash that killed Michael Hastings. It’s written by Michael Krikorian, a former LA Times crime reporter base on footage from surveillance cameras that caught some of the accident. Krikorian doesn’t offer conspiracy theories–just reports of what he saw at the accident scene, his reactions to the videos caught on cameras a his girlfriend’s pizza restaurant nearby, and some reactions from experts to whom he showed the tapes. The most mysterious questions seems to be why Hastings was driving so fast. And why didn’t he apply the brakes when he started to skid?
Four seconds into the start of the tape, a minivan or SUV goes by the front of restaurant. Three seconds later, another vehicle goes by, traveling from the restaurant front door to the crash site in about seven seconds. At 35 seconds into the tape, a car is seen driving northbound and appears to slow, probably for the light at Melrose.
Then at 79 seconds, the camera catches a very brief flash of light in the reflection of the glass of the pizzeria. Traveling at least twice as fast as the other cars on the tape, Hastings’s Mercedes C250 coupe suddenly whizzes by. (This is probably the “whoosh” that Gary, the Mozza employee, heard.)
The car swerves and then explodes in a brilliant flash as it hits a palm tree in the median. Viewed at normal speed, it is a shocking scene—reminiscent of fireballs from “Shock and Awe” images from Baghdad in 2003….I think it’s safe to say the car was doing at least 80….
Highland has a very slight rise and fall at its intersection with Melrose. It’s difficult to tell by the film, but based on tire marks—which were not brake skid marks, by the way—chalked by the traffic investigators, it seems that the Mercedes may have been airborne briefly as it crossed the intersection, then landed hard. Tire marks were left about 10 feet east of the restaurant’s valet stand….
About 100 feet after the car zooms by on the tape, it starts to swerve. At about 195 feet from the camera, the car jumps the curb of the center median, heading toward a palm tree 56 feet away.
About halfway between the curb and the tree, the car hits a metal protrusion—perhaps 30 inches tall and 2 feet wide—that gives access to city water mains below. This is where the first small flash occurs. This pipe may have damaged the undercarriage of the car, perhaps rupturing a fuel line.
Check the story out and see what you think. It appears the police have closed the book on the case except for waiting for tox screens on Hastings to come back.
Edward Snowden Updates
Glenn Greenwald continues to lecture all and sundry that Snowden isn’t the story–the focus should be on the NSA leaks. Meanwhile, he continues to publish about three times as many articles on himself and Snowden as on the leaks. Yesterday’s offering was about e-mails between Snowden and a retired ultra-conservative/libertarian Senator from New Hampshire, Gordon Humphrey. You can read the full e-mails at the link, but one thing Snowden wrote became the subject of much speculation yesterday.
My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.
Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).
You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.
Did this mean that Snowden believes himself to be impervious to torture? According to tech experts and hacker types, it means that he has encrypted the data in such a way that even he cannot get at it by himself. Here’s an article in the Christian Science Monitor that explains this in somewhat simple terms. Author Dan Murphy writes:
I think his good intentions, as he sees them, are fair to assume. But his certainty that it is impossible to compromise what he knows seems questionable. Presumably he has digital files that are encrypted in some fashion. But if the files are accessible at all, there has to be a key.
Or even imagine a Escherian progression of unbreakable locks containing the key to the next unbreakable lock in the progression, which in turn contains the next key. Layers of difficulty are just that – problems to be overcome. Assertions of insurmountably seem specious as long as a key or set of keys exists and someone hasn’t destroyed the first one in the sequence.
And if Snowden’s claims are to be believed, a key to whatever data he has does exist. Greenwald says Snowden’s NSA files have been set up for release in the event Snowden is killed by the US. Greenwald hasn’t said what the mechanism would be and what precisely would be released beyond, “if something does happen to [Snowden] all the information will be revealed and it could be [the US government’s] worst nightmare.”
That implies that there is some process, known to some people or persons, that allows for access. And while state of the art encryption can foil technical efforts to break it, it’s hard to see how gaining access to the knowledge of others is impossible. Spy agencies use trickery, bribery, coercion, and sometimes worse to pry out others’ secrets. Yet Snowden was insistent in his letter to Senator Humphrey….
If the answer is “no one,” then it’s hard to square with his claim of a release being made in the event of his death. If the answer is “someone” or “some group of people,” then his confidence that secrets can’t be compromised seems misplaced. (I asked a number of people who know more about encryption than I about this; the answer always circled back to “the key is the vulnerability.” Perhaps there’s something we’re all missing?)
Here’s another article from Wired that speculates on the so-called “dead man’s switch.”
I’ve got lots more on Snowden, but I’m running out of space and I think I may be the only one here who still cares what’s going on with him. I can post some more links in the comments if there’s any interest.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comments.
The long weekend continues, and so does the heat wave here in Greater Boston. This is our second heat wave of this summer. I know these are just normal temps for you hardy souls in the South, but for us Northerners, it’s quite a shock to the system.
From The Boston Globe: As heat wave hits, region falls under a sultry spell.
The torpor-inducing temperatures, expected to last through Sunday, will feel hotter than the last, said Bill Simpson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Friday’s high was 95 degrees with 55 percent humidity, he said, but the heat index, which combines temperature and relative humidity to measure how hot it feels, hit nearly 100. There will be no relief until Monday, he said, when temperatures should cool to the mid- to low-80s.
In Boston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino issued a heat advisory through the weekend, urging residents to stay hydrated and in the shade or air conditioning….
To stave off the heat, many turned to ice. The number of convenience stores and restaurants needing extra ice rose “exponentially” since the beginning of the heat wave, said Charlotte Ploss, sales manager at Brookline Ice & Coal, which specializes in ice delivery. The phones there rang nonstop Friday morning and afternoon, sometimes with customers requesting ice for the second or third time of the day.
One supermarket ordered 4 tons of ice, Ploss said. A restaurant called for so many ice refills that Brookline Ice & Coal offered use of a company trailer, which holds 3,000 pounds of ice. Because the restaurant does not have enough space for the trailer, its owner is parking it in his driveway, she said.
So what else is going on? The President of Venezuela has offered asylum to Edward Snowden. From Reuters via the NYT:
CARACAS — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on Friday in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. spy programs.
“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world.”
How Snowden would get to Venezuela from Moscow if he accepts the offer no one knows as yet.
There are no direct commercial flights between Moscow and Caracas, and the usual route involves changing planes in Havana. It is not clear if the Cuban authorities would let him transit….
One alternative flight plan would involve an aircraft taking off from Moscow, refueling in Vladivostok, and then continuing east over the Pacific to South America.
Nicaragua has also said it would consider offering Snowden asylum. Both Venezuela and Nicaragua have questionable human rights records; but no doubt, Snowden supporters will find ways to explain all that away.
The Washington Post has a feature on Sarah Harrison, “the woman from Wikileaks” who accompanied Snowden to Moscow and is reportedly still there.
Harrison began working with WikiLeaks in August 2010 on the internal vetting of confidential U.S. documents supplied by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, which the site later released. At some point that year, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Harrison and Assange became intimately involved. They cautioned that the relationship was not Harrison’s prime motivation in championing the WikiLeaks cause.
“She is firmly committed to what WikiLeaks is trying to do; she believes 100 percent in the mission,” one of the people said. “Any suggestion that her relationship with Julian is what has compelled her to do the things she has would be a totally wrong assumption.”
Although those who know her as an Assange confidante describe her as more comfortable behind the scenes, Harrison now finds herself in the spotlight. She has raced across continents to aid Snowden, assisting in his flight from Hong Kong and his search for asylum from Moscow. On Friday, Venezuela and Nicaragua offered Snowden asylum. All the while, she has has maintained a low profile and refrained from public statements.
Read the rest at the link.
In Chile, another human rights issue has arisen once again–the right of girls and women to control their own bodies. USA Today reports: Child’s pregnancy sets off Chile abortion debate.
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The case of a pregnant 11-year old girl who was raped in Chile by her mother’s partner has set off a national debate about abortion in one of the most socially-conservative countries in Latin America.
Chileans were outraged on Friday after state TV reported that the girl is 14 weeks pregnant and was raped repeatedly over two years. Police in the remote southern city of Puerto Montt arrested her mother’s partner, who confessed to abusing the fifth grader. The case was brought to their attention by the pregnant child’s maternal grandmother.
Doctors say the girl’s life and that of the fetus are at high risk. But in Chile, ending the pregnancy is not an option.
Chile allowed abortions for medical reasons until they were outlawed in 1973 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The current government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has opposed any loosening of the prohibition.
One has to assume that Republicans here in the U.S. are applauding this horror, since they keep trying to limit women’s autonomy with nightmare legislation in numerous states. The latest is Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker just signed a draconian new anti-abortion bill. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:
Madison — Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Friday requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges, and abortion clinics responded by immediately suing state officials over the measure.
The law — signed Friday by Walker in a private ceremony — would cut the number of clinics offering abortions in Wisconsin from four to two, and one of the remaining clinics would have to dramatically cut the number of abortions it provides, according to the operators of the clinics.
“When women don’t have access to safe, legal abortions, there are health consequences and women die,” said Teri Huyck, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin….
Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed the lawsuit in federal court in Madison. They brought it against Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross and the members of the state Medical Examining Board — all of whom have authority to enforce the law or issue sanctions.
It will be heard by U.S. District Judge William Conley. It was unclear whether he would take action before the law takes effect Monday.
The National Journal is bullish on the latest jobs report. The Really Great News From the June Jobs Report: the April and May Numbers
Happy jobs day! First, the immediate good news: The June report showed the U.S. economy added 195,000 in June, strongly beating expectations in the 150,000-165,000 range. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, was unchanged at 7.6 percent.
But now for the really good news: We were quite wrong about job gains in April and May. Initial reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a jobs gain of 149,000 in April and 175,000 in May. In the latest reports, those numbers were revised upward to 199,000 in April and 195,000 in May. That’s a combined gain of 70,000 jobs from earlier reports. So, since April, it turns out that the economy has actually gained nearly 200,000 new jobs a month.
They admit the unemployment situation is still pretty horrible overall. Read about it at the link.
Here’s a wacky story out of Texas: Gun owners march on Houston police station with shotguns and assault rifles.
A group of gun owners and gun rights advocates celebrated Independence Day on Thursday by marching on the headquarters of the Houston Police Department while carrying an array of shotguns and assault rifles. According to the Washington Examiner, the group was organized via Facebook and numbered about 25 attendees.
“It’s Independence Day — where it all started,” said shotgun toting protester Jenn Kroll, to the Houston Chronicle. “What better day to show our rights?”
“If you don’t use your rights, they can take them away,” Ed Aldredge of Sugar Land said. Aldridge brought along his 11-year-old son, Austin, who carried a .22-caliber rifle.
No mention in the story about how Houston police reacted to the march.
Violence continues in Egypt where the army and Morsi supporters are battling each other. From BBC News:
More than 30 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Friday’s violence following the ousting of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, it has emerged.
At least 12 died in Alexandria, and eight in two separate clashes in Cairo, the Health Ministry said….
Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, is in detention.
Some senior figures of his Muslim Brotherhood movement have also been held.
Early on Saturday, state media reported the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Khairat el-Shater had been arrested at his Cairo home on suspicion of incitement to violence.
The Tamarod [Rebel] movement – which organised recent anti-Morsi protests – accused the ousted president of pursuing an Islamist agenda against the wishes of most Egyptians, and of failing to tackle economic problems.
So…quite a bit of news for a long holiday weekend. What are you reading and blogging about today?
The interior of Southern California has been slow-roasting, like everybody else in the U. S. of A. It’s so bad, people are being told to use their A/C less, to let their houses go all the way up to 78°F (25°C). The utilities have been moaning about having barely enough power to meet needs and many AC repair companies are totally booked.
They’ve been bewailing the temporary shutdown of the San Onofre nuke like the loss of the last drop of drinking water. (The thing has cracks in hundreds of steam pipes due to design flaws.) It provides 2200 Megawatts. It’s loss is terrible. We’re all dying out here.
A complete load of horsefeathers. I live near two natural gas power stations, and they’re barely ever even on. If it’s as bad as all that, you’d think they’d have to use them, yes? One produces 560 Megawatts, the other 1516MW. But they don’t. Especially the 1516MW one. If I see it running two days out of the year, that’s a lot. Admittedly, I don’t spend my life staring at it, so I might miss a day or two, but not much more than that. The other one seems to run maybe 14 days out of the year.
Then, yesterday I went for a hike and saw this:
Nice, you say? What are you complaining about, you say? Well, look at those two wisps coming out of the two power plants. They’re running! They’re producing power!
Half of it is down right now due to a fire, so it’s only producing about 730MW. (Notice also that line of photochemical smog.)
The neat thing about natural gas plants is the utlities get pollution credits for them because they’re so (relatively) clean. So — this is just a wild guess — by not running them, they can use those credits for dirtier plants of theirs. Or sell them to other needy utilities.
Meanwhile, they can weep and wail and gnash their teeth over how we must turn the nukes back on now now now! Or else we might have to turn the A/C all the way to 79°F.