Natural Disaster

Out Of Africa
August 02, 2009

South Africa, to be precise, where I had been previously on four occasions. I promised in my last posting upon my arrival eleven days ago to write when I could. I assured you that I had wi-fi and that the places at which I was staying had wi-fi also. Well, they didn't ... quite. So I piled up my impressions and waited till I returned. Which I have now done. From the warm climes of a South African winter to the torrential rains of a cold east coast summer. Let me own up to the proximate reasons for my visit to South Africa. They were two. The first was wine tasting.

Is The Gulf's Dead Zone Shrinking? Not Really.
July 27, 2009

Presenting... 2009's very own "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just unveiled this year's estimate of the vast region in the Gulf where no aquatic life can survive, clocking in at some 6,000 square miles. The dead zone, which blossoms in the summer, is caused primarily by fertilizer runoff from farms, which splashes into the Mississippi River, bobs down to the Gulf, and then triggers algae blooms that choke off all oxygen in the area, wreaking havoc on, among other things, the region's $3-billion fishing industry.

Tnr Flashback: "suspect Policy"
July 21, 2009

In light of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s arrest last Thursday, we have dredged up a TNR cover story from September 1999 by Gates' colleague, Randall Kennedy. Kennedy argues that racial profiling is effective and not necessarily racist, but should be abolished anyway. Consider the following case study in the complex interaction of race and law enforcement. An officer from the Drug Enforcement Administration stops and questions a young man who has just stepped off a flight to Kansas City from Los Angeles. The officer has focused on this man for several reasons.

Is There A "safe" Limit For Global Warming?
July 10, 2009

At this week's G-8 get-together in Italy, the world's 17 biggest polluters agreed to work together to limit world temperature increases to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels. It was the first time the United States had agreed to that goal. To put that number in context, the Earth has already warmed 0.8C in the past century, and the carbon pollution we've thrown up in the air has locked in another 0.6C or so. Not much wiggle room left. One basic question is, why 2C?

Ban Ki-moon Fails To Move Burma
July 06, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's pro-democracy movement and a believer in non-violent resistance, is probably the world's most prominent political captive. She is probably also very brave and determined. She has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest living in her own house with two maids. This means that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi--there apparently is no other way of rendering her name--has not been condemned to a gulag. I guess that aristocracy still has authority in some dictatorships.

Power Struggle
June 17, 2009

Do we need a technological breakthrough to avert the climate crisis?

Prophet Motive
June 03, 2009

This year, Nouriel Roubini, the economist known to the general public as Dr. Doom, Prophet of the Financial Apocalypse, spent the early hours of Mardi Gras on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. It was only 11 a.m., but the party was rollicking. Traders careened around the floor, hooting and honking, dressed as dragons and devils and convicts. Rock music roared overhead, and no one seemed to care that, by the bye, the market had tanked.

The Middle East Heats Up
June 03, 2009

Does the world really need more headaches in the Middle East? No, of course not, but rising global temperatures are likely to create a few more regardless. According to a new report from the Institute for Sustainable Development, the Levant is currently on pace to get hotter and drier in the next four decades, and climate change threatens to "reduce the availability of scarce water resources, increase food insecurity, hinder economic growth, and lead to large-scale population movements" in the area that spans Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

How Screwed Is The Rest Of The World?
May 18, 2009

Via Ezra Klein at his new Washington Post home, here's the final report of a year-long study done by The Lancet and the University College London, looking at the global health impacts of climate change. Short version: This could get hideous. Ezra pulls out one particularly striking set of maps from the study, reposted below. On the top you see different countries sized according to their greenhouse-gas emissions (so the United States, Europe, and China are all massive).

Is The Market Rally Based On Nothing?
May 12, 2009

We have some real ideological differences, but Andy Kessler, who wrote this op-ed in today's Journal, makes some good points about why the stock-market rally may be mostly smoke and mirrors. Most interesting is this semi-conspiratorial idea about how the rally looks like it was conceived to help re-capitalize banks: On March 18, the Federal Reserve announced it would purchase up to $300 billion of long-term bonds as well as $750 billion of mortgage-backed securities.