A World on Fire | China’s Silent Invasion | Human Lifespans


“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” – Dante Alighieri

“Hell is truth seen too late.” – Thomas Hobbes


The World is on Fire or the Book of Revelation or Both?: July has seen scores of places around the globe hit with record temperatures in an unprecedented, planet-encompassing heatwave. In one week 50 people died from heat in Montreal, Canada, while 30 major wildfires burned in the American West. Wildfires broke out in the Arctic Circle, where temperatures almost hit 90 degrees. Wildfires swept through the Greek seaside, outside Athens, killing at least 80 and hospitalizing almost 200. Japan was flooded by biblical rains, and 1.2 million had to be evacuated from their homes. The following week Japan was hit by a monster heatwave, killing dozens. According to scientists, there are five times more large wildfires today than in the 1970s. Likewise, over the past 50 years the number of really intense rainstorms has increased by some 70%. We know for certain temperatures are rising, and rainstorms and heat waves are getting more intense. But can anyone say with certainty that extreme weather is caused by climate change? Well, yes. Climate change does indeed make this kind of extreme weather more common. Furthermore, these are the long-predicted results of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

To be sure, things will continue to worsen over time as long as greenhouse gases continue to be emitted. This is likely just the beginning of the horrors that climate change has in store. In fact, new research suggests things will be much worse than expected. For example, if current warming trends continue, by the end of this century people in many major Indian cities are going to die from the heat, and climate effects will have caused global economic output to fall by at least 30%. So climate change is real, and really important. Why, then, when major television networks aired 127 segments on the unprecedented July heatwave, did only one broadcaster even mention the words “climate change”?

China’s Silent Invasion: In 2013 Argentina’s ambassador to China authored a book with an alarming title: The Silent Invasion: The Chinese Landing in South America. Diego Guelar was documenting China’s incursion in the region. Today, just five years later, Guelar says of China’s footprint: “It’s a fait accompli… (and) It’s no longer silent.” China’s intentions were hiding in plain sight. Back in 2008 Beijing published a policy paper, the first of its kind, that drew relatively little attention elsewhere. The plan was to vastly expand trade, provide loans to bail out governments, build big infrastructure projects, strengthen military ties and lock up tremendous amounts of resources in the Americas. While America’s attention has been elsewhere, China has been solidifying its role as South America’s top trading partner; since 2015, it has eclipsed the US.

Beijing has also been strengthening its dominance by loaning lots of money to, and creating lots of indebtedness for, cash-strapped Latin American governments. In Argentina, for example, China used its leverage to negotiate a secret deal for the $50 million space control station built by the Chinese military on a wind-whipped stretch of desert in Patagonia. Its purpose is said to be for advancement of China’s space programs, specifically one to the far side of the moon. The station’s centerpiece is a giant 450-ton, 16 stories high antenna. But experts point out that antennas and other equipment that support space missions, like what China now has in Patagonia, can also increase the country’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, a purpose at odds with America’s national security. As one expert noted: “A giant antenna is like a giant vacuum cleaner… sucking up signals, data, all sorts of things.”


– Greece’s left-leaning government is reeling from accusations, by the public and the firefighters service union, of a woefully inadequate response to forest fires that engulfed a village about 15 miles from Athens on July 24. The death toll so far is 88, many of them children. The wind-driven fires drove some people into the Aegean. Rescue crews are still searching land and sea for the missing. (Guardian)

– Secretary General Antonio Guterres is warning that the UN is facing a dire and unprecedented $139 million shortfall for funding of its core budget. “Caused primarily by the delayed contributions of member states to the regular budget, this new cash shortfall is unlike those we have experienced previously,” he wrote in a second letter to staff. So far 112 out of 193 member states have paid their share of the core budget. Countries who haven’t paid yet include the US, Argentina, Syria, Venezuela and Belarus. The US is responsible for 22% of the budget, and traditionally pays later because of its budget year. (Guardian)

– Now that Imran Khan has won Pakistan’s general election, several other parties are beginning to come together around him. That would accomplish the formation of a majority in the country’s National Assembly, and insure Khan’s ascendance to the premiership. Many of the leading rival parties, however, are still mad about the election of the former celebrity cricket star and international ladies’ man. But as the leader of one of the smaller parties said, “We’re in a complicated situation”, adding that his party would “rather be part of the government than protest on the streets.” (NYT)

– Not since 1994, when Elaine’s boss Mr. Pitt ate a Snickers bar with a knife and fork on Seinfeld, has there been such an uproar over eating habits. Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was resoundingly upbraided on Twitter for tackling a meat pie with a knife and fork. Turnbull was campaigning for a local candidate in Tasmania last week when he scandalized Aussies with his dining faux pas. (NYT)


New York Times and Trump’s Fire in the Hole Incident: The 37-year-old publisher of the New York Times engaged in a fierce public Twitter battle with President Trumpon Sunday over Trump’s alleged misstatements about a July 20 meeting between the two. A. G. Sulzberger said he had accepted the president’s invitation for the meeting mainly to raise concerns over Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” Trump tweeted that he and Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad.” Sulzberger responded with a five paragraph statement, saying he had told the president directly that his language was not only divisive but dangerous. Even setting aside the untrue and harmful phrase “fake news”, Sulzberger said he told Trump he was far more concerned with Trump’s labeling journalists as “the enemy of the people,” and that this inflammatory language will lead to violence against journalists. (NYT)

California Fires: Northern California is being ravaged by a massive wildfire that has killed five people and destroyed at least 500 structures so far. Dead are two firefighters, a bulldozer operator, and an elderly woman and her two young great-grandchildren. All were killed near Redding, which is three hours north of San Francisco, near the Oregon border. Several people are still missing. (Guardian)


– For those that thought President Obama’s election ushered in a post racial America. That clearly hasn’t been the case. “Forty-four percent of white respondents said yes they thought the president was a racist when they were asked by the pollster, “Do you think President Trump is racist, or don’t you think so?” Fifty-two percent of white respondents thought the former reality-TV star wasn’t racist. Seventy-nine percent of black respondents thought Trump is racist as did 58 percent of Hispanic respondents, according to Quinnipiac University.” (Newsweek)

– President Trump scares many Americans but Vice President “Mike Pence, [might give them] Holy Terror: Are you sure you want to get rid of Donald Trump?” (NYT)

– “Mike Pence’s Damning Indictment of Donald Trump: Eight years ago, the vice president set out his standards for judging a president. His boss fails to measure up.” (Atlantic)

– “Why Conservatives Find Life More Meaningful Than Liberals: It has nothing to do with Trump.” (Atlantic)

– We love tap water. And as you all know we also love libraries and community colleges. There’s all this talk about reducing plastic in the world. One of the first places we should do this when and where we can is dropping our use of bottled water. “Which Water Is Best For Health?: As it turns out, scientists say that most tap water in the U.S. is just as good as the water in bottles or streaming out of a filter.” (NPR)

– “I’m a librarian. The last thing we need is Silicon Valley “disruption.: A Forbes column arguing that Amazon should replace libraries grossly underestimates how many services libraries offer.” (Vox)

– “After a life filled with sushi and calligraphy, world’s oldest person dies at 117: She claimed the title of world’s oldest living person not long before her death. Nabi Tajima, who preceded Miyako as the oldest living person in the world, was also Japanese and also lived until 117. She died in April. The woman who is predicted to take over the title as the world’s oldest woman is also Japanese.” (WaPo)

– “Think everyone died young in ancient societies? Think again: The maximum human lifespan (approximately 125 years) has barely changed since we arrived … And some things about the past, such as men being valued for their power and women for their beauty, have changed little.” (Aeon)

– In parenting there’s quite an obsession with the mother’s age and ability to conceive but this should also apply just as much to fathers. “The Dawning of Sperm Awareness: Men are embracing sperm health, while society is recognizing that fertility isn’t just about women.” (NYT)


“God put me on this Earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind that I’ll never die.” – Thomas Hobbes

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