The Story is More Powerful Than the Sword
November 15, 2019
“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who have helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
“There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.”
– Ulysses S. Grant
Driving Away Pollution and Traffic
Most Texans rank their SUVS and trucks right up there alongside Second Amendment rights. But in crowded urban centers around the world, people wanting cleaner, healthier air to breathe and less traffic are having to rethink their relationship with automobiles.
The majority of humans live in cities, and officials have been pondering whether it still makes sense for everyone to be operating multiple vehicles, especially old polluting ones. Some mayors have been subjected to intense political pressure to address the health hazards of air pollution. Transportation emissions account for nearly 25 percent of all greenhouse gases – curbing them is vital to reducing climate catastrophes.
Various schemes have been tried, including making it more expensive to bring older diesel cars and trucks into a city center. Bristol will begin banning diesel vehicles during rush hour in 2021. Amsterdam plans to ban all vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2030. Delhi is choking on toxic air, but struggling to reduce new cars and motorcycles on the roads. And despite tens of thousands of delegates meeting next month in Madrid for international climate negotiations, the effort to restrict cars there has become a political battle.
London began trying to clean up its air in 2003 by charging a congestion fee of $8 to drive a vehicle into the city center on weekdays between 7 am and 6 pm. This year a new levy was added, making the cost to drive a car into central London on weekdays as much as $30. In 2021 New York City will become America’s first to adopt a congestion fee. Needless to say, finding a fix for vehicle emission pollution can be a bumpy ride. (NYT, $)
- Why Climate Change Poses A Particular Threat To Child Health (NPR)
- 5 Global Trends Shaping Our Climate Future (NYT, $)
First World (Food Programme) Problems
- An internal survey taken at the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) found multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault occurring at the agency. At least 28 employees said they had experienced rape, attempted rape or sexual assault while working at WFP. More than 640 other people, eight percent of the 8,127 employees surveyed, said they were victims of, or had witnessed, sexual harassment.
- A total of 950 staff members, an astounding 12% of the current work-staff, said they witnessed retaliation for speaking up about abusive practices. The confidential survey revealed claims that the agency’s senior management had abused their authority, committed or enabled harassment, discriminated against female employees and ethnic minorities and retaliated against those who spoke up in protest.
- WFP executive director David Beasley, who took over in 2017, had ordered changes in the agency’s policies against harassment and abuse of power last year. The recent survey was a blow to Beasley, who vowed to take aggressive action if the claims are substantiated. (Guardian)
Newest Trick in the Book
- North Korea’s top negotiator has dismissed the Trump administration’s latest effort to resume talks. Kim Myong-gil said Thursday he was not interested unless the US was ready to make substantial concessions. Kim and his Washington counterpart, Stephen Biegun, had led their countries’ delegations to working-level talks in Sweden last month, but no agreement was reached.
- Biegun recently sent a proposal to the North through a third party, which Kim called a mere “trick to earn time.” Kim said his country was ready to meet the US at any place any time, but not willing if all Washington wanted to do was stall, something Kim accused the US delegation of doing in Stockholm.
- Earlier, the North had accused the US of using negotiations for “domestic political” purposes, a reference to the Ukrainian scandal underlying the impeachment hearings in Washington. (NYT)
- Tofu is an inexpensive and high-protein local dietary staple in Indonesia. More than 30 commercial kitchens in a small village on the eastern side of the main island of Java fuel their tofu production by burning plastic waste, some of it shipped from the US. The smoke and ash from the burning plastic has far-reaching and toxic consequences.
- According to a report released this week by an alliance of Indonesian and international environmental groups, testing of eggs laid by chickens in the village showed extremely high concentrations of several hazardous chemicals, including dioxin, a pollutant known to cause cancer, birth defects and Parkinson’s disease.
- “These stark findings illustrate the dangers of plastics for human health and should move policymakers to ban plastic waste combustion, address environmental contamination, and rigorously control imports,” said a pollutants expert and co-author of the report. (NYT)
Additional World News
- 4 Dead As ‘Tinder Box-Like Conditions’ Fuel Catastrophic Bushfires In Australia (NPR)
- What happens to Afghanistan’s left-behind women as the Taliban rises? (Guardian)
- Suicide rates fall after gay marriage legalised in Sweden and Denmark (Guardian)
- Highways on Fire. Semesters Cut Short. A Recession. Can Hong Kong Heal? (NYT, $)
- UK-educated Russians are upholding Putin’s regime, says dissident (Guardian)
- As Talks With Putin Loom, Ukraine Looks in Vain for U.S. Help (NYT, $)
- Russian Professor, Found With Bag of Severed Arms, Admits He Killed Student (NYT, $)
Student Kills Two in Santa Clarita Shooting
- Early Thursday morning as classes got underway at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, in a quiet suburban neighborhood of ranch-style homes northwest of Los Angeles, a 16-year-old male student pulled a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun from his backpack and started shooting.
- In the blink of an eye a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year old boy lay dead, and three other teens were wounded.
- The gunman then shot himself in the head but didn’t die. He was taken to the hospital in grave condition; his girlfriend and his mother went with detectives to a Santa Clarita police station. One dazed parent said her 16-year old daughter had known the suspect since elementary school. (NYT)
The Never Ending Fight
- Early last month President Trump announced he was withdrawing and sending US troops home from northern Syria, where they had been a buffer between what was the homeland of our Kurdish allies, who were guarding ISIS prisoners, and the rest of Syria and Turkey.
- After the US troop withdrawal, Turkey invaded, bloody battles ensued, many Kurds fled, some ISIS prisoners escaped, and Turkey and Russia divided up what had been Kurdish territory. Then at the end of last month, Trump said he was sending troops into eastern Syria – to protect oil installations.
- This month, a Bradley armored fighting vehicle and a National Guard brigade combat team were flown in from Kuwait, ready to protect the infrastructure. The repositioning left US military commanders scrambling to defend or even define a policy meant to continue the fight against ISIS, while withdrawing specialized forces who were doing so, and faced with Trump’s declaration that the terrorist group had been defeated. (NPR)
- Trump and the Military: A Dysfunctional Marriage, but They Stay Together – The Pentagon is learning how to work with a president whose orders can whipsaw by the hour. (NYT, $)
- Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Juvenile Justice Groups Say Felony Murder Charges Harm Children, Young Adults (NPR)
- Devin Nunes is bravely defending Trump. That’s bad news for the president – The ex-dairy farmer isn’t exactly the cream of the cream: his bizarre claims on the president’s behalf have backfired (Guardian)
- ‘I live on the street now’: how Americans fall into medical bankruptcy – Having health insurance is often not enough to save Americans from massive debts when serious illness strikes (Guardian)
The Story is More Powerful Than the Sword
- TED head curator Chris Anderson tells how we can learn to use storytelling – personal anecdotes – to bring our speeches, presentations and talks to life. The four key things to remember are:
- (1) Base it on a character your audience can empathize with or around a dilemma your audience can relate to
- (2) Build tension whether through curiosity, intrigue or actual danger
- (3) Offer the right level of detail. Too little and the story is not vivid; too much and it gets bogged down
- (4) End with a satisfying resolution, whether it’s funny, moving or revealing
- Most importantly, the story must give the audience something they can walk away with – such as insights, actionable information, perspective, context, hope.
- Anderson says one of the biggest reasons applicants wanting to speak at TED are turned down is when they offer compelling anecdotes but no central idea that wraps their narrative together. The speaker may be a fascinating person, but without an idea, it’s an opportunity missed. (TED.com)
Amazon’s Prime Counterfeits
- Amazon prioritizes a broad selection of products and cheaper prices over the deployment of aggressive technologies and policies that could help stop a flood of counterfeit goods, according to former executives and outside consultants.
- The Seattle-based e-commerce giant says it relies on brands to let the company know about frauds, but even when the company has custody of counterfeit items it doesn’t always take action.
- Scads of counterfeit products land in Amazon warehouses before they’re shipped to consumers, and Amazon very rarely inspects them for authenticity. So if you find a $640 Hermès Clic H Bracelet on Amazon’s website for $24.99, don’t be surprised to learn it’s not a real Hermès. (WaPo)
- Nike won’t sell directly to Amazon anymore (CNBC)
- Nike’s breakup with Amazon is a lose-lose situation for everyone — including you (Vox)
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