Peter Thiels’s Power | COVID-19 & Church | Giving Trees Give Lives
May 20, 2020
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
“The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.”
― Rachel Carson
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
Trees Don’t Grow On Trees
President Reagan’s notorious 1981 claim — that trees cause more pollution than automobiles — unleashed jokes about “killer trees,” and decades of debate about whether he was partially right. In 2013 a fire ecologist argued that excess trees in the Sierra Nevada conifer forest were responsible for the loss of more than 15 billion gallons of ground water per day. Her solution was to “thin” the forests.
Today it’s that “solution” that doesn’t hold water. Humans are ravaging the earth’s forests — 10 billion more trees are cut down each year than are planted. This destruction not only threatens plants and animals with extinction, it’s a significant contributor to carbon emissions that drive the climate crisis. Trees draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as they grow; planting new ones is an important part of managing the climate emergency, and protecting habitats.
On Wednesday the European commission launches an ambitious effort to tackle the EU’s climate and biodiversity crises. The strategy includes planting 3 billion new trees by 2030, a plan to protect the continent’s last primeval forests, and a goal of nearly one-third of EU land and sea to become protected zones.
But scientists and environmental groups say what is lacking are specifics on how to implement the plans. “The proposed strategy lacks game-changing ideas and instruments for reaching the targets. We already know today that existing frameworks are not delivering, so why should we wait,” said a Greenpeace official. He noted it would be 2024 before new binding measures might be adopted, and called for immediate discussions over funding and enforcement mechanisms. Environmentalists also warned that planting trees is not a panacea, and should only be a small part of the overall solution.
- The hidden toll of lockdown on rainforests (BBC)
- The Mount St. Helens Eruption Was the Volcanic Warning We Needed: It’s been 40 years since the sideways explosion that changed volcanology forever. (NYT, $)
Are We Human Or Are We Pirates
- In April investigative journalists exposed the existence of a secret, deadly pact between Malta and the owners of at least three private vessels to intercept migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and return them to Libya. Further confirmation was provided by a woman who survived a crossing in which 12 people died.
- The woman was part of a group who set out from Libya’s coast on April 9. Some 31 miles east of Tripoli the boat was intercepted by traffickers, who loaded the woman and 62 others into a dingy. After five days at sea, with no food or water, the passengers saw a trawler under a Maltese flag arrive. The crew said they weren’t rescuers, but Egyptians working at sea for Malta.
- The crew took the survivors on board and locked them in the ship’s stern with only four bottles of water. After another two days the ship arrived in Tripoli; the passengers were taken to the infamous detention center of Tariq al-Sikka, where they remain.
- After April’s media coverage, Maltese prosecutors opened an investigation. A former Maltese official told magistrates he was enlisted by the government to coordinate the pushback of migrants to Libya, following instructions from the prime minister’s office. A human rights lawyer in London said: “Maltese authorities’ refusal to rescue these persons amount to a serious breach of international human rights and maritime law.’’ Others described the deaths as a direct result of Malta’s and Europe’s non-assistance policies. (Guardian)
- Belgium confirms inquiry into Malta-China spy threat (Guardian)
France’s COVID-19 Maginot Line And Weaponless Front Line Defenses
- Last March France’s president Emmanuel Macron’s declared “war” against the coronavirus, and promised support for front-line health workers with “the means, the protection.” In reality the country was almost defenseless. The government’s flip-flopping policies on past pandemics had left its national stockpile of face masks nearly depleted. And officials had outsourced the manufacturing capacity to replenish the stockpiles to overseas suppliers, despite warnings since the early 2000s about the rising risks of global pandemics.
- Unlike Germany, France had decided “that it was no longer necessary to keep massive stocks in the country, considering that production plants were able to be operational very quickly, especially in China.” But the speed with which the coronavirus spread, coupled with France’s dependence on foreign factories, left the country painfully unable to ramp up domestic production of face masks, test kits, ventilators, thermometers, even over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines.
- It’s a case study in how some countries are reconsidering their dependence on global supply chains built over the past two decades, with an eye on low costs and quick delivery. (NYT)
- ‘It’s up to us’: how Merkel and Macron revived EU solidarity (Reuters)
- Reference: Maginot Line
Additional World News
- Teenage boy charged in Canada’s first ‘incel’ terror case (BBC)
- Taiwan president rejects Beijing rule; China says ‘reunification’ inevitable (Reuters)
- Myanmar Raids Reveal New Production of a Killer Drug (NYT, $)
- Trump says US topping world virus cases is ‘badge of honour’ (BBC)
- U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: World Bank warns 60m at risk of ‘extreme poverty’ (BBC)
- Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait (NYT, $)
- Toronto Fox Family Transfixes City Under Lockdown (NYT)
- The Pandemic’s Geopolitical Aftershocks Are Coming (Atlantic)
- The Riddle of Solitude in the Age of the Coronavirus (New Yorker)
- The Class War Over Social Distancing (Atlantic)
- Busted: Pentagon Contractors’ Report on ‘Wuhan Lab’ Origins of Virus Is Bogus (The Daily Beast)
Trump’s Supporters Are Standing More Than Six Feet From Trump
- Billionaire Silicon Valley luminary Peter Thiel was among Donald Trump’s most important backers in 2016, campaigning for the future president as a “proud” openly gay supporter of the Republican nominee. Fast forward four years, and Thiel has taken on a dramatically reduced role in pushing for Trump 2020.
- Although he declared a year and a half ago he supports Trump’s re-election, so far Thiel hasn’t donated large sums to any of the major Trump campaign committees. And despite the data-mining firm Thiel co-founded (Palantir) benefiting grandly from federal contracts — including a recent one to help build what the government hoped would be “the single source” for data involving Covid-19 — Thiel has been absent from Trump 2020 discussions.
- According to those in the know, Thiel has been “sh**-talking” the president over his hamfisted and botched handling of the pandemic that has resulted in a stalled economy, massive job losses, and a US death toll exceeding 93,000. Thiel was also “very clearly frustrated” with the president’s uneven appearances at White House daily press briefings that often ended in head-scratching pronouncements or politically disastrous boasts.
- Thiel is hardly alone in his disenchantment. “Everybody goes into the Trump relationship woodchipper,” said former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. “You either come out on the other side with your dignity and your personal story intact or you’re reformed as Trump compost and you’re fertilizer under his shoe. You have to make a decision and it happens to everyone.” (Daily Beast)
- Peter Thiel is probably one of the most powerful people in technology given his important roles in Facebook, Palantir, politics, and investing: Peter Thiel reportedly pushed Facebook not to vet fake political ads (CNBC)
- Thiel’s mixed messages mimics Fox: At Fox News, Mixed Message on Malaria Drug: ‘Very Safe’ vs. ‘It Will Kill You’ (NYT)
- Is Trump the Godfather to the Paypal Mafia now: California governor says he’s not worried about Musk moving Tesla out of state ‘anytime soon’ (CNBC). Musk is driving from left to right and his fellow Paypal mafia member Thiel is going from right to potentially back to seasteading.
Additional USA News
- Separation of church and state but perhaps it’s not possible to separate in person church and COVID-19
- Michigan governor declares emergency after dams collapse (Reuters)
- No information. No way off. 100,000 crew members remain in cruise ship limbo for months. (Miami Herald)
- In leaked audio, Sen. David Perdue compares the risks of Covid-19 to car crashes (Vox)
- Florida Ousts Top COVID-19 Data Scientist (NPR)
- So You Want to Be a Contact Tracer? (NYT, $) & I Enrolled in a Coronavirus Contact Tracing Academy (Wired, $)
- Trump’s remarks about firing the State Department IG show how he’s destroyed the norm of oversight (Vox)
- Judge allows fraud suit against Trump, family and company to proceed (CNN)
- Trump’s company has received at least $970,000 from U.S. taxpayers for room rentals (WaPo, $)
- Johnson & Johnson to stop selling talc baby powder in U.S. and Canada (Reuters)
Appreciation for Depreciation
- Buying a refurbished tech product saves money compared to buying it new. It also gives a device a second life instead of tossing it into the recycling bin. Especially during these times, when demand is high for all kinds of tech, buying refurbished is sometimes the only way to get your hands on a product when retail channels are strained or simply devoid of new merchandise.
- However “refurbished” is still a loaded word for a lot of people. New means new, a product that nobody else has used, and buying something refurbished can sometimes be a gamble. If you’re buying a refurbished product it helps to have criteria. Here are some questions to start with:
- What condition is it in?
- Is it in like-new condition or somewhat used?
- Does it come with all original accessories and documentation?
- What kind of warranty does it have, and who is providing it?
- Sometimes the product might be visibly damaged, come in a different box, or only have a six-month warranty. That’s all right, so long as you know in advance of buying it. Products listed as “open-box” can mean something different depending on the retailer. Most use the term to mean the product was opened by a customer who bought it, then it was returned to the store in its original box with all of its accessories. It didn’t need to be refurbished because the assumption is that it either wasn’t used at all or was only used once and then repackaged. Generally, it’s safe to assume that an open-box product will be in good condition.
- Some places to find refurbished tech include Best Buy’s Outlet, Amazon Warehouse and eBay. Apple, Google, Sonos and Nintendo also refurbish their products. (Verge)
- How to take a digital detox during the Covid-19 pandemic (BBC)
- Reference: Depreciation
- What Is The Future Of Cities? (NPR) & Op-ed: The next Silicon Valley exodus — Over 25% of tech sector wants permanent work from home (CNBC) Silicon Valley and Bay Area commercial real estate is about to face a real reckoning as we very much agree that many tech companies will not be returning to offices. We think this will result in more startups and tech companies being located all around the US and not just concentrated in the big coastal cities.
- The techopolies have never been more powerful than right now: Apple whistleblower goes public over ‘lack of action’ (The Guardian) & U.S. Is Said to Plan to File Antitrust Charges Against Google (NYT, $)
- Spotify is hiring Joe Rogan, one of the world’s most popular and controversial podcasters (Vox) We’ve noticed increasingly that tech companies (Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify) want to own content and content companies (Disney) want to be tech companies. This makes sense because tech companies start with distribution and then work their way back (verticalize) to creating their own content (unique intellectual property). In contrast tech companies start with content and then seek to build software to scale distribution.
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