Officially “Extinct” Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Found Living in Louisiana

(p. A21) NASHVILLE — Once upon a time, deep in the upland pine forests and hardwood bottomlands of the American South, a magnificent bird dwelt high in the treetops. The ivory-billed woodpecker was a denizen of old-growth forests, but by the end of the 19th century, vast stands of old-growth Southern forest were already gone. A confirmed sighting of the Lord God Bird hasn’t been recorded since 1944.

Reports of the elusive ivory-bill surface from time to time anyway. In 2004, a sighting in Arkansas inspired a frenzy among birders, but an exhaustive search by teams from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology turned up no definitive evidence of survivors. Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct.

Now Steve Latta, the director of conservation at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, believes his team of researchers has found the bird living in the marshes of Louisiana. Using drones and mounted trail cameras, they have amassed both images and recordings of the birds, in addition to more than a dozen observations by the skilled researchers themselves. Comparing the markings, morphology, and foraging behavior of the birds they observed with those in historic photographs and videos, the researchers concluded that the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct after all. “Our findings, and the inferences drawn from them, suggest an increasingly hopeful future for the ivory-billed woodpecker,” they write.

. . .

“Ivory-billed Woodpeckers are extinct,” tweeted the artist and birder Walter Kitundu. “And even if they weren’t I would still prefer you believed they were and left them the F alone.”

. . .

Wildness is everywhere, renewing itself among us, reminding us not to give up. And who could fail to feel hopeful, if only for a moment, in the presence of new life? Or in the smallest chance that old life has somehow come back from the dead?

For the full commentary, see:

Margaret Renkl. “The Second Coming of the Lord God Bird.” The New York Times (Wednesday, April 27, 2022): A21.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 25, 2022, and has the same title as the print version. The online version of the commentary says that the print version appeared on p. A23. But in my National print copy, the commentary appeared on p. A21.)

Ronald Reagan, a Cuban, a Mormon, Me, and the Deauville

I recently ran across a front-page story in the New York Times about the disrepair, and likely demolition, of Miami’s famous Deauville Hotel. It brought back memories.

Toastmasters International was going to have its annual convention in Miami immediately following the Republican Convention there in 1968. My father was an officer of Toastmasters, eventually the international president. We went down early since a friend of my father was able to get us tickets to a day of the Republican Convention. We heard a speech by Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, a well-known orator.

My father was supporting Richard Nixon. In an act of minor rebellion, at age 16 I asked him if I could go to the Ronald Reagan headquarters at the Deauville Hotel and volunteer for a day. He said OK.

I reported to the head of Youth for Reagan, Dan Manion. My first job was to attend a rally to greet Reagan’s arrival at the Deauville. I remember Reagan smiling and waving as he exited his limo, while we chanted: “Give a yell, give a cheer, Ron-ald Rea-gan is here!”

For most of the day, Manion assigned me to work with a Cuban and a Mormon to haul cases of cheap wine from somewhere in Miami to the California delegation at the Deauville. (The Cuban had a pickup truck.) We were a diverse trio. I do not remember the details of our conversation, but I remember its warmth and camaraderie.

Reagan lost the nomination to Nixon, but he did not give up, and we did not give up either.

Over half a century later, I still smile when I remember that day. Dan Manion became a federal judge; I talked with him at my father’s funeral in April 2000. I never saw the Cuban or the Mormon again, and would not recognize them if I ran into them. But I hope that life has been good to them and that they remember that day as fondly as I do.

The article that I mentioned above on the decline of the Deauville Hotel is:

Patricia Mazzei. “A Historic Miami Beach Hotel Falls Prey to Neglect and Time.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 19, 2022): A1 & A11.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 20, 2022, and has the title “A Grand Miami Beach Hotel, and Its History, Might Be Torn Down.”)

Bennet Chose Pig’s Heart Since “It Was Either Die or Do This Transplant”

(p. A3) A man who had the first transplant to replace his human heart with a genetically-modified pig’s heart without immediate rejection died Tuesday afternoon at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, two months after the groundbreaking surgery.

. . .

While Mr. Bennett only lived with the pig heart for a couple of months, Dr. Parsia Vagefi, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s chief of the division of surgical transplantation, said people shouldn’t view the transplant as a failure and that he hopes it serves as a “new beginning” for xenotransplantation.

“I think what this shows is just the enormous amount of progress that’s been made and hopefully it’s just the beginning that we continue to grow on,” he said.

Mr. Bennett wasn’t eligible for a more typical heart transplant because he didn’t comply with doctors’ orders or attend follow-up visits. Several transplant centers—including the Maryland one—declined to list him for the chance to get a human heart, according to David Bennett Jr. , Mr. Bennett’s son. He also didn’t regularly take his medication, the younger Mr. Bennett previously said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted Mr. Bennett’s operation emergency authorization on New Year’s Eve. “It was either die or do this transplant,” he said the day before his surgery, according to the University of Maryland Medicine. The handyman and father of two called the transplant his “last choice.”

For the full story, see:

Allison Prang. “Pig-Heart Recipient Dies 2 Months Later.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 10, 2022): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated March 9, 2022, and has the title “The Patient Who Received a Pig Heart Dies Two Months After Transplant.” The first two sentences after the ellipsis appear in the online, but not the print, version.)

Warren Harding Fostered Economic Growth by Reducing Government

(p. A15) Poor Warren G. Harding, burdened with the distinction of being America’s pre-eminent presidential bottom-dweller. In surveys on White House performance, Harding invariably ranks dead last, with almost no prospect that he will ever climb the rankings as others have done—Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, or Ulysses S. Grant.

Historians have variously described Harding as “a prime example of incompetence, sloth, and feeble good nature,” “the most inept president” of his century, “lazy,” “a black mark in American history” and “quite the bumbler.” Is this an accurate appraisal? Ryan S. Walters answers with a defiant no. In “The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding,” the author even indulges in a few flights of outrage at what he considers the “rumors, lies, smears, and innuendo” that have been “used to wreck” Harding’s reputation.

. . .

When Harding became president in 1921, the nation was struggling through one of its greatest crisis periods, beset by soaring inflation followed by debilitating deflation, bloody racial and labor strife, ominous episodes of domestic terrorism, and the fallout from Woodrow Wilson’s harsh wartime assaults on civil liberties. Harding’s first priority was the economy—the gross national product was down 17%, stock values were cut nearly in half, unemployment was at 12% and farmers were devastated by plunging prices. Harding reduced government spending, slashed individual taxes (the marginal rate had reached a high of 77%), increased tariff rates, and shrank the size and intrusiveness of the federal government.

All this flouted the progressivism that had dominated American politics since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency of 1901-09. But Harding’s efforts worked, setting in motion a decade of economic expansion unequaled in American history. The economy grew at an average of 7% a year between 1922 and 1927, and the nation’s wealth soared to $103 billion in 1929 from $70 billion in 1921.

. . .

Harding was a man of little intellectual sophistication, with a gentle nature, hardly any pretense and almost no guile—in other words, the kind of man who is often underestimated and easily ridiculed. But he harbored serious convictions and a degree of common sense that served him well.

For the full review, see:

Robert W. Merry. “BOOKSHELF; A President Revisited.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 4, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 3, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Jazz Age President’ Review: Correcting the Record.”)

The book under review is:

Walters, Ryan S. The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding. Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2022.

Almost Half of College Students Feel “Uncomfortable” Expressing Their Views on Controversial Issues

(p. A19) In the classroom, backlash for unpopular opinions is so commonplace that many students have stopped voicing them, sometimes fearing lower grades if they don’t censor themselves. According to a 2021 survey administered by College Pulse of over 37,000 students at 159 colleges, 80 percent of students self-censor at least some of the time. Forty-eight percent of undergraduate students described themselves as “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with expressing their views on a controversial topic in the classroom. At U.Va., 57 percent of those surveyed feel that way.

. . .

The consequences for saying something outside the norm can be steep. I met Stephen Wiecek at our debate club. He’s an outgoing, formidable first-year debater who often stays after meetings to help clean up. He’s also conservative. At U.Va., where only 9 percent of students surveyed described themselves as a “strong Republican” or “weak Republican,” that puts him in the minority.

He told me that he has often “straight-up lied” about his beliefs to avoid conflict. Sometimes it’s at a party, sometimes it’s at an a cappella rehearsal, and sometimes it’s in the classroom. When politics comes up, “I just kind of go into survival mode,” he said. “I tense up a lot more, because I’ve got to think very carefully about how I word things. It’s very anxiety inducing.”

This anxiety affects not just conservatives. I spoke with Abby Sacks, a progressive fourth-year student. She said she experienced a “pile-on” during a class discussion about sexism in media. She disagreed with her professor, who she said called “Captain Marvel” a feminist film. Ms. Sacks commented that she felt the film emphasized the title character’s physical strength instead of her internal conflict and emotions. She said this seemed to frustrate her professor.

Her classmates noticed. “It was just a succession of people, one after each other, each vehemently disagreeing with me,” she told me.

Ms. Sacks felt overwhelmed. “Everyone adding on to each other kind of energized the room, like everyone wanted to be part of the group with the correct opinion,” she said. The experience, she said, “made me not want to go to class again.” While Ms. Sacks did continue to attend the class, she participated less frequently. She told me that she felt as if she had become invisible.

. . .

We cannot experience the full benefits of a university education without having our ideas challenged, yet challenged in ways that allow us to grow. As Ms. Sacks told me, “We need to have conversations about these issues without punishing each other for our opinions.”

For the full commentary, see:

Emma Camp. “Self-Censorship Is Stifling Campuses.” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 9, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 7, 2022, and has the title “I Came to College Eager to Debate. I Found Self-Censorship Instead.”)

Sugarman Spent $500,000 in a Losing Fight Against a $100,000 FTC Fine

(p. A12) Though many of his wackier ideas bombed, Mr. Sugarman came up with a big winner now and then, including pocket calculators in the early 1970s and his BluBlocker sunglasses, designed to filter out ultraviolet and blue light waves, starting in the 1980s.

. . .

Trouble came in 1979 when the Federal Trade Commission accused him of violating a rule requiring firms to send out mail-order items promptly or notify customers of delays. Mr. Sugarman said the delays were caused by blizzards and a computer breakdown. The FTC proposed a $100,000 fine.

Mr. Sugarman counterattacked with a pamphlet, “The Monster That Eats Business,” an indictment of the FTC illustrated with cartoons in the style of Mad magazine. He accused FTC officials of hounding him over trivial lapses. After six years of fighting, he agreed to a settlement requiring him to pay a fine of $115,000 over four years. Mr. Sugarman said he had spent $500,000 on legal fees and added that “we are completely innocent of the charges.”

The success of BluBlocker sunglasses dug him out of that hole. Mr. Sugarman had a home on Maui, where he published a weekly newspaper. He flew small airplanes. He drove a Ferrari Testarossa. He looked dapper in his BluBlockers.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Marketing Guru Survived His Flops and Found Hits.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 2, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 29, 2022, and has the title “Marketing Maverick Survived Flops, Found Hits.”)

Imposing Permanent Daylight Savings Time Is Like Imposing Permanent Jet Lag

(p. A19) . . . when the U.S. Senate recently passed a bill to make daylight-saving time permanent, sleep experts became more alarmed.

Legislators picked the wrong time, they say.

Our internal clocks are connected to the sun, which aligns more closely with permanent standard time, says Muhammad Adeel Rishi, a pulmonologist and sleep physician at Indiana University. When the clocks spring forward, our internal clocks don’t change but are forced to follow society’s clock rather than the sun. DST is like permanent social jet lag.

Dr. Rishi is one of the authors of a 2020 position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional society, supporting making standard time—not daylight-saving time—permanent.

. . .

One of the big problems with permanent DST, objectors note, is that in the winter the sun will rise later and many schoolchildren will be walking to school in the dark.

On the western edge of the eastern time zone in Indiana, for instance, the sun won’t rise in the winter until about 9 a.m., notes Dr. Rishi. “You’re basically putting these kids two hours off from their circadian biology,” he says.

For the full commentary, see:

Sumathi Reddy. “YOUR HEALTH; Body Clock Needs Sun In Morning.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 24, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 23, 2022, and has the title “YOUR HEALTH; Why Permanent Daylight-Saving Time Is Seen as Bad for Your Health.”)

Stewart Brand Read Rand and Koestler, and Inspired Steve Jobs

At the end of Steve Jobs’s famous commencement address at Stanford, he quoted Stewart Brand’s famous advice at the end of his Last Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

(p. A15) When I first met Stewart Brand at an upscale ideas festival, I expected to engage with an aging beatnik or hippie, the tree-hugging, whale-saving environmentalist I associated with the “Whole Earth Catalog”—that ’60s-era collectanea of books, resources, tools, technologies and assorted products that became the bible of a techno-utopia DIY movement focused on self-sufficiency, education and ecology. But I found Mr. Brand more like Elon Musk than Timothy Leary, and was astonished to witness him make the best argument I’d ever heard for including nuclear power in plans to replace fossil fuels.

. . .

Although many contemporaries dropped acid for the pure experience, Mr. Brand said he took LSD (and other psychedelics) because he hoped they would accentuate his appreciation of beauty, especially that found in the photographic skills he was developing. For him psychedelics were a tool of creativity: “When you design a tool,” he wrote in 1971, “the best you can do is fashion a prototype and hand it over to the local evolutionary system: ‘Here, try this.’ ”

His model was Arthur Koestler’s “bisociation,” the blending of unrelated concepts into something new. Mr. Brand’s ability to discern unlikely complements, along with the organizational skills he’d honed in the military, helped bring numerous projects to fruition: His imagination had him bounce from one to the next; his pragmatic propensities put them into effect. Decades after the “Whole Earth Catalog” project, for example, Mr. Brand published “Whole Earth Discipline,” which proposed integrating nuclear power, geoengineering, genetic engineering, wildlife restoration, species protection and other environmental technologies aimed at creating a sustainable future for life on Earth. He’s a solutions guy, not a New Age guru—his ability to convene like-minded innovators has resulted in the WELL (Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link), the Global Business Network for futurists and business leaders, the Long Now Foundation, and Revive & Restore, a project to bring back extinct species like passenger pigeons and woolly mammoths.

As for Mr. Brand’s politics, he’s off the spectrum, mostly identifying as a small-l libertarian (he read Ayn Rand at Stanford), committed to bottom-up democracy, with an aversion to orthodoxy of any sort, which means he must adapt when the marginal becomes the mainstream, as in his shift from environmentalism to conservationism, from organic foods to GMOs, and from anti- to pro-nuclear power.

For the full review, see:

Michael Shermer’. “BOOKSHELF; A Man In Whole.” The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, March 29, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 28, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Whole Earth’ Review: A Man in Whole.”)

The book under review is:

Markoff, John. Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. New York: Penguin Press, 2022.

Pre-Covid Federal Pandemic Plans Did Not Include Lockdowns

(p. A19) California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the first statewide U.S. stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020. All U.S. states and most other countries have long since abandoned lockdowns as oppressive, ineffective and exorbitantly expensive. But why did free countries adopt such a strategy to begin with?

. . .

Stay-at-home orders weren’t part of the script in pre-Covid federal pandemic plans. The idea of “flattening the curve” through what are known as “layered non-pharmaceutical interventions” can be traced to an influential 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance paper, updated in 2017. Contemplating a severe pandemic with a 2% case fatality rate, the CDC recommended now-familiar strategies, such as masking, surface disinfection and temporary school closings.

Yet aside from suggesting limits on mass gatherings, the CDC paper makes no mention of closing workplaces. Instead, it concludes that such a severe pandemic could warrant recommending that employers “offer telecommuting and replace in-person meetings in the workplace with video or telephone conferences.” The closest it comes to lockdowns is recommending “voluntary home quarantine” for people with an infected family member.

. . .

When Western nations were confronted with Covid-19, they seemed to believe the Communist Party’s unproven claims about the efficacy of lockdowns. In the end, every other country got some variant of the virus and some variant of China’s official response. The world has learned to live with the former, as politically accountable leaders found they couldn’t maintain draconian restrictions forever. The people of China will be forced to endure the latter indefinitely.

For the full commentary, see:

Eugene Kontorovich and Anastasia Lin. “Covid Lockdowns Were a Chinese Import.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 24, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 23, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Seems Ethernet Does Not Work in Theory, Only in Practice”

(p. A21) David Boggs, an electrical engineer and computer scientist who helped create Ethernet, the computer networking technology that connects PCs to printers, other devices and the internet in offices and homes, died on Feb. 19 [2022] in Palo Alto, Calif.

. . .

In the spring of 1973, just after enrolling as a graduate student at Stanford University, Mr. Boggs began an internship at Xerox PARC, a Silicon Valley research lab that was developing a new kind of personal computer. One afternoon, in the basement of the lab, he noticed another researcher tinkering with a long strand of cable.

The researcher, another new hire named Bob Metcalfe, was exploring ways of sending information to and from the lab’s new computer, the Alto. Mr. Metcalfe was trying to send electrical pulses down the cable, and he was struggling to make it work. So Mr. Boggs offered to help.

Over the next two years, they designed the first version of Ethernet.

“He was the perfect partner for me,” Mr. Metcalfe said in an interview. “I was more of a concept artist, and he was a build-the-hardware-in-the-back-room engineer.”

. . .

Before becoming the dominant networking protocol, Ethernet was challenged by several other technologies. In the early 1980s, Mr. Metcalfe said, when Mr. Boggs took the stage at a California computing conference, at the San Jose Convention Center, to discuss the future of networking, a rival technologist questioned the mathematical theory behind Ethernet, telling Mr. Boggs that it would never work with large numbers of machines.

His response was unequivocal. “Seems Ethernet does not work in theory,” he said, “only in practice.”

For the full obituary, see:

Cade Metz. “David Boggs, Co-Inventor of Ethernet, Dies at 71.” The New York Times (Tuesday, March 1, 2022): A21.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 28, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Nuclear War Is a Greater Threat to Humanity Than Is Climate Change

(p. A19) Weeks before thermobaric rockets rained down on Ukraine, the chattering classes at the World Economic Forum declared “climate action failure” the biggest global risk for the coming decade. On the eve of war, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry fretted about the “massive emissions consequences” of Russian invasion and worried that the world might forget about the risks of climate change if fighting broke out. Amid the conflict and the many other challenges facing the globe right now, like inflation and food price hikes, the global elite has an unhealthy obsession with climate change.

This fixation has had three important consequences. First, it has distracted the Western world from real geopolitical threats. Russia’s invasion should be a wake-up call that war is still a serious danger that requires democratic nations’ attention. But a month into the war in Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres—whose organization’s main purpose is ensuring world peace—was focused instead on “climate catastrophe,” warning that fossil-fuel addiction will bring “mutually assured destruction.” His comments come at a time when nuclear weapons are posing the biggest risk of literal mutually assured destruction in half a century.

Second, the narrow focus on immediate climate objectives undermines future prosperity.

. . .

Third, in the world’s poorest countries, the international community’s focus on putting up solar panels coexists with a woeful underinvestment in solutions to massive existing problems.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “Be Afraid of Nuclear War, Not Climate Change.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, March 30, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 29, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)