Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier Is Melting at Only Half the Peak Rate of the Past 200 Years

Barbara Rush’s honest acknowledgement that the scientific evidence suggests slower glacial melting than the popular doomsday predictions claim, is especially powerful and credible coming from the author of an earlier book praised by environmentalists for its sensitive portrayal of the harms of rising sea levels.

(p. 7) If Antarctica is going to lose a lot of ice this century, it will likely come from Thwaites. If it disintegrated, it would be responsible for over two feet of sea level rise, and its collapse could destabilize the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, causing global sea levels to jump 10 feet or more. In terms of the fate of our coastal communities, this particular glacier is the biggest wild card, the largest known unknown, the pile of coins that could tip the scales one way or another. Will Miami even exist in 100 years? Thwaites will decide.

At least that is what many scientists think, which is why Rolling Stone called Thwaites the “doomsday glacier” in 2017. But many of our predictions about just how much ice will enter the ocean from Thwaites and just how quickly this will occur are just that: predictions. That’s because before our mission, we had next to no observational data from this part of the planet, very few bits of raw information on which to base models.

When I read about the collapse of Antarctica’s great glaciers, I feel I am being encouraged to jump to a conclusion: that no matter what we do now, what lies ahead is bound to be worse than what came before.

This kind of thinking not only undermines our ability to imagine a climate-changed world that is more equitable than the one we currently live in; it also turns Antarctica into a passive symbol of the coming apocalypse.

. . .

This week Nature Geoscience published a paper analyzing the data from that submarine. The authors, many of whom were on board the vessel with me, suggest that sometime over the past couple hundred years, Thwaites retreated at two to three times the rate we see today. Put another way: At the cold nadir of the planet, one of the world’s largest glaciers is stepping farther outside the script we imagined for it, likely defying even our most detailed projections of what is to come.

For the full story, see:

Elizabeth Rush. “What Antarctica’s Disintegration Asks of Us.” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, September 11, 2022): 7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 8, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The academic article published in Nature Geoscience, and mentioned above, is:

Graham, Alastair G. C., Anna Wåhlin, Kelly A. Hogan, Frank O. Nitsche, Karen J. Heywood, Rebecca L. Totten, James A. Smith, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Lauren M. Simkins, John B. Anderson, Julia S. Wellner, and Robert D. Larter. “Rapid Retreat of Thwaites Glacier in the Pre-Satellite Era.” Nature Geoscience (Sept. 5, 2022), DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-01019-9.

Rush’s book mentioned above is:

Rush, Elizabeth. Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2018.

Covid-19 Health Effects Will Keep Reducing Labor Force

(p. A1) As the United States emerges from the pandemic, employers have been desperate to hire. But while demand for goods and services has rebounded, the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy.

. . .

(p. A20) Morning Consult found in August [2022] that prime-age adults who aren’t working cited a variety of often overlapping reasons for not wanting jobs. In a monthly poll of 2,200 people, 40 percent said they believed that they wouldn’t be able to find a job with enough flexibility, while 38 percent were limited by family situations and personal obligations. But the biggest category, at 43 percent, was medical conditions.

Other data suggest some of that is due to long-term complications from Covid-19, although estimates of how many people have been knocked out of the work force by Covid range tremendously.

Katie Bach, a Brookings Institution fellow, put the impact at two million to four million full-time workers, based on her interpretation of the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and other research. (The total affected may be larger, with many who suffer from long Covid reducing their hours rather than stopping work.) A Federal Reserve economist didn’t specify a number, but observed that even as Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths receded, the share of people saying they were not able to work because of illness or disability had remained elevated in Labor Department data after spiking in early 2021.

Another analysis, in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that people who’d taken a week off for health-related reasons in 2020 and 2021 were 7 percent less likely to be in the labor force a year later — which equates to about 500,000 workers.

Whatever the magnitude, the effects are likely to be significant and long-lasting. Vaccines provide imperfect protection against getting long Covid, studies suggest, and other post-viral diseases have proven difficult to recover from. “I certainly don’t think the worst is behind us,” Ms. Bach said.

For the full story, see:

Lydia DePillis. “Pool of Labor In U.S. Stays Bafflingly Low.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 13, 2022): A1 & A20.

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

(Note: the online version has the date Sept. 12, 2022, and has the title “Who Are America’s Missing Workers?”)

The NBER paper mentioned above is:

Goda, Gopi Shah, and Evan J. Soltas. “The Impacts of Covid-19 Illnesses on Workers.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 30435, Sept. 2022.

An Electric Prayer

(p. A4) BEIRUT, Lebanon — The second the light above Hasmik Tutunjian’s bed came on at midnight, she said a prayer of thanks and got up quickly. She did not know how much time she had before she would be plunged back into darkness.

First, Ms. Tutunjian, 66, stripped the sheets off the bed — soaked with sweat from Beirut’s stifling and humid heat. She grabbed a phone charger hanging on a hook next to a tote bag that reads, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and plugged it in. Then she moved into the living room to plug in three chargeable lights. Finally, she put in the first of as many loads of laundry as the electricity would allow.

. . .

Power cuts have long been a part of life in this country because of a dysfunctional electricity sector. But over the past year, they have worsened with acute fuel shortages leading to severe blackouts across Lebanon and state-supplied power coming on for only an hour or two a day — at most — and on no set schedule.

. . .

. . . with Lebanese inflation rising to 168 percent in the year that ended in July [2022], and unemployment skyrocketing, a dwindling number of people can afford the extra generator power. And some of the generators provide only a few amps — enough to power a refrigerator, a fan and the television.

Ms. Tutunjian cannot afford any amps.

She has a chargeable fan, but the power does not come on long enough to fully charge it. She tries to cool herself with a folding fan, which does little to fight the suffocating heat of a Beirut summer.

“Sometimes I tell myself I’m not going to get sad, but I can’t help it,” she said, sitting in her living room. “At night, I get into bed angry, I cry.”

. . .

Last month, an armed 42-year-old man held a Beirut bank hostage for hours, demanding that he be allowed to withdraw his entire life’s savings — more than $200,000. But the amount far exceeded the paltry caps on cash withdrawals.

He said he needed the money to pay for an operation for his father, and threatened to kill everyone inside the bank and to set himself on fire.

“That man, good what he did,” Ms. Tutunjian said.

Eventually, he was allowed to take out a small portion of his savings in exchange for his surrender and arrest. He became an instant hero, capturing a nation’s frustrations, and was released days later amid an outpouring of public support.

“He said he’ll do it again,” Ms. Tutunjian said.

For the full story, see:

Raja Abdulrahim and Laura Boushnak. “Chasing a Few Hours of Electricity In the Middle of the Night.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 13, 2022): A4.

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

(Note: the online version was updated on Sept. 21, 2022, and has the title “Oppressive Blackouts Force Lebanese to Change Rhythm of Life.”)

Paddington Bear Condemned as an Unsustainable Tribute to Queen

(p. A12) Amid the outpouring of grief after the death of queen Elizabeth II at 96, Britons have laid many a tribute in parks and outside palace gates in England. But the charity responsible for all the royal acres in the land has a plea: Bouquets of flowers are ever so lovely, but please skip the teddy bears and balloons.

The charity, Royal Parks, asks well-wishers to bring only “organic or compostable material” . . .

Mourners have already contributed stuffed Paddington Bears, . . .

Paddington is an especially popular tribute because of a video released around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee in June [2022], in which the queen and the bear have tea and discuss keeping marmalade sandwiches on hand for emergencies. (He keeps one in his hat; she, supposedly, kept one in her purse.)

But Royal Parks says mourners should choose their tributes “in the interests of sustainability.”

For the full story, see:

JOSEPH, YONETTE. “Flowers, Yes. But Bears? Please Don’t.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 13, 2022): A12.

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

(Note: after substantial search, I could not find that the article had been posted online by the NYT.)

Both Insourcing and Outsourcing Can Be Successful Strategies

(p. A13) n “Profit From the Source,” four Europe-based partners at Boston Consulting Group—Christian Schuh, Wolfgang Schnellbächer, Alenka Triplat and Daniel Weise—make the case for drastic change. Procurement, they assert, has been badly neglected: “When the boss offers someone a job in procurement, they know they’re on the fast track to nowhere.” Top executives, they claim, spend far too little time with suppliers, even though purchasing swallows more than half of the average company’s budget. “That’s a mismatch with potentially existential consequences,” they write. Instead, they insist, companies should put procurement at the center of corporate strategy.

. . .

Serving up familiar stories about the likes of Apple and Tesla, the authors write admiringly: “The world’s most successful companies . . . make virtually nothing themselves. They are, in effect, the consumer-facing, brand-owning centripetal force at the core of a business ecosystem.” But many companies have been moving in the opposite direction. In recent years, Facebook (now Meta) began designing chips for the servers in its data centers; Costco built a slaughterhouse to ensure its stores’ supply of chickens; and Cleveland-Cliffs bought steel mills to supply from its iron mines. Much of the business world seems to think that outsourcing has gone too far. Should the chief procurement officer help identify ways to bring parts of the supply chain back in house? The authors don’t say.

For the full review, see:

Marc Levinson. “BOOKSHELF; Consider The Supplier.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 29, 2022): A13.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipsis within paragraph, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 28, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Profit From the Source’ Review: Consider the Supplier.”)

The book under review is:

Schuh, Christian, Wolfgang Schnellbacher, Alenka Triplat, and Daniel Weise. Profit from the Source: Transforming Your Business by Putting Suppliers at the Core. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2022.

Proposed 20 Years Ago, Heart Polypill Is Safe, Effective, and Easier to Take, but Is Not Allowed by FDA

(p. A7) Heart disease kills more people than any other condition, but despite advances in treatment and prevention, patients often do not stick to their medication regimens. Now researchers may have found a solution: a so-called polypill that combines three drugs needed to prevent cardiovascular trouble.

In what is apparently the largest and longest randomized controlled trial of this approach, patients who were prescribed a polypill within six months of a heart attack were more likely to keep taking their drugs and had significantly fewer cardiovascular events, compared with those receiving the usual assortment of pills.

The participants also experienced one-third fewer cardiovascular deaths, although their overall risk of death from all causes was not significantly changed.

The study of more than two thousand heart patients, who were followed for three years, was published Friday morning in The New England Journal of Medicine, as the findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona.

. . .

The polypill combines a blood-pressure medication, a cholesterol-lowering drug and aspirin, which helps prevent blood clots. The idea was first floated two decades ago in a more radical form: Advocates proposed giving a daily polypill to everyone once they turned 55, saying it would slash cardiovascular events globally by 80 percent.

. . .

The polypill used in the study has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is not available to patients in the United States right now. Dr. Fuster said the results of the new trial would be submitted to the agency shortly in an effort to obtain approval.

He called the results of the new study “striking,” and said the benefit of the polypill for prevention rivaled that of low-dose aspirin, which is now routinely prescribed to people who have already had a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

And since participants became even more likely to keep taking the polypill over time, he said, “The potential results could be even better with more follow-up.” Several studies have shown that only about half of patients, or even less, take all their medications as instructed.

The new study, a randomized controlled clinical trial, enrolled just under 2,500 patients at 113 sites in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

. . .

Over three years, 12.7 percent of the patients taking an assortment of pills experienced another heart attack or stroke, or died of a cardiac event or needed urgent treatment to open a blocked artery, compared with 9.5 percent of patients taking a polypill, for a relative reduction in risk of 24 percent.

There was no difference between the two groups in overall mortality, however, as the reduction in cardiovascular deaths in the polypill group was offset by deaths from other causes.

For the full story, see:

Roni Caryn Rabin. “Heart Disease Patients Are More Likely to Stick to a One-Pill Daily Regimen, Researchers Say.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 27, 2022): A7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 26, 2022, and has the title “How to Get Heart Patients to Take Their Pills? Give Them Just One”)

NU President Carter May Earn $1.5 Million Per Year by 2023

(p. B1) LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents extended President Ted Carter’s contract by three years on Thursday, potentially keeping the university’s top leader in Nebraska through 2027.

Carter’s new contract, approved unanimously, also raises his base salary by 3% this year and adds a second deferred compensation package to incentivize the president to stay at NU.

In all, Carter’s total compensation could top $1.5 million beginning in 2023.

. . .

Regents also awarded Carter, a former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, a $105,000 performance bonus for the (p. B1) 2021-22 academic year.

That amount is less than the $140,000 he was eligible to receive; Carter hit 89% of the benchmarks set for him by the board last year after first- to second-year retention numbers fell at several NU campuses.

For the full story, see:

CHRIS DUNKER, Lincoln Journal Star. “NU President Given Raise, Extension.” The Omaha World-Herald (Friday, August 12, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 18, 2022, and has the title “Regents approve contract extension, pay raise for NU president.”)

Minorities, Disabled, Less-Educated, and Felons Are First Laid Off in a Recession

(p. A1) Black Americans have been hired much more rapidly in the wake of the pandemic shutdowns than after previous recessions. But as the Federal Reserve tries to soften the labor market in a bid to tame inflation, economists worry that Black workers will bear the brunt of a slowdown — and that without federal aid to cushion the blow, the impact could be severe.

Some 3.5 million Black workers lost or left their jobs in March and April 2020. In weeks, the unemployment rate for Black workers soared to 16.8 percent, the same as the peak after the 2008 financial crisis, while the rate for white workers topped out at 14.1 percent.

Since then, the U.S. economy has experienced one of its fastest rebounds ever, one that has extended to workers of all races. The Black unemployment rate was 6 percent last month, just above the record low of late 2019. And in government data collected since the 1990s, wages for Black workers are rising at their fastest pace ever.

Now policymakers at the Fed and in the White House face the challenge of fighting inflation without inducing a recession that would erode or reverse those workplace gains.

Decades of research has found that workers from racial and ethnic minorities — along with those with other barriers to employment, such as disabilities, criminal records or low levels of education — are among the first laid off during a downturn and the last hired during a recovery.

For the full story, see:

Talmon Joseph Smith and Ben Casselman. “Job Gains for Black Workers Could Reverse in a Downturn.” The New York Times (Wednesday, August 24, 2022): A1 & A14.

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version and has the title “What Will Happen to Black Workers’ Gains if There’s a Recession?”)

Claremont Censors Professor for Quoting Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

The courageous and decent hero of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is the black slave Jim. To censor this work because of its vocabulary, spectacularly misses Mark Twain’s point. How many of those who censor Huckleberry Finn have actually read Huckleberry Finn?

(p. A15) Claremont, Calif.

I teach at Claremont McKenna College, the No. 1-ranked liberal-arts college for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. FIRE may need to consider its ratings.

On Oct. 4, 2021, my class discussed Plato’s “Republic” and his views about censorship. A student objected that Plato was mistaken about its necessity. Here in the U.S., she said, there is none. Someone brought up “Huckleberry Finn.” She replied, correctly, that removing a book from curriculums doesn’t constitute censorship. I pointed out that the case was more complicated. The book had also been removed from libraries and published in expurgated editions.

An international student asked me why. I told her, quoting Mark Twain’s precise language, which meant speaking the N-word.

. . .

. . ., the dean enlisted the help of both the department chairman and a co-director of the college’s Open Academy program—a resource center that describes its purpose as “to counter the forces that are pulling us apart with educational strategies that bring us together”—to ban me from teaching any required courses in the future, seemingly into perpetuity.

. . .

The administration’s behavior toward me and two similar cases in the literature department seem to show that CMC sets the bounds of faculty speech arbitrarily. This spring, a literature adjunct read aloud and asked students to discuss a passage from “The Color Purple” that contained the N-word. They complained. Ms. Antecol summoned the adjunct, who apologized and agreed to undergo recommended counseling. The professor submitted to re-education and training in critical race theory. Despite all this—and a glowing recommendation by the faculty member who observed her course—the class the adjunct was set to teach at CMC in the fall was abruptly canceled.

When a tenured literature professor, who is also well-connected to the board of trustees and the media, committed a similar offense, he received no penalty. Last fall the professor assigned Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead,” which contains the N-word. When he played in class a recording of Lowell reading the poem, a student exploded, excoriating both author and teacher as old white men. The associate vice president for diversity and inclusion informed the professor by telephone, not in writing, that he was in the clear because he hadn’t himself read the forbidden word aloud in class.

The effects of the administration’s actions are disastrous and lasting. Students, already fearful to speak their minds, become even more so when they see that certain peers can veto the content of courses and conduct of teachers arbitrarily.

. . .

My job as a teacher is to oppose ignorance wherever it manifests itself. If a dean promotes the work of Daniele da Volterra, Pope Paul IV’s painter of fig leaves, I have no choice but to stand for the original of Michelangelo. And so must I stand for the original works of Mark Twain and Frederick Douglass, exactly as written by their authors. They deserve that, as do my students.

For the full commentary see:

Christopher Nadon. “Censorship at a Top College for Free Speech.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 22, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

A thrifty edition of Mark Twain’s humane masterpiece is:

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994 [1885].

Europe Subsidizes Burning Old Trees That Release More Carbon Dioxide Than Released by Burning Coal

(p. A24) Across Central Europe, companies are clear-cutting forests and at times grinding up centuries-old trees in the name of renewable energy. All of this is legal.
In fact, it is encouraged by government subsidies meant to help the European Union reach its renewable energy goals.

In reality, though, burning wood can be even dirtier than burning coal.

New York Times journalists followed six truckloads to the factory on a recent day and watched as logs from one of the continent’s most important conservation areas were churned into sawdust.

Wood was never supposed to be the cornerstone of the European Union’s green energy strategy.

When the bloc began subsidizing wood burning over a decade ago, it was seen as a quick boost for renewable fuel and an incentive to move homes and power plants away from coal and gas. Chips and pellets were marketed as a way to turn sawdust waste (p. A10) into green power.

Those subsidies gave rise to a booming market, to the point that wood is now Europe’s largest renewable energy source, far ahead of wind and solar.

But today, as demand surges amid a Russian energy crunch, whole trees are being harvested for power. And evidence is mounting that Europe’s bet on wood to address climate change has not paid off.

. . .

And while European nations can count wood power toward their clean-energy targets, the E.U. scientific research agency said last year that burning wood released more carbon dioxide than would have been emitted had that energy come from fossil fuels.

“People buy wood pellets thinking they’re the sustainable choice, but in reality, they’re driving the destruction of Europe’s last wild forests,” said David Gehl of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Washington-based advocacy group that has studied wood use in Central Europe.

. . .

Scientists have calculated that, per unit of energy, burning wood actually releases more greenhouse gas emissions than burning gas, oil, or even coal.

. . .

(p. A11) The association opposes cutting subsidies or changing the way clean energy is defined. If the European Union no longer considers energy from burnt wood to be carbon-neutral, it would immediately throw many countries off track to hit renewable-energy targets.

That would have major consequences for countries like Italy, the continent’s largest consumer of wood pellets. More than a third of its renewable energy comes from burning plant material. For years, the Italian government has offered tax deductions to encourage buying pellet stoves.

For the full story see:

Sarah Hurtes and Weiyi Cai. “Sacrificing Centuries-Old Trees In Name of Renewable Energy.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 10, 2022): A1 & A10-A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 7, 2022, and has the title “Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for Energy.” Where the wording and content of the versions differs, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)

Deep-Sea Nodules Are a New Source of Scarce Metals

(p. B11) Companies could start mining the ocean floor for metals used to make electric-vehicle batteries within the next year, a development that could occur despite broad concerns about the environmental impact of deep-sea mining.

The International Seabed Authority, a United Nations observer organization that regulates deep-sea mining in international waters, is drawing up a final regulatory framework for deep-sea mining that all 168 members would need to agree to within the next 12 months. The U.S. isn’t a member of the ISA. With or without the finalized rules, the ISA will permit seabed mining by July 2023, according to people familiar with the matter.

The intent of deep-sea mining is to scrape the ocean floor for polymetallic nodules—tennis-ball-size pieces of rock that contain iron and manganese oxide layers. A seabed in the Pacific Ocean called the Clarion Clipperton Zone, which cover 1.7 million square miles between Mexico and Hawaii, contains a high volume of nodules made of battery metals, such as cobalt, manganese and lithium. The International Seabed Authority in 2010 estimated the zone had roughly 30 billion metric tons of nodules. Cobalt and other metals used in making rechargeable batteries that power products from phones to electric vehicles are in high demand, setting off a race to find and procure them. Prices of these metals are soaring as mining for them comes under scrutiny, curtailing supply.

For the full story see:

Yusuf Khan. “Deep-Sea Mining Nears Reality.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022): B11.

(Note: as of Sept. 9, 2022, the article was not available online.)