Socialist Mayor’s Environmental Bicycles Turn Paris Streets into Risky Chaos

(p. 4) PARIS — On a recent afternoon, the Rue de Rivoli looked like this: Cyclists blowing through red lights in two directions. Delivery bike riders fixating on their cellphones. Electric scooters careening across lanes. Jaywalkers and nervous pedestrians scrambling as if in a video game.

Sarah Famery, a 20-year resident of the Marais neighborhood, braced for the tumult. She looked left, then right, then left and right again before venturing into a crosswalk, only to break into a rant-laden sprint as two cyclists came within inches of grazing her.

“It’s chaos!” exclaimed Ms. Famery, shaking a fist at the swarm of bikes that have displaced cars on the Rue de Rivoli ever since it was remade into a multilane highway for cyclists last year. “Politicians want to make Paris a cycling city, but no one is following any rules,” she said. “It’s becoming risky just to cross the street!”

The mayhem on Rue de Rivoli — a major traffic artery stretching from the Bastille past the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde — is playing out on streets across Paris as the authorities pursue an ambitious goal of making the city a European cycling capital by 2024.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is campaigning for the French presidency, has been burnishing her credentials as an ecologically minded Socialist candidate. She has earned admirers and enemies alike with a bold program to transform greater Paris into the world’s leading environmentally sustainable metropolis, reclaiming vast swaths of the city from cars for parks, pedestrians and a Copenhagen-style cycling revolution.

For the full story, see:

Liz Alderman. “PARIS DISPATCH; Europe’s New Cycling Capital, or a Pedestrian’s Nightmare?” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021): 4.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 4, 2021, and has the title “PARIS DISPATCH; As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy’.”)

UNO Center Study Finds “Vast Majority” of Jan. 6th Rioters “Were Not Affiliated with Organized Groups”

Nice photo of Gina Ligon, director of NCITE, in Mammel Hall blocking our view of Jun Kaneko’s “Mr. Papercliphead” sculpture (my name for it, not Kaneko’s). (Source of photo: Omaha World-Herald article quoted below.)

(p. A3) UNO’s National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (known by the acronym NCITE) was less than a year old when rioters bearing banners of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress certified Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. But it has given new focus to the work of NCITE, which was established in 2020 with a 10-year, $36.5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to be the agency’s research hub.

“I’ve never seen so many resources and such consistent energy toward understanding the domestic terror threat,” said Gina Ligon, the center’s director. “(The Jan. 6 attack) has made what we’re doing more urgent.”

. . .

“My first thought was that it was this organized, top-down militia that got everyone spun up,” Ligon said.

That’s not the way it turned out.

A study released last week by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism — part of the NCITE consortium — showed that just 11% of those arrested so far were members of known extremist organizations.

“The vast majority were not affiliated with organized groups,” said Seamus Hughes, the program’s deputy director.

The study also dismissed any notion that large numbers of rioters were down-and-out “skinheads” associated with past far-right groups.

Instead, the analysts found a diverse group ranging in age from 18 to 80, representing 350 counties in 45 states. Most (87%) are male, and most had jobs. There were business owners, real estate agents, a yoga instructor, a state legislator and even a musical theater actor.

Although some press attention has focused on the arrest of current or former military service members, only 11% had ties to the military.

For the full story, see:

Steve Liewer. “UNO Experts Find Surprises in Capitol Riot Arrest Data.” Omaha World-Herald (Monday, Jan. 10, 2022): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 13, 2022, and has the title “UNO Counterterrorism Experts Find Surprises in Capitol Riot Arrest Data.”)

Nebraska Bumblebee Outlook Is “Rosier”

(p. A1) The dismal outlook for the American bumblebee across the United States is much rosier in Nebraska, and experts aren’t exactly sure why.

They’re just happy to report that the Bombus pensylvanicus appears to be holding its own here, compared with eight states where the American bumblebee has reportedly disappeared completely.

. . .

(p. A5) “While there is clear decline in parts of this bee’s range, the American bumblebee appears relatively stable in Nebraska based on our recent work,” Lamke said.  . . .

She speculates that one reason numbers are higher in Nebraska than elsewhere is that this is near the center of the once-abundant bee’s territory.

For the full story, see:

Marjie Ducey. “Beleaguered Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.” Omaha World-Herald (Monday, January 22, 2022): A1 & A5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 11, 2021, and has the title “Threatened American Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.”)

UNL Ph.D. Studies Cow Manure and Burps “to Help Save the Planet”

(p. A1) ITHACA, Neb. — In what’s been dubbed the “methane barn” at a University of Nebraska-Lincoln agricultural research center near here, sensitive electronic equipment monitors and logs the amount of gas belched out by a herd of yearling steers.

Yes, Andrea Watson and her fellow UNL scientists are studying cow burps. She has already heard all the jokes.

“My brother especially thinks it’s funny I had to get a Ph.D. to study cow manure and cow burps,” she said.

But this work is really quite serious. If it can help reduce the beef industry’s global environmental hoofprint, it could one day help save the planet.

. . .

Consider that in a year, the average cow belches out 220 pounds of greenhouse gas. According to United Nations figures, if the world’s beef and dairy cattle were their own country, they would be the third-largest emitter, after only China and the United States.

. . .

(p. A9) “Trying to blame the cow industry for any of this is BS,” said Jay Wolf, an Albion, Nebraska, cattle rancher who definitely is familiar with real BS. “We have reduced the herd by one-third. When other sources reduce by one-third, come talk to me.”

. . .

Climate experts are increasingly recognizing that in the decades-long battle ahead, reducing methane emissions from all sources is crucial to helping the planet buy time and avoid catastrophe. Cattle can play a big role in that, said Joe Rudek, lead senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

. . .

(p. A11) In North America, livestock are responsible for 28% of all methane emissions, with an additional 41% from the oil and gas industry (mostly through leaks) and 21% from landfills. In all, a hefty 25% of today’s warming globally is driven by methane.

Rudek said if methane emissions across all industries worldwide can be cut by 30% by 2050, it would be enough to avoid a half degree of warming.

For the full story, see:

Henry J. Cordes. “Much-maligned cattle now have chance to be part of climate solution.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, October 24, 2021): A1 & A9-A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated November 4, 2021, and has the title “The State of Beef: Much-maligned cattle now have chance to be part of climate solution.”)

Union Pacific Buying More Chassis to Carry More Containers

(p. B6) Union Pacific is buying more chassis that can carry shipping containers, and opening facilities outside of Los Angeles and in Minnesota to handle the increased volume.

Mr. Foote of CSX said that while supply chains are strained globally, the railroads are handling their role of moving goods between destinations well. A bigger problem of late has been what happens after the cargo gets to its destination.

He said containers carrying finished goods often sit idle because of a lack of truck drivers, equipment to put shipping containers on trucks and warehouse workers to unload them.

For the full story, see:

Paul Ziobro. “Railroads Shun Some Business Amid Congestion.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 22, 2021): B6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 21, 2021, and has the title “Rail-Yard Congestion Holds Down Shipping Volumes,’ CEO Says.”)

Census Bureau Algorithm Adds Noise to the Population of Monowi, Nebraska

(p. B1) The resident of Nebraska’s only one-person town was surprised when she heard the news.

The U.S. Census Bureau was reporting that Monowi’s population had exploded by 100% and was now home to two people, according to 2020 Census data it recently released.

“Well, then someone’s been hiding from me, and there’s nowhere to live but my house,” Elsie Eiler said Wednesday. “But if you find out who he is, let me know?”

His name is Noise, and he was created by an algorithm to try to protect Eiler’s personal information. Monowi didn’t add another resident to its population, but the Census Bureau did.

“What you’re seeing there is the noise we add to the data so you can’t figure out who is living there,” a bureau spokeswoman said. “It protects the privacy of the respondent and the confidentiality of the data they provide.”

The bureau doesn’t invent respondents, the spokeswoman said. But it does shift them from one census block or tract to another. And while the discrepancies might be apparent and confusing at that micro level — like when a town’s only resident is shocked to hear that she has a neighbor — the numbers are still accurate when zoomed further out, like at the congressional district level.

For the full story, see:

PETER SALTER, Lincoln Journal Star. “Monowi, Nebraska, is still a one-person town, despite what 2020 Census says.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, Aug. 30, 2021): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 30, 2021, and has the title “Monowi, Nebraska, is still a one-person town, despite what 2020 Census says.”)

Omaha’s “Boutique” Quarantine Unit Looked Backward to Ebola, Not Forward to Covid-19

(p. C1) Quarantine can be lifesaving; it can also be dangerous, an exercise of extraordinary power in the name of disease control, a presumption of guilt instead of innocence.

In “Until Proven Safe,” a new book about quarantine’s past and future, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley do an impressively judicious job of explaining exactly why fears of quarantine are understandable and historically justified, . . .

. . .

(p. C6) What becomes clear in “Until Proven Safe” is that it’s a lot easier to tell someone else to just shut up and submit to quarantine than to do it yourself. Any exercise of such formidable power also opens up the possibility of abuse. The book includes historical examples of disease control measures getting mapped onto existing prejudices. In 1900, a cordon sanitaire in San Francisco’s Chinatown zigzagged around white-owned businesses; . . .

. . .

Quarantine infrastructures tend to be tailored to the previous epidemic, instead of anticipating whatever is to come. A shiny new federal quarantine facility in Omaha — the first constructed in the United States in more than a century — was finished in January 2020, just in time to receive 15 American passengers from the coronavirus-infested Diamond Princess cruise ship. This National Quarantine Unit has a grand total of 20 beds. It offers a “boutique experience” ideally suited to managing one or two patients at a time after they have had potential exposure to, say, Ebola. The facility can’t do much to help contain a raging pandemic. As Manaugh and Twilley point out, the first American evacuation flight out of Wuhan alone carried 195 passengers.

For the full review, see:

Jennifer Szalai. “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; You Can’t Leave Unless We Say So.” The New York Times (Tuesday, July 27, 2021): C1 & C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 26, 2021, and has the title “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; The Extraordinary History (and Likely Busy Future) of Quarantine.”)

The book under review is:

Twilley, Nicola, and Geoff Manaugh. Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2021.

Pie Venture Was Located Where Entrepreneur Wanted to Live

(p. 1A) Judith Larsen turned her American dream into a small-town Nebraska reality with her Village PieMaker business, and the operation has gone cosmopolitan under a big-name owner.

. . .

Larsen’s is the story of entrepreneurship and diligence. It’s also a story of what happens when great success blossoms from small beginnings.

. . .

(p. 2A) Larsen learned how to make pies from her grandmother in Nebraska’s Sand Hills and got good enough to clear out a spare bedroom and build a pie kitchen in Sumner, Nebraska.

She bartered with pies and sold them. One time she used pie to hire a man to drag an upright piano from the basement. “I learned that you could get a man to do just about anything if you offered him a pie,” she said.

Then it was on to the village of Eustis, population 401, where in 2003 she rented an old creamery for her business. Sales took off. She named it the Village PieMaker, saying every place has its village drunk and village idiot, and she would be its piemaker. “No canned stuff” became the company’s motto.

She sought to produce pies that tasted homemade and looked homemade. “I wanted a product that people could be proud of because making a pie is a dying art,” she said.

. . .

“In the early days, I worked 80 hours a week in that shop,” she said. “In the beginning, I would do every job that everybody else would do.”

. . .

She has started a small business in which she uses a “longarm sewing machine” to assemble quilts. “I’m an entrepreneur and I’m also somebody who can’t sit still,” she said.

Who knows? Maybe her new business will do fairly well.

For the full story, see:

Rick Ruggles Jul 23, 2020. “Pie Venture That Found Success, Workers in Eustis Is Uprooted.” Omaha World-Herald (Friday, July 24, 2020): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 23, 2020, and has the title “Founder says she’s sad for workers after Joe Ricketts closes pie-making facility in Eustis.”)

“Dr. Dyson’s Mind Burned Until the End”

(p. B12) Freeman J. Dyson, a mathematical prodigy who left his mark on subatomic physics before turning to messier subjects like Earth’s environmental future and the morality of war, died on Friday [February 28, 2020] at a hospital near Princeton, N.J. He was 96.

. . .

As a young graduate student at Cornell University in 1949, Dr. Dyson wrote a landmark paper — worthy, some colleagues thought, of a Nobel Prize — that deepened the understanding of how light interacts with matter to produce the palpable world. The theory the paper advanced, called quantum electrodynamics, or QED, ranks among the great achievements of modern science.

. . .

Dr. Dyson called himself a scientific heretic and warned against the temptation of confusing mathematical abstractions with ultimate truth.

. . .

Relishing the role of iconoclast, he confounded the scientific establishment by dismissing the consensus about the perils of man-made climate change as “tribal group-thinking.” He doubted the veracity of the climate models, and he exasperated experts with sanguine predictions they found rooted less in science than in wishfulness: Excess carbon in the air is good for plants, and global warming might forestall another ice age.

In a profile of Dr. Dyson in 2009 in The New York Times Magazine, his colleague Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate, observed, “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”

Dr. Dyson’s distrust of mathematical models had earlier led him to challenge predictions that the debris from atomic warfare could blot out the sun and bring on a devastating nuclear winter. He said he wished that were true — because it would add to the psychological deterrents to nuclear war — but found the theory wanting.

For all his doubts about the ability of mortals to calculate anything so complex as the effects of climate change, he was confident enough in our toolmaking to propose a technological fix: If carbon dioxide levels became too high, forests of genetically altered trees could be planted to strip the excess molecules from the air. That would free scientists to confront problems he found more immediate, like the alleviation of poverty and the avoidance of war.

He considered himself an environmentalist. “I am a tree-hugger, in love with frogs and forests,” he wrote in 2015 in The Boston Globe. “More urgent and more real problems, such as the overfishing of the oceans and the destruction of wildlife habitat on land, are neglected, while the environmental activists waste their time and energy ranting about climate change.” That was, to say the least, a minority position.

. . .

Richard Feynman, a young professor at Cornell, had invented a novel method to describe the behavior of electrons and photons (and their antimatter equivalent, positrons). But two other physicists, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, had each independently devised a very different way. Each of these seemed to satisfy the requirements of both quantum mechanics and special relativity — two of nature’s acid tests. But which one was correct?

While crossing Nebraska on a Greyhound bus, Dr. Dyson was struck by an epiphany: The theories were mathematically equivalent — different ways of saying the same thing. The result was QED. Feynman called it “the jewel of physics — our proudest possession.”

. . .

Dr. Dyson’s mind burned until the end. In 2012, when he was 88, he collaborated with William H. Press on a paper about the prisoner’s dilemma, a mathematical concept important to understanding human behavior and the nature of evolution.

In his 90s, Dr. Dyson was still consulting for the government — on nuclear reactor design and the new gene-editing technology called CRISPR. In 2018, the year he turned 95, his book “Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters” was published.

For the full obituary, see:

George Johnson. “Freeman Dyson, 96, Math Genius, Tech Visionary and Writer, Is Dead.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): B12.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Freeman Dyson, Math Genius Turned Visionary Technologist, Dies at 96.”)