Global Warming

Scientists like to refer this as “climate change” but whatever it is called, it is real, it is worldwide and the consequences of ignoring it or belittling it, are very serious.

I was blown away when I saw this graph on the front page of the New York Times, on February 7, 2019.  I mean the front page of the New York Times is precious territory,  but the editors decided to put this graph at the top left corner, because it tells a very compelling story.   It is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Agency (NOAA) showing the 2018 global temperature is right on trend beginning around 1970.   Look at the last five points, 2014 to 2018, the temperatures are above all others on the chart,  meaning the last 5 years were the hottest ever on our planet.

This temperature increase coincides with increases in worldwide carbon emissions.   It is  distinctly different from the 1880 to 1930’s, random ups and downs.  Global warming is a factor in extreme weather events including the blistering cold snap in the Midwest, the extreme heat wave in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the gulf coast states,  prolong dry conditions in California promoting forest fires and expansion of deserts causing famine in Africa.

It is real,  It is bad,  And we lack leadership at the highest levels of our government.  Trump will pull out of Paris Accords, and did not say one word about climate change in the State of the Union address.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  Global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes to form.  Ok.  It is a contributing factor in turning a tropical storm into a hurricane.   I live in Miami, and I know the difference.  Hurricanes can totally destroy a house and are deadly.    I was in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992 and I saw the destruction.

I was very  glad to see climate change listed along with terrorism as one of the major threats to US security as reported by National Security Director, Dan Coats in the Foreward of the 2018 assessment (see links) as follows:

Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution,inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as public become less trusting of authoritative information sources.

Environment and Climate Change: The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.  The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization … (page 16) ,   

The report does not go into detailed as this is a highly condensed summary of immediate threats to the US.  It is clear from the report that water and food shortages increase the risk of unrest in parts of the world.   I fear these trouble spots will end up like Syria and Libya,  prolong proxy wars.    President Obama was ridiculed on Fox News suggesting that climate change could be a worse peril than terrorism to our country.

Our increasing environment problems becomes more noticeable – that’s right, if we take the trouble to see what’s happening.   Of course, when a hurricane comes and demolishes your dream beachfront home,  it is pretty difficult to ignore.

Just as I was ready to hit the publish button,  I discovered another news story, in which scientists consider our warming gulf coast waters make it likely that hurricanes will intensify at a more rapid rate (see Miami Herald story).   This gives everyone less time to evacuate, and is particularly bad for the less mobile (poor people, elderly, hospitalized folks) to get out of harm’s way.

To reiterate, it was great to see the New York Times break out of the publishing norms,  and put the graph front and center.  Of course, they followed up with pictures of melting glaciers in China, wildfires in Paradise, California,  Hurricane Florence in Florida, and a dried up section of the Rhine in Germany.  All of these were from 2018. And they put it all online so anyone could read their story.  Great work.  But,  there is more needed than just public awareness.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

It’s official: 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record

2018 National Threat Assessment

Climate change could be making Atlantic hurricanes stronger faster, study finds

Global Temperature Record (Wikipedia)

10 signs of a warming planet

Why Is the Cold Weather So Extreme if the Earth Is Warming?

Trade Wars – No winners

March 2 is getting way too close for comfort.  The stock market crashed yesterday as hopes dimmed on any negotiated settlement.  The two hard core hawks in Trump’s administration (Lighthizer and Navarro) are likely in control, working on the premise that once we exert enough economic pressure, China will cave in.

Trade wars are unlike real wars.  In this case, we know exactly how China will react on March 2 when tariffs go to 25%.  They will try to match us dollar for dollar. It will simultaneously  hurt both countries.   The slowing Chinese economy coupled with a general slowdown in Europe, will make for less demand for US goods abroad.

China can withstand a lot more pain than we can.  They know this and we know this.   Trump talks about doing what is right for our country, while Chinese leaders talk about global cooperation.   Wow, it used to be the other way around.   It is a mess, because we need China’s help in convincing North Korea to end their nuclear plans.

Republicans used to be for free trade, but by embracing Trump’s policies, they are really for isolation and protectionism.

Stay tuned.

Dave

Good Bye El Chapo

Joaquin Guzman(“El Chapo”) headed the Sinoloa Cartel in Mexico until 2016, and was responsible for smuggling marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, and other drugs into the US through Mexico.   His trial consisted of 56 witnesses testifying against him and lasted 11 weeks.  It is now in the hands of the jury. I am hoping he’s found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.  He deserves to be locked up.   I wish they could lock up all his associates too.

El Chapo was a master of prison escapes.  He was arrested in Guatemala in 1993, and extradited to Colombia.  He escaped a maximum security prison in 2001. He was recaptured in 2014, and placed in a maximum security prison.  He managed to escape in 2015 through a mile long tunnel.  After he was arrested the third time, in 2016, his luck had run out.   He was extradited to the US to stand trial.

To arrest him, and build a solid case against hin, there was international cooperation with law enforcement agencies in many countries, but certain information could not be shared with Mexican officials, because corruption existed at high levels.  According to the NY Times:

The case required the cooperation of several American law enforcement agencies, but it also required keeping some Mexican authorities out of most discussions. Among the cooperators were the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Coast Guard. Also involved were foreign law enforcement and military based in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as local law enforcement in New York City, Chicago and Texas and federal prosecutors in New York, Chicago, El Paso, Miami, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

I suspect the heavy lifting was done by the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose agents  had the really dangerous job of working in Mexico, knowing that some local law enforcement officers might be working more to protect El Chapo instead of capturing  him.  What really did El Chapo in at the end was his paranoia,  as he had special encryption programs created for his cell phones.   The DEA located the IT expert responsible for the coding and could wiretap and decode his conversations.   The solution to one problem, really lead to a much bigger problem.

The Sinaloa Cartel  is still in the business of smuggling drugs into the US.   It operates in the same manner as a corporation, with a board of directors, and executives, with offices in cities worldwide including the US, Mexico, Colombia and Thailand.    According to Wikipedia,  “With the arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, Ismael Zambada will most likely assume leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

One take away from all this, is there was tremendous ingenuity and effort put into what I can only describe the most economical  “end to end” narcotics distribution.  According to the NYT:  “the Sinaloa Cartel globalized, stretching far beyond the Mexican-United States border to Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Belize, Honduras, Canada, Thailand and China.” The cocaine or heroin might come from Colombia or Thailand, and the objective of the cartels is getting large quantities into the US under their control.

Secret compartments in trucks were routinely used, and entered through legal ports of entry.   Other times, they were hidden inside of legitimate products, such as plastic fruit.    It was pretty incredible operation. According to the NYT drugs were transported by “Trains, helicopters and planes, semi-submersible and tanker ships, shoe boxes and chili cans. Although many more drugs crossed over than were seized, a few notable successes for authorities included a 16-ton seizure from a merchant vessel in Panama and a 6-ton seizure out of Ecuador. Although it never happened, the cartel also discussed trying to move 100 tons of cocaine on an oil tanker ship.”

If the 11 week trial proved anything beyond Joaquin Guzman’s crimes,  it proved that Donald Trump’s wall will have no direct effect on the influx of drugs in the US.   The cartels are looking to move large quantities, so large trucks or tractor-trailer semi’s which routinely pass through the legal ports of entry proved to be the most economical way to more drugs.    The illegal border crossings were not part of the Sinaloa Cartel operation, with the exception of some tunnels near San Diego.   The 5 billion dollars for 100 miles of wall, that has become so contentious,  will have no effect on the Sinaloa smuggling operation.

Finally,  the trial did not show that El Chapo and his cartel were involved in the current Fentanyl  epidemic.  I’m not saying that they are not involved because they have huge control over the distribution of drugs in the US.  Fentanyl is very addicting and resulting in over 70,000 overdoses.  It is made in labs in the US, but the constituents and pre-cursors come from China, courtesy of the US Postal Service.   If we are able to crack down on China, then the source chemical suppliers will likely shift to India.  It’s been reported that the Mexican drug cartels, namely the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) are involved, as they can cut their heroin with fentanyl.  The Jalisco Cartel is a very violent gang and at times, fight to enlarge their areas of distribution,  waging deadly battles with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The chance of a Fentanyl overdose can be reduced by taking naloxone, which apparently is widely available.  See Wikipedia link on Fentanyl.

I’m stopping here, as I’ve wandered a bit off the tracks.  I am very glad when El Chapo gets locked up for the rest of his life.  The DEA and FBI have done well.

Tomorrow, as part of the State of the Union Address Donald Trump will be telling us the drug problem can be solved by pouring concrete.   It can’t.   And going after the “bad actors” needs incredible international cooperation.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT: The El Chapo Trial

Wikipedia:  Fentanyl  (I learned a lot from this link)

Mexico cartels now fuel deadly Chicago opioid epidemic

Wikipedia: Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo)

Jalisco New Generation Cartel