By John Ballard
Yes, I know. The weekend's about over so there's not much time left for reading. Long reads should be linked on Friday or Saturday. Oh, well, somebody may be on vacation this week or have some down time, so here are a few from The News Less Traveled...
?The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic
This story falls into the man-bites-dog category. It's old news for those of us who have been talking about it for the last several years. (Al Gore's book, Earth in the Balance (1992), may have been the political kiss of death for global warming. I still have the copy I used to discredit the blizzard of viral emails misquoting what he said then.)
Anyway, Richard Muller, one of the leading climate change deniers -- funded by none other than the Koch brothers -- had a come to Jesus moment and is now the latest of convert to an opposite view of climate change.
CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth's land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
?The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal
Investigative reporter Katherine Eban has a forensic look at the now-infamous Fast and Furious scandal and comes away with a pile of exculpatory information which will furnish new ammunition for political types to hurl back and forth.
This is a long read. I plead guilty to not reading the whole piece in detail. It's like slogging around in a cesspool without safety gear. It's ugly, stinks and will leave you feeling dirty if you don't wash it off when you finish.
Two snips stuck in my head. Each is self-explanatory.
Some call it the "parade of ants"; others the "river of iron." The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking within the U.S., so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one.
Voth was a logical thinker. He lived by advice he received from an early mentor in law enforcement: "There's what you think. There's what you know. There's what you can prove. And the first two don't count."
?In Death, Farida Afridi Will Continue to Save and Better Lives
I don't recall how I came across Josh Shahryar but he's one of the people I follow on Twitter. He's very light on Twitter, sometimes almost a clown, but there he has a serious side that occasionally breaks through. I know from his messages that he reads voluminously, and I almost missed his link to this piece he wrote.
If time is limited, this is recommended reading -- clear, important and not too long.
In 2010, a study paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed 915 censuses from 1970 to 2009 from 175 countries, looking at data on education, economic growth, H.I.V. infection rates and child deaths. What they found is a testament to the importance of Farida's work. Statistical models show that:
For every year of extra education women received, death rate for children under 5 dropped by nearly 10%, estimating that nearly 4.2 million fewer children had died in 2009 compared to 1970 because women of child-bearing age were more educated. In 1970, women in developing countries between the ages of 18-22 on average had received two years of schooling - compared to almost seven years in 2009.
In the long term, the effects are far more dramatic. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) deems education for women critical:
"...educational achievements of women can have ripple effects within the family and across generations. Investing in girls' education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty... Girls who have been educated are likely to marry later and to have smaller and healthier families... Education helps girls and women to know their rights and to gain confidence to claim them... The education of parents is linked to their children's educational attainment, the mother's education is usually more influential than the father's. An educated mother's greater influence in household negotiations may allow her to secure more resources for her children... " (emphasis mine).
It's somehow cathartic to think that the children of the men who are responsible for Farida's death might some day get to live longer, receive an education and manage to get out of the poverty that plagues the region. It's actually comforting to think that those children might grow up to use education they have received thanks to their mothers' role in promoting education inside their own families - education they received thanks to organizations like SAWERA. Education that some day might help forge an alliance between women and men in the region to foster equality so maybe the women of FATA won't have to live their lives as indentured servants.
?A Twist on Posthumous Baptisms Leaves Jews Miffed at Mormon Rite
This NY Times article will help explain this otherwise unexplained Twitter message from a satirical account which is NOT that of Mitt Romney.
Me and new friends here in Israel getting along splendidly. Many of their dead relatives are Mormon like me. #romneyshambles
- Willard Mitt Romney (@MlTTR0MNEY) July 28, 2012
?Civics lesson from Justice O'Connor: Obama's health-care remarks 'unusual'
Finally, this is a fun excerpt from another clown show that is Washington.
Grassley: "Could judicial independence be threatened when, after a pending case is briefed or argued, the president publicly misstates the process of judicial review and claims that the court's legitimacy, and a particular justice's legacy, will be tainted unless the court decides the case as the president wants?"
O'Connor replied that such actions by the president during a pending Supreme Court case would be "unusual."
Grassley: "And judicial independence is certainly weakened if justices give in to those attacks, rather than decide based on the Constitution, or appear to do so."
O'Connor: "I'm sure many things go through the mind of a justice in a pending case when a tough issue must be decided."
She added that a justice could learn new details that would shift the tentative outcome. "You can continue to learn until you have signed on to a particular decision," she said.
Several senators attempted to draw favorable comments from O'Connor on proposals to televise US Supreme Court proceedings. Grassley announced that he strongly favors such televised access and is aware that several justices strongly oppose it.
"Would you like me to speak on it?" O'Connor offered.
"Only if you speak in favor it it," Grassley replied.
"Then I'll keep my mouth shut," the former justice said with a laugh.
Justice O'Connor served for 25 years on the high court. She was the first woman on the court, and since her retirement in 2006 has been active in promoting a resurgence in civics education.
Sandra Day O'Connor, promoting civics education, illustrates here the New Testament principle mentioned by Jesus when he admonished his followers not to be casting pearls before swine.