Posts Tagged Technology

CLIMATE CHANGE! WHAT DID EXXON KNOW, AND WHEN DID IT KNOW IT?

I expect to be writing a post tomorrow, which describes a report on Global Warming, which scientists leaked, fearing that it was too important for the Donald Trump Regime to just cover it up.  This re-post cites the fact that, beginning in 1977, Exxon scientists strongly believed that Global Warming is a man-made phenomena, caused by our use of fossil fuels.  The company’s Chief Scientist briefed the Executive Management Committee, in 1977 and again in 1978, and management just ignored it.

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EXXON KNEW THE MAJOR CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 1977, AND IT HAS BEEN SPENDING MILLIONS, MAYBE BILLIONS, EVER SINCE DENYING IT.

Way back in 1977, Laura Shaw, a 12 year-old, won her class science fair, in Cranford, N. J, with an experiment about the so-called “greenhouse effect”.  She filled two identical vessels with water and a thermometer.  Then, Ms. Shaw covered one with plastic wrap, and turned a lamp on them.

After a period of time, the vessel with the plastic wrap registered a higher temperature than the uncovered one.  She surmised that the plastic wrap created the same effect as carbon dioxide, which traps reflected heat from the Sun, thus warming the Earth.

You or I might have thought that our children were young geniuses to have found that relationship, between a plastic cover and global warming; however, Ms. Shaw had some expert assistance. As it turns out, her father is Henry Shaw, and at that time, he was one of the Exxon scientists who were specifically researching the effects of global warming—more specifically, that which was caused by carbon dioxide, created by man-made emissions.

Exxon (now ExxonMobil) was aware of climate change as early as 1977, eleven years before the problem became known by the general public.  In fact, besides formulating various climate models, the oil company also outfitted a tanker to study how much CO2 was absorbed by the oceans.  And, in July of 1977, Exxon’s senior scientist, James Black, delivered a sobering message on the topic.

Mr. Black advised Exxon’s executive management committee that: “… there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”  One year later, he warned the same group that there was general scientific agreement that the “…doubling of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would influence global warming by two or three degrees.”  Black than suggested—now in 1978, mind you—that mankind had a five to ten year window in which to make hard decisions, since energy strategies might become critical. Exxon needed to act!

Rather than make the hard decisions—developing cleaner-burning fuels, teaming with the coal industry to follow suit, and considering renewable energy–Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Shell, BP, and Peabody Coal, just stuck their collective heads in the sand.  They formed a the American Petroleum Institute, a non-profit organization to manage the disinformation of declaring that “Climate Change is a Hoax”.  In fact, they hired the same public relations firm that Big Tobacco had hired to deny tobacco’s link to lung cancer, some years before.

To use the old cliche about Nero fiddling while Rome burned would be a very serious understatement.  Considering that five of those energy companies were in the Standard and Poor’s 500, money was of little consequence, especially when it comes to fighting for the Industry’s very survival.

Energy lobbyists convinced Washington not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, from the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (as of 1990 emission levels). As one of world’s two biggest polluters, along with China, it is imperative that the U. S. ratify the Protocol, set meaningful CO2 reduction goals—and stick to them! Will there be more success this week—now 25 years later?

Currently, both Houses of the U. S. Congress, have appointed loyal climate change deniers, from oil-dependent states, to head the various committees that are supposed to oversee science and the environment:

Senator James M. Imhofe (R-OK) is Chairman of the House Committee on the Environment. Last February, Senator Inhofe brought a snowball into the Senate Chamber under the false assumption that that proved that “Climate Change is a Hoax!” (Remember the API Mission Statement?)  On the contrary, however, the snowball merely demonstrated the opposite, as described in a prior blog post.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and also a GOP candidate for President, heads the Sub-Committee on Space, Science and Competition.  Cruz’ sub-committee delayed the updated NASA satellites, which provide vital weather information worldwide.  Smart move, huh?
And, Congressman Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) is Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  When faced with broad testimony by earth scientists that man is definitely accelerating global warming, Smith began investigating the scientists, and thus taking them away from their important research. Attacking the messengers, in other words.

Oddly enough, when those who deny Climate Change wish to provide their own “expert” scientific testimony, they have turned to Wei-Hock Soon. Although Dr. Soon is a respected scientist, he is currently employed by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Over the past decade, Dr. Soon’s research and his funding ($1.2 million) have come largely from fossil fuel interests.  Some of that funding has allegedly been linked to Southern Company (a large utility) and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  (Mr. Koch is a co-owner of Koch Industries, a very large privately-owned energy company.)

Aside from all of the claims and counter-claims, on both sides of the Climate Change issue, there is basic evidence all around us: melting glaciers; rising tides; wildfires and droughts worldwide; erratic weather patterns; etc.  And, the idea that Big Energy interests would seek “expert” opinion from an astrophysicist, on matters pertaining to earth sciences, is simply ludicrous.  So, if the probable cause behind climate change was so obvious to 12 year-old Laura Shaw, way back in 1977, why can’t many in the U. S. Congress, Big Energy and other climate change deniers still realize that today?

NOTE:  For readers who wish more detailed information on Exxon, its Energy Industry co-conspirators and Climate Change, the attached report, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, should prove quite informative.

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“I HAD BEEN IN RUSSIAN ARMY INTELLIGENCE, BUT I WAS NOT A SPY!”

The titled words were offered by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who, along with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and one other Russian, met with members of Donald Trump’s Campaign, on June 6, 2016.  In fact, establishing a secret Kremlin-Trump communications link was allegedly mentioned during the meeting, along wth the attorney providing “dirt” on Hillary.

Trump confidantes at that meeting included: Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.  Ironically, Donald Trump began touting Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing Emails on June 9, just three days later.

This meeting has been reported, reprinted and denied ad nauseum; however, I wish to take exception with Mr. Akhmetshin’s response, assumably to a reporter’s question as to whether he had been in Soviet Intelligence.  It was a poorly worded question, a somewhat evasive answer was given, and a skilled journalist should have asked a follow-up question.

Back in the late (pre-Digital Age) 1960s, I also was in Army Intelligence, as were at least two readers of this blog.  I’m quite sure that none of us were spies.  Now, that was the US Army Security Agency.  But first, what is a spy?

There are two primary types of Military Intelligence: HUMINT, or Human Intelligence; and COMINT, or Communications Intelligence.  The National Security Agency, by the way, was established after WWII because the Army and Navy COMINT agencies preferred to compete with each other, rather than collaborate. (The Air Force and Marines were not separate military branches, as yet.)  Spies, per se, would fall into the HUMINT category.

James Bond, perhaps the most well-known spy, thanks to movies based on Ian Fleming’s novels, was merely for the box office.  Forget the Aston-Martin, beautiful women, and dinner jackets he wore at the Monte Carlo casinos.  Real spying is not flashy:  it includes gathering many bits and pieces of information—yes, thats Intel!—and then, connecting the dots.  That’s even how the real Ian Fleming did it, “back in the day!”

Let’s get back to the Q & A, between Rinat Akhmetshin and the unnamed reporter. The Trump-Russian Collusion Investigation is not based on HUMINT; rather, it’s about COMINT. Really Cyber-Intel, which might be handed-off to a new (if ever formed) Intel Agency, refers to Electronic Intel.  Tapping telephone lines, hacking Email and web sites, data subterfuge, fake news, and the like, surely don’t fall into the “Spy” category.  The person who is force-feeding false information onto an adversary, or collecting it from them, by accessing their computers, is usually sitting at a desk, thousands of miles away!

So, leave the spies alone; because they are a dying breed—becoming more obsolescent as I write this!

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DURING A MARKET SHIFT, BE SURE TO UNDERSTAND ANY CHANGES THAT YOU MAKE, AND WHY!

Last Friday, the NASDAQ opened down by over three percent, and it remained that way, also closing the day around that amount.  The Technology ETF (Symbol: XLK), which tracks the technology “components” (corporations) within the S & P 500 also remained down by three percent through the close of the day.  Since there weren’t any other market sectors exhibiting similar turbulence, and economic and geopolitical news wasn’t out of the ordinary, I just assumed that the sudden drop was due to some investors taking profits.

On Monday, while the NASDAQ and Tech ETF opened down by over three percent again, both began to recover in the late morning.  Although they still closed down again that day, the momentum had definitely shifted positive.  And, I believe that that was confirmed today, when they both opened up by around one-half percent, and closed at a positive 0.73%

The inter-active chart on the Sector SPDR website displays the performance of all ten industrial sectors, represented within the S & P 500.  You can compare different time-frames, by clicking across the top of the Sector-Tracker Chart.  Until Friday, the Tech Sector had led, or almost led for every time-frame represented; however, the recent two-day drop, pushed it back for one-month or less.  I still remain heavily weighted in Tech, and I regard other investors taking profits as positive for the sector.

Technology represents approximately 22% of the S & P 500, and is roughly 50% larger than the Financials, the next largest sector.  While Amazon might be forcing some retailers to downsize, and alternative energy might be eating into the fossil fuels, I just don’t see that happening to technology.  It has become integral to our vey way of life.  And, as we rely more, and more, on Technology, what could replace it—but newer technology?

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WITH DONALD TRUMP “PROTECTING” US, WE DON’T NEED ENEMIES!

Donald Trump frequently proclaims that he is protecting or saving the American People. His earlier racist views, in signing two executive orders, which banned travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, were rightfully rebuked by several Federal Courts.  Part of his reasoning was “to protect the American People”.

Then, on his recent trip to Europe, Donald made a fool out of himself by suggesting that most NATO countries owed money to the American People; which is not the case, since those nations actually underfunded their own respective Defense Budgets.  How ignorant that was to suggest they “owe us” for what they did, or did not do, to their respective budgets!  And then again, in his recent Rose Garden charade, he invoked the asinine “saving the American People money”, when he announced that he would Opt-Out of the Paris Accords on Global Climate Change.

When I think of Climate Change, the first thing that I think of is:  Fossil Fuels—oil, gas and coal.  In a previous post, I wrote that James Black, Exxon’s Senior Scientist, addressed the company’s Executive Committee, back in 1977, and he stated: “… there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Over the past two years, every nation of the world, except for Nicaragua and Syria, had agreed to sign onto the Paris Accords, some 40 years, after Exxon, and their fossil fuel colleagues , had realized that they were probably contributing to Global Climate Change. The mega-billionaires, who profit handsomely from the oil, gas and coal industries, leave the global society to pay to clean-up the mess that they have profited from.

The two men who have profited most from the Fossil Fuel Industry are Charles and David Koch.  Koch Industries, which has been active in each of the three fossil fuels, had also moved more recently into chemicals, mining and finance.  Several decades back, the Koch’s had formed a group of the very wealthiest Americans to lobby against: the Paris Accords; EPS rules on clean air; mining regulations; workplace safety rules; and offshore drilling, among others.

This Group contributed handsomely to Donald Trump’s so-called “”Self-Financed” Presidential Campaign.  And Donald, for his part, seems to have fallen in line, by advocating for:  huge tax-cuts for the top two percent; the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed in order to rein-in the banks after 2008; continue to freeze the Minimum-Wage; and disrupt all Social Safety Net Programs, such as Affordable Health Care.

So, to paraphrase the old cliche:  With Donald Trump “protecting” us, we don’t need enemies!

NOTE:  For anyone interested in reviewing the Global Climate Change issue more closely, and the reported cover-up, The Climate Deception Dossiers, Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation, produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, are linked.

 

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AMERICA WILL MOSTLY BY-PASS DONALD TRUMP, AND ABIDE BY THE PARIS ACCORDS; BUT, WHAT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL TECH BUSINESS?

Most real governing, in America, is accomplished at the local level.   Happily, there are a large number of American cities and counties, some states, and many of our largest corporations, that have pledged to abide by the Paris Accords, regarding Global Warming.  Even so, there is the draw-back as to how will America’s remaining $2 billion pledged contribution to the U. N. Green Climate Fund, be made up?

Trump clearly understands neither the Accords, nor the Green Climate Fund.  Unlike the previous Kyoto Accords, Paris does not require any specific actions, and there are no penalties if a country does not meet its own commitments.  Also, the Green Climate Fund is for $10.3 billion—not the $100 billion he cited—into which President Barack Obama had pledged $3 billion, and the U. S. had already paid $1 billion.  Keep in mind that Donald’s complaint are meaningless, since America’s 2016 Federal Budget is $3.9 Trillion. When Trumps states facts, I can only thing: Redact!

It is only right that the largest economy, and second largest polluter, should pay in order to help less-wealthy, developing nations transform themselves from polluters into users of more renewable energy.  As the earth turns, one nation’s dirty air and water will be shared by the next nation, and the next, and so on!

Local governments have been fighting environmental problems for years.  Who wants to live in or visit a city where the air is hazardous to your health, and the water is undrinkable.  Also, businesses realize that they will be required to pay for environmental clean-up through higher taxes, and they will also have trouble recruiting talented employees into a hazardous city.  Capital expenditures for new equipment and facilities will also be more cost-effective for industry in the long run.

With Environmental Technology being the Next Big Thing—and with the need for high-paying jobs skills—how much of that business will come to America?  Although Trump has slammed the door on federal government involvement, the market for these products—in the local and industrial sector.—will still abound.  Just consider that, since the turn of the 21st century, more than half of all U. S. coal-fired power generating facilities have been either closed, or converted to cleaner energy.  That means that American business is already reaping the benefits of clean energy!

With Trump’s vindictiveness, since this was President Obama’s Plan and not his, the U. S. will undoubtedly lose-out on a fair portion of the new technology business.  At the same time, however, America has a proven track record of a viable pipeline—from government or venture capital funding, to superior academic research, and on to creative entrepreneurial development and product placement.

Hopefully, the ultimate question will be:  How much of the new Environmental Technology business will America lose, rather than how much will it get?

NOTE:  “Climate of Hope”,  By Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, is quite apropos to both this blog post, and the Paris Accords.  I had been cited it previously on the Books That I Recommend tab.

 

 

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THE ONLY WALL THAT DONALD TRUMP WILL EVER BUILD IS THE ONE BETWEEN HIM AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE!

A couple of months ago, Donald Trump was appointing his 36 year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as his Special Emissary, who would settle the age-old dispute between the Israelis and the Arabs in Palestine.  Now, since that job went nowhere fast, Jared has been tapped to reform the Federal Government.  Really!

According to Trump, Jared Kushner will head the new “White House Office of Innovation”, supplying ideas from the Business World to the White House, with emphasis on Data and Technology.  And as always with Donald, it will be “details to follow.”  This idea has been contrived many times over the past century, and was never implemented–perhaps, because it borders on insanity!

Running a government like a business seems to make sense; but, only to a person who did not, or cannot, think it through!   Last night, when a good friend, Liberal Arts through-and-through, read about it, she shrieked with laughter.  Now, what does she get, that Donald and Jared don’t?   Or was Mr. Trump just thinking hyperbolically? Now, remember that both Donald and Jared have only dealt with closely held, family owned companies.  Not a real corporation!

Businesses  are formed and operated to turn a profit and, those that don’t go out of business. Governments, on the other hand, are formed communally, by the people, to provide for common needs, such as:  National Defense; Local Security; Public Education; Safe Commerce and Transportation; Prevent Pandemics; Scientific Research; etc.  Whereas ineffective businesses ceases to exist, governments generally do not.  A citizen registers their dissatisfaction at the ballot box; but, an unhappy customer must do so by taking their business elsewhere.

I believe that this Office of Innovation idea is just another Trumpian boondoggle, and perhaps just one more distraction from his major problems.  They are well-known globally, such as:  the possible Trump-Russia Collusion; his disastrous health care plan; his sliding “Favorability Rating”, etc.  Many Americans today, even some who had voted for him, have begun to seriously question whether Donald Trump can govern, at all!

Donald Trump”s Cabinet Officers, and the various Agency Heads, are mostly a coterie of billionaires and other “Swamp Creatures”, who have little experience, if any, in the policy areas in which they were appointed, and no apparent interest in succeeding at the task.  The are loyal ideologues, who seem to be embellishing their resumes, and available for photo-ops, with Donald, on a moment’s notice.

Budget-wise, Donald’s plan seems to be taking a meat-axe to departments that he has some ideological problems with.  We already have a larger Defense Budget than the next seven nations (some say ten) combined.   Is the 30% slice out of State your idea of attacking Secretary Clinton?  But, 120 former generals have voiced their outrage over cutting the State Department, especially by such a large amount.  Doesn’t Trump or Tillerson realize that money spent building hospitals, fighting malaria, and providing potable water to rural areas, will work more in our favor than all of the bombs and missiles you can fire?

Donald doesn’t need to reorganize the Federal government into something that it was never intended to be!  Rather, he should transform the government into that “Fine-oiled machine”, which he has claimed it to be, by merely re-organizing his Regime!  This whole thing is a distraction, intended to divert attention away from his possible collusion with Russia, the real position that Bannon is functioning, and whether he will ever get anything through Congress! 

Trump should fire his key appointees–confirmed or not–and nominate/appoint capable people, who are ready to champion their respective departments.  Ditch the Shadow Government, including Steve Bannon, who appears to head it!  Donald will never bring America together if he has disruption and feuding within his Regime, while purposely holding rally’s, where he spews hatred and divisiveness.

Donald Trump should have realized, by now, that the only Wall that he will ever build, if he keeps on his current path, will be the one between him and the American People!

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DATA MINING TO SAVE THE WORLD!

Our supermarket, with stores all over Florida, stocks shelves according to the store-specific demographic—elderly, families with children, Hispanic, Asian, West Indian, Kosher, etc—which they know from what products are regularly purchased in each one.  Likewise, my computer distracts me with unwanted pop-up ads, for products based on the web sites I frequent.  So, what has the established purveyors of global health statistics been doing with those numbers, to solve life-or-death problems globally?  Apparently, not much!

Christopher Murray earned his Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics from Oxford, and a Medical Degree from Harvard.  Dr. Murray, however, neither practices medicine, nor does he even follow the stock market.  While researching his Dissertation at Oxford, he realized how sorely inconsistent, and useless, many of the statistics amassed by the various institutional bureaucracies actually were.

The focus was mostly limited to Early Childhood (ages 0 to 5) and Maternal Deaths. The World Health Organization and World Bank statistics for Life Expectancy for Men in Congo, for instance, between 1980 and 1984, differed by 15 years, with similar discrepancies for other nations, as well.  In another case, identical statistics for a particular disease were reported, for economically disadvantaged Somalia as it was for Sweden, which has one of the world’s best health care systems.  My supermarket, on the other hand, knows shopping patterns and re-supply needs, for each of its stores, and acts on them in order to enhance profits.  Why not enhance Global Health?

It appears that political motives might be involved, such as maintaining an organization’s level of stature within the overall Global Health arena, perhaps, are of greatest importance.  And focusing on Children’s Deaths might possibly make the fund-raising efforts much more engrossing.  But, why raise the funds to collect the statistics and, then, fail to act effectively on them?

Also, wouldn’t the elimination, or even the control, of a particular global health  problem, such as Small Pox, enable those resources to be shifted to other life-threatening diseases?  Wasn’t that the original purpose—perhaps a long, long time ago—to collect meaningful data, analyze it, set realistic expectations, and get the data and the appropriate resources out to the field?

Dr. Christopher Murray, a New Zealander by birth, met Dr. Alan Lopez, an Australian, at WHO Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, and they began a collaboration to bring some sense to the global health statistics field.  They realized, however, that WHO would not be a suitable launching pad!  Throughout the ensuing 30 years, Murray and Lopez have encountered considerable skepticism among some in the Establishment, primarily at WHO.  But many other groups, within the global health care community, have embraced their ideas, and even promoted them to colleagues.

Besides expanding the data collection landscape beyond just Early Childhood and Maternal Deaths, Murray and Lopez also included Disabilities—illnesses which generally do not kill people—into their metric.  Early on, Chris Murray had developed his own measure of heath, the Disability-Adjusted Life Years, or DALYs.  The DALY reflects the average degree of health for a nation, from which Labor’s legitimate contribution to the GDP might be identified, as well as the potential future demand for health care services.

For instance, let’s assume that a 75 year-old person, in perfect health, is assigned a DALY of 75.  (Apparently there was apparently nothing to adjust for.)  Then, a similar-aged person, who developed a partially incapacitating illness, assigned a 20% disability rating at age 40, would have a DALY of 68 (40 + [80% of the remaining 35 years]). This metric is much more relevant to Labor and National Ministers of Public Health.  (Also, the disability ratings would be updated regularly, by country.)

With their Global Burden of Disability metric in hand, Murray and Lopez began selling the on-line concept to National Ministers of Public Health.  The fact that anyone—ministers, politicians or the general public—can access the data base, free of charge, (http://www.healthdata.org), means that the Public Health Ministers can more easily sell it to their colleagues, refute politicians’ objections, and encourage a buy-in by the general population.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had provided initial funding, which began the (now) Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington.  The Gates Foundation had recently begun focusing on health care in impoverished nations, and its recognition of the importance of comprehensive statistical analysis in monitoring its funding, provided obvious legitimacy.  The metric’s focus can also be narrowed to individual cities, or regions, as is currently the case for Seattle, Washington, as well as a few other areas.

Additionally, the benefits of education have been cited, time and again, in various areas, and it appears to very specifically have a direct correlation with health care—especially for women and girls.  For instance, IHME has found that national health care seems to improve by ten percent with just one additional year of school, on average.  When China had a stunning surge in its GDP of ten percent; however, that only improved health care by one percent.

Just yesterday, I went on to the WHO web site, and I noticed that it still doesn’t appear to have embraced the IHME’s GBD concept.  In 2012, Dr. Richard Horton, Editor of the prestigious peer-review medical journal, “The Lancet”, suggested that Murray’s and Lopez’s GBD Metric is on a par with the Human Genome Project. And, then, he went on to say that: “Even Galileo was considered a radical in his time.”

NOTE:  The compelling story of Dr. Christoper Murray, and his collaboration with Dr. Alan Lopez, is a compelling, and vitally, important one.  It is eloquently told in “Epic Measures”, by Jeremy N. Smith.

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