Eugene Linden
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Maddening Numbers

The way in which the media and policymakers are using the numbers on coronavirus approaches insanity. Most of the numbers published are about as credible as Trump’s estimates of the size of his inaugural crowd. Absolutely no one with any expertise believes that China has only 80,000 cases o...

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Deep Past
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Winds of Change
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Afterword to the softbound edition.


The Octopus and the Orangutan
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The Future In Plain Sight
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The Parrot's Lament
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Silent Partners
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Affluence and Discontent
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The Alms Race
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Apes, Men, & Language
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Another Whiff by the Network News


Friday January 31, 2014

The NBC Evening News featured the California drought and the newly declared state of emergency as their second item in the program tonight (Jan. 31, 2014). They covered all the bases – an orange grower worrying that his trees would die, the expert opining that this was the worst drought in anyone’s lifetime, one of the driest January’s ever recorded, etc – all except one that is. They never mentioned that the drought might well be related to climate change.

Well over a decade ago, Richard Seager of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory first published a study predicting that the shifting of the precipitation zones further north in a warming world would lead to extreme and persistent drought in the Mediterranean (dry summer, subtropical climate) regions of the world, including the American southwest. I was in contact with Dr. Seager a couple of years ago after an earlier report on the southwest drought on the CBS evening news because that report also failed to mentioned the global warming connection. He said that he had spoken at length about the role of global warming during the interview, but none of those comments made it into the broadcast. 

If, as Richard Seager has argued in the world’s leading scientific journals, climate change will likely lead to intensifying drought in these regions over the next 100 years, don’t you think viewers of the network news broadcasts might like to hear that perspective?  Or, are we to get a drumbeat of news items over the next decades, itemizing the toll of the droughts, but never exploring why they might be happening?

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Short Take

A Glimmer of Hope in the Coronavirus News?

I’m usually the most apocalyptic guy in the room, but, maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope in the latest news on the coronavirus. If it’s been circulating in Washington state for several weeks, it’s probably also been circulating in a few other states for weeks as well. And if there hasn’t been a big spike in visits to emergency rooms with respiratory ailments (and I have not read about such), it may well be that the virus is already widely spread in the U.S., but not hitting Americans as hard as it has populations elsewhere. If this turns out to be the case, the difference might be that there are far fewer smokers in the U.S. than in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy, and that the air is far cleaner in American cities than in China’s. 

We’ll find out in the next few weeks whether Americans are better able to withstand the disease. There remain major unknowns about coronavirus; nor do we know how hard the virus will hit the elderly and infirm. Still, this latest news could be a positive. 



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