Man on the Spot #18: Global warming, the American work force and immigration

Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P.
Published: October 9, 2013 NYTIMES

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

After the 2010 elections, the Chamber and other business interests funneled millions of dollars into Republican redistricting efforts around the country, helping draw overwhelmingly safe Republican districts whose occupants — many among the most conservative House members — are now far less vulnerable to challenges from more moderate Republicans.

Real Estate Boom in Phoenix Brings Its Own Problems
Published: October 9, 2013 NYTIMES

While developers are wary about getting back to building starter homes — if land cost is too high and construction workers are commanding premium salaries, there are no guarantees for a significant return on their investment, they reason — the luxury market is roaring back, as banks are eager to lend to buyers with unblemished credit and a lot of money for a down payment. One factor is interest rates on mortgages for expensive homes, known as jumbo loans, which recently dipped below those on smaller mortgages, a very rare occurrence, analysts say.

By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past, Scientists Say
Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature. Unprecedented climates will arrive even sooner in the tropics, Dr. Mora’s group predicts, putting increasing stress on human societies there, on the coral reefs that supply millions of people with fish, and on the world’s greatest forests. “Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.”

Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force
Published: October 8, 2013 Eduardo Porter

The American economy rewards skill very well, but the supply hasn’t responded.”

The United States was the first country to provide for universal high school education. Today, one high school student in five leaves without a diploma, a weaker outcome than in most O.E.C.D. countries. The math and reading scores of American teenagers in O.E.C.D. tests have not improved over the last 10 years. And our college graduation rates have slipped substantially below those of other rich nations.

Schools do not appear to be adding much value. Nor do employers, which do little to train workers. Immigration by less educated workers from Latin America plays some role. But as the O.E.C.D. notes, two-thirds of low-skilled Americans were born in the United States. And the United States has a poor track record in improving immigrants’ skills.
Socioeconomic status is a barrier. Not only is inequality particularly steep, little is done to redress the opportunity deficit of poorer students. Public investment in the early education of disadvantaged children is meager. Teachers are not paid very well, compared with other countries. And the best teachers tend to end up teaching in affluent schools.

Washington as Reader, Not Soldier

‘Take Note!’ at Mount Vernon
Published: September 27, 2013

But as the new library and an accompanying exhibition make abundantly clear, these influential judgments of Washington as a man of action, marred by bookish ignorance, are deeply flawed. The exhibition, “Take Note! George Washington the Reader” (through Jan. 12), gathers more than 86 items, including Washington’s books, letters and a touch screen that allows us to explore his annotations. It shows that Washington’s actions succeeded partly because of what he read: books informed his approaches to warfare, agriculture, government and slavery.

Ailing Midwestern Cities Extend a Welcoming Hand to Immigrants

By JULIA PRESTON Published: October 6, 2013 NYTIMES

In north Dayton — until recently a post-apocalyptic landscape of vacant, gutted houses — 400 Turkish families have moved in, many coming from other American cities. Now white picket fences, new roofs and freshly painted porches are signs of a brisk urban renewal led by the immigrants, one clapboard house at a time. “We want to invest in the places where we are accepted better,” said Islom Shakhbandarov, a Turkish immigrant leader. “And we are accepted better in Dayton.”

Other struggling cities are trying to restart growth by luring enterprising immigrants, both highly skilled workers and low-wage laborers. In the Midwest, similar initiatives have begun in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Lansing, Mich., as well as Detroit, as it strives to rise out of bankruptcy. In June, officials from those cities and others met in Detroit to start a common network. “We want to get back to the entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring,” said Richard Herman

In Africa, Seeking a License to Kill
Published: October 10, 2013 NYTIMES

After the Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo was taken to face justice in The Hague, the country was able to rebuild.
Without this court, there would be no brake on the worst excesses of these criminals. And these violent leaders continue to plague Africa: the Great Lakes, Mali, northern Nigeria and Egypt all give reason for concern. Perpetrators of violence must not be allowed to wriggle free. Moreover, where justice and order are not restored, there can be no healing, leaving violence and hatred ticking like a bomb in the corner. We know too well that long, painful road to healing in South Africa, as do the people of Kenya. As Africa begins to find its voice in world affairs, it must strengthen its commitment to the rule of law, not undermine it. These principles are part of our global moral and legal responsibility, not items from a menu we can choose only when it suits us.

Donald Cabana, Warden Who Loathed Death Penalty, Dies at 67
Published: October 13, 2013
“But in the end,” he went on, “my experience with condemned prisoners was always that once strapped to the chair, they came around somehow with something, if only something simple as ‘Tell the victim’s family I’m sorry,’ ‘Tell my mother I’m sorry,’ something that indicated something bad had happened, I was there and I was part of it.

“But not so with this young man. When I performed my ritualistic function of asking if he had a final public statement, this young man looked me in the eye with tears streaming down his cheeks, and he said: ‘Warden, you’re about to become a murderer. I did not kill that policeman, and dear God, I can’t make anyone believe me.’ ” Mr. Cabana continued: “Well, you know, we read about that sort of thing, and of course the average person who reads that, the average legislator probably who reads that, says, ‘Well, what do you expect him to say?’ I must tell you that four days ago I had a rather gut-wrenching meeting with a former high official who is now convinced the young man was, in fact, telling the truth. And I must say to you that however we do it, in the name of justice, in the name of law and order, in the name of retribution, you — and when I say you, I mean, generically, Americans — do not have the right to ask me, or any prison official, to bloody my hands with an innocent person’s blood.”

Haiti’s Imported Disaster
Published: October 12, 2013

Haiti’s cholera epidemic, now entering its fourth year, has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000. It is a calamity, though one fundamentally different from the earthquake, hurricanes and floods that have beset the fragile country since 2010. It is, instead, a man-made disaster, advocates for Haitian victims contend, asserting the epidemic is a direct result of the negligence of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to keep their contaminated sewage out of a river from which thousands of Haitians drink.

The United Nations has refused to accept blame, though the evidence of its peacekeepers’ recklessness is overwhelming. Haiti had been free of cholera for a century until October 2010, when the outbreak began near a peacekeepers’ base that had been leaking human waste through broken pipes into a tributary of the Artibonite River; the peacekeepers were from Nepal, and so was the cholera strain.

Monarchs Fight for Their Lives
Published: October 12, 2013

Monarchs have the misfortune to rely exclusively on a plant that farmers all across the Midwest and Northeast consider a weed. There is a direct parallel between the demise of milkweeds — killed by the herbicide glyphosate, which is sprayed by the millions of gallons on fields where genetically modified crops are growing — and the steady drop in monarch numbers. To anyone who has grown up in the Midwest, the result seems very strange. After decades of trying to eradicate milkweed, gardeners are being encouraged to plant it in their gardens, and townships and counties are being asked to let it thrive in the roadside ditches. What looks like agricultural success, purging bean and corn fields of milkweed (among other weeds), turns out to be butterfly disaster. This is the great puzzle of species conservation — it has to be effective at nearly every stage of a species’ life cycle. And this, too, is the dilemma of human behavior. We live in a world of unintended consequences of our own making, which can never be easily undone.

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