Daily Archives: September 4, 2019

Australia follows US path to an opioid crisis

Published on Sep 5, 2019
Australia is following the same ominous course as the United States, with skyrocketing rates of opioid prescriptions and related deaths. (Sept. 5)

‘Fentanyl, Inc.’ Tracks Opioid’s Dark Web Path From China To U.S. Street Corners : Shots – Health News : NPR

September 4, 20191:04 PM ET
Heard on Fresh Air

Dave Davies

Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, picked up in a 2016 New York City drug bust. “Basically, [fentanyl] is so cheap to produce and it’s so powerful, that drug dealers began realizing it was a way to increase their profits,” Fentanyl, Inc. author Ben Westhoff says. But miscalculations of the amount used can be deadly.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, and a growing number of those deaths are attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Journalist Ben Westhoff says the drug, while an important painkiller and anesthesia medicine in hospitals, is now killing more Americans annually as a street drug than any other in U.S. history.

“Fentanyl was originally formulated as a medical drug, something that was used in … open heart surgery and in end-of-life care,” Westhoff says. “It’s an opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine.”

Westhoff’s book Fentanyl, Inc. examines the manufacture, sale and use of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. Over the course of his research, he visited two factories in China that make synthetic opioids and ship them to the U.S. or to Mexican drug cartels for distribution.

Westhoff notes that the synthetic opioids, which are sold over the “dark Web,” are often cut into other drugs, including heroin, cocaine and even prescription pills.

“Basically, it’s so cheap to produce and it’s so powerful, that drug dealers began realizing it was a way to increase their profits,” Westoff says.

He adds: “Since only 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill you,just the slightest miscalculation can make people overdose and die. … If fentanyl starts taking over prescription pills and other drugs, the problem could get even worse.”

…(read more)

Asia digs up and burns three-quarters of the world’s coal – Down and dirty


That must change if the climate is not to….

Aug 22nd 2019 | SAN CARLOSA LARGE SIGN in the city hall of San Carlos, on the island of Negros in the Philippines, lays out the local government’s ambitions. It wants San Carlos to be “a model green city”, “a renewable energy hub for Asia” and “a sustainable tourism destination”. But the local officials sitting directly beneath the sign are keen to talk about something else: why a plan to build a coal-fired power plant nearby is an excellent idea.

Coal drives Asia. Between 2006 and 2016 the continent’s consumption of it grew by 3.1% a year. Asia now accounts for fully 75% of global demand for the stuff (see chart 1). China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal. Largely as a result, it also emits more carbon dioxide than any other country. India is the second-biggest consumer. Japan and South Korea are also big consumers, while Australia and Indonesia are big producers. South-East Asia was the only region in the world in which coal’s share of power generation grew last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a research body. And four of the five countries that shell out the most in subsidies for the fuel are Asian.

China accounts for about half the coal the world consumes each year—far more than any other country. Happily, its appetite seems to be waning. Although it burned through almost 4bn tonnes last year, a slight increase on the year before, that is still below the peak of 4.24bn tonnes in 2013. Coal’s share of China’s energy mix has fallen by about ten percentage points over the past decade, to 59%.

This is the result of a sustained and multifaceted official campaign to clean up China’s energy generation. There has been huge investment in renewables, leaving China with a third of the world’s wind turbines and a quarter of its solar panels, according to the IEA. In 2013 a national plan on air pollution gave Beijing, the capital, five years to reduce its coal consumption by half, among other measures. And in 2017 the government introduced a national carbon-trading scheme. In the Paris agreement it pledged that its carbon-dioxide emissions would stop growing by 2030.

China’s efforts to clean up have left India as the world’s most enthusiastic builder of coal-fired plants. In its submissions for the Paris accord, India predicted that its demand for electricity would triple between 2012 and 2030. About 48 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity are under construction in the country. Coal consumption increased by 9% last year, according to BP, a big oil firm.

That is partly because India lacks obvious alternatives, at least for back-up generation when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. It cannot afford to import cleaner but more expensive liquefied natural gas, as Japan, South Korea and, increasingly, China do. Partly, however, India’s addiction to coal stems from government bias. The government owns more than 70% of Coal India, the giant mining firm that produces most of the country’s coal. India’s state-owned railways depend on the cash generated by transporting coal to subsidise passenger tickets (coal provides 44% of freight revenues). Coal generates hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in the poorest states. The government has an enormous vested interest in seeing the industry prosper.


Nevertheless, even in India, the outlook for coal is becoming hazier. For one thing, growth in energy demand has slowed thanks to improved energy efficiency and the growing importance of services to the economy. Demand has also been curbed by a failure to invest in transmission capacity and by the inefficiencies of unprofitable power-distribution companies. This means that the increase in coal-fired generation has outstripped the increase in demand for energy in recent years. Coal plants are already operating far below their potential capacity. At the same time, levies and transport costs have risen more quickly than Coal India’s prices, according to research by Rahul Tongia and Samantha Gross for the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank.


These difficulties are mounting just as greener power sources are beginning to spread. Shortly after Narendra Modi became prime minister five years ago, his government announced a plan to quadruple India’s renewable-energy capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022. The scheme supports one of India’s promises under the Paris accord. If it is successful, the share of renewables in the generation mix could rise from 7.8% to 19%. Steep cost falls help. Indian renewables now cost less than three rupees ($0.04) per kilowatt-hour, well below domestic coal at four rupees per kilowatt-hour, according to Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a green think-tank.

South-East Asia has seen a similar shift in prices. The government of Vietnam projects that demand for coal will more than double by 2030. But Matt Gray of Carbon Tracker, a British think-tank, argues that, if the cost of building solar- and wind-farms keeps falling (reductions of 50% and 30% respectively have been seen in Vietnam in recent years), they should be cheaper than new coal plants as soon as next year. “The economics are there and this is what I think Asia is going to wake up to,” says an investor in Vietnamese wind farms.

Renewables offer other advantages over coal as well. Given the difficulty of getting power to South-East Asia’s most remote areas—Indonesia has more than 13,000 islands and the Philippines another 7,000 or so—solar and wind installations can offer electrification without costly extensions of the grid. The region also has manufacturers who would benefit from a stronger push for renewables. Malaysia, for example, is the third-largest manufacturer of solar cells in the world.

Coal is coming in for more public criticism. A recent documentary in Indonesia portrayed the harm caused by the fuel to farmers, fishermen and the natural resources upon which they depend. In the Philippines the Catholic church is wading in. Gerardo Alminaza, a bishop, is a leading figure in a campaign against the proposed coal plant in San Carlos, for example. He has given talks at banks on the need to divest from coal. Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, recently instructed his government to hasten the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Some investors are growing leery of coal. A new report from the Centre for Financial Accountability, an Indian think-tank, reveals that private lending to coal-fired power plants in India declined by 90% last year. One of the largest banks in South-East Asia, DBS of Singapore, announced in April that it will stop funding new coal plants after its existing slate of projects is completed. Last year Marubeni, a huge Japanese trading house, said it will no longer invest in coal plants; it intends to halve its own coal-fired capacity by 2030. And the energy arm of Ayala Corporation, a Filipino conglomerate, announced plans last year to sell up to half its coal assets and to invest more in renewables.

Coal comfort

The shifting sentiment is reflected in the recent sharp decline in investment approvals for new coal-fired plants (see chart 2). But even if the private sector were to wash its hands of coal altogether, that would not guarantee its demise. In both China and India, the biggest banks are state-owned, and their lending decisions are as much a function of government policy as of expected returns. The Chinese government, in turn, although pursuing cleaner energy at home, does not seem particularly keen to encourage it abroad. The Belt and Road Initiative, a big Chinese infrastructure-development scheme, will see billions spent to build coal-fired plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam, among other countries. Chinese financial institutions are helping to fund more than a quarter of coal-fired power stations under development around the world.

…(read more).

Hong Kong: Opposition leaders and lawmakers react to Carrie Lam’s announcement

Published on Sep 4, 2019
Hong Kong: Opposition leaders and lawmakers react to Carrie Lam’s annoucement to withdraw extradition bill

Ministry of Truth: US military develops AI to identify ‘fake news’

Published on Sep 4, 2019
The Pentagon’s research agency, DARPA, is proposing a new way to fight what it calls “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks”. Now, it will be software with automated algorithms that will find out whether information is true or false. DARPA even claims ‘to be able to identify the source of news, …the alleged intent behind it, ..and the impact if it is spread’.

We must act now – for people and our planet

Published on Sep 4, 2019
The world is facing challenges of an unprecedented nature. A polarized political landscape, worrisome signs of a global economic slow-down, growing inequalities, conflicts and a global environmental crisis. The evidence is clear: we must act now. The international community has a brief window of opportunity to accelerate action, using the plan in place to achieve a positive outcome for everyone: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 transformative Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Produced by: The Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

Earth at 2° hotter will be horrific. Now here’s what 4° will look like. | David Wallac e-Wells

Big Think

Published on Mar 14, 2019

This is what the world will be like if we do not act on climate change.

– The best-case scenario of climate change is that world gets just 2°C hotter, which scientists call the “threshold of catastrophe”.

– Why is that the good news? Because if humans don’t change course now, the planet is on a trajectory to reach 4°C at the end of this century, which would bring $600 trillion in global climate damages, double the warfare, and a refugee crisis 100x worse than the Syrian exodus.

– David Wallace-Wells explains what would happen at an 8°C and even 13°C increase. These predictions are horrifying, but should not scare us into complacency. “It should make us focus on them more intently,” he says.

David Wallace-Wells is a national fellow at the New America foundation and a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He was previously the deputy editor of The Paris Review. He lives in New York City. His latest book is The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (https://goo.gl/ih35YX)

Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/earth-at-…

Lam’s four steps to try and ease Hong Kong tensions – BBC News

Published on Sep 4, 2019
Hong Kong’s chief executive has announced a series of measures in response to months of unrest in the region.

The highly controversial extradition bill which triggered the protests is to be withdrawn.

The proposal, introduced in April, would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

Full withdrawal is one of five key demands of protesters, who are also calling for full democratic rights.

Everything We Do To The Earth We Are Doing To Ourselves

The Real Truth About Health

Published on Sep 3, 2019

Everything We Do To The Earth We Are Doing To Ourselves by Vandana Shiva, Ph.D

Dr. Vandana Shiva trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, and completed her Ph.D. on the ‘Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory’ from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India.In 1982, she founded an independent institute – the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Dehra Dun – dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, working in close partnership with local communities and social movements. In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. For last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organisations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in the conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and the organisation has established 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country. In 2004, Dr. Shiva started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.

Dr. Shiva combines sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism, and her work spans teaching at universities worldwide to working with peasants in rural India. Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental ‘hero’ in 2003, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia. In November 2010, Forbes Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe.


Humanity on the Edge of Extinction | Anders Sandberg | TEDxVienna

TEDx Talks

Published on Dec 14, 2017

Existential risks are risks that threaten the survival or long-term flourishing of humanity. Avoiding them is an obvious top priority. But if a major catastrophe was to occur, what could we do to prevent humanity from going extinct? Can we ensure that survivors can rebuild civilisation? Anders Sandberg is a senior research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University. His research centres on management of low-probability high-impact risks, estimating the capabilities of future technologies, and very long-range futures. He has a background in computational neuroscience, transhumanism, and future studies. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.