we should thank global warming for making hurricanes less frequent and less severe. Indeed, Hurricane Sandy may well have been much more deadly in the absence of global warming.
This led climatologist Ryan Maue (who was mentioned in the piece) to tweet:
This article is complete bullsh*t & clearly meant to be provocative. I don’t want to be associated with it. http://t.co/IGWhENiBIj
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) October 29, 2013
As it happens, Maue is someone who regularly calls out overstated–yes, alarmist–claims by climate advocates, and I’d venture to say that climate skeptics think of him as one of their own. So kudos to Maue for calling BS on the extremists in his camp. This kind of straight talk is necessary to keep the flame-throwers on both sides in check. We’ve seen, for example, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, push back repeatedly on the silly Arctic methane bomb proponents.
After the Heartland staffer’s piece in the Chicago Tribune was published, I had some mild fun on twitter: Read More
Connecticut College students and a professor of psychology have found “America’s favorite cookie” is just as addictive as cocaine – at least for lab rats. And just like most humans, rats go for the middle first.
While this is still preliminary research, I will tell you that I have sampled a certain faux Oreo and have not clawed the bag open with the same junkie-like behavior.
shot to fame in 2001 with his first book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, a broad critique of the environmental movement that infuriated many ecologists and greens. The notoriety transformed the little-known Danish statistician into a globe-trotting public intellectual.
Since then, he has courted controversy in the climate debate and embraced his role as a provocateur. In my piece, I write: Read More
Earlier this week, ABC News asked:
Can wind power be hazardous to your health?
Some residents of a Cape Cod town have complained about headaches, nausea and other symptoms that they attribute to noise from wind turbines near their homes. I’ve written about “wind turbine syndrome” a bunch of times, including here at Discover and over at Slate. I’ve also chided a journalist who’s become obsessed by it, and who after seeing the ABC piece, tweeted:
— Robert Bryce (@pwrhungry) October 24, 2013
This is of course not true. I think these people are sincere. In fact, I think believers in wind turbine syndrome are just as sincere as those who believe they are being sickened from power lines and WiFi signals and cell phones. Similarly, I’m certain that some people truly believe that GMOs cause 1) cancer, 2) autism, 3) Parkinson’s disease, 4) obesity, and 5) Alzheimer’s.
I won’t question the motives or sincerity of people who fall into any of the above categories. But the cause and effect they assert is not backed by scientific evidence. Read More
I knew I could count on Michael Pollan for this tweet:
“No scientific consensus on GMO safety”: statement by European Network of Scientists for S and E responsibility http://t.co/2p3hqerMtV
— Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan) October 21, 2013
One of biotechnology’s most articulate allies has laid down the gauntlet:
My challenge to the biotechnology industry – the whole food industry in general in fact – is very clear. You have to stop opposing labelling. Instead, you have to embrace the consumer right to know.
To lose this entire debate to a motley coalition of anti-vaccine quacks, organic food charlatans, naturopathic nutjobs and magic soap manufacturers would not just be a tragedy for humanity, it would be frankly rather embarrassing. This cannot be allowed to happen.
As one political scientist recently noted, a “fundamental difficulty” for counterterrorist operations in collapsed states like Somalia is the ever-shifting landscape of loyalties:
Local authorities collaborate with the insurgents that they fight. Armed groups unify and then suddenly split.
This is a treacherous environment for outsiders to navigate, particularly someone who poses as a humanitarian do-gooder/ intelligence operative. But if you are someone also looking to profit off of the instability of a place like Somalia, then you are accustomed to a duplicitous world of murky alliances. Michele Ballarin, a Virginia businesswoman who is the subject of my Washington Post magazine profile, comfortably inhabits all these roles.
As I wrote in my piece, in the late 2000s Ballarin became a confidant of Somali pirates, warlords and politicians, who refer to her as Amira (which means princess in Arabic). In 2009 she became friendly with Somalia’s then-incoming President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former schoolteacher who has cunningly navigated the volatile politics of his country–and its relations with the United States. Shortly after meeting with her, he issued a proclamation appointing Ballarin his “presidential advisor for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.”
It was a meaningless title that never amounted to anything, but it’s the sort of document Ballarin likes to wave around as proof of her bonafides. I’ve seen a bunch of others she obtained from various local politicians across Somalia, naming her as an advisor. An East Africa expert who worked in the Pentagon until a few years ago once scoffed when I told him about her collection of official proclamations. He compared them to crackerjack prizes. “The way these people have survived is by handshakes,” he said. “It’s all about relationships and these things ebb and flow all the time.”
Nonetheless, as I reported in my piece, Sharif (now an ex-President) and Ballarin have recently co-founded a Virginia-based nonprofit called the Oasis Foundation for Hope. Its objective, they told me earlier this summer at her opulent “headquarters” in Warrenton, Virginia, is the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees, many who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Sharif and Ballarin estimate it will cost several hundred million dollars to build the initial resettlement villages in Somalia. Each village is expected to house roughly 1,000 people; as Ballarin describes it, there will be new schools, medical clinics, and job-training centers. It’s an enormous undertaking for a country that is still dominated by warlords and Islamic militants. Indeed, Somalia remains so treacherous that Doctors without Borders, one of the bravest humanitarian organizations, decided this past summer to pull out of the country, because it could no longer guarantee the safety of its staff.
Despite these challenging circumstances, Sharif insisted to me that “Al-shabaab is defeated” and security had improved enough for the refugees to “come back.” Ballarin was sanguine: Read More
As I’ve hinted in earlier posts, there is much more to her than I could fit into my story (Even Mark Mazzetti’s excellent work only scratches at the surface).
For example, let’s return to the time in the early 2000s when Ballarin got into selling body armor. Read More
Several weeks ago, this was the headline for a press release:
Mayor Bloomberg announces New York City’s air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years.
That’s quite a claim. Most media outlets reporting this story cut and pasted from the press release; few bothered to delve into the report Bloomberg was citing, much less provide any meaningful perspective on its findings. I asked students in my urban environmental journalism class at CUNY to look beyond the headlines and place the story in a larger context. Below are their dispatches. Read More
Somalia is much in the headlines these days. There is the big weekend news of a Navy Seal operation that was in response to the horrific terrorist attack on a Kenyan mall several weeks ago. Additionally, the 20th anniversary of Black Hawk Down has triggered media remembrances and new details of that searing event. Then there is this revelatory piece in Foreign Policy and have I mentioned the new Hollywood movie about Somali pirates (starring Tom Hanks) coming out Friday?
Amidst all this is my Washington Post magazine profile of Michele Ballarin, the strange story of a Northern Virginia businesswoman who has inserted herself into Somali affairs the past decade.
The first time Ballarin made news was in 2006, when the UK’s Observer reported on a covert military plot to aid the U.N.-installed transitional government of Somalia’s then president Abdullahi Yusef. Read More