It seems that news coverage of environmental issues in China fluctuates between two extremes: “Look at all the sustainable innovation!” versus “Look at the total environmental destruction!” I read two articles yesterday that perfectly encompass the spectrum.
Article 1: A Fresh Look at China’s Long March on Energy and Emissions - via Andy Revkin’s NYT Dot Earth blog
A consulting firm, The Rhodium Group, recently released a “report card” assessing China’s efforts to increase the proportion of renewable sources in its nationwide energy portfolio, and to boost the efficiency of coal usage.
Thanks to intense government controls and an economic slowdown, China is (surprisingly) on track to achieve several energy targets in its current 5-Year Plan for 2011-2015:
- Target 1: Reduce the energy-intensity of the economy by 16%
- Target 2: Increase Non-Fossil Energy to 11.4% of Total Supply
- Target 3: Cut the Carbon-Intensity of GDP by 17%
Article 2: Spill in China Underlines Environmental Concerns - by Edward Wong, New York Times
On December 31, a chemical spill occurred at a fertilizer factory in Changzhi. Nine tons of aniline, a possible carcinogen, leaked into the Zhuozhang River, affected the drinking water of at least 28 villages and the large city of Handan downstream. Worst of all, city officials in Handan were not notified of the chemical spill until January 4.
In typical Chinese fashion, the provincial government has said little and the Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group, which owns the polluting factory, has not been held accountable. Two citizen groups have filed lawsuits, but they have made no progress and provincial officials have asked them to drop the suits.
(Photo: a woman carries clothes near the river in Handan, China.)
And so, China marches onward. Environmentally, it’s hard to say if conditions are getting better or worse.
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, recently wrote an editorial in the New York Times:
THOUSANDS of people plead guilty to crimes every year in the United States because they know that the odds of a jury’s believing their word over a police officer’s are slim to none. As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? As one of my colleagues recently put it, “Everyone knows you have to be crazy to accuse the police of lying.”
Alexander goes on to explain that police, in fact, have an incentive to lie. Pressure is increasingly put on officers to conduct more stops, searches and arrests. Police departments compete for federal funding that is contingent on the number of drug arrests made each month. The emphasis has shifted from quality to quantity.
A week later, NYT published several Letters to the Editor responding to Alexander’s piece. The opinions varied, but what I appreciated was the nuance and understanding in the viewpoints. People mostly agreed with Alexander, but thought she was looking at it from the wrong angle, or wanted to point out their own past experience. A few examples:
Police lie under oath because they’re cynical (…) Ms. Alexander is correct that this is a problem. But to ignore the cynicism created by a legal system, a government and a larger society (think of the Wall Street scandals) where bad behavior is commonplace and very often goes unpunished is to miss the point.
—Andy Rosenzweig, retired New York Police Department lieutenant and former chief investigator for the Manhattan district attorney
Prosecutors and judges engage in cognitive dissonance — on the one hand understanding that police lie; on the other, failing to address the issue in any meaningful way. Perhaps this is because our criminal justice system relies so heavily on the assumption of police as truth tellers. Acknowledging the problem threatens the very foundation of an already dysfunctional system.
—Jennifer Blasser, assistant professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Excerpt from a Propoublica article:
The four-bedroom house advertised on Craigslist sounded like just what Claire Rembis and her husband had been looking for. It sat on two verdant acres with plenty of room for their seven home-schooled children to run and play. And the $850 monthly rent was much cheaper than the prices for other homes they’d looked at.
Rembis loaded her family into their Dodge van and drove the 80 miles from Dearborn to Hudson, Mich. After the landlord’s brother showed them the property, they called the landlord and told her they “loved it.”
Three days later, Rembis got a call from the landlord saying she was dropping by to see how the family lived. It seemed strange, but Rembis really wanted the house, so she agreed. The landlord looked around, noted how tidy Rembis kept her home, and then asked to meet her children.
“I notice you are a woman of color,” the landlord said. “Are you concerned about living in that area?” Hudson is about 96 percent white, according to the U.S. Census. Rembis is biracial; her husband is white.
When Rembis replied she expected she and her children would have no problems, the landlord clarified her question. “No, no, no, not your children,” Rembis recalled her saying. “They are so beautiful, they are so fair.”
The landlord told Rembis she’d get back to her. A few days later Rembis received an email saying the family could not rent the house because there were issues with their credit and they had too many small children.
Wow. The article goes on to discuss a problem just as critical as housing discrimination itself: the lack of investigation and attention from authorities.
Few civil rights laws are more routinely defied than the ban on housing discrimination.
HUD studies have found that African Americans and Latinos are discriminated against in one of every five home-buying encounters and one in every four attempts to rent an apartment.
Only a scant few of these incidents ever come to the attention of authorities.
The Alligator, resident newspaper on the University of Florida’s campus, recently published a feature story on local rape and sexual assault victims. The article is focused on Luis Pereira, a club promoter who was accused on two separate occasions of rape.
Pereira drugged and raped Danielle Ruiz in 2010, and raped Susan (name changed) and sexually assaulted her friend in 2008. The stories are long and complex, but the Alligator describes the end result:
Pereira received 15 years of probation, which he can serve in Puerto Rico with his probation officer’s permission. He can’t break any laws, drink alcohol or use drugs. He must complete 100 hours of community service within two years and meet 20 times with a therapist who specializes in sexual treatment. He can’t work as a promoter. He can’t stay out past 11 p.m.
But he did not receive any jail time.
I really appreciated the depth of this feature - it serves as a reminder of how complicated the crime of rape, and the legal aftermath, can be. Two-thirds of rapists know their victims personally, and 60% of rapes happen in private homes. Considering these parameters, it is difficult to collect hard evidence, so a legal case often comes down to the word of the victim against the word of the offender.
A crucial source of evidence is completion of a rape kit, but there are many restrictions surrounding rape kits. From the article:
Later that morning, Susan and her friend waited in a hospital room, each alone. They couldn’t visit each other because it would hurt the police’s case. They got together at the hospital, a defense attorney might argue, because they were cooking up a lie to nab Pereira. So Susan waited hours, she said she thinks, for a nurse to come in and collect evidence, to snap pictures and take swabs and check for DNA on Susan. It was as if she were a human crime scene.
Susan grew impatient, scared and tired. And she felt dirty. She wanted to take a shower. She sneaked out of her hospital room and crept to her friend’s.
The friend convinced Susan that “this is a waste of time, let’s get out of here.” They left, and although Susan went back later that day feeling guilty, the hospital would not collect evidence once she had initially left the premises.
It is alarming that rape can be brushed off so easily by society. A rape victim is scared and hurt - he/she needs support and guidance in the aftermath. To leave a young woman alone in a hospital room for hours does not seem right. I appreciate that the Alligator reported on these incidents in Gainesville, because while I was a student at UF rape was not discussed frequently.
(Read the article here)
“Law enforcement should be the only people who should have guns on the street. That’s what’s killing our kids more than anything.”
—Ron Davis, father of black 17-year-old Jordan Davis who was shot and killed by white, 40-something Michael Dunn.
I know the Second Amendment is an important part of freedom to many Americans, but sometimes I feel like agreeing with Mr. Davis. The cost of “freedom” seems too high.
Furthermore, Florida’s state government continues to be hugely disappointing. I still can’t believe Governor Scott convened a task force that managed to find no problems with the Stand Your Ground law. Scott and the Republican leadership don’t care about saving lives or achieving justice, they care about keeping the NRA happy.
[Source: CS Monitor]
I just read several worthwhile articles on New York Times, thought I would share:
- Romney is President by Maureen Dowd
- Hillary’s Next Move by Gail Collins
- In an Era of Fiscal Cliffs, Seeking Ways Obama Can Preserve the Planet, On a Budget by Andrew Revkin