To Fight Global Warming, Think More About Systems Than About What You Consume

One response to this would be to urge readers to buy less cashmere (and less fleece, and less cotton, and less viscose rayon, all of which Schlossberg also covers). Indeed, her description of “fast fashion,” with some stores having 20 “seasons” annually, leaves one thinking it would be smarter to wear whatever you’re wearing forever, content in the understanding that it will swing in and out of style with some regularity. But it is to the author’s credit that she doesn’t, mainly, take this easy way out.

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For 10 or 15 years beginning in the 1990s such consumer-driven environmentalism was a constant refrain, leading to endless disputations about paper towels and disposable diapers versus sponges and cotton nappies. When I picked up this book, I feared it might go down the same cul-de-sacs, but it doesn’t, and for the obvious reason: That earlier campaign was essentially useless. Some fairly small percentage of people read those books, and an even smaller percentage took regular and clear action. Those people are morally consistent heroes whom we should all salute, but it turns out there are not enough of them to make a difference. Everyone else continued to stream Netflix, buy cashmere and use air-conditioning, which meant that the amount of carbon pouring into the atmosphere kept increasing, and the temperature kept rising. And those of us working to contain this environmental disaster increasingly turned our attention to systems, and to the powerful actors within them.

To go back to goats for a moment, as Schlossberg says, “it is not the fault of the consumer that cashmere is cheap, and it’s not wrong to want nice things or to buy them, sometimes. … It’s not within your control how some company sources and produces its cashmere, or the size of the herd that they got it from. That should be the corporation’s burden … or governments should make sure they act responsibly.”

Governments and corporations, of course, don’t do such things automatically — they need citizens to push them. But it doesn’t require every citizen to push in order to make change (since apathy cuts both ways, social scientists estimate that getting 3 or 4 percent of people involved in a movement is often enough to force systemic change, whereas if they acted solely as consumers that same number would have relatively little effect). You can obviously do both, and all of us should try — but fighting for the Green New Deal makes more mathematical sense than trying to take on the planet one commodity at a time.

And that, interestingly, is where Schlossberg seems to come out, even as she conducts her rambling tour of each of those commodities. When she writes about fuel, for instance, she goes into great detail: Whether Uber rides displace car trips or bus trips turns out to be both important and vexingly difficult to determine, for instance. But in the end, the changes we make in our transportation lives will matter mostly if we make them “as a collective.” That is to say, instead of trying to figure out every single aspect of our lives, a carbon tax would have the effect of informing every one of those decisions, automatically and invisibly. The fuel efficiency standards that the Obama administration put forward and Trump is now gutting would result in stunningly different outcomes. And so on.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/books/review/inconspicuous-consumption-tatiana-schlossberg.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

The Last, Best Dip of the Summer

This is it. This is the end of the summer, even if you get to spend the next four weeks lounging around in shorts. It’s time for one final holiday repast, a wake for August, a joyful party with family and friends. You can take part even if you loathe the dark arts of entertaining, even if your summer residence is the same walk-up in which you greet February’s dawn, even if planning is not your bag. Just make a few calls, put out some food and something to drink, light a couple of candles and allow everyone to gather as if you won’t see them for a year. Embrace the symbolism. Say goodbye.

It doesn’t have to be a feast. Of course you could spend your Labor Day tending a small fire in the vicinity of a large hog split open on a grate, or steaming lobsters over hot rocks and seaweed on the beach. You could have a fish fry or set up a hot-dog assembly line or prepare a glistening spiral-cut ham to serve with a neat stack of potato rolls and good mustard. You could arrange a buffet: cold poached salmon and green beans in vinaigrette surrounded by quarters of hard-boiled egg, with cheese cubes, stuffed mushrooms and fancy coleslaw on the side. But this can be a lot of work, and the experience of eating your labor difficult, with everyone standing around with plates and knives and forks and sweating glasses of wine.

The caterer, chef and cookbook writer Bert Greene divided party food into two categories: the kind you eat on the fly and the kind you eat on the hoof. A buffet is hoof-food, he wrote in “The Store Cookbook” in 1974, a volume devoted to recipes and reminiscences of the gourmet shop he ran in Amagansett with his partner, Denis Vaughan. Greene, who died in 1988, did not approve of hoof-food. “Pure hell,” he called it, the domain of “professional ball-throwers” and “sado-hostesses.” He preferred to serve fly-food, he wrote, “anything that can be wolfed down while waiting for another turn at the bar.”

If I could ever write a social history of the Hamptons region of Long Island, the Store at Amagansett would play a starring role in the chapter on fancy foods. Because long before the hedge-fund bodega Loaves & Fishes opened in Sagaponack and later introduced the world to lobster salad with a three-figure price tag, before Ina Garten took over the Barefoot Contessa in Westhampton Beach, before Citarella in Water Mill, before anyone could imagine expensive sports cars double-parked in front of the Sagg Main General Store in Sagaponack, there was the Store, opened in 1966 to serve the art set, the celebrity crowd, all those with money, taste and no desire to cook. It was Greene and Vaughan, who died in 2000, who made way for them all.

The Store sold prepared food — salads and cakes, boxed lunches for the beach or sailboat rides, pâtés and chutneys and chow-chows. “Each dish is so lovingly prepared,” Michael Field wrote for McCall’s in 1968, “that the shock of paying the bill is painlessly absorbed by the sheer euphoria induced by eating.” But it is clear from their cookbook that the real money was in catering, in providing hoof-food for Hamptons estates: clams; things en croute; rack of lamb; chocolate rolls for dessert. (“Have you ever thought of going berserk in the kitchens of the rich?” Vaughan asked at the start of one chapter. “Well, I have!”)

And so there are recipes for chicken tarragon and ziti salad, for angel food cake and billi bi. But there is also some riotously good fly-food, including Greene’s very favorite dish for that purpose: “an enormous quantity of iced, fresh vegetables, served with something tart and abrasive.”

His recipe is for a green and herby tapenade, spiked with a full tin of anchovies and a pile of capers. It’s a remarkable concoction, with the salt of the cured fish and berries tempered with vinegar and softened by mayonnaise, with loads of parsley and chives for vegetal zing. Cured very cold in the refrigerator, it offers a singularly delicious taste of summer at summer’s very end. And while it is astonishing on cold vegetables, I’ve also deployed it on sandwiches, steamed corn, sautéed fish, even as a dip for slices of delivery pizza, like a kind of ranch dressing for those who employ property managers.

In the cookbook, Greene wrote that he was once half-jokingly offered a bribe of a thousand dollars for the recipe. “Nobly, I refused the stunning stipend,” he wrote, “and now, with open heart, I pass it on to you — absolutely gratis!”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/magazine/the-store-green-dip-recipe.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

5 Cheap(ish) Things Wirecutter’s Editor in Chief Can’t Live Without

I’ve been using the same screwdriver and pliers for 25 years. They live inside a Victorinox multitool that I received as a bar mitzvah gift. I’m 38 now — but I still use this multitool nearly every day.

For those unfamiliar with multitools: Mine is a roughly 4-inch by 1-inch bar of metal that ninja-expands and contorts to reveal various screwdrivers, bottle openers, knives, pliers and plenty of other helpful tools. Multitools are delightfully wonderful little gizmos. You can be a Mr. Fix-It without an unwieldy red toolbox and sagging tool belt. All you need is this one simple thing. And every time I use my multitool, it reminds me how much one really good thing can disproportionately affect your life — and how something well-made can last through so many of life’s phases.

My vintage 1994 Victorinox is likely to be near impossible to track down. But Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews and recommends products, and a site of which I’m the editor in chief, has plenty of good multitool recommendations.

As someone who runs a gear and gadgets site, I often get asked for product recommendations. What are the (relatively inexpensive) things I really love? In addition to my multitool, here are four more cheap(ish) things I just can’t live without.

Amazon Echo Dot

“Alexa, what’s the weather?” “Alexa, how’s my commute?” “Alexa, play ‘La Bamba.’” This is the pitter-patter soundtrack in my kitchen, as we ask Alexa, well, everything. I was skeptical years ago when we received an Echo Dot as a gift, and to this day I still squirm when I imagine all the conversations Alexa eavesdrops on. But for better or worse, we’ve come to rely on Alexa for music-playing, news-reporting, fact-finding, number-crunching and much more. Alexa is such a key part of our lives that once, when my then-18-month-old daughter and I were taking my dog for a walk on a beautifully placid country road in rural New York, my daughter pierced the silence with the confident demand, “Alexa, play ‘Run Baby Run’!” (That’s a song about running babies by the appropriately named band Caspar Babypants.) Sadly, Alexa was stuck in my kitchen 50 miles away, and unable to fulfill Elle’s request.

Wirecutter recommends the Amazon Echo — an upgrade over the more bare-bones Echo Dot that I use, which Wirecutter still recommends as an affordable alternative.

(And if you’re worried about how much Alexa is really listening to you, read this.)

A marriage-saving Bluetooth tracker

My wife is a brilliant, hilarious, kind, beautiful and accomplished woman. She also misplaces her phone several times a day, and it drives me crazy. We’ve torn our house apart many times before finally finding her phone in the cupholder of our Jeep, buried beneath blankets on our bed, and hidden in piles of my son’s toys.

Enter the Tile Mate, a godsend for our marriage and sanity. We synced this little Bluetooth tracker to Aliyah’s phone, and now — instead of asking, “Have you seen my phone?” — we simply grab the Tile Mate from the dish where I keep my keys, press a button and Aliyah’s phone starts playing a delightful little tune (even if it’s on vibrate or silent), luring us to wherever it is in our three-story house.

Wirecutter recommends the Tile Pro, a higher-end version of the Tile Mate we use.

Martini shaker

I don’t drink during the week. But every Friday, after my kids go to sleep, I make myself a stiff gin martini (dirty, with olives) to help me leave my work behind and ease into the weekend. My wife accurately calls it my “martini medicine.” Wirecutter advises the reverse James Bond approach — that martinis be stirred, not shaken — but I’m a fan of shakers. I use a cobbler shaker, which has a canister, a lid with a strainer and a cap. Wirecutter recommends the Usagi Cobbler Shaker (and loads of other great barware).

Toddler alarm clock

When my daughter was 2 and a half, we all agreed she was a “big girl,” so we took one of the walls off her crib. This was a huge mistake. She rewarded us by wandering out of her room every five minutes for hours on end after bedtime each night. We feared none of us would ever sleep again.

Our salvation? A toddler alarm clock. Wirecutter recommends the OK to Wake Alarm Clock, though we use this mildly unnerving dog version from Big Red Rooster.

It’s simple: At bedtime, we turn on the alarm’s red night light. It turns green at 7 a.m. Our daughter knows she’s not allowed to come out of her room when the red light is on (except to go potty), and she honors the stoplight color coding by staying in bed till she gets the green light.

Am I worried this is psychologically manipulative and could create long-term emotional issues surrounding freedom and control? Yes, of course. Is it worth it for the whole family to sleep again? You betcha.

P.S. The expert bargain hunters at Wirecutter, The New York Times’s product review site, are scouring thousands of discounts to find the best deals on products that are actually worth it to upgrade your life. Subscribe to the daily Deals newsletter here.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/smarter-living/5-cheap-ish-things-wirecutters-editor-in-chief-cant-live-without.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Slavery and the Holocaust: How Americans and Germans Cope With Past Evils

Initially skeptical about the viability of reparations, Neiman says her views have evolved. She considers reparations a repayment for a debt, not just for slavery but for the century of “neo-slavery” that followed it in the form of sharecropping, a kind of agricultural servitude that left black families mired in debt to the descendants of those who once enslaved them. Along with sharecropping there were both Jim Crow laws, many of which influenced Nazi anti-Semitic legislation, and redlining by financial institutions. All these continue to leave generations of African-Americans at a decided disadvantage.

Neiman believes that people who live in a society built on injustice, even though they may not have created the injustice, are responsible for correcting it. The moral precedent for American reparations to its black citizens is rooted in Germany’s post-World War II compensation for its past crimes. If one believes German reparations were justified, how can one oppose them in America?

Though Neiman supports reparations, she rejects the notion of cultural appropriation, the attack on “outsiders” — artists, writers and performers — who try to get “inside” the experiences of a persecuted group. “African-American history in all its torment and glory is American history. … You cannot hope to understand another culture until you try to get inside a piece of it and walk around there for a while.” She acknowledges that “you’ll never get it the way someone who was born inside it does,” but you’ll never understand their pain and your part in causing it unless you try. “I know,” she writes, “of nothing more moving than Paul Robeson’s rendering of the ‘Partisan Lied,’ written in Yiddish as response to the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943. And the fact that he sang it in 1949 in Moscow, as Stalin’s anti-Semitism began to sweep the Soviet Union, shows he knew exactly how to use it.”

Neiman spent three years interviewing people in both Germany and the United States in preparation for writing this book. Despite her having insisted that her project was not about comparative evil but how evil is remembered, Germans almost uniformly rejected any suggestion of a comparison. They considered what they did far worse than slavery. Americans also uniformly rejected the comparison, but for different reasons. Convinced that slavery was not nearly as serious a blot on their country’s history as the Holocaust was on Germany’s, Americans use that fact as a means of blinding themselves to its horrors. In that contrast there is, Neiman suggests, a lesson about confronting the past.

Optimally, a reviewer’s evaluation should not be influenced by where she read a book. But this book accompanied me while I was in Poland, meeting with Polish academics, museum personnel and dedicated individuals who, at immense personal risk, are fighting their government’s attempt to make illegal any mention of the Poles’ participation in the Holocaust. There were many Polish rescuers who risked their own and their families’ lives. There were also Poles — probably more than rescuers — who persecuted Jews before, during and after the war. The government is intent on removing from museums and cultural institutions references to this aspect of Polish behavior. This is what may be called soft-core Holocaust denial, a reconfiguring of the facts to hide certain truths.

Though Neiman’s book does not concern Polish revisionism, it speaks directly to it. One of the South’s heralded sons, William Faulkner, observed about the society in whose midst he lived: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It is part of us. It determines how we approach the present.

The history wars shape far more than how we remember the past. They shape the societies we bequeath to future generations. Susan Neiman’s book is an important and welcome weapon in that battle.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/books/review/learning-from-the-germans-susan-neiman.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

How to Stop Slack From Taking Over Your Life

Slack promises an escape from email. But once you start using it, the excitement of replacing email quickly fades. At home, Slack’s notifications tempt you to work on the weekend. At work, the app is always there, pulling your focus away from real work with water cooler chatter. Wasn’t this supposed to be better?

It can be, but you’ll need to configure Slack’s options first.

Set boundaries with Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb is crucial to healthy Slacking. When you’re in Do Not Disturb mode, Slack won’t send you any notifications. People can send you messages all they want — but you won’t have Slack constantly pinging your phone (or popping up on your desktop) with notifications. Your status icon will have a snooze symbol.

Don’t worry — if there’s an emergency, people can choose to override your Do Not Disturb preference and have Slack send you a notification, anyway.

There are two ways to use Do Not Disturb: manually and automatically. To use it manually, click the bell icon (in the desktop version of Slack) or open the menu and tap “Do Not Disturb” (on your phone.) Tell Slack how long you want to pause notifications. Select “Until Tomorrow” and Slack won’t bug you until 9 a.m. the next day. You could click this option whenever you’re done for the day to stop work from taking over your evening hours. Or, if you’re a keyboard ninja, use the “/dnd” command and specify a time period.

Automatic mode is more powerful. Click the bell and select “Do Not Disturb schedule” to automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode at designated times. Do you work from 9 to 5? Tell Slack to automatically disable notifications from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Now you’ll getting notifications only during working hours.

Slack is working on an automatic weekend Do Not Disturb feature, but that’s not available yet. If you work Monday to Friday and have the weekends off, you can tell Slack to pause notifications “Until Next Week” when the workday is done on Friday. Or, use the “Custom” option to tell the app exactly how long you’ll be away from work.

I manage a team of employees and freelancers all over the world, and Do Not Disturb is critical. No one has to worry about time zones before sending a message.

Tell Slack which channels matter (and which don’t)

Slack channels keep proliferating. Every Slack starts with a #random channel for off-topic chatter, and people tend to create more off-topic channels from there. That’s fine, but do you really need Slack notifying you about all those conversations?

To really focus on what’s important, star your most important channels by clicking the star icon under each channel’s name. Starred channels will appear at the top of the list in Slack’s sidebar. You won’t have to dig past #random to find them.

Mute channels you don’t need notifications from. When you mute a channel, it turns gray in the sidebar. It won’t turn bold and encourage you to click it when a new message arrives. To mute a channel, click the gear icon in a channel and select the “Mute” option.

Slack recommends leaving channels you don’t care about, but muting is a good compromise for channels you kind of care about — or if you just don’t want your co-workers to see a message saying you’ve left the channel. This helps lessen the temptation of #random and other channels that aren’t critical. You can join the conversation on your own schedule.

Stop Slack from turning deep work into slacking

Slack can easily turn productive work hours into — well — slacking. If a message isn’t urgent, it probably shouldn’t interrupt your deep work.

To focus without distractions, turn on Do Not Disturb mode for a while. You can put up a status message telling your co-workers you’re working on something important, too. Consider blocking off time for deep work and making it a regular part of your schedule, preventing Slack from becoming a sort of always-on electronic meeting that takes over your entire workday.

Even when you’re active, Slack can be pretty noisy by default. I highly recommend going through its notification preferences and tuning the various sounds and other distractions to your liking. You can even control when Slack sends notifications to your phone instead of your computer — or, worse yet, emails you.

Don’t take your work on vacation

Take your vacation time without bringing the office with you. Don’t end up trying to relax with Slack notifications popping up on your phone. After all, you could answer this person’s question really fast — boom, now the app is open and you’re working.

Taking a vacation from Slack is pretty easy. Use the Do Not Disturb feature, select “Custom” and tell Slack to mute notifications until you return to work. Let your co-workers know you’re gone by setting a custom status. In my status, I say I’m on vacation until a specific date and tell people whom they should contact instead. It’s like the Slack version of an out-of-office email reply.

Slack is a work tool; treat it like one

I love Slack, really. Anyone who looks down on Slack doesn’t remember the bad old days of endless email threads and lesser workplace chat apps. But Slack shouldn’t be ever-present in every minute of your life.

These tips may not feel realistic if all of your co-workers are in Slack at all hours of the day. How can you step away when everyone else is always on?

This is a problem older than Slack: It’s the same issue that leads to people responding to emails at all hours of the night. That’s a more difficult problem to tackle at your workplace, and it can’t be fixed by adjusting some settings in the Slack app.

But Slack can be pernicious. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like work, especially if you like your co-workers. The same people who might otherwise leave email at work may think nothing about chatting away in Slack after the workday is over. That’s a challenge more people will have to wrestle with as Slack penetrates more and more workplaces.

Chris Hoffman is a tech journalist and editor in chief of How-To Geek, an online technology magazine. Follow him on Twitter @chrisbhoffman.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/smarter-living/how-to-stop-slack-from-taking-over-your-life.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

6 Tips for a Regret-Free Wedding Registry

Choose gifts that guests want to give

We hate to break the news, but a gift registry is not just about you. When people give a gift, they’re celebrating the couple and the next chapter of their life, said Ms. Spector. “That gift is a building block in that new chapter.”

It’s not surprising, then, that people want to give something specific; it’s their way of creating a personal bond. So, instead of, say, asking for one cash pool toward your honeymoon, break it down into a gift toward a dinner at a popular restaurant, a night’s hotel stay, or a vineyard excursion (you can do this on sites like Wanderable.) And since honeymoon funds remain controversial — 64 percent of American gift-givers say they prefer traditional registry items over honeymoon contributions, according to a 2018 NerdWallet — Harris Poll survey — register for tangible objects, too. These choices should speak to various facets of your personality, so friends who share them will delight in giving you that gift. As an ardent dessert lover, I was excited, for example, to snap up the cake stand that a friend who loves to bake registered for.

Drop the scan gun

Guests can’t give you what you really want unless you give them access to it, so instead of one-stop shopping in a big-box store, consider visiting a few smaller shops that match your style.

You can also sign up at a registry site: At Zola, for instance, a single registry incorporates items and services from a mix of popular home-good brands, boutiquey online finds, and gift cards from airlines and spas. Slowdance allows design-minded couples to select from a curated collection of home goods. And don’t overlook offline items — sometimes what you really want is in a boutique down the street.

“Not everything needs to be ‘click to buy,’” said Zoe Settle, a New York City interior design consultant. If you’ve had your eye on the perfect armchair from a local antique shop, “let a few close friends know and trust they might chip in for it,” she said.

Give people options

That means registering for plenty of gifts in a range of prices (so everyone can find lots of choices with prices they can afford) and replenishing as the list gets depleted — so people don’t resort to off-registry gifts, which may or may not lead to results that spark joy.

Ms. Spector recommends registering for twice as many gifts as guests. Coupled guests often send one gift, but people will also be dipping into the registry for the engagement party and bridal shower. Keep in mind, too, that even the cheapest gift can be as fun to give as it is to receive if some thought goes into it — for instance, a collection of silicone spatulas holds its own among expensive items when the set is in your wedding colors.

Sign up for the Wirecutter Weekly Newsletter and get our latest recommendations every Sunday.

A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/smarter-living/wirecutter/6-tips-for-a-regret-free-wedding-registry.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Trump’s Trade War Washes Up on Australia’s Shore

WASHINGTON — Australia’s economy is experiencing its 28th year of a record-shattering expansion, with strong employment growth and high economic potential.

But the Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates to a record low last month — a development that underscores how intertwined the global economy has become and how big a threat President Trump’s trade war poses in such an environment.

On paper, there is no reason Australia’s economy should be in big trouble.

The country has seen rapid, immigration-fueled population growth, something many developed markets lack. It seems to be weathering the fallout from a domestic housing market cool-off, and while slow wage gains are weighing on consumer spending, pay increases have been lagging partly because workers are pouring into the job market and keeping competition for employees at bay. Crucially, the nation has little exposure to global manufacturing supply chains, a fact that insulates it from the early fallout of America’s trade fight with China.

But the central bank’s ability to goose pay, achieve steady price increases and keep the job market expanding hinges partly on interest rates in other countries. More than 30 central banks have cut interest rates this year in response to slowing global growth, Mr. Trump’s trade war and other geopolitical turmoil.

“If the world interest rate changes, we have to change ours too,” Philip Lowe, who heads the Reserve Bank of Australia, said over the weekend at an economic symposium in Jackson, Wyo. “If we don’t, the exchange rate will appreciate, and it will have adverse consequences for our inflation and employment goals.”

Mr. Lowe’s central bank cut interest rates to 1 percent in July, and is expected to lower them again before the end of the year. It was a bid to shore up domestic demand, which has been weak, but Mr. Lowe said that global rates had also “been a consideration in our recent thinking.”

That even Australia cannot remain an island of untroubled prosperity amid a fraught global backdrop — one made more so by Mr. Trump’s announcement last week that he plans to further escalate America’s trade war with China — speaks to the broader challenges facing the world’s economy.

From the oceanic nation, with its strong demographics and high growth potential, to Japan and Europe, with their aging populations and weaker prospects, the level of interest rates that a healthy economy can sustain without slowing down has fallen. So, too, have inflation and the level of unemployment that stokes faster wage growth.

Those changes owe to aging in many advanced-economy populations, a heightened appetite for low-risk saving options and globalization. Financial markets, which have become larger and closely interwoven, ensure that the trends are shared across economies.

“International linkages have risen dramatically over recent decades,” Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, said at the Jackson Hole gathering, an annual meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. And because America’s currency and debt markets are so central to the global financial system, the nation’s political and economic dramas guide the world’s.

“The global financial cycle is a dollar cycle,” Mr. Carney said. Bank of England research indicates that increases in America’s policy interest rate have twice the effect on foreign growth that they did back in the 1990s, even though America now makes up a smaller share of the global economy, Mr. Carney said.

When the Fed moves interest rates or Mr. Trump ramps up trade tensions, it echoes across the world through currency repricing and slower growth.

There are hazards to such an integrated global monetary and financial system. It leaves central banks with low interest rates to begin with, and then little ability to diverge from their trading partners’ monetary policy settings. At the first sign of trouble, many nations may lower rates in tandem.

That seems to be happening now. As the United States, the eurozone and Japan reorient toward rate cuts and other forms of monetary economic help this year, central bankers across emerging markets have slashed their own borrowing costs. Monetary authorities could enter the next recession with relatively little ammunition, heightening the risk that a garden-variety economic slowdown could turn into a drawn-out, painful global slump with widespread costs to jobs and prosperity.

And while the global economy’s brittleness is rooted in slow-moving economic fundamentals, Mr. Trump’s trade war could be the spark that sets off the time bomb.

Mr. Trump looks at a tightly intertwined global economy and sees a winner-take-all game in which the United States can and should prosper at the expense of other countries. He has criticized the Federal Reserve for not cutting rates more quickly, saying the central bank is putting the United States at a disadvantage to other nations that are ushering in low rates.

“Our Federal Reserve cannot ‘mentally’ keep up with the competition – other countries,” Mr. Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday. “At the G-7 in France, all of the other Leaders were giddy about how low their Interest Costs have gone. Germany is actually ‘getting paid’ to borrow money – ZERO INTEREST PLUS! No Clue Fed!”

Just as central bankers spent the weekend discussing how countries’ economic fates have become closely tied at their Jackson Hole symposium, Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that he would put additional tariffs on China and would look for ways to stop domestic businesses from operating there.

He is still contemplating tariffs that would harm German carmakers, and earlier this year, Mr. Trump threatened tariffs on Mexico as a way to pressure the country to stop the flow of migrants across the southern border.

Mr. Trump’s next steps are clearly top of mind going forward in Australia.

“Australia has been a major beneficiary from the rules-based global trading system over many decades,” Guy Debelle, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said in a recent speech. “The current threats to that are clearly a major risk for the Australian outlook over a longer horizon.”

While drawn-out trade battles are hurting Chinese growth and weighing on global manufacturing, central bankers around the world generally echo Mr. Debelle: They are less worried about the direct effects than about the uncertainty caused, the prospect of escalation and the potential for a paradigm shift.

“The combination of the structural imbalances at the heart of the international monetary system and protectionism are threatening global momentum,” Mr. Carney said.

And a wave of rate cuts that work partly through making domestic currencies cheaper are an imperfect fix to the continuing trade tensions.

“If all central banks ease similarly at around the same time, there is no exchange rate channel,” Mr. Lowe said over the weekend. “We trade with one another, not with Mars.”

The pain may even be spilling back into the United States itself in ways that the Fed will struggle to offset. Factories are slowing in the United States, as is the case around the world, and consumer confidence showed early signs of softening in preliminary August data.

“While monetary policy is a powerful tool that works to support consumer spending, business investment and public confidence, it cannot provide a settled rule book for international trade,” Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell said last week.

The global backdrop could take some oomph out of Fed policy. The central bank cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade in July, but as uncertainty slows investment and pulls down the global interest rate setting that neither stokes nor slows growth, it could also lower the dividing line between stimulus and restrictive policy in America.

“More than in the past, the Fed is always going to feel like chasing a moving target,” Adam Posen, the president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said in an interview.

And that could leave it struggling to lower rates fast enough to bolster the economy.

“Fed policymakers still risk lagging behind,” Joachim Fels, a global economic adviser at Pimco, wrote in a research note this weekend. Appropriate policy settings, he wrote, are increasingly “hobbled by global fetters.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/business/trump-trade-war-australia.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Should You Take Your Shoes Off at Home?

Maybe you kick off your shoes at home because you don’t want to track dirt across clean carpets or floors, or maybe it’s just a relief to shed them.

But if you regularly take them off because you’re worried about harmful bacteria from the outside getting inside and making you sick, relax.

Those concerns are overblown, according to experts, who added that more pressing health risks are often overlooked.

What’s on your soles?

Charles P. Gerba, a professor and microbiologist at the University of Arizona, studied how many and which kinds of bacteria linger on the bottom of shoes.

In 2008, researchers tracked new shoes worn by 10 participants for two weeks and found that coliform bacteria like E. coli were extremely common on the outside of the shoes. E. coli is known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections as well as meningitis, among other illnesses.

“Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space,” Mr. Gerba said in a statement.

(The study was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, involved a limited number of participants and was supported by the shoe company Rockport, which was testing machine-washable shoes.)

Mr. Gerba said in an interview this month that the study’s findings had made him change even some of his own behaviors: “It kept me from putting my feet on my desk.”

Contaminated shoes are unlikely to make you sick

It’s possible to transmit germs from your footwear if you touch your shoes and then your face or mouth, for instance, or if you eat food that’s been dropped on the floor.

But in the hierarchy of potential health hazards at home, bacteria-caked shoes rank comparatively low, according to Donald W. Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

He said there are more important considerations. Is anyone in the house sick? Are there frogs, turtles or snakes nearby, which can carry salmonella? Is food being stored and prepared properly?

Sponges, which retain water and food particles, are a “cesspool” of bacteria, said Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Outside the home, there are objects and surfaces that are frequently touched but seldom, if ever, washed, such as money, A.T.M. buttons and gas station pump handles, he said, adding, “Focusing on people’s shoes feels like focusing on the wrong vector.”

Over all, experts emphasized that washing your hands with soap and water remained the most important health practice.

Lisa A. Cuchara, professor of biomedical sciences at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., said that fecal bacteria were certainly transferred from your shoes to your floor at home but that “for most healthy adults, this level of contamination is more of a gross reaction than a health threat.”

Putting the threat in perspective, she noted that the floor in a public restroom has around two million bacteria per square inch. A toilet seat, on the other hand, has an average of about 50 per square inch.

“Think about that the next time you place your purse or knapsack on the bathroom floor and then bring it home and put it on the kitchen table or counter,” she said.

Consider what the dog drags in

If you are concerned about what two-legged residents track in, then what about your dogs?

“We don’t wash the dog’s paws every time he comes in the house, and I don’t want to think about where he’s been walking,” said Dr. Carroll, who has a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Loki.

Andrea Kaufmann of Cape May Court House, N.J., said she changed out of her shoes into slippers to keep dirt off the floors, but added that she has two Labrador retrievers.

“I could sweep and vacuum three times a day and still have dirt on the floors from the dogs,” she said. “They can’t take their shoes off.”

Dirt can be healthy. Really.

Considering the benefits of modern-day sanitation, vaccinations and health care, the likelihood of getting sick from our shoes is “infinitesimally small as to almost be unwarranted,” said Jack A. Gilbert, a professor in the department of pediatrics and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

Mr. Gilbert, an author of the book “Dirt Is Good,” said there were theories suggesting that bringing elements of the outdoors indoors could help stimulate autoimmune systems, particularly in children.

In the first year of life, physical interaction with a dog can reduce a child’s likelihood of developing asthma by 13 percent, while interactions in a barn or farm can reduce it by 50 percent, he said.

Emily Ledgerwood, an assistant professor of biological and environmental sciences at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, said her 3-year-old daughter had recently helped her crack eggs to make breakfast. When they were done, Ms. Ledgerwood made sure they both washed their hands to prevent any possible cross-contamination with salmonella.

Later, her daughter helped weed the garden and pick vegetables. Though she had been working in dirt, Ms. Ledgerwood let her have lunch without first washing her hands.

“When we find out about all the microbes in our environment, we can get a bit squeamish, but we’re not getting sick all the time,” she said.

When should you take off your shoes?

It’s best to take your shoes off if you have young children crawling on floors or people in the home who have allergies, because pollen can be transferred to floors, especially to carpets.

“In cases where your immune system is compromised — people who have cancer, have undergone an organ transplant, have an infection — then there is much more of a reason to take your shoes off when you come home,” Ms. Cuchara said.

If the person you are visiting prefers that you take your shoes off, it’s sound etiquette to abide by their wishes, said April Masini, who writes about relationships and etiquette for her website, Ask April.

“Even if you don’t see shoes at the entrance, you can always ask if your host would like you to take off your shoes upon entering,” she said.

It is also a common practice observed in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, said Benjamin Hiramatsu Ireland, an assistant professor of modern language studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

“Removing one’s shoes upon entering a home stems from the respectful observance of religious practices that have been integrated within the cultural fabric and expected ‘to-dos’ of each of these countries and, of course, for reasons pertaining to hygiene,” he said.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/science/shoes-in-house-germs.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

A Raft of Floating Rock Stuns Sailors. But Can It Save the Reef?

MELBOURNE, Australia — The first thing the sailors noticed was the smell of sulfur.

Then, Larissa Brill and Michael Hoult, a couple sailing in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, saw it: a floating mass of volcanic rocks, with some boulders as large as basketballs, blanketing the ocean as far as their boat’s spotlight could illuminate.

The rocks — a raft of pumice estimated to be as large as 200 football fields — transformed the ocean into an opaque, undulating crust. Scientists say the raft resulted from an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga this month, and it is slowly floating toward Australia.

A giant raft of floating rock is not all that uncommon. Similar rafts occur every five or so years, scientists said, but such masses are rarely encountered up close by people.

Researchers are curious about whether marine life, hitching a ride on the rocks, might help replenish the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s great natural wonders, which has been threatened by consecutive bleaching events in recent years as a result of climate change, and is at risk of eventually dying.

“When the pumice arrives on our shore, it won’t be recognizable,” said Scott Bryan, the geologist who is leading the recovery and analysis of the pumice at the Queensland University of Technology.

The rocks — some no larger than marbles — could be teeming, he said, with marine life including bacteria, algae, barnacles, mollusks, anemones, worms, crabs and it is hoped, corals, along with the organisms that support their growth.

Professor Bryan, who has been studying the effects of underwater volcanic eruptions for two decades, said he hoped corals would arrive in the millions. Even if only 1 percent survive, he said, it could be a blessing for the Great Barrier Reef, which recent studies have shown may not be as resilient as once thought.

The hypothesis that marine life can attach itself to objects — including rocks, floating seaweed and logs — in order to travel great distances while avoiding predators is accepted scientific theory. But some scientists were skeptical about corals’ ability to breed and later colonize over such long distances, as well as their ability to ultimately restore the reef, which is about 2,000 times the size of the pumice raft.

Corals attach themselves to objects on which they grow. In order to colonize the reef, a new generation of baby corals (not those attached to the rock themselves) would need to in effect jump off the rock into the waters off Australia’s east coast, said Terry Hughes, a professor of coral reef science and the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“I’m not aware of any evidence of corals recruiting onto a reef from a piece of pumice,” he said. “If it does happen, it’s very rare.”

In recent years, projects around the world have attempted to help reefs survive the degradations of climate change that include bleaching, invasions by deadly predators and an increased severity of cyclones. But, such projects have yet to be scaled to a degree where they might reasonably save large reefs, scientists said.

Good news stories about the Great Barrier Reef, Professor Hughes added, were dangerous in promoting the idea that silver-bullet solutions exist for what is ultimately a very complex problem.

“The message that we don’t have to worry so much about climate change because the Great Barrier Reef is about to be rescued by pumice is wrong,” he said. “Unfortunately the only fix isn’t an easy one,” Professor Hughes added, “and that’s the greenhouse gas emissions issue.”

Emma Kennedy, a postdoctoral research fellow in marine science at The University of Queensland, agreed that it was misleading to claim the reef could be restored by marine life sailing to Australia via the high seas on a rock.

“Large quantities of pumice are continually being produced by the world’s oceans — so we know pumice rafting is a way that over evolutionary history corals were able to colonize new areas,” Dr. Kennedy wrote by email. But she cautioned against putting too much stock in this raft’s ability to save the reef.

Professor Bryan agreed that while there were challenges for coral in colonizing new areas, there was evidence to show that it was possible for corals to grow to reproductive size on rocks, where they might spawn new larvae into the water. Rocks might also become so heavy with coral growth, he added, that they could sink to the ocean floor and become stuck there.

After the emergence of a similar pumice raft in 2006, Professor Bryan led research that found that more than 80 species had traveled more than 5,000 kilometers from Tonga to the Great Barrier Reef, but just a fraction of them were corals. Still, he said, “you only need a small percentage to take hold to make an impact.”

The pumice raft is expected to reach Australian shores in about seven or eight months, but in the meantime Professor Bryan is collaborating with the sailors, Ms. Brill and Mr. Hoult, who will personally deliver rock samples to him when they reach Brisbane, on Australia’s east coast.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/world/australia/pumice-raft-coral.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Why You Need a Password Manager. Yes, You.

Learning to use a password manager seems intimidating, but once you start using one to make strong random passwords that you’re not on the hook to remember, you’ll wonder how you lived without one. Usually, improving your digital security means making your devices more annoying to use; a password manager is a rare opportunity to make yourself more secure and less annoyed.

A password manager for any budget

Wirecutter’s favorite password manager is 1Password. It has great apps for PCs, Macs, and all kinds of tablets and phones, and those apps will tell you exactly what’s wrong with your passwords and how to fix them, whether they’re weak, reused, or even compromised in a hack. If you’re not using two-factor authentication to further protect your accounts already, 1Password can generate, store, and insert those codes for you when you need them. And 1Password’s family plan makes it easy to share passwords for accounts you share with your family members and friends (and to keep their passwords safe, too).

If you can’t or don’t want to pay the $36 per year for a 1Password subscription, you can find good free options too. Wirecutter’s favorite is LastPass Free — its apps aren’t as full-featured as 1Password’s, and its recommendations for fixing password problems aren’t as clearly explained or as easy to act on, but it’s still pretty simple to use and it still works on just about any computer, tablet, or phone.

These aren’t the only good password managers out there, but these two are easy to learn, backed by good customer support, and designed to store your passwords securely. You don’t need to understand hashing or AES-256 encryption, except to know that it means that even if 1Password or LastPass has its servers hacked, your passwords will remain unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have your master password. Both 1Password and LastPass are transparent about their security processes, and you can visit their sites to learn more.

Making a good master password

Because your master password is responsible for protecting all of your account information, you must make it long and difficult to guess. But because you’ll need to type it in when you start using a new computer or phone, when you need to log in to change account settings, or when you restart your computer or browser, it should also be easy for you to remember; otherwise you could lock yourself out of your account and lose access to everything.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/smarter-living/wirecutter/why-you-need-a-password-manager-yes-you.html?emc=rss&partner=rss