Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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May 2018

Puerto Rico’s devastation takes a backseat to Roseanne coverage

Pete Vernon writes: For those who argue that the media has misplaced priorities when it comes to coverage choices, this week has provided a case study to support their position. While media outlets from cable news to digital publishers obsessed over the cancellation of ABC’s Roseanne, a report on the staggering death toll in Puerto Rico has, in comparison, been met with relative silence. Researchers from Harvard University estimate that

FBI official wrote secret memo fearing Trump got a cover story for Comey firing

The New York Times reports: The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion. Mr. Comey’s firing is a central focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties

Why Russia is celebrating a journalist’s fake death in Ukraine

Coda Story reports: When the news broke that the prominent Russian journalist and Putin-foe Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in exile in Kiev, it looked like everything was following a sadly familiar script. As tributes began pouring in, his fellow journalists across the world wrote up their obituaries about the third critic of the Russian leader to be killed in the Ukrainian capital in the last 18 months alone. Reportedly

How the resurgence of white supremacy in the U.S. sparked a war over free speech

Alex Blasdel writes: Late last summer, the American Civil Liberties Union faced a mounting crisis over its most celebrated cause, which many consider the lifeblood of democracy: freedom of speech. For nearly a century, the ACLU has been the standard-bearer of civil liberties in the US, second only to the government in shaping Americans’ basic rights. Although the organisation has been at the vanguard of many of the country’s most

Putin’s opponents are being assassinated one by one … minus one

In February, 2017, Arkady Babchenko wrote: I can tell you what political harassment feels like in Putin’s Russia. Like many dissidents I am used to abuse, but a recent campaign against me was so personal, so scary, that I was forced to flee. Two months ago, a Russian plane transporting the world-famous military choir Alexandrov Ensemble crashed into the Black Sea en route to Syria. They were travelling to perform

More evidence of Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation

The New York Times reports: By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban. When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk —

‘We can’t see a future’: Group takes EU to court over climate change

The Guardian reports: Lawyers acting for a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have launched legal action against the EU’s institutions for failing to adequately protect them against climate change. A case is being pursued in the Luxembourg-based general court, Europe’s second highest, against the European parliament and the council of the European Union for allowing overly high greenhouse gas emissions

The total information awareness we feared the government acquiring, we have freely given to the tech giants

Renee DiResta writes: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend—all these transactions and communications will go into … a virtual, centralized grand database,” the New York Times columnist warns.

ABC only did the right thing when it could no longer get away with ignoring Roseanne’s racism

Roxane Gay writes: On Twitter on Tuesday, Roseanne Barr wrote that if “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby =vj.” The message referred to President Barack Obama’s former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and in it Ms. Barr traded on age-old racist ideas about black people and primates. Then she shared some incorrect nonsense about Chelsea Clinton marrying into the Soros family. It was the kind of thing

The Standard Model of particle physics: The absolutely amazing theory of almost everything

How does our world work on a subatomic level? Varsha Y S, CC BY-SA By Glenn Starkman, Case Western Reserve University The Standard Model. What dull name for the most accurate scientific theory known to human beings. More than a quarter of the Nobel Prizes in physics of the last century are direct inputs to or direct results of the Standard Model. Yet its name suggests that if you can

Music: Sona Mohapatra — ‘Ambarsariya’

 

The role of liberals in the rise of authoritarianism

John Gray writes: The denial by liberals of any responsibility for the conditions that have fuelled rising anti-liberal movements is the cardinal fact of contemporary politics. What this denial presages is not any higher phase of history – a revamped liberal order, or some purer version of socialism – but a new authoritarian era. The world has reverted to a condition not dissimilar to that which prevailed towards the end

Britain has replaced welfare with destitution

The New York Times reports: A walk through this modest town [Prescot, near Liverpool] in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity. The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

A correlation between Republicanism and racism apparent among the judiciary

The New York Times reports: Judges appointed by Republican presidents gave longer sentences to black defendants and shorter ones to women than judges appointed by Democrats, according to a new study that analyzed data on more than half a million defendants. “Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to three more months than similar nonblacks and female defendants to two fewer months than similar males compared to Democratic-appointed judges,” the study found,

Syria’s army is on a path to victory after ousting rebels from Damascus

The Washington Post reports: After seven years of war, Syrian government forces have taken full control of the area around their capital, Damascus, freeing up an overstretched military to move against the country’s few remaining rebel pockets. The battle for Damascus ended this week with an offensive against the Islamic State group among the ruins of a former Palestinian refugee camp in the southern suburbs after other rebel forces were

What are the limits of manipulating nature?

In Scientific American, Neil Savage writes: Matt Trusheim flips a switch in the darkened laboratory, and an intense green laser illuminates a tiny diamond locked in place beneath a microscope objective. On a computer screen an image appears, a fuzzy green cloud studded with brighter green dots. The glowing dots are color centers in the diamond—tiny defects where two carbon atoms have been replaced by a single atom of tin,