Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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August 2018

As technology makes billions of people economically irrelevant, their political power is likely to shrink

Yuval Noah Harari writes: There is nothing inevitable about democracy. For all the success that democracies have had over the past century or more, they are blips in history. Monarchies, oligarchies, and other forms of authoritarian rule have been far more common modes of human governance. The emergence of liberal democracies is associated with ideals of liberty and equality that may seem self-evident and irreversible. But these ideals are far

Courageous grassroots leaders provide the best hope to a troubled world

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who steps down tomorrow, writes: Across the world, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, there are politicians who are too self-serving, or too spiteful, to care for and protect the most vulnerable. They are not just cowardly but profoundly foolish, because in producing these stress fractures [– the result of decades of mediocre leadership –], they place at

As final Syrian showdown looms, millions of lives are at risk

The Washington Post reports: With Syria’s rebels nearing defeat after seven years at war, President Bashar al-Assad’s army says it is turning its firepower against their final stronghold. The target, Idlib province, is largely controlled by an al-Qaeda-linked militant group. Caught in the middle are millions of civilians with nowhere left to run. Public pronouncements by Syrian and Russian officials foreshadow a devastating attack if diplomacy and the pleas of

Donald Trump’s unadulterated racism

Eugene Robinson writes: President Trump’s bigoted hatred of Latino immigrants has been clear from the beginning. Now his administration is aggressively persecuting Latino citizens as well. It is hard to be shocked anymore, given the daily outrages committed by Trump and his minions, but a report Thursday by The Post was jaw-dropping: In the borderlands of southern Texas, the State Department is denying passports to hundreds and perhaps thousands of

White House faces legal and communications skills deficit at perilous moment

The Associated Press reports: Increasingly convinced that the West Wing is wholly unprepared to handle the expected assault from Democrats if they win the House in November, President Donald Trump’s aides and allies are privately raising alarm as his circle of legal and communications advisers continues to shrink. With vacancies abounding in the White House and more departures on the horizon, there is growing concern among Trump allies that the

Time-restricted eating can overcome the bad effects of faulty genes and unhealthy diet

sukrit3d/Shutterstock.com By Satchin Panda, University of California San Diego Timing our meals can fend off diseases caused by bad genes or bad diet. Everything in our body is programmed to run on a 24-hour or circadian time table that repeats every day. Nearly a dozen different genes work together to produce this 24-hour circadian cycle. These clocks are present in all of our organs, tissues and even in every cell.

Music: Jazzanova ft. Paul Randolph — ‘Let It Go’

 

Crop losses to pests will soar as climate warms, study warns

The Guardian reports: Rising global temperatures mean pests will devour far more of the world’s crops, according to the first global analysis of the subject, even if climate change is restricted to the international target of 2C. Increasing heat boosts both the number and appetite of insects, and researchers project they will destroy almost 50% more wheat than they do today with a 2C rise, and 30% more maize. Rice,

As wildfires rage, smoke chokes out farmworkers and delays some crops

NPR reports: On Mike Pink’s potato farm at dawn, the sun is an angry red ball low in the sky. This summer, wildfire smoke has blanketed much of the West for days and weeks. And that smoke has come between the sun and ripening crops. Pink watches as his year’s work tumbles onto a fast-moving belt and into a waiting semi truck. He’s got most of his 1,600-acre potato fields

Trump’s top targets in the Russia probe are experts in organized crime

The Atlantic reports: Bruce Ohr. Lisa Page. Andrew Weissman. Andrew McCabe. President Trump has relentlessly attacked these FBI and Justice Department officials as dishonest “Democrats” engaged in a partisan “witch hunt” led by the special counsel determined to tie his campaign to Russia. But Trump’s attacks have also served to highlight another thread among these officials and others who have investigated his campaign: their extensive experience in probing money laundering

Conservative media move to front line of battle to undermine Pope Francis

Reuters reports: Last March, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano dined on the outskirts of Rome at the home of a conservative Italian Catholic journalist. Over pasta, fish and white wine, the prelate poured out his concern for the future of the Roman Catholic Church. It was the start of about five months of contacts and collaboration between Vigano and several conservative journalists and media outlets that would lead to one of

Tom Watson demands answers about alleged Russian Brexit plot

The Guardian reports: Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, has called on the government to confirm if the National Crime Agency is looking into whether there was Russian interference in the EU referendum. Watson suggested the vote may have been “stolen” and said that if the NCA was not investigating then a full public inquiry with powers similar to those of the US special counsel Robert Mueller

China is treating Islam like a disease

The Atlantic reports: One million Muslims are being held right now in Chinese internment camps, according to estimates cited by the UN and U.S. officials. Former inmates—most of whom are Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority—have told reporters that over the course of an indoctrination process lasting several months, they were forced to renounce Islam, criticize their own Islamic beliefs and those of fellow inmates, and recite Communist Party propaganda

Trump, echoing the NRA, stirs fear of violence as midterm elections approach

The Guardian reports: In a private meeting with Christian ministers, Donald Trump warned of “violence” if Republicans do not maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times. At a state dinner for evangelical Christian ministers on Monday night at the White House, Trump urged religious leaders to use the power of their pulpits to make sure

U.S., Russia engage in war of words as Syria attack looms

Al Jazeera reports: Russia has deployed a dozen warships to the Mediterranean Sea in what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow’s largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015. The reinforcement comes as Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is believed to be considering a major assault on the last rebel-held enclave in northern Idlib province. Russia has accused the United States of building up its

Fires rage from British Columbia to California as the Trump administration’s shortsighted climate policies make things worse

Rob Jackson writes: I woke to a blood-red sky and air choked with smoke last week in the British Columbia wilderness. The Shag and Tweedsmuir fires burning just eastward may have been the closest, but I’d seen a dozen others from a float plane over the Coast Range the day before. Five-hundred-plus fires are torching British Columbia, which has declared a state of emergency. Fires are raging in Montana, Oregon