Archives for January 2019

From a no-deal Brexit to a no-Brexit deal

Hans-Werner Sinn writes:

With the recent signing of the Treaty of Aachen, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have renewed the Franco-German friendship pact and taken an important and necessary step forward for Europe. But the United Kingdom should not have been left out.

The UK is an integral part of Europe; as the European Union’s second-largest economy, its GDP equals that of the 19 smallest EU member states combined. Its exodus thus would shake Europe to its core and destroy the European post-war order.

Moreover, it is worth remembering that in 1963, the Bundestag prefaced the Élysée Treaty with a preamble stipulating that Germany hoped to bring Britain into the European Economic Community; in 1973, that is precisely what happened. A similar overture to Britain would be no less appropriate today.

As it happens, the leaders of Germany’s three largest political parties, as well as business leaders and members of the public, recently published an open letter inviting the British people to stay in the EU. Given this, it is not inconceivable that the Bundestag could adopt a resolution along the same lines.

Now that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated exit treaty has been soundly defeated in the House of Commons, all options are on the table. The looming tragedy of Brexit could still be averted at the last minute. [Continue reading…]

The messier Brexit gets, the better Europe looks

The New York Times reports:

After Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, its leaders were in a panic. The bloc was mired in a migration crisis, and anti-Europe, populist forces were gaining. Britain’s decision seemed to herald the start of a great unraveling.

Two years later, as Britain’s exit from the bloc, or Brexit, looks increasingly messy and self-destructive, there is a growing sense, even in the populist corners of the continent, that if this is what leaving looks like, no, thank you.

Nothing has brought the European Union together quite as much as Britain’s chaotic breakdown.

“A country is leaving and has gotten itself into a right old mess, making itself ridiculous to its European partners,” said Rosa Balfour, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels.

The challenges facing Europe — low growth, eurozone governance, migration, debt, border security and populism — have by no means gone away. Nor has Europe found consensus on how to deal with them.

The very prospect of losing a country like Britain, considered so pragmatic and important in the world, is deeply wounding.

But on the whole, while all parties will suffer with Brexit, particularly in the event of a so-called no-deal departure, analysts tend to agree that the European Union, which will remain the world’s largest market, is likely to fare far better than Britain. [Continue reading…]

Michael Bloomberg’s plans to take down Trump

Edward-Isaac Dovere writes:

Michael Bloomberg has bigger plans for 2020 than running for president. The billionaire and former New York City mayor has been openly dreaming of the White House for 25 years, and spent huge amounts of time and money four times over the past 10 years trying to figure out a way to get himself there.

But he has hesitations about this race, too. He’s not sure there is a realistic space in the Democratic primaries for his centrist record. And he almost certainly won’t run if Joe Biden does, members of his team believe.

While no final decision has been made, his aides have been working on a fallback that only a man worth $40 billion can afford. Bloomberg is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a data-centric political operation designed to ensure one goal: crush Donald Trump.

Though a budget has not been set, this effort would almost certainly become the biggest and most powerful political organization in the country overnight. It would also be the only real counter to the operation that Trump’s campaign put together in 2016, which reached out to millions of voters in a more targeted, under-the-radar way, and helped deliver the election to Trump by shaping voters’ thinking for months and then activating them on Election Day. [Continue reading…]

Howard Schultz doesn’t understand American history

Jamelle Bouie writes:

Howard Schultz, the former chief executive of Starbucks, cannot win the presidency as an independent candidate. But is there someone who could? Is there any chance a third-party candidate could contest the presidency and win?

The short answer is no. As long as the United States has an Electoral College and winner-take-all process for presidential elections, third-party and independent candidates will have a hard time finding any traction.

There have been times in American history, though, when third-party candidates have upended the political landscape, winning entire regions of the country, although never the presidency. But unlike Schultz, those candidates weren’t self-proclaimed “independents” railing against “divisiveness” from the center; they were polarizers who built support by cultivating personal followings and sharpening ideological, cultural and geographic divides. [Continue reading…]

Cave that housed multiple human species challenges view of cultural evolution

Scientific American reports:

Deep in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia sits a very choice piece of real estate. It’s nothing so newfangled as a ski lodge or one of the traditional wood houses that dot the local countryside. Rather it’s a primeval limestone cave, called Denisova, that overlooks a rushing river and the surrounding forest. Multiple human species, or hominins, have sought shelter in this cave over the past 300,000 years, such is its allure. Artifacts, bits of bone and ancient DNA found in its chambers testify to the presence of these peoples. The site thus offers a rare window on a particularly fascinating period of human evolution, one in which other human species coexisted with our own kind.

Researchers have long wondered how these groups interacted and influenced one another culturally when they met up, and Denisova could be a key to answering this question. But figuring out which hominin species was present when at the cave and which artifacts they made has proved challenging. Now new efforts to date the remains from Denisova are at last bringing that picture into sharper focus. Two studies published in the January 31 Nature provide a time line of human occupation of the cave. The results raise intriguing questions about the origins of symbolism and certain technologies traditionally considered to be inventions of Homo sapiens alone. [Continue reading…]

Dogs may have helped ancient Middle Easterners hunt small game

Science News reports:

Dogs that lived alongside Middle Eastern villagers roughly 11,500 years ago may have helped to transform how those humans hunted, researchers say.

Fragmentary canine bones unearthed at Shubayqa 6, an ancient site in northeastern Jordan, date to a time when remains of hares and other small prey at the outpost sharply increased, say zooarchaeologist Lisa Yeomans of the University of Copenhagen and her colleagues. Many animal bones from Shubayqa 6 also display damage caused by having been swallowed by dogs and then passed through their digestive tracts, the scientists report in the March Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

“The use of dogs for hunting small, fast prey such as hares and foxes, perhaps by driving them into enclosures, could explain the evidence at Shubayqa 6,” Yeomans says.

The bone fragments challenge a long-standing idea that, in the early stages of domestication, dogs were first used to hunt large animals that yielded lots of meat per kill, she says. In that scenario, population growth and climate fluctuations led to food shortages for foraging groups. People seeking a wider array of plants and animals in their diet then incorporated dogs into small-game hunts too. That dietary shift heralded the rise of farming, researchers have suggested.

But no signs of food shortages have been found at Shubayqa 6. People who lived there starting around 11,500 years ago must have enjoyed a consistent supply of gazelles, hares, foxes and game birds, the researchers say. Dogs may have enabled humans at the site to devise new ways to hunt small game effectively enough to forgo large-animal hunts altogether, Yeomans’ team argues. [Continue reading…]

January was Australia’s hottest month since records began

Australian Associated Press reports:

January was Australia’s hottest month on record, the Bureau of Meteorology has said.

The mean temperature last month, averaged across the country, exceeded 30C for the first time for any month.

A senior climatologist at the bureau, Andrew Watkins, said January’s heat was unprecedented. “We saw heatwave conditions affect large parts of the country through most of the month, with records broken for both duration and also individual daily extremes,” he said on Thursday. [Continue reading…]

Music: Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd — ‘How Close Your Soul’


How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing

Mark Muro, David G. Victor, and Jacob Whiton write:

As a new Congress and the 2020 presidential election cycle gear up, much of Washington is likely to focus on topics where political polarization is high. Yet there may be surprises.

Take climate change, a top priority for many Democrats.

The standard story is that the high-tech “blue” states are pushing a green wave of massive investment to cut emissions of gases that cause climate change. Meanwhile, the GOP-leaning “red” states are assumed to be part of what Ron Brownstein calls a “brown blockade” of fossil-fuel producers that are drilling and burning and don’t want to stop. The upshot: Emissions divides appear to guarantee a future of climate policy gridlock, even as scientific consensus signals an emergency and new data shows the rate of planetary warming is accelerating.

And yet, what if we look at the geography of climate change from a different angle? Specifically, what if we flip the frame from emissions to impacts? From that perspective, the current gridlock might not be as permanent as it now seems, as many of the jurisdictions that have selected political leaders opposed to climate policy are the most exposed to the harms of climate change. [Continue reading…]

Extreme weather events could worsen climate change

E&E News reports:

Droughts, heat waves and other extreme climate-related events are growing concerns in a warming world. Studies have found climate change is already fueling an increase in some extreme events and that they’re likely to worsen as temperatures continue to climb.

Now, new research suggests the reverse may also be true—these events, themselves, could also worsen climate change.

Weather and climate events tend to affect the amount of moisture contained in the soil, according to the study published in the journal Nature. Unusually hot or dry periods, for instance, will temporarily lead to drier earth. And these fluctuations in soil moisture can have a huge impact on the amount of carbon the Earth is able to absorb, the study found.

Using earth system models, the authors calculated land might actually absorb about twice as much carbon if it weren’t for the fluctuations caused by these unusual weather and climate events. [Continue reading…]