Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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January 2019

The dialogue on Brexit now needs to include the British people

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, writes: At this point, it is virtually impossible to legislate the seven complex Acts and hundreds of Statutory Instruments required by the withdrawal agreement in the 32 parliamentary workdays scheduled before March 29. But, most worryingly of all, the UK not only has a government that is unable to lead, but also a public that now seems

The left keeps getting Venezuela wrong

James Bloodworth writes: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, few on the left have had much real idea as to what a contemporary socialist economic program would—or should—look like in practice. Twenty-first century socialism in Venezuela was supposed to offer hope, but it turned out to represent yet another mirage, this time built on the back of exorbitantly high oil prices. As prices dropped, mismanagement of the state-run oil

Historian calls out Davos elite for not addressing taxes

‘It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.’ — This historian wasn’t afraid to confront the billionaires at Davos about their greed pic.twitter.com/TLHZQPMIwI — NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 29, 2019

Joshua trees destroyed in national park during shutdown may take centuries to regrow

The New York Times reports: The partial government shutdown ended last week after 35 days, but conservationists have warned that its impact may be felt for hundreds of years in at least one part of the country: Joshua Tree National Park. The Southern California park, which is larger than Rhode Island and famed for its dramatic rock formations and the spiky-leafed Joshua trees from which it takes it name, had

Can sustainable agriculture survive under capitalism?

Sophie Yeo writes: It was one of the most beautiful—and one of the most sustainable—farms that Ryanne Pilgeram had ever seen. When she arrived, Penny, the farmer, was sorting through vegetables in the shed. Her husband Jeff, who had a full-time job as a doctor, was hauling flakes of alfalfa to feed the draft horses that they used in place of tractors. Pilgeram, a sociologist at the University of Idaho,

Astronomers say it’s time to start taking the search for E.T. seriously

Science News reports: Long an underfunded, fringe field of science, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence may be ready to go mainstream. Astronomer Jason Wright is determined to see that happen. At a meeting in Seattle of the American Astronomical Society in January, Wright convened “a little ragtag group in a tiny room” to plot a course for putting the scientific field, known as SETI, on NASA’s agenda. The group is

Music: Snarky Puppy ft. Salif Keïta, Carlos Malta, & Bernardo Aguiar — ‘Soro’

 

Can Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar end the Afghan war?

Ahmed Rashid writes: On Thursday, the Taliban appointed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who founded the movement with Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1993, as the chief negotiator in the peace talks with the United States, being held in Qatar. Mr. Baradar, who was also appointed as deputy to the Taliban chief Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to travel soon to Doha to join the peace talks with the American peace envoy,

Afghan women fear peace with Taliban may mean war on them

The New York Times reports: When Rahima Jami heard that the Americans and the Taliban were close to a peace deal, she thought about her feet. Ms. Jami is now a lawmaker in the Afghan Parliament, but back in 1996, when Taliban insurgents took power, she was a headmistress — until she was forced out of her job and told she could leave her home only in an ankle-length burqa.

Brexiters never had a real exit plan. No wonder they avoided the issue

Nick Cohen writes: The secret history of modern Britain is made in obscure corners between men and women taken seriously by no one but themselves. A good time to begin it would be in the winter of 2013/14 when the Institute of Economic Affairs, a rightist outfit that won’t reveal where its money comes from, offered a €100,000 prize to whoever could devise a means of leaving the European Union.

The Balkans has once again become a playground for great power politics

Ivan Krastev writes: “In the Balkans the transition is over,” Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst, told me some time ago. But unlike in many post-Communist countries, Mr. Lani didn’t mean a transformation from dictatorship to democracy. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” He is right. The old Communists and radical ethnic nationalists are largely gone; in their places is stagnation — economic, social and political. The question now

How to prevent Trump getting re-elected

David Frum writes: The early Democratic presidential contest has been an exercise of lefter-than-thou politics, culminating in the earnest consideration of 70 percent tax rates and wealth confiscation for émigrés. You can understand the temptation: Trump seems weak, perhaps already doomed. Why compromise with the faint of heart? Give the American people a choice, not an echo! This is the logic of factional politics. You want the smallest possible majority,

How to save the world from disposable plastics

CNN reports: It’s the early 1960s. Girls are fainting over the Beatles, Sean Connery is James Bond and a revolutionary trend is sweeping the United States: Plastic. Plastic is about to have its breakthrough moment in the food industry. The plastic milk jug, specifically, is on the brink of taking off: the “market potential is huge,” the New York Times correctly notes. To American families, a third of which are

Screen time has stunted the development of generations of children

The Guardian reports: A study has linked high levels of screen time with delayed development in children, reigniting the row over the extent to which parents should limit how long their offspring spend with electronic devices. Researchers in Canada say children who spent more time with screens at two years of age did worse on tests of development at age three than children who had spent little time with devices.

Music: Tigran Hamasyan — ‘Lilac’

 

Inside the struggle to define life

Ian Sample writes: All the brain cells of life on Earth still cannot explain life on Earth. Its most intelligent species has uncovered the building blocks of matter, read countless genomes and watched spacetime quiver as black holes collide. It understands much of how living creatures work, but not how they came to be. There is no agreement, even, on what life is. The conundrum of life is so fundamental