Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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February 2019

The image of the body politic reminds us that we are all one

Nick Romeo and Ian Tewksbury write: After escaping an assassination attempt earlier that morning, Cicero entered the senate under armed guard. It was 7 November 63 BCE, and the Roman Republic hovered on the brink of revolution. Catiline, the aristocrat behind the assassination plot, stood opposite. Faced with the man who had tried to kill him, Cicero gave one of the most powerful orations in all of antiquity: ‘O tempora,

Against objections, Trump ordered officials to give Jared Kushner a security clearance and then lied about doing so

The New York Times reports: President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said. Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John

After Cohen’s hearing, the BuzzFeed bombshell that Mueller disputed looks better — and worse

Margaret Sullivan writes: In mid-January, a BuzzFeed News report hit the news cycle like a mile-wide asteroid landing on Earth. Its assertion was stunning: that President Trump had directed his fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress in 2017 about negotiations the previous year to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III possessed documentation of this; and further, that Cohen had acknowledged those

Anyone could have seen Trump’s failure in Hanoi coming. Except Trump

Jeffrey Lewis writes: As President Trump flew to Hanoi this week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had a surprise announcement: Trump and Kim would meet earlier than expected, at a dinner on the first evening. The late announcement led skeptics to describe the dinner as an attempt to overshadow Michael Cohen’s embarrassing testimony about his work for Trump. But the last-minute dinner raised unexpected challenges. The two sides apparently

India and Pakistan are already at war on truth

Pankaj Mishra writes: In the predawn hours on Feb. 26, India launched an aerial attack — unprecedented in peacetime — on neighboring Pakistan, in retaliation for a suicide bombing 12 days earlier that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the disputed valley of Kashmir. Pakistan predictably responded the next morning with its own air strike into Indian-controlled Kashmir. The confrontation could spiral out of control quickly. But fortunately,

Netanyahu to be indicted on corruption charges

NBC News reports: Israel’s attorney general announced Thursday that his office plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges after a two-year investigation. The prime minister faces one count of bribery and three counts of breach of trust. “The Attorney General, Avihai Mandelblit, has informed the Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, through his attorney, that he is considering indicting him on several criminal charges,” according to a statement

A Danish word the world needs to combat stress: Pyt

Instead of overreacting to minor slights, it’s healthier to just say, ‘pyt.’ Ezume Images/Shutterstock.com By Marie Helweg-Larsen, Dickinson College Danes are some of the happiest people in the world, and they also happen to have a lot of cool words for ways to be happy. You may have heard about “hygge,” which has been the subject of countless books, articles and commercials. Often mistranslated to mean “cozy,” it really describes

Music: Grover Washington Jr — ‘Mister Magic’

 

The ocean is running out of oxygen, scientists warn

Laura Poppick writes: Escaping predators, digestion and other animal activities—including those of humans—require oxygen. But that essential ingredient is no longer so easy for marine life to obtain, several new studies reveal. In the past decade ocean oxygen levels have taken a dive—an alarming trend that is linked to climate change, says Andreas Oschlies, an oceanographer at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, whose team tracks ocean

As House Republicans attacked Cohen, none defended Trump

David Frum writes: Michael Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee was uncontradicted. The former personal attorney of the president of the United States today accused him of a litany of crimes, improprieties, immoralities, and betrayals of national security. And not one Republican member of the committee breathed one word in defense of the leader of their party. Those Republicans have learned the hard way never to trust President Donald

The real North Korea summit is inside the Trump administration

Jeffrey Lewis writes: The summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi this week is a sideshow to the titanic struggle underway for the Trump administration’s North Korea policy. On one side appears to be U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun and, perhaps, the president himself. They are willing to toss aside decades of U.S. policy to engage with North Korea along the lines of

A philosopher argues that an AI can’t be creative

Sean Dorrance Kelly writes: Advances in artificial intelligence have led many to speculate that human beings will soon be replaced by machines in every domain, including that of creativity. Ray Kurzweil, a futurist, predicts that by 2029 we will have produced an AI that can pass for an average educated human being. Nick Bostrom, an Oxford philosopher, is more circumspect. He does not give a date but suggests that philosophers

Music: Brian Culbertson — ‘Heroes Of The Dawn’

 

Frans de Waal embraces animal emotions in ‘Mama’s Last Hug’

Sy Montgomery writes: The two old friends hadn’t seen each other lately. Now one of them was on her deathbed, crippled with arthritis, refusing food and drink, dying of old age. Her friend had come to say goodbye. At first she didn’t seem to notice him. But when she realized he was there, her reaction was unmistakable: Her face broke into an ecstatic grin. She cried out in delight. She

Concrete is tipping us into climate catastrophe. We need to tax it, now

John Vidal writes: Cement, the key component of concrete and one of the most widely used manmade materials, is now the cornerstone of global construction. It has shaped the modern environment, but its production has a massive footprint that neither the industry nor governments have been willing to address. Because of the heat needed to decompose rock and the natural chemical processes involved in making cement, every tonne made releases

No marine ecosystems left that are unaffected by plastic waste, study suggests

The Guardian reports: The world’s deepest ocean trenches are becoming “the ultimate sink” for plastic waste, according to a study that reveals contamination of animals even in these dark, remote regions of the planet. For the first time, scientists found microplastic ingestion by organisms in the Mariana trench and five other areas with a depth of more than 6,000 metres, prompting them to conclude “it is highly likely there are