Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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June 2019

Trump’s dictator envy isn’t funny anymore

Fred Kaplan writes: It is tempting to chortle over the string of inanities that President Donald Trump unfurled at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, this weekend. Asked about the status of “Western liberalism,” which Russian President Vladimir Putin had just pronounced dead in an interview with the Financial Times, Trump ranted about liberal Democrats in California, apparently thinking that’s what the term was referring to. Asked for his views

Centrism has primarily served the elites

David Rothkopf writes: As the first round of debates among Democratic candidates for president clearly showed, the intellectual vitality of the Democratic Party right now is coming from progressives. On issue after issue, the vast majority of the candidates embraced views that have been seen as progressive priorities for years—whether that may have been a pledge to provide healthcare for all or vows to repeal tax cuts benefiting the rich,

Liberalism has failed to offer a sense of social solidarity

Kenan Malik writes: The relationship between liberalism, radicalism and conservatism began to change in the last decades of the 20th century, largely as the left disintegrated. The idea of an alternative to capitalism seemed to many chimerical, more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even before the Berlin Wall had come down, a new kind of economic liberalism, unstitched from the restraints of social need, had emerged –

For too long, the West has turned a blind eye to Russian atrocities

Natalie Nougayrède writes: Putin is so good at exploiting our obsessions and weak spots: it’s a tactic he’s long perfected to deflect attention from his own record. Clear the fog a bit, and what is there, really? Russia’s sense of its impunity – I mean big time, murderous, war criminal-style impunity. Think about this: at the end of this year, Russia – whether in its Soviet or post-Soviet incarnations –

Europe: A wall worse than Trump’s

Der Spiegel reports: It was just before midnight when Fabian Heinz lost his faith in Europe. The Alan Kurdi, a ship belonging to Sea Eye, a German sea-rescue organization, was bobbing up and down between Lampedusa, in Italy, and Malta. Heinz, a 29-year-old photographer from Würzburg, remembers holding watch on deck that evening. He looked up from his post to the dozens of refugees that he and other rescuers had

A strange, wavy jet stream is blasting Europe with heat. This could be the ‘new normal’

NBC News reports: An oppressive heat wave baked Western Europe this week, setting record high temperatures in France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. In India, a severe drought has choked water supplies in the city of Chennai, exposing its 9 million residents to a major shortage. And after the United States’ wettest 12-month stretch on record, towns across the Midwest and the Great Plains are reeling from devastating floods.

Mucus has a surprisingly wide array of beneficial biological functions

By Diana Kwon We know it best as a stringy slime dripping from noses and as viscous, discolored goop hacked up by sickened airways. But it’s so much more than that. Coating the surfaces of guts, eyes, mouth, nasal cavity and ears, mucus plays a range of important physiological roles — hydrating, cleaning, supporting good microbes and warding off foreign invaders. “I like to call it the unsung hero of

Music: Alba Armengou — ‘A Flower is a Lovesome Thing’

 

Human rights expert: Treatment of migrant children appears to meet definition of ‘mass atrocity’

Kate Cronin-Furman writes: The debate over whether “concentration camps” is the right term for migrant detention centers on the southern border has drawn long-overdue attention to the American government’s dehumanizing treatment of defenseless children. A pediatrician who visited in June said the centers could be compared to “torture facilities.” Having studied mass atrocities for over a decade, I agree. At least seven migrant children have died in United States custody

Trump professes anger over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder while defending Saudi crown prince

The Washington Post reports: President Trump on Saturday professed to be “very angry” over the murder last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, but the president again declined to pin responsibility on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom he called “my friend.” Trump said nothing about Khashoggi at a photo op Salman before their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit here,

How rogue Republicans killed Oregon’s climate-change bill

Carolyn Kormann reports: Early Tuesday morning, in Oregon, Shilpa Joshi, the coalition director of Renew Oregon, a clean-energy advocacy organization, rented a minivan from a lot on the outskirts of Portland, picked up a group of high-school students, and headed for the state capitol building, in Salem, where they’d be staging a protest. She was anxious and deeply concerned. “This might be a really sad day for us,” she said,

What changes have climate scientists made to their own lives to tackle the climate emergency?

Prof Dave Reay writes: I’ve worked on climate change for nearly 25 years. My first degree was in marine biology and I went on to study warming in the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean, simulating future climates. Now my specialism is land use, agriculture and climate change – not just in terms of emissions from the food that’s produced, but also the impact of climate change on our food system, and the

Orangutans: Palm oil industry still threatens the lives and habitat of ‘people of the forest’

The New York Times reports: The men came at Hope and her baby with spears and guns. But she would not leave. There was no place for her to go. When the air-gun pellets pierced Hope’s eyes, blinding her, she felt her way up the tree trunks, auburn-furred fingers searching out tropical fruit for sustenance. By the end, Hope’s torso was slashed with deep lacerations. Multiple bones were broken. Seventy-four

The looming information apocalypse

Charlie Warzel reports: In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.” The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around

80% of the stock market is now on autopilot

CNBC reports: It’s no secret that machines are taking up a bigger and bigger share of investing, but the extent of their influence is approaching shocking proportions. It is as high as 80%, according to one major investing firm. Passive investments such as index funds and exchange-traded funds control about 60% of the equity assets, while quantitative funds, those which rely on trend-following models instead of fundamental research from humans,

Music: Lyle Mays — ‘Long Life’