Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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August 2019

EPA to remove regulations on methane, a potent greenhouse gas

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration laid out on Thursday a far-reaching plan to cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency, in its proposed rule, aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It will also reopen the question of whether

Trump pushes for new logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

The Washington Post reports: President Trump has instructed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt Alaska’s 16.7-million-acre Tongass National Forest from logging restrictions imposed nearly 20 years ago, according to three people briefed on the issue, after privately discussing the matter with the state’s governor aboard Air Force One. The move would affect more than half of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, opening it to potential logging, energy and mining

Hurricanes and the climate crisis: What you need to know

Climate Reality reports: Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas is warming our planet and driving climate change. It’s throwing natural systems out of balance – to often devastating effect. One result among many is that average global sea surface temperatures are rising – and when sea surface temperatures become warmer, hurricanes can become more powerful. “For a long time, we’ve understood, based on pretty

The man who got economists to take climate worst-case scenarios seriously

Bloomberg reports: What if climate change turns out to be worse than we think? That anxiety is now commonplace, but a decade ago it took an influential paper by a Harvard professor to convince the insular world of climate economists to focus more of their attention on worst-case scenarios. Martin Weitzman, who passed away this week at the age of 77, forever connected the notion of “fat tails” to the

How did the U.S. go from being the most egalitarian country in the West to being one of the most unequal?

Liaquat Ahamed writes: In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, at the age of twenty-five, was sent by France’s Ministry of Justice to study the American penal system. He spent ten months in the United States, dutifully visiting prisons and meeting hundreds of people, including President Andrew Jackson and his predecessor, John Quincy Adams. On his return to France, he wrote a book about his observations, “Democracy in America,” the first volume

The search for China’s missing million Uyghurs

Morgan Meaker writes: When Aiziheer Ainiwaer talks about his father, Ainiwa Niyazi, he paints him as a comedian and the joker of his friendship group. He describes how the 57-year-old teacher always had the room in stitches with his impersonations of famous pop stars. But at home, the father-of-two would be more serious. “My father constantly used to tell us we should study and be well educated,” says Aiziheer. Throughout

Barr feathers Trump’s nest with $30,000 hotel booking for holiday party

The Washington Post reports: Attorney General William P. Barr is planning a holiday treat for his boss. Last month, Barr booked President Trump’s D.C. hotel for a 200-person holiday party in December that is likely to deliver Trump’s business more than $30,000 in revenue. Barr signed a contract, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, for a “Family Holiday Party” in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom Dec. 8.

Music: Arve Henriksen — ‘Pink Cherry Trees’

 

The loss that precedes extinction matters as much as extinction itself

Ed Yong writes: Imagine if every animal and plant on the planet collapsed into a single population each, says ecologist Gerardo Ceballos. If lions disappeared except from one small corner of Kenya, the prey they keep in check would run amok everywhere else. If sparrows were no more except in one Dutch forest, the seeds that sparrows disperse would stay in place everywhere else. If honeybees became isolated to one

Boris Johnson’s parliament shutdown is unconstitutional

Shami Chakrabarti writes: One of the gravest dangers to any society is “outrage fatigue”. The symptom of this condition is when so many people have been so angry for so long that terrible abuses of power now seem almost normal. Over a decade since the financial crash, after nine years of crippling public spending and tax cuts, and three years on from the bitterly fought EU referendum, poor leadership leaves

Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue parliament ‘a constitutional outrage’, says Speaker

The Guardian reports: The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, issued a stinging criticism of Boris Johnson’s intention to prorogue parliament, describing it as a constitutional outrage aimed at preventing MPs from debating Brexit. In a furious statement he said he had not been consulted by the prime minister, who he said risked undermining his democratic credentials. Bercow is expected to ensure the Commons has a chance to discuss the move, and

Trump wants a wall so badly, he’s encouraging subordinates to break the law if that will speed construction

The Washington Post reports: President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project. He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing

Trump rants against Fox News: ‘Fox isn’t working for us anymore!’

Politico reports: President Donald Trump let loose on Fox News on Wednesday, saying the network “isn’t working for us anymore” while encouraging his followers to look for an alternative to his long-cherished cable news channel. In a three-part Twitter attack, Trump escalated his feud that started earlier this year when the network started featuring more Democratic commentators and hosted a series of town halls with Democratic presidential candidates. On Wednesday

Mattis says he served ‘as long as I could,’ warns of a leader not committed to working with allies

The Washington Post reports: Former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned last year after clashing with President Trump, says in a new book excerpt that “I did as well as I could for as long as I could” and warns of the dangers of a leader who is not committed to working with allies. Mattis, who announced his resignation in December after Trump shocked American allies and overruled his advisers

Harvard student barred from U.S. because officials objected to the political views of his social media friends

The New York Times reports: A Palestinian student from Lebanon who was set to begin his freshman year at Harvard was denied entry to the United States after immigration officials objected to his friends’ social media posts, he said this week, prompting furor among free-speech advocates. The student, Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Friday, and was turned back by a Customs and Border

Music: Arve Henriksen & Elling Vanberg — ‘Ukjend Katedral’