Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy

Vox reports: No matter how President Trump’s impeachment trial plays out in the Senate, one thing is certain: Despite the incontrovertible facts at the center of the story, the process will change very few minds. Regardless of how clear a case Democrats make, it seems likely that a majority of voters will remain confused and unsure about the details of Trump’s transgressions. No single version of the truth will be

White House violated the law by freezing Ukraine aid, GAO says

Politico reports: The White House budget office violated the law when it froze U.S. military aid to Ukraine, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a new report. President Donald Trump ordered the hold on the critical security assistance in July, a slew of senior White House officials testified to House impeachment investigators late last year. It was a move that coincided with an effort by the president and his allies

Russia’s cabinet resigns and it’s all part of Putin’s plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and now-former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) in Sochi, Russia, Dec. 7, 2019. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images By Regina Smyth, Indiana University Editor’s note: Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry A. Medvedev, and cabinet resigned on Jan. 15. Russian politics are often not what they seem, especially to those in the West. We asked Regina Smyth, a Russia scholar at Indiana University, to help readers understand what’s going

No, your country doesn’t care about Middle Eastern lives

Timothy E. Kaldas writes: Many breathed a sigh of relief this week when it became clear there were no casualties caused by Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi military bases housing US troops. Some applauded Donald Trump’s ‘success’ in carrying out the targeted killing of a key Iranian military leader without experiencing immediate deadly retaliation. Pundit, professor and president of the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer tweeted it is “impossible not to

When will Australia’s prime minister accept the reality of the climate crisis?

Carolyn Kormann writes: When Prime Minister Scott Morrison took Australia’s top office, in August, 2018, the leadership of his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, had been in question for months, if not years, by his coalition of right-leaning National and Liberal parties. But the final blow came after Turnbull supported a national energy plan that would have moderately reduced the power sector’s reliance on fossil fuels, thereby cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigating

In untold numbers, animals are suffering and dying, and we are either partly or wholly responsible

Jeff Sebo writes: At the time of writing, Australia is on fire. The fires have killed at least 25 humans and more than a billion animals. Animals such as koalas are especially at risk, since their normal response to threats – climbing to the tops of trees – leaves them vulnerable in the case of fire. As a result, an estimated 25,000 koalas have died and many more will die

Music: Chet Baker — ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’

 

Russian premier abruptly quits amid swirl of speculation on Putin

The New York Times reports: Russia’s political order, largely unchanged since the early 1990s, was thrown into feverish uncertainty on Wednesday after President Vladimir V. Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could extend his hold on power indefinitely. Adding to widespread bewilderment, Mr. Putin’s loyal protégé promptly resigned as prime minister, along with the rest of the government. Mr. Putin described his proposals, announced in his annual state of the

Giuliani associate Parnas says Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on’

NBC News reports: Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, says, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on.” “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president. I have no intent,

The case for Elizabeth Warren

Ezra Klein writes: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s most viral debate moments feature blistering rebuttals to challengers who dare emphasize presidential constraint or political limits. “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she snapped at former Rep. John Delaney in the July debate. “I don’t get it.” But

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink: Climate crisis will reshape finance

The New York Times reports: Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers

The bleak future of Australian wildlife

Ed Yong writes: As temperatures rise, Australia becomes more monochrome. In the ocean, the reefs have been whitening. On land, the forests have been blackening. Successive heat waves have forced corals to expel their colorful, nutrient-providing algae; half of the Great Barrier Reef has died. A near-unprecedented drought and exceptional temperatures—December saw Australia’s two hottest days on record—triggered the unusually intense bushfires that have incinerated almost 18 million acres of

How viruses secretly control the planet

Nala Rogers writes: Viruses control their hosts like puppets — and in the process, they may play important roles in Earth’s climate. The hosts in this case aren’t people or animals: They are bacteria. A growing body of research is revealing how viruses manipulate what bacteria eat and how they guide the chemical reactions that sustain life. When those changes happen to a lot of bacteria, the cumulative effects could

Neural dendrites reveal their computational power

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: The information-processing capabilities of the brain are often reported to reside in the trillions of connections that wire its neurons together. But over the past few decades, mounting research has quietly shifted some of the attention to individual neurons, which seem to shoulder much more computational responsibility than once seemed imaginable. The latest in a long line of evidence comes from scientists’ discovery of a new type

Music: Charlie Haden & Chet Baker — ‘Silence’

 

Insider trading: Warren calls for SEC probe into whether Trump tipped off Mar-a-Lago pals to Soleimani attack

The Daily Beast reports: 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is calling on financial regulatory agencies to investigate whether associates and attendees of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago illegally traded in defense company stocks or commodities after he gave them a heads up that he was planning something “big” in response to Iran’s killing of an American contractor in Iraq. The Daily Beast previously reported that Trump told allies at