Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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State Dept. was granted $120 million to fight Russian meddling. It has spent $0

The New York Times reports: As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which

U.S. aircraft carrier heads to Vietnam, with a message for China

The New York Times reports: For the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, a United States aircraft carrier is scheduled to make a port call in Vietnam on Monday, signaling how China’s rise is bringing together former foes in a significant shift in the region’s geopolitical landscape. The vessel, the Carl Vinson, will anchor off Danang, the central Vietnam port city that served as a major staging

Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society?

Scott Barry Kaufman writes: What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it’s their personal characteristics–such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset,

Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?

Frans de Waal asks: are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? Just as attitudes of superiority within segments of human culture are often expressions of ignorance, humans collectively — especially when subject to the dislocating effects of technological dependence — tend to underestimate the levels of awareness and cognitive skills of creatures who live mostly outside our sight. This tendency translates into presuppositions that need to be

Landmark study finds more poverty and segregation in America now than 50 years ago

Jason Daley writes: Half a century ago, a special commission assembled by President Lyndon Johnson was tasked to better understand the causes of racial unrest in the nation. The result was the landmark 176-page report, “The America of Racism.” Better known as the “Kerner Report,” the massive undertaking—done by National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, headed by Otto Kerner, then-governor of Illinois—examined cultural and institutional racism in the United States,

The Supreme Court case that could give tech giants more power

Lina M. Khan writes: Big tech platforms — Amazon, Facebook, Google — control a large and growing share of our commerce and communications, and the scope and degree of their dominance poses real hazards. A bipartisan consensus has formed around this idea. Senator Elizabeth Warren has charged tech giants with using their heft to “snuff out competition,” and even Senator Ted Cruz — usually a foe of government regulation —

Russia’s new trove of bizarre doomsday devices

Jeffrey Lewis writes: The U.S. developed a nuclear-powered cruise missile in the 1960s, but it was canceled it because, well, it was insane. The nuclear-powered ramjet was literally deafening to people on the ground and left a trail of radioactivity from the unshielded reactor. The United States couldn’t even find a suitable place to fight-test this monster. Officials worried that if it went off course from the Nevada nuclear test

Syria’s long war has reached its Srebrenica moment

Roy Gutman writes: The Assad regime and Russia are poised to destroy totally the East Ghouta region just outside Damascus or expel its population of some 400,000, and nothing but the empty words of the United Nations, the United States, and Europe stand in their way. So, too, 23 years ago, the world sat mostly mute, watching events unfold in and around the small village of Srebrenica in a remote

Myanmar continues to kill its Rohingya — a genocide in slow motion

Nicholas Kristof writes: Sono Wara spent the day crying. And even after her tear ducts emptied, her shirt was still wet from leaking milk. Her newborn twins had died the previous day, and she squatted in her grass-roof hut, shattered by pain and grief. She is 18 and this was her first pregnancy, but as a member of the Rohingya ethnic minority she could not get a doctor’s help. So

Nor’easters are now just as dangerous as hurricanes

Eric Holthaus writes: On Friday and Saturday, the winter storm now moving up the East Coast will unleash hurricane-force winds on Washington, blizzard conditions across parts of New York and New England, and inflict the worst coastal flood in Boston’s history. By all accounts, this storm is a monster. It’s also the latest sign that New England’s long-feared coastal flooding problem is already here — and it’s time to admit

Oil was central in decision to shrink Bears Ears Monument, emails show

The New York Times reports: Even before President Trump officially opened his high-profile review last spring of federal lands protected as national monuments, the Department of Interior was focused on the potential for oil and gas exploration at a protected Utah site, internal agency documents show. The debate started as early as March 2017, when an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, asked a senior Interior Department official

Jarrod Dicker on what the blockchain can do for news

Mathew Ingram writes: For journalists who are also into new technology, Jarrod Dicker has a pretty compelling CV: He was the head of product management at Huffington Post, director of digital products at Time Inc., helped run operations at online-publishing startup RebelMouse, and ran a digital-research lab at The Washington Post. With a career like that, lots of people in media pay attention when Dicker calls something interesting, and so

Music: Mario Biondi — ‘La Voglia La Pazzia L’Idea’

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First glimpses of the cosmic dawn

Marina Koren reports: Near the beginning, not long after the Big Bang, the universe was a cold and dark place swirling with invisible gas, mostly hydrogen and helium. Over millions of years, gravity pulled some of this primordial gas into pockets. The pockets eventually became so dense they collapsed under their own weight and ignited, flooding the darkness with ultraviolet radiation. These were the very first stars in the universe,

Conservation efforts are failing to address the importance of preserving intact forests

Morgan Erickson-Davis reports: When it comes to habitat quality and ecosystem services, research has shown that natural landscapes do it best. A new study, published recently in Nature, adds fodder to this argument, describing how intact forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity, and even protecting human health. However, it warns that global policies aimed at reducing deforestation are not putting enough emphasis on

Glacial melting isn’t someone else’s problem

By Dana J. Graef High in the Ecuadorian Andes, the peak of Cotacachi was once reliably white. But by the early 2000s, the glacier on top of this dormant volcano, which reaches more than 16,200 feet, had disappeared. This made it—as anthropologist Robert E. Rhoades and his co-authors Xavier Zapata Ríos and Jenny Aragundy Ochoa wrote in the 2008 book Darkening Peaks—one of “the first Andean mountains in the past