Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Farm country stood by Trump. But the shutdown is pushing it to breaking point

The New York Times reports: In Georgia, a pecan farmer lost out on his chance to buy his first orchard. The local Farm Service Agency office that would have processed his loan application was shut down. In Wisconsin’s dairy country, a 55-year-old woman sat inside her new dream home, worried she would not be able to pay her mortgage. Her loan had come from an Agriculture Department program for low-income

Has the Saudi govt helped another criminal suspect flee?

Middle East Eye reports: Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi, 28, a Saudi citizen who studied at a university in Nova Scotia, Canada, and faces multiple criminal charges failed to show for a court date and authorities don’t know where he is, according to the local Chronicle Herald newspaper. Alzoabi was to face charges of sexual assault, assault, forcible confinement, uttering threats, criminal harassment, dangerous driving and assault with a weapon (a vehicle)

Emergence: How complex wholes arise from simple parts

John Rennie writes: You could spend a lifetime studying an individual water molecule and never deduce the precise hardness or slipperiness of ice. Watch a lone ant under a microscope for as long as you like, and you still couldn’t predict that thousands of them might collaboratively build bridges with their bodies to span gaps. Scrutinize the birds in a flock or the fish in a school and you wouldn’t

Music: Emilio Santigo & Marcos Valle — ‘Até o Fim’

 

Trump target of FBI counterintelligence investigation to determine if he was working for Russia

The New York Times reports: In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation. The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own

Trump sold $35 million of real estate in 2018

Forbes reports: Donald Trump sold an estimated $35 million worth of real estate while serving in the White House last year, according to a Forbes analysis of local property records and federal filings. Although the president delegated day-to-day management of his assets to his sons Eric and Don Jr. upon taking office, he maintained ownership of his business, which continued to liquidate properties. More than half of that $35 million

Saudi woman fleeing family flies to Canada after gaining asylum

The Guardian reports: An 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she was abused by her family and feared for her life if deported back home has left Thailand for Canada, which has granted her asylum, officials said. The fast-moving developments capped an eventful week for Qunun. She fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation and grabbed global

U.S. equipment, but not troops, begins exiting Syria in chaotic withdrawal

The New York Times reports: The American military has started withdrawing some equipment, but not yet troops, from Syria as part of President Trump’s order to wind down that battleground against the Islamic State, two Defense Department officials said on Friday amid continuing confusion over plans to disengage from one of the Middle East’s most complex conflicts. The officials said the number of American troops might actually increase slightly in

‘People’s vote’ on Brexit: Backers bide their time to force Labour’s hand

The Guardian reports: Backing for a second Brexit referendum in parliament is unlikely to be tested until after next week’s meaningful vote, as campaigners weigh up the best moment to try to win over the Labour leadership. The Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has scrapped plans to table a “doctors’ amendment” calling for the public to be allowed to exercise “informed consent” about Theresa May’s deal. Wollaston said she would wait

Humans: The least aggressive primate

Richard Wrangham writes: A few years ago, I stayed in Kenya with the conservationists Karl and Kathy Ammann, who kept a rescued chimpanzee named Mzee in their home. Even as a young adult, Mzee was generally well-behaved and trustworthy. Yet he could be impulsive. At one point, over breakfast, Mzee and I reached for the jug of orange juice at the same time. He grabbed my hand as I held

Music: Tigran Hamasyan — ‘Fides Tua’

 

Ocean warming is accelerating faster than thought, new research finds

The New York Times reports: Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters. A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five

Trump and the Brexiters must own the mess they lied us into

Gary Younge writes: We start a new year in a state of transatlantic political paralysis. In Britain, parliament has taken back control from a flailing government in pursuit of the least bad option. Brexit, it transpires, does not mean Brexit; it means whatever we can agree on, which may be nothing at all. In the US, it turns out, not only will the Mexicans not pay for the wall, but

Before Trump, Steve King set the agenda for the wall and anti-immigrant politics

The New York Times reports: Years before President Trump forced a government shutdown over a border wall, triggering a momentous test of wills in Washington, Representative Steve King of Iowa took to the House floor to show off a model of a 12-foot border wall he had designed. And long before Mr. Trump demonized immigrants — accusing Mexico of exporting criminals and calling for an end to birthright citizenship —

Turkey issues ultimatum to Trump: Pull out of Syria or we strike

Haaretz/Reuters reports: A military operation against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey has pledged to carry out in northern Syria, is not dependent on a U.S. pull-out from the region, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. “If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Turkey’s threat to

U.S. will expel every last Iranian boot from Syria, says Mike Pompeo

The Guardian reports: The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has vowed the US and its allies will “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria as he sought to reassure Middle Eastern nations it was not withdrawing from the region despite Donald Trump’s call for troops to return home. In a keynote speech delivered in Cairo, pitched as the centrepiece of his nine-country regional tour, Pompeo called for a common