Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Undefeated, ISIS is back in Iraq

Aziz Ahmad writes: Inside a prison in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, vanquished Islamic State fighters who once swept through much of the country now mill about sullenly on a bare, tiled floor, reflecting on a cause they insist will endure. Many spend hours in fierce debate, apparently undeterred by their movement’s apparent military defeat. Their cause, they say, remains divinely ordained. Their capture incidental. “Hathi iradet Allah,” they say.

AI that writes convincing prose risks mass-producing fake news

MIT Technology Review reports: Here’s some breaking fake news … Russia has declared war on the United States after Donald Trump accidentally fired a missile in the air. Russia said it had “identified the missile’s trajectory and will take necessary measures to ensure the security of the Russian population and the country’s strategic nuclear forces.” The White House said it was “extremely concerned by the Russian violation” of a treaty

Brittany’s seafaring hunter-gatherers were the first to build Europe’s ancient megaliths

Big Think reports: The origin of the roughly 35,000 ancient monuments that dot Europe and the British Isles has long been a haunting mystery. From the Ring of Bodnar in the Scottish Orkney Islands to Stonehenge in the English countryside, to the Carnac stones in France, these ancient monuments have fascinated people for as long as they’ve been known. Remarkably, there’s never been a serious effort made to date all

Music: Arve Henriksen — ‘Ascent’

 

Dark money is pushing for a no-deal Brexit. Who is behind it?

George Monbiot writes: Modern governments respond to only two varieties of emergency: those whose solution is bombs and bullets, and those whose solution is bailouts for the banks. But what if they decided to take other threats as seriously? This week’s revelations of a catastrophic collapse in insect populations, jeopardising all terrestrial life, would prompt the equivalent of an emergency meeting of the UN security council. The escalating disasters of

Omar fires back at Trump, noting he has ‘trafficked in hate’ his entire life

"They don't look like Indians to me." Here's a 1993 clip of our racially sensitive president at a Native American affairs committee. https://t.co/pm1J3Hpy6F — Justin Kanew (@Kanew) February 10, 2019 The Washington Post reports: Rep. Ilhan Omar rejected President Trump’s call for her resignation by accusing him of having “trafficked in hate your whole life” while she privately has tried to make amends with her Jewish colleagues for her anti-Semitic

House votes to halt aid for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen

The New York Times reports: The House voted on Wednesday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a defiant and rare move to curtail presidential war powers that underscored anger with President Trump’s unflagging support for Saudi Arabia even after the killing of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. The 248-177 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and

Trump confidant Thomas Barrack apologizes for being correctly understood as an apologist for murder

The Washington Post reports: Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire real estate investor who is one of President Trump’s closest confidants, apologized Wednesday after defending Saudi Arabia in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and saying the United States has committed “equal or worse” atrocities. Barrack’s remarks on Khashoggi, made Tuesday at a summit in Abu Dhabi organized by the Santa Monica-based Milken Institute think tank, were first reported

Toxic neighbors: Taking action to solve the climate crisis

 

What science can tell us about how other creatures experience the world

Ross Andersen writes: Amid the human crush of Old Delhi, on the edge of a medieval bazaar, a red structure with cages on its roof rises three stories above the labyrinth of neon-lit stalls and narrow alleyways, its top floor emblazoned with two words: birds hospital. On a hot day last spring, I removed my shoes at the hospital’s entrance and walked up to the second-floor lobby, where a clerk

How we discovered that Europeans used cattle 8,000 years ago

By Jane Gaastra, Haskel Greenfield & Marc Vander Linden The use of animals for their renewable products greatly increased human capabilities in prehistory. Secondary products – or anything that can be gleaned from a domestic animal repeatedly over its lifetime – expanded the capabilities of ancient human societies. They helped to provide enough food and labour surplus to make possible the first ancient civilisations. Apart from their meat, bones and

Music: Arve Henriksen — ‘Opening Image’

 

The rise and fall of Britain’s political class

Jonathan Powell writes: The British political system used to be seen as one of the wonders of the world. A hundred years ago last month, Max Weber, the great German sociologist, gave a seminal lecture on “The Profession and Vocation of Politics” in Munich. Speaking in the chaotic and revolutionary aftermath of the First World War, he expressed his admiration for the British system and the way its politicians and

A united Ireland now looks like an increasing possibility

Caelainn Hogan writes: When we were teenagers, a dyslexic friend of mine, who was exempt from studying Irish in school, started using the slogan “tiocfaidh ár lá”. When I asked him what it meant, he said “Up the IRA.” To this day he’s still slagged off for it, though he wasn’t exactly wrong. The meaning of those four syllables, “our day will come,” is synonymous with dissident Republicanism, but also

The sick double standard in the Ilhan Omar controversy

Peter Beinart writes: [I]f we’re going to demand that politicians apologize for any hint of association with bigotry, let’s not stop with Ilhan Omar. Let’s hold her critics to the same standard. Establishing two legal systems in the same territory—one for Jews and one for Palestinians, as Israel does in the West Bank—is bigotry. Guaranteeing Jews in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote

Trump and the Republican leadership have Jewish blood on their hands

Joshua Leifer writes: Even before the most recent controversy, Republican politicians relentlessly vilified Representatives [Ilhan] Omar and [Rashida] Tlaib, the first Muslim-American congresswomen, conflating their support for BDS with anti-Semitism. Norm Coleman, a paid lobbyist for Saudi Arabia and chairman of the Republican Jewish coalition, admitted to the New York Times that the purpose of the anti-BDS bill recently passed in the Senate, which the ACLU warns may very well