Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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Recent Posts

Music: Tanghetto – ‘El Duelo’

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The ancient hunt in which the tracker’s skill united reason and imagination

“The San people of the Kalahari desert are the last tribe on Earth to use what some believe to be the most ancient hunting technique of all: the persistence hunt; they run down their prey,” says David Attenborough:   “The hunter pays tribute to his quarry’s courage and strength. With ceremonial gestures that ensure that its spirit returns to the desert sands from which it came. While it was alive,

Putin has revived a tradition of Russian exceptionalism in opposition to the West

Simon Tisdall writes: Putin has been crossing red lines, at home and abroad, with growing impunity since he first gained national prominence in 1999. He made his name with a brutal pacification campaign in Chechnya justified by a series of suspicious apartment bombings. Alexander Litvinenko, later murdered in London, blamed the bombings on the FSB and, by implication, Putin. Justified perceptions of western weakness, ambivalence and division have since encouraged

There are more Russian spies in London now than there were at the height of the Cold War

The New York Times reports: The British authorities once devoted abundant resources to tracking the movement of Soviet agents here. But in recent years terrorist threats have become the clear priority, and MI5 has fewer resources to keep pace with Russia’s expanding operations, said John Bayliss, who retired from the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, in 2010 and now lectures on security threats. “I think it’s sort of

Stephen Hawking, in his own words

In memory of Stephen Hawking, who died on Wednesday at 76, the New York Times has gathered a selection of his quotes: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Don’t

Mike Pompeo is a ‘great climate skeptic’

The New York Times reports: The fall of Rex W. Tillerson from the Trump administration — on Tuesday, Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, was tapped to replace him as secretary of state — removes one the last remaining presidential advisers whose views on global warming are in line with the rest of the world. Mr. Pompeo has questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, and he

Mike Pompeo’s Islamophobia

On Tuesday, Trump named Mike Pompeo as his choice to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Last November, Peter Beinart wrote: Pompeo embraces anti-Muslim bigots, and defames Muslims, with almost as much gusto as Trump himself. Among Fransen’s closest American analogues are Brigitte Gabriel and Frank Gaffney. Gabriel, who has said a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the

Novichok chemical attack near Porton Down fed catnip to conspiracy theorists

Vladimir Putin has long understood that Russia can easily exploit the cynicism that permeates political perceptions across the West. The use of the Soviet chemical weapon, Novichok, in close proximity to the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, hardly seems coincidental. It accomplished two things: 1. By deploying this agent so close to the lab, operatives could be fairly confident that British authorities with the required expertise

Trump’s choice for new CIA director had leading role in torture

After firing Rex Tillerson and choosing Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director, as his next Secretary of State, Trump named Gina Haspel as his choice to become the CIA’s next director. In February 2017, the New York Times reported: As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting

We’re climate researchers and our work was turned into fake news / shutterstock By Michael Grubb, UCL Science is slow. It rests on painstaking research with accumulating evidence. This makes for an inherently uneasy relationship with the modern media age, especially once issues are politicised. The interaction between politics and media can be toxic for science, and climate change is a prominent example. Take the recent “deep freeze” along the US east coast. To scientists, it was one more piece

After a volcano’s ancient supereruption, humanity may have thrived

Shannon Hall writes: The Toba supereruption [about 74,000 years ago] expelled roughly 10,000 times more rock and ash than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. So much ejecta would have darkened skies worldwide, causing scientists to speculate that it might have plunged the Earth into a volcanic winter whose chill could be felt far from Indonesia. Climate models suggest that temperatures may have plummeted by as much as 30 degrees

How ‘evangelical’ became synonymous with ‘hypocrite’

Michael Gerson writes: One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received. Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly

‘Being a traitor is one of the most dangerous professions in the world,’ Russian state TV host warns after Skripal poisoning

This is what Russian president Putin said just two days after Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent: "Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves" — Kremlin Trolls CI (@KremlinTrolls) March 8, 2018 RFERL reports: News of the poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence officer in Britain came slowly to state-run television in Russia. For almost two days after the sudden hospitalization

YouTube, the great radicalizer

Zeynep Tufekci writes: YouTube has recently come under fire for recommending videos promoting the conspiracy theory that the outspoken survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are “crisis actors” masquerading as victims. Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia, recently “seeded” a YouTube account with a search for “crisis actor” and found that following the “up next” recommendations led to a network of some 9,000 videos promoting that and related

Xi Jinping promotes China’s one-party system as ready for export to regimes around the world

Zheping Huang reports: Chinese president Xi Jinping has repeatedly told the world that China is ready to lead on issues like free trade and climate change. Now, he’s ready to extend his leadership to political parties everywhere. At the big annual gathering of Chinese lawmakers and political advisors that kicked off March 3, Xi said that China is offering a “new type of political party system”—a Chinese solution that contributes

A summit with a U.S. president is what North Korea has always wanted

Ankit Panda writes: North Korea has long sought to be treated as an equal by Washington; nuclear weapons, in addition to the pragmatic survival and deterrence benefits they confer, undoubtedly also bring Pyongyang status. Kim hopes to convert that status into diplomatic capital, sitting down with Trump for a comprehensive discussion about the future of the Korean Peninsula, nuclear weapon state to nuclear weapon state. It’s not clear that the