Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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A narrative collapses as Trump tweets: ‘It doesn’t really matter’

The New York Times reports: In the 10 days since it carried out the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Trump administration has been struggling to draft an after-the-fact narrative to justify it. On Monday, President Trump put an end to that hash of explanations. “It doesn’t really matter,” he tweeted, “because of his horrible past.” Until that message on Twitter, the administration had insisted in various

Russians hacked Ukrainian gas company at center of impeachment

The New York Times reports: With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts. The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in

Who controls Trump’s environmental policy?

The New York Times reports: A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water. Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as

James Murdoch slams Fox News and News Corp over climate-change denial

The Daily Beast reports: In a long-simmering rift between factions of the Murdoch family over climate change, Rupert’s younger son, James, and his activist wife, Kathryn, are attacking the climate denialism promoted by News Corporation, the global media group, and also by the Fox News Channel overseen by James’ older brother, Lachlan. “Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp

The ocean plastic we can’t see

The Guardian reports: Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean

He thought his U.S. passport and letters to Trump would save him from dying in an Egyptian prison. He was wrong

The Washington Post reports: As an American imprisoned in Egypt, Mustafa Kassem thought his government would rescue him from what he saw as his unjust incarceration. The 54-year-old auto parts dealer viewed his blue U.S. passport as a bulletproof vest that made him untouchable, especially in the hands of a government that receives billions in American aid, his relatives have said. By the time he died Monday of apparent heart

Music: Chet Baker — ‘Estate’

 

Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates

The Guardian reports: The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet. The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities. The new analysis shows the past five years are the

Trump says ‘it doesn’t really matter’ if Iranian general posed an imminent threat

The Washington Post reports: President Trump added to the controversy over his administration’s justification for the killing of an Iranian general, saying Monday that “it doesn’t really matter” whether it was in response to an imminent threat to the United States. In a tweet, Trump criticized Democrats for trying to determine whether Iranian attacks the administration has said were planned by Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani against U.S. targets were imminent.

With a new weapon in Trump’s hands, the Iran crisis risks going nuclear

William Arkin writes: Ten days before Donald J. Trump was elected president in 2016, the United States nuked Iran. The occasion: a nuclear war exercise held every year in late October. In the war game, after Iran sank an American aircraft carrier and employed chemical weapons against a Marine Corps force, the Middle East commander requested a nuclear strike, and a pair of B-2 stealth bombers, each loaded with a

How Soleimani exploited the power of Middle Eastern militias

Hassan Hassan writes: The Iranian general Qassem Suleimani is dead, and tensions with Iran appear to be simmering down. But the landscape he helped build is still very much a problem for the United States. Since his killing in a U.S. drone strike last week, experts have been rushing to explain just why Soleimani mattered so much to Iran’s ambitions—and what consequences his death really holds for the region. One

William Barr’s mission to maximize executive power and protect Trump

David Rohde writes: Last October, Attorney General William Barr appeared at Notre Dame Law School to make a case for ideological warfare. Before an assembly of students and faculty, Barr claimed that the “organized destruction” of religion was under way in the United States. “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault

Sanders surges as progressives flock to him over Warren

Politico reports: Something’s happening with Bernie Sanders that looked unlikely to many a few months ago: Progressive leaders and organizations are lining up behind him, not Elizabeth Warren, in the lead-up to voting. Two groups run by young people — the Sunrise Movement, which seeks to combat climate change, and Dream Defenders, which advocates for people of color — endorsed him last week. He’s also won the backing of People’s

New evidence suggests, the default condition in plants is immortality

Erin Malsbury writes: Long-lived humans having nothing on trees. Some, like the Ginkgo biloba, can live more than 3000 years. Now, in the most comprehensive plant aging study to date, researchers have revealed the molecular mechanisms that allow the ginkgo—and perhaps other trees—to survive so long. The new study provides the first real genetic evidence for something scientists have long suspected: “The default condition in plants is immortality,” says Howard

Music: Aaron Parks — ‘Rising Mind’

 

Want to do something about climate change? Follow the money

Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Bill McKibben write: If you asked us why a dozen people sat on the floor next to the A.T.M. in a Chase Bank branch on Friday, waiting for the police to arrest us for this small act of civil disobedience, we would come up with the same answer as the famous robber Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where the money is.” We don’t want to empty the