Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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Recent Posts

Exodus: Why Hondurans are fleeing for their lives

Chinese scientist who claimed to make genetically edited babies is kept under guard

The New York Times reports: The Chinese scientist who shocked the world by claiming that he had created the first genetically edited babies is sequestered in a small university guesthouse in the southern city of Shenzhen, where he remains under guard by a dozen unidentified men. The sighting of the scientist, He Jiankui, this week was the first since he appeared at a conference in Hong Kong in late November

How new data is transforming our understanding of the brain’s navigational place cells

Adithya Rajagopalan writes: The first pieces of the brain’s “inner GPS” started coming to light in 1970. In the laboratories of University College London, John O’Keefe and his student Jonathan Dostrovsky recorded the electrical activity of neurons in the hippocampus of freely moving rats. They found a group of neurons that increased their activity only when a rat found itself in a particular location. They called them “place cells.” Building

In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition backed by the U.S. has created the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe

The Washington Post reports: Three-year-old Abdo Saleh lay on a cot, unable to walk or speak, his tiny body broken by hunger. His face was skeletal, his arms and legs thin as twigs. He weighed 10 pounds. A few miles away, markets were stocked with all kinds of food. But prices have risen so sharply that his parents cannot afford the milk, fruits and vegetables that are in abundance. “Sometimes,

McKinsey tied to Saudi crackdown on political dissent

Middle East Eye reports: Omar Abdulaziz says “it could have happened” to him. The Saudi dissident knows he came close to the fate that befell Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered inside his country’s Istanbul consulate in October. Months earlier, two Saudi government agents came to Montreal, the Canadian city Abdulaziz has called home for almost a decade, to convince him to return to the Gulf kingdom. “They

McKinsey’s loyalty to its brutal clients

The Wall Street Journal reports: Saudi Arabian officials arrested a partner at consulting giant McKinsey & Co. in the fall of 2017 and have been holding him in detention since then, people familiar with the matter say. In recent months, he has been repeatedly beaten, two of those people said. A McKinsey spokesman said that as of early this year the consultant, Hani Khoja, is no longer a McKinsey employee.

The inevitability of impeachment

Elizabeth Drew writes: An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the president resigns, the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an impeachment process next year will only increase. Too many people think in terms of stasis: How things are is how they will remain. They don’t take into account that opinion moves with events. Whether or not there’s already enough evidence to impeach

The fallacy of obviousness

Teppo Felin writes: Scientific experiments don’t generally attract widespread attention. But the ‘Gorillas in Our Midst’ (1999) experiment of visual attention by the American psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris has become a classic. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman highlights this experiment and argues that it reveals something fundamental about the human mind, namely, that humans are ‘blind to the obvious, and

Music: Gabin — ‘Midnight Caffè’


Trump imperils our planet

In an editorial, the New York Times says: It’s hard to believe but it was only three years ago this month — just after 7 p.m., Paris time, Dec. 12, to be precise — that delegates from more than 190 nations, clapping and cheering, whooping and weeping, rose to celebrate the Paris Agreement — the first genuinely collective response to the mounting threat of global warming. It was a largely

Middle East’s murderous autocrats prepare to celebrate the death of the Arab Spring

The Guardian reports: Gulf nations are moving to readmit Syria into the Arab League, eight years after Damascus was expelled from the regional bloc over its brutal repression of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad. At some point in the next year it is likely Assad will be welcomed on to a stage to once again take his place among the Arab world’s leaders, sources say. Shoulder to shoulder with

Saudi king shakes up cabinet, keeping power in son’s hands

The New York Times reports: King Salman of Saudi Arabia shook up the kingdom’s cabinet on Thursday, naming new ministers and security chiefs but keeping the levers of power firmly in the hands of his son and designated heir, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia and its 33-year-old crown prince have been under heavy international scrutiny since a team of Saudi agents killed and dismembered the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi

How a floundering D-lister was groomed for the presidency on reality TV

Patrick Radden Keefe writes: After starring in fourteen seasons of “The Apprentice,” all executive-produced by [Mark] Burnett, Trump appeared in the gilded atrium of Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, to announce that he was running for President. Only someone “really rich,” Trump declared, could “take the brand of the United States and make it great again.” He also made racist remarks about Mexicans, prompting NBC, which had broadcast “The Apprentice,”

$800 million in taxpayer money went to private prisons where migrants work for pennies

The Daily Beast reports: For $3 a day, Yesica works the graveyard shift in the kitchens of the for-profit immigration prison where she is locked up. Each morning, at 1 a.m., the guards of the Joe Corley Detention Facility in southeast Texas rouse Yesica and the 35 other women who share a dormitory-style room. Work begins an hour later and lasts through sunrise, ending at 8 a.m. Yesica does everything

California: The state of resistance

Michael Greenberg writes: A kindling sense of apocalypse is business as usual for Californians, who live almost nonchalantly with impending doom. Wildfires eat up the landscape, roar into the cities, drop tons of choking ash in the mountain-locked valleys. Mudslides come in winter and spring. Underfoot is the constant threat of “the big one,” the earthquake that will end everything in a few minutes. Dwindling rivers, drained lakes, and recurring

Hume believed we were nothing more or less than human

Julian Baggini writes: Socrates died by drinking hemlock, condemned to death by the people of Athens. Albert Camus met his end in a car that wrapped itself around a tree at high speed. Nietzsche collapsed into insanity after weeping over a beaten horse. Posterity loves a tragic end, which is one reason why the cult of David Hume, arguably the greatest philosopher the West has ever produced, never took off.