Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Swift victory in Colombian Supreme Court could pave way for further legal action on climate around the world

Pacific Standard reports: In Colombia, a group of 25 children and young people have just made legal history: They successfully put their government on trial for causing climate change and thereby endangering the fundamental rights of its citizens. Colombia’s Supreme Court agreed with the young plaintiffs that the government had done too little to halt deforestation in the Amazon, despite its commitment to achieve net-zero deforestation by 2020. This, the

U.S. falls to 45th on press freedom index, Trump labeled ‘media-bashing enthusiast’

The Hill reports: Reporters Without Borders has dropped the United States to No. 45 in its annual ranking of press freedom for 180 countries around the world. In the report released Wednesday, the United States received a “fairly good” rating, which falls below the category of “good,” in which only 9 percent of countries rated were placed. The ranking continues a downward trend for the U.S. in recent years. The

The spirit molecule

Graham St John writes: Identified in 300 BCE by the Greek physician Herophilos as the brain’s only unpaired organ, the pineal gland has long been a source of mystery and speculation. Galen, another Greek physician and philosopher, discussed its role as a valve regulating the flow of ‘psychic pneuma’. This view informed René Descartes, who in the 17th century situated the soul (for him, the mind) precisely in this tiny

Neandertals, Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean

Science reports: Odysseus, who voyaged across the wine-dark seas of the Mediterranean in Homer’s epic, may have had some astonishingly ancient forerunners. A decade ago, when excavators claimed to have found stone tools on the Greek island of Crete dating back at least 130,000 years, other archaeologists were stunned—and skeptical. But since then, at that site and others, researchers have quietly built up a convincing case for Stone Age seafarers—and

Music: Marutyri — ‘Inner Movements’

 

How Emmanuel Macron became the new leader of the free world

Politico reports: Europe’s most dynamic political leader, Emmanuel Macron, pays a state visit to Washington this week. The French president has struck up a surprisingly cordial relationship with President Donald Trump, especially when you consider that Macron has emerged as the West’s most formidable opponent of the kind of populist nationalism Trump channels here. Speaking last week to the European Parliament, Macron warned of a “European civil war” and urged

Germany’s incredibly shrinking role on the world stage

Der Spiegel reports: Not even five years have passed since the spate of essays and opinion pieces about Germany’s hegemonic power over the Continent. The cold reality, the Economist wrote, is that “Germany is the power in Europe that counts the most. Top brass in Brussels, or Paris, can talk as much as they like. But until Ms. Merkel agrees, nothing happens.” The danger, it added, is not that Germany

Where countries are tinderboxes and Facebook is a match

The New York Times reports: Past the end of a remote mountain road, down a rutted dirt track, in a concrete house that lacked running water but bristled with smartphones, 13 members of an extended family were glued to Facebook. And they were furious. A family member, a truck driver, had died after a beating the month before. It was a traffic dispute that had turned violent, the authorities said.

Advising a president who is impervious to advice

Patrick Radden Keefe writes: When Donald Trump had a phone conversation with Vladimir Putin on the morning of March 20th, the two were at an excruciatingly delicate juncture. American intelligence officials had concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election, with the goal of helping Trump win, and Trump had become the subject of an investigation, by the special counsel Robert Mueller, into allegations of collusion between the

How dying offers us a chance to live the fullest life

Rowan Williams writes: People still sometimes discuss the question of how you could tell that you were talking to some form of artificial intelligence rather than an actual human being. One of the more persuasive suggested answers is: “Ask them how they feel about dying.” Acknowledging that our lifespan is limited and coming to terms with this are near the heart of anything we could recognise as what it means

A solitary journey across Antarctica

David Grann writes: The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness. Every direction he turned, he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth: white ice and blue ice, glacial-ice tongues and ice wedges. There were no living creatures in sight. Not a bear or even a bird. Nothing but him. It was hard to breathe, and each time he exhaled the moisture froze on his

Nabokov’s experiments with time

Michael Wood writes: Language has many forms of quiet kindness, refusals of stark alternatives. “Never” can mean “not always,” and “impossible” may mean “not now.” Insomnia may mean a shortage of sleep rather than its entire absence, and when Gennady Barabtarlo writes that “Nabokov typically remembered having his dreams at dawn, right before awakening after a sleepless night,” or indeed calls his own book Insomniac Dreams, we are looking not

How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews

The Washington Post reports: On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them. But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition

Music: Mithoon & Maati Baani — ‘Naina Bawre’

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How the science of persuasion could change the politics of climate change

MIT Technology Review reports: Jerry Taylor believes he can change the minds of conservative climate skeptics. After all, he helped plant the doubts for many in the first place. Taylor spent years as a professional climate denier at the Cato Institute, arguing against climate science, regulations, and treaties in op-eds, speeches, and media appearances. But his perspective slowly began to change around the turn of the century, driven by the

She tried to report on climate change but Sinclair told her to be more ‘balanced’

BuzzFeed reports: Sinclair Broadcast Group executives reprimanded and ultimately ousted a local news reporter who refused to seed doubt about man-made climate change and “balance” her stories in a more conservative direction. Her account, detailed in company documents she provided to BuzzFeed News, offers a glimpse at the inner workings of a media giant that has sought to both ingratiate itself to President Donald Trump and cast itself as an