Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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Recent Posts

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

How do you celebrate Earth Day when Scott Pruitt is still at the EPA?

Elizabeth Kolbert writes: Today is Earth Day, and, to mark the occasion, thousands of Americans will flock to parks, beaches, and hiking trails. Others will stay home, monitoring their Twitter feeds for the latest Scott Pruitt scandal. Like clockwork, the most recent one broke on the eve of the celebrations. The Hill reported on Friday that the lobbyist whose wife had rented a room to Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s

Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ‘concessions’ were a show of strength by North Korea

Ankit Panda writes: With less than a week to go before he sits down with his South Korean counterpart, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an impressive set of declarations. Following a meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee this week, Kim declared, among other things, that North Korea would shut down its nuclear testing site—known as Punggye-ri—and stop testing its intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs). If there’s

Israel celebrates but is war with Iran looming?

Simon Tisdall writes: There were fireworks, concerts, torch processions and parties throughout the country. In Jerusalem the night sky was illuminated by 300 drones that coalesced to form images of favourite Israeli symbols, such as the national flag and a dove with an olive branch in its mouth. The celebrations included a live, televised retelling of Jewish history dating to biblical times. In one scene children with yellow stars pinned

Missile strikes unlikely to stop Syria’s chemical attacks, Pentagon says

The New York Times reports: A barrage of missiles against Syria by American, French and British forces most likely will not stop President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, a Pentagon assessment has concluded, despite President Trump’s “Mission Accomplished!” declaration hours after last weekend’s strikes. The military intelligence report, put out less than three days after the attack, said the allied airstrikes likely set back Mr. Assad’s production of sarin gas.

Earth’s mammals have shrunk dramatically, and meat-eating hominids are to blame

The Washington Post reports: Life on Earth used to look a lot more impressive. Just a little more than 100,000 years ago, there were sloths as long as a giraffe is tall, monstrous bears whose shoulders were six feet off the ground, and Bunyanesque beavers that weighed as much as an NFL linebacker. But over time, all of these creatures disappeared in a manner so rapid and so mysterious that

Music: Oumou Sangare and Béla Fleck — ‘Djorolen’

  This is a clip from a terrific film, Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart, in which Fleck journeys through Africa tracing the roots of the banjo. Don’t miss the latest posts at Attention to the Unseen: Sign up for email updates.

Palantir knows everything about you

Bloomberg reports: High above the Hudson River in downtown Jersey City, a former U.S. Secret Service agent named Peter Cavicchia III ran special ops for JPMorgan Chase & Co. His insider threat group—most large financial institutions have one—used computer algorithms to monitor the bank’s employees, ostensibly to protect against perfidious traders and other miscreants. Aided by as many as 120 “forward-deployed engineers” from the data mining company Palantir Technologies Inc.,

Leaders worldwide are falling for a ‘deadly illusion’

In an editorial, the Washington Post says: Although his audience was the European Parliament, French President Emmanuel Macron articulated truths on Tuesday that resonate for the entire globe. Nationalism and authoritarianism are on the march. Democracy as an ideal and in practice seems under siege. The United States, traditionally a beacon for freedom, has dimmed the light, at least for a time. Mr. Macron filled the gap with a thoughtful

U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals set to be unchecked for first time since 1972

The Guardian reports: The US and Russian nuclear arsenals could soon be unconstrained by any binding arms control agreements for the first time since 1972, triggering an expensive and dangerous new arms race, a group of former officials and experts from the US, Europe and Russia has warned. In a statement to be published on Wednesday, the signatories point out that the 2010 New Start treaty limiting the deployed strategic

The Kremlin vs Telegram

Enrique Dans writes: After a hearing lasting just 18 minutes, on April 4, Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Telecommunications, known as Roskomnadzor, ordered the immediate blocking of instant messaging application Telegram, created by the controversial Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, along with its removal from Apple and Googles app stores. Aware that growing numbers of people were evading the blockade through proxies or VPNs, the government agency has begun

China’s great leap forward in science

Philip Ball writes: I first met Xiaogang Peng in the summer of 1992 at Jilin University in Changchun, in the remote north-east of China, where he was a postgraduate student in the department of chemistry. He told me that his dream was to get a place at a top American lab. Now, Xiaogang was evidently smart and hard-working – but so, as far as I could see, were most Chinese

Why the human brain is so efficient

Liqun Luo writes: An important difference between the computer and the brain is the mode by which information is processed within each system. Computer tasks are performed largely in serial steps. This can be seen by the way engineers program computers by creating a sequential flow of instructions. For this sequential cascade of operations, high precision is necessary at each step, as errors accumulate and amplify in successive steps. The

U.S. diplomacy with North Korea

Robin Wright writes: As many of us spent the weekend celebrating Easter brunch or a Passover Seder, Mike Pompeo secretly slipped into North Korea to test the prospects for President Trump’s most daring diplomatic gambit. The C.I.A. director’s covert talks with North Korea’s mercurial young leader, Kim Jong Un, apparently went well. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, shortly before his golf

Music: Spiral System — ‘Here We Are’

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