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In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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An Unsolved Murder At Italy’s Most Notorious Tower Block

It was raining heavily on 28 March 2018, as Alessandro Albini’s officers were raking over rough ground on the outskirts of an abandoned building. The police were looking for stashes of drugs or money, because they knew the shack was being used by dealers.

At first glance, this might have seemed an unlikely location for a drugs bust. Porto Recanati is a small seaside town on Italy’s Adriatic coast. It has perpendicular streets with low, pastel-coloured palazzi between palms and maritime pines. It’s all very neat: there are often mini-diggers on the sand, raking the beach flat as if it were a Japanese garden.

One of Albini’s men called him over. “There’s something strange here,” he said. The rain had washed away the loose soil and what looked like a golf ball was sticking out of the ground. Albini’s colleague took a cloth and wiped away the mud so that he could see the thick bone of what appeared to be a femur.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Losing Earth: The Decade We
Almost Stopped Climate Change

In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado. An entire subfield of climate literature has chronicled the machinations of industry lobbyists, the corruption of scientists and the propaganda campaigns that even now continue to debase the political debate, long after the largest oil-and-gas companies have abandoned the dumb show of denialism. But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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How To Edit A Human

This story begins nearly four billion years ago, when the Earth was just another rock in just another solar system. In a pool of sludge on that rock, something astonishing happened. A long stringy molecule found a way to copy itself. Similar molecules would later carry the code that would enable life forms to grow, digest, run, breathe, read, launch rockets to the Moon. But for now, that molecule only knew how to do a single, important thing – to reproduce. This was the moment that life emerged.

Since then, as each living organism has multiplied, the codes of life have altered by the tiniest increments generation after generation, stretching across time. Most of these mutations have had little impact. Very, very occasionally, they have been extraordinarily useful. The sum of millions of minuscule modifications over billions of generations has given some organisms the ability to survive in water, land, ice or the desert. They have helped them to beat disease, to be stronger, faster, fly.

Across the aeons of biological time, this process has led one particular organism – us – to grow large brains, develop opposable thumbs and communicate complex ideas. We’ve mastered fire, tools, technology. In the great span of evolution, this transformation happened a mere split second ago. Degree by degree we continue to change.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843 Magazine

In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Here’s How America Uses Its Land

In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century.

What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

Deadly Spiral

In the News 08.01.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Natasha was 10 years old when she died of AIDS in a St. Petersburg hospital in late August 2017. She spent more than a year in and out of intensive care, fighting for her life, while her immune system shut down, surrendering more and more territory to the enemy: tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes. The doctors did everything they could, but it was too late — the HIV infection that Natasha had lived with since birth was too far advanced.

In death, Natasha became the face of HIV denial in Russia. First a wave of media reports revealed that Natasha had been adopted by the family of an Orthodox priest who didn’t believe in the existence of HIV and refused to give the girl the treatment she so badly needed. A small online outlet added more detail. Her father, Georgi Sychov, served as a chaplain at a church in the most notorious prison in the city, called Kresty, and coordinated the Church’s relations with the Cossack community.

Those details, together with a photo of him staring at the camera with a stern and heavy look, made Sychov appear sinister. Dozens of media reports about Natasha carried the same message: the girl was better off without her parents; they killed her.

I met Sychov, a priest in his 50s, on a rainy December evening in a quiet northern part of town, near the small Sunday school where he teaches. Tall, bearded, soft-spoken, Sychov first told me that he had no intention of talking to me after everything that had been written about him, then invited me in and poured me a cup of tea.

Read the rest of this article at: Coda Story

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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