This is Ocean


“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” – David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” – Ibid


Trump’s State Dinner Premiere: France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife arrived in Washington Monday for the first official state visit President Trump has hosted since he took office. By all appearances, Trump and Macron have a friendly relationship. Last year the President and First Lady Melania were feted in Paris, where they dined at the Eiffel Tower and were guests of honor at the Bastille Day parade. For this visit the Macrons will be treated to a lavish state dinner and a sightseeing trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.

Just how solid their working relationship is could be tested when the two leaders get down to brass tacks. Macron is expected to try convincing Trump not to scrap the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, which the president has said he would do unless European allies fix what he calls the agreement’s “terrible flaws” by May 12. The JCPOA was reached between Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany and the European Union, in July 2015, and provided that Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Iran has said that the US decision to stay in the agreement is “all or nothing,” meaning if the US pulled out, Iran would feel free to restart its nuclear program. All signatories including Russia are urging Trump to remain part of the deal. Macron will also be advocating for a permanent exemption for the EU from US tariffs on steel and aluminum. The current (temporary) exemption expires May 1.


The Underreported Decimation of Ocean Life: From the “Why Are We Not Surprised?” files, recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science indicates that millions of tons of fish caught in deep-water trawl nets have gone unreported in the last 50 years.

Since the mid-20th century, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has tried keeping tabs on the amount of fish caught in nets dragged along the ocean floor a quarter mile or more below the ocean’s surface (a method called bottom trawling) by asking its member countries to voluntarily adhere to quotas and report fishing statistics. FAO data showed 14 million tons of fish were caught between 1950 and 2015. But going unreported were fish species the FAO reports left out, as well as bycatch, non-target species swept up in the trawl nets.

research initiative at the University of British Columbia called The Sea Around Us (named after Rachel Carson’s 1951 book) spent 15 years reconstructing data from the same period, 1950 – 2015. Researchers found “an estimated 25 million tons of fish that were extracted, but not included in any of the fisheries statistics.” As one researcher noted, accurate fishing data is essential to keeping fish stocks sustainable. There’s also the ecological cost of bottom trawling, which not only threatens fragile fish populations, but scrapes up everything else in its path–sponges, anemones, corals–as well.


Nicaraguan officials proposed a sweeping welfare reform package that set off days of violent protests. By some estimates, 25 people were killed in anti-government demonstrations, prompting President Daniel Ortega to cancel the changes. Apparently overhauling its social security system by increasing contributions from workers and employers while lowering overall benefits wasn’t the best way to go. (NPR)

Poland’s air isn’t fit to breathe, but its people still love burning coal. Throughout the EU, 80% of private homes using coal are in Poland. It’s seen as a patriotic alternative to Russian gas. Poles are proud people, but their patriotism is getting them all choked up–literally. (NYT)

Justice is swifter in Belgium. 28-year-old Salah Abdeslam, the only known survivor of the Islamic State terror cell that killed at least 130 people in Paris in 2015, still awaits trial in France. But he’s already been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in a Belgium prison for his shootout with police, who found him hiding in a Brussels apartment. (NPR)

-A 25-year-old Ontario man in a rented Ryder van mowed down multiple pedestrians on a sidewalk in midtown Toronto Monday, killing 10 and injuring 15. Witnesses said the driver’s actions, which left a trail of destruction nearly a mile long, appeared to be deliberate. (CNN)

What’s a dodgy Malaysian prime minister to do when he’s unpopular and facing an election? Easy. Just change the laws to favor his party and target his critics, then dissolve parliament. Or said differently, Cheat. (The Guardian)

-In 2015, when a historic tide of migrants poured into Europe, several EU leaders reacted with open arms and high-minded idealism. But the migration crisis has triggered angry populism and political upheaval across the Continent. Now the EU is quietly getting its hands dirty, stopping the flow of migrants from Africa in part by outsourcing border management to countries with dubious human rights records. This approach is working – the number of migrants arriving in Europe has dropped by 50% since 2016, but many migration advocates say the moral cost is too high. (NYT)

A growing part of Amazon’s business is storing stuff in the cloud through Amazon Web Services. Amazon sells its cloud services to many companies and increasingly to the government, including the CIA. For the IC (the intelligence community) and the CIA to trust Amazon with their data, and thus their secrets, is a major coup in government-contracting circles. Amazon could soon have $3-4 billion worth of business with the government annually. (NPR)

-The tiny former Soviet republic of Georgia, with a population of 4 million people, “has become a virtual printing” press for this new money you can’t see: bitcoin.(NPR)

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Armenia Pushes Back On Autocracy: It was an extraordinary move, virtually unprecedented on today’s political stage. On Monday, after 11 days of protests, Armenia’s most powerful politician, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, released his opposition’s leader from detention, said “You were right; I was wrong,” and stepped down.

Sargsyan had been president of the impoverished, former Soviet Union republic for more than ten years. During his tenure he facilitated a constitutional amendment that gave more power to the prime minister and downgraded the presidency to a ceremonial role. His presidential term ended in March, but in April he was nominated to the post of prime minister, a decision that echoed similar tenure-lengthening maneuvers by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenia’s closest ally. Angry protestations erupted from people fearing their country was headed the way of other former Soviet republics, from Belarus to countries in Central Asia, whose leaders had engineered lifetime jobs for themselves.

The numbers of demonstrators grew daily. On Sunday, Sargsyan agreed to meet with opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan. But when Pashinyan said: “I came here to discuss your resignation,” Sargsyan had him arrested. Finally on Monday, after hundreds of uniformed soldiers joined the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters, Sargsyan issued a statement which read: “The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand.”


-We know that sitting for long periods of every day has myriad health consequences, including a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. A new study now shows that sitting too much is also bad for your brain. (NYT)

-A US postal worker kept about 17,000 pieces of mail for more than 10 years because he was “overwhelmed” by the amount he had to deliver. The mail carrier told authorities he “made sure to deliver the important mail.” (NYT)  

-The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed a son on Monday. He is fifth in line to the throne and also the third and youngest child of the family. So, what’s it like growing up as a third child? (BBC)

-“Killer robots have been a staple of TV and movies for decades, from Westworld to The Terminator series. But in the real world, killer robots are officially known as ‘autonomous weapons.’” (NPR)

More Reads:


“I wish you way more than luck.” – David Foster Wallace

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