Apocalypse (Almost) Now | Thanos Trump | The NRA Is Rifling For A Solution

MAY 7, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper.”


“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

– T.S. Eliot




We Got The Whole World, In This Report (And It’s Bad): To be released this week is an 1,800 page global assessment report, commissioned by the UN’s leading research body on nature, and compiled by the world’s leading scientists over three years. The report warns that the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone for humanity; it shows conclusively that people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate. One biodiversity expert said: “The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. We have lost time. We must act now.”

Human activity is responsible for the biomass of wild mammals diminishing by 82 percent, natural ecosystems losing half their area, and a million species at risk of annihilation. A small range of cash crops and high-value livestock are replacing forests and other nature-rich ecosystems. Three-quarters of all land has been turned into farm fields, or otherwise significantly altered. Meat and dairy production uses 83 percent of farmland and accounts for 58 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Wetlands are rapidly disappearing, along with the world’s tree cover. Oceans are no longer a sanctuary; two-thirds of the marine environment has been changed by fish farms, shipping routes, subsea mines and other projects. Plastic waste is affecting 86 percent of marine turtles and half of other marine animals. And carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, last week surpassing the 415 parts per million mark for the first time. Additional movie trailer: The Road. Additional read: Forget the Anthropocene: we’ve entered the synthetic age (Aeon)




Putin Puts Himself In Where He Doesn’t Belong: At a news conference Friday President Trump said he’d had a phone conversation with Russian President Putin, and that among other topics they’d talked about Venezuela. “And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela….” Trump told reporters. Two days later Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was meeting in Moscow with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. The Russian Embassy in Washington said in a statement on its Facebook page that Trump had initiated the call. The statement also said Putin “underscored that only the Venezuelans themselves have the right to determine the future of their country” and that attempts by outside forces to change the government in Caracas “by force undermine prospects for a political settlement of the crisis.” Before Lavrov sat down with Arreaza he said the US should halt its “irresponsible” campaign to overthrow Maduro. Afterward Lavrov reiterated that the US government should “stop their irresponsible actions against international law.” (WaPo) Additional read: Pompeo Says U.S. Prepared To Offer Guaidó ‘Full Range Of Options’ To Oust Maduro (NPR)

Trump To Increase Tariffs With The Snap Of His Finger: On Friday President Trump threatened to increase tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and levy a new 25 percent fee on the remaining $325 billion of Chinese “untaxed” imports. On Monday Chinese stock markets suffered their sharpest fall in more than three years. Social media in China was portraying Trump as a Marvel villain out to destroy them. One popular meme showed Trump as Thanos, the ultimate bad guy from the Avenger series, saying “Move my fingers, wipe out half of Chinese investors.” (WaPo) Additional read: Two U.S. warships sail in disputed South China Sea (Reuters)

Baby’s First Nuclear Reactor: Saudi Arabia is continuing work at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, outside Riyadh, on what it calls its nuclear research reactor. The Argentine-designed reactor will produce just tens of kilowatts of energy, a tiny fraction of what the country needs, but the kingdom has future plans for gigawatts of energy from nuclear plants for both electricity and desalination. Several nations, including the US, South Korea and China, have plans to help the Saudi’s civilian nuclear program, which on paper looks peaceful. Some arms control experts, however, are concerned that the kingdom’s nuclear energy ambitions may also be part of its ongoing rivalry with Iran, which already possesses dual-use technology that could aid in the production of a nuclear bomb. Saudi officials insist their new reactor has nothing to do with bombs, but last year on the CBS’ program 60 Minutes, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned that if Iran ever got a nuke, Saudi Arabia would too. (NPR)

Additional World News




The NRA Is Rifling For A Solution: Internal power struggles at the 5 million member National Rifle Association, accompanied by a new investigation by New York’s attorney general into allegations of financial improprieties, have left President Trump worried over the group’s ability to support him in his reelection bid. As its annual meeting was winding down last week, Trump implored his political allies on Twitter to “stop the internal fighting” and “get back to GREATNESS — FAST!” The president was undoubtedly hoping the NRA would repeat its 2016 campaign donations of tens of millions of dollars for his 2020 campaign, but the organization has been battered by recent back-to-back yearly losses totaling $64 million. (Guardian)

Feeding on the Powerless: TurboTax and H&R Block signed an agreement with the IRS 16 years ago pledging to assist tens of millions of Americans in filing their taxes for free. The Free File program was hailed as the best sort of collaboration between government and private enterprise. Publicly, the companies appeared to support the arrangement because it contains a noncompete provision that restricts the IRS from creating its own free, online filing system. Privately, however, the companies viewed the free filing option as a threat to their profits. According to an internal document and five current and former employees, the tax software giants Intuit, maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block were actually deliberately hiding the free option on their websites and actively steering customers instead into paid products. A former midlevel Intuit employee said for people who find TurboTax through a search engine or an online ad, “the landing page would direct you through a product flow that the company wanted to ensure would not make you aware of Free File.” (ProPublica)




Mind vs. Body: There are reasons, other than lack of willpower, that weight once lost tends to slowly come back on. The fact is that when pounds are shed, mechanisms are triggered that make it hard to keep the weight off. Some factors are within your control, but many are not. First, a faster metabolism burns more calories, but metabolism slows when you lose weight, and also as you age. Second, if you choose to try to lose weight, make changes that you can live with for the long haul, because you’ll need to stick with them to keep the weight off. Third, unfortunately hormones in your brain actually conspire to make you hungrier when you lose weight. One hormone involved in hunger, leptin, is released by fat cells and tells your brain when to eat. As you lose weight, your leptin levels drop, which becomes something of a “starvation signal” telling you to recover that weight loss. Fourth, to lose weight, what you eat is more important than how much you exercise. Fifth, on the other hand, exercise seems to play a big role in maintaining a lower weight. (NPR)

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Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: