5 Charts That Explain 2014’s Record-Smashing Heat | Mother Jones

2014 was the hottest year since record-keeping began way back in the nineteenth century, according to reports released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to NASA, the Earth has now warmed roughly 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and most of that increase is the result of greenhouse gases released by humans. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.

Here’s the last (and arguably most interesting) of the five:

Attri bution of Long Term Trends

via 5 Charts That Explain 2014’s Record-Smashing Heat | Mother Jones

(h/t The Big picture)

‘A New Antibiotic That Resists Resistance’

Some time ago I noted the dangers of bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, to the point where some are now “pan-resistant”. In other words, untreatable with existing antibiotics. Those dangers assuredly still exist but a few days ago a bit of good news arrived for a change.

More [classes of antibiotics], hopefully, are coming. A team of scientists led by Kim Lewis from Northeastern University have identified a new antibiotic called teixobactin, which kills some kinds of bacteria by preventing them from building their outer coats. They used it to successfully treat antibiotic-resistant infections in mice. And more importantly, when they tried to deliberately evolve strains of bacteria that resist the drug, they failed. Teixobactin appears resistant to resistance.

Bacteria will eventually develop ways of beating teixobactin—remember Orgel—but the team are optimistic that it will take decades rather than years for this to happen. That buys us time.

via A New Antibiotic That Resists Resistance – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science

‘Good’ Blasphemy | The American Conservative

The American Conservative, a publication I usually quite like, has been vocal in its reaction to the Paris shootings with four posts so far by one author, all beating the same drum. I ended up posting a comment on the latest thread.

It starts with a quote from Rod Dreher’s fourth piece (which also encapsulates his argument):

“But when some within that civilization punish blasphemy with violence and murder, then, says Ross, we all had better defend that blasphemy to protect our own right to speak and to worship as our consciences dictate.”

I then continue as follows:

Rousing stuff, but a false syllogism. It’s conflating two separate issues. Worse, doing so is probably reacting exactly as these bastards hope we will.

Instead, why not staunchly defend the legal right to freedom of speech while deploring those who choose to use it in a juvenile, destructive fashion? Equally, unequivocally condemn any use of violence while holding onto enough heart to grasp the anquish such sophomoric “journalism” triggers for many ordinary Muslims.

What you seem to be missing is that this atrocity was probably intended to foment division. Doesn’t the rather doctrinaire, self-righteous response you’ve repeatedly indulged in so far play directly into their hands?

Cui bono? Worth asking before letting rip.

“Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the Islamic State”

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, is a renowned German journalist and publicist who travelled through Turkey to Mosul, the largest city occupied by Isis, after months of negotiations with the group’s leaders.

He plans to publish a summary of his “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday, but in interviews with German-language media outlets has revealed his first impressions of what life is like under Isis.

For those of us viewing these developments from a great distance, it’s a confusing time.

On the one hand, the battle over Kobane seems stalemated. It’s being progressively destroyed but neither the Kurds nor the IS have yet been able to gain a clear upper hand. Given this was a target of choice for the IS, just now that looks a little like a defeat.

On the other, they seem to be consolidating their hold on vast tracts of Iraq and Syria. And, if Todenhöfer is to be believed, viewed by many as saviours or liberators.

Once within Isis territory, Todenhöfer said his strongest impression was “that Isis is much stronger than we think here”. He said it now has “dimensions larger than the UK”, and is supported by “an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone”.

“Each day, hundreds of willing fighters arrive from all over the world,” he told tz. “For me it is incomprehensible.”

Ultimately, its “success” will probably rest more on its administrative capabilities than its military prowess. If it can consolidate military gains and turn conquered territory into a comparatively safe, supportive hinterland, almost anything becomes possible. If it can’t, in time the whole thing will probably unravel.

via Inside Isis: The first Western journalist ever given access to the ‘Islamic State’ Jurgen Todenhofer has just returned – and this is what he discovered –  The Independent

Update: CNN interview with Todenhöfer.

(h/t FB Ali)

Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war | Andrew Bacevich

How did this happen? To blame a particular president, a particular administration, or a particular agency simply will not do. The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere. Rather than new, they merely represent variations on an existing theme.

Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner. The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. [ . . . ]

One consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting [the] apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.

via Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war – Opinion – The Boston Globe

(h/t FB Ali)

Can Palestine and Israel ever have a “South African moment”? | Mondoweiss

Last Tuesday night, the Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani gave a speech at Columbia University, where he is a professor, saying that Palestine has not yet reached its “South African moment.” [ . . . ]

“The end of apartheid was a negotiated settlement,” Mamdani said. The South African anti-apartheid struggle did not succeed by military resistance so much as by education, bringing whites to understand that they would only be safe if they ceased to be settlers. They [eventually] came to agree. In Israel and Palestine, the work is also educational. Israeli Jews and their western supporters have been indoctrinated in the wake of the Holocaust to believe that Jews will only be safe with a Jewish state. [ . . . ]

The opposite is the case. Jews can have a homeland in the Middle East, but their safety can only be achieved by dismantling the Jewish state, Mamdani said. His speech was a political challenge to Jewish anti-Zionists, now just a splinter, to launch a political struggle inside the Jewish community to liberate it from Zionism.

via The great challenge: convince Jews that they will only be safe without Zionism — Mamdani

“The Moral Path to Peace” | The American Conservative

The notion of universality that I associate with cosmopolitan humanism contains no implication that persons, peoples, and civilizations should conform to a single model of life or that universality can be imposed by means of political engineering. It may be helpful to contrast genuine universality with a type of universalism that today is particularly common and influential in the United States. I am referring to an ideologically intense variant of the Enlightenment mindset that assumes a single political system is desirable and even mandatory for all societies and should be everywhere installed, through military means if necessary. I have called this ideology the new Jacobinism. The French Jacobins summarized their putatively universal principles in the slogan “freedom, equality, and brotherhood.” They saw France as the redeemer of nations. The new Jacobins speak of “freedom” and “democracy,” and they have anointed the United States.

Claes G. Ryn argues for a very different universality, one that welcomes the endlessly diverse particulars of people and place and is ready to acknowledge and celebrate virtue wherever it may be found. Continue reading