Wednesday, November 27th 2019

News Review V

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” —George Orwell
Ambassador Gordon Sondland during his testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Politics

Border wall and eminent domain: President Trump's administration is preparing filings to begin taking land from several dozen Texans in order to clear the way for Trump's campaign promise of a border wall. Read the article

Impeachment viewership falls on day two: The broadcast of the second day of impeachment hearings was watched by 12.7m viewers, down from 13.8m who tuned in on the first day-November 13th, 2019. Read the article

Audit interference at the IRS: A career IRS official reported that a Treasury political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the President’s or Vice President’s tax returns. In early November, staff for Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), both members of the Senate Finance Committee met with the whistleblower. Follow-up interviews are expected. The White House has painted this report as politically motivated. Read the article

Rex Tillerson on Trump's Ukraine dealings: In a PBS interview, Trump's former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "clearly asking for personal favors and using United States assets as collateral is wrong." Read the article

ISIS rebuilding after U.S. withdrawal: Following Trump's hasty retreat from Syria in October, the Pentagon released a report detailing the fallout from Trump's decision. According to the report, ISIS will be able to rebuild, undoing the progress made by U.S. and Kurdish forces in the fight against the global terrorist organization. Read the article

Dump bad debt: Sweden's central bank sold their Canadian and Australian bonds, stating that the nations had poor track records with combating climate change. As a growing source of financial turmoil, climate change is beginning to enter the conscience of global financial markets. International economic action designed to motivate nations failing to do enough for the climate is a great start. Read the article

Wringing out allies: President Trump has demanded that Japan and South Korea pay 400% more to cover costs of keeping United States soldiers garrisoned in each nation. For fiscal year 2020, Japan is expected to pay $5.7B. Trump also demanded $4.5B from South Korea. In response, South Korea has signed a new defense pact with China. Trump's demands are distancing longtime U.S. allies and giving them reason to more closely align with a U.S. competitor in the region. Read the article

Ambassador confirms quid pro quo: Trump appointee Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that he had pushed Ukraine to investigate President Trump's political rival at the 'express direction' of the President. Read the article

Trump's human scum: As impeachment testimony continued, President Trump railed against Fox News, Robert Mueller, other investigations into his activities, and, to no one's surprise, Congressman Adam Schiff. The President's tweet targeting Schiff described him as corrupt and 'human scum'. Read the article

All roads in Ukraine lead to Trump: Testimony from twelve witnesses, nine of whom are current administration officials, point to Trump withholding $400m in U.S. military aid as well as a White House meeting in order to coerce Ukraine into opening investigations into his political rivals. Read the article

Caught red handed: Throughout the ongoing Ukraine scandal, the White House and many Republicans have pointed to Trump's eventual release of the $400m in military aid as proof that the President was not using the aid as a bribe. However, a new detail has emerged: White House lawyers briefed Trump on the whistleblower's complaint in August, shortly before the aid was released. This evidence points to the release of the aid as an effort to hide the President's attempts to use both it and a White House meeting to solicit Ukraine to open investigations into his politcal opponent. Read the article

Impeachment breakdown: Seven reporters weigh in on the impeachment hearings and consider potential outcomes. Read the article

Assessing GDP impact of 2018 tariffs: This paper details a model designed to assess aggregate income loss resulting from U.S. tariffs. "The model implies that tradeable-sector workers in heavily Republican counties were the most negatively affected due to the retaliatory tariffs." Read the paper

Science

Pollution, PM2.5, and health: Air pollution is a known contributor to adverse health outcomes and general mortality. Particulate matter in air (soot for example) is grouped by diamater: less than 1 micron (PM1), less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), and less than 10 microns (PM10). Exposure to just 10µg/m³ of PM2.5 on an annual basis has been shown to have significant cognitive effects, a troubling result that is often left out of reports on air pollution. Patrick Collison has collected a number of studies demonstrating how exposure to polluted air and particulate matter impacts humans. Read the article

The wrong Nobel laureate: The 2018 Nobel Prize in economics was split between two economists for their individual work on long-run macroeconomic analysis. William Nordhaus, an economist at Yale University received half of the prize for his work on "integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis." However, other economists were quick to question Nordhaus' citations because his work emphasized growth at all costs, which they argue has helped drive the climate crisis. Nordhaus' focus on a high discount rate in order to ignore future costs of climate changes by placing very little value on future generations is misguided. By devaluing the future in order to support GDP outcomes, Nordhaus' Nobel Prize—winning work backs increasingly irreversible damage to the climate. Growth at all costs is self defeating. Read the article

Bayesian brain: Our own perception of reality and objective reality often differ. This incredibly interesting article breaks down theories about how our brain works off learned expectations to process input. New research is beginning to back theries that our brains' expectations can even change our individual perception of the world around us. Read the article

W.H.