A rare treat for me this week as I get to watch eight hours of exquisite prestige TV, and not the usual stuff that fills this column, like that time I saw Barry from EastEnders wrestling with a pipe full of Michael Buerk’s crap in Celebrity 5 Go Barging. Normally, I am served the mince and asked to chew the gristle out of it and tell you whether or not the taste is worth the effort. Today, finally, I get a steak, and honestly I don’t know what to do with it. I feel like quietly asking the waiter for ketchup to help me gulp it down with.
So to Watchmen (Monday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic), then, which is an astonishing feat of adaptation, a miracle of a series that slowly unfurls like a puzzle box: at times so cinematic as to be breathtaking, just a little bit pretentious, and unafraid to take risks (the recent black-and-white flashback episode deserves to sneak into any “best individual TV episodes of the decade” lists). To recap: in 1986, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons produced an intricate-like-a-watch limited comics series for DC that was widely thought to be totally unadaptable for TV or film (brief synopsis: masked vigilantes with human flaws, plus one unkillable superbeing, help win the Vietnam war and try to end the cold one).
Joel Golby @ THE GUARDIAN
I thought this was intriguing but it is HBO and Den ain’t got no. 😦
COSMIC RAYS ARE INTENSIFYING: Cosmic rays have been intensifying for more than 4 years. On Dec. 5th and 6th they surged within a percentage point of the Space Age record, according to data from neutron counters at the University of Oulu’s Cosmic Ray Station in Finland:
The reason for this increase is Solar Minimum–underway now. During Solar Minimum, the sun’s magnetic field weakens, allowing more energetic particles from deep space to penetrate the solar system. The current Solar Minimum is one of the deepest (perhaps the deepest) of the past century. Increases in cosmic rays are to be expected. The only question is, how high will they go? You can monitor daily neutron counts right here on Spaceweather.com.
To find out if the cosmic ray surge is being felt at mid latitudes, yesterday Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a cosmic ray balloon to the stratosphere over central California:
Above: You’re never too young to start measuring cosmic rays
We’ve been launching these balloons almost weekly since 2015 to monitor atmospheric radiation over California. This payload landed in a remote Nevada desert more than 50 miles from the launch site. A recovery team is en route to retrieve the payload and its sensors now. Stay tuned for data!
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter on Friday to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to declassify the entirety of his Sept. 18 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky for use in the impeachment inquiry.
Though the vice president’s office, along with the rest of the administration, has stonewalled the impeachment inquiry’s requests for documents, Schiff’s committee obtained information about the Sept. 18 call through Jennifer Williams, a Pence aide who has already testified. Initially, Schiff explained, Williams testified about Pence’s call and did not assert that any part of it was classified. When she testified publicly, however, she said Pence’s office had since determined that the call was classified. She later sent the committee a “supplemental submission” after reviewing “materials” that refreshed her memory about the call — and it’s that supplemental submission that Schiff would like to see declassified.
“Having reviewed the Supplemental Submission, the Committee strongly believes that there is no legitimate basis for the Office of Vice President to assert that the information contained therein relating to your September 18 call with President Zelensky is classified,” Schiff wrote in the letter.
Cody Fenwick @ ALTERNET
The gene editing performed on Chinese twins to immunise them against HIV may have failed and created unintended mutations, scientists have said after the original research was made public for the first time.
Excerpts from the manuscript were released by the MIT Technology Review to show how Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui ignored ethical and scientific norms in creating the twins Lula and Nana, whose birth in late 2018 sent shockwaves through the scientific world.
He made expansive claims of a medical breakthrough that could “control the HIV epidemic”, but it was not clear whether it had even been successful in its intended purpose – immunising the babies against the virus – because the team did not in fact reproduce the gene mutation that confers this resistance.
A small percentage of people are born with immunity because of a mutation in a gene called CCR5 and it was this gene that He had claimed to have targeted using a powerful editing tool known as Crispr which has revolutionised the field since 2012.
Fyodor Urnov, a genome-editing scientist at the University of California, Berkeley told the MIT Technology Review: “The claim they have reproduced the prevalent CCR5 variant is a blatant misrepresentation of the actual data and can only be described by one term: a deliberate falsehood.
Natalie Kofler @ THE GUARDIAN
This just in: House Republicans are not being honest.
In a slapdash fashion, staffers for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who has been implicated himself in the Trump-Ukraine scandal, and two other Republican ranking members—Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas—have cobbled together a report on the impeachment inquiry that unshockingly proclaims Donald Trump innocent of…everything. This document was released on Monday ahead of the committee’s 300-page, highly detailed summary of its investigation and hearings that was unveiled on Tuesday and forwarded to the judiciary committee for that panel’s impeachment deliberations.
The Republican staff report is as predictable as a typical Trump tweet—and as mendacious. It assails and belittles the Democrats’ effort to investigate whether Trump muscled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to initiate investigations that would dig up dirt on Joe Biden and produce information to back up a nutty conspiracy theory that holds that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the 2016 election. And the GOP report proclaims the Democratic-led probe is “not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system.” Even after Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who Trump used as a lieutenant in this caper, testified that there was a quid pro quo—White House action backing Zelensky in return for the Ukrainian government pursuing these investigations—the Republicans claim in this report there was “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power.” The report also asserts there was “nothing wrong” with Trump asking Zelensky to investigate Biden’s activities regarding Ukraine and his son Hunter’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma. It’s the product of Deep Spin.
David Corn @ MOTHER JONES
The police forces in impoverished urban communities, equipped with military-grade weapons and empowered to harass and kill largely at will, along with mass incarceration, are the principal tools for the social control of the poor. There is little pretense of justice and even less of protection and safety. The corporate state and our oligarchic rulers fear a backlash from those they abandoned in deindustrialized enclaves across the country, what Malcolm X called our “internal colonies.” The daily brutality and terror keep the poor, especially poor people of color, in bondage. On average, more than 1,100 people, or one every eight hours, almost all unarmed, are killed every year by police in the United States. These killings are not accidents. They are not the results of a failed system. The system works exactly as it is designed to work. And until the system of corporate power is destroyed, nothing will change for the poor, or the rest of Americans.
Chris Hedges @ TRUTHDIG