Midday open thread: 'Doomsday Clock' set at 2 minutes to midnight; Alzheimer's cause found?

Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is Donald Trump IS… Tariff Man!

The 2019 edition of the Doomsday Clock has been released—“A new abnormal: It is still 2 minutes to midnight”: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists invented the now-iconic Doomsday Clock in 1947. This was designed to bring attention to the perilous nature of the scary new nuclear world. Midnight is Armageddon, and the scientists initially set the clock at 7 minutes before midnight. Only one other time has it been set at 2 minutes before midnight. That was in 1953 in the wake of the first U.S. test of a hydrogen device on Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. That device generated a 10.4 megaton yield, 700 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that obliterated Hiroshima. The furthest from midnight the clock has ever been set was 17 minutes before midnight in 1991 thanks to the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, the crushing of a coup by Soviet hard-liners, and other positive developments. Here is a short video on the origin and history of the Doomsday Clock. Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin notes in her announcement today:

As the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board prepared for its first set of Doomsday Clock discussions this fall, it began referring to the current world security situation as a “new abnormal.” This new abnormal is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time. The new abnormal risks emboldening autocrats and lulling citizens around the world into a dangerous sense of anomie and political paralysis.

As you will see in the pages that follow, this year’s Doomsday Clock statement draws attention to the devolving state of nuclear and climate security. It also points to a qualitative change in information warfare and a steady misrepresentation of fact that is undermining confidence in political structures and scientific inquiry. At the same time, science is racing forward, and new global governance structures are desperately needed to manage rapidly evolving and potentially dangerous technologies.

White paper from People’s Policy Project explains the benefits of making the 86-year-old Tennessee Valley Authority the point of the spear of a Green New Deal.

Elusive cause of Alzheimer’s may have been found. A drug to block that cause is entering clinical trials this year:

If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.

That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine. […]

Robert Caro weighs in on “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives.”

MIDDAY TWEET

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Remember when it was politically damning not to know what a grocery checkout scanner looked like? Now billionaires dismiss missing two paychecks and it’s barely a blip.

— emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 24, 2019

“No More Deaths” volunteer group debates the future of its work in wake of convictions for providing water to migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert to reach the U.S. border: For years, the bodies of people who attempted the desperate journey have been found in remote stretches of the desert, which prompted humanitarian efforts to give them a chance to survive. Last week U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco found four volunteers of the 15-year-old organization guilty of misdemeanor charges for leaving aid and knowingly trespassing on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge without a permit. They face possible time in the slammer and a $250 fine. In 2008, No More Deaths volunteer Dan Millis left plastic water jugs for migrants crossing the Mexican border into the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Velasco was the judge who found him guilty, too. But two years later, the 9th Circuit Court overturned that conviction. Four more volunteers are slated for trials in February and March. The Rev. John Fife, a retired Presbyterian minister and one of No More Death’s founders, told Cronkite News: “[The convictions] will have no impact. We have a responsibility, not only to the right to provide humanitarian aid in the event of a tragedy like this, but we have a responsibility to see that the right to provide humanitarian aid is maintained.”

Remember all those supposed benefits of killing Net Neutrality? They don’t exist.

• U.N. chief tells the elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the world is “losing the race” against climate change: Antonio Guterres warned business and political leaders that bolder action is needed if runaway global warming is going to arrested. “In my opinion, it is the most important global systemic threat in relation to the global economy,” the UN secretary-general said. “Climate change is running faster than what we are. I believe we are losing the race.” How many times this must be said before it gets fully absorbed and generates the comprehensive changes to address the crisis is anybody’s guess. 

The Guardian interviews five people whose lives were wrecked by conspiracy theorists’ lies.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: SOTU crisis averted. Greg Dworkin notes that Trump’s polling at his lowest, with no shutdown end in sight. Wilbur Ross says get a bridge loan. Union prez suggests general strike. Why Trump keeps losing in court. Oh, BTW, we had another mass shooting.

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