From Democrat to Autocrat: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas




In 1982, Mahmoud Abbas—then a low-level Palestinian official visiting Moscow—presented the Soviet Union with a solution to the Middle East crisis: backed by the Russians, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) could buy an unpopulated Greek island that could serve as a temporary Palestinian state.

Hearing the suggestion, according to a PLO leader who was with Abbas at the time, one senior Soviet official looked at the 47-year-old future Palestinian president—and then burst out laughing.

The story is one of many relayed by Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon in their fascinating new book: The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas. It documents the Palestinian president’s life from his birth in 1935 in the village of Safed, through his exile in 1947 to Syria, to his return in the 1990s and ascension to the Palestinian leadership in 2004, following the death of Yasser Arafat.

From the beginning, the book presents Abbas as something of an outsider: recruited to Arafat’s Fatah movement while in Qatar in the early 1960s—where he worked as a teacher—Abbas never followed Arafat to Jordan, Lebanon or Tunisia, preferring to remain in the Gulf and Damascus. An early supporter of negotiations with Israel, he educated himself on Israeli politics at a time when few other PLO leaders had done so.

When the negotiations that would become the Oslo Accords began in the early 1990s, Abbas became known in both Israel and Washington as approachable and reliable when Arafat was at his most erratic. But despite his integral role in the accords, it was Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat that were rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993: Abbas’s name was noticeably absent.

Rumley and Tibon’s book deals expertly with this seminal period in Abbas’s life. They draw from interviews from all of the key parties, Israeli, American and Palestinian, that were involved and present a fresh and well-paced account of what is extremely well-trodden ground in historical accounts of the modern Middle East.

But it is in the more dramatic narratives where the quality of the writing really shines through: an account of the days that followed Arafat’s death in 2004, when Abbas was chosen as his successor, pulls the reader deep into the corridors and anterooms of the Muqata’a, the Palestinian seat of government in Ramallah. Likewise their telling of Abbas’s campaign for election in 2005—which saw the novice campaigner speaking before a crowd of gun-wielding, hostile militants in Jenin—is gripping.

President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine waits to address the 71st United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

In later chapters of the book we learn how Mahmoud Abbas spoke out against the violence of the Second Intifada (2001-2005), arguing—prophetically, as it would turn out—that it would only make life worse for the Palestinians.

We learn that Abbas was favored by the U.S. and Arab world as a man with whom business could be done and, a man who, after Arafat’s death, helped end the intifada, going on to hold negotiations with Israeli leaders including Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, and later Benjamin Netanyahu.

But aside from some interesting insights from Ahmad Tibi, the Israeli Arab politician who has been close to the Abbas family for decades, what we don’t learn is how Abbas's views were formed or how he felt about his successes and failures. What is in Abbas’s heart, what moves and motivates him, feels frustratingly absent.

That, it must be said, is no fault of the authors. As they make clear in their introduction, Rumley and Tibon asked to interview Abbas for the book, but his advisers demanded approval of the entire text—something that, understandably, they rejected.

And in some way this absence feels fitting: Abbas remains as aloof to us, the readers, as he is to the Palestinian people, who have never known or loved him as they did Arafat.

The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas Prometheus Books

If Abbas or his people had been given the opportunity to read the book, it is unlikely that they would approve of its conclusion: which is that while Abbas began his reign as the anti-Arafat—a democrat, a negotiator, a man of peace and reformer—he ended it arguably even more autocratic than the old man.

Just as Arafat had Abbas sidelined in the final years of his life as he began to suspect that his prime minister wanted to replace him, so Abbas ruthlessly purged the Palestinian Authority of his rivals. First Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah Gaza strongman, and then his former finance minister, Salam Fayyad, an intelligent and well-liked figure in Palestinian politics whose popularity Abbas perceived as a threat.  

Now, like Tony Montana in Oliver Stone’s 1983 film, Scarface, Abbas finds himself holed up in the muqata’a, isolated, paranoid and alone, having become the boss that he once despised. Surrounded by a tight-knit cabal of yes-men, Abbas clings to power, refusing (as in one anecdote from Rumley and Tibon) to even light his own cigarettes.

“Abbas began his rule of the Palestinian Authority with a sense of promise,” the authors write towards the end of the book. “He will end it as an autocrat.”

The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas is out now, published by Prometheus Books.

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Manchester United: Jose Mourinho Looks To Europa League Final After Tottenham Hotspur Defeat




With a European final to focus on, Jose Mourinho is no longer interested in the Premier League.

That, at least, was the slant of the Portuguese’s post-match interview after Manchester United was beaten 2-1 by Tottenham Hotspur in the last ever match at White Hart Lane Sunday.

"The most important thing for us now is having one less match to play,” Mourinho said in comments reported by BBC Sport.

"We have only one match to play and that's not in the Premier League."

United — assured of finishing no higher than fifth — has two fixtures left to play in the league this season against Southampton Wednesday and Crystal Palace Sunday.

Defeat by Tottenham ended Mourinho’s hopes of his team catching Manchester City for fourth, and qualification for the Champions League next season.

But United could still qualify for Europe’s elite club competition next season  they can beat Ajax in the Europa League final in Stockholm on May 24. Winning that competition carries entry into the Champions League group stages.

Tottenham’s valediction for its old ground rarely looked like being spoiled Sunday, after Victor Wanyama headed the Premier League runner-up into a sixth-minute lead. Harry Kane doubled that on 48 minutes, before Wayne Rooney scored a consolation goal for United.

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First Lady Kim Kardashian Photos Imagine Life Under President Kanye West




It was 2015 when rapper Kanye West, onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards, put in his first bid for president. Now, Americans are getting a glimpse of what the White House would look like with West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, as first lady of the United States, and it’s as regal, chic and classic-contemporary as when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis held the title.

Wearing a white two-piece suit, white gloves and a Jackie O coif, Kardashian channeled President John F. Kennedy’s wife for Interview magazine’s September cover, released Monday, in which she appears next to her 4-year-old daughter, North West. The cover is stamped with the apt headline “America’s New First Lady.”

Shot by photographer Steven Klein, Kardashian and her eldest child appear in a number of Oval Office–inspired photographs that hint at what life under President West could look like.

Despite Kardashian’s knack for oozing sex appeal and sharing candids of her curvy-body assets on social media, the reality star turned business mogul, who is worth some $45.5 million, according to Forbes, cleaned up quite astonishingly in the magazine spread.

In addition to presenting Kardashian as a refined and conservative (but still sexy) first lady in photos, Kardashian’s interview gave some insight on where she’d stand on issues pertaining to race and equality in America, something she said she is always conscious of, being a mother of two interracial children.

“We want to raise our kids to be really aware. I think that’s all you can do. The more you talk about things and keep them out in the open, the more they won’t be taboo. Kids are already so open. They say anything. So if you educate them, they feel like they have this knowledge and then they feel empowered,” Kardashian said.

Kardashian was recently criticized for defending makeup artist Jeffree Star, who went on a racist rant in a YouTube video about 12 years ago. However, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star has used her platform to denounce racists acts before, the latest being the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which a counterprotester was killed.

While Kardashian does make for one ravishing pretend first lady on Interview’s cover, it could become an image of reality (as many of Kardashian’s dreams and ideas usually become) if her husband actually does run for president in 2020.

West has been keeping a rather low profile since being hospitalized in November 2016. Just days before he was admitted for exhaustion, the rapper told fans during a stop on his tour that he was still holding onto the presidential aspirations he had previously mentioned in 2015.

“I’m concerned about putting our concept of how to do the [president’s] job in a new way, and if no one will do it in that way, I will take position in 2020 and do it myself,” West said during a concert in San Jose, California.

In the days following President Donald Trump’s election win, West visited him at Trump Tower in New York City to discuss multicultural issues.

“I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues," West wrote on Twitter at the time. "These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago. I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future president if we truly want change."

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Jürgen Klopp Says No Other Manager Could Do His Job. Here Are Four Who Might Fancy Their Chances




At a pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool's clash with Manchester United on Saturday, Jürgen Klopp was asked about his future, given that his team is 10 points adrift and has failed to perform in Europe this season.  

Klopp was defensive: “It’s a difficult job, yes. Are we where we should be? Not sure,” he said, adding, “If they sack me now, I don’t think there are a lot of managers who could do a better job than I do.”

But with a few managers now back on the market, along with some that would clearly suit the club’s ideology and history, Newsweek takes a look at the some contenders that could fill Klopp’s shoes.

Carlo Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti at Old Trafford, Manchester, in May 2011. Ancelotti has expressed interest in returning to England. Alex Livesey/Getty

After the shambolic performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last month, Bayern Munich parted ways with Ancelotti.

His national side has been constrained to a World Cup playoff as Italy failed to win their group, sparking rumors that Ancelotti is wanted by the Azzurri.

But the former Chelsea, Juventus and Real Madrid manager is eyeing for a return to English football, saying he would love to manage a team in the Premier League again.

Ancelotti won the double with Chelsea in 2010 and led the Blues to one of its most successful seasons ever, so he understands what it takes to be a successful English team.

Furthermore, he has won domestic cups in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, meaning he is one of the most successful managers around—and highly sought after.

Thomas Tuchel

Borussia Dortmund's head coach, Thomas Tuchel, in Cologne, Germany, in December 2016. Tuchel replaced Klopp, who managed the club for seven years. Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty

Also open to a Premier League move is former Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel, and considering Liverpool’s connections with the German side, it would not be a shocking appointment.

Tuchel will not have forgotten his encounter with the Reds in a classic European night at Anfield two seasons ago, where Liverpool stunned Dortmund—the team Klopp managed between 2008 and 2015—by coming back from two goals down to progress to the Europa League semifinals.

The prospect of managing the team that beat him so historically will no doubt interest the German.

It is said that history repeats itself, so could Klopp’s Dortmund replacement also be his Liverpool successor?

Gordon Strachan

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan could join the successful list of Scottish Liverpool managers. Reuters/Andrew Boyers

After Scotland’s road to Russia was cut short with a draw against Slovenia last weekend, Strachan decided to step down as manager of the national side, and could be tempted by an immediate return to football to restore his reputation.

The Scot has a brilliant record with Celtic and was named Scottish Manager of the Year on multiple occasions, winning league cups and consecutive league titles with The Bhoys.

Liverpool have historically been successful with Scottish managers at the reins, winning the league three times under club legend Bill Shankly, three times under Kenny Dalglish, and an FA Cup under Graeme Souness.

Could Strachan be the next successful Scot to lead Liverpool to glory?

Brendan Rodgers

A string of disappointing results has ramped up the pressure on current Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who was manager of Liverpool for three years. Phil Noble/Reuters

It is widely known that under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool are actually in no better position and with no more silverware than they were two years prior, under Brendan Rodgers.

After playing the same number of games, Klopp’s win rate is only 50 percent, whereas Rodgers is slightly higher, on 54.6 percent, leading to widespread concern over whether Liverpool made the right decision to employ the German back in 2015.

Rodgers is undeniably doing well with the Scottish champions Celtic, winning consecutive league titles and domestic cups during the two seasons he has been in charge. He could be a successful replacement for Klopp, and fans may not be averse to his return.

Although it would be madness to sack Klopp not even a quarter of the way through the season, the cutthroat business of the Premier League is merciless.

As the pressure builds, the match against Manchester United tomorrow could add to the tension between Klopp and the fans, who expect better from a club with such a rich history.


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Trump Delivers 100 Days of Climate Change Denial




This story originally appeared on  Mother Jones  and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk Collaboration.

Environmentalists were braced for President Donald Trump's first 100 days. They expected the executive orders. They expected Congress to pass a flurry of bills rolling back agency regulations. But even the most seasoned veterans of green wars didn't quite anticipate the scale and scope of Trump's all-out attack on the environment.

Now, activists like Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth president with 20 years of experience in the environmental movement, use the word "unprecedented," a lot.

Yet the sheer sweep and effectiveness of Trump's achievements in undermining decades of progress in this issue has sometimes been obscured by the frenzied news cycles of the last 100 days, with a failed Affordable Care Act repeal, a confirmed Supreme Court nominee, the thwarted Muslim travel ban, his Russia scandal, and more.

"He’s done so many things simultaneously that I don’t think the environmental story has been adequately told," Pica says. "I don’t think there’s been that one moment yet where a lot of people were impacted at one time." But "collectively, he’s in the process of perpetuating one of the most devastating attacks on our environmental laws."

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to ax any and all environmental regulation. “These ridiculous rules and regulations that make it impossible for you to compete," he said to a crowd of coal miners in 2016, "so we’re going to take all that off the table, folks.”

Coal miners aren't getting their jobs back, and Trump can't change the types of fuels we rely on, which are driven by more complex economics than what the president controls. Even the things he could conceivably get done, like weakening climate change regulation, will take years of agency work, not to mention potentially protracted litigation.

Given his strident anti-environmental agenda, this has been the real so-called success story of Trump's first 100 days: He's still managed to deliver on his pledge to remake federal environmental policy and, in the process, will inflict long-term damage.

First and most obviously, there is his cabinet, which includes the former CEO of ExxonMobil as the Secretary of State, a pro-oil Texan in charge of the Department of Energy, and the anti-EPA lawyer now in charge of the agency he frequently sued. Trump has been slow to put forward any names for candidates to fill the many empty slots at these agencies. Many of the new appointments have already clashed with agency career staff, but nowhere has the animosity been more apparent than at the EPA, where the staff have described an atmosphere of confusion, secrecy, and distrust of administrator Scott Pruitt, which has stifled their work.

"I have worked under six administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties," a Seattle EPA worker Michael Cox wrote in his resignation letter addressed to Pruitt. "This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an administration and by extension you, the individual selected to implement the policies. The message we are hearing is that this Administration is working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible."

Retirements, buyouts, and the loss of prospective talent are not changes that can be easily undone by future administrations.

Mustafa Ali, the longtime head of the EPA's Environmental Justice office, left the agency in March because Pruitt's priorities did not include promoting environmental protection through the lens of combating racism and discrimination. In Trump's budget, there is no funding for an Environmental Justice office. Even with Trump's budget likely dead on arrival in Congress, the EPA can shift resources or stifle work in offices such as this one, along with climate adaptation efforts all across the government. Pruitt already has closed the EPA's climate adaptation office.

Add to this the damage from legislation. Through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn regulations by a simple majority, Republicans have rolled back a series of Obama-era regulations. Once overturned, the law stipulates that the replacement regulation cannot be substantially similar, which means the agency is permanently handicapped in how it approaches future rulemaking. Trump signed one bill that overturned a rule limiting coal debris in streams, and another that forced oil companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. One of the obscure CRA bills that received little attention prevents the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management from updating its rule that outlines how the department collects input from the community on uses for federal lands. Efforts to overturn Interior's rule limiting methane on public lands have fallen short of votes in the Senate and have stalled, but public lands remain vulnerable.

Then there are the executive orders, which range from wishful proclamations that are being challenged in court (such as Trump's attempt to roll back two regulations for every one regulation put forward) to wide-ranging attempts to reshape the government's mission. He's directed agencies to draw up a list of climate regulations he could repeal across the government, for instance, and declare that climate change is no longer a national security threat despite statements to the contrary by his Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Trump's executive orders sends a clear message that resonates in policy: Climate change has no place in this administration. Nada Culver, BLM action director of The Wilderness Society, says, "What we could see in a year is that some of this filters down to concrete guidance" on using public lands to prioritize fossil fuels in its leasing decisions and planning.

The GOP's attacks on science are just getting started, with bills moving through Congress to hamper the types of research the EPA can use to justify its rulemaking. Internally, Trump can cut off the public's access to scientists and their research by changing communications policies, as was done during the Bush administration.

This is just a glimpse of Trump's deeds in his first 100 days. The EPA has seen the most dramatic shift in a short period of time, but his directives have already put pressure on the State Department, Interior, Energy, and even the Pentagon to ignore the risks of climate change, even though his cabinet isn't in lockstep on the issue. On the world stage, Trump is ensuring confusion and chaos for the recent Paris climate change agreement, even if he caves on his promise to officially pull the U.S. out, a decision that keeps getting punted past Trump's promised deadline on the campaign trail.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that is officially promoting a policy of climate change denial, and this is just what we've seen in his first few months. If the first 100 days are any sign, Trump is just getting started.


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Novelist Kim Stanley Robinson Predicts the Future While We Dither




This article originally appeared on iDigitalTimes.

Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the grandmasters of modern science fiction, has released his latest novel, New York 2140. It’s a sprawling adventure story/political drama set in New York City after climate change sends sea levels surging more than 50 feet—drowning Lower Manhattan and transforming a city of gridlike streets into a city of gridlike canals. A few months ago, I spoke to Robinson via email (note: before the 2016 election, with a follow-up this month), chatting about climate change, income inequality, capitalism and more—some of the big ideas he looks at in his new novel. (We also talked to him about his last book, Aurora, and the future of space travel—check it out here.)

New York 2140 is a deeply political book, and in many ways feels extremely contemporary. But more than that, it’s an amazingly compelling portrait of New York City in a future that’s really not that far away—and not that far-fetched. A city that’s simultaneously very different from today’s New York, and one that’s very much like it. This interview has been lightly edited and is spoiler-free, except for a few details on the setting.

iDigitalTimes (IDT): What big ideas are you looking at in New York 2140?

Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR): The story is set in lower Manhattan after an immense sea level rise. Naturally the sea level rise would wreak havoc on coasts all around the world, but what I write about is the period of time after that, when people are adjusting to the new situation. They won’t be abandoning New York harbor, so the adjustments to the new reality’s challenges for a variety of New Yorkers forms the heart of the tale. Lower Manhattan as “Super Venice”— it’s interesting.

IDT: You’ve written in 2312 about post-capitalist economics. Any hints as to how this will come into play in New York 2140? How does capitalism evolve in the world of extreme climate change?

KSR: Extreme climate change is being caused in part by capitalist economics, so we have to change the latter to be able to deal with the former.  New York 2140 will tell the story of the first steps we might take in that direction.

IDT: John Maynard Keynes predicted  a 15-hour work week  and lives of leisure back in the ’30s, which of course hasn’t happened despite huge productivity gains. You’ve generally had a positive view of the future in your work. How can social advancement and societal structure keep up, or catch up, with technological advancement? Or does society always lag behind?

KSR: Our social structures create the technological advances, so it’s a very tight interaction there. One way of unpacking this is to say that capitalism and the profit motive are in some kind of competition with science and utopian thinking, in determining what happens to us both technologically and socially. So there again it’s an interaction, maybe a struggle for control. Ultimately we decide what we want in a big amorphous process we call history.

Keynes was a great economist, but he’s like everyone else when it comes to predicting the future; at that point he becomes a science fiction writer, and therefore is bound to get the future wrong. Because no one is good at prediction. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying, but always in the utopian mode—i.e., not “this is what will happen” but rather “this is what should happen” or the reverse, “this is what we should try to avoid.”

IDT: What effects do you foresee from the rise of Silicon Valley and a new generation of wealthy industrialists—some with strong utopian or even science fiction-esque leanings, some strongly libertarian/pro-capitalist/anti-government, some both?

KSR: They don’t matter. Was Rockefeller important? Carnegie? Very rich people are greedy or generous, or both—they do selfish things and good works—but so what? They’re interchangeable. They’re just Horatio Alger stories, or the story of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his back yard. As a class they want to perpetuate their power, and as a class they’re therefore dangerous and need to be legislated into harmlessness.

I’d like to see individual income taxed as progressively as in the Eisenhower administration, and then also see corporate assets taxed in a similar fashion, as suggested by Thomas Piketty. Then the wealthy would have enough to be comfortable, but not enough to try to buy the political system.

IDT: Why are some institutional forces so powerfully opposed to acknowledging climate change? How does this era, which you’ve called “The Dithering,” come to an end?

KSR: Most of the denialist institutions have already slunk away and pretended they never held that position. Some of them, like the Republican Party and its think tanks, are still pretending not to believe in climate change, but as the world heats up they will continue to slink away.

The market system itself is the crux of the issue, and its mispricing of the true cost of things is one reason it too is in crisis. Maybe its ongoing failures will force us to properly value our biosphere, and then properly price what we do.

I have hope that “The Dithering” is coming to an end, and that we’ve started to invent a post-capitalism that puts us in a sustainable balance with the biosphere. There’s a long way to go, the carbon burning is still excessive, but we need to acknowledge also the progress we’ve made, such as the Paris agreement, and the widespread common awareness of the problem we all face. That’s the necessary first step, and it’s happened, and more will follow.

IDT: Can humanity confront worsening climate change and income inequality effectively without a decisive break from current entrenched systems? Can we slowly evolve or does there have to be a revolution?

KSR: That’s a good question, very hard to answer. Clearly we have to change as fast as possible, so then the question becomes how do we do that, and what do we call it? My feeling is that evolution is more likely than revolution, so what we need to conceptualize is very rapid evolution. If we can evolve quickly enough, we can avoid a mass extinction event and the resulting human catastrophe. Some analyses support the idea that we can do this. And we’ve seen a rapid shift in the cost of clean energy versus dirty energy, for instance, even in the distorted economics we live in now. If we legislate a better economic system that incorporates ecological accounting, our technological powers seem up to the task of providing for all humans adequately, while all the other big mammals and the rest of Earth’s creatures and plants are also prospering. It looks like it could work, although the window of opportunity to get to that balance is small, and always shrinking one day at a time.

I think it’s better to go immediately to work on all possible reforms and evolutionary changes, than it would be to declare the situation so bad that we need a revolution if we’re going to succeed. Revolution by whom? Doing what? The mind reels as the means don’t seem there—the supposed revolution won’t clarify even in the imagination, and then we do nothing. So maybe rapid evolution is our best possible revolution. Or you see phrases like the long revolution, or the emergency century—however you conceptualize it, it has to include viable first steps we can all perform right now.

[The following questions were asked after receiving a review copy of the book, and may contain light spoilers for the setting and themes.]

IDT: New York 2140 is reasonably specific about the mechanisms for (and timing of) sea level rise—specifically the positive feedback loop leading to very quick rises, followed by long intervals of relative quiet. What's the current state of research on this? How much (if anything) is creative license?

KSR: It’s almost entirely creative license. I will say it’s based on some glaciology which has noted that when glaciers detach from their substrates, and stop being essentially frozen to the rock and begin sliding on a layer of water or slurry, they will jolt downhill for a while, moving much faster than normal, until they reach a better equilibrium with the slope. This results in a common “surge and stop” pattern, which I extrapolated from. The Hansen paper speaks of “the buttress of the buttress,” which is ice resting on sea bottom by dint of the ice’s weight being more than the depth of water under it; this is unstable and if it gives way, huge valleys of ice are perched ready to slide into the sea.

Kim Stanley Robinson's new book, "New York 2140," is out now. Orbit Books

IDT: The book is more overtly political than Aurora or 2312 , as befits the subject matter. Was that the plan from the beginning? Did world events in 2016 have any influence on the writing process?

KSR: Yes, that was the plan from the beginning. I wanted to try some utopian financial science fiction; that was the start of it. The book was mostly written in 2015 and the first three months of 2016, so for the most part its thinking predates the current situation.

IDT: Before the election, you told me that you had hope that "the Dithering" was coming to an end as more institutions back away from climate change denialism. Does the ascent of a new administration opposed to environmentalism change this? Is it a bump in the road, a change in direction, a wake-up call?

KSR: It’s more dithering. Scott Pruitt [the new administrator of the EPA] has just announced he doesn’t believe the scientific consensus on CO2 as global warming agent; this is worse than dithering, being a flat denial of science itself by the head of a science agency. But he will quickly pass, and it could be that the worldwide movement is toward dealing with climate change. We’ll see; it’s quite a fight now.

IDT: As far as climate change goes, can we still metaphorically  close the barn doors before the horses get out, or are the logistical and scientific challenges too great?

I know my “citizen” used that image of the barn doors, but really it’s not a good image for our situation. We are in climate change already, but it’s never too late to do something about it, and try to minimize the amount of it that the future generations are going to get. It’s a process that will last centuries, so it’s never too late. The logistical, scientific, and economic challenges are great, but by far the worst of them in terms of recalcitrance are the economic/political problems of people trying to focus on profit while the biophysical support system we rely on is being damaged. This is stupid and needs to change. The main problem is there.

IDT: How will New York pizza evolve over the course of the next century?

KSR: New York pizza is like the shark or the cockroach, and having achieved perfection in its ecological niche it will persist in its current form for the next 350 million years.

New York 2140 is out today from Orbit Books.

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