What are we reading? December 16, 2021

Photo: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor

With about two-thirds of the globe living under autocracy, U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent Summit for Democracy acknowledged the worldwide fragility of freely elected government. But, says former U.K. foreign secretary David Miliband, strengthening democracy abroad will mean first stepping up the fight against abuses of power at home.

“If the Biden administration is serious about using the summit to help democratic countries build back better, it should start by strengthening institutions of accountability at home—especially as they pertain to warfare—and uniting democracies in a coalition against impunity abroad.” – Foreign Policy



A team of ranchers and researchers is looking into ways to beat back the threat of wildfires, with some bovine help. By using cows to carry out targeting grazing of grass in forest understory, the project is aimed not at stopping fires but at taming their ferocity and cutting risk to communities. – The Narwhal



Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Talk about hot travel takes. How about 150 million kilometres and 1999726.85 degrees Celsius or around 1.8 million F? No worries about coronavirus tests on this journey; more complictions about heading into the corona, better known as the Sun's atmosphere. NASA, courtesy of the Parker Solar Probe, is the first one there, and its trip to the Sun has got to be one of science's most impressive achievements for 2021. Humanity rightly takes a lot of heat for its innumerable examples of idiocy, greed and selfishness, but once in a while it achieves great things. – Inverse and DW




Meanwhile at the other end of the environmental thermometer, an interesting look at what researchers think might have triggered the Little Ice Age around 600 years ago. Looks like global warming is the prime suspect – again. – Phys.Org



Nelson Bennett, reporter

This may seem like a no-brainer – slapping photo-voltaic panels on an electric car so that it can charge while driving and extend its range – but it has taken a while before an EV maker could get the costs down. Now, Lighyear One, a Finnish startup, has announced a new model that it hopes to sell for  US$34,000. The use of solar photo-volatics on the car extends its driving range to 725 kilometres, the company claims. The current highest range EV on the market is the Tesla Model 5, which has a range of about 645 kilometres. A Nissan Leaf SF has a range of about 320 KM.



In an era when mainstream media has become increasingly politically polarized, it can be hard to know when the news you read is coming from a balanced, neutral source, or slants left or right. Ground News is an interesting news aggregator in that it uses a bias ranking for each news source to let readers know which way the media source leans. For example, former Monty Python actor John Cleese recently launched a complaint against the BBC for an interview he says was “dishonest and deceptive.” Ground News provides links to 10 different media sources covering the story. Whereas the Independent, which carries a story on the complaint, is ranked L (left of centre), a Daily Express story is ranked R (right of centre). And the BBC’s coverage? It is ranked C (centre).



Glen Korstrom, reporter

It's fascinating to see the trend of musicians selling their song catalogs to music production companies. Bob Dylan sold his catalog to Universal Music for more than US$300 million. Stevie Nicks sold a stake in her songwriting catalog for US$100 million. Now comes Bruce Springsteen with the biggest deal of all, so far – somewhere between US$500 million and US$600 million. One curiosity in this story on this phenomenon is the tax rate incentives. Songwriters who sell their catalogs only have to pay a 20% capital-gains tax on the sale. Were they instead to earn the value of the catalog through royalties, they would have to pay a 37% tax each year. – Wall Street Journal