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Good Reads: From climate reporting, to Romas in France, to an ancient board game

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Arno Balzarini/Keystone/AP

(Read caption) Cars are dug out from beneath snow in Zuoz, Switzerland.

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In 1975, Newsweek science editor Peter Gwynne wrote a nine-paragraph story that ran on page 64 of the magazine. It noted that average global temperatures had gradually decreased since about 1940, and it rounded up some climate scientists predicting that the planet could move toward the colder temperatures of several centuries ago.

Doug Struck, writing for The Daily Climate and appearing in Scientific American, revisits the long tail of that minor article, and several similar ones that followed it in other publications. It is prominently cited today as Exhibit A in arguments against the existence of global warming.

Mr. Gwynne didn’t see it as a big deal at the time. He told Mr. Struck: “It was just an intriguing piece about what a certain group in a certain niche of climatology was thinking.” That cooling trend is now long over and has been dwarfed by the rise in global temperatures since the Newsweek article appeared.
Gwynne is philosophical about writing science for popular audiences. “I’ve been willing to accept that some of that is misused and misinterpreted.”

Community care for the mentally ill

For more than 700 years, the Flemish town of Geel, Belgium, has been a haven for people termed elsewhere, though not here, “mentally ill.” After a medieval Irish princess was killed there by her maddened father, the town became a pilgrimage site for praying for the mentally afflicted. The townspeople began a tradition of taking them in as “boarders” – both out of Christian charity and as an extra set of hands on the farm.


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