The Two Superpowers
November 27, 2019
This is a longer edition as we won’t be sending an email out over the long Thanksgiving weekend. We hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are thankful for our fellow team members at Daily Pnut, our readers, and our families!
“Be mild with the mild, shrewd with the crafty, confiding to the honest, rough to the ruffian, and a thunderbolt to the liar. But in all this, never be unmindful of your own dignity.” – John Brown
India Spins The Wheel Of Misfortune
Nowhere are the catastrophic effects of greedy mismanagement and its close companion, science avoidance/denial, more evident than in India, one of the world’s most water-stressed countries. Decades of wrong-headed government policies and global warming are now operating in tandem, leaving millions of Indians defenseless and their future ominous.
Raghu Murtugudde is an atmospheric scientist who describes how climate change is upending India’s historical reliance on weather patterns. “Global warming has destroyed the concept of the monsoon,” Murtugudde wrote in a recent scientific paper. Seasonal rains are more intense and more erratic; periods of both heavy downpours and lengthy droughts are becoming commonplace. The problem is especially acute across the largely poor central Indian belt, which has seen extreme rainfall events increase threefold, while total annual rainfall is ever-declining.
Yet officials continue to allow lush forests to be cleared, developers to pave over creeks and lakes, and precious groundwater to be over-extracted. Water is so scarce in numerous communities that people and animals die, or so plentiful elsewhere that soybean and corn crops drown, but taxpayer dollars continue to be used to subsidize sugar cane, one of the planet’s thirstiest crops. State-owned banks offer farmers cheap loans and the government subsidizes electricity, encouraging farmers to pump groundwater for their sugarcane fields. In 2019 almost $880 million in export subsidies was approved for sugar mills, some of which are owned by politicians and their friends.
In densely-populated Mumbai, this year’s exceptionally heavy downpours coincided with high tides on the Mithi River to overwhelm sewers and inundate streets with knee-high fetid water. And in Delhi, the faithful worshipped in a sacred river that was covered in toxic foam from industrial runoff.
- Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency, headquartered at the Hague in Brussels. On Monday Europol announced it had accomplished a major blow to terrorist radicalization efforts by stripping more than 26,000 items of Islamic State propaganda from popular online services like Google and Twitter.
- A Belgian federal prosecutor told reporters: “For the time being, for as far as we know, IS is not present on the internet anymore and we will see how fast, if ever, they will regain service.” (NPR)
The Debate Over End Times
- On Monday the Wilton Bulletin, a weekly newspaper in Connecticut, published a story about the brushfires and record-breaking drought currently devastating Australia. The story said as a result of this ongoing devastation “koalas have become ‘functionally extinct.’”
- The story quoted the chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation as estimating that “over 1,000 koalas have been killed as a result of the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed, leading to their functional extinction.” A GoFundMe page set up to help koalas injured in the fires quickly raised over a million dollars.
- But other scientists are warning that koalas are endangered — declining and vulnerable, yes — but not actually extinct. These scientists worry that exaggerating the koalas’ plight can actually hurt conservation efforts. “What is particularly frustrating about the term ‘functional extinction’ is it indicates a population that is basically past the point of no return, so it means that nothing really can be done,” said an associate professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute and School of Biology and Ecology. “That might seem like scientists quibbling over terms or trying to argue for nerdy levels of precision, but a strong statement like that should mean something.” (Wilton Bulletin, NYT)
The French VS Domestic Violence
- Last weekend tens of thousands of people marched in Paris and other French cities to protest against gender-based violence; in 2018, 121 women were killed by current or former partners.
- On Monday the government announced new measures that seek to protect women from violent partners and encourage them to file complaints. But advocacy groups said the proposals don’t go far enough, and lack the funding to be truly effective. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Archaeologists fear Bolsonaro agenda will kill Amazon civilisation research (Guardian)
- 2 Months After Failed Moon Landing, India Admits Its Craft Crashed (NPR)
- Albania Rocked By 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake, Killing At Least 18 (NPR)
- Generation Z Wants to Leave Russia in Record Numbers, Poll Shows (Bloomberg, $)
- Measles Cases Continue to Rise Around the World: Nearly a quarter of a million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are thought to have been infected by measles in 2019 alone, the World Health Organization said. (NYT, $)
The Two Superpowers
- TikTok ‘makeup tutorial’ goes viral with call to action on China’s treatment of Uighurs (Guardian)
- China Stays Upbeat About Trade Deal With U.S.: Beijing’s chief trade negotiator spoke with his U.S. counterparts by phone on Tuesday (WSJ, $)
- U.S. Tech Companies Prop Up China’s Vast Surveillance Network: Intel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and others aided and profited from China’s multibillion-dollar surveillance industry, used in its Muslim crackdown (WSJ, $)
- Data leak reveals how China ‘brainwashes’ Uighurs in prison camps (BBC)
- Xi Jinping has had a highly embarrassing week that undermined China’s power in the world. Here’s why he probably doesn’t care. (Business Insider)
- Warnings, Wariness Mingle With Joy After Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Landslide (NPR)
From Sea To Dying Sea
- The lead author of a research study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the increasing number of Americans dying in the prime of their lives — between ages 25 and 64 — is a trend not observed in other wealthy nations.
- Major causes of death in this age group are from drug overdoses, particularly opioids, alcohol and suicides. These “excess deaths” or “deaths of despair” of people dying well before they’re expected to tend to be clustered in the nation’s Rust Belt, where once booming steel industry economies have been in decline since the 1970s.
- Women, racial minorities and people living in the Ohio Valley are hit hardest. Dr. Steven Woolf called the trend “a distinctly American phenomenon.” (NBCNews)
Collect Calls Are Certainly Collecting
- A billion dollar business not much in the headlines is the prison phone business. Millions of family members of people in prisons and jails across America are funding the $1.2 billion industry that prison reform advocates have been trying unsuccessfully for years to fix.
- Securus and GTL control more than 70 percent of the market for prison calls. They’ve won contracts across the US by awarding kickbacks and commissions to jail and prison facilities, and boosted profits by adding consumer fees and including extra services into contracts.
- Phone calls to family are vital to inmates’ morale and relationships, but the high rates and fees being charged are what the head of the FCC calls “the greatest, most distressing, type of injustice I have ever seen in the communications sector.” (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Net support for impeachment grew steadily during U.S. congressional hearings, poll shows (Reuters)
- Two White House budget officials quit over Ukraine aid concerns, says witness (Guardian)
- Here Are The Presidential Candidates Women Have Been Donating To (NPR)
- US senator to investigate if foreign spyware used to target Americans. Exclusive: Ron Wyden says hacking claims raise “serious national security issues” (Guardian)
- Scale of gun violence at US schools revealed by database (Guardian)
- ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Winter Storm Will Hit U.S. As Thanksgiving Nears, Forecasters Warn (NPR)
- Leaked Emails Fuel Calls For Stephen Miller To Leave White House (NPR)
The Story Behind The Second Most Requested Free Bird
- This Thanksgiving week President Trump continued the tradition of pardoning a pair of turkeys. But a statement he made showed the tradition is not only misunderstood, but not as old as all that.
- At the ceremony Trump commented: “It is said Abraham Lincoln was the first to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey.” Actually, Lincoln was the first to spare a turkey, but it was a Christmas turkey.
- Here’s the real lowdown on the relatively recent “tradition.” First, the National Turkey Federation, whose website is literally EatTurkey.org, sponsors the event and has spent almost $3 million on lobbying efforts since 1998. Big Turkey has been giving turkeys to presidents since 1947. But these turkeys were originally meant to be eaten, not pardoned.
- The first Thanksgiving turkey to receive a reprieve was on November 19, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy received a 40-pound turkey with a sign around its neck that read, “GOOD EATING, MR. PRESIDENT!” Kennedy reportedly said “We’ll just let this one grow.” The next day a Los Angeles Times article headlined: “Turkey gets presidential pardon.”
- The first president to use the word “pardon” when referring to letting a turkey off the hook was Ronald Reagan in 1987, and he said it as a joke to deflect from a reporter’s question involving the Iran Contra scandal. The event was ultimately formalized by President George H. W. Bush in 1989. (NPR)
Thanksgiving Weekend Reads
- Pointless emails: they’re not just irritating – they have a massive carbon footprint (Guardian)
- I Walked “Like a Man” For a Week, and Here’s What I Realized (WaPo, $)
- Turkey’s Ancient Tradition of ‘Paying it Forward’: In Turkey, the seemingly modern idea of paying it forward goes back centuries. It’s called askıda ekmek and relates specifically to paying it forward with bread. (BBC)
- Most people are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better. (Vox)
- How to – Literally – Sound More Confident and Persuasive: Speak up, it’ll help. (NYT, $)
- Noise pollution is everywhere. And the health effects are real. (Vox)
Food for Thought
- How Families Eat In The Arctic: From An $18 Box Of Cookies To Polar Bear Stew (NPR)
- Christmas dinner ‘could cost more this year’ (BBC)
- Is eating too much salt damaging your health? (BBC)
- Doctors remove giant 7.4kg kidney from man in India (Guardian)
- ‘World’s best sushi restaurant’ stripped of its three Michelin stars (Guardian)
“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.” – Kahill Gibran
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