February 25, 2020
“It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.”
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
– Joseph Conrad
Tracey Nearmy via Getty Images
We Most Likely Started The Fire, It’s Been Lately Burning And We Haven’t Been Learning
Australia is both poster child and global bellwether for the effects of climate change. Its increasingly volatile climate has been delivering one catastrophe after another, each more intense than the one before; scientists call it a cycle of “compound extremes.”
Years of drought left dry conditions perfectly suited for the all-consuming bush fires that first flared last October. Now with no vegetation to soak up a foot of rain from a tropical storm, areas near where the inferno raged are being inundated by catastrophic flooding.
Rebuilding after each disaster becomes much more complicated. The insurance industry is scrambling to adjust, forced to make a ‘catastrophe declaration’ for the sixth time in five months. Australia’s government has dismissed climate change for years, and many people in disaster zones are complaining that officials have yet to outline clear recovery plans that take future threats into account. Plus, they’re getting mixed signals about whether it’s even safe to rebuild. “Without some sort of vision and leadership,” a former dairy farmer said, “we’re not quite certain what to do.”
Meanwhile the economic costs are skyrocketing. Tourism has already taken a major hit; long-term the country should expect its agricultural output and property values to suffer. A recent study by the Climate Council predicts property losses related to climate change could reach $384 billion by 2030, and $510 billion by 2100.
Climate scientists in Sidney say Australia should have been better prepared, because what’s happening has long been predicted. “We’ve been writing about climate change being a stress multiplier for many years,” said one.
Apocalypse (Buy) Now!
- First came Brexit, with some Brits looking ahead and thinking about stockpiling emergency food in case of shortages. Then came the coronavirus. That’s made James Blake, owner of Europe’s largest emergency food supplier, one of the few people whose business has surged thanks to the epidemic.
- For right around $500 bucks, Blake’s company — Emergency Food Storage UK — will provide one month of food, like freeze-dried macaroni cheese, chicken-fried rice, and the delectable powered custard apple crunch. Since late December, when the disease emerged in China, Blake’s been swamped with orders. Just in the last two weeks alone he’s done as much business as the company would normally do in six months. But all that business has emptied most of the shelves; all that’s left are some tins of spaghetti bolognese, chili and three-bean stew.
- It’s not just food storage driving people to spend — merchants selling antibacterial hand gel, dust masks and facial respirators are also doing a brisk business. And not surprisingly, prices are spiking. (Guardian)
- The last time Somalia had an election in which everyone could participate was in 1969. Following that were decades of dictatorship, clan-based rule, civil war, and relentless terrorist attacks. Now, Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has signed a landmark federal law that paves the way for the country to hold its first “one person, one vote” election in half a century.
- The law should replace the existing clan-based, power-sharing model, which gives the country’s main clans equal representation in government. But under the new system clans are still ensured representation in parliament, giving rise to concerns about the possibility of continued marginalization of minorities and women.
- Somali women have struggled to have a voice in this male-dominated culture, where traditional tribal elders would select their representatives in parliament.
- In 2016, a 30 percent parliamentary gender quota was introduced, giving women more leverage to demand greater influence and representation. The chair of the national independent electoral commission called this an “historic time for Somalia.” “[T]he clan element is still there,” he said. “But parliament will put in place necessary measures to make sure women get their 30% seats reserved.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Global stock markets plunge on coronavirus fears (BBC) & Health insurer shares pummeled by Sanders surge, virus worries (Reuters)
- Dead within three hours of arrival at a Russian prison (BBC)
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Scott Heins via Getty Images
The Jury Doesn’t Greenlight Weinstein’s Sequel
- 67-year-old former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty by a Manhattan jury on the lesser two of five criminal sex crimes charges: third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act.
- He was acquitted of the most serious charges: predatory sexual assault and first-degree rape. The trial was one of the most closely watched in the #MeTwo era, and provided a measure of vindication for the six women who testified that Weinstein attacked and sought to intimidate them.
- Prosecutors said the women’s testimonies described a familiar pattern of behavior by Weinstein: initial offers of work to a young actress or model, followed by an encounter alone under false pretenses, then a forced sexual act and weeks of harassment and intimidation afterward. Weinstein continues to maintain all of the sexual contact was consensual.
- The jury, seven men and five women, reached its decision after 30 hours of deliberations over five days. Weinstein will likely face prison time when he’s sentenced on March 11. He also faces trial in LA on charges of rape and sexual assault. (NPR)
- ‘His reputation will never recover’: the rape trial that took down Harvey Weinstein (Guardian)
- Opinion | The Truth About Harvey Weinstein’s Walker (NYT, $)
- The six women who accused Harvey Weinstein at his trial, and what they said (Guardian)
Additional US News
- California couple lost in woods survived by drinking from puddle and eating ferns (Guardian)
- Bernie Sanders’s “60 Minutes” interview renews concerns over communist country trips and how they shaped his politics – The (WaPo, $) & Opinion | Sanders is leading something rare and unpredictable in U.S. politics (WaPo, $)
- Judge Rejects Roger Stone’s Attempt To Remove Her From His Case (NPR)
- ‘Supreme Inequality’ Makes A Case That The Top U.S. Court Has Widened The Wealth Gap (NPR)
- Three in four Americans support Equal Rights Amendment, poll shows (Guardian)
- National Security Wiretap System Was Long Plagued by Risk of Errors and Omissions (NYT, $)
- As Trump Barricades the Border, Legal Immigration Is Beginning to Plunge (NYT, $)
ABO, Easy As 123
- A new genomic test can obtain results from blood samples much faster than the traditional methodology that takes days or weeks. It works by matching the DNA or RNA of microbes in a patient’s bodily fluid against vast databases of all known bacteria, viruses or fungi that can sicken humans.
- Once it rapidly sorts through the data, it picks out the pathogen most likely making a patient sick.
- It’s part of a new generation of lab tests under development, many of which can produce results in hours, revolutionizing the way doctors diagnose and treat infections. Considering the coronavirus epidemic in China and now traveling around the world, getting test results quickly is more urgent than ever. (NYT)
Additional Loose NutsReads
- We enjoy planking for exercising but that’s for a few minutes. A few hours? Only a Marine could enjoy that: 5 World planking record set by ex-marine, aged 62 (BBC)
- I hope George Hood the planker is reading this article now: Soreness is good and scales are pointless: the 10 biggest myths in fitness (Guardian)
- The ethereal art of fog-catching (BBC)
- Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician depicted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ dies at 101 (NBC)
- Can Germans’ right to switch off survive the digital age? (BBC)
“Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.” – Joseph Conrad