I’m Starting Again
March 5, 2020
And the truth about coronavirus? “I don’t think that we are going to get out of this completely unscathed,” he said. “I think that this is going to be one of those things we look back on and say boy, that was bad.” – Anthony Fauci, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director
“Perhaps our greatest distinction as a species is our capacity, unique among animals, to make counter-evolutionary choices.” – Jared Diamond
A Country Fighting a Biological War is Becoming a Nuclear Threat
Inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency — which monitors a nation’s nuclear capabilities and reports to the UN — have determined Iran’s growing stockpile of nuclear fuel has crossed a critical threshold. A confidential report issued Tuesday to the agency’s 171 member states says that for the first time since the 2015 nuclear accord went into effect, Tehran appears to have enough enriched uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon, although it is still months or years away from manufacturing a warhead and delivering it over long distances.
The report also documented how for the first time Iran’s leadership blocked inspectors from visiting three critical sites where evidence of past nuclear activity existed. IAEA’s newly appointed director, Rafael Mariano Grossi, an Argentine diplomat with years of experience working on nuclear issues, said it was urgent that Iran “immediately cooperate fully” by allowing inspectors access to the sites, and by answering additional questions “related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.” Iran responded that it “will not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obligated to respond to such allegations.”
President Trump repeatedly called the eight nation nuclear pact, spearheaded by former president Obama, a “terrible deal.” Despite consensus that Iran was complying with the accord’s strict limits on uranium production, Trump chose to withdraw the US in 2018 and reimpose harsh sanctions, insisting a drastic cut in Iran’s oil revenues would force it to abandon its nuclear capabilities. Instead the decision effectively gave Tehran an excuse to begin rebuilding its stockpile. The White House had no comment on the report’s findings. Additional read: How Nuclear Testing Transformed Science (The Atlantic)
As The World Turns (Anti-Democratic)
- Non-partisan democracy advocacy organization Freedom House has published its annual report on the state of freedom in the world. This year’s edition is titled “A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy” and it’s not good news. “Democracy and pluralism are under assault,” the report’s author, Sarah Repucci, writes. “The unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers are combining to make the world increasingly hostile….”
- Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz said: “This year’s report is deeply concerning, in that it finds that we are in the 14th year of a global recession in democracy.” Repucci identified the most common areas of decline as taking place “in functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, and rule of law.”
- America’s ranking dropped 8 points this year, barely outscoring Argentina and Croatia. Much of the blame for the slide goes to President Trump, whose administration “has failed to exhibit consistent commitment to a foreign policy based on the principles of democracy and human rights.”
- Trump has “given a pass to tyrannical leaders … including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea,” while fiercely attacking the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy. (NPR)
Amir Levy via Getty Images
THe Neverending Elections
- Benjamin Netanyahu has won a plurality in Israel’s parliamentary election on Monday, giving him a good chance of forming a government and earning a record fifth term. He handily defeated his chief rival, Benny Gantz.
- The support from Netanyahu’s most fervent political base — Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent, known by the Hebrew name Mizrahim — never wavered, even though in just two weeks he will stand trial on bribery and other serious corruption charges. Mizrahim have been a crucial pillar of Netanyahu’s Likud party ever since the party’s formation in the 1970s.
- Progressive Israelis are baffled by Mizrahi allegiance to Likud, which many say has failed to address social and economic inequities that have disadvantaged the Mizrahim. But Likud’s push to expand settlements in occupied territory has benefited the lives of many working-class Mizrahim who moved into subsidized housing in the West Bank.
- One journalist suggested that the criminal indictments against Netanyahu, instead of hurting him, may actually have fired up his supporters, who felt they needed to turn out to protect him. (NYT)
Additional World News
- How did the coronavirus outbreak start? It didn’t come from a lab in Wuhan, China. (Vox)
- How is the coronavirus outbreak going to end? Here’s how similar epidemics played out. (WaPo, $)
- Over 300 cases of child exploitation went unnoticed by Facebook – study (Guardian)
- U.S. carries out air strike on Taliban, calls for halt to ‘needless attacks’ (Reuters)
- Golden Dawn: the rise and fall of Greece’s neo-Nazis (Guardian)
- Germany tweets to deter Syrian refugees, fearing ‘repeat of 2015’ (Guardian)
- Vatican Tries to Tamp Down Questions on Pope’s Health (WSJ, $)
- Jubilation as Congo discharges last Ebola patient (CNN)
- The lost decade: the hidden story of how austerity broke Britain (Guardian)
- Beef, it’s what we like for dinner. But we aren’t fans of industrial agriculture. That’s why we’ve partnered with ButcherBox today.
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- ButcherBox is including two pounds of 100% grass-fed ground beef in every box. That’s a lot of tasty and wholesome beef. If beef is what you like for dinner, then try out Butcherbox!
Scott Olson via Getty Images
Decision Time for Democrats
- Former vice president Joe Biden was victorious in Super Tuesday Democratic primary elections, coming away with wins in ten states including Texas. His campaign was bolstered by the withdrawal on election eve of candidates Pete Buttigieg, former South Bend, Indiana mayor, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, both of whom threw their support to Biden.
- Bernie Sanders’ campaign of progressive “revolution” was rocked by Biden’s last minute surge; the Independent Vermont Senator wound up winning only three states, although he won in delegate-rich California. His campaign took another blow Wednesday after former New York mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg bowed out of the race and pledged his considerable resources to help Biden beat President Trump in November.
- Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren failed to win any victories Tuesday, including in her home state, and was reassessing her options. Top surrogates and allies of Warren and Sanders are in discussions about ways their two camps might unite and push a common progressive agenda, with the expectation that Warren is likely to leave the presidential campaign soon.
- A candidate needs 1,991 of the party’s delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. Now that it’s become essentially a two person race, calls have been made for secret service protection for Biden and Sanders. (WaPo, MSNBC)
- Elizabeth Warren’s popularity is concentrated among educated whites (Vox)
The Commander in Chief vs. The Free Press
- Seemingly, President Trump uses attacks on major news outlets for political benefit. As part of that strategy, his reelection committee has filed defamation lawsuits against both the New York Times and the Washington Post for opinion pieces that raised concerns over whether Trump had invited Russia’s help to bolster his electoral fortunes.
- In the lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Post it’s alleged that Trump was defamed by Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman in their opinion pieces written last June. Both referenced remarks the president had made to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in which he defended the idea of accepting damaging information about political opponents from foreign governments.
- Allegations in the lawsuit filed last week against the Times involve an opinion piece written by the paper’s former executive editor, Max Frankel, on the same subject.
- The president’s lawsuits maintain in part that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report “concluded there was no conspiracy between the  campaign and the Russian government.” The report actually said it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government….” It did conclude that “the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” (NPR)
- Trump launches an urgent fight to save his ticket to reelection (Politico)
- Trump blasts Sessions on Twitter, inadvertently confirming key Mueller finding (Vox)
- Defense Secretary Warns Commanders Not to Surprise Trump on Coronavirus (NYT, $)
- President Trump’s Disgraceful Peace Deal with the Taliban (Time)
Additional USA News
- How Many Americans Really Have the Coronavirus? (The Atlantic)
- She Was Excited for a New School. Then the Anti-Semitic ‘Jokes’ Started. (NYT, $)
- The Great Wall Street Housing Grab (NYT, $)
- When assisted dying means you have to go before you’re ready (Guardian)
- US prosecutors accuse Honduran president of taking drug money (Guardian)
- U.S. Orders Cap on Chinese State Media Personnel (WSJ, $)
- The Supreme Court’s abortion case could put black health care providers at risk (Vox)
Dropping Off Your Genes To Get Hemmed
- Scientists have performed a groundbreaking procedure at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon — the gene-editing tool CRISPR was used to try editing a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body. A harmless virus containing gene-editing instructions was injected inside the retinal cells of a patient with a rare form of genetic blindness, in the hope it will enable the volunteer to see. Scientists will know within weeks whether the procedure is working and if so, within two to three months how much vision will be restored.
- The CRISPR technique is revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. Scientists are increasingly hopeful it can be used to cure many diseases, although its efficacy is still in its infancy. (NPR)
- Will the Millennial Aesthetic Ever End? (The Cut)
- Why So Many Americans Don’t Talk About Money (The Atlantic) & The super-rich: another 31,000 people join the ultra-wealthy elite (Guardian)
- Tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, study finds (Guardian)
- Mystery of lifespan gap between sexes may be solved, say researchers (Guardian)
- Can you smell what the Rock, I mean, what the opposite sex is cooking? Men Can Smell When Women Are Aroused: Research (The Cut)
- How Big Oil and Big Soda Kept the Plastics Crisis a Secret for Decades (RollingStone)
Day Wave has been Daily Pnut’s Tim’s favorite band the past couple of years and they just released a new song that he can relate to and will be jamming out to for awhile: Day Wave – Starting Again (Official Lyric Video)
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