Finally, A Bipartisan Bill | More Russian Spying, Across the Pond | Mayors vs Trump
July 23, 2020
The Good News:
- Housing market defies expectations amid economic turmoil (Politico)
- 2.4 million pounds and counting: How sending surplus crops to food banks is helping Washington farmers and hungry families (Seattle Times)
- Dave Grohl, whose mom taught public school, says we need to protect America’s teachers like the national treasures they are (CNN)
- Renewables now EU’s biggest source of electricity: study (France24). The shift toward renewable energies is happening, slowly but surely: in early 2020, fossil fuels accounted for just 34 percent of Europe’s power generation.
“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through it.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
Trumplandia Meets Portlandia
President Trump has been threatening for weeks to “get involved” with cities run by Democrats, which he claims are out of control after weeks of protests over police brutality and racial injustice. Earlier this month, administration officials sent a hodgepodge of federal agents, cobbled together from various agencies, to protect federal property in Portland, Oregon. Militarized troops in unmarked uniforms tear-gassed protestors, fired shots into crowds, and snatched people off the street before throwing them into unmarked vans.
Last Friday, Oregon’s attorney general sued the Department of Homeland Security over the federal agents’ arrests. On Tuesday, a group of big-city mayors formally asked congressional leaders to investigate Trump’s use of federal agents in cities. On Wednesday, a letter sent to Attorney General Bill Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf by the mayors of 15 US cities, including Seattle, NYC, Chicago, Atlanta, LA, and Washington, DC, demanded a stop to the federal forces being sent to cities and the removal of federal officers from Portland.
The mayors said the federal troops were conducting law enforcement activity with no consultation with local police and no oversight. They also said the agents lacked training “for urban community policing, including critical crowd management and de-escalation techniques.” The mayors compared the administration’s tactics to what they would “expect from authoritarian regimes — not our democracy.”
At a White House event Wednesday afternoon, Trump said: “I am announcing that the Department of Justice will immediately surge federal law enforcement to the city of Chicago. The FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and Homeland Security will together be sending hundreds of skilled law enforcement officers to Chicago to help drive down violent crime.” He added he would “soon” be sending law enforcement to other cities, including Albuquerque.
- On Portland’s Streets, Chaotic Scenes Continue Tradition of Protest (NYT, $)
- Portland protester and Navy veteran Christopher David was beaten and pepper-sprayed by federal troops in standoff at federal courthouse (WaPo, $)
- What You Need To Know About The Battle of Portland (BellingCat)
- Nothing Can Justify the Attack on Portland (Atlantic, $)
- Trump’s Actions in Portland Mesh With His Political Message (NYT, $)
- America’s Interior Ministry (Atlantic, $)
Shelling Out Cash
(Pierre Crom via Getty Images)
- Italian prosecutors are seeking years of jail time for executives at Royal Dutch Shell and Italian oil company Eni in a corruption trial involving a $1.3 billion oil deal in Nigeria. The companies and their executives are accused of knowingly paying bribes and kickbacks in 2011 to secure part of an oilfield estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil. Malcolm Brinded, the head of Shell’s exploration and production division at the time, could face a seven-year and four-month sentence should prosecutors get the sentencing they’ve called for.
- The defendants claim they had no knowledge that most of the money they paid to secure a stake in the OPL 245 license would later be used for corrupt payments to middlemen and Nigerian politicians. In his closing arguments of the two-year trial, one of Italy’s top anti-corruption prosecutors urged the Milan court to seize $1.09 billion from the defendants, who also include a string of Nigerian businessmen. The court’s verdict is expected later this year after the oil companies present their defense at hearings scheduled for September.
- Shell may also face a separate legal battle over its possible role in oil spills in Nigeria: lawyers representing the country’s farmers and fishermen have brought an appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court in a case involving multiple oil spills in the Niger Delta. (Guardian)
A Russian Referendum
- A long-awaited report from the UK government’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) confirms that the threat of Russian activity had been “badly underestimated” and that no effort had been made to investigate Russian interference in the Brexit referendum. The report found the government was “playing catch-up” and needed to take “immediate action.”
- The ISC’s inquiry covered a number of topics, including disinformation campaigns, cyber tactics, and Russian expatriates in the UK. The report emphasized that the UK was “clearly a target” for disinformation campaigns around its elections, but that the issue was a “hot potato,” and no one organization wanted to take the lead in tackling the matter.
- Criticism was directed at intelligence agencies for not taking action during the 2016 Brexit referendum, despite there being “credible open source commentary” suggesting “influence campaigns” from the Russians during the earlier Scottish independence referendum in 2014. The report also pointed the finger at social media companies that “hold the key and yet are failing to play their part,” adding that the government should “name and shame those which fail to act.”
- Most of the “highly sensitive” details were not published due to fears Russia could use the evidence to threaten the UK. A spokesperson for the government said they were “fully aware of the significant and enduring threat” that Russia posed, while the Russian Foreign Ministry called the report “Russophobia.” (BBC)
Additional World News
- Chinese consulate in Houston ordered to close by US (BBC) & Chinese researcher wanted by FBI flees to San Francisco consulate as US-China row deepens (Guardian)
- How the Cold War Between China and U.S. Is Intensifying (NYT, $). What used to be just a trade war continues to escalate as both China and the US continue their game of superpower tit-for-tat. Both sides of the conflict seem dead set on finding more contentious issues, but how will this tension break?
- North Korea’s ‘ghost ships’ linked to illegal fishing by China fleet, study finds (Guardian)
- South Korea in recession as exports at 57-year low (BBC)
- For Palestinian Police, Much to Lose if Israel Annexes West Bank Land (NYT, $)
- The EU struck a big deal on Covid-19. But it might have dealt a blow to democracy (CNN)
- World leaders to send videos instead of traveling to U.N. in September (Reuters)
- With Tourists Gone, Bali Workers Return to Farms and Fishing (NYT, $)
- Newly excavated tools suggest humans lived in North America at least 30,000 years ago (Guardian)
- Don’t expect first COVID-19 vaccinations until early 2021: WHO’s Ryan
- The people with hidden immunity against Covid-19 (BBC)
- Coronavirus superspreaders: Some people spread the virus with much greater efficiency (WaPo, $)
- Nearly one in four people in Delhi may have contracted Covid-19, study reveals
- Coronavirus Infections Much Higher Than Reported Cases in Parts of U.S., Study Shows (NYT)
- How a Potential Treatment for the Coronavirus Turned Up in a Scientist’s Freezer (New Yorker)
- What Is It That Keeps Most Little Kids From Getting Covid-19? (NYT)
- How Plagues Have Changed the Course of World History (NY Mag)
- Google Coronavirus Apps Give it Way to Access Location Data (NYT)
Back To Briefings, But…
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
- President Trump stuck to the script for the most part as he revived his White House COVID-19 briefings on Tuesday. He appeared without the medical experts who used to address the briefings. Trump echoed what public health officials have been saying since the pandemic’s outset, warning that “it will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.” He asked all Americans to wear face coverings, saying “they’ll have an effect” and show “patriotism.”
- He also advised people to socially distance and keep up their hand washing. During the briefing, Trump continued to assert the virus would one day “disappear.” He also wrongly claimed the US has a lower COVID-19 death rate than “almost everywhere else in the world.” At one point the president took a mask from his pocket, but never put it on.
- However, the most jarring moment came when Trump responded to a reporter’s question about the case of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite charged this month by US authorities with sex-trafficking children for her ex-boyfriend, the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Trump said: “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach [Florida], and I guess they lived in Palm Beach.” He added: “I don’t know the situation with Prince Andrew.” Andrew is a member of the British royal family; he has denied a sexual relationship with a teenage girl who maintains she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with the prince. (BBC)
Bipartisan Park Bill Prevails
- It’s not often that meaningful, bipartisan legislation comes out of Congress during an election year. With tensions high over a COVID-19 stimulus package, a rare win on both sides of the aisle came Wednesday as both the House and the Senate approved an expansive bill that provides funding for the US National Park system.
- The Great American Outdoors Act will set aside $9.5 billion over the next five years to help repair and maintain the national parks across the country that are in desperate need of basic upkeep. A 2018 National Parks Service report revealed that years of neglect have left American nature sites with more than $11.9 billion in overdue maintenance costs.
- After years of legislative indecision, President Trump left many lawmakers pleasantly surprised when he approved the plan in March, paving the way for smooth passage through both chambers of Congress. Trump, who spoke at Mount Rushmore National Memorial earlier this month, has found himself in rare agreement with environmental conservationists, who have also advocated for increased funding of national parks.
- Once Trump signs the legislation, most of the allocated money will go towards routine repairs. However, $900 million is slated to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is charged with purchasing and preserving new park land. This annual injection of cash will allow the US to ensure the protection of at-risk ecological sites for years to come. (The Guardian)
Additional USA News
- ‘It’s a mess’: Congress prepares to lurch over unemployment aid cliff (Politico)
- NAACP Files Lawsuit Against Betsy DeVos Over Aid Money for Schools (NPR)
- US spends millions of taxpayer dollars on ineffective voting restrictions (Guardian)
- White House to scrap fair housing rule as Trump bids for suburban voters (Politico)
- The New Jersey Shooting Suspect Left a Pro-Trump Paper Trail (Atlantic, $)
- Trump shifts from describing Biden as Sleepy Joe to the dystopian candidate (WaPo, $)
- Andrew Gillum and the Long Shadow of the Florida Governor’s Race (NYT, $)
- I took a closer look at the cognitive test Trump claims to have aced (Guardian) & Trump Says He ‘Aced’ a Cognitive Test. What Does That Really Mean? (NYT, $)
- What Could Happen If Donald Trump Rejects Electoral Defeat? (New Yorker)
- E.P.A. Proposes Airplane Emission Standards That Airlines Already Meet (NYT, $)
- Canadian Court Says Asylum Treaty With U.S. Is Unconstitutional (NYT, $)
Inspiration from Perspiration
- Thomas Edison is lauded for his genius in inventing the light bulb. But he famously said that “genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Edison is said to have made 3,000 attempts before finally finding a suitable filament that would glow without immediately burning out.
- The story is meant to be the inspirational reminder that things like natural creativity are often much less important than dogged determination. Undoubtedly, passion and perseverance are essential to reaching long-term goals. But it’s important to remember the strategic process that Edison went through to reach his goal.
- He didn’t just haphazardly move from one failed design after another, but constantly adapted and refined his ideas. He told Harper’s Magazine in 1890: “I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved.” At each step of the journey, Edison was making intelligent decisions that he’d learned from the failures, and building on his small successes.
- A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests we might all benefit from a similar way of thinking in the pursuit of our goals. The construct — called the “strategic mindset” — describes the tendency to question and refine a current approach in the face of setbacks and challenges. While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards. The new research shows that figuring out how to direct one’s efforts more effectively might just spell the difference between success and failure. (BBC)
- Smooth your workflow: Best new productivity apps for 2020 (Fast Company)
- A staggered calendar can save hours per week (Fast Company). Focusing on a single area each workday could help teams be more efficient and less scattered as they work..
- Engineers design a reusable, silicone rubber face mask (MIT News)
- Did a Person Write This Headline, or a Machine? GPT-3, a new text-generating program from OpenAI, shows how far the field has come—and how far it has to go. (Wired, $)
- Honesty is the best policy: How being realistic can be key to your wellbeing (BBC)
- 401(k) Plans No Longer Make Much Sense for Savers (Bloomberg, $)
- Amsterdam’s ‘prostitute hotel’ plan to uproot red light district (CNN)
- Should We Cancel Aristotle? (NYT, $) As we change our approach to what is considered offensive, how far should we take cancel culture?
- Newly excavated tools suggest humans lived in North America at least 30,000 years ago (Guardian)
They Agreed to Meet Their Mother’s Killer. Then Tragedy Struck Again. (The Marshall Project)
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