Renters in Danger | Border Wall Fiasco | Drone Warfare
July 6, 2020
Today, America is divided as it’s ever been. From justice reform to healthcare to climate change, US politics is plagued with increasing partisanship, and opposing sides can’t seem to work together. Read Daily Pnut contributor Erik Edstrom’s essay about how his experience in Afghanistan can teach us about the importance of cooperation and interdependence for American and the world.
Daily Pnut’s Tim recommends Erik’s recently published book Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War. The book is a scathing and overdue indictment of our country’s forever wars (quagmires). We asked Erik to contribute some essays for Daily Pnut. We’ll share another one of his essays next week. Since Erik’s book was published in May, it has received a warm reception from the New York Times, LA Review of Books, and War on the Rocks. The first chapter of the book can be found on his website and is provided entirely free.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
― Frederick Douglass
A Monumental Mistake
(Saul Loeb via Getty Images)
Over Independence Day weekend, which marked America’s 244th birthday, President Trump used his bully pulpit at two historically symbolic venues to deliver combative addresses aimed at rallying supporters, criticizing dissenters, and intensifying perceived cultural divisions.
On Friday evening at Mount Rushmore, before a closely packed crowd of several thousand maskless individuals, Trump spoke no words of national unity or concern about the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, the president characterized those taking part in the country’s growing racial justice movement as the “Marxists, anarchists, agitators and looters,” who want to “tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children [and] trample on our freedoms.” He declared: “Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.”
Trump announced that as part of his response to the removal of Confederate statues and racially charged iconography across the country — which he labeled an “attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty” — he had signed an executive order for the creation of a new monument, the “National Garden of American Heroes.” The new garden would be “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.” Historians expressed surprise at the grab bag of random figures chosen by the administration to populate the park. No Democratic president made the list, nor did any Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latino or Hispanic figures, controversial African American leaders, abolitionists, or opponents of southern secession.
For the Fourth of July celebration at the White House on Saturday, Trump repeated his claims from the night before, this time adding his belief that the COVID-19 pandemic — which has infected almost three million Americans and killed over 132,000 — is “99 % harmless.”
- ‘We’ve got to do something’: Republican rebels come together to take on Trump (Guardian)
- Kanye West for president? Realities and rules say White House run unlikely (Guardian)
- ‘Grim resolve’: With Biden up big and the Senate in sight, Democrats still haunted by fear of letdown (Yahoo)
China’s Got It Covered: Medical Mercantilism
(China News Service via Getty Images)
- At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, countries around the world became alarmed at China’s stranglehold on personal protective equipment and began setting up their own factories to produce PPE, for this and future infectious disease outbreaks.
- In March, French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to produce homegrown masks and respirators by the end of 2020. In the US, the federal government began a push to buy American-made pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
- Whether or not these factories will continue operating after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides is anyone’s guess. But it’s likely that once vaccines emerge, demand will plummet and those factories could close. Even if some survive, China has a big head start; it’s laid the groundwork to dominate the market for protective and medical supplies for years to come.
- Chinese factory owners have several things going for them: cheap land courtesy of the government in Beijing, plentiful loans and subsidies, and hospitals that are told to buy locally, providing China’s suppliers a vast and captive market. China’s companies will have the lowest costs by far, making them best positioned for the next global outbreak. (NYT)
- China bubonic plague: Inner Mongolia takes precautions after case (BBC)
Overstaying Its Welcome
- Not everyone who recovers from COVID-19 returns to pre-disease normality. Scientists are just beginning to investigate cases of people who have recovered from the virus, but continue to experience longer-term symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and aching muscles.
- Facebook and Slack are hosting online support groups with thousands of members who say they have not gotten better. Britain’s health secretary said it was a serious problem for a minority of people with the disease, stating: “Some people have long-term effects that look like a post-viral fatigue syndrome.”
- Based on preliminary data, a report published in February by the World Health Organization suggested that in mild cases the median recovery time from COVID-19 is roughly two weeks from the onset of symptoms, and in severe or critical cases about three to six weeks. However, some of those who seem to have only a mild illness at first end up wrestling with symptoms, including fatigue, that linger for weeks or months. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Iran admits incident at Natanz nuclear site caused major damage (Guardian)
- Australia to close Victoria-New South Wales border (BBC)
- 20 Saudis Put On Trial In Turkey Over Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder (NPR)
- Pro-democracy books pulled from Hong Kong libraries (BBC)
- Prince Andrew Sought Washington Lobbyist to Help With Epstein Case (NYT, $)
- How much trouble is Huawei in? (CNN)
- Low internet access is driving inequality (CNN)
- Nearly 40 feared dead as torrential rains hit southwest Japan (Reuters)
- County lines gangs disguised drug couriers as key workers during coronavirus lockdown (Guardian)
- Algae turns Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting (Guardian)
- Facebook makes education push in India (TechCrunch)
- An Ancient Valley Lost to ‘Progress’ (NYT, $)
- Shadow State by Luke Harding review – Putin’s poisonous path to victory (Guardian)
- Three years and three dreams: Documenting a Syrian childhood (Al Jazeera)
- Coronavirus: FDA chief refuses to back Trump’s vaccine prediction (BBC)
- The New Normal For International Air Travel In The COVID-19 Era (NPR)
- Can the VA Keep Its Rooms Clean During the Pandemic? (Atlantic, $)
- 239 Experts With One Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne (NYT, $)
- Why the U.S. still hasn’t solved its testing crisis (Politico)
- Coronavirus: Texas mayors warn of ‘serious trouble’ as cases surge across US (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: ‘Crystal clear’ drunk people will not socially distance (BBC)
Renters Running Out of Time
- When businesses started shutting down and laying off workers this spring, economists warned an avalanche of evictions would come. The federal government and many states rushed to place bans on evictions and moratoriums on mortgage foreclosures to relieve financial pressure on landlords.
- Now 20 states, including Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Colorado have removed the restrictions, and eviction bans in nine other states and at the federal level will expire at the end of the month. Researchers have tracked thousands of recent eviction filings in places where the data is available; one firm predicts 28 million households risk being turned out into the streets because of pandemic-related job losses.
- Especially vulnerable are immigrants, who have little protection even in places with ordinances barring evictions. Many fear complaining to authorities could lead to consequences worse than homelessness. Those that do complain say landlords use all kinds of pressure to make them pay rent money, from harassment and illegal fees for late payments or repairs, to ignoring laws and simply changing locks to force renters out.
- Landlords argue they are being required to bear the brunt of the financial burden of pandemic job losses. They believe the government should provide vouchers to tenants who cannot pay rent because of it. One property owners’ representative said: “Something is wrong when a private industry is being asked to take on its back what is really a public housing emergency.” (NYT)
The Wall Comes Up Against A Wall
- Supporters have been helping President Trump meet his campaign promise to build 450 miles of “big, beautiful wall” by the end of 2020. Private fence projects in New Mexico and South Texas have gone up with financial and political help from We Build the Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit that counts former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon as a board member.
- Tommy Fisher is the builder of these private fence projects. Fisher’s success and the $1.3 billion contract in Arizona he won in May — the largest border wall contract ever awarded — came despite repeated questions about his qualifications and work. Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, Fisher claimed to have figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande. He has completed a three mile steel fence he calls the “Lamborghini” of border walls and has leveraged it to win even more billions of federal contracts in Arizona.
- But Fisher’s showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and if not fixed, it could fall into the Rio Grande. According to a number of engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall, it should never have been built so close to the river. Last December, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called for the Pentagon’s inspector general to review Fisher’s first $400 million fence contract when it was awarded despite concerns of “inappropriate influence.” The audit is ongoing.
- US Representative Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) called the privately funded wall an illegal vanity project that jeopardizes the property and safety of Texas landowners. He urged the International Boundary and Water Commission and courts to take the erosion seriously. (ProPublica)
Additional USA News
- John Bolton says Trump’s Russian bounty intelligence denial ‘not how system works’ – video (Guardian)
- Chicago Gun Violence Spikes and Increasingly Finds the Youngest Victims (NYT, $)
- European Workers Draw Paychecks. American Workers Scrounge for Food. (NYT, $)
- Charts show how Black Americans’ economic progress has stalled (CNN)
- Black Lives Matter: Can viral videos stop police brutality? (BBC)
- Miami broke its all-time heat record for June, but no warnings were issued. Here’s why (CNN)
- Western fire season could raise stakes in battle against Covid-19 (Politico)
- What Facebook and the Oil Industry Have in Common (New Yorker, $)
- Jim Steyer: the man who took on Mark Zuckerberg (Guardian)
- Brain-eating amoeba: Warning issued in Florida after rare infection case (BBC)
- Pandemic or not, hot dogs eaten, records broken on New York’s Coney Island (Reuters)
- Discovery of Frederick Douglass letter sheds light on contested Lincoln statue (Guardian)
Laser Beaming Drones
- What do the Pentagon, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have in common? They are all concerned with the recent proliferation of precision drone technology. While drones grant the US military a previously unimaginable capacity to safely patrol the skies, it’s not just the “good guys” who possess this modern all-seeing eye.
- When drones get into the hands of adversaries — foreign or domestic — they pose a novel threat to the same defense agencies who popularized their use. Now, American tech companies are working to create counter strike systems that can locate and destroy drones before they can inflict harm from the sky.
- Raytheon Technologies is one of such companies, and they have established a system of lasers and microwaves which can take out a swarm of enemy drones in seconds. Using a high-energy laser weapon system, drones are blasted with a movie-like ray of unlimited ammunition, allowing militaries to burn holes into enemy aircrafts.
- While laser beaming drones sounds like a science fiction defense strategy, microwave technology offers a more nuanced alternative. Rather than delivering pinpoint destruction, high power microwave systems emit strong electromagnetic pulses that can fry a drone’s insides and eliminate an entire fleet of autonomous aircraft.
- While these advancements in military technology will drastically change the way war is fought in the future, it won’t be long until counter strike technology is disseminated to American adversaries. Expect this dizzying cycle of aerial oneupmanship to continue into the next phase of modern warfare. (Popular Science)
- ‘I’m a bit brainier than he thought I was’ (BBC) & Weird but true: lockdown has made many families happier (Guardian). Sometimes our families can be the people who drive us crazy the most, and seeing them all the time in quarantine can make that worse. But don’t forget to take the time to appreciate the people around you.
- Why are antitrust investigators looking into cannabis monopolies? (Quartz)
- Schools urged to ensure students’ security and privacy when conducting classes online (CBC)
- Would You Pay $7,500 to Educate Your Kid Like Elon Musk’s? (Daily Beast)
- The Physics of Launching Fireworks From a Drone (Wired, $)
- Goodbye to the Wild Wild Web (NYT, $)
- Does the key to anti-ageing lie in our bones? (Guardian)
- Uber is Said to Agree to Buy Postmates for $2.65 Billion (Bloomberg, $)
- Reddit says it’s fixing code in its iOS app that copied clipboard contents (Verge). Apparently lots of companies like Reddit and Linkedin are keen to know what people are copying on their phones.
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