Oil Spills and Relief Bills | The Silicon Valley Democrat | Fracking the Frontier
August 10, 2020
The Good News
- Indigenous forest defenders turn to high-tech tools to protect Amazon and its iconic jaguar (Independent). As fires and deforestation ravage the region, locals are using drones to protect jaguars.
- Crises might hurt us, but they can also bring out the best in humans: Australian community ravaged by bushfire shocked by PNG donation of more than $60,000 (ABC)
- Bill Gates is spending $150 million to try to make a coronavirus vaccine as cheap as $3 (Vox). Yet another generous donation from the prescient billionaire.
“A hard lesson had been learned — that man himself suffers most when his hand despoils the earth and robs it of its legitimate fruits.”
How the Golden State Turned Blue
(AFP via Getty Images)
California hasn’t always been the “deep blue” state it is today. In fact, with only one exception in 1964, Californians voted Republican in every presidential race from 1952 to 1992. GOP icon Ronald Reagan was the last Californian to occupy the White House. When Reagan was elected to his second term in 1984, he relied on the same power base he had as governor: the conservative, almost illiberal bastion of Southern California’s Orange County, which recoiled from student protests and chafed at the state’s high property taxes.
The antithesis of Orange County was the San Francisco Bay area in Northern California. When Republicans nominated Reagan for a second term in 1984, the very words “San Francisco Democrat” became a derisive refrain at their convention. The term was synonymous with concern for criminal defendants, pot use, gay rights, peace protests, cracking down on corporate polluters and a post-hippie culture outrageously at odds with the rest of America.
At the time, San Francisco’s political insularity condemned its politicians to very limited careers. But its politics transformed alongside neighboring Silicon Valley, which was emerging as the world’s technology hub. The city’s Democrats became loath to offend the tech moguls who propelled the local economy, so they provided a business-friendly counterpoint to their social and environmental liberalism. The political environment was extremely competitive, with internal civil wars between social progressives and business-friendly moderates. But that very competitiveness made the quaint city by the bay a crucial proving ground for Democrats, and a launchpad for state-wide and national political talent much the way Boston was in the heyday of the Kennedys.
The meaning of “San Francisco Democrat” has evolved, now standing for a governing philosophy that combines social and environmental progressivism with a commitment to economic growth through innovation. It’s been called a tough town for a politician, but emerging from the city means someone has thick skin, strong interpersonal ties, and the ability to move forward after disagreements. One politician who exhibits those qualities in spades is 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose steely determination, solid values and genuine empathy are driving her push for a sweeping COVID-19 relief package that includes billions of dollars for state and local governments and schools, food and rental assistance, and additional aid for election security and the Postal Service, while rejecting the Trump administration’s demands for a much narrower relief measure or a stopgap solution. Two weeks into stalled negotiations Pelosi isn’t backing down — she believes the political landscape is favorable, she has the upper hand, and she’s playing hardball.
Deep Trouble in Shallow Waters
(Stringer via Getty Images)
- The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk-carrying ship carrying cargo, ran into a reef near Blue Bay Marine Park off the southeast coast of Mauritius two weeks ago. About 2,500 tons of fuel remained in the ship, but battering waves eventually cracked its hull open and engine fuel began to leak last Thursday.
- Five hundred tons of fuel had been lifted by helicopter out of the ship’s hull, but rough seas have impeded the Mauritian government’s attempts at stabilizing the ship.
- On Sunday officials said about 1,000 tons of fuel have leaked into the shallow, reef-fringed coastal waters, imperiling protected habitats and the economy of the Indian Ocean island nation which relies on fishing and tourism. Aerial images and drone footage showed miles of shoreline covered with thick, black sludge as far up the island’s eastern coast as the popular resort island of Ile aux Cerfs.
- Mangrove swamps along the coast renowned as a habitat for plants, insects and birds endemic to Mauritius were covered with oil. Conservationists in the country say rough seas and a slow response have turned what could have been a minor accident into an ecological and economic disaster. (WaPo)
Aviation Gone Awry
- In 2011, a report submitted to India’s civil aviation authorities read: “All flights that land on Runway 10 in tailwind conditions in rain are endangering the lives of all onboard.” The report was referring to a well known, potentially dangerous tabletop runway — with a sudden drop-off at its end — in the coastal city of Kozhikode in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
- On Friday night, a Boeing 737 jet returning to India from Dubai and carrying 190 people attempted to land on Runway 10 in a rainstorm. Visibility was so poor the pilot— a decorated military flier— circled the airport and radioed the control tower to switch runways. Attempting a second landing, the pilot hit the runway more than a half mile into its short 1.6 mile strip, with the wind at his back.
- The plane skidded off the end of the rain-slicked runway, tumbled down a hillside and split in half. 18 people, including both pilots, were killed and more than 150 injured. With the investigation just starting, blame was already being pinned on the pilot, not the runway. India’s director of civil aviation told reporters: “The rules of aviation are too well laid out. Either the pilot goes around or should not have landed at all.”
- India has about four to five tabletop runways. Friday’s accident was similar to another crash in 2010, also involving a Boeing 737 belonging to the same airline, Air India Express, and a similar runway with steep gorges on each side. In that case, the plane skidded off a hill in Mangalore, fell into a valley and burst into flames, killing more than 150 people. (NYT)
Additional World News:
- How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies (NYT, $)
- Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies (NYT, $)
- How to Keep US-Chinese Tensions From Sparking a War (Foreign Affairs)
- Those feeling the heat have been feeling it for a long time: Here’s What Extreme Heat Looks Like: Profoundly Unequal (NYT, $)
- Climate Migration: “Where Will Everyone Go?” (ProPublica)
- In Colorado’s climate change hot spot, the West’s water is evaporating (WaPo, $)
- Afghanistan to release 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners in bid for peace (Reuters). A peculiar strategy aimed at ending decades of unrest.
- As cases in Africa pass one million, Nigeria has tested less than 1% of its population. Here’s why. (CNN)
- ‘If I die, that is OK’: the Calais refugees with nowhere to turn (Guardian)
- Democractic legitimacy in a down spiral: Belarus election: Clashes after poll predicts Lukashenko re-election (BBC)
- Ex-PM Singh’s ‘three steps’ to stem India’s economic crisis (BBC)
- What Ebola Taught Susan Rice About the Next Pandemic (Politico)
- An outlier in every sense of the word: Two decades of pandemic war games failed to account for Donald Trump (Nature)
- Here’s How to Crush the Virus Until Vaccines Arrive (NYT)
- The lost days of summer: How Trump fell short in containing the virus (WaPo)
- Does Wearing A Mask Keep You From Getting Sick? (NPR). More reasons to remember your mask on your way out the door.
- With Old Allies Turning Against Her, Birx Presses On Against the Coronavirus (NYT)
- How a $175 COVID-19 Test Led to $2,479 in Charges (ProPublica)
- When Covid-19 Hit, Many Elderly Were Left to Die (NYT)
- Forty percent of people with coronavirus infections have no symptoms. Might they be the key to ending the pandemic? (WaPo)
- A full-bodied COVID analysis: The Many Symptoms of Covid-19 (NYT)
Signed. Sealed. Delivered?
- President Trump signed a series of executive orders on Saturday after negotiations on the congressional COVID-19 relief bill broke down. The orders addressed enhanced unemployment benefits, a payroll tax holiday for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year, an executive order on “assistance to renters and homeowners,” and a memorandum on deferring student loan payments.
- However, a close look at the orders shows they won’t quickly deliver — if they deliver at all — the aid Trump has promised. The president described the memorandum involving additional unemployment aid as an action providing “an additional or extra $400 a week and expanded benefits.” In reality, it’s complicated and has strings attached: states must cover 25 percent ($100) of the up to $400 additional benefit each person may be able to receive weekly.
- Plus, states must apply, and agree to enter into, this financial agreement with the federal government for any of their unemployed citizens to get the additional benefits. If a state doesn’t have the necessary funds or doesn’t want to enter into the agreement, unemployed people in the state receive zero dollars in extra federal benefits (they would still receive the normal state unemployment insurance, unless their state’s funds have already been depleted). Because Congress hasn’t authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, states will have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid, something that could take months to accomplish.
- Regarding evictions, the order Trump signed doesn’t reinstate the previous moratorium on evictions, which ended in July. The new measure only asks government agencies to “consider” whether any action is necessary, and to “identify” any funds available to help provide financial assistance, rather than actually setting money aside to help homeowners and renters.
- The payroll tax memorandum Trump signed doesn’t actually reduce payroll taxes, only defers the date they are due. The directive regarding student loans seems to be the only one of the four that will actually deliver results: it says the Education Department is directed to extend the student loan relief granted in the CARES Act until the end of the year. (CNN)
Environmental Debate in the 49th State
- President Trump appears to be on the cusp of delivering a campaign promise that has been a decades-long Republican dream: opening up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — the last remaining stretch of protected land along the North Slope — to oil and gas drilling. The Interior Department has pushed aggressively to hold a lease sale before the end of Trump’s first term and has expedited the environmental review process in order to accomplish that goal.
- The rushed review process, which is attempting to do in two years what typically takes twice as long, has led to allegations that the administration has interfered with the work of career scientists, sidelined Fish and Wildlife Service employees who oversee the refuge, and failed to conduct needed research before holding a lease sale.
- The Interior Department’s senior adviser for Alaska Affairs, Steve Wackoeski, has connections to the oil and gas industry and no experience in federal land management. Wackoeski has played an outsize role in executing the administration’s priorities, frequently doing so with a heavy hand, clashing with agency scientists and using the power of his position — the only Department of Interior political appointee outside of Washington — to intimidate those standing in his way.
- Outside of the department and among some career employees, Wackowski’s performance has been viewed as the triumph of politics over science, with long-term implications for the environment and public health. Democrats continue to oppose development in the refuge. A recent amendment to an appropriations spending bill from Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) would bar any lease sale from happening, and, if elected, Joe Biden has promised to permanently protect the refuge. (Politico)
Additional USA News
- The Decline of the GOP (Atlantic)
- I was a Republican, and I drew my red line too late. I’ll answer for my choices for years to come. (WaPo, $). Profound revelations from the other side.
- Is Donald Trump the Republican Party’s future, or its past? (Vox). In an uncertain present, placing Trump in the greater political timeline.
- The Biggest Trump Financial Mystery? Where He Came Up With the Cash for His Scottish Resorts. (Mother Jones)
- ‘Grifter’s Club’ unmasks security breaches at Mar-a-Lago (Miami Herald)
- Outbursts from the Oval Office: Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call (Politico)
- Deutsche Bank gave Donald Trump financial records to New York prosecutors – report (Guardian)
- Republicans called her videos ‘appalling’ and ‘disgusting.’ But they’re doing little to stop her. (Politico)
- From the College Dropout to the upcoming Campaign Dropout: Kanye West Indicates That His Spoiler Campaign Is Indeed Designed to Hurt Biden (Forbes, $)
- How A Contract Killer Got Away With Murder (Buzzfeed)
- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Has Bungled the Pandemic (Atlantic, $)
- The Lawyers Accused of Throwing a Molotov Cocktail (NY Mag)
The Reality of Televised Romance
- It’s been 20 years since millions of viewers, who tuned into “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”, were simultaneously riveted and horrified by the show’s commodification of relationships. Concerns aside, this wasn’t just a one-time phenomenon, but the origin story for a new genre: the “reality dating show.” Since then, millions upon millions of people have spent many hours of their lives enraptured by these shows, which continue to proliferate with no sign of slowing down.
- Many might wonder what 20 years of watching these spectacles — singles hooking up, couples breaking up, and aspiring Instagram influencers melting down, all in the name of finding “love” — has done to us. To find out, the Washington Post chose one reality dating show that debuted every year from 2000 to 2020 to be chosen and studied — mainly shows that were particularly popular, controversial, influential or taught us something unexpected. (Quite a few were left out, like “Conveyor Belt of Love.”)
- Dozens of interviews were conducted with contestants, producers, and reality TV experts. Sometimes these series are surprisingly hopeful. But mostly, they are disturbing. And no matter how many people decry that the shows are fake and/or feel like the downfall of society, the impact has been extremely real.
- For example, “The Bachelor” reinforces just one idea of who our culture deems worthy of love and romance. MTV’s “NEXT!” normalized the instant nixing of potential partners for small character flaws. E!’s “Kelce” pushed the “negative, villainous, angry Black women” stereotype on one of its contestants, leading to her receiving racist comments and death threats online for how she was portrayed by the show. WaPo, $)
- Rest in peace to a computing pioneer: Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88 (NYT, $)
- The abstraction of cultural ignorance: TikTok and the Sorting Hat (Remains of the Day)
- Targeting WeChat, Trump Takes Aim at China’s Bridge to the World (NYT, $)
- Bill Gates calls Microsoft’s TikTok deal a poisoned chalice (The Verge)
- Words of advice from the man himself: COVID-19 is awful. Climate change could be worse. (Gates Notes)
- As hackers take aim at bigger and bigger targets, there’s one question the whole world should be asking: How Vulnerable Is GPS? (New Yorker, $)
- Cloak your photos with this AI privacy tool to fool facial recognition (The Verge)
- A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion (NYT, $)
- Remnants of another age: A Star Went Supernova in 1987. Where Is It Now? (NYT, $)
- China’s remote and dangerous Great Wall (BBC)
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