Trump on the Tok | Dems Sense Census Danger | A Dent in Rent
August 5, 2020
We’ve got answers: Daily Pnut 7/31 Quiz Answers. Seems like last week’s quiz was a bit hard; nobody scored perfectly, and only 54 submissions got 9/10 answers correct. We’ll make next week’s quiz a tad bit easier. See you Friday!
The Good News
- Trump signs $3Ba-year plan to boost conservation, parks (AP). The bill is the most significant piece of conservation legislation in 50 years.
- Completing a book’s life cycle: Emma Smreker scours used books for mementos and gives them to the original owners (WaPo, $)
- Primates on the rebound: There’s a gorilla baby boom happening in Uganda (Yahoo)
“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” ― Gwendolyn Brooks
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Trump Toks With Microsoft
TikTok is a popular video-sharing app owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company. Its US division is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, and is said to have 80 million active monthly users. A federal class action lawsuit against the company was filed in California last November. The complaint alleges that TikTok includes Chinese surveillance software that, unknown to its users, “clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future.”
Last Friday, President Trump said he intended to sign an executive order banning the company from the US. Microsoft has been in talks with ByteDance to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with intention to operate the app in these markets, but Trump appeared to cast doubt on whether such a deal would be allowed to go through. On Sunday Microsoft’s CEO spoke with the president about the acquisition, stressing that it “fully appreciates the importance” of addressing Trump’s concerns, and emphasizing that it would ensure that “all private data of TikTok’s American users” was transferred to and remained in the US.
The president had an additional demand: he wants a “substantial portion” of the purchase price for the app to go to the US Treasury. “The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we’re making it possible,” Trump said, adding that TikTok’s US operations “will close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal so the Treasury… of the United States gets a lot of money.”
Legal experts were quick to point out that such a demand to secure regulatory approval for a takeover deal would be highly unorthodox. One lawyer said generally “the government doesn’t have the authority to take a cut of a private deal through” the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the inter-agency committee that reviews some foreign investments in the US. No explanation has been forthcoming from either the White House or the Treasury as to how this extraordinary demand for a cut of a private transaction would work.
Massive Blast in Beirut
(Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
- An explosion, followed by another many times more powerful, tore through the warehouse district at the port of Beirut, Lebanon Tuesday morning. Cars were overturned, buildings crumbled, and debris scattered over a wide area; the larger blast was felt in Cyprus, more than 100 miles away.
- Shattered glass rained down on the city; nearly 80 people were killed and another 4,000 injured. Hospitals, some severely damaged, quickly became overwhelmed and began sending patients elsewhere. The army shut down the port. Officials are blaming the blasts on 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for six years in a warehouse near the waterfront.
- President Michel Aoun called an emergency meeting of the Supreme Defense Council, which declared Beirut a disaster area. Aoun said the government would release $66 million in emergency funds, and Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced that Wednesday would be a national day of mourning.
- One of those killed Tuesday was the leader of the Kataeb Party, a Christian political group that was once one of Lebanon’s most powerful. A spokesman for the party said it was waiting for clarity on whether the blast was an attack or just an accident resulting from mismanagement.
- “Whether you talk about the economy, safety standards, the port, the corruption — none of the country’s issues have had a serious attempt at resolution. We are living in this doomed management of the country.” (NYT)
Airbourne in Melbourne
- Australia thought it had the COVID-19 crisis beat in late June. However, the perception of the problem being solved produced complacency. Now the country’s second largest city, Melbourne, is confronted with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak, and has had to impose some of the toughest restrictions in the world.
- The infection spikes appear to come from a breakdown in the quarantine program for hotels, which had been contracted out to private security. Returning travelers passed the virus to hotel security guards, who then carried the contagion into their neighborhoods. The spread continued even after Melbourne started a so-called Stage 3 lockdown, with no large gatherings and most people working from home. As second and third rounds of outbreaks have occurred, officials have instituted a dizzying array of confusing and contentious rules, which feel to many like a bombing raid that just won’t end.
- The chief modelers of the country’s pandemic response found that the virus can be suppressed only if more than 70 percent of the population abides by social distancing guidelines and other public health rules. This latest Stage 4 lockdown will take another 250,000 people out of their routine, in an effort to reach the necessary threshold. Retail stores will close, schools will return to at-home instruction, restaurants will be takeout or delivery only, strict curfews will be in place, and harsh fines imposed for disobeying the rules.
- The confounding experience, exhausting as it is, could still be a preview of what’s to come for many urban dwellers elsewhere in the coming weeks and months. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Aftermath Photos From Beirut’s Massive Explosion (Time)
- Thanks to Satellite Imagery, Israel Can’t Hide Its Occupation Anymore (Foreign Policy)
- Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By (NYT, $)
- ‘We drink from the toilet’: migrants tell of hellish Saudi detention centres (Guardian)
- Turkish Aggression Is NATO’s ‘Elephant in the Room’ (NYT, $)
- Spain’s Former King Leaving Country Amid Investigations Into Finances (NPR)
- New Nominations to U.K. House of Lords Raise Old Concerns of Cronyism (NYT, $)
- Mexico details capture of capo who ‘never slept two nights in the same place’ (Reuters)
- To Counter China, Look to Canada and Mexico (Foreign Affairs)
- China Uighurs: A model’s video gives a rare glimpse inside internment (BBC)
- Nine Important Things We’ve Learned About the Coronavirus Pandemic So Far (Scientific American)
- Foreigners Living In US Shocked By Handling Of Coronavirus (NPR)
- Scientists Uncover Biological Signatures of the Worst Covid-19 Cases (NYT, $)
- U.N. chief: World faces ‘generational catastrophe’ due to COVID-19 school closures (NBC)
- After ‘Severe’ Delays, 6 States Band Together To Buy Coronavirus Tests (NPR)
- Onetime Virus Hot Spots NY, NJ Crack Down on Risk of Return (Bloomberg)
- Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine generates promising immune response in early trial, data shows (CNBC)
- The growing scientific evidence for masks to fight Covid-19, explained (Vox)
- Coronavirus: How bad will winter really be? (BBC)
- San Quentin faces California’s deadliest prison outbreak after latest Covid fatalities (Guardian)
- Indoor plants have been proven to improve mental health. Keeping plants alive grants you companionship and decoration, and with Hamama, your house plants can even help you eat your greens.
- Hamama has patent-pending Seed Quilts that make growing microgreens a breeze: just add water once and harvest in a week for a perfectly easy addition to salads, smoothies, and sandwiches.
- Microgreen veggies like kale, cabbage, and broccoli are super nutritious and delicious at just 7-10 days old. Even as baby veggies, these microgreens have the same flavor as their fully-grown versions, packing a serious nutritional punch. With Hamama, growing them from your own home is seriously easy.
Accurate Census? Don’t Count on It
(SOPA Images via Getty Images)
- On Monday night, the US Census Bureau announced that it would halt its data collection a month before its scheduled end date. Now, households must complete the census survey by September 30, a month before the original October 31 deadline. This is all to accommodate getting data in by the end of 2020 as opposed to finishing the data by April of 2021.
- During normal census years, data is sent to the White House by the end of the year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the data delivery was planned to take place in April of next year. While this change passed in the Democrat-held House in May, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked the change, apparently at the request of President Trump. In response to the blockage, four former directors of the Census Bureau released a joint statement, saying the earlier deadline would “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country.”
- Many officials in counties with hard-to-reach populations were dismayed at the deadline shift. Undercounting of populations can have huge ramifications until the next census year, as federal funds sent to local governments rely on population totals. The shortened deadlines could leave diverse and remote counties with less funding as better-equipped areas are able to keep their original funds. The deadline change also comes a month after President Trump’s request not to count undocumented immigrants was denied by the Supreme Court.
- Currently, the Census is looking to hire more survey workers and is planning to offer rewards to workers who complete more work, but may have to turn to statistical assumptions and inaccurate data to make its population estimates. These methods often leave out homeless people and those less-educated, effectively kneecapping funding to already- poor counties.
- Some 23 million people nationwide are at risk of being evicted from their homes as moratoriums expire and courts reopen. Since May, about 30 state moratoriums have expired. The federal eviction moratorium that protected more than 12 million renters in federally subsidized apartments, or units with federally backed mortgages, expired July 25.
- Experts predict the problem will only get worse, with 30 million unemployed and no certainty as to whether Congress will extend the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that expired July 31. If the moratorium isn’t extended, landlords can begin eviction proceedings in 30 days. Some landlords were moving forward with illegal evictions even with a moratorium in place.
- Housing advocates fear parts of the country could soon look like Milwaukee, which saw a 21 percent spike in eviction filings in June. The rate is 24 percent across all of Wisconsin. Nationally the figure was 26.5 percent among adults 18 or older; for nine states, mostly in the sunbelt, numbers were at 30 percent or higher. A Census Bureau survey found last week that more than 23 percent of Ohioans questioned weren’t able to pay their rent or their mortgage last month and doubted they would be able to pay next month.
- A homelessness advocate in Ohio said, “I’ve never seen this many people poised to lose their housing in such a short period of time. This is a huge disaster that is beginning to unfold.” Experts argue more needs to be done at the state and federal level for tenants and landlords. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May that would provide $175 billion to pay rents and mortgages, but the $1 trillion counter offer from Senate Republicans only allocates several billion for rental assistance. Negotiations are ongoing between the two sides. (AP News)
Additional USA News:
- Amnesty International Documents 125 Incidents Of Police Violence Against Protesters (NPR)
- Portland protests smaller, calmer, free of tear gas after federal withdrawal (Seattle Times)
- The Second Act of Social-Media Activism (The New Yorker, $)
- Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders have a plan to protect you from facial recognition (Vox)
- White House eyes executive orders to upend virus negotiations (Politico)
- Pompeo aide chides inspector general’s office as tensions linger (Politico)
- Why Joe Kennedy Is Running for Senate (Atlantic, $)
- Republicans Aid Kanye West’s Bid to Get on the 2020 Ballot (NYT, $)
- Trump backtracks on mail-in voting, says it’s OK to do in Florida (Politico)
- Isaias slams into the Carolinas, killing two and leaving hundreds of thousands without power (WaPo, $)
- The NBA’s Bubble Works. Other Leagues Are in Denial. (Atlantic, $)
- Sorry, boomers: millennials and younger are new US majority (AP)
English Hippy Crack
- Across Europe, the party circuit is back up and running. As government’s loosen quarantine gathering restrictions, outdoor parks are becoming the central vista for a starved social scene. In London, remnants of the night can be found littered across public ground, offering passerbys a rare glimpse into the casualties of UK festival life.
- And while most of the trash is predictable — such as cups, bottles, and confetti — one particular party staple is quite surprising: empty canisters of laughing gas. All across London parks you can find abandoned silver bullets of nitrous oxide, giving local officials definitive proof of what they’ve always assumed, young people are using the legal substance to get high.
- You’ve likely experienced the effects of laughing gas if you’ve ever been sedated at the dentist’s office, but the drug’s widespread recreational use in the UK prompts questions of its legality. Containers of nitrous oxide can be legally bought and sold in storefronts, so long as it is “non-recreational.” The substance is often used inside whipped cream cans or alongside balloons, allowing those chasing a wicked high to purchase them without suspicion.
- However, Britain’s 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act complicates things for fans of tabloid-dubbed “hippy crack.” This sweeping piece of legislation prohibits the sale of any substance “capable of producing a psychoactive effect in any person who consumes it.” This ambiguous language puts laughing gas in a sort of law-induced limbo, where it is only legal to sell customers under proper circumstances.
- Despite this renewed interest in English laughing gas, pharmacists assure that the main problem with nitrous oxide is the litter, rather than its effect on the brain. David Nutt, the director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at Imperial College London, claims that the drug is one of the least harmful highs out there, citing that public outcry should only concern “the fact that they discard their whippets in car parks or wherever.” (The New Yorker)
- More evidence of the pandemic changing the world: For Robots, It’s a Time to Shine (and Maybe Disinfect) (NYT, $)
- Climate Science Moves Online (NPR). With one virtual meeting saving 368 tons of CO2 emissions, climate scientists now voting with their feet.
- A different kind of time capsule: How to build a nuclear warning for 10,000 years’ time (BBC)
- Why language remains the most flexible brain-to-brain interface (AEON)
- How those blobs of paint can widen your horizons: One type of art can help you see the bigger picture in life (Inverse)
- Neuroimaging study suggests a single dose of ayahuasca produces lasting changes in two important brain networks (PsyPost)
- Star Technologist Who Crossed Google Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison (NYT, $)
- BP lays out rapid cuts in oil and gas production to reach net-zero carbon emissions (WaPo, $)
- The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal (The Verge)
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