Trial By Fire | Burning Away Their Reputation
September 15, 2020
The Good News
- In today’s Pnut, we will cover a number of unsettling climate issues, but here’s a reminder that human action can help steer us in the right direction: Up to 48 species saved from extinction by conservation efforts, study finds (Guardian)
- Merging into meme-dom: Wife’s prank on husband goes viral, bringing smiles to faces around the world (CNN)
“The earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.” — Ernest Hemingway
“Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense.” — Ronald Reagan
Trump’s Trial By Fire
(Josh Edelson via Getty Images)
President Trump will be in California’s state capital Monday for a briefing about the catastrophic wildfires consuming that state and others on the West Coast. Thousands of firefighters are battling 100 separate blazes across several states; at least 33 people are known to have died, with dozens more missing, since the start of the outbreak in mid-August. Millions of acres are burned, whole towns are wiped out, and thousands of people have fled for their lives.
On Friday, an exasperated California governor Gavin Newsom warned the rest of the country that his state’s record wildfire season is a glimpse into its future if political leaders don’t start taking the climate crisis more seriously. Speaking in a smoke-impaired voice, Newsome asserted that, “This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening. This is the perfect storm.”
Trump has remained largely silent since issuing a disaster declaration in August. But at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed the state and environmentalists for what he called a buildup of forest debris. On Saturday evening at a Nevada campaign rally, he reiterated that, saying the California fires are “about forest management,” and that the state needed to “clean your floors…clean your forests.“
On Sunday, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti slammed the president’s upcoming visit to the state and his response to the raging wildfires. “He’s going to come out here and probably tell us, ‘I’m going to send you rakes instead or more help,’” Garcetti said, adding: “We need actual help. Material help not based on our party affiliation or how we voted.”
Last month, Trump wanted to protect lives in Oregon and California from “rioters and looters,” so he sent federal troops into Portland, and threatened to send them to Oakland and Los Angeles. Today, Portland is in danger of being burned, and Oakland and Los Angeles are under severe health alerts, yet the president says and does almost nothing. Some observers suggest this is because the crisis is playing out in Democratic-controlled states — states that voted against him in 2016, and he’s still holding a grudge. Another explanation could be that the wildfires are connected to human-caused climate change, something Trump “has done everything humanly possible to worsen.”
Additional Climate News
- Beachie Creek Fire evacuations leave family searching for Wyatt Tofte (Statesman Journal)
- A Line of Fire South of Portland and a Yearslong Recovery Ahead (NYT, $)
- Now It’s Not Safe at Home Either. Wildfires Bring Ashen Air Into the House. (NYT, $)
- The West Coast Currently Has the World’s Worst Air Quality (Mother Jones)
- Wildlife in ‘catastrophic decline’ due to human destruction, scientists warn (BBC)
- Climate change: Warmth shatters section of Greenland ice shelf (BBC)
Commute Via Cube
(Daniel Pier via Getty Images)
- No, they’re not made on 3-D printers. Actually Citroën’s new all-electric Ami is a playful polypropylene cube on four wheels — or ‘urban mobility object’ as the company calls it. Classed as a light quadricyle, it can be driven around France without a full license by anyone 14 or older. It’s top speed is 28 mph, its range is 46 miles, and it can be recharged in three hours at home in a standard socket.
- It’ll set you back some $7,100, or you can pay it out for a monthly amount about equal to an all zone rail pass. It’s built on a solid tubular frame and has efficient brakes, a panoramic roof, a rudimentary heater, neat storage nets for small items, room for shopping in front of the passenger seat, and two will fit in a regular parking space. “You could keep it in the corridor,” suggested one elderly gentleman.
- Don’t worry that it can’t go over 28 mph — it’s not allowed on expressways, and Parisian streets are always habitually gridlocked. A Citroën spokesperson reminds us: “It’s a recognition our transport habits and requirements are changing and it’s accessible to almost everyone.” What’s not to love? (Guardian)
An Awkward Brexit
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit was a global news perennial. Britain’s drawn out, tortuous political debate over how to leave the EU while maintaining all the benefits of membership went from one “final” deadline to the next, until it finally officially exited at 11 pm January 31, 2020.
- Except that wasn’t really the final exit; that hour began the 11-month transition period during which British and EU leaders were to negotiate their future relationship. Britain continues to remain in the EU customs union and single market and is bound by EU law, but it has no representation in any EU institution. Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised when elected 10 months ago that he had an “oven-ready” Brexit deal.
- He didn’t. Subsequent negotiations have gotten nowhere; the latest brouhaha is over a bill recently introduced by Johnson’s conservative government that proposes to override a key element in the withdrawal agreement that Johnson signed in January. Now the prime minister is trying to convince the public that leaving the EU with or without a deal would be a “good outcome” for the country. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Oracle, one of Donald Trump’s favorite companies, wins TikTok deal (Ars Technica). Looking for the future of TikTok? Ask an Oracle.
- What They Saw: Ex-Prisoners Detail The Horrors Of China’s Detention Camps (Buzzfeed News)
- I’ll make a scandal out of you: Disney Wanted to Make a Splash in China With ‘Mulan.’ It Stumbled Instead. (NYT, $)
- Chinese military spokesman: US is ‘destroyer of world peace’ (The Hill)
- The unlikely rise of a farmer’s son who could be Japan’s next prime minister (CNN). The incoming “Abe Substitute” has an origin story that is wildly different from his predecessor.
- Officials: Iran weighs plot to kill U.S. ambassador to South Africa (Politico)
- Al Qaeda’s Franchise Reboot (Foreign Affairs). How does a terror group adapt to a new generation?
- Greek police fire tear gas at protesting migrants on Lesbos (CNN)
- WHO reports record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases, up over 307,000 (Reuters)
- It’s not sensible in a pandemic’: cancel Halloween, officials advise (Guardian)
- Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19 (Politico)
- The End of the University (New Republic)
- Restaurant dining linked to Covid-19 risk in CDC study (CNN)
- Trump Pressed for Plasma Therapy. Officials Worry, Is an Unvetted Vaccine Next? (NYT, $)
- 150 Big Businesses Warn Mayor of ‘Widespread Anxiety’ Over N.Y.C.’s Future (NYT, $)
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Burning Away Their Reputation
- Last summer, oil and gas industry lobbyists were busily trying to get the Trump administration to overturn federal rules on leaks of natural gas, a major contributor to climate change. They assured the government that companies had emissions under control.
- They weren’t telling the truth. An organization that tracks climate policy received a lengthy tape recording of a meeting convened in June 2019 by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group that represents energy companies. Participants at the meeting were worried that producers were threatening the industry’s image by continuing to flare, or burn off, the natural gas from oil operations. The president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said the value of natural gas was too minimal for oil producers to deal with, so they continued “flaring a tremendous amount of gas.”
- It’s the cheapest way to get rid of it, he said, yet the practice represents a “huge, huge threat” to the industry’s efforts to portray natural gas as a cleaner and more climate-friendly energy source, and that was damaging the industry’s image, particularly among younger generations. (NYT)
Let He Who Does Not Win Cast the First Stone
- Convicted felon Roger Stone has been a confidant of President Trump’s for decades. As part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into 2016 election interference, Stone was tried and found guilty of lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses, for which he received a 40-month prison sentence. Stone made a number of media appearances asking Trump to pardon him, saying in exchange he could be a more effective campaigner for the president’s 2020 reelection efforts.
- On July 10th, Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence. As promised, Stone is now hard at work attempting to help the president by — among other things — making countless baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud in the upcoming election, and calling on the president to take draconian actions to retain his power.
- In a September 10th appearance on the Alex Jones Show, Stone declared the only legitimate outcome to the 2020 election would be a Trump victory. He said Trump should order federal authorities to seize all Nevada ballots on election night because “they are completely corrupted;” then he lied about being able to “prove voter fraud in the absentees right now.”
- He said federal agents and GOP state officials should “physically” block voting; and that Trump should declare “martial law,” then nationalize police forces and order widespread arrests, including of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clintons” and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.” Stone’s incendiary hyperbole could be laughed off — were it not so incredibly dangerous considering the people who believe it’s real. (Media Matters)
Additional USA News
- The Children in the Shadows: New York City’s Homeless Students (NYT, $)
- Tracing the money trail of taxpayer dollars: $2,933 for ‘Girl’s Night’: Medicaid chief’s consulting expenses revealed (Politico)
- FDNY 9/11 health program secretly stripped of $4M by feds (New York Daily News)
- How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy (Time)
- Trump, the Coronavirus Vaccine’s Worst Hype Man (NYT, $). When you force Big Pharma to appear ethical, something has gone awry.
- “They Had a Humongous Blowup”: As Election Approaches, Trump Fears Fox News Is Going Rogue (Vanity Fair)
- More than a little white lie: The Layered Deceptions of Jessica Krug, the Black-Studies Professor Who Hid That She Is White (New Yorker)
- In Encounters With Black Leaders, Trump Has Chosen Photo Ops Over Substance (NYT, $)
- An entire town for sale:19 families buy nearly 97 acres of land in Georgia to create a city safe for Black people (CNN)
- An economic collapse has pushed families who live in Orlando’s motels to the brink (WaPo, $)
A Lawsuit A Day Keeps The Apple Monopoly Away
- 49-year old Tim Sweeney is a veteran computer programmer who founded Epic Games in the early 1990s in his parents’ basement in the suburbs of Washington DC, and grew the business into a $17 billion gaming empire. Sweeney developed the fantastically successful video game phenomenon Fortnite, which has amassed over 350 million registered players worldwide.
- Now, the iconoclastic executive wants to enlist his army players in his fight against Silicon Valley powerhouses Apple and Google. Last month, Sweeney dragged the tech giants into court over the 30 percent fee they charge on purchases made in their mobile app stores. He hadn’t spoken previously about his decision, but now says he had the backing of countless other app developers who also believe the tech titans are taking advantage of them.
- “It’s not just Epic being exploited by Apple, but it’s every developer who goes along with that scheme colluding with Apple and Google to further their monopoly,” Sweeney said in an interview. “These stores are making a lot more money from creative works than the creators.” Apple and Google explain that they have long charged the 30 percent fee for in-app purchases, and that the commission supports technical staff who make sure apps on iPhones and Androids are safe and secure. Sweeney calls this justification offensive.
- “Every Apple engineer who works on these services and ensures that iPhone is the most secure platform in the world has got to deeply resent the business guys for taking credit and claiming that their store monopoly is the reason why the platform is secure. It’s just not true.” In its latest legal filing, Apple says Sweeney is positioning his company as a “modern corporate Robin Hood [which in reality is just] a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing.” (NPR)
- Publishers Are Taking the Internet to Court (The Nation)
- Review: ‘The WEIRDest People in the World,’ by Joseph Henrich (Atlantic, $)
- Shere Hite, Who Challenged Myths of Female Sexuality, Dies at 77 (NYT, $)
- So long, stalkers: How to blur your house on Google Street View (and why you should) (Mashable)
- Are Gender Reveals Cursed? (NYT, $)
- The demographics of ditching meat: Why black Americans are more likely to be vegan (BBC)
- I Look White To Many. I’m Black. This Is What White People Say To Me. (HuffPost)
- The Unfinished Story of Emmett Till’s Final Journey (Gen)
- Once you pop, you might have to stop: Pringles tube tries to wake from ‘recycling nightmare’ (BBC)
- AmazonBasics products are going up in flames, but not enough for Amazon to stop selling them (The Verge)
- I made Gordon Ramsay’s scrambled eggs at home using the chef’s recipe (Insider)
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