October 13, 2020
The Good News
- Mainstream solutions: A Dutch inventor is cleaning the world’s most polluted rivers in an effort to save the oceans (CNN)
- In Terms of Child Mortality, It’s a Good Time for Public Health (NYT, $). It’s the best time to be a baby, all things considered.
“The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.” — John Lewis
“When it’s democracy, the majority rules and the minority indicates where to turn the steering wheel.” — Laurence J. Peter
The Keys To The White House Lie In The Keystone State
(Jeff Swensen via Getty Images)
Despite all the national attention given to the presidential election, with the endless droll of polling and punditry, contests in America’s electoral college system are often truly decided in a single swing state. In 2000, it was Florida. And in 2020 — if you follow the recent influx of advertising money — it may be Pennsylvania. As Joe Biden appears to establish daunting leads in other northern battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin, President Trump’s campaign has redirected funding to Pennsylvania in an effort to make the Keystone State the linchpin of bid for reelection. And as Trump doubles down on his commitment to repeat his 2016 surprise win in a state that had voted Democrat in every election since 1988, the Biden campaign eyes Pennsylvania as the electoral knockout punch that could erase any shadow of a doubt on a landslide victory.
“It’s pretty clear 25 days out that Pennsylvania will be the tipping point state,” said Bradley Beychok, president of the pro-Democratic PAC American Bridge. “We have moved most of our budget into Pennsylvania.”
Pennsylvania has long been considered an ideal litmus test for a presidential nominee, given the two major metropolitan areas that buttress an otherwise rural state. Much of Trump’s 2016 success was found in flipping white voters in the non-urban regions of the state, who felt abandoned by the new Democratic platform and feared they were losing their political voices as industrial factories shuttered. Biden has pledged to right this wrong, telling prospective voters at a late-September event that he acknowledged that “a lot of white, working-class Democrats thought we forgot them and didn’t pay attention, “I want them to know — I mean sincerely — that I’m going to be your president.”
To get a feel of the approach the Trump campaign is taking to counter Biden, consider last week’s Vice Presidential debate. Notice the disproportionate amount of discussion dedicated to fracking? It’s because Trump sees the Democratic climate policy as a wedge issue that could turn away rural Pennsylvanians that rely on fracking jobs. “Your energy jobs are gone if they get in,” Trump said in a recent campaign address from the White House.
VP nominee Kamala Harris even threw her support behind the controversial extraction method. In a national debate, these hyper-specific industry issues reveal just how much both campaigns are bending to meet the will of a small population of voters
“He’s asking everyone about Pennsylvania,” said a person with knowledge of internal deliberations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. “He thinks he’s going to win Ohio and Florida. He thinks he has real work to do in Pennsylvania.”
And he’s right, current polling from FiveThirtyEight projects that Trump trails Biden by an average of 7.3 points in the pivotal state. But Trump is no stranger to a late-game comeback. At this time for years ago, Hillary Clinton boasted a similarly dispiriting lead over the rogue businessman. So our two cents for election night? Watch for Pennsylvania.
The Oceanic Anti-Trump
- While two old white men vie for the American presidency, there’s quite a different type of election occurring in New Zealand. Two women — both under the age of 70 — are set to square off over the weekend to determine who will lead the island nation with a population of 5 million. The general election has garnered international attention despite New Zealand’s modest population, mostly on the part of current Prime Minister Jacina Ardern.
- The 40-year-old progressive’s first term has seen her give birth to a baby in office, respond to a harrowing terrorist attack, and navigate New Zealand through the COVID-19 pandemic with astonishing effectiveness (the country has reported merely 25 deaths). Her leadership through continual crisis has made Ardern one of the world’s most recognizable leaders, and polling ahead of the October 17 election record her as one her nation’s most popular leaders ever.
- Given her good standing both internationally and amongst New Zealanders, it’s highly unlikely that Ardern will be unseated by National Party challenger Judith Collins. In fact, the cult of personality surrounding the fresh-faced female leader is so strong that some predict that she will lead her Labour Party to the first majority ever secured by a party under the current political system.
- This should come as much of a surprise to those who attended high school with the leader that international pundits have dubbed the “anti-Trump.” Years before she garnered such international acclaim, her classmates predicted on the superlative page of her yearbook that Ardern was “Most Likely To Become Prime Minister.” (CNN)
Shattering Stereotypes In The Street
- As protests in Belarus over a contested election enter their third months, it seems more and more unlikely that “Europe’s last dictator” Aleksandr Lukashenko will ever concede to a transfer of power. However, the widespread protest movement has resulted in different — perhaps more profound — national realization. As men suffered brutal treatment from masked riot officers, female activists came to their side. Leveraging the social stereotype that “only cowards beat women,” women have taken control of the anti-government movement and shielded their male counterparts from harm.
- “Women were stronger in this situation,” said Tatiana N. Kotes, a film production designer and activist. “We had to assume a more significant role. Men’s dominating role in the society has collapsed.” Feminism and hate for Lukashenko go hand-in-hand, as the strongarm leader has accused women of being too weak for politics and instead suggested their place in society was the kitchen.
- This simmering wave of female activism was lit aflame when he faced a surprise challenger in Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran for the presidency when her husband was imprisoned. Tikhanovskaya represented everything that Lukashenko despised about women, and everything that gender rights activists needed to stand up to Belarus’ patriarchal society.
- “She just cooked a tasty cutlet, maybe fed the children, and the cutlet smelled nice,” Mr. Lukashenko said of his female opponent in an interview before the election. “And now there’s supposed to be a debate about some issues.” Such rhetoric has only prolonged the protests that have followed after Lukashenko claimed to win by more than 80% of the vote. Now, Belarussian women are standing tall in the face of a violent government crackdown on public dissent. (NYT)
- “They didn’t expect that a woman could stand against them,” said Ksenia A. Fyodorova, 47, an entrepreneur and activist, of the security forces. “We realized that you can only counter them in a way that would be diametrically opposed to what they did.” (NYT)
Additional World News
- For Trump, Defying Mideast Truisms Produced Breakthroughs and Backfires (NYT, $). A mixed bag in the Middle East.
- Afghans stunned, worried by Trump tweet to bring home U.S. troops early (WaPo, $)
- Pakistan Bans TikTok, Citing Morals. Others Cite Politics. (NYT, $)
- Armenia, Azerbaijan report attacks despite cease-fire deal (AP)
- Think on the brink: ‘Humans weren’t always here. We could disappear’: meet the collapsologists & All That Could Burn (Guardian, New Yorker)
- ‘Real and imminent’ extinction risk to whales (BBC)
- The 50 Richest Americans Are Worth as Much as the Poorest 165 Million (Bloomberg)
- An Arrest in Canada Casts a Shadow on a New York Times Star, and The Times (NYT, $)
- The gospel goes online: 15-Year-Old Computer Whiz Who Died In 2006 Could Become 1st Millennial Saint (NPR)
- Can Trump Really Speed Approval of Covid Treatments? (NYT, $)
- Covid virus ‘survives for 28 days’ in lab conditions (BBC)
- CNN exclusive: Fauci says he was taken out of context in new Trump campaign ad touting coronavirus response (CNN)
- As Covid Cases Surge, More Public-Health Experts Say Lockdowns Aren’t the Answer (WSJ)
Excess Fear With Excess Gear
- As Black Lives Matter protests prompted millions to take the streets this summer in opposition of police violence, it was difficult to ignore the military-style response from local authorities. Tanks and trucks lined city blocks, and many wondered how and why domestic officers obtained access to such sophisticated equipment.
- Well, a recent audit released by the Pentagon’s top watchdog reveals just how unnecessary these militarized police forces have become. Since 1990, the Department of Defense has supplied federal and state law enforcement agencies with more than $7.4 billion in excess military gear. In a review of 15 those agencies, watchdogs found that 9 of them were given access to equipment “without a current need of the … property for law enforcement purposes.”
- Even more questionable is the finding that, In the five of the agencies, military supplies were requested only so they could be resold to other departments at a slightly upcharged price. These findings reveal the drastic lack of federal oversight when it comes to supplying domestic authorities with military-grade equipment. This is a problem that former-president Barack Obama highlighted during his time in office.
- “We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they’re an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said while announcing the new restrictions in 2015. “Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments.” (Task and Purpose)
Additional USA News
- Let it slide: Fix America With Libraries, Playgrounds, and Parks (Atlantic, $)
- In a Small Alabama Town, Suddenly All Politics Is National (NYT, $)
- Amateur hour at the Trump White House (Politico)
- The Sedition of Donald Trump (Rolling Stone)
- Trump said he could kill and win – Covid and cheating may prove it (Guardian). When the theoretical shooting on Fifth Ave becomes real with COVID-19.
- These Are The 4 Tricky Issues for the Biden-Harris 2020 Election Ticket (NYT, $)
- Mark Meadows wedding: Why the chief of staff’s party for his daughter is so offensive. (Slate)
- Jaime Harrison Raises a Record $57 Million as He Challenges Lindsey Graham (NYT, $)
- Lindsey Graham, reverse ferret: how John McCain’s spaniel became Trump’s poodle (Guardian)
- Republicans Are Abusing the Concept of Precedent (Atlantic, $). Problems with president and precedent alike.
- How Amy Coney Barrett played a role in Bush v. Gore — and helped the Republican Party defend mail ballots (WaPo, $)
- Michigan terror plot: why rightwing extremists are thriving on Facebook (Guardian)
- When the mitten hits the fan: How Could Vote-By-Mail Impact the Election? Look at Michigan (NYT, $)
Owning The Libs, Online
- Perhaps you’ve heard of the Onion, a satire website that routinely makes a mockery of conservative leaders like Donald Trump. But that’s not all too unique in the current media environment. That’s where the “The Babylon Bee” steps in. When so much comedic energy has been expended on poo-pooing the president, Kyle Mann saw it only right to fill the void and create a counterweight that takes perpetual stabs at those who can’t stand Trump.
- The Babylon Bee characterizes itself as a satire site for churchgoing conservatives, running faux-headlines like “100 percent of people marching on Washington were not aborted” or “Liberal Activist Explains Notion Of Tolerance To Man She Just Called A ‘Worthless [Expletive].” The site began in 2016 and initially lambasted Trump for his absurd antics. However, when roasting Trump became too mainstream, they sought new comedic territory in mocking the left.
- “The things we see as most absurd, the bad ideas most deserving of ridicule tend to be ideas on the left,” says Seth Dillon, the site’s chief executive. “We’re not trying to be a fair, objective site that equally makes fun of everyone.” This point was accentuated by Mann, who once praised Dillon as a writer with an “insatiable desire to own the libs.”
- No matter how you feel about this brand of humor, the Babylon Bee seems to be thriving as a rare beacon of humor in a media landscape where liberal outlets seem to have cornered the funny market. According to media analysts, this represents a shift in partisan power dynamics. “It wasn’t that there wasn’t a conservative ‘Daily Show’ or a conservative Onion,” said former Republican adviser Sarah Isgur. “It was that you couldn’t have one, because there wasn’t anything funny about liberals or the conservative side.”
- Anthony Nadler, professor and author of “News on the Right,” shared a similar sentiment: “Satire typically punches up, it’s mocking the pretensions of the powerful.” (NYT)
- Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’ (Guardian)
- How to Block Bad Websites—or Just Get Things Done (Wired). Sanitize your screen.
- How to delete 99.9%* of your digital footprint (Creative Bloq)
- Big brother wasn’t watching, but mother Russia was: Revealed: Soviet spies targeted George Orwell during Spanish civil war (Guardian)
- Why British Police Shows Are Better (Atlantic, $)
- Soup and wine with Roger Penrose, master of gravity, light and infinity (Guardian)
- How to lose weight when you can’t get motivated (Slate)
- Vanilla extract: The Rise and Fall of Vanilla Ice, As Told by Vanilla Ice (Ringer)
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