January 6, 2021
The Good News
- Renovations begin to turn former KKK meeting spot into racial harmony site (ABC)
- Newark police: No officer fired a single shot in 2020, thanks to de-escalation program (News 12 NJ)
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action” —Benjamin Disraeli
“The unique ability to take decisive action while maintaining focus on the ultimate mission is what defines a true leader.” — Robert Kiyosaki
Boris’ Buzzer Beater: A Last-Minute Lockdown Decision
(Christopher Furlong via Getty Image)
A fast-spreading variant of COVID-19 is sweeping through the UK, threatening to overwhelm hospitals already hard-pressed. On Sunday, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, noted for having taken decisive action last year to try staying ahead of the pandemic, announced another full-scale lockdown for her country.
Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson acknowledged current controls on daily life in England were insufficient, then waited a day to impose a similar shutdown. He declared a strict new nationwide lockdown late Monday, and ordered schools and colleges to shutter their campuses and return to remote learning. The restrictions will remain in effect at least until the middle of February.
Johnson has been fiercely criticized for his handling of the pandemic, and can’t seem to catch a break. Two vaccines seen as the way out of the formidable, ten-month-long health crisis just arrived on the scene. But that good news was overshadowed by the frightening escalation in new coronavirus cases. In London and southeast England the numbers of new infections spiked close to 60,000 a day, putting hospitals under acute pressure.
For Johnson’s critics, Monday’s developments illustrate his tendency to postpone important decisions until the last minute. Supporters said he was simply trying to balance public health issues with the devastating impact on the economy. But pressure was growing even within Johnson’s own Conservative Party. Earlier Monday, senior lawmaker and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that it was “time to act” and “to close schools, borders, and ban all household mixing right away.” The head of the global public health program at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh concurred: “He’s already late. The situation is dire with the new variant. They have to manage borders, pause schools, and stop mixing between households.”
In the end, Johnson’s decision was inevitable. “It’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” he said in a televised address.
On Tuesday, Sturgeon said Scotland’s lockdown, which includes a ban on non-essential travel, applied to President Trump, putting an end to rumors that Trump would visit his Turnberry golf resort on January 20 during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Norway Sells The Most EVs. Shocking, Isn’t It?
(Sean Gallup via Getty Images)
- Norway is the first country where electric car sales have overtaken sales of those powered by any other means.
- Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) made up 54.3% of all new cars sold in Norway in 2020. That’s a global record, up from 42.4% in 2019 and from a mere 1% of the overall market a decade ago.
- Volkswagen’s Audi brand topped the 2020 leaderboard with its e-tron sports utility and sportsback vehicles as the most sold new passenger cars in Norway last year, while Tesla’s mid-sized Model 3, the 2019 winner, was relegated to second place.
- Despite being an oil-producer, Norway exempts fully electric vehicles from taxes imposed on those relying on fossil fuels. The policy has turned the country’s car market into a laboratory for carmakers seeking a path to a future without internal combustion engines. (Guardian)
On Delisting Chinese Comms Companies, NYSE Can’t Seem To Make A Call
- Last November, President Trump signed an executive order banning American firms and individuals from owning stock in 31 Chinese companies previously listed as having ties to the Chinese military. The order was set to take effect on January 11 and gave investors until November 2021 to divest.
- The administration stepped up its hard-line stance against China in December when the US Commerce department added dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist, accusing Beijing of using its firms to harness civilian technologies for military purposes.
- On January 2, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) began delisting three Chinese telecom firms: China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. China announced it would be taking “necessary measures” to safeguard the interests of its companies.
- Then, late Monday, the NYSE announced that “in light of further consultation … [it] no longer intends to move forward with the delisting action.” A spokesperson for the exchange declined further comment. (MSN, Axios)
Additional World News
- China blocks entry to WHO team studying COVID’s origins (Guardian)
- Trump administration targets Iran steel sector with new sanctions (Aljazeera)
- Facial Recognition And Beyond: Journalist Ventures Inside China’s ‘Surveillance State’ (NPR)
- The scope of China’s use of forced labor in Xinjiang is bigger than we knew (Axios)
- Qatar crisis: Gulf states vow ‘solidarity’ as Saudis end embargo (BBC)
- UK Lockdown: Schools, Colleges to Close as Coronavirus Variant Rages (NYT, $)
- Death of Chinese tech worker fuels anger over brutal hours (WaPo, $)
- Analysis: What to make of Iran’s half-measures (CNN)
- How the Gulf crisis spurred Qatar to expand its military (Aljazeera)
- Singapore says COVID-19 contact-tracing data can be requested by police (NPR)
- Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens of Pro-Democracy Leaders (NYT, $)
- Now’s the time of year when lots of people are looking to make diet and lifestyle changes. It can be tough to know where to start—but ButcherBox is here to help with a free pork butt, ground beef, and chicken thighs. They deliver high-quality meat directly to your door, making it easier than ever to meal prep and cook delicious recipes you can feel good about.
- For a limited time, they’re giving new members up to 10 pounds of high-quality meat FREE in your first box. They’ve selected three awesome cuts that are paleo-, keto-, and Whole30 friendly—so if you’re kick-starting your year with one of these meal plans, they’ve got you covered. You’ll get an amazingly delicious pork butt, 2 lbs of ground beef, and a pack of bone-in chicken thighs when you sign up today.
Georgia Goes Down To The Wire
- It was a very late night for those watching Georgia’s two runoff elections, with the lead changing at head-spinning turns. Between the two Democrats, Reverend Raphael Warnock had received more votes than fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff, perhaps because Warnock is a Georgia native and pastor of the renowned Ebenezer Baptist Church.
- Warnock was leading his incumbent Republican opponent, Kelly Loeffler, by 34,000 votes at 11:17 pm ET when he was projected as the winner by Buzzfeed. Loeffler was appointed and had not distinguished herself in any way other than to tout her support of President Trump. Unless something changes, Warnock will become the state’s first African American Senator, and only one of three African Americans in the Senate when his term begins.
- Ossoff’s race against David Perdue was still too close to call. Perdue is the first cousin of the former governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, who is currently President Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture. (Buzzfeed)
Trump Administration Takes On House Cats For Title Of Birds’ Greatest Enemy
- The Trump administration keeps busting up the furniture and setting fire to the drapes on its way out the door. This week the Department of the Interior (DOI) and what’s left of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered parting gifts to fossil fuel companies and other major polluting industries. On Monday, the hollowed-out EPA finalized a measure effectively barring some scientific studies from consideration when the agency is drafting public policies.
- And on Tuesday, the DOI gutted protections for migratory birds, meaning companies won’t be held liable for “unintentionally” killing any feathered flyers, whether by toxic oil spills, waste in ponds, electrocution on power lines, or even by illegally spraying banned pesticides.
- These two so-called “midnight regulations” are among the last major environmental rollbacks expected from the Trump administration, and they’ll present an immediate challenge to the incoming Biden administration which has pledged to suspend and reverse many of these last-minute “conflagration” regulations.
- And while industry leaders and administration officials say they expect businesses to continue to ‘voluntarily’ protect bird habitats, environmentalists called the decision just plain cruel. “It’s horrendous,” said the director of litigation at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It will just have a really overwhelming negative effect on our already dwindling bird populations.” (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Senate GOP opposition grows to Electoral College challenge (Politico)
- Top US business leaders call on Congress to certify election results (Guardian)
- Facebook will resume political ad ban in Georgia after polls close (Axios)
- Justice Dept. Seeks to Pare Back Civil Rights Protections for Minorities (NYT, $)
- Biden to tap more Obama vets to fill key national security roles (Politico)
- Prosecutor Announces No Charges Will Be Filed Against Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake (NPR)
- Delay, dismantle, resist: DeVos leaves a legacy like no other Education secretary (Politico)
- Proud Boys leader released, must leave DC before Trump rally (Aljazeera)
- FBI, NSA say ongoing hacks at US federal agencies ‘likely Russian in origin’ (TechCrunch)
- Pennsylvania GOP Refuses To Swear In Democratic Incumbent After His Victory (NPR)
- ‘Lazy,’ ‘Money-Oriented,’ ‘Single Mother’: How Union-Busting Firms Compile Dossiers on Employees (Vice)
What Comes After Veganuary? Fe-brew-ary?
- Raise your hand if you’re among the record number of people who signed up to turn January into “Veganuary” by eating only plant-based foods for the entire month. (If you’re in Texas, Nebraska, or Kansas you can skip this part.)
- Veganuary is a global campaign that challenges people to give up eating animals for a month in favor of the alternatives out there. 500,000 people signed up, double the number who pledged to go vegan for January 2019. Of this year’s half-million contestants, 150,000 are in Latin America, 125,000 in the UK, 50,000 in Germany, and 80,000 in the US.
- OK, so it’s not a huge percentage of the global population, but it’s a start. There are plenty of good reasons to cut down on the amount of animal foods in our diets, from reducing animal suffering to lessening the environmental damage caused by food production, not to mention improving our own health.
- The World Health Organization declared processed red meat to be a carcinogen in 2015, and unprocessed red meat such as steaks and chops to be a probable carcinogen. Yet people in rich nations still eat more than the recommended amount of red meat, which is also linked to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Plus, scientists say cutting out meat is the single best way individuals can tackle climate and wildlife crises.
- The biggest reason people give for not trying plant-based meat is that they don’t think it will taste good. They’d have to eat those words if they tried an Impossible Whopper from Burger King. (Guardian)
- Brazil Is Famous for Its Meat. But Vegetarianism Is Soaring. (NYT, $)
- Scientists Are Hunting for a Mysteriously Missing Supermassive Black Hole (Vice)
- The race to save an Indigenous Brazilian language from extinction (Aljazeera)
- Court says Uber can’t hold users to terms they probably didn’t read (ArsTechnica)
- These spiders may sew leaves into fake shelters to lure frogs to their doom (Science News)
- Agriculture Industry Bets on Carbon as a New Cash Crop (WSJ)
- One in three US rivers have changed color since 1984. Here’s what this means (Salon)
- Inclusive design pioneer August de los Reyes dies of COVID-19 complications (Fast Company)
- More Birds Bring More Happiness, According to Science (Audubon)
- Renewables produce more power than fossil fuels in Germany for first time (Clean Energy Wire)
- Finally, a story that’s very close to our hearts: The absolute best way to make peanut butter (Salon)
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