February 9, 2021
The Good News
- Lower Sioux Indian Community To Get Ancestral Land Back From Minnesota, MN Historical Society (CBS Minnesota)
- The number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US outnumbered new cases 10 to 1 this week. (CNN)
“There is no such thing as “away.” When we throw something away, it must go somewhere” — Annie Leonard
Once Buried, Zombie Toxins Rise From The Grave
(Aaron P via Getty Images)
As the planet continues warming, sea levels continue rising. When contemplating the effect this has on coastal communities, flooding comes instantly to mind. But there’s a lesser-known phenomenon being fueled by sea-level rise, and for low-lying communities built on or nearby former industrial sites, the danger is potentially greater and much longer term. Rising seas that raise groundwater levels could mean the resurfacing of long-buried toxic contamination.
California’s Bay area is rife with industrial sites old and new. In East Oakland, industry boomed in the early 1900s as lumber yards, canneries, rail depots, and foundries sprang up. Kristina Hill, an urban planner and environmental professor at UC Berkeley, says that prior to the 1960s when governments began enacting major environmental regulations, “stuff got dumped informally.”
Since then, toxic chemicals like benzene and toluene have been found to be leaking from underground storage tanks. “Legacy contamination in the soil will be remobilized when the water table comes up and intersects with these areas of contaminated soil,” Hill says. That contaminated groundwater could seep into a basement or crawlspace beneath a home, or sneak in through a broken sewage line. Some of these chemicals vaporize, so humans could breathe them in. Communities within a mile of the Bay Area coast could likely be affected.
Alec Naugle, head of the toxics cleanup division for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, which regulates the mitigation of contaminated sites in a large area stretching over the nine Bay Area counties, said contamination in groundwater often cannot be seen or smelled. But a lifetime of exposure increases the risk of cancer.
Many at-risk neighborhoods have large Black and Latino populations who already deal with unequal environmental health burdens. Children in East Oakland are twice as likely to suffer from asthma than their peers across Alameda County. Hill says it’s no coincidence that the large numbers of people of color living in low-lying areas will likely be first to face the threat of rising groundwater, since discriminatory housing practices like redlining and restrictive homeowner covenants “prevented people of color from moving to neighborhoods on higher ground.”
Naugle notes that contaminated sites are at risk of flooding all along California shorelines. “There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of these cases in our region alone, not to mention statewide.” To help identify the most urgent locations, Naugle plans to use data from groundwater depth maps as guides to test for contamination in four Bay Area counties. (NPR)
China Plans Expansion, Tibetan Tradition Be Dammed
(Subhendu Sarkar via Getty Images)
- China is planning to build the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam on the sacred Yarlung Tsangpo river in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Respect for nature is deeply rooted in the centuries-old Tibetan culture, and this river is particularly significant.
- The Yarlung Tsangpo is the world’s highest river at nearly 16,404 feet above sea level. It originates in the glaciers of western Tibet and snakes its way through the Himalayan mountain range before plunging 8,858 feet through the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, forming a gorge more than twice the depth of America’s Grand Canyon.
- The precipitous fall makes it particularly conducive to collecting hydroelectric power, but with likely political and environmental consequences. Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, head of Environment and Development at the Tibetan Policy Institute, says reverence for the natural world was born from the Tibetan Plateau’s unique landscape. “There’s a very strict tradition that no one will go near certain streams or do anything that would disturb it… every Tibetan abides by it.”
- But since China annexed Tibet in 1950, Zamlha says Tibetans have lost all say in what happens on their land. “The Chinese will do anything to benefit their growth and this is very frustrating because Tibetans are not consulted.” (Al Jazeera)
Another Covid Curveball
- A week after a million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine arrived in South Africa, health officials have stopped its use after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants against mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious B.1.351 variant first seen in the country.
- It was a devastating blow to South Africa’s efforts to combat the pandemic, which has killed at least 46,000 people. It’s also another sign of the dangers posed by new mutations of the virus.
- The B.1.351 variant has spread to at least 32 countries, including the US. Further studies are needed to determine if the vaccine can protect against severe cases of Covid-19, hospitalizations, or deaths. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Coal-Fired Power Took a Beating During the Pandemic, Study Finds (NYT, $)
- French security bill: ‘Illegal tactics’ used against protesters (Al Jazeera)
- Beijing blocks access to Clubhouse app after surge in user numbers (Guardian). They were just upset they didn’t get an invite.
- What Awaits Navalny in Russia’s Brutal Penal Colony System (NYT, $)
- Netanyahu Enters Plea of Not Guilty in Corruption Trial (NYT, $). He didn’t stick around to see what happened after.
- Bavaria threatens to close Austria border if Tirol eases Covid rules (Guardian)
- Myanmar military warns of ‘action’ as protests grow (Al Jazeera). Apparently, the recent coup doesn’t count as ‘action.’
- This Chinese Businesswoman Was a Model of Success. Then She Angered the Party. (NYT, $)
- Listen: Inside the trial against the ‘Ndrangheta – Italy’s biggest mafia syndicate (Guardian)
- Covid deaths of Yanomami children fuel fears for Brazil’s indigenous groups (Guardian)
- Oxford Covid vaccine has 10% efficacy against South African variant, study suggests (Guardian)
- What can UK do to limit spread of South African Covid variant? (Guardian)
- WHO says don’t dismiss AstraZeneca shot after South Africa delays jabs (Guardian)
- UK lockdown reduces consumer spending to lowest levels since last spring (Guardian)
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“We’re Not Gonna Pay Rent / ‘Cause Everything Is Rent”
- Scores of tenants’ unions and anti-eviction activist groups in cities nationwide have embraced aggressive tactics to prevent the forced evictions of people unable to pay their rent during the pandemic. Housing experts compare the groups’ tactics to the rent strikes that swept America during the Great Depression.
- In Kansas City, Missouri, 854 evictions were delayed in January after a months-long campaign by the KC Tenants. The group’s members chained themselves to courthouse doors and staged sit-ins to prevent in-person hearings. They also protested at judges’ homes and waged a social media campaign called “Slumlord Saturdays,” targeting owners who allegedly kept their properties in poor repair while pursuing evictions.
- Last September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention banned evictions nationally amid concerns about the public health risks of putting people out of their homes during a health crisis. President Biden extended that moratorium to March 31.
- But exceptions in the measure have allowed some evictions to proceed. So far, nearly 250,000 tenants in 27 US cities have been removed from their homes during the pandemic. (Reuters)
Additional USA News
- In ‘Do-Over,’ Enrollment in Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Reopens (NYT, $). Everyone deserves a second chance, even Healthcare.gov.
- Virus Variant First Found in Britain Now Spreading Rapidly in U.S. (NYT, $)
- Biden Orders U.S. To Reengage With U.N. Human Rights Council ‘Immediately’ (NPR)
- Dying of Covid in a ‘Separate and Unequal’ L.A. Hospital (NYT, $)
- In Tampa, Super Bowl Celebrations Bring Superspreader Concerns (NYT, $)
- How the Police Bank Millions Through Their Union Contracts (ProPublica)
- Wall Street’s Most Reviled Investors Worry About Their Fate (NYT, $). I would do anything for love, but I won’t short-sell.
- West Virginia Has Everyone’s Attention. What Does It Really Need? (NYT, $)
- Chicago Teachers Tentatively Agree to Return to Classrooms (NYT, $)
- Anti-Vaccine Activists Emboldened in California (NYT, $). Some people just can’t face the vax.
- The Coronavirus Crossroads: the Vaccinated, the Stymied and the Waiting (NYT, $)
- In Alabama, Workers At Amazon Warehouse Are Poised For Union Vote (NPR)
- Amazon’s mushrooming power has met an unlikely foe: Bessmer, Alabama (Guardian)
- Larry Summers and the Biden stimulus inflation debate, explained (Vox)
- How to adjust Covid-19 social distancing pods when someone gets exposed (Vox)
- Disease experts warn of surge in deaths from Covid variants as US lags in tracking (Guardian)
Our Pipe Dreams Have Their Own Set Of Pipes
- Despite not having a Super Bowl ad, Zillow Group can thank Saturday Night Live for getting the biggest marketing bump over the Weeknd. A hilarious SNL sketch poked fun at how home-browsing on the Seattle real estate giant’s website is a replacement for sex, particularly for people in their late 30s. “The pleasure you once got from sex now comes from looking at other people’s houses,” was just one of several funny lines.
- The YouTube clip racked up more than 2 million views in one day, prompting Zillow CEO Rich Barton to tweet: “Wait. Have we been marketing @Zillow wrong all these years?”
- In December, the New York Times spotlighted Zillow as part of a roundup of food, products, and activities that people have turned to amid the pandemic, remarking: “No better way to channel your despair at having to stay home than by stalking someone else’s nicer home.” In November, the newspaper highlighted what it called “Zillow Surfing.” Journalist Taylor Lorenz quipped: “Zillow surfing has become a primary form of escapism for those who want to flee not just their homes but the reality of 2020.”
- The pandemic is driving more traffic to Zillow’s mobile apps and websites, which reached a record 236 million average monthly unique users in the third quarter of 2020. Zillow stock continues to rise, soaring almost 224% in 12 months. (GeekWire)
- In the Oceans, the Volume Is Rising as Never Before (NYT, $). Downstairs neighbors always do seem to make a racket.
- Hope Heads For A Rendezvous With Mars (NPR)
- Police in Minneapolis reportedly used a geofence warrant at Floyd protest last year (Verge). Somehow, “geofence” is worse than it sounds.
- A ‘uniquely American whale’: new species discovered off southern US coast (Guardian)
- Opinion | Michael Goldhaber, the Cassandra of the Internet Age (NYT, $)
- At Dhamaka, Indian Village Food Comes to the City (NYT, $)
- Summer School And Other Solutions For Coronavirus Lost Learning (NPR). Kids won’t be clamoring to get back to school for long. Parents look to capitalize.
- Elon Musk pledges $100 million for new X Prize carbon removal competition (Verge)
- Diggers and dreamers: Vinyl collectors in Africa’s city of gold (Al Jazeera)
- The missing continent it took 375 years to find (BBC). It’s not exactly a needle in a haystack.
- How texting makes stress worse (BBC)
- ASL performer Warren “Wawa” Snipe charmed millions performing at the Super Bowl (WaPo, $)
- Buen Vivir: Colombia’s philosophy for good living (BBC)
- How Covid is ‘creating a new genre’ for live music (BBC)
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