Distress For The Job You Want
March 26, 2021
“You put the small thief in prison, but the big thief lives in a palace.”― Graham Greene, Orient Express
“The palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.” ― Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Next Stop, A Huge Problem
(Boston Globe via Getty Images)
During 2020 greenhouse emissions fell globally by 2.4 billion tons — a 7% drop from 2019 — driven by a decline in transportation activity. The US had the largest decline in carbon emissions at 12%, followed by the EU at 11%. Emissions in India decreased by 9%, and in China, by 1.7%.
This was great news, albeit momentary, for the planet, But the decline in the use of public transportation — both from lockdowns and a subsequent lingering fear of contact with strangers — is a double edged sword.
The benefits of public transport are clear. The more people that can be carried together from place to place means less individual vehicles on roadways, and less pollution. It’s a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, as well as abate noise and congestion.
But public transit depends on fares, and significantly decreased ridership means revenues for many big systems have fallen off a cliff. The pain is being felt everywhere. The London Underground is currently operating at 20% of its normal capacity. In India, Delhi Metro is carrying fewer than half the riders it used to. In Brazil, Rio’s unpaid bus drivers have gone on strike. And New York subway traffic is a third of what it was before the pandemic. In some places service has been cut. Elsewhere fares have increased, and transit workers are staring at the prospect of layoffs.
“We are facing maybe the most important crisis in the public transport sector in different parts of the world,” said the director of urban mobility for the World Resources Institute. “It’s urgent to act.” The question is how? Government bailouts won’t last forever. People still aren’t moving around much. Many office workers continue working from home, and many universities aren’t yet open for in-person classes. Fear of the virus has returned many people to cars. In the US, used car sales, along with prices, have shot up.
It’s a vicious circle. If commuters continue to trade public transit for cars, the implications for air pollution and greenhouse emissions are huge. And if transit systems continue losing passenger fare revenues, they can’t make the investments necessary to be efficient, safe and attractive to commuters.
In Shanghai China, where new COVID-19 infections remain low and the economy is rebounding, public transport ridership has returned to normal. But the picture remains grim in many cities. London’s transit agency expects it will be at least two years before usage returns to pre-pandemic levels. (CNBC, NYT)
Do I As Say, Not As I Possess
(WPA Pool via Getty Images)
- In 2017 Britain’s parliament passed the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act, a law that seeks to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage — such as monuments, archaeological sites, works of art and important books — in future wars. Although primarily relating to the preservation and protection of cultural property in war zones, parts of the legislation relate to stolen or looted artifacts that have been trafficked out of those countries.
- The law makes the buying or selling of these stolen or looted artifacts a criminal offense punishable by up to seven years in jail. Police have the power to search premises if it is suspected they are being used to store illegally obtained artifacts.
- The Guardian is conducting an investigation of the Queen’s consent, an obscure parliamentary mechanism that gives the monarch advanced sight of proposed laws, including those affecting public functions, private property and personal interests.
- Last month the newspaper published documents showing how the Queen had used the process to secretly lobby ministers to change draft legislation. In one instance, after an intervention from her private lawyer, a bill was amended to conceal the Queen’s “embarrassing” private wealth from the public.
- The Guardian has now learned that prior to the Cultural Property law’s passage, ministers gave the Queen a personal exemption that prevents police from searching her private estates. Neither the palace nor the government would comment on why a special exemption was deemed necessary. A spokesperson for the Queen dismissed any suggestion that stolen or looted artifacts were being held at Balmoral and Sandringham. (Guardian)
A Lot Of Hot Air Over A Lot Of Hot Air
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau succeeded in getting a contentious law passed to tax carbon emissions. The 2018 Greenhouse Gas Pricing Act is a national framework for carbon pricing, and sets minimum pricing standards for provinces to meet. Provinces could implement their own plans, but the law gives the federal government in Ottawa the power to apply its own carbon tax, known as the “backstop,” on those provinces that either fall short of the national standard or haven’t implemented their own system.
- The tax plan has been the central driving force in Trudeau’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, but it’s faced fierce criticism from its right-leaning political adversaries, who contend it hurts consumers and energy producers. Governments in three provinces — Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan — challenged the legality of the measure.
- The issue wound up in Canada’s Supreme Court, which ruled on Thursday that: “Parliament has jurisdiction to enact this law as a matter of national concern.” It’s a big political win for Trudeau, but not the end of the fight. Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole vowed to repeal the carbon tax on consumers, although he is likely to keep it in place for industrial emitters. (BBC)
Additional World News
- With a Police Raid and the Threat of Export Curbs on Vaccines, the E.U. Plays Tough (NYT, $)
- The Art of the Vladimir Putin Photo Shoot (NYT, $)
- Suez blockage is holding up $9.6bn of goods a day (BBC)
- North Korea claims it tested a new guided missile (Guardian)
- China attacks foreign clothing, shoe brands over Xinjiang (AP)
- Biden says China won’t surpass U.S. as global leader on his watch (Reuters)
- What Are You Paying for When You Buy a GIF for $25,000? (NYT, $)
- What Sky Bet, The Gambling App, Knows About You (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: EU says AstraZeneca must ‘catch up’ on vaccine deliveries (BBC)
- How Do Plague Stories End? (New Yorker, $)
- How Taiwan triumphed over Covid as the UK faltered (Guardian)
- Gibraltar looks to post-Covid era as vaccine drive nears completion (Guardian)
Distress For The Job You Want
- In 2016, Jason Miller was the Trump campaign’s chief spokesperson. Although married, Miller had an affair with a fellow campaign adviser and fathered a son. After Trump was elected, a powerhouse, Washington-based, corporate advisory firm, Teneo, hired Miller at a base salary of nearly $500,000 for access to top Republicans in Trump’s inner circle. Meanwhile a Florida court ordered Miller to pay child support and his paramour’s legal fees.
- In June 2019 Miller posted a series of obscenity-laced tweets about the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler. The tirade became a scandal and Miller was forced to “resign” from Teneo. Instead, Miller signed a new contract with the firm, wherein Teneo would secretly engage Miller as a consultant, through a hastily formed LLC, doing the same work at the same base compensation of a half million dollars. Miller’s “resignation” was widely reported; his secret deal was not.
- Three days later Miller filed motions in the Florida court asserting in sworn statements that because he was no longer employed, he was unable to make child support payments, pay his child’s mother’s legal fees, or afford to fly back for any court hearings. As evidence of his supposed “major financial setback,” Miller cited newspaper articles reporting his “resignation” from Teneo. Court records show that Miller made other false or misleading statements under oath in multiple instances.
- All this was happening while Miller was a senior political strategist in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. While others around Trump have jumped ship, Miller has remained intensely loyal, and is playing an increasing prominent role in Trump’s post-presidency life. (Guardian)
You Have The Right To Remain Silent. Anything I Do Can Be Used Against Me In Court.
- A Supreme Court ruling, handed down Thursday, comes at a time when the country is still grappling with claims of excessive force by law enforcement officers. In 2014 Roxanne Torres was shot twice in the back as she attempted to drive away from two New Mexico police officers approaching her car.
- Much later Torres pled no contest to three violations, but filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court claiming the officers used excessive force and violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures when they shot her in the back. A lower court ruled that Torres couldn’t bring the claim because she had actually evaded capture and hadn’t been seized by the police. An arrest would have qualified as a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment, but since she hadn’t actually been immediately stopped she couldn’t bring the lawsuit.
- Writing for the 5-3 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the “application of physical force with the intent to restrain” is a seizure, even if the person “does not submit and is not subdued.” The case was sent back to the lower court with instructions to consider whether the police officer’s actions were reasonable under the Constitution, the damages caused by the seizure, and the officers’ entitlement to qualified immunity. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- Los Angeles police clash with protesters in fight to evict major homeless encampment (Guardian)
- Why America’s Great Crime Decline Is Over (Atlantic, $)
- Bad News Bias: The U.S. media is offering a different picture of COVID-19 from science journals or the international media, a study finds. (NYT, $)
- Officer Brian Sicknick Died After the Capitol Riot. New Videos Show How He Was Attacked. (NYT, $)
- We See the Left. We See the Right. Can Anyone See the ‘Exhausted Majority’? (NYT, $)
- The Trump Presidency Is History. They’re Writing the First Draft. (NYT, $)
- The Atlanta Shootings and a Religious Toxicity (NYT, $)
- Sex addiction fact check: Why so many young Christian men like the Atlanta shooter believe they’re addicted to sex. (Slate)
- Scientists discover why the human brain is so big (Guardian)
- How To Reboot Your Brain After a Year of Stress (Well and Good)
This Photo Says A Lot More Than Cheese
- Hidden information inside digital photos can lead to unintended consequences by revealing much more than the photographers and their subjects bargained for. Not only do they have embedded timestamps, but location data as well.
- When a photo is taken with a smartphone or digital camera, the device stores “metadata” within the image file. This automatically and parasitically burrows itself into every photo taken. It is data about data, providing identifying information, like when and where an image was captured, and what type of camera was used.
- It’s possible to expunge metadata using freely available tools such as ExifTool. But many people don’t even realize the data is there, let alone how it might be used, so they don’t bother doing anything about it before they post images online. Some social media platforms remove information like geolocation (though only from public view), but many other websites do not.
- The data is useful for police investigators and savvy criminals alike, and can pose a real privacy problem for law abiding citizens. And metadata isn’t the only thing hidden in your photos. There is also a unique personal identifier linking every image you capture to the specific camera used, and it’s one you’d probably never suspect.
- The different sensitivities of cameras’ photosites — which describe the amount of light detected as a photo is snapped —.creates a type of imperceptible image watermark. Although unintentional, it acts like a fingerprint, unique to your camera’s sensor, which is imprinted onto every photo you take. Much like snowflakes, no two imaging sensors are alike. In the digital image forensics community, this sensor fingerprint is known as “photo response non-uniformity”. And it’s hard to remove, even if you try. (BBC)
- The social biome: how to build nourishing friendships – and banish loneliness (Guardian)
- Why You Stay Up So Late, Even When You Know You Shouldn’t (Wired, $)
- Islands in the Stream (Prospect)
- Why ambiverts are better leaders (BBC)
- Windows 10 is getting new File Explorer icons as part of a visual overhaul (Verge)
- To Lead Better Under Stress, Understand Your Three Selves (Harvard Business Review)
- The fight against fake-paper factories that churn out sham science (Nature)
- Forced into living through the screen: Sherry Turkle’s Plugged-In Year (New Yorker, $)
- Puzzling Through Our Eternal Quest for Wellness (New Yorker, $)
- What Are 2020’s Tax Brackets, and Will I Get Audited? (ProPublica)
- How the U.S. Tax Code Privileges White Families (Atlantic, $)
- The Best Spy Novels Written by Spies, According to a Spy (CrimeReads)
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