Bridges Built, Bridges Burned
April 1, 2021
The Good News
- New York Will Expunge Marijuana Convictions Under New Law (Business Insider)
- U.S. courts issue four wins over 48 hours against trophy hunting, state-funded wildlife killing, fur and cage confinement of factory-farmed birds (Humane Society)
“Short-term thinking is the greatest enemy of good government.” — Anthony Albanese
“You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure.” — Margaret Thatcher
Building Bridges, But Likely Not Across The Aisle
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
Americans now have their first look at President Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. His American Jobs Plan, the first part of which was introduced Wednesday in Pittsburgh, includes big fixes that both parties and a majority of Americans consistently say they want, like upgrades to bridges, broadband, and buildings. Additional proposals for spending on education, child care, and other social programs — what the administration calls “human infrastructure” — are expected in coming weeks.
Proposals unveiled Wednesday include $115 billion to repair and rebuild bridges, highways, and roads; $100 billion to expand high-speed broadband across the entire country; $100 billion to upgrade and build new schools; and $100 billion to expand and improve power lines and spur a shift to clean energy.
Biden wants to spend $174 billion to boost the electric vehicle market, including billions for rebates and tax incentives to encourage Americans to buy electric vehicles, and for transitioning thousands of public and school buses from diesel to electric. Incentives would also be provided for state and local governments to build electric vehicle charging stations. The plan would try speeding up private investments in clean energy by expanding investment and production tax credits, and funding existing state and local projects that already do the same.
The American Jobs Plan also has features that attempt to address historical racial inequity. It would replace all of the country’s lead pipes and service lines — dangerous infrastructure flaws that predominantly affect communities of color like those in Flint, Michigan. $85 billion would be spent improving and expanding mass transportation, the main mode of transport for many people of color. There is even a $20 billion proposal to reconnect urban neighborhoods cut off and blighted by highways that were planned and built with little regard for the people who lived along their routes.
Accomplishing this ambitious undertaking will require some tax hikes. The White House wants to raise corporate taxes to 28%. To forestall profit-shifting to tax havens, the measure would raise the global minimum tax for US multinational corporations. No mention was made of raising income tax rates on wealthy Americans.
Biden and Congressional Democrats would love to see bipartisan support, but they’re not holding their breath. Everyone likes some part(s) of the proposal, but many Republicans have already made clear the plan is too broad and far too expensive. As for the business community, it’s still trying to figure out whether to fight the corporate tax hikes in the plan. Prominent business groups like the US Chamber of Commerce are on record opposing the proposed tax hikes. Privately, however, some companies are considering whether to put up much of a fight because of corporate America’s long-time demand for an infrastructure overhaul. One lobbyist admitted there’s a lot of positive money being spent in the proposal that will be attractive to a lot of companies. “On the other hand,” he added, “nobody likes a corporate tax increase.” (NPR, CNBC)
Brazilian Leaders Bolting From Bolsonaro
(Andressa Anholete via Getty Images)
- Following President Jair Bolsonaro’s replacement of Brazil’s defense ministry, the leaders of all three branches of the country’s armed forces jointly resigned on Tuesday. Their resignations came after meeting with the new defense minister who, unlike his predecessor, celebrated the 1964-1985 military dictatorship that killed and tortured thousands of Brazilians.
- Bolsonaro is a far-right former Army captain who has himself often praised the country’s period of military dictatorship. Since taking office in January 2019, Bolsonaro has relied heavily on current and former soldiers to staff key Cabinet positions.
- Analysts fear because Bolsonaro faces increasing pressure — particularly over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — he may be moving to assert greater control over the military. Over 300,000 Brazilians have died from the virus. (AP News)
UK Reports To Itself: You’re Doing Great
- The director of a UK racial equality think-tank declared that the recently-released 258-page, government-commissioned review of racism in the UK had been “written to a script” defined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government. Halima Begum labeled the report an “utter whitewash.” “Frankly, by denying the evidence of institutional racism … I think they’ve insulted every ethnic minority in this country – the very people who continue to experience racism on a daily basis.”
- Johnson set up the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities after anti-racism protests swept the UK last summer following the death of George Floyd in the US. The commission concluded the UK wasn’t “an institutionally racist country,” and that while “impediments and disparities do exist,” the UK should be regarded as a “model for other white-majority countries,” citing achievements towards equality in education and the economy.
- The report downplayed the importance of systemic racism in explaining inequalities in healthcare and crime, and said the UK was no longer a country where the system is “deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities. Another UK-based think-tank said in a statement that there was “no attempt here to address the common ethnic minority experience of structural racism within areas such as the criminal justice system.”
- The statement said the report’s findings “fit neatly with the government’s attempts, post-Brexit, to portray the British nation as a beacon of good race relations and a diversity model.” A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK said the commission’s conclusions highlighted a bleak reality that Black Britons’ voices are still not heard. (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- Destruction of world’s forests increased sharply in 2020 (Guardian)
- ‘In the middle of a war zone’: thousands flee as Venezuela troops and Colombia rebels clash (Guardian)
- The joke is on Volkswagen after April Fool’s name change debacle (Al Jazeera). Silly Volkswagen forgot tricks are for kids.
- Suez Canal Is Open, but the World is Still Full of Giant Container Ships (NYT, $)
- How many anti-vaxxers does it take to misinform the world? Just twelve (Guardian)
- Calling it as they see it: As tensions with China grow, Biden administration formalizes genocide declaration against Beijing (WaPo, $)
- China’s Military Preparing for US Intervention in Taiwan Strait (Newsweek)
- New Zealand raises minimum wage and increases taxes on the rich (Guardian)
- A growing challenge for Iraq: Iran-aligned Shiite militias (AP)
- Lies, damn lies, and statistics: Prince William is not the world’s sexiest bald man – but the ‘study’ that says he is raises a vital issue (Guardian)
Plumbing The Depths Of Legal Water Contamination
- A nine-month investigation by the Guardian and Consumer Reports (CR) found alarming levels of forever chemicals, arsenic, and lead in samples of tap water taken across the US. 118 out of 120 samples tested for arsenic, lead, PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and other contaminants had concerning levels of PFAS or arsenic above CR’s recommended maximum, or detectable amounts of lead.
- The samples came from water systems that together serve more than 19 million people. Almost every sample tested had measurable levels of PFAS, a group of compounds found in hundreds of household products. These chemicals are linked to learning delays in children, cancer, and other health problems. More than 35% of the samples exceeded a safety threshold that CR scientists and other health experts believe should be the maximum.
- The Environmental Protection Agency says 93% of the population supplied by community water systems gets water that meets “all health-based standards all of the time.” But millions of people continue to face serious water quality problems due to contamination, deteriorating infrastructure, and inadequate treatment at water plants. (Guardian)
For The Supremes, The Ball’s In Their Court
- On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an appeal brought by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) which will test whether its limits on compensation for student athletes violate the nation’s antitrust laws. The NCAA says it limits payment to atheltes in order to preserve parity of play, and to maintain what the organization contends is the essence of college sports’ popularity — amateurism.
- The players say the NCAA, which maintains nonprofit status, is operating a system that restrains competition in business. According to an attorney who has practiced and taught sports and antitrust law for over 40 years, “There’s no question that the commercialization of big-time college basketball and football have morphed into a very lucrative business and are taking advantage of students to generate that income.” Billion-dollar TV rights have skyrocketed, as have the multimillion-dollar salaries paid to coaches.
- Player compensation isn’t just an economic issue — it’s a civil rights issue. The players most harmed, football and basketball players, are predominantly Black. While they don’t get paid, the vast amount of revenue their play generates helps fun less lucrative, predominantly White sports like tennis, golf, and swimming.
- Many states are enacting laws that would allow college athletes to make money using their own names and images through endorsement deals and social media platforms, something that’s currently banned by the NCAA. This July, the first of these laws will go into effect in Florida. (NPR, US Legal)
Additional USA News
- Over 4,000 migrants, many kids, crowded into Texas facility (AP)
- State Dept. Reverses Trump Policies on Reproductive and Religious Freedoms (NYT, $)
- ‘No Excuse Not to Be Vaccinated’ in Texas, Which Expands Eligibility to All Adults (NYT, $). Who knew supply would outpace demand?
- Why Transgender Girls Are Suddenly the GOP’s Culture-War Focus (NYT, $) & Trans kids on the Republican bills targeting them: ‘I’m not a problem to society’ (Guardian)
- In San Francisco, Turmoil Over Reopening Schools Turns a City Against Itself (NYT, $)
- Church membership in the U.S. has fallen below the majority for the first time in nearly a century (WaPo, $)
- Dozens of Christian students sue the U.S. Education Dept., hoping to pressure Equality Act negotiations (WaPo, $)
- America’s Immigration Amnesia (Atlantic). Elections don’t solve all problems.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz under investigation for sexual relationship with 17-year-old (Yahoo News)
You’ve Heard Of The Devil On Your Shoulder. Now Try Satan In Your Shoes.
- Athletic shoemaker Nike filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against a New York-based company that produced “Satan Shoes” as part of a collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X. Nike claims the company, MSCHF Product Studio, infringed on and diluted its trademark. Lil Nas X is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
- The shoes are customized Nike Air Max 97 sneakers that contain red ink and “one drop of human blood” in the sole, according to a website describing the 666 pairs of limited-edition shoes. The back of one shoe says “MSCHF” and the other says “Lil Nas X.” The shoes were priced at $1,018 a pair and went on sale Monday. Several media outlets reported they had sold out in less than a minute.
- Nike says it has been damaged by the Satan Shoes. The lawsuit states: “There is already evidence of significant confusion and dilution occurring in the marketplace, including calls to boycott Nike in response to the launch of MSCHF’s Satan Shoes based on the mistaken belief that Nike has authorized or approved this product.”
- Nike maintains the shoes were produced “without Nike’s approval and authorization,” and that it was “in no way connected with this project.” The company asked the court to immediately enjoin MSCHF from fulfilling orders for the sneakers and requested a jury trial to seek damages.
- Lil Nas X tweeted that he would choose the recipient of the 666th pair from among social media users who circulated one of his tweets. The 21-year-old Grammy-winning rapper released a video Friday for a new song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” in which he dances with a character wearing devil horns. (Al Jazeera)
- Should We Block the Sun? Scientists Say the Time Has Come to Study It. (NYT, $). Yet again, The Simpsons predicts the future.
- If You Care About Privacy, It’s Time to Try a New Web Browser (NYT, $)
- Apple ‘Betrayed’ My Trust, Says iPhone User Who Lost $1M To Scam Bitcoin App (Benzinga)
- Purple Urchins Devour Kelp Forests, So Divers Fight Back (NPR)
- Close encounters of the mysterious kind: Ball lightning witness accounts, illustrated in comics (Vox)
- Addison Rae’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon appearance reignited conversations about TikTok dance appropriation (Vox)
- ‘Concrete Cowboy’ shows Philadelphia’s Black cowboy culture (AP)
- NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Stunning Selfie With ‘Mont Mercou’ (SciTechDaily). Even robots can’t put their phones down.
- The Ocean’s Youngest Monsters Are Ready for Glamour Shots (NYT, $)
- It’s Time to Revisit the Satanic Panic (NYT, $)
' title="RECOMMENDED FOR YOU"]