April 20, 2021
The Good News
- Navajo Nation has no COVID-related deaths for 7th day in row (AP)
- How Zoho Turned Its Austin Headquarters Into a Farm Amid the Pandemic (Insider)
“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” — Gaylord Nelson
“You cannot affirm the power plant and condemn the smokestack, or affirm the smoke and condemn the cough.” — Wendell Berry
Germany’s Green Party Isn’t So Green After All
(Andreas Gora via Getty Images)
Germany’s Green Party has selected a 41-year-old woman with degrees in economics and public international law to be their candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as Chancellor. The election is scheduled for September 26.
Annalena Baerbock has been a member of the Green Party since 2005 and a member of the Bundestag since 2013. Between 2013 and 2017, she was a spokesperson for climate change as part of the Green Parliamentary Group, and a deputy member of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy. Baerbock’s style and analytical approach are said to be similar to Merkel’s.
The Green Party started as a protest movement and an opposition party. For many years it was divided into left and right wings, and while that hasn’t completely changed, the party’s popularity has grown along with its professionalism as more and more voters turn to climate-related topics. Baerbock and Robert Habeck are co-leaders, and appear to have united party members like no other prior leadership team. Polls show the party is just a few percentage points behind Merkel’s own CDU party.
The Greens envision restructuring Germany’s economic model into a social-ecological system by pushing green technologies, exiting coal energy by 2030, and banning cars with combustion engines from roadways by 2030.
BDI is the leading organization of German industry and industry-related service providers, representing 39 industry associations and more than 100,000 companies with some 8 million employees. A BDI statement released last March expressed concern about costs: “The restructuring of the society will be very expensive for the economy and the society itself; we would need a much more growth-friendly policy approach after the pandemic for Germany.”
But the Greens have a plan to finance their program. It involves supporting relaxation of the so-called debt brake, which would enable Germany to raise more money on public markets, along with raising taxes on the wealthy. They are also pushing for a 500 billion euro fund over 10 years to finance this climate transition. A spokesman for Teneo, the global public relations and advisory company, noted: “This is clever political marketing directed at liberal middle-class voters.” September’s election will tell what role the Green Party will be able to play in the next government. (CNBC)
Rebel Without A Meal
(Vasily Maximov via Getty Images)
- Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, three weeks into a hunger strike, has been moved to a prison hospital in Penal Colony 3, which specializes in treating tuberculosis patients. An ally who heads a small independent medical workers’ union, tweeted that moving Navalny, who does not have tuberculosis, to an area with tuberculosis patients is “a decision to forcibly infect a person with a reduced immune status with tuberculosis, just to prevent his doctors from seeing him.”
- Attorneys for the 44-year-old, who survived being poisoned with a nerve agent last August, said the Kremlin critic has two herniated discs that are causing extreme back pain and numbness in his leg and hands. Navalny’s personal physician, Yaroslav Ashikhmin, said blood tests revealing high potassium were indicative of kidney failure, and his severe heart-rhythm disturbances threatened cardiac arrest.
- “Our patient could die at any moment,” Ashikhmin said on Facebook. The Biden administration has warned Russia there will be consequences if Navalny dies in prison. (WaPo, $)
Hoping To Cash In On Crypto
- With the decline in the use of cash and the increased prominence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, there has been heightened interest among UK policymakers about the viability of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Speaking at a financial industry conference, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced he would be setting up a joint Treasury-Bank of England taskforce to explore the benefits and risks of a digital currency for the UK.
- It’s part of a range of measures designed to boost the economy following Britain’s departure from the EU. Sunak said he wanted London to be at the forefront of innovation and to take advantage of regulatory freedom after Brexit.
- His plans include the establishment of two new forums to engage technical experts and key stakeholders including financial institutions, retailers, businesses, civil society groups, and consumers. Sunak also wants to be sure London will remain a global financial center despite the loss of jobs and business that Brexit has caused. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Pakistan PM calls for West to criminalise blasphemy against Islam (Al Jazeera)
- Accusations of spying and sabotage plunge Russia-Czech relations into the deep freeze (WaPo, $)
- Bangladesh cracks down on Islamist group after anti-Modi protests (Al Jazeera)
- Firefighters Battle Wildfire on Cape Town’s Table Mountain (NYT, $)
- India’s capital to lock down amid devastating virus surge (AP)
- So what has the rest of the world promised to do about climate change? (Guardian)
- The Quiet Arms Race Between North and South Korea is Heating Up (NYT, $)
- Church of England clergy ‘paid off to keep quiet about racism’ (Guardian)
- Amid violence, Ethiopia declares state of emergency in Amhara (Al Jazeera)
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This Car Is Self-Driving, And Self-Crashing
- A 2019 Tesla Model S traveling at a high rate of speed failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames. Two men ages 59 and 69 died in the accident that occurred Saturday night in the Houston Texas suburb of Spring. A Harris County constable told local news there was a person in the front passenger seat and another in a rear passenger seat, but “There was no one in the driver’s seat.”
- This latest accident comes amid growing scrutiny over Tesla’s semi-automated driving system that has been involved in numerous accidents. Tesla claims it warns customers that its driver-assist system, called Autopilot, is not an autonomous-driving program, and that they must pay attention and be ready to take control of the vehicle. However, last year the National Transportation Safety Board (NHTSA) said the system’s design allows drivers to avoid paying attention and fails to limit where Autopilot can be used.
- In March, the NHTSA said it has opened 27 investigations into crashes of Tesla vehicles, at least three of which occurred recently. Tesla is currently preparing to launch its updated “full self-driving” software to be made available to more customers. Company CEO Elon Musk said in January that he expects huge profits from Tesla’s full self-driving software, and that he is “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year.” (Reuters, CBS News)
For Prude, No Prudent Rulings
- As jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial deliberate the former police officer’s fate, recently-released records show why no police officers faced trial for the 2020 murder of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after being detained by police in Rochester, NY. Body cam video, which city officials tried to conceal, was finally released months after Prude’s death. The footage shows a handcuffed Prude lying naked and face down on a snowy street, with a hood placed over his head by officers and his head being pressed into the pavement.
- Seven officers on the scene of Prude’s arrest were later suspended, and the police chief was fired for his involvement in the attempted coverup. New York Attorney General Letitia James convened a grand jury to review evidence in the case. Grand jury proceedings are usually secret, but this time the minutes were unsealed Friday, with the names of the three officers James had charged with criminally negligent homicide and all 30 witnesses and 20 jurors redacted.
- Transcripts showed the Rochester medical examiner determined Prude’s death was a homicide, with asphyxiation as one cause of death. Official police reports said Prude died of a drug overdose. Transcripts also showed jurors grappling with a tsunami of technical information about police tactics and dueling expert testimonies. In the end, 15 of the 20 jurors voted not to indict the officers. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- The Fed Faces Criticism as It Wades Into Climate and Equity Issues (NYT, $)
- Red Flag Gun Law Didn’t Prevent Indianapolis Shooting (Yahoo)
- Supreme Court tosses out another Republican 2020 election challenge (CNN)
- A heavily fortified Minneapolis awaits verdict in Chauvin trial (Politico)
- A lucrative border-industrial complex keeps the US border in constant ‘crisis’ (Guardian)
- The Pig Baron: How Iowa Select transformed pork, family farms, and CAFOs (Vox)
- ‘There could be a food fight:’ How Biden’s infrastructure plan may fracture the nation’s colleges (Politico)
- Joe Biden to reveal US emissions pledge in key climate crisis moment (Guardian)
- Formosa Plastics Group faces tough opposition on proposed Louisiana plant (WaPo, $)
- George W Bush is back – but not all appreciate his new progressive image (Guardian)
- How the Supreme Court Helped Create ‘Driving While Black’ (Politico)
(Don’t) Paint It, Black
- Don’t think of it as boring, think of it as life-saving. After all, this Ultimate Cool White paint reflects up to 98.1% of sunlight and sends infrared heat away from a surface, making it cooler than the surrounding air. It’s headed to the commercial market in the next couple of years, and the researchers who created it are tickled pink.
- Everybody knows that dark colors absorb heat. Another thing absorbing heat is urban heat islands (UHIs). As these crowded centers evolve — adding more people, pouring more concrete, constructing more buildings, consuming more energy, emitting more greenhouse gasses — the resulting UHIs feel significantly warmer than non-urban places.
- In fact, as the world continues warming, UHIs have become deadly. Across the planet, the No. 1 weather-related cause of death is heat, claiming more lives each year than floods, tornadoes or hurricanes.
- The opposite of heat-absorbing dark colors is white. Painting buildings white to reflect sunlight and make them cooler is common in Greece and other countries. Cities like New York and Chicago have programs to paint roofs white to combat urban heat. White paint now on the market reflects 80 to 90 percent of sunlight, but it gets warmer, not cooler, by absorbing ultraviolet light.
- Xiulin Ruan is a Purdue mechanical engineering professor whose team is responsible for the Ultimate Cool White breakthrough: creating a paint that both reflects and cools. They did it by starting out with 100 different materials, and over six years, narrowing them down to one: barium sulfate, which is used to make photo paper and cosmetics.
- Their tests showed their paint made surfaces 19 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the air at night. Even during the midday heat, the paint was effective, reducing surface temperatures to eight degrees below the air temperature.
- Covering buildings with this new paint could reduce the need for air conditioning, decrease the use of fossil fuels and also help combat the problem of deadly urban heat islands. “If you look at the energy [savings] and cooling power this paint can provide, it’s really exciting,” Ruan said. “What our paint does is not only remove heat, it also sends it off to deep space, helping reduce the heat island effect.” The team’s results are published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. (WaPo, $)
- NASA has flown a helicopter on Mars, and it went brilliantly (ArsTechnica)
- Mars didn’t lose all of its water at once, based on Curiosity rover find (CNN)
- ‘Renegade’ Rug Makers Create Community, Tufting On TikTok (NPR)
- My life in weed: from hippies and Swat teams to boardrooms and trade mags (Guardian)
- Consumer Safety Agency Warns People With Children To Stop Using The Peloton Tread+ (NPR)
- She’s Taking Jeff Bezos to Task (NYT, $)
- Who will win the self-driving race? Here are eight possibilities (ArsTechnica)
- Nations Need Ambassadors to Big Tech (Wired)
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