Cruel Summer Begins
June 28, 2021
The Good News
- Lego is finally making its iconic bricks from recycled plastic (CBS)
- 91-Year-Old Colorado Man Finally Celebrates PRIDE As An Openly Gay Man (CBS Denver)
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” — Robert Frost
Search For Survivors Continues
Champlain Towers South was an affluent 13-story condominium building located in Surfside Florida, north of Miami. 32 months ago the condo board received a structural survey report from Morabito Consultants, engineers they’d hired to assess the condition of their aging building. The report warned of a “major error” in the building’s construction, and that “major structural damage” was found in the concrete slab below its pool deck. Collected water couldn’t drain, and faulty efforts to waterproof the deck were insufficient to correct the design problem.
The report didn’t say danger was “imminent.” Instead, it said the failed waterproofing needed replacing in the “near future,” and the significant concrete deterioration needed repairing in a “timely” fashion. But it did say the repairs were needed to maintain “the structural integrity” of the building to ensure it passed a mandated 40-year recertification process. Morabito gave the condo board a multi-million dollar repair estimate; 18 months later, in April 2020, the board authorized Morabito to draft detailed repair plans.
Thursday morning repairs were underway on the building’s roof, not on its footing, when half the condo collapsed. Nine bodies have been recovered, 150 are still missing. On Friday, Surfside’s mayor said authorities have “no idea” what caused the implosion. The town released records showing Morabito’s 84-page repair plan draft from April 2021. Also released was a separate building inspection report completed around the time of the structural survey report, along with a note that said: “This report was not formally submitted or authorized by the property owner Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc., as required by … the Miami-Dade County Code.” Morabito’s 2018 structural survey report was not submitted to the town until after the building collapsed.
John Pistorino, a veteran engineer who helped write Miami-Dade County’s code requiring inspection and recertification of 40-year-old buildings, said he’d been hired to investigate the Surfside collapse. Almost 50 years ago Pistorino discovered that the area’s salty and humid climate had helped weaken a building that collapsed in downtown Miami in 1974, killing seven people. Thursday’s collapse could be due to salt, humidity, other environmental conditions, or even something like a sinkhole.
South Florida’s review process for aging buildings is strictly focused on above-ground structural, load-bearing elements and electrical systems. Nothing addresses the ground underneath. “They look for cracks in the concrete, but they really have no clue what’s going on beneath the ground,” said an attorney specializing in construction and condominium law.
Governor Ron DeSantis touted his $1 billion Resilient Florida plan announced in January to help some communities pay for adaptation to climate change. But critics point out he has done almost nothing to put Florida on a path to scaling back the state’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Florida’s huge climate challenges include deadly hurricanes intensified by global warming, sea level rise, extreme heat, drought, and increasing health threats from mosquito-borne diseases. DeSantis’ own administration predicts that with sea level rise, $26 billion in residential property statewide will be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. Not so long ago DeSantis cautioned voters not to confuse him with anyone warning about our increasingly warming planet. “I am not a global warming person,” he said in 2018. “I don’t want that label on me.” (Slate, WaPo, NPR)
Spilling The Tea
- Almost 50 pages of classified documents belonging to Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) were found in a soggy heap behind a bus stop in Kent early Tuesday morning. Sensitive information contained in the papers included detailed plans for a possible U.K. military presence in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led NATO operation ends there. Another set of documents discusses the likely Russian reaction to a mission by the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer, HMS Defender, as it passes through Ukrainian waters off the Crimea coast the next day.
- On Wednesday more than 20 Russian aircraft and two coastguard ships shadowed the warship as it sailed about 12 miles off Crimea’s coast. A spokesperson said MOD had launched an investigation into “an incident in which sensitive defense papers were recovered by a member of the public.” It was also revealed the MOD employee who had left the classified material behind somewhere reported the loss at the time. The BBC believes the documents, which include emails and PowerPoint presentations, originated in the office of a senior MOD official. (BBC)
Not A Proud Moment
- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke in favor of gay rights nearly two decades ago when his Islamist party was coming to power. Today, as his party’s popularity is waning and he seeks to rally conservative and nationalist voters, his rhetoric against minority groups has become much more divisive.
- The Istanbul governor’s office refused to grant a permit for the 2021 Pride parade, which had been held since 2003 but banned for the last seven years. Regardless, hundreds of people, many waving rainbow flags, marched Saturday in the city’s historical Beyoglu district. They played cat-and-mouse in back alleys with battalions of riot police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets in an effort to prevent them from congregating on Istiklal Avenue, a hub for shopping and tourism. At least 20 people were detained.
- Earlier this year Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, an E.U. treaty aimed at preventing violence against women. The withdrawal was partly justified by claiming the agreement was “normalizing” homosexuality. (WaPo)
Additional World News
- Thirteen peacekeepers wounded, six soldiers killed in Mali militant attacks (Reuters)
- Palestinian Authority deploys forces during protest against critic’s death (Reuters)
- Bangkok, 9 provinces restrict movements to curb rising cases (AP)
- Sydney, Australia, begins two-week COVID lockdown (CBS)
- North Koreans worry over ’emaciated’ Kim Jong Un, state media says (Yahoo)
- Germany stabbing victims were all women: police (The Hill)
- Jailed Belarusian journalist, girlfriend moved to house arrest (Politico)
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Campaign In The Neck
- On Saturday, Donald Trump was at Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio to preside over his first campaign-style rally since leaving the White House. He appeared before thousands of cheering supporters, repeating his 2020 election grievances and baseless claims of fraud, still insisting he won the presidency by “a landslide.” He attacked President Biden for letting millions of strangers into the country, saying Biden is “destroying our nation before our very eyes.”
- Also on stage was Georgia GOP representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for supporting dangerous and racist conspiracy theories. Trump had pledged to support primary opponents of the 10 GOP representatives who voted to impeach him for his role in the January 6 insurrection. Saturday’s rally supported Max Miller, a former White House aide who is challenging Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH).
- Nine of the 10 Republican representatives have drawn primary opponents. The only one without a challenger as yet is John Katko of New York. Trump has also endorsed a challenger to Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only one of the seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict him in his January impeachment trial who is up for re-election in 2022. Trump will travel next to the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, then on to a July 3 rally in Sarasota Florida. (Al Jazeera, NBC News)
Cruel Summer Begins
- A scorching heat-wave is blasting the Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada. On Saturday, the temperature in Portland Oregon hit 108 F, its hottest day ever recorded. Seattle Washington broke 100 F, the hottest day in June, and only the fourth hottest day in its recorded history. The region is typically known for its mild temperatures, and many people don’t have air conditioners.
- Stores sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, some hospitals canceled outdoor vaccination clinics, cities opened cooling centers, baseball teams canceled or moved up weekend games, and utilities braced for possible power outages. The hot weather had berry farmers scrambling to pick crops before they rot on the vine and fisheries managers working to keep endangered sockeye salmon safe from too-warm river water.
- The heat wave gripping the American West is not only breaking hundreds of temperature records and exacerbating a historic drought, but priming the landscape for a summer and fall of extreme wildfire. Scientists who study droughts and the climate have been sounding the alarm for years. One paleoclimatologist said the current drought is potentially on track to become the worst seen in at least 1,200 years. And the reason is directly linked to human-caused climate change. (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Jan. 6 probe poised to spill into 2022, with no complaints from Democrats (The Hill)
- US fight against Covid threatened by growing vaccine gap in the south (Guardian)
- Biden tries to walk back comments on infrastructure bill to stem GOP defections (CNN)
- Republicans are watching their states back weed — and they’re not sold (Politico)
- Biden adviser says Lindsey Graham ‘doesn’t have a clue’ on crime (Politico)
- A Hot Air Balloon Crashed On A New Mexico Street After Hitting Power Line, Killing 5 (NPR)
Talk About Dragon Breath
Nearly 90 years ago a Chinese man was forced to help build a bridge across the Songhua River in Harbin, a city in Northeast China, by Japanese soldiers occupying the region. The man found a large skull, which he then hid in a well to prevent his Japanese supervisors from finding it. The man kept the secret for decades, until shortly before his death when he revealed it to his grandchildren; they retrieved the prehistoric fossil in 2018 and donated it to the Geoscience Museum at Hebei GEO University.
Researchers from the university conducted analyses of the cranium and determined it could belong to a previously-unknown species that may be more closely related to Homo sapiens than Neanderthals or Denisovans, an early human that lived around the same period. They dubbed this newly discovered human species Homo longi or “Dragon Man.”
The fossil’s anatomical features suggest that Dragon Man, likely a male in his 50s, lived in northern China at least 146,000 years ago. The skull is large enough to hold a brain comparable in size to modern humans, but with larger square-like eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth, and oversized teeth.
The study is published in the journal The Innovation. One of the authors, Xijun Ni, professor of primatology and paleoanthropology, said: “It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species. However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens.” Other researchers question the idea of a new species and the team’s analysis of the human family tree. They think the skull may actually be the long-sought skull of a Denisovan, an elusive human ancestor from Asia known chiefly from DNA. (Science Magazine, The Innovation)
- 8 successful flights and counting for the Mars helicopter (CNN)
- All the major players spent time in the Denisovan cave (Ars Technica)
- Secret Workings of Smell Receptors Revealed for First Time (Wired)
- “Invisible” Gold – Scientists Discover “Fool’s Gold” Is Not So Foolish After All (SciTechDaily)
- Giant ghostly ‘hand’ stretches through space in new X-ray views (LiveScience)
- Unusual object approaches the solar system (Yahoo)
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