We Can’t Stress This Enough…
September 30, 2021
The Good News
- A new, ‘first-class’ high-rise will house homeless people on L.A.’s skid row (LAT, $)
- Some Polish regions reverse ‘LGBT-free’ status after EU funding threat (The Hill)
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock
A Lawt To Consider
Several noteworthy legal decisions were handed down this week. On Tuesday, an Arizona federal district judge granted a partial injunction against a provision in the state’s new abortion ban hours before it took effect. The provision prohibits abortions due solely to a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality or other fetal condition. The judge left standing another provision of the law requiring fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs to be referred to as “people” from the point of conception. The bill was signed into law earlier this year by Republican governor Doug Ducey. His attorney general promised to continue “pushing back against unconstitutional mandates [and] defending our laws against pro-abortion activists….”
Parents of disabled children in South Carolina sued the state for banning mask mandates in public schools. Governor Henry McMaster (R) and GOP lawmakers maintained parents should decide whether students wear masks, not school officials. A U.S. district judge ruled Tuesday that the attempt to ban mask mandates for school children illegally discriminated against medically vulnerable students by keeping them out of public schools as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. The judge compared the legislature preventing mask requirements to telling schools they can no longer install wheelchair ramps. “Masks must … be an option for school districts … to accommodate those with disabilities so they, too, can access a free public education,” she wrote.
In an arbitration decision on Monday, former President Trump lost his bid to enforce Omarosa Manigault Newman’s nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that was filed after the former White House aide and star on “The Apprentice” wrote a tell-all book about her experience serving in his administration. The arbitrator concluded the NDA’s wording was so vague it was effectively meaningless. He also found statements from Manigault Newman were not privileged information, and Trump was ordered to pay her legal fees. Manigault Newman’s victory could embolden others who signed similar NDAs with Trump — she says it’s already happening.
Finally, Trump will likely invoke executive privilege to try blocking the release of his administration’s records to the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He also expects former top aides Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Steve Bannon, and Kash Patel to defy the committee’s subpoenas for records and testimony. The ploy could ultimately fail, but still stonewall the process for months. Both Trump and President Biden are allowed to first review materials for executive privilege claims. Trump has 30 days to assert privilege and stop the release of any documents sent over by the National Archives. After another 60 days, President Biden could order their release over Trump’s objection. In that event, Trump is expected to file lawsuits to tie up the records in court. (The Hill, NBC News, Guardian)
Talibanning Women From Rights
- Afghan women and girls are nearly half the country’s 40 million population, and Western nations have been clear in calling on the Taliban to respect women’s rights. But in just over a month, the policies being implemented are becoming ever more repressive. The group named an all-male Cabinet and prohibited women from returning to work, claiming security concerns.
- A handful of women-led protests against Taliban rules faced violent crackdowns in Kabul and other cities. Some 120,000 female educators and nearly 14,000 female health care workers haven’t been paid their salaries for the past two to three months, and 16,000 female teachers have been prohibited from teaching high school.
- Earlier this month, women were told they could continue their studies in universities; however, certain subjects were off limits, classrooms would be gender-segregated, and Islamic dress was compulsory. Then, on Tuesday, the Taliban-appointed 34-year-old chancellor of Kabul University started a fresh firestorm when he tweeted that until there is a safe Islamic environment, “women will not be allowed to come to universities or work.” (ABC News, NPR)
- Earlier this week, North Korea test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile off its east coast towards the sea, joining a race headed by major military powers to deploy the advanced weapons system. Unlike ballistic missiles that fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories, hypersonic weapons fly towards targets at lower altitudes and can achieve more than five times the speed of sound.
- Hypersonic weapons are considered the next generation of arms that aim to rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defense mechanisms. North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a lengthy impasse over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief.
- Pyongyang has insisted it has every right to defend itself, and called on the U.S. and South Korea to scrap their “double standards” on weapons programs before restarting diplomatic talks. (NBC News)
Additional World News
- China says U.K. warship in Taiwan Strait shows “evil intentions” (CBS)
- Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s Facebook Account Hacked (NPR)
- Fumio Kishida wins Japan leadership race, setting him up to become prime minister (NBC)
- Retailers’ Latest Headache: Shutdowns at Their Vietnamese Suppliers (NYT, $)
- Russia arrests cybersecurity expert on treason charge (Ars Technica)
- Over 100 killed in bloody Ecuador prison massacre (CNN)
- Artist accepts $84,000 to create blank canvases titled “Take The Money And Run” (AV Club)
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- Alabama has the highest death rate from Covid-19 in America. But its Republican leadership seems more concerned about a Justice Department lawsuit over conditions in the state’s prison system, which is one of the most understaffed and violent in the nation. Governor Kay Ivey called a special session of the legislature to discuss a $1.3 billion project to construct three new prisons and renovate several others.
- Lawmakers plan to use up to $400 million from the American Rescue Plan funds allocated to the state — that’s nearly 20% of Alabama’s federal pandemic relief money. Opponents to the governor’s plan want to see the federal funds addressing active and ongoing issues from the pandemic, including overwhelmed health systems, outdated school ventilation systems, and economic fallout for small businesses.
- The Justice Department lawsuit focuses on staffing, corruption, training and other like issues — not infrastructure. But high incarceration rates in prisons and detention centers throughout the country have been blamed for serious outbreaks of COVID-19. (Guardian)
- A Congressional report released Wednesday by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy says baby food manufacturers Gerber and Beech-Nut failed to properly test and remove from the market baby foods with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, while Sprout Foods Inc., Walmart’s Parent’s Choice, and Campbell’s Plum Organics baby food were lax in testing and controlling for heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium.
- The chair of the subcommittee that led the investigation, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), said, “Today’s report reveals that companies not only under-report the high levels of toxic content in their baby food, but also knowingly keep toxic products on the market.” In 2019, advocates committed to reducing babies’ exposures to neurotoxic chemicals tested 168 baby foods from major U.S. manufacturers.
- The testing found 95% of sampled baby foods contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium, and 32% contained mercury. 25% of the baby foods contained all four heavy metals. The results mimicked a previous study by the FDA that found one or more of the same metals in 33 of 39 types of baby food tested. (oversight.house.gov, CNN, fda.gov)
Additional USA News
- Jan. 6 committee prepares legal arsenal for likely subpoena fights (Politico)
- House Republicans Are Split On Infrastructure Legislation (NPR)
- Republicans plow forward with election challenges (The Hill)
- Manchin and Sinema meet with Biden over reconciliation bill concerns (CBS)
- Attention on Gabby Petito case helps bring a different missing person case to an end (CNN)
- Elizabeth Warren Calls Jerome Powell a ‘Dangerous Man’ (NYT, $)
- Deaf man sues police in Colorado over alleged excessive use of force (BBC)
We Can’t Stress This Enough…
- Neuroscientists are interested in studying how exposure to stress leads to changes in the brain that result in depression. One theory is that deterioration of certain regions of the brain, caused by physical or psychological stress, may lead to depression. To explore this theory, a group of researchers at the Tokyo University of Science conducted a study to examine how psychological stress might lead to deterioration of the hippocampus region of the brain in mice.
- The researchers ran experiments in which mice were exposed to “chronic vicarious social defeat stress,” meaning the mice repeatedly experienced another mouse’s defeat. They then studied the brains of the mice to see if the hippocampus regions had undergone any changes when experiencing this “second-hand” psychological stress. The researchers found that in the stressed mice, new neurons had decreased survival rate in the regions of the hippocampus that are related to sensory perception and memory. Compared to non-stressed mice, other factors in the stressed mice were similar, such as cell growth, differentiation and maturation.
- One of the researchers explained: “We have found out that chronic mental stress affects the neurogenesis of the hippocampal dentate gyrus.” The good news is that the mice that got stressed were able to recover their cell survival rate after being given the antidepressant fluoxetine. The experiment is published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research. (The Hill)
- Illinois man who woke up with bat on neck dies in state’s 1st human rabies case since 1950s (NBC)
- US to declare ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 more species extinct (Guardian)
- World’s most dangerous bird raised by humans 18,000 years ago, study suggests (CNN)
- Scientists find amazing, 25 million-year-old eagle (The Hill)
- This May Be the First Planet Found Orbiting 3 Stars at Once (NYT, $)
- Rags to riches: Boxing great Pacquiao announces retirement (AP)
- Why James Bond Doesn’t Use an iPhone (Wired)
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