A Scold, Hard Truth
November 18, 2021
The Good News
- ‘No one knew they existed’: wild heirs of lost British honeybee found at Blenheim (Guardian)
- Albuquerque has new response to 911 calls involving mentally ill people (NBC)
“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.” — Carl Friedrich Gauss
Build Back Broader
Both major parties have publicly focused on big-ticket items in President Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act, the social infrastructure and climate change bill still awaiting a vote in the House. Democrats extol the benefits of universal pre-kindergarten, child care subsidies, and curbing the effects of climate change. Republicans excoriate the potential economic repercussions of tax increases and inflationary government spending. Meanwhile, little media attention has been given to some obscure measures and special interest breaks tucked inside the thousand-plus pages of potential legislation. Democrats insist every niche item has a constituency that regards it as central.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) welcomes awareness of a $4.1 billion tax break for people who buy electric bicycles. His colleague, Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) concurs. Panetta said when the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee drafted its section of the bill, no one objected to the e-bike provision — which would cover 30% of the cost, up to $900, to “put butts in bikes.” Panetta added that once people learn about the benefits of e-bikes, “they accept it and they want it.”
There’s the $50 million pilot program, included in a broader home health care section, to promote the use of doulas — Greek for “servant” — whose sole priority is to provide support and guidance to birthing mothers. Doulas typically lack formal obstetric training and are only used by a small percentage of pregnant women in the U.S. But Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) said Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of White women, and doula assistance for them is a necessity.
There’s a $1.9 billion provision to stave off the death of local news media. “The collapse of local journalism has had serious consequences for our ability to govern,” Blumenauer said. There’s a provision that would allow lawyers who work on a contingency basis — and are reimbursed only if they win — to take a tax write-off of expenses as they’re incurred. The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation says that would mean a $2.5 billion savings for trial lawyers. A provision to include independent music producers in an existing tax break for film, television, and live theatrical productions actually has bipartisan support. The provision would allow a deduction of up to $150,000 for the costs of producing sound recordings, and deprive the Treasury of $35 million over 10 years.
Sometimes there’s opposition just for opposition’s sake. Tree planting is widely accepted as a way to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. But a $2.5 billion provision in the climate change section of the bill — with a part to ensure that tree-planting includes poor neighborhoods — drew GOP ire over the Dems’ characterization of it as “tree equity.” (NYT)
Trials Away From Shore
- Trial begins Thursday for 24 humanitarians who had worked on the Greek island of Lesbos assisting vulnerable people arriving on Europe’s shores. All were members of an NGO, the Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), a search-and-rescue group that operated on the island from 2016 to 2018. The 24 defendants face up to eight years in prison for state-secret espionage and disclosure and 25 years in jail for charges including smuggling and money laundering. Amnesty International has called the accusations “unfair and baseless.”
- Among the defendants is Sarah Mardini, the Syrian competitive swimmer who was hailed as a hero in 2015 for saving 18 refugees by swimming their waterlogged dinghy to the shores of Lesbos with Yusra, her younger sister. Yusra later competed in the 2016 Olympics. After the release of a documentary about the sisters, Sarah was contacted by ERCI and began doing volunteer work for the group. In 2018, she and another volunteer, Sean Binder, were performing search-and-rescue missions on Lesbos when they were arrested. (Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, Guardian)
Mass Detentions In Ethiopia
- Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has been waging a grisly war with Tigrayan rebels. On November 2, as the rebels grew closer to Addis Ababa, the government declared a state of emergency and began rounding up anyone of Tigrayan descent, many with no ties to the rebels or even affinity for them.
- Young men and women, mothers with children, the elderly, and those with disabilities have been seized from streets, homes, and workplaces, including banks, schools, and shopping centers, and taken to overcrowded cells in police stations and detention facilities. At least 10 United Nations staff members and 34 subcontracted drivers were also seized.
- The ethnically-motivated detentions come amid a significant rise in online hate speech, and as massacres, ethnic cleansing, and widespread sexual assault by all sides in the civil war have been reported. The climate of fear is not only a far cry from the promise of Ethiopian unity that Abiy made when he came to power in 2018, but vexing for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a peace mission to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Asian shares slip despite Wall St gains after Biden-Xi talks (AP)
- Brexit minister says UK not trying to move checks to Irish border (Guardian)
- Delhi smog: Schools and colleges shut as pollution worsens (BBC)
- Uganda bombings: Islamic State claims responsibility for Kampala blasts (CNN)
- Armenia announces ceasefire after Azerbaijan border clashes (Al Jazeera)
- Why chaos in eastern Europe is never bad news for Putin (CNN)
- Belarus brings some migrants in from cold at Polish border (AP)
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A Scold, Hard Truth
- The House voted Wednesday to censure Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for tweeting an anime video depicting him killing his colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging swords at President Biden. The vote marks the first time in over a decade that the House has censured one of its members.
- The resolution also removes Gosar from his assignments on the Oversight and Natural Resources committees. Gosar laughed off the video as a cartoon and defiantly refused to apologize. Only two Republicans voted for the resolution, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Representative David Joyce (R-OH) voted “present,” citing his membership on the House Ethics Committee and the possibility that Gosar’s posting could come before the panel.
- AOC has faced threats and been accosted by other House Republicans in the past. She said Wednesday’s resolution was not about her or Gosar, but about “what we are willing to accept.” By embracing “the illusion that this was just a joke,” Republicans are showing “a certain contempt for the meaning and importance of our work here.” (WaPo)
Think Before You Post
- Four students from a high school in Kansas City, Missouri were disciplined in September after a “petition” seeking to bring back slavery was posted on social media. The four — one biracial, one Black, one white, and one Asian — were all ninth graders and members of the school’s football team. The biracial boy was expelled and the three others were suspended for 180 days, which is most of the school year.
- The students are now suing the principal, the school district, its superintendent, the Board of Education members, and the director of school services for violating their First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. The lawsuit claims the whole “petition” incident started as private bantering between the biracial and Black students when the football team was on a bus en route to a game.
- The biracial student jokingly typed a “petition” on the website Change.org that said “Start slavery again.” Other students encouraged the student to post it on social media. News outlets reported the story very differently, and harsh consequences resulted. (KCUR-NPR, AP News)
Additional USA News
- Coming off climate talks, US to hold huge crude sale in Gulf (AP)
- Fauci says 3-shot vaccine should be ‘standard,’ warns of winter ‘double whammy’ (ABC)
- Kruger Rock wildfire in Colorado poses “immediate and imminent danger,” threatening homes and businesses (CBS)
- Treasury secretary estimates US could reach debt limit on December 15 (CNN)
- Idaho state House passes worker vaccine compensation bill (The Hill)
- Suspended Texas doctor who promoted ivermectin as Covid treatment resigns from hospital (NBC)
- Sinema speaks up — and shakes off her critics (Politico)
‘Tis The Season
- And now a word from the “Invite a Stranger to Thanksgiving” files. In 2016, Wanda Dench intended to text her grandson to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner, but the Arizona grandmother didn’t know her grandson had changed his phone number. The person who got the text instead was Jamal Hinton, who happened to be sitting in class at Desert Vista High School. Dench and Hinton figured out the mistake, sent selfies to each other, and had a good laugh. But Hinton didn’t have other plans so he asked if he could still come over. Dench texted, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone.”
- That started a sweet tradition, with Hinton documenting the holiday each year on his social media. In 2019, he shared a snap, writing, “Blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives.” Dench’s husband Lonnie died in April 2020 after a battle with Covid-19. But Hinton still spent the holiday with Dench. “This Thanksgiving, along with all the holidays coming up, aren’t going to be the same as past ones but we will make the best of it,” Hinton wrote. “Rest In Peace to Lonnie and everyone else we lost this year we will miss you greatly. Thank you for being in our lives.”
- This year, Hinton took to Twitter again to tell followers that the two are still celebrating the day together. “We are all set for year 6!” he wrote, alongside a picture of a text message from Dench inviting him, his girlfriend Mikaela, and his family over. He also included a photo of himself, Dench, Mikaela, and Dench’s late husband Lonnie. It just doesn’t get much better than that. (CNN)
- Fugitive California couple convicted in $18 million COVID loan fraud scheme sentenced to federal prison in absentia (CBS)
- ‘Megaspider,’ a 3-inch long spider with fangs, discovered in Australia (USA Today)
- Retired Miami professor sentenced to prison in Venezuela money laundering case (The Hill)
- A partial lunar eclipse, the longest in 580 years, is coming Thursday night (WaPo, $)
- NASA Astronaut to Be First Black Woman to Join Space Station Crew (NYT, $)
- New research offers glimpse into early human development (AP)
- Used EVs Are in Hotter Demand Than Ever (Wired)
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