Inn Too Deep
November 15, 2021
The Good News
- Jashyah Moore’s mom charged with child endangerment after missing teen found (NBC)
- This Colorado ‘solar garden’ is literally a farm under solar panels (NPR)
“When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.” — Oscar Wilde
The Cost Of Doing Business
Inflation is no longer confined to a few, pandemic-plagued categories, like lumber or used cars. Prices are now being driven up for food and energy; it’s steadily chipping away at Americans’ buying power, as well as President Biden’s approval rating. Consumer prices were 6.2% higher in October than a year ago — the sharpest increase since November of 1990. Mounting housing and energy prices are hitting the elderly and those on fixed incomes especially hard. The price of heating oil has soared 59% in the last year, and the Energy Department expects the cost to heat households will be 50% higher this winter than last. While seniors will see the biggest boost to their social security benefits in four decades — 5.9% — it’s already been eclipsed by inflation. And the immediate forecast isn’t encouraging. “I think we’re going to see inflation get worse before it gets better,” said an economist with Wells Fargo. “There’s nowhere for consumers to hide.”
A survey just released by the University of Michigan shows people are as gloomy about the economy as they’ve been in a decade. 25% of people said their living standards had fallen this month due to inflation. That’s a serious political liability for Biden, whose approval ratings on the economy have fallen below 40%. There’s a growing belief among consumers that the administration has yet to develop any effective policies to reduce the damage from surging inflation.
Last month, Biden tried reassuring Americans he could hold down inflation with a plan to ease bottlenecks at the Port of Los Angeles. He announced a deal to expand port operations to 24/7 to get goods unloaded from container ships. But he said ports were just one piece of the puzzle. The country also needs more truck drivers, private retailers to step up, and better infrastructure. “We need to take a longer view and invest in building greater resiliency to withstand the kinds of shocks we’ve seen over and over, year in and year out, the risk of pandemic, extreme weather, climate change, cyberattacks, weather disruptions,” he said. At present, however, delays, product shortages, and rising costs continue to bedevil businesses large and small, fan inflationary flames, and frustrate consumers.
There is a bright spot in this gloomy scenario, now that the infrastructure package has finally passed both houses of Congress. The White House is planning a big ceremony on Monday for the president to sign the $1 trillion bill. It will be a huge long-term boost to the economy, and every state will benefit. But it probably won’t do much to alleviate the anxiety people are feeling in the short term. (NPR, EIA, Real Clear Politics, US News, NYT, Reuters)
Gadh-awfully Controversial Candidate
- Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, 49, the son of Libya’s late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, appeared Sunday for nearly the first time in a decade. Gadhafi was shown in an electoral commission video wearing a traditional brown robe and turban and sporting a gray beard and glasses.
- He was signing documents at the election center, registering as a presidential candidate for a December vote planned to help end the years of chaos since his father was toppled. Gadhafi is one of the most prominent and controversial figures expected to run for president. Other candidates include eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
- Gadhafi’s formal entry into an election whose rules are still contested by Libya’s squabbling factions may also raise new questions over a contest that features candidates viewed in some regions as unacceptable. Despite the public backing of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for elections to be held on December 24, the vote remains in doubt as rival entities bicker over the rules and schedule. (CNN)
A Massive Cover-Up
- On March 18, 2019, toward the end of the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, members of the once-fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz. A U.S. military drone circled overhead hunting for targets, but only saw a large crowd of women and children huddled against a riverbank. Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet flew over, dropping a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, then two more 2,000-pound bombs, killing some 70 women and children.
- Although one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war, it has never been publicly acknowledged. A legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime requiring investigation. But the military concealed the strike, downplayed the death toll, and delayed, sanitized, and classified reports. U.S.-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site; top leaders weren’t notified. An evaluator for the inspector general’s office opened an inquiry, but after criticizing the military’s lack of cooperation, he was forced out of his job. “Leadership [was] set on burying this,” he said. (NYT)
Additional World News
- The last-minute coal demand that almost sunk the Glasgow climate deal (Politico)
- Ecuadorian President calls ‘crisis cabinet’ after prison violence leaves dozens dead (CNN)
- Sara Duterte: Daughter of Philippines leader runs for vice-president (BBC)
- Delhi shuts schools as it mulls ‘pollution lockdown’ (Al Jazeera)
- U.S. and Europe fear possible Russia invasion of Ukraine (Politico)
- Former Japanese princess moves to New York with newlywed husband (CNN)
- Far right leads Warsaw march of ‘patriots’ as Polish border crisis simmers (Guardian)
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Epstein Partner’s Trial Set
- The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged long-time partner in sex crimes, will finally begin November 29. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said she will conduct the questioning of prospective jurors on November 16 through 19th.
- 59-year-old Maxwell, the youngest child of British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, has been held on remand in a Brooklyn detention center for 15 months awaiting her day in court on charges of sex trafficking children, perjury, and enticement of minors. Because Epstein was apparently able to commit suicide in 2019 while incarcerated in a New York jail, Maxwell has been kept under 24-hour surveillance.
- She’s reportedly been sleeping on a concrete bed next to a toilet in a small cell with no access to natural light, and repeatedly awakened by guards shining a flashlight in her face. Maxwell claims her eyesight is failing and her hair falling out. International interest will undoubtedly be high considering the likelihood Maxwell and her lawyers will offer up details of prominent people implicated in the case, like Prince Andrew. (CNBC, Guardian)
Inn Too Deep
- The former president’s luxury Trump International Hotel in D.C. opened in October 2016, and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments, lobbyists, and Republican supporters. But documents released by the House Oversight Committee show the hotel still lost more than $70 million.
- The documents were provided by the General Services Administration that has leased the federally-owned property, known as the Old Post Office Pavilion, to the Trump Organization since 2013. The lease required Trump’s company to invest $200 million to renovate the property (about $100 million of that was loaned by Deutsche Bank) and pay $3 million a year in rent over 60 years, with annual increases for inflation.
- It was far too expensive to maintain. Last fall the company tried to shop the hotel to potential buyers, hoping for a price of about $500 million, although it was worth considerably less. Now Trump has reportedly reached a deal with a Miami-based investment firm to sell his rights to the hotel for $375 million. Trump’s name will be removed. (WaPo, CNBC)
Additional USA News
- Kinzinger says he hopes Bannon indictment sends ‘chilling message’ (The Hill)
- Kaiser health care worker strike averted as tentative deal is reached, company says (CBS)
- Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden sues NFL over offensive emails (LAT, $)
- GOP roars back to life in Trump-resistant Pennsylvania suburbs (Politico)
- Crunch at Ports May Mean Crisis for Family Farms (NYT, $)
- Gosar faces increasing odds of censure on House floor (The Hill)
- 102 died at Native American boarding school in Nebraska (ABC)
A Waddle Bit Far From Home
- An Adélie, or Emperor, penguin, the classic black and white tuxedo-looking one, arrived on a beach in Christchurch, New Zealand a few days ago, looking the worse for wear. No wonder — he was 2,000 miles from his home in Antarctica.
- The intrepid trooper was taken to the Kaikoura wildlife hospital in New Zealand, which posted on its Facebook page that tests done on the penguin showed it was underweight and dehydrated. The bird was fed fluids and (yummmm!) fish smoothies. It then spent the night at the Department of Conservation. By the next day, the short-tailed traveler had recovered enough to be released into the wild at Banks Peninsula, on the east coast of the South Island where Christchurch is located.
- The last time such a willful wanderer turned up on a New Zealand beach was in 2011 — the first confirmed sighting of an Emperor penguin in New Zealand in 44 years. It’s not clear why this particular pensive penguin made its way to New Zealand, but if it happens to know the roots of its species, it very well could have been searching for its historic home. Scientists studied the genetics of 18 species of modern-day penguins and revealed last year that 22 million years ago, penguins came from the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and nearby islands of the South Pacific. (NPR)
- US bank robber identified after decades-long hunt (BBC)
- Why Zillow Couldn’t Make Algorithmic House Pricing Work (Wired)
- Asteroid that orbits near Earth may have come from the moon (CBS)
- Three snow leopards die of COVID-19 at Nebraska zoo (CBS)
- Man earns Ph.D., fulfills dream of being physicist — at 89 (AP)
- A Black Woman Invented Home Security. Why Did It Go So Wrong? (Wired)
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