A Commute Dispute
December 13, 2021
The Good News
- With nearly 5 million children getting COVID vaccines, no safety problems have been seen, CDC director says (ABC)
- California tackles food waste with largest recycling program in US (Guardian)
“Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality it is about changes in our very way of life.” – Paul Polman
Deadly Tornadoes Strike U.S.
Days ago a powerful storm system and cold front began moving from the Canadian Rockies eastward. Texas and parts of the south were experiencing record-high December temperatures on Thursday, and dozens of records were expected to be tied or topped Friday and Saturday ahead of the cold front. As the system pushed eastward, it generated such strong winds in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley that hundreds of thousands of customers lost power. Friday evening, when the system’s cold air met up with the unseasonably warm air centered over the south-central U.S., it set off violent thunderstorms that spawned over three dozen tornadoes. What was possibly the country’s deadliest-ever outbreak of December tornadoes tore through parts of the Midwest and Tennessee Valley Friday evening into Saturday morning, devastating areas in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The vicious centerpiece was a monster supercell that formed in eastern Arkansas around 7 p.m. on Friday. Over the next five hours, it traveled 250 miles to western Kentucky, chewing through swaths of towns and rural areas, along the way tossing debris over 30,000 feet in the air. In Arkansas, a nursing home resident was killed and five others injured, and a woman died inside a Dollar General when the storm “wadded up” the store’s steel frame “like an aluminum can.”
At 8:38 p.m., a tornado caved in the roof of an Amazon distribution warehouse near Edwardsville, Illinois, less than 20 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. An estimated 110 people were at work when the building was directly hit by a tornado at 8:38 pm, collapsing the roof. Some employees said Amazon managers directed them to shelter in bathrooms after receiving emergency alerts on mobile phones from local authorities. At least six people were killed — an unknown number are still missing. At least 70 people were killed in Kentucky, many of them in a Mayfield candle factory that was crushed by a tornado. The governor said the state had been hit by at least four tornados, including one that stayed on the ground more than 200 miles.
In the wake of these latest deadly storms, climate scientists have a warning: while the exact link between climate change and tornadoes remains uncertain, higher temperatures could add fuel to these violent disasters, and people around the world need to brace for more frequent and intense weather-driven catastrophes. Warm weather was a crucial ingredient in this tornado outbreak, and the atmospheric conditions giving rise to such outbreaks are intensifying in the winter as the planet warms. Another round of warm weather is expected Tuesday across the Southern Plains. In parts of the Midwest, temperatures could be as much as 40 degrees above normal. (WaPo, $)
A Miscarriage Of Justice
- Reckya Madougou, 47, former justice minister in the West African nation of Benin, was thought to have a good shot at becoming the first female presidential candidate for a major political party in the small, mostly rural country. If she had gotten the nomination, analysts predicted she might dethrone incumbent strongman, President Patrice Talon.
- Her aspirations abruptly ended last March, when security agents arrested her on charges related to financing terrorism. A judge on her case fled to France, condemning the charges as “phony,” “tragic,” and “entirely politically motivated.” On Saturday, a special Beninese court ruled her guilty of plotting to assassinate “several political figures.”
- Madougou, who has always maintained her innocence, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. One of her attorneys said three government henchmen had sentenced Madougou “without witnesses, without documents, without evidence.” The attorney said his client had already spent the last nine months behind bars in a high-security cell, with “no fresh air, no radio, no phone calls — nothing but rats.” (WaPo)
- On Friday, Nicaragua re-established diplomatic ties with China after breaking relations with Taiwan. The move angered Washington, as it gives Beijing a diplomatic boost in a part of the world long considered the U.S.’s backyard.
- Nicaragua’s abrupt break with Taiwan followed months of worsening ties between President Daniel Ortega’s government and the Biden administration, which had imposed targeted sanctions on Nicaraguan officials following the country’s November elections.
- A senior U.S. official said Nicaragua’s sudden diplomatic switch was part of Ortega’s efforts to consolidate his “authoritarian regime” and to shield the country from recent international sanctions against Managua. U.S. officials are uncertain whether Honduras could follow suit and open diplomatic ties with Beijing, but said Washington is ready to “surge” economic aid to the incoming government of Xiomara Castro. (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Israeli Leader Is to Meet Emirati Prince, Showcasing Deepening Ties (NYT, $)
- Chinese Indians fear discrimination as anti-China sentiments deepen (NPR)
- Haiti’s Leader Kept a List of Drug Traffickers. His Assassins Came for It. (NYT, $)
- Iran and world powers try to bridge gaps in ongoing Vienna talks (Al Jazeera)
- India’s PM has personal Twitter hacked (CNN)
- Libya: plan for presidential election on 24 December close to collapse (Guardian)
- The holidays can be stressful, but this is one thing you can check off your list. Our Place digital gift cards are the perfect, no-stress holiday gift.
- They’re great for all the picky people on your list – after all, everyone’s gotta eat! They’re also handy if you waited too long to shop this year. It’s the ideal gift for anyone who loves to eat, gather, and celebrate (and wants to spend more time at the table and less time cleaning).
- Our Place gift cards deliver within seconds, so all you have to do is choose your amount. They’re just a click away!
Taking Shots At Texas
- On Friday, the Supreme Court allowed Texas’ Fetal Heartbeat law to remain in place while abortion clinics sue to block it. The law, which effectively bans almost all abortions in Texas, bypasses a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion by employing a novel scheme that removes state enforcement, and instead allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and collect a bounty. SCOTUS’ ruling so angered California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom that he pledged to empower private citizens to enforce a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the state, citing the same authority claimed by conservative Texas lawmakers.
- California has banned the manufacture and sale of many assault-style weapons for decades; in June, a federal judge ruled the ban was unconstitutional and compared the popular AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife as “good for both home and battle.” In a statement Saturday, Newsome said “If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives.” (NPR)
- The last voice of reason on Fox News announced Sunday he’s leaving the station after 18 years to work for CNN’s new streaming platform. 74-year-old Chris Wallace thanked viewers for joining him every week on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that he’s enjoyed his time on Fox but it was his time to step away.
- Wallace said he was “ready for a new adventure” and to explore “all the things I’m interested in.” Wallace, the son of the late “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace, joined Fox in 2003 after stints at NBC News and ABC News. He’s built a reputation as a tough interviewer, often hitting guests with what some have called interrogation-style grillings.
- His moderation of last year’s first debate between then-president Trump and candidate Joe Biden was notable for how often Wallace tried to rein in Trump’s numerous interruptions. “I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions,” Wallace told Trump. “I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.” (NBC News)
Additional USA News
- Japan, U.S. agree to boost alliance amid tougher security environment (Reuters)
- Low-profile heiress who ‘played a strong role’ in financing Jan. 6 rally is thrust into spotlight (WaPo, $)
- Federal relief money boosted community colleges, but now it’s going away (NBC)
- Getting child tax credit to lowest-income parents proves challenging (CNN)
- Students who reported Snapchat messages may have thwarted shooting (NBC)
- Winter storm slams Northern California before heading south (LAT, $)
A Commute Dispute
- Talk about a big victory for the work-from-homers. The country’s employment law used to have a very strict separation between home and work activities. But as a result of widespread working from home during the pandemic, Germany’s law changed in June. More activities at home became covered by workplace insurance, if those activities were in the interests of the employer.
- An area sales manager, working for a company identified only as “R-GmbH,” was on his way to work “from his bedroom to his home office one floor below” when he slipped down the stairs and fractured a vertebra. He filed a claim with his employer’s insurance, but the claim was denied. Two lower courts disagreed over the issue of whether the journey of a few steps to one’s home office qualified as a work commute. Finally, Germany’s federal social court determined it did.
- The court reasoned that because the employee was walking down the stairs, for the first time that day, straight to his home office, his journey should be “insured as an activity in the interest of his employer, as a commute to work.” A lecturer in German Law at University College London predicted insurers providing statutory accident cover would potentially be facing increased claims following this week’s ruling. He explained: “This is because there is an increased category of activities and events that you can carry out [within the home] that will now be covered, and it seems likely that insurers will therefore have to revisit this ruling often.” (CNN)
- These speedy dinosaurs could have kept pace with the fastest human (CNN)
- FDA approves eye drops that can treat age-related blurry vision (CNET)
- Spanish bishop loses church powers after marrying erotica author (CNN)
- Fleeing Global Warming? ‘Climate Havens’ Aren’t Ready Yet (Wired)
- ‘Extremely rare’ 17th-century painting of Black woman with White companion placed under export bar from UK (CNN)
- Geminid Meteor Shower to Peak Monday: How to See the Shooting Stars (WSJ)
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