A Map In The Face
February 7, 2022
The Good News
- Biden sets first-year record with 6.6 million jobs added (CNN)
- Electric vehicles bring down CO2 emissions of new cars in UK to lowest level ever (Guardian)
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” – John F. Kennedy
Drawing The Battle Mines
The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine (TPLM) is being developed by Canadian-based Lithium Americas in Humboldt County, Nevada, about 25 miles from the Nevada-Oregon border. The proposed mine covers nine square miles of public land, contains what is possibly the largest amount of lithium deposits in the U.S., and is expected to fuel batteries for American electric vehicles (EVs) for the next 46 years. Opponents of the mining project include environmental groups, Indigenous people, and a rancher. They all say a series of Trump administration executive orders streamlining environmental regulations and expediting reviews rushed through projects like the one in northern Nevada, and “swept under the rug the mine’s serious environmental impacts.”
TPLM’s approval was given January 15, 2021, just days before President Biden was sworn in, and environmental activists Max Wilbert and Will Falk immediately set up a protest encampment. The mine’s first legal challenge came in February from rancher Edward Bartell, who filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Lithium Americas. Bartell claimed the BLM skirted the law in rushing a “one sided, deeply flawed, and incomplete” environmental impact statement downplaying the extent of likely toxic effects on groundwater, streams, and a threatened species of trout. More lawsuits followed.
Wilbert and Falk are members of the Deep Green Resistance (DGR), which self-describes as a “radical environmental” group whose goal is to “dismantle industrial civilization to save the planet.” The men formed alliances with other mining opponents, and Attorney Falk began representing TPLM’s challengers, who were apparently unaware of DGR’s controversial background. Beyond its environmental agenda, DGR identifies as a “radical feminist organization,” which they claim means, for example, that members oppose opening up women-only spaces like bathrooms to transgender women. DGR’s position on transgender people has turned off fellow activists in the past, and put the group in direct opposition to mainstream environmental nonprofits, which have increasingly focused on promoting inclusivity within their ranks alongside their environmental work.
When DGR’s anti-transgender views came to light, it blew up grassroots alliances that had stood together against the TPLM. People of Red Mountain (PRM) said DGR’s positions on transgender and nonbinary people are discriminatory, and they would no longer associate with Falk. A PRM spokesperson said Falk and Wilbert put the group “between a rock and a hard place” by not disclosing their connections to DGR before forming a partnership with them in the lawsuit. DGR’s views on gender identity have not only left one group of Indigenous activists without a voice in the legal battle, but are also stifling potential donations from people who would like to help oppose the mine, but who worry about being associated with the group. (Reno Gazette Journal, Sierra Nevada Ally, The Nation, Politico)
Big Scholz To Fill
- Everyone figured it would be difficult to fill the towering and long-serving shoes of retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And since Olaf Scholz took office in December, he’s done nothing to alleviate people’s concerns. A popular magazine headline reading “Where is Olaf Scholz” mocked the chancellor’s “art of disappearance.”
- In a memo leaked last week that began “Berlin, we have a problem,” Scholz’s ambassador in Washington wrote that Germany was increasingly being seen as an unreliable ally. The reclusive chancellor is drawing sharp criticism at home and abroad for his lack of leadership in the security threat Russia is posing. Scholz’s coalition government refused to send arms to Ukraine, offering helmets instead.
- Scholz hasn’t phoned or visited Russia’s president, or traveled to Kyiv. He will go to Washington Monday for his first meeting with President Biden – a trip that took two months to plan. Number one on Scholz’s agenda is to show the world that Berlin is committed to the Western alliance – number two is just to show his face. (NYT, $)
Thick As Thieves
- U.S. officials and many democratic allies aren’t showing their faces at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, in protest over China’s abysmal record on human rights. But political boycotting pays a price. In the U.S. alone, some 16 million people tuned in to watch the Games’ opening ceremonies, and what they saw was Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin – the world’s two biggest autocrats – standing side by side in a grinning show of solidarity and simpatico.
- In a joint statement issued Friday, China supported Russia in rejecting any expansion of NATO, which Russia claims is the issue it’s pursuing with its armored divisions massed on its borders with Ukraine. In a similar fashion, Russia backed China’s version of the origins of Covid-19, and its claim of sovereignty over the independent democracy on the island of Taiwan. And in a pointed message to their international critics, the two dictators declared it was only up to their own people “to decide whether their state is a democratic one.” (NPR)
Additional World News
- UN experts: North Korea seeks to produce material for nukes (AP)
- New satellite images show advanced Russian military deployments in Belarus (CNN)
- Germany discussing sending more troops to Lithuania – defence minister (Reuters)
- Korea politicians criticize China over traditional dress (ABC)
- African Union holds summit amid crises over coups and COVID (Al Jazeera)
- Peru’s prime minister to step down after allegations of domestic violence (Guardian)
Book, Line, And Sinker
- Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote a memoir, coming in May, about his tumultuous tenure in the Trump administration. But when Esper sent the manuscript to his old department for “prepublication and security policy review,” the Pentagon redacted over 50 pages of material ostensibly because they were “classified.”
- Mark Zaid, Esper’s lawyer who filed suit on behalf of the former official, said the redactions “absolutely gutted content and important story lines.” The redactions included accounts of some of Esper’s interactions with Trump and his views on actions taken by other countries, much of which had already been widely reported, often by the DOD itself.
- Zaid announced on Friday that Esper’s lawsuit had been dropped after the Pentagon reversed its decision over an “overwhelming majority” of the portions of the book it had said earlier were classified. Zaid said the review process was broken because of the time and money required to challenge the decisions in court, and because ultimately, the department reversed itself. (NYT, $)
A Map In The Face
- On Friday, North Carolina’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s new maps for congressional and General Assembly seats, ruling that state courts had the authority to throw out lines engineered to secure a long-term Republican advantage in an otherwise closely divided state. By a 4-3 decision, with justices who are registered Democrats making up the majority, the Court directed the GOP-controlled legislature to redraw the plans by February 18.
- The legislature must also provide an explanation of how they calculated the partisan fairness of the new boundaries. The majority on the Court determined that partisan gerrymandering found in the redistricting approved by the legislature last November violated several provisions in North Carolina’s Constitution, including the right to free elections, freedom of speech, and equal protections of citizens. The decision reversed a ruling last month from a panel of three trial judges that had let the maps stand. (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Navy SEAL candidate dies following ‘Hell Week,’ another hospitalized (CNN)
- Man kidnapped woman at gunpoint at Michael Bloomberg’s Colorado ranch, police say (ABC)
- Hundreds in Minneapolis protest police killing of Black man in raid (Reuters)
- Fugitive on FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list caught in Mexico after almost 16 years on the run (CNN)
- More Than 100,000 People Without Power as Winter Storm Heads to Sea (WSJ)
- Waffle House shooter receives life in prison without parole (AP)
Queen And Not Heard
- Princess Diana’s humanitarian work and the positivity she brought to the monarchy made Queen Elizabeth II’s announcement on the eve of the 70th anniversary of her reign is particularly bitter. Arguably, Diana was never truly embraced by her in-laws, and she had to endure a loveless marriage with an unsupportive husband, Prince Charles, who barely concealed his fidelity to his long-time mistress Camilla Parker Bowles.
- By the 1990s, the entire world knew Charles was cheating on his wife, and royal insiders were leaking nasty rumors about Diana to the British tabloids. Her attempts to assert herself inside the walls of various castles were dismissed. “If you don’t behave, my girl, we’ll take your title away,” her father-in-law, Prince Philip, told her. In 1995, a jilted Diana sat for a bombshell interview in which she unloaded on the royal family. “There were three of us in this marriage,” she said, referring to her husband’s mistress and future wife. The world was stunned.
- Queen Elizabeth always failed to recognize what the Princess of Wales meant to the country, even as the public learned the extent of dysfunction in Diana’s marriage. When a divorced Diana died tragically in 1997, the Queen chose to stay at Balmoral, where she and her family had been vacationing when the news broke. The public’s dismay and bewilderment changed to outrage as days passed while the Queen remained at Balmoral. The new labor Prime Minister Tony Blair was finally successful in convincing Elizabeth to return to London, where she realized the necessity of having a public funeral befitting the still immensely popular People’s Princess, who was mourned the world over.
- When Camilla and Charles finally married in 2005, Camilla was given the title Duchess of Cornwall. She would not be using the title Princess of Wales. There had even been speculation that Camilla would be known as “princess consort” when Charles ascended the throne. Those in Diana’s camp hoped Camilla would never become queen. But in truth, Camilla was always more to the Queen’s liking. On Saturday, Elizabeth said she wants Prince Charles’ wife to be known as “queen consort” when he takes the throne, making it clear that she intends that Camilla eventually be addressed as queen. (NBC News, Seattle Times, Mirror)
- Antarctic fuel-eating microbes may help in plastic clean-up (Reuters)
- Why a toxic volcanic lake on Earth reminds scientists of Mars (CNN)
- Florida home to be sold in novel non-fungible token deal (AP)
- Scientists record orcas hunting and killing an adult blue whale for the first time (CNN)
- Decapitated Roman skeletons found on HS2 route near Aylesbury (Guardian)
- Collateral Damage of China’s Virus Policy: Fruit (NYT, $)