Wing The Alarm
February 8, 2022
The Good News
- Iceland whaling: Fisheries minister signals end from 2024 (BBC)
- Researchers achieve milestone on path toward nuclear fusion energy (Reuters)
“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Illuminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory. The truth is far more frightening – Nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.” – Alan Moore
Wing The Alarm
It’s difficult to explain, and even more difficult to understand, how anyone could believe the grotesquely outlandish conspiracy theories pervading social media. Yet those that do believe have imperiled the lives and livelihoods of the innocent and sane. It’s beyond frustrating and incredibly sad. The latest victim of far-right enthusiasts is the National Butterfly Center in South Texas, a 100-acre private refuge dedicated to preserving the 340 species of butterflies found in the Rio Grande Valley. For almost two decades, the sanctuary has provided a place of wonder, attracting nature enthusiasts from around the country. The most diverse sanctuary for butterflies in America has now been forced to close its doors, thanks to implausibly wild accusations that it’s a cover for human smuggling, sex trafficking, and the exploitation of children.
The trouble began in 2017 when then-president Donald Trump insisted on building an imposing new border wall between Texas and Mexico. Without notice, demolition crews showed up at the butterfly center and began clearing vegetation in a restored area. In 2018, SCOTUS declined to stop the administration from ignoring numerous federal laws, but public protests temporarily halted the continued destruction of the preserve. In 2019, a federal judge blocked Trump’s plans to divert funds for use in building the wall, so Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage started a crowdfunding campaign that raised millions to build the wall on private land near the center. During the campaign, Kolfage repeatedly attacked the center on social media, claiming it was sex-trafficking women and children. Both Bannon and Kolfage were indicted by federal prosecutors on fraud charges in 2020 – Trump pardoned Bannon and dozens of others, but not Kolfage. Meanwhile, vicious lies continued spreading on social media that the center was smuggling people into the U.S.
In January, Kimberly Lowe, a candidate for Congress in Virginia, and another woman showed up at the center’s reception area, ostensibly planning to hike to the Rio Grande through sanctuary property. After looking at Lowe’s Facebook posts, Marianna Trevino Wright, the center’s executive director since 2012, barred the women from entering, and an altercation ensued. Days later during a border security gathering at nearby McAllen, about a hundred armed Trump supporters marched to a section of border wall near the center. Becoming the focus of this kind of deranged attention has terrified and infuriated the staff at the sanctuary. The founder of the nonprofit that runs the center said, “the kind of activity, the kind of chatter going on – these are the kinds of things that happen before other horrible events where people end up dying.” On February 3, the center was forced to closed its doors until further notice. (nationalbutterflycenter.org, NYT, CNBC)
Kash-Merely Doing Their Job
- Journalists in Kashmir continue to be harassed by authorities. Fahad Shah, editor of The Kashmir Walla, was arrested Friday for what police said was “uploading anti-national content.” Shah had been questioned four days earlier over the site’s coverage of a deadly police raid in late January that left four people dead.
- Police described three as militants, and the fourth, a 17-year-old boy, as a “hybrid militant.” The Kashmir Walla interviewed the teenager’s family, who said he was an innocent civilian, and appealed to the government to return his body. In a display of balanced reporting, the news article also included perspectives of the police and the army.
- Indian security forces have tightened their grip on Kashmir since Prime Minister Narendra Modi dissolved the region’s elected government in 2019 and brought it under direct rule from Delhi, with a heavier military presence. Journalists and activists critical of the security forces have been called in for questioning and often detained. (NYT, $)
Slope For The Best
- World champion skier Eileen Gu, 18, was born in San Francisco to an American father and a first-generation Chinese immigrant mother. Gu learned to ski on the pristine slopes of California’s Lake Tahoe, and the teenager has racked up a boat-load of titles and awards.
- Little is known about her father, and Gu uses her mother’s surname. She began her competitive skiing career in 2018 as an American, but in 2019, switched her affiliation with the International Ski Federation to China. Now, at her Olympic debut in Beijing, where she’s expected to earn three medals, has thrust her citizenship status into the spotlight again.
- China does not recognize dual citizenship, so it’s been theorized she gave up her U.S. citizenship. Gu has always declined to disclose the status of her nationality. However, Chinese Consulate officials in New York said Gu would have had to be naturalized or gain permanent residency status in China to compete for its team. (BBC)
Additional World News
- Ottawa Mayor Declares State of Emergency Amid Antigovernment Protests (NYT, $)
- Eight killed in two days after third deadly avalanche hits Austria (CNN)
- Pope decries genital mutilation, sex trafficking of women (ABC)
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President, and his wife test positive for Covid-19 (CNN)
- Fifty Iranian MPs contract Covid as Omicron spreads across country (Guardian)
- A Uyghur Skier Became the Face of China’s Winter Olympics. The Next Day, She Vanished From the Spotlight. (WSJ)
- Costa Rica votes in presidential election with no clear favourite (Al Jazeera)
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The Fuel Of Hard Knocks
- In 1940, the Roosevelt administration began construction on a giant underground fuel storage facility in Hawaii. Caverns in the mountain range were excavated so that the 20 humongous tanks comprising the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility would be protected from an aerial assault, and was under construction when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
- The facility has provided fuel to military ships and planes crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean since WWII. Little attention was given to the facility until late last year, when jet fuel leaked into a drinking water well, showed up in tap water, and sickened thousands living in military housing.
- Now, the Navy is scrambling to contain what one U.S. lawmaker calls a “crisis of astronomical proportions.” Pressure is coming from all sides to shut down the aged tanks, but the Navy says they’re vital to national security. Since the crisis began six weeks ago, the Navy has spent over $250 million addressing the public health emergency, including moving some 4,000 mostly military families into hotels. (AP News)
Planning A Cuomo-back
- Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in August after multiple accusations of sexual harassment; however, the intrepid Democrat isn’t taking his banishment lying down. Cuomo repeatedly denied touching anybody inappropriately and claimed the investigation led by New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James – which concluded Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women – was politically motivated.
- Since leaving office, Cuomo has spent over $1 million from his campaign war chest (he still has $16 million on hand). Nearly $900,000 went to Rita Glavin, his attorney. Glavin has held press briefings to release information she says undermines the credibility of some of Cuomo’s accusers.
- The former governor has been attempting to determine the right forum for a speech or appearance that would mark his return to public life. But it should be noted that neither former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, nor ex-U.S. representative Anthony Weiner – both Democrats who resigned amid sex scandals – were successful in their comeback bids. Perhaps Cuomo can get a spot on the next season of The Masked Singer. (WSJ)
Additional USA News
- Vastly unequal US has world’s highest Covid death toll – it’s no coincidence (Guardian)
- Manchin crosses party lines in officially endorsing Murkowski (The Hill)
- Youngkin campaign criticized for Twitter spat with teen (Politico)
- 18 rescued on Lake Erie after ice sheet breaks away during snowmobile ride (ABC)
- Trump’s election advisers were like ‘snake oil salesmen’, ex-Pence aide says (Guardian)
- Trump tirade on ‘racist’ DAs echoes other racist tropes (AP)
Join The Pub
- The Guinness Book of World Records reportedly called Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in St. Albans the oldest pub in England. An argument can be made that the pub’s first brick was laid as early as A.D. 793, near the ruins of an ancient Roman city, well before the United Kingdom was formed. The drinking house has seen it all – civil wars, world wars, famine, bubonic plague, you name it. Then came the coronavirus, which proved to be the straw that broke, well, the cock’s back.
- Christo Tofalli took over the lease of the heavily-beamed drinking establishment in 2012. He put his heart and soul into the business and kept it going, despite escalating business rates and taxations, and shrinking profit margins. Unfortunately, the 53-year-old Tofalli wasn’t able to survive the hardships brought on by the pandemic and the government’s public health restrictions, which eventually squeezed his business until he could no longer meet his financial obligations. “It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me,” he said, “and I feel honored to have played even a small part in its history.”
- Considering that the pub has been around for 1,229 years, every part played in its history has been a small part. Negotiations over the pub’s future continue, and Tofalli is confident Ye Olde Fighting Cocks will live to rise again, though under new management. “Look, the pub’s not dead,” he said, describing the closure as “shutdown sleep.” But he did acknowledge the sadness that comes with giving up his beloved pub. “”I lost my dream. I’ve been a bit sad. I’m allowed.” We’ll raise a pint to that. (WaPo, thedrinksbusiness.com)
- A New Database Reveals How Much Humans Are Messing With Evolution (Wired)
- Great balls of fire: A monk named Gervase saw ball lightning way back in 1195 (Ars Technica)
- Wealthy California town cites mountain lion habitat to deny affordable housing (Guardian)
- There are hardly any houses left to buy (Axios)
- Spotify removes 70 Joe Rogan episodes as he faces heat over use of n-word (Ars Technica)
- Mass swarm of dead fish in Atlantic prompts European inquiry (ABC)
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