Space Your Fears
April 20, 2022
Some Good News
- Moderna says its new ‘bivalent’ vaccine shows promise against COVID variants (NPR)
- Arizona Iced Tea founder says the 99-cent price tag will stay the same (Today)
“Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance.” – Jules Verne
Expanse On Fire
China is like an obnoxious kid who keeps cutting in line and stealing other kids’ lunch money – except with nuclear weapons. When President Xi Jinping opened China’s 19th Party Congress in October 2017, he was very clear about where its foreign policy was headed. Xi called China a “strong country” and a “great power.” He announced a renewed focus on “global combat capabilities” and declared the country would move toward the “center of the world” stage. Two months earlier, China had opened its first overseas military base in the Horn of Africa. Xi doubled down on his provocative behavior in the South China Sea, boasted of his “successful prosecution of maritime rights,” and counted “South China Sea reef and island construction” among his top accomplishments.
Now, Xi has pushed much farther into the Pacific Ocean. More Chinese Coast Guard ships are patrolling the East China Sea around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, an uninhabited chain also claimed by Taiwan. East of the Senkakus lies the Nansei island chain, including Yonaguni, just 68 miles off Taiwan’s coast. China, Japan, and Taiwan all claim sovereign rights to Yonaguni, and sightings of Chinese warships there have doubled in the last few years. Japan opened a Self-Defense Force camp on Yonaguni in 2016, staffed by 160 troops who surveil the coast. Beijing’s heightened military activity in the region has pushed Japan to bolster its defensive capabilities throughout the Nansei Islands – it’s preparing to open its fourth military base, staffed with 600 troops and both medium- and short-range missile systems. However, Japan’s limited strike capability means it remains vulnerable, and China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only adds to Tokyo’s concerns.
But it was the joint security agreement signed in March between Beijing and the Solomon Islands that suddenly became ground zero for U.S.-China competition. The pact, which could allow China’s navy to dock warships on the islands, sent the U.S. and allies in Australia and New Zealand into diplomatic hyperdrive. A delegation led by top White House and State Department officials for Asia headed to the South Pacific archipelago this week. One huge worry is that if China succeeds in establishing bases across the Pacific, it will threaten U.S. supply lines in the event of war. (WaPo ($), Reuters, CNN, Axios)
Swede Them Their Rights
- Last Thursday, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right Danish-Swedish politician who leads Denmark’s Hard Line party, set fire to a Quran in a video live-streamed on Facebook. Paludan planned to spend Easter weekend touring Sweden, burning copies of the religious book in different towns, including in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. He did that twice on Friday and again on Saturday, setting off riots in several Sweden cities.
- On Friday evening, Paludan’s supporters clashed with protesters in Orebro, which turned into a broader riot with 12 police officers injured and four emergency vehicles set on fire. On Saturday, hundreds of mostly young male protesters rioted in Malmo and Landskrona, burning trash cans and throwing Molotov cocktails at police vehicles. The rioting continued Sunday in the eastern cities of Linköping and Norrköping, where police arrested 25 people, eight of them minors.
- At least another 15 people were arrested elsewhere. The riots turned the country’s political attention away from Ukraine and back onto longstanding tensions between Sweden’s largely Muslim immigrant population, and nationalist parties opposed to Muslim immigration into the country. (WSJ, $)
Word Travels Fast
- The CDC has been a punching bag for its arguably confusing, unpopular recommendations, and its latest attempt at a mask mandate on planes and trains was thrown out Monday by a Florida federal judge. But the plucky CDC jumped right back in the recommending business, this time assessing the risks of foreign travel with a three-level system.
- The new system puts destinations into the following categories for Covid-19 risk: Level 3: High risk; Level 2: Moderate risk; Level 1: Low risk; Unknown: Not enough data to assess risk. Lots of European countries are at high-risk Level 3, including France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K. Also at Level 3 are Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, and Thailand.
- Moderate risk Level 2 destinations include Bolivia, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Turks and Caicos Islands. If you’re really cautious and want to stick to the lower Level 1, consider Colombia, Dominican Republic, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Philippines, or Senegal. Oh, and no surprise, experts are predicting a summer of travel chaos. (CNN)
Additional World News
- Shanghai’s lockdown protests reveal tensions over zero-Covid (Guardian)
- At least six dead as multiple explosions hit Kabul schools (CNN)
- Putin honours brigade accused by Ukraine of ‘war crimes’ in Bucha (Al Jazeera)
- Greece impounds Russian tanker as part of EU sanctions against Russia (Reuters)
- Pakistan: Six sentenced to death for lynching Sri Lankan national (Al Jazeera)
- Man held on attempted murder after police threatened at Horse Guards (BBC)
- Watchdog warned UK government of spyware infections inside 10 Downing Street (Reuters)
- 27,000 trees are cut down each day to make toilet paper. That feels like 27,000 too many, so honeycomb created toilet tissue from 100% sustainable bamboo. Bamboo grows 80x faster than the average tree, so we get thousands of rolls in the time it takes a single tree to grow back.
- Honeycomb’s 3-ply is formulated to strike the perfect luxurious balance between soft and strong. It feels just like regular high-end TP, without harming the planet. It’s biodegradable, plastic-free, and they deliver right to your door.
- The best part is that 4/22 is Earth Day, meaning Honeycomb’s Earth Day Flash Sale is live for the next 24 hours. Try them with code EARTH25 for 25% off your first order.
Giving The Greene Light
- A federal judge has cleared the way for a coalition of liberal groups to move forward with their attempt to disqualify controversial GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for reelection, based on claims that she aided the January 6 insurrectionists. Monday’s ruling means a scheduled hearing in front of a Georgia state judge will take place as planned on Friday morning. That judge will hear arguments from both sides and will ultimately decide whether the Constitution’s “disqualification clause” applies to Greene.
- The Civil War-era provision says officeholders who support an insurrection are prohibited from serving again. The judge’s decision could reverberate beyond Greene and her reelection, as similar constitutional challenges are pending against other Republican officials and could even be lodged against former President Trump if he runs again in 2024. The outcome, while a major victory for the liberal activists and legal advocacy groups, may not be resolved before ballots are printed for the May 25 primary election, and could also be overturned when Greene appeals the ruling. (CNN)
- Louis DeJoy is still Postmaster General, so it shouldn’t shock anyone that the U.S. Postal Service said Monday it would slow delivery times for nearly a third of all first-class packages. The longer delivery times are part of DeJoy’s plan, introduced last year, to reduce more than $160 billion in projected losses over the next decade.
- The plan broadly called for slower delivery times, higher shipping rates, and pivoting the Postal Service to deliver more packages. The new service standards are scheduled to go into effect May 1, and will add up to one or two days to some packages traveling long distances. Most package delivery times will be unaffected, and a small amount will arrive one day sooner. So they say. (WSJ, $)
Additional USA News
- Migrant crossings spike as US plans to lift curb on asylum (AP)
- Before Tyre Sampson’s death, safety sensors on Icon Park free fall ride were manually adjusted in “unsafe” way, report finds (CBS)
- Second person arrested in connection with South Carolina mall shooting that left 15 people injured, police say (CNN)
- California teen who vanished last year is found in Nevada; stepfather arrested (NBC)
- California ‘Happy Face Killer’ victim ID’d after 29 years (ABC)
- Ex-Chicago police officer avoids federal charges in Laquan McDonald’s death (NBC)
- Ex-New York Lt. Gov. Previews Bribery Defense: ‘No Personal Benefits’ (NYT, $)
Space Your Fears
- And we thought $2 for a ride at the State Fair was bad. An American, a Canadian, and an Israeli walk onto a spaceship, headed for the International Space Station for 10 days. Here’s the punch line: They paid $55 million apiece for the rocket ride and accommodations, meals included. No joke.
- After two years of carrying astronauts there for NASA, SpaceX is making its first private charter flight to the orbiting lab. This time, it’s carrying three rich businessmen and their escort, former NASA astronaut and chaperone Michael Lopez-Alegriato. Russia’s been hosting tourists at the space station for decades. Just last fall, a Russian movie crew flew up, followed by a Japanese fashion tycoon and his assistant. But NASA’s always pooh-poohed the idea of space station visitors.
- The three businessmen are the latest to take advantage of the opening of space to those with deep pockets. Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin is taking customers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space, while Virgin Galactic expects to start flying customers on its rocket ship later this year. Friday’s flight is the second private charter for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which took a billionaire and his guests on a three-day orbit ride last year. SpaceX and NASA have been upfront with the businessmen about the risks of spaceflight, and there are some for sure. The CDC is labeling this trip to the world’s most expensive tourist destination as Unknown Level 4: Not enough data to assess. (NPR)
- Joe Kahn Is Named Next Executive Editor of The New York Times (NYT, $)
- The End of Alcohol (Wired)
- US Military Confirms an Interstellar Meteorite Hit Earth in 2014 (CNET)
- Ancient Namibian Gemstone Holds Key to Future Quantum Computers (SciTechDaily)
- NASA sent a doctor to International Space Station as a hologram (NPR)
- Scientists hope to broadcast DNA and Earth’s location for curious aliens (Guardian)
- Neptune is cooling down when it should be heating up — and scientists aren’t sure why (Salon)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU