A Fish Come True
June 23, 2022
Some Good News
- Nobel sold for Ukrainian kids shatters record at $103.5M (Politico)
- Pa. House approves bill to decriminalize fentanyl test strips (CBS)
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” — Groucho Marx
An Import-ant Decision
The U.S. recognizes China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, including forcing ethnic and religious minorities to work. Late last year, Congress displayed overwhelming bipartisan commitment to fighting forced labor by passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLP). Under it, the government assumes that anything made even partially in the Xinjiang region is produced with forced labor and can’t be imported unless companies are able to provide “clear and compelling evidence” otherwise. China vehemently denies the charges, saying outsiders have simply misconstrued a “rural jobs program” aiming to improve living standards for ethnic minorities in poor regions — akin to the way Russia is simply conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
About a dozen orders currently exist barring the import of some goods from Xinjiang, including cotton, tomatoes, and solar panel material. The UFLP, which took effect Tuesday, bars any products being imported into the U.S. from China that are even remotely connected to Xinjiang. And it’s possible the ban could reach other Chinese regions, since workers and goods from Xinjiang flow across the country. Beijing warns the new law will “severely” damage ties between the two nations, and vows to take countermeasures.
As for American companies and consumers, the UFLP could have significant and unanticipated ramifications. Products using any raw materials from Xinjiang, or with a connection to the type of Chinese labor and poverty alleviation programs the U.S. government deems coercive, could be affected — even if the finished product used just a tiny amount of material from Xinjiang somewhere along its journey. That puts billions of dollars at stake. Evan Smith, a former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and current CEO of a supply chain technology company, calculated that out of roughly 10 million businesses worldwide that buy, sell, or manufacture physical things, about a million would be subject to enforcement action under the full letter of the law. The Biden Administration says it does intend to fully enforce the law, meaning U.S. authorities could soon be detaining or turning back a significant number of imported products, causing headaches for businesses, adding to supply chain disruptions, and even fueling inflation. Smith has a gloomy prediction: “The public is not prepared for what’s going to happen.” (WaPo, NYT, $)
Massive Quake Hits Afghanistan
- A massive earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing more than 1,000, injuring over 1,600, and destroying several villages. The quake’s epicenter was in the mountainous area near the border with Pakistan, about 27 miles from the city of Khost.
- Government officials said heavy rain and strong winds were frustrating search and rescue efforts as roads were washed away in some of the hardest-hit areas in Paktika province. A doctor at the main hospital in the capital city of Sharana said, “there are hundreds injured still in their villages without aid or shelter” or any way to get out. 10 ambulances were stuck in a district where hundreds of homes were flattened, and rescue helicopters were grounded for several hours.
- The quake is one of the deadliest the country has seen in decades, and the first major natural disaster since the Taliban swept to power in Kabul last summer. Afghanistan is cut off from most foreign aid due to the Taliban’s ultraconservative social policies, but the U.N. said it has allocated $15 million to deal with the crisis. (WaPo, $)
One Strike, You’re Out!
- Bulgaria’s prime minister, 42-year-old Harvard-educated Kiril Petkov, has only been in office six months, but his government’s ruling majority has been racked with disputes on budget spending and whether Bulgaria should stop vetoing North Macedonia’s E.U. accession. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Petkov took a strong pro-European and pro-NATO position, even firing his defense minister in February for refusing to call the invasion a “war.”
- Bulgaria has traditionally been friendly toward Moscow, but Petkov backed E.U. sanctions and agreed to repair Ukraine’s heavy military machinery, while stopping short of sending arms to Kyiv. It was a stance too far for opposition lawmakers, who took down Petkov and his government on Wednesday with a 123-116 vote of no-confidence.
- Bulgaria is the poorest member of the E.U., and opponents accused Petkov’s government of failing to implement fiscal and economic policies to tame surging inflation. The country now faces what could be its fourth general election since April 2021, if the prime minister cannot cobble together a majority for a new cabinet. (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Ukraine Live Updates: More Brutal Fighting Expected in East (NYT, $)
- Saudi crown prince visits Turkey for first time since Khashoggi murder (BBC)
- EU warns of fossil fuel ‘backsliding’ as countries turn to coal (Al Jazeera)
- Moscow’s response to Lithuania over transit ban won’t be only diplomatic (Reuters)
- Russian Refinery Set Ablaze by Drone Crash (WSJ, $)
- Sri Lanka PM says economy ‘has collapsed,’ unable to buy oil (AP)
- Climate change a factor in ‘unprecedented’ South Asia floods (AP)
To Impeach His Own
- In September 2020, South Dakota Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg fatally ran over a man and left the scene while driving home on a dark road from a GOP fundraiser. He contended he hadn’t been drinking, and thought he’d hit a deer. He also said he’d searched a ditch along the highway with his cellphone’s flashlight and hadn’t seen anything.
- He didn’t report the accident for over 24 hours. His story didn’t hold up, and in April 2022, the S.D. House voted to impeach Ravnsborg. A Senate trial followed, and Ravnsborg refused to testify or disclose, as one senator put it, “what the hell he was doing” the night of the collision.
- On Tuesday, the S.D. Senate voted to impeach the attorney general on two counts: for causing the death of 55-year-old Joseph Boever, and for misleading investigators and using his position as the state’s top law-enforcement official in an attempt to favorably shape the course of the investigation. He was removed from his position and banned from ever running for a state office. Ravnsborg is the first South Dakota official to ever be impeached. (WaPo, $)
(Some) Justice Is Served
- During an April 2021 traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, a white police officer, Kim Potter, shot and killed Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man. Potter contended she’d reached for her taser and accidentally grabbed her handgun instead.
- After an emotional trial in December, a Hennepin County jury found the 26-year police force veteran guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison and fined $1,000.
- On Tuesday, attorneys for Wright’s family announced that Brooklyn Center had agreed to pay $3.25 million to settle the wrongful death lawsuit the family had brought. The attorneys also said the pending agreement includes reforms in Brooklyn Center police policies and training involving traffic stops like the one that led to the death of the 20-year-old Wright. (ABC News)
Additional USA News
- Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill (AP)
- Rich McCormick defeats Trump-backed opponent in Georgia primary runoff (Axios)
- Air Force service member arrested in connection with base attack that injured 4 Americans in Syria (NBC)
- BART train derails in East Bay, riders evacuated with 1 injured (SF Chronicle)
- Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5 (AP)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar wins contentious south Texas Democratic primary runoff (CBS)
- Biden will call for 3-month suspension of gas tax, though officials acknowledge it ‘alone won’t fix the problem’ (CNN)
A Fish Come True
- Microplastics are the billions of teeny-tiny plastic particles that fragment from larger plastic things we use daily, like water bottles, car tires, and synthetic t-shirts. Microplastics are an enormous problem because as bigger plastics break down and release these microplastics into the environment, there’s no getting rid of them. They’re in drinking water, food, and our bodies. So it’ll be interesting to see just how effective something is that scientists have designed to track down these pollutants in seas and oceans.
- What the researchers came up with are tiny, self-propelled robo-fish, programmed to remove free-floating microplastics by swimming around and absorbing them on their soft, flexible, little fish bodies. At only 13mm long, these minuscule crusaders can even heal themselves, should they get cut or damaged while on their missions.
- Each itty-bitty robo-fish has a light laser in its tail and swims and flaps at almost 30mm a second, about the speed plankton drift around in moving water. But considering the size of the robo-fish, and the size of the planet’s seas and oceans, we probably shouldn’t count on much microplastic removal magic happening on our watch. (Guardian)
- Unexpected polar bear population may offer some hope for the species (Ars Technica)
- ‘No need to panic’ as sunspot with potential for solar flares doubles in size overnight, scientists say (USA Today)
- Nepal may move Everest Base Camp (CNN)
- Microsoft Plans to Eliminate Face Analysis Tools in Push for ‘Responsible AI’ (NYT, $)
- Biden administration moves to restrict nicotine levels in tobacco products (CNN)
- Beyoncé’s new song unleashes Great Resignation vibes (CNN)
- NASA counts down to within 29 seconds of launching the large SLS rocket (Ars Technica)
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