On The Sprite Track
July 28, 2022
Some Good News
- L.A. County could avoid mask mandate this week as coronavirus cases decline (LAT, $)
- Fourth patient seemingly cured of HIV (BBC)
“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” – Albert Einstein
The Kids Are Alright
We know who Matt Gaetz is. We just don’t know who the heck he thinks he is. The smarmy, 39-year-old Trump-supporting Republican has represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District since 2016. Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician are still being investigated for recruiting multiple women online for sex parties; separately, Gaetz is being investigated for sex trafficking a minor. Gaetz and his friends appear to have spent much of the Trump administration engaging with numerous women in Florida hotels and elsewhere. He’s tried diverting attention from the DOJ investigation by claiming he and his father were targets of an extortion plot related to a different case.
Gaetz still carries Trump’s water, supporting the Big Lie and insisting Vice President Pence was a traitor for certifying the 2020 election. He also derides abortion rights and activists. In May he said those protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade are “overeducated, under-loved millennials,” and this month, he voted against two bills aimed at ensuring abortion access. But his most loathsome, frat-boy, misogynist self showed up Saturday at Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit in Tampa Bay. Speaking to the invitation-only crowd of conservative high school and college students, Gaetz demanded to know why “the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.” He added that any woman who supports reproductive rights is “disgusting” and overweight.
19-year-old abortion rights advocate Olivia Julianna was offended. She criticized Gaetz’s remarks on Twitter, and he responded by tweeting her image next to a news story citing his rally comments. His tweet earned Julianna tons of harassment from Gaetz’s followers, but also a flood of donations to her reproductive rights advocacy organization Gen Z for Change, which focuses on “issues that disproportionately affect young people.” She’s helped raise over $214,000 for the nonprofit, prompting her to tweet: “Dear Matt, Although your intentions were hateful, your public shaming of my appearance has done nothing but benefit me.” Now a Houstonian, the lesbian Latina from rural Sugar Land, Texas, said “I’ve been mocked, ridiculed and harassed for most of my life. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior anymore.” She added: “I would like Matt Gaetz to know he picked the wrong activist” to mess with. (NYT ($), CNN, WaPo ($), Houston Chronicle)
All Shot To Heli
- Last November, the Philippine government agreed to buy a number of Mi-17 military transport helicopters from Russia for $249 million. An initial payment was made in January prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in March his government still intended to take delivery of the 16 helicopters. But Tuesday night, Lorenzana said fear of U.S. sanctions caused him to cancel the contract last month.
- The decision was approved by outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte before their terms in office ended on June 30. Lorenzana said American security officials were aware of Manila’s decision and could offer similar heavy-lift helicopters for Philippine military use. (AP News)
Beating The (Oil) Drums Of War
- Despite growing pleas from climate change activists, the Democratic Republic of Congo is moving forward with its plans to auction off a vast majority of oil and gas drilling blocks located in the country’s rainforest and peatland. The minister of hydrocarbon, Didier Budimbu, said Tuesday that 27 oil and 3 gas blocks would be auctioned on July 28 and 29, an increase from the 16 blocks the country initially committed to in May.
- The blocks include areas that reach into Virunga National Park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas on the forest-covered volcanoes of central Africa. Budimbu said the oil exploitation would benefit the Congolese population, over 27 million of whom don’t have enough to eat.
- The international project leader for the Congo Basin forest, Greenpeace Africa, said, “Only six months after signing a $500 million forest protection deal at the COP26, the Congolese government is declaring war against our planet with oil and gas.” A petition signed by more than 100,000 people is urging the president to end the development of new oil and gas fields. (CNN)
Additional World News
- Strong quake kills 5, injures dozens in northern Philippines (AP)
- Russia Cuts Natural Gas Flow to Germany Yet Again (NYT, $)
- Argentines yearn for Evita, 70 years after her death (AP)
- Japan to join ‘Garuda Shield’ military drills for first time (Reuters)
- China tried to obtain internal info, build a network of informants inside Federal Reserve, says new GOP report (NBC)
- Greece, Saudi Arabia seal deal on data cable, discuss power grid link (Reuters)
- Tunisia referendum approves expansion of president’s powers (Guardian)
A Swap Meet
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday the U.S. has made a “substantial proposal” to Russia to secure the release of two jailed Americans: WNBA star Brittney Griner and security consultant Paul Whelan. Speculation intensified about a possible prisoner swap involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, aka the “Merchant of Death,” who’s serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and selling weapons to terrorists.
- An exchange involving Bout would mean giving up a notorious criminal the U.S. pursued for years, before capturing him in an elaborate sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. A former FBI special agent said the possibility of a swap involving Bout “ups the ante quite a bit.”
- According to the agent, “This isn’t a spy-for-a-spy-type deal like in the Cold War. This is a very bad person in terms of the harm he has caused the United States.” Releasing Bout would send a message that detaining Americans can yield major concessions from the U.S. government, but a prisoner swap of this sort might be the only way to get Griner and Whelan out. (WaPo, $)
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Ex-Cuomo Staffer Killed
- Just before 1:45 a.m. Sunday, 43-year-old Sidney Wolf, a former staff member for ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and five others ordered a Lyft to pick them up from Dewey Beach in Delaware and take them to Bethany Beach. State police released a statement saying at some point during the ride, the Lyft driver and the passengers had a “disagreement.”
- The Lyft driver then ended the ride “in the middle of the southbound left lane” of the Coastal Highway and demanded all six passengers get out of the vehicle. Wolf “had just exited the right rear passenger seat and was standing in the roadway” when the 27-year-old driver of a Toyota Corolla traveling southbound accidentally hit Wolf, killing him.
- The Corolla driver immediately pulled over on the southbound shoulder and stopped, while the Lyft driver fled the scene. The latter “has not been identified yet and remains under investigation.” Wolf leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- At Yosemite, a Preservation Plan That Calls for Chain Saws (NYT, $)
- 3 climbers reported dead this week at Montana’s Glacier National Park, officials say (CNN)
- How Biden’s Covid turned Ashish Jha into the de facto White House doctor (Politico)
- Pence has ‘erect posture but flaccid conscience’, says ex-Trump official (Guardian)
- Man who assaulted law enforcement at US Capitol sentenced to five years in prison (CNN)
- Walker’s fumbles highlight GOP’s rocky Senate roster (Politico)
- Justice Dept investigation into Jan. 6 now encompasses communications of allies of Trump (CBS)
On The Sprite Track
- The soft drink “Sprite” was originally developed in West Germany in 1959. The soda started life as part of the Fanta line with the name Clear Lemon Fanta. The Coca-Cola company purchased the rights to the brand name in 1960, and introduced the drink to the U.S. market in 1961. Sprite’s packaging and marketing have always heavily focused on the color green, and like Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle shape, Sprite has consistently featured its own particular bottle detail: dimples, which represent the bubbles in the carbonated drink.
- While that green plastic bottle with the dimples has been around a really long time, most of us had no idea it contains green polyethylene terephthalate (PET), an additive that can’t be recycled into new bottles. So as part of the Coca-Cola Company’s broader efforts to become more environmentally responsible, it’s retiring the green plastic. From now on, Sprite will come in clear plastic bottles. The CEO of a plastic group helping Coca-Cola improve its recycling says, “Taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material. When recycled, clear PET Sprite bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic.” The well-known green hue will still be used on Sprite labels.
- We’re going to miss that green bottle, but at the same time, we have to give kudos to the Coca-Cola Company for its “World Without Waste”’ initiative. In 2020, it was named the world’s No. 1 plastic polluter by the environmental firm Break Free From Plastic. The company’s logos and branding were found on 13,834 pieces of discarded plastic in 51 countries, often in public spaces like parks and beaches. So it was really past time for a change. (Rock Hill Coke, CNN)
- Glaciers vanishing at record rate in Alps after heat waves (NBC)
- Study: Having just 4 drinks a week changes your brain (Seattle Times)
- At 75, the CIA is back where it started – countering the Kremlin (NPR)
- Lufthansa Cancels Nearly All Flights in Frankfurt and Munich, Stranding 130,000 (NYT, $)
- Scientists hone argument that coronavirus came from Wuhan market (WaPo, $)
- “Extremely rare” 1,850-year-old bronze coin found in waters off Israel’s coast (CBS)
- Meta considers easing its Covid-19 misinformation policy (CNN)
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