Giving A Whole New Meaning To “Drain The Swamp”
August 9, 2022
Some Good News
- Colorado ends sales tax on diapers, feminine hygiene products (9News)
- Seattle Mariners welcome new clubhouse dog to the team (ESPN)
“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.” – Victor Hugo
Drawing The Line
In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), conservative justices on the Supreme Court effectively gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which had required states with a history of discrimination to “pre-clear” any new voting rules with the Justice Department. Section 5 placed the burden on government officials to prove why changes they wanted to make were not discriminatory, aiming to stop those voting policies before they harmed voters. Shelby allowed nine states, mostly in the south, to change their election laws without advanced federal approval, and shifted the burden of proof to voters to prove they were being disenfranchised. Texas and North Carolina – two states previously covered by the law – immediately moved to enact new voter ID laws and other restrictions. In the next five years, states previously covered by Section 5 had closed 1,688 polling places.
Following the 2020 election, dozens of states passed scores of laws restricting voting. In 2021, SCOTUS narrowed Section 2 of the VRA by upholding two provisions of an Arizona voting law restricting how ballots can be cast. Meanwhile, Republican state legislators were also drawing state congressional maps along racial or partisan lines – in other words, gerrymandering districts to facilitate the election of Republicans. Since January, judges in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio have ruled their congressional maps were illegally drawn in violation of Section 2 of the VRA.
In the past, judges who reached similar conclusions have ordered new maps to be drawn. Now, SCOTUS’ shift in election law philosophy and a new fervor among Republicans who drew the maps have emboldened those lawmakers in the four states – which make up nearly 10% of seats in the U.S. House – to use the rejected maps anyway (questions about their legality for future elections will be hashed out in court later). One expert says by using the illegal maps, Republicans are likely to gain five to seven House seats they would not otherwise have won. “We’re seeing a revolution in courts’ willingness to allow elections to go forward under illegal or unconstitutional rules,” said the director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA Law School. “And that’s creating a situation in which states are getting one free illegal election before they have to change their rules.” (Guardian, CNN, NYT ($))
A Ticking Time Bomb
- The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in southern Ukraine is Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant. Russia soldiers captured it early in the war, and the countries have traded accusations that each other’s actions endanger the facility and risk a nuclear disaster. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned the way the plant was being run under Russian forces and the fighting going on around it are posing grave health and environmental threats.
- On Monday, Russia claimed that Ukrainian shelling the day before caused a fire and power surge, forcing staff to lower output from two reactors. However, Ukraine blames Russian troops for storing weapons there. Last week, the nuclear plant came under fire and each side accused the other of the attack.
- Ukraine’s military intelligence chief said his organization had received credible information that Russian forces planted explosives at the Zaporizhzhia plant to head off an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. Ukrainian officials have also said Russia is launching attacks from the plant and using its Ukrainian workers as human shields. (PBS)
Degrees Of Desperation
- Extreme heat is paralyzing Iraq, forcing shutdowns in the overstretched power grid as authorities extend public holidays to protect employees from 125-degree temperatures. Iraq ranks fifth on the list of countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and it’s heating faster than much of the globe.
- Almost 20 years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq is still ill-equipped to cope with the strain. Besides a faltering electricity grid, farming and fishing are being pummeled by drought. Overburdened hospitals are treating cases of heatstroke or breathing difficulties that have undoubtedly been worsened by toxic fumes trapped in the air.
- Forecasts for the week predict most Iraqi provinces will see temperatures of 120 degrees or higher. Ten months after populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won the largest number of seats in parliamentary elections, politicians from the country’s Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish blocs are fighting bitterly over the shape of a new government. As a result, no budget has been passed and major spending decisions are on hold. (WaPo, $)
Additional World News
- Hong Kong cuts COVID hotel quarantine to 3 days for arrivals (NPR)
- Temperatures rise as France tackles its worst drought on record (Reuters)
- China announces fresh military exercises around Taiwan (NBC)
- Think 9% Inflation Is Bad? Try 90%. (WSJ, $)
- Fragile cease-fire between Israel, Gaza militants holding (AP)
- How YouTube Keeps Broadcasting Inside Russia’s Digital Iron Curtain (WSJ, $)
- Cuba gets help from Mexico, Venezuela to fight oil fire (Reuters)
Giving A Whole New Meaning To “Drain The Swamp”
- Trump White House correspondent Maggie Haberman’s new book on the 45th presidency, titled Confidence Man, debuts in October. In it, Haberman claims that President Trump periodically blocked White House toilets and other drains with wads of ripped-up documents found by White House residence staff.
- On Monday Axios published photographs shared by Haberman ahead of publication showing folded up paper, marked with Trump’s telltale handwriting, using his favored pen, a Sharpie, submerged at the bottom of various toilet bowls. Axios describes Trump as “a notorious destroyer of Oval Office documents,” and these images are possible evidence of a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
- Haberman says the document dumps occurred multiple times at the White House and on at least two foreign trips. Most words are illegible, but clearly visible is the name of New York Republican congresswoman and potential 2024 running mate Elise Stefanik. (Axios, Guardian)
- The world is gripped by rising inflation and still dealing with the cascading effects of the pandemic, combined with sudden supply chain and energy market disruptions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Aid agencies and U.N. officials warn of hunger stalking the planet as some countries are pushed to the brink of collapse and others to the edge of recession.
- But for major multinational fossil fuel companies, this is the best of times. BP posted second-quarter profits worth $8.5 billion, its biggest windfall in 14 years. ExxonMobil’s $17.9 billion in net income was its largest-ever quarterly profit. U.S. company Chevron, London-based Shell, and France’s TotalEnergies also recorded blockbuster results. These five companies together made $55 billion this past quarter, even as hundreds of millions of people around the world bore the brunt of surging prices at the gas pump.
- And coal – which climate campaigners are desperately seeking to phase out – is surging too. Glencore, the world’s largest coal shipper, generated record profits in the first half of 2022 and plans to pay out an additional $4.5 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “This grotesque greed … is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people, while destroying our only home.” (WaPo ($), Reuters)
Additional USA News
- The recent killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque have shaken the city. Here’s what we know (CNN)
- Biden surveys flood damage in Kentucky, pledges more US help (AP)
- More human remains are found in receding reservoir near Las Vegas (NBC)
- Flood rescues in Denver, Kentucky braces for another possible deluge (Axios)
- Pete Rose dismisses statutory rape questions at Phillies bash – ‘It was 55 years ago, babe’ (ESPN)
- Has the love affair between Trump and Fox News gone sour? (Guardian)
- Exclusive: Trump-backed Michigan attorney general candidate involved in voting-system breach, documents show (Reuters)
A Dreamy Opportunity
- First came an eye-opening job posting for Chief Candy Officer – now there’s a job posting offering some serious shut-eye. Mattress company Casper is hiring “Casper Sleepers,” employees who will literally sleep on the job “in our stores, and in unexpected settings out in the world.”
- The job posting says the ideal candidate should have an “exceptional sleeping ability,” a “desire to sleep as much as possible,” and the “ability to sleep through anything.” In addition to being paid to sleep, successful candidates can wear pajamas to work, get limited free Casper products, and have the flexibility of a part-time schedule.
- As part of their application, aspiring sleepers are encouraged to show off their sleep skills on TikTok. There is a slight downside, however. Employees will have to do some work while awake – namely, create social media content sharing their experience as a professional sleeper. The job application is open until August 11. If you’re interested, better not sleep on it. (USA Today, CNN)
- Thieves steal at least 20 whole briskets worth thousands of dollars from famous Texas barbecue restaurant (Yahoo)
- An island in the Galápagos reintroduced iguanas after nearly 200 years of extinction (NPR)
- Earth had shortest day since atomic clock was invented (CNN)
- WW2 bomb revealed in drought-hit waters of Italy’s River Po (NBC)
- A London museum agrees to return more than 70 pieces of looted Nigerian art (NPR)
- Apple asks suppliers in Taiwan to label products as made in China – report (Guardian)
- Chile sinkhole grows large enough to swallow France’s Arc de Triomphe (Reuters)
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