Aggregated News & Opinion
Today’s posts in bigger type.
Prior 2-3 days in smaller type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
Country will need to kick addiction to coal and build eye-watering amount of wind and solar capacity
“This was such a good idea!” the boy said after the critters gathered in broad daylight to stare them down in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
More than 40% of Germans are cutting down on meat, and vegan burgers are a shopping mall staple
Kevin Rawlinson (now);
Amy Walker and
Helen Sullivan (earlier)
| The Guardian
Plan to open Alaska’s Tongass national forest to logging faces backlash from environmental advocates, tribal nations and fishermen
Public Trust highlights the 640m acres owned by the country’s citizenry, lands that some in the Republican party want to sell off
For decades David Attenborough delighted millions with tales of life on Earth. But now the broadcaster wants us to face up to the state of the planet
Research says melting will continue even if temperature rises are limited to 2C
Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
| The Guardian
California’s prohibition on the sale of new fossil-fuel cars from 2035 doesn’t seem all that radical.
The federal government has still not set limits for PFAS compounds, and some allege that could be because it is a polluter of them itself
- This story is co-published with Consumer Reports
ELucy Campbell (now);
Nazia Parveen and Helen Sullivan (earlier)
| The Guardian
The US death toll has doubled less than four months after the 100,000 landmark – and with autumn nearing, there is little chance of containing the contagion, experts say
Bad media frames a story: Israel Isn’t Signing ‘Peace’ Deals [Semitic Jews and Palestinians are a common people; their differences have been politically manipulated for greed.] GREGORY SHUPAK
Facebook blames mistake in system for restrictions on groups including Greenpeace USA
Bad journalists are howled at
Andrew Weissmann, a senior member of the special counsel’s team, has written an alarming and necessary book
Donald Trump’s tax returns illustrate the profound inequities of the tax code and the shambolic state of federal enforcement.
Illustration: The New York Times
It’s not a fair fight: The rich keep getting richer, while the Internal Revenue Service keeps getting smaller. Republicans in Congress have slashed funding for the I.R.S., stripping the agency of expertise, resources and authority. The number of I.R.S. auditors has fallen by one-third since 2010. The government employs fewer people to chase deadbeats than at any time since the 1950s.
The share of all tax returns subject to an audit declined by 46 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Astonishingly, the decline was even steeper for millionaires — the audit rate fell 61 percent over the same period.
Legend has it that the bank robber Willie Sutton said that he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. The I.R.S. has been reduced to going where the money isn’t. As ProPublica has reported, the government now audits lower-income households that claim the earned-income tax credit at roughly the same frequency as high-income households. It’s easier for the depleted agency to pick on people who can’t afford to hire expensive tax attorneys.
The result? On current trends, the federal government will fail to collect $7.5 trillion in taxes over the next decade — about 15 percent of the total amount owed. [Whose taxes do you suppose they'll raise to make-up this deficit?]
"Complying with a federal court's order is not optional. The Trump administration is flouting the rule of law to undercount and erase our communities."
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on March 5, 2020. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Just days after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the previous October 31 deadline for the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau late Monday released a one-sentence statement announcing that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross plans to shut down the once-in-a-decade count on October 5 [Monday] in open defiance of court instructions.
"The Secretary of Commerce has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 census self-response and field data collection operations," the Census Bureau said in a Twitter post just minutes before a court hearing on the administration's compliance with last week's court order.
"This is disturbing and another example of the Trump administration politicizing the census. Rushing the census risks an inaccurate census and a constitutional crisis."
—Sen. Jeanne Shaheen
In response to the bureau's statement, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Commerce Department to turn over records related to the decision to shut down the census on October 5 by Tuesday at 1 pm ET.
Civil rights groups that have been fighting the Trump administration's push to prematurely shut down the 2020 census raised alarm at Ross' brazen effort to bypass Koh's order extending the deadline, which activists applauded last week as an essential step toward ensuring an accurate count for the proper allocation of congressional seats and federal funding....
‘Trump benefited from a system that rewards those who can afford the most creative accountants.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
Americans paid for Trump’s $73m tax refund – and he’s laughing all the way to the bankWell, now we know why Donald Trump didn’t want the public to see his tax returns. A New York Times investigation looking at years of previously undisclosed documents found that Trump used countless maneuvers to avoid having to pay federal income tax. He ended up paying $750 total in 2016 despite hundreds of millions of dollars in income from The Apprentice and his various companies and licensing arrangements. Many years he paid nothing at all, and even received an income tax refund of $72.9m, which included millions in interest, straight from the federal treasury to Trump’s pocket.
The New York Times paints a picture of an elaborate shell game in which losses from some of his companies are used to wipe out tax liabilities elsewhere. It is not always clear how much of his “losses” are real losses rather than creative accounting, but the Times suggests that Trump may be both living large on hundreds of millions in annual income and overseeing distressed and unprofitable businesses....
‘President Trump announced within a day of Justice Ginsburg’s death that he would fill the seat immediately and then made his nomination just a week later.’ Photograph: China News Service/Getty Images
Ramming a nominee through like this is inexcusable – and it will cement rightwing control of the courts for decadesOn Saturday, Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to become an associate justice of the supreme court, to fill the seat vacated by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In one stroke he violated long-held precedents regarding filling supreme court vacancies, undermined the confidence of the American people in the legitimacy of the court, and ensured that the court will turn back decades of progress in civil rights.
This nomination is unprecedented. No justice has been confirmed to a seat on the court during an election year when a vacancy occurred after June. Yet when a vacancy occurred in February 2016 – an election year – the Republican majority in the Senate refused to even consider Barack Obama’s March nomination of Merrick Garland. In fact, when Antonin Scalia died, Obama waited a month to make a nomination out of respect for the mourning process. This time, Trump announced within a day of Ginsburg’s death that he would fill the seat immediately and then made his nomination just a week later.
...If Barrett’s record is any indication, the court will soon turn its back on its most treasured precedents and turn America into a more regressive country. Before joining the bench just three years ago, she served as a law clerk to Scalia, whose judicial philosophy she has fully embraced. She has also been a longtime member of the rightwing Federalist Society....
A high school in Eden, N.C., last month. President Trump and his team have remained defiant in their push for schools to open, even as coronavirus cases have once again ticked up. Credit...Pete Kiehart for The New York Times
Administration officials wanted the agency to play down the risks of sending children back to school.
Trump officials specifically sought data supporting school reopening, documents and interviews show.
While families across the United States this summer were on edge about the coming school year, top White House officials were pressuring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to play down the risk of sending children back to school, according to documents and interviews with current and former government officials.
The effort included an attempt to find alternate data showing that the coronavirus pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children — a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic.
A member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff said she was repeatedly asked by Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, to get the C.D.C. to produce more reports and charts showing a decline in coronavirus cases among young people.
Mr. Short dispatched junior members of the vice president’s staff to circumvent the C.D.C. in search of data he thought may better support the White House’s position, said Olivia Troye, the aide, who has since resigned....
Mounted police patrol Marienplatz and the pedestrian zone in Munich, Bavaria. Photograph: Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock
Josh Halliday (now); Caroline Davies, Helen Sullivan and Ben Doherty (earlier)
| The Guardian
‘We Italians have clawed ourselves out of the tragic pit we were in this spring.’ Military trucks take away coffins in Seriate, Lombardy, in March. Photograph: Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters
Italy and Sweden chose very different Covid-19 strategies, but both were accountable and transparent
....Both the Italian and the Swedish governments followed closely the advice of experts. Both, on the basis of this advice, then chose the strategy they deemed more suitable to the national sentiment, culture, political and social history. Both governments communicated this strategy to their citizens, and said how they were expected to act.
Italians, for instance, were told we had to stay at home. It wasn’t advice, it was the law. If you didn’t comply, you were fined or even risked a trial. I think the reason Italians complied mostly without protest, in the orderly fashion everybody seems so stunned about, is because of the responsibility the government took for giving these instructions, just as it has for its mistakes (and there were many). Sweden is on the opposite end of the spectrum as far as its strategy goes – but on the same side as Italy if the divide is not about lockdowns, but about governments that rely on the advice of experts to present their policy decisions to the public in an accountable, consistent way, and those who don’t [such as Trump in America].
So the line I would draw when looking at positive or negative experiences, is neither about the number of infections or deaths, nor about the devastating effect all of this is having on our economies: Covid-19 is a marathon and we don’t know if we have even reached the halfway post. The line I would draw is between those governments that are taking full responsibility for their actions, and those that leave their citizens in a haze of uncertainty, and have unaccountable leadership....
An oil rig in the North Sea ‘flaring’, a practice that led to 3m tonnes of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere last year from UK rigs. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA
Release of CO2 from UKCS rigs was much greater than Norwegian and Danish regions
....The report found that oil rigs in UK waters released 3m tonnes of carbon through routine “flaring” of unwanted gas totalling billions of cubic feet.
Another 10.1m tonnes of CO2 were released in large part because the industry regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), continues to allow oil producers to run their rigs on fossil fuels, according to Rystad.
These figures suggest that the UK emits 21kg of carbon dioxide for every barrel of North Sea oil produced, compared to only 8kg of CO2 in Norway, where oil producers run their rigs on renewable energy.
This could hold serious implications for the UK’s carbon targets if oil production from the UKCS is allowed to rebound by 25% in the 2030s in line with forecasts by Rystad.
The figures have emerged eight years after the World Bank warned nations that global gas flaring contributes as much to climate crisis as a major economy such as Italy....
Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent
| The Guardian
Plastic bottles makes up almost one sixth of the world’s annual plastic production. Photograph: Jeff Morgan/Alamy Stock Photo
Breakthrough that builds on plastic-eating bugs first discovered by Japan in 2016 promises to enable full recycling
A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.
The super-enzyme, derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles. Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled. Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing is either dumped in landfill or incinerated.
Plastic pollution has contaminated the whole planet, from the Arctic to the deepest oceans, and people are now known to consume and breathe microplastic particles. It is currently very difficult to break down plastic bottles into their chemical constituents in order to make new ones from old, meaning more new plastic is being created from oil each year....
Damian Carrington Environment editor
| The Guardian
The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.
The November election will be plagued by voter suppression, foreign interference, disinformation and a contested supreme court vacancy
The president thrives on division, speaks of ‘we’ and ‘them’ and encourages violence. No wonder we fear he won’t accept defeat
Among those named in reports is Paul Manafort, an ex- political strategist for Donald Trump
Exclusive: option part of wider emergency package to help firms through second wave of Covid-19
Richard Partington Economics correspondent
| The Guardian
Our findings from satellite images reveal 380 detention camps in Xinjiang, pointing to a campaign of ethnic replacement
- Nathan Ruser is a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Kao Saelee told the Guardian his sister was waiting outside the prison to pick him up on his release date, but guards transferred him to US immigration
Former real estate mogul was investigated after criticising Xi Jinping over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic
Instead of NATION-STATE-POLITICIANS essentially owning and controlling people (and their descendants ad infinitum) in "their" Nation State, wouldn't it be better if adults world-wide could contract with UN-certified professional agencies to perform nation-level fiduciary functions (certifications being updated at least annually).
— State, City and county governments would continue unchanged —
Virtual Nation agencies would manage escrows for selected Social Security, Medicare and charities.
If this is possible and replaced Nations States, then wars and immigration crises could disappear since virtual nations' citizens are scattered world-wide, therefore military invasion or bombing won't work.
The annual (re)choosing of virtual nation agency would desirably not be political, but be based upon prior service experience (if continuing with same provider) or by using UN assessed ratings of professional service performance. When you change agency the escrows for social security, medicare and charities are transferred to your new agency. Changing priorities for charities or "optional governance?" could be more frequent.