Saturday, August 15th, 2020


Blown Off

"In Linn County, where I live, 79 percent of people are without power, still, three days after the disaster. Cell service is spotty, where it exists. The few gas stations and grocery stores with power only take cash. And good luck getting cash from your bank, which is most likely closed. Even if you have the money, lines snake around the gas stations, two hours long or more, and the grocery stores are chaos. A citywide curfew exists. You can see the Milky Way from the darkened downtown." Lyz Lenz in WaPo: An inland hurricane tore through Iowa. You probably didn't hear about it. Part of it is the coastal bias of big media. Part of it is the slow, steady death of local newsrooms. And part of it is our narrowed national news focus that often limits coverage to the one big story that has dominated our attention for nearly four years.


Sleeping While Woke

"But the events in Belarus have barely registered here in the U.S. We have been so consumed with our own chaos—a pandemic that has taken the lives of 165,000 Americans and cratered the economy, a once-in-a-generation reckoning over systemic racism, and a presidential race where the fate of the nation really does seem to hang in the balance—that there is little bandwidth left to face what's happening anywhere else, which is exactly how people like Lukashenko and Putin want it. As long as America is chasing its own tail, it will be too busy to bother with the rest of the world." Julia Ioffe in GQ: There's a Brutal Crackdown Underway in Belarus. It Should Be a Wake-up Call for America.


The Other Great Depression

"The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse, including telehealth counseling. In the online survey completed by some 5,400 people in late June, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high." NYT: A new C.D.C. survey indicates that young people, as well as Blacks and Latinos of all ages, are showing signs of deteriorating mental health and some are resorting to substance abuse.


No Relief

For the homeless in NYC, fewer tourists and fewer pedestrians means fewer donations. And fewer open restaurants and the retailers means few bathrooms. The City: No Bathroom Relief in Sight for Thousands Living on the Streets.


The Check (and Balance) is in the Mail

"From a sheer numbers perspective, none of the experts I spoke with doubted that the Postal Service could handle a vote-by-mail election, even if every one of the nation's more than 150 million registered voters stuck their ballot in a mailbox. As one noted to me, a presidential election might be a big deal, but in postal terms, it's no Christmas. The Postal Service processes nearly 500 million pieces of mail every day, and it annually handles more than 3 billion pieces in the week before Christmas alone." The USPS has plenty of capacity to handle the increased mail traffic of pandemic election. For now. The Atlantic: What Really Scares Voting Experts About the Postal Service.

+ Postal service inspector general reviewing DeJoy's policy changes and potential ethics conflicts. (I've advised my kids to be inspectors general when they grow up. The work never seems to run out...)

+ USPS will stop removing letter collection boxes in Western states until after the election.

+ NBC: An all-out war over mail voting has erupted in courts across the U.S. Here's what's at stake. The inspector general may stop the corruption and voting rights groups could win all the legal cases. But, remember. The goal is not only to break the vote by mail system. It's to make people lose faith in the vote by mail system, making way for an argument that the election was rigged. Don't take my word for it. Take his.

+ UPS, FedEx warn they cannot carry ballots like U.S. Postal Service. (Nor should they have to.)


Shirt Happens

Our Harriet Tubman Change the Twenty t-shirt fundraiser has been a big success. We've raised more than $35,000 for Donors Choose. For every $20 shirt purchased, we donated $20 to a Donors Choose K-12 program focused on Black history, literature, equality, and/or racial justice. You'll make a statement, support a good cause, and look great doing it. The program will go on for a few more days. Get your shirt and spread the word.


California Steaming

"Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have experienced brief power outages through the evening, after the body that manages most of the state's electric utilities declared a Stage 3 emergency to help reduce stress on the larger grid. Electricity demand surged through the day as temperatures topped the triple digits in many parts of the state and people cranked up fans and air-conditioning units to try to stay cool." NPR: California Issues 1st Rolling Blackouts Since 2001 As Heat Wave Bakes Western U.S. (We were a few hours into our first real heat wave of the summer and the lights went out. Not a good sign.)


Magazine Cover

"In a blow to gun control activists, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that California's ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines is unconstitutional, violating the Second Amendment ... Large-capacity magazines, also called high-capacity, are defined in the law as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. In recent years, they have been used in mass shootings ending in widespread carnage."


The Elephant Out of the Room

"The border between Argentina and Brazil had been closed by the coronavirus pandemic for nearly two months when, in early May, an unusual convoy approached the checkpoint in Puerto Iguazú. There were 15 people, all of whom had gone days with little sleep, and six vehicles, including a crane and a large truck. Behind the truck was a specialized transport box. Inside the box was an elephant." NYT: How to Move Your Elephant During a Pandemic. (Just put it in the trunk?)


Bottom of the News

An Australia surfer saved his wife by punching shark. "A man leapt from his surfboard on to a shark that was attacking his wife, repeatedly punching the animal until it let go." (I can barely change a tire...)

+ "I don't think you have to like cats to realize that they are nature's solution to one of our problems." Can an Army of Feral Cats Help Solve New York City's Rat Problem? (If they really worked together, they could probably solve the human problem too...)