The death toll from Tropical Storm Ian remained unclear early Thursday after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said it brought “historic” damage to the state, hours after President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Florida amid what the National Hurricane Center described as “catastrophic flooding” over east and central parts of the state.
“We’ve never seen a flood event like this,” DeSantis said.
Two people were reported dead Thursday, though DeSantis said it was still unconfirmed whether their deaths were storm-related or if they died amid the storm from other causes. Local officials reported that a 34-year-old man died in Martin County, just north of Palm Beach, and a 72-year-old man died in Volusia County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The Lee County sheriff said Thursday he believed “hundreds” might be dead after the storm made landfall to the north, though no numbers have been confirmed as search and rescue efforts are underway.
Here’s what to know
It’s pretty clear that Hurricane Ian did catastrophic damage in Florida, although there still isn’t much specific reporting on it. The images on TV are horrifying though. We’ll likely be getting more details throughout today and over the next few days. The storm is now moving toward Georgia and the Carolinas. You can read live updates at the Weather Channel: Tropical Storm Ian Live Updates: Catastrophic Damage; Destruction Hampers Rescue Efforts; Death Reported.
More on Ian:
At least three sections of the Sanibel Causeway were washed away by storm surge from Hurricane Ian, according to video from CNN affiliates WBBH and WPLG, severing the Sanibel and Captiva islands’ only connection to Florida’s mainland.
The videos from the causeway show two portions of the ramp to both bridges washed away, as well as a stretch of roadway that crossed an island in the middle of the causeway.
A portion of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge “was damaged/washed out,” Lieutenant Gregory S. Bueno with the Public Affairs Division of Florida Highway Patrol told CNN. All lanes of the bridge are currently closed and the severity of the closure is listed as “major,” according to Florida 511.
Law enforcement and personnel from the Lee County Department of Transportation are on scene at the causeway, officials said in an update Thursday morning, and bridge inspectors were working to asses all bridges in Lee County. Residents are advised to remain off the roads “unless absolutely necessary.
The county, which includes Fort Myers in addition to Sanibel and Captiva islands and Cape Coral, suffered “catastrophic damage” from the storm, officials said in their update, noting that 98% of the county remains without power.
Urban search and rescue crews from local agencies are “actively engaged in search and rescue efforts,” with federal search and rescue teams being deployed. In the meantime, the 15 shelters opened prior to the storm’s arrival remain open.
Also from CNN this morning: Rescuers scour Florida’s flooded disaster zone amid massive power outages as Ian continues its ruinous crawl.
Rescuers have been pulling people from roofs as they work to respond to hundreds of calls for help since Ian – now a tropical storm marching across Florida – slammed the state’s west coast as a Category 4 hurricane, its surge trapping residents and its monstrous winds and flooding rains leaving millions without power and many without drinkable water.
Many are believed to need rescuing in hard-hit southwest Florida’s Fort Myers area, FEMA chief Deanne Criswell said Thursday morning. The nearby Naples area was similarly slammed – feet of water submerged streets, nearly swallowing vehicles and rushing into the first floors of homes and businesses – after Ian’s center plowed ashore near Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall on Florida’s west coast.
The Coast Guard and National Guard were “pulling people off of roofs in Fort Myers” with aircraft Thursday morning, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson told CNN. Coast Guard crews have rescued at least 23 people since Wednesday, the service said.
Roughly five people are believed to have died in Lee County, the sheriff said, and parts of a key bridge there from Sanibel and Captiva islands to Florida’s mainland have been washed out.
Collapsed buildings, flooding, downed power lines and impassable roads were reported early Thursday by survey crews across southwest Florida. More than 2.5 million homes and businesses statewide have no power Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, and some drinking water systems have broken down completely or have boil notices in effect.
Still, much about the misery remains unknown: how many lives Ian may have ended, how many people remain trapped, how many homes were wrecked beyond repair and how long it might take to restore a semblance of ordinary life.
The storm will now move up the coast to do more damage. This story at NBC discusses how climate change is affecting storms like Ian: Why ‘Category 4’ doesn’t begin to explain Hurricane Ian’s dangers.
Even as Ian gathered strength and neared Category 5 status, experts warned that solely paying attention to a hurricane’s category often masks just how destructive and life-threatening these storms can be — particularly as climate change makes hurricanes both rainier and more intense.
Hurricane Ian is already proving to be a devastating storm. After knocking out power to all of Cuba on Tuesday, Ian is forecast to dump up to 24 inches of rain over parts of Florida and trigger up to 18-foot storm surges from Englewood to Bonita Beach, according to the National Hurricane Center…
In the days leading up to Ian’s landfall, many drew comparisons to Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida’s southwestern coast as a Category 4 storm in 2004. But while past hurricanes can provide helpful context, Ian is sure to be a wildly different storm, said Kimberly Wood, an associate professor of meteorology at Mississippi State University.
“We’re looking at a similar category as Hurricane Charley, but the impacts will be very, very different,” they said.
Many of the most destructive and potentially deadly impacts of a hurricane — including storm surge, flooding and rainfall — are not accounted for in a storm’s category number. That’s because these categories refer to a storm’s rating on what’s known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks hurricanes from 1 to 5 based on a storm’s maximum sustained wind speed.
The categories are used to estimate potential damage to property from hurricane winds, but where it becomes problematic is if people use the rankings to gauge other impacts on land.
“It has nothing to do with the size of a storm, and it has very little to do with how much rain is produced,” Wood said. “People hyper-focus on the category when the category is a very small part of the picture of what a hurricane might do to a location.”
The effects of climate change:
Hurricane Ian’s rainfall projections across Florida are a major concern and fit within a broader trend of storms becoming rainier in recent years due to climate change. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which often means heavy rain and catastrophic flooding when these storms make landfall.
Warmer ocean waters and other changes associated with climate change could also help hurricanes like Ian intensify rapidly as they near shore, said Karthik Balaguru, a climate scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
As they approach the coast, major hurricanes can generate life-threatening storm surge, which refers to the abnormal rise in water levels because of the storm. Even lower-ranked hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson scale can generate huge storm surge.
As we saw yesterday, the storm surge in Florida was devastating.
More on climate change and hurricanes at Vox: Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification is a sign of the world to come.
On Monday morning, Hurricane Ian had wind speeds of 75 miles per hour. Just 48 hours later, those speeds had more than doubled. On Wednesday, as the storm made landfall in southwestern Florida, Ian’s wind hit 155 mph — just shy of a Category 5 storm, the most severe category for a hurricane.
Such rapid growth is known by meteorologists as “rapid intensification.” It’s defined as storms whose wind speeds increase by roughly 35 mph or more in less than 24 hours. “Ian definitely met that criteria,” said Paul Miller, a professor of oceanography and coastal sciences at Louisiana State University.
While wind speed isn’t the only force that makes storms dangerous, hurricanes that rapidly intensify are especially worrisome. They can easily catch coastal communities off guard, giving them little time to prepare, Miller said.
What caused the rapid intensification?
It’s an important question, as storms like this one are highly destructive and are likely to become more frequent in the years to come.
There are three main ingredients that, when mixed together, can result in a rapidly intensifying hurricane: moist air, low wind shear (wind coming from different directions or at different speeds), and warm ocean water….
Ian had them all. As it developed several days ago, the storm system faced some disrupting winds, but there was little shear as it grew over the last few days, Miller said. And Ian has largely avoided a region of dry air in the Gulf of Mexico. (Had Ian hit Florida farther north, it might have deteriorated faster, he said.)
Then there’s the warm ocean water. The Gulf of Mexico has been unseasonably warm this summer, according to the National Weather Service. And climate change is heating the Caribbean ocean by a little over 1 degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per century.
“Even small changes — half a degree C, or a degree — can really make a big difference,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
Another reason why the ocean is so warm is that it’s been a relatively quiet hurricane season so far. As hurricanes churn through the Caribbean, they sap heat from the water and churn it up, making it colder and less favorable for rapid intensification, Miller said.
Read more at Vox.
More news, links only:
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: ‘Giant Backfire’: Trump’s Demand for Special Master Is Looking Like a Mistake.
The Washington Post: Pentagon will double powerful HIMARS artillery for Ukraine.
The Daily Beast: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Husband of 27 Years Files for Divorce.
Unfortunately, Ian didn’t wash Mar-a-Lago away, but Trump is stuck there.
A huge nor’easter is moving up the coast and will likely hit us this afternoon. New Jersey and New York have already declared states of emergency. It has already been pouring rain here for the past two days and it will continue into tomorrow. We are expecting 70 mph wind gusts, maybe a bomb cyclone, and, of course, power outages. I just hope I don’t lose power. I need to get a better flashlight.
The Washington Post: Intensifying nor’easter lashing Northeast with flooding rain and high winds.
A storm offshore the Mid-Atlantic explosively intensified Monday night, and it is buffeting the Northeast with strong winds and flooding rains.
Flash flood watches are up from extreme northern Delaware and New Jersey through eastern Pennsylvania and most of southern New England. Up to five inches of rain are possible, falling on soils that are largely saturated following an exceptionally wet summer. Parts of New Jersey have already seen more than 4 inches, with rainfall rates topping an inch per hour….
Wind advisories also stretch from the nation’s capital to the coastline of Maine, with a high-wind warning up for the shorelines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where gusts could top 70 mph. The nor’easter is the first of two sprawling storm systems that will bring inclement weather to the East Coast this week. Its rate of intensification is expected to qualify it as a “bomb cyclone,” or a storm that strengthens with unusual haste.
The storm is the final act of a destructive ensemble that brought tornadoes to the Ozarks and Midwest on Sunday and a line of strong thunderstorms to parts of the Mid-Atlantic overnight Monday, which unloaded 1 to 3 inches of rain from Washington to Philadelphia. By Tuesday, rain and downpours were exiting offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula, spiraling into a new developing low pressure center taking shape off the East Coast.
But nearly half of Americans are deluded about what causes climate change, according to a new poll.
This year was marked by several unprecedented natural disasters, including a “heat dome” marked by sweltering temperatures of up to 113 F that plagued the Pacific Northwest, killing hundreds, and record-breaking wildfire seasons that razed entire towns and displaced thousands. Experts linked the string of natural disasters to the climate crisis, and yet, many Americans are still struggling to understand whether and why the generation-defining crisis is happening.
The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of VICE News, the Guardian, and Covering Climate Now, by YouGov, comes less than a week before leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference. The data shows that climate change is a top voter issue in the U.S., behind health care and social programs. For college grads and Democrats, climate change jumped to top spot (for Democrats it was tied with health care).
But while 69.5 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening, they were divided on what’s causing it. Forty-five percent don’t think humans are mostly to blame for global warming, opting instead to blame “natural changes in the environment” or “other,” and 8.3 percent denied global warming is happening altogether.
That’s mostly due to Republicans (55.4 percent) and independents (33 percent) though, who were far more likely than Democrats (17.2 percent) to believe “natural causes” have led to global warming. Young people and educated folks too were significantly more likely to believe humans are to blame for climate change.
Republicans aren’t satisfied with destroying U.S. democracy and killing as many people as possible with Covid-19; apparently they are also determined to hasten the end of the human race. Of course Republican are getting help with their goal of ending democracy and doing nothing about climate change–from a so-called Democrat.
John Nichols at The Nation: Joe Manchin’s Surefire Strategy to Ensure That Democrats Lose in 2022.
If Joe Manchin gets what he wants in negotiations with the Biden White House and his fellow Democratic senators regarding climate policy, which now seems likely, it could have a devastating impact on the planet—and on Democrats’ prospects in 2022.
How so? Let’s answer that question by asking and answering two other questions.
First: Name an issue that young people—an increasingly important and frequently decisive voting bloc—are passionate about? When the US Conference of Mayors surveyed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 in 2020, 80 percent said the climate crisis was “a major threat to human life on earth as we know it.” By a 3-1 margin, young people said “bold measures” needed to be taken to address that threat.
Second: Name the issue that Democrats are now talking about downplaying in the ”Build Back Better” agenda in order to secure the West Virginia senator’s support? The Biden administration is by all accounts preparing to cut from the budget plan the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a key climate initiative that would use a combination of incentives and mandates to get utilities to embrace renewable energy.
Much of the serious reporting on the issue has focused on the devastating impact that losing those clean-energy provisions could have on upcoming climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Without them, it will be tougher for Biden to convincingly pledge a 50 percent reduction in US carbon emissions by 2030. That could undermine negotiations on the issue, according to Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. So serious is the threat that Mann greeted the news of Manchin’s push to abandon the CEPP by declaring, “Joe Manchin just launched a hand grenade at Glasgow.”
Read the rest at The Nation.
More depressing articles on Biden’s shrinking “Build Back Better” legislation:
The Washington Post: Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates.
Democrats’ sweeping plans to bolster Medicare and Medicaid benefits have been scaled back amid an assault from industry groups and opposition from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with popular coverage expansions likely to be narrowed in hopes of reaching a deal this week.
Meanwhile, drug-pricing reforms have come under sustained attack from pharmaceutical lobbyists, with some Democrats now balking at empowering Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Scaling back that proposal, which was expected to cut government spending by more than $700 billion over a decade, would complicate Democrats’ ambition to subsidize their coverage expansions.
Manchin told reporters on Monday that he had concerns about some of Democrats’ signature proposals, underscoring the fragile state of negotiations. “You’ve got to stabilize” Medicare’s long-term finances before adding new benefits, the senator said, adding that he thought the Medicaid proposal was “unfair” to states like his, which have already expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.
The infighting over health care also prompted Democratic leadership this month to consider a plan to delay some of the party’s health agenda to next year, including a plan to repeal a Trump-era ban on prescription drug rebates, hoping that election-year deadlines would force lawmakers to seal deals that are currently proving elusive, said three people with knowledge of the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
That won’t excite Democrats about voting in 2022. And Bernie Sanders is fighting back. The Hill: Sanders draws red lines on Medicare expansion, drug pricing plan in spending bill.
Robert Reich at The Guardian: Is Biden’s entire agenda about to shrink into nothingness?
This week, Democrats either reach an agreement on Biden’s social and climate agenda or the agenda may shrink into meaninglessness. The climate measures in particular need to be settled before Biden heads to Scotland for the UN climate summit this weekend, so other nations will see our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
On Sunday, Biden met with key Democrats to work out spending and tax provisions. Yet every senate Republican and at least two senate Democrats continue to assert that Biden’s agenda is too costly.
Too costly? Really? Compare the Biden’s social and climate package’s current compromise tab of $2tn (spread out over the next 10 years) with:
The $1.9 trillion Trump Republican tax cut that went mostly to the wealthy and large corporations.
Americans were promised that its benefits would “trickle down” to average workers. They didn’t. Corporations used them to finance more stock buybacks. The wealthy used them to buy more shares of stock (and shares of private-equity and hedge funds).
The Trump Republican tax cut should be repealed to pay for Biden’s social and climate package. There is no good reason to retain it. But no senate Republican will vote for its repeal, nor will Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – making it a political non-starter in a chamber where Democrats have just half the votes.
The $2.1 trillion that America’s 750 billionaires have raked in just since the start of the pandemic.
You might think that at least a portion of this windfall should help pay for Biden’s agenda since much of it has been the result of monopoly power (for example, Amazon’s dominance over e-commerce during the pandemic).
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is proposing a “Billionaires Income Tax,” to be paid by the roughly 750 Americans with $1bn in assets or $100m in income for three consecutive years. It would be a yearly tax on the increasing value of their assets – such as stocks and bonds – regardless of when they sell. They could still write off losses every year. Interestingly, neither Sinema nor West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the other holdout, has voiced opposition to Wyden’s proposal.
The nearly $8 trillion we’ll be spending on the military over the next 10 years.
The United States already spends more on our military than the next 10 biggest military spenders in the world combined.
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled a nearly $726bn budget for the Defense Department in 2022. That was about $20bn more than Biden requested. Some $14bn in other funds are set aside for the Pentagon in separate military construction and energy appropriations bills, bringing the total budget to about $740 billion. Over ten years, that comes close to $8tn.
More at the link. Also see this from The Washington Post Editorial Board: Build Back Better is getting worse and worse.
I’ll end with this piece by Erin Gloria Ryan at The Daily Beast: These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.
One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is the one where the salesperson presents the potential buyer with an extremely crappy option first, and follows that up with an only moderately crappy second option. The potential buyer, dazzled by the jump in quality between options one and two, won’t scrutinize option two as much, because it’s so much better than option one. This has been employed by slimy realtors, wedding planners, and used car salesmen.
And now, we’ve reached the point in the American experiment where the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority has resorted to a cheap sales tactic in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. Lower the customer’s expectations enough, conventional wisdom goes, and they’ll thank you for ripping them off.
The high court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to the law on Nov. 1, on an expedited schedule. Legal observers predict that the court will toss the law out. I—and many wary pro-choicers—predict that after tossing the law out, the media will fawn over the court’s newfound social moderation, and the Susan Collinses of the world will crow that they were right, the hysterical feminists were wrong, and the Supreme Court was never going to toss abortion rights on—as Mike Pence would say—“the ash-heap of history.”
The following month SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, testing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that directly confronts Roe v. Wade by banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. Roe established in 1973 that the government has no right to interfere with abortion access prior to fetal viability—around 24.5 weeks’ gestation (a full-term pregnancy takes 40 weeks). Dobbs is the direct challenge to Roe that conservative activists have had a hard-on for since Reagan.
Ryan argues that, using the “smokescreen” provided by the ridiculous Texas law, the right wing justices will use the Alabama law to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Sorry this post is so full of woe. Hope you all have a pleasant Tuesday; I’ll be taking a news break for the next few hours at least.
Hello Sky Dancers!
Things are partially back around the little Kathouse on the Mississippi River. Wow, it’s been a while! I’ve had the power on for about a day and 1/2 but the cable TV and internet are still down with no ETA. I’m using my neighbor’s wifi right now. She has a different provider. There’s a convergence of anniversaries this month.
It’s been 20 years since we experienced the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. I know JJ has much more vivid memories of that than me since her husband was in the tower. I await her thoughts as we approach the anniversary.
I was awakened by my neighbor Bryan who told me to turn on the TV and then from phone calls from the University telling me classes are canceled so stay home. I turned the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the towers. Shortly after that, we all watched the Towers fall. This led to a series of bad political/foreign policy decisions and the last 20 years of endless war in the Middle East. Bungalo Bush’s tenure was his own form of disaster and the Russian Potted Plant is the Disaster that keeps on killing.
Sixteen years ago, a zombie version of myself was parked on my late friend Jane’s sofa screaming at CNN to figure out the difference between the lower 9th ward and the upper 9th ward. The levees had failed and Hurricane Katrina became the next huge Dubya Bush failure. That was the year the Bad Hands people slapped a $10,000 named storm deductible on my home insurance policy that plagues me at least every several years and especially today.
Ah, today, America, land of massive hurricanes, massive fires, and can’t we all just agree this is the result of Climate Change and aim some torches and pitchforks at Exxon Mobile and captured pols? Mexico gets a massive earthquake today and legal abortions. Well, you know what Texas gave us, what Florida is doing to kill us, and what is going to happen on the 18th which could be another attempt at an insurrection by white Christian nationalists.
So, watching the news just keeps getting more stressful. Part of me is glad I didn’t get mine for about 10 days. My friend, a retired CNN news producer, keeps telling her colleagues to stop being part of the problem that what is going on right now is important and choose the right side and report on it. I keep thinking all these events call for us to stand up for humanity, justice, and democracy. The Republican Party is lost to its worst instincts. Acknowledge they are not capable of governing us out of any crises and are responsible for most of them. They seem to be doing Darwin’s work already thought with Covid-19. Why do they want their base to basically die and kill others?
So, here comes the enemies of democracy again. From Roll Call: “As Sept. 18 rally approaches, violent language ramps up online. Capitol Police chief will brief congressional leaders about situation.”
As Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger prepares to brief congressional leaders on a potentially violent rally scheduled for Sept. 18, an internal department assessment reveals more violent online discussion around the event and increased attendance numbers for the demonstration.
The intelligence assessment, dated Sept. 7, notes that in recent days, the department and partner agencies have found more violent online talk surrounding the #JusticeForJ6 rally, organized by Look Ahead America. The event seeks to support pro-Trump rioters who were jailed for their roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
A discussion thread on the far-right site 4chan includes calls to “do justice” against “local jews and corrupted officials.” It also says the demonstration should be used as a vehicle to participate in violent acts against local “Jewish centers and Liberal churches” while law enforcement is distracted.
Another comment from the thread reads, “I will be there with my AR15 even though legally I can’t have one f*** the Demonrats.” (ed. note: asterisks inserted by CQ Roll Call)
Look Ahead America, a group led by former Trump campaign employee Matt Braynard, asked for a permit in Union Square at noon on Sept. 18 for 700 participants, a number that has risen from 500.
Law enforcement officials are bracing for potential clashes and unrest during an upcoming right-wing rally in Washington, DC, as violent rhetoric surrounding the September 18 event has increased online and counterprotests are being planned for the same day, according to an internal Capitol Police memo reviewed by CNN.
The latest intelligence report on the “Justice for J6” rally — which aims to support insurrectionists charged in the Capitol riots — notes that online chatter in support of the event started increasing after the officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt went public with his identity in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
There’s been a noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric around the event and heated discussions centered on Babbitt’s shooting on social media and discussion boards, according to the memo. The document warns that many individuals may also see September 18 as a “Justice for Ashli Babbitt” rally, which could be cause for concern, and it’s not unreasonable to plan for violent altercations. There have been additional discussions of violence associated with the event, with one online chat suggesting violence against Jewish centers and liberal churches while law enforcement is distracted that day.
The Capitol Police have formally asked the Capitol Police Board that temporary fencing be put in place again around the complex ahead of the rally, a source familiar with the planning told CNN. The Capitol Police Board will make the final call, but the recommendation will weigh heavily in its final decision.
There’s a list of those arrested for the US Capitol Breach on January 6 here at the website of the US District Attorney of the DC. These are the insurrectionists that are the targets for the September 18th rally. USA Today maintains a continuously updated list of these traitors here. This list has pictures and narratives for each of the individuals. You can also check out the ones from your state!
So, thanks again to BB who held up my end of the deal here. Also, thanks to JJ who offered to put me and the Kathouse critters up. We have a wonderful family here and I appreciate and love each and every one of you!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, but it isn’t quiet one on the news front. The angry reaction to the Texas abortion law continues, Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast are still just beginning their recovery from Hurricane Ida, Covid-19 is worse than ever, thanks to GOP governors and antivaxxers, and right wing crazies are threatening another violent insurrection in Washington D.C. as well as further attacks on democratic elections.
Texas Abortion Law Stories
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state judge has shielded, for now, Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under a new state abortion law in a narrow ruling handed down Friday.
The temporary restraining order Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to the Planned Parenthood request does not interfere with the provision. However, it shields clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and 100 unidentified individuals.
A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for Sept. 13.
The law, which took effect Wednesday, allows anyone anywhere to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy before most women even realize they are pregnant.
“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride,” Lyft said in a release.
“Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable,” Lyft added.
Lyft said its defense fund would cover 100% of legal fees incurred by drivers because of the law, being the first rideshare company to do so. The company will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.
Uber shortly followed by saying it would also cover fees.
The New York Times: TikTok Users and Coders Flood Texas Abortion Site With Fake Tips.
After a Texas law restricting abortion went into effect on Wednesday, the state’s largest anti-abortion group publicized a website that invited citizens to inform on the law’s violators.
The website, prolifewhistleblower.com, which was set up by the group Texas Right to Life, was designed to help carry out the new law. That’s because the law places enforcement not in the hands of state officials but with private citizens, who are deputized to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the law.
Tips about the law’s potential offenders quickly flooded into the website, which features an online form so people can anonymously submit reports of those who are illegally obtaining or facilitating abortions.
But some of the tips were a little unexpected.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who was a leading proponent of the abortion law, was a violator, according to some of the tips. The fictional characters from Marvel’s Avengers were also apparently seeking abortions, the reports said. Other tips did not point to individuals but instead contained copies of the entire script to the 2007 animated film “Bee Movie.”
The reports, which were obviously bogus, were the work of activists on TikTok, programmers, and Twitter and Reddit users who said they wanted to ensnarl the site’s administrators in fabricated data.
Hurricane Ida Aftermath
The New York Times: Satellite Images Find Oil Spill in Gulf Left in Ida’s Wake.
Cleanup crews are working to contain what experts called a substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to an examination of satellite and aerial survey images, ship tracking data and interviews with local officials and others involved in the spill response.
The spill, one of multiple plumes spotted off the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida, was identified in satellite imagery captured Thursday by the space technology companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies.
A black expanse and rainbow sheen of oil spanning at least 10 miles was spreading in coastal waters about two miles off Port Fourchon, an oil and gas hub. An aerial survey image of the spill was captured Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….
It was unclear how much oil had spilled into the Gulf, according to a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup. The spill, possibly from an old pipeline no longer in use that was damaged by the storm, was first spotted on Monday from reconnaissance flights led by a number of Gulf Coast producers, and was reported to the Coast Guard, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the cleanup effort.
Hurricane Ida’s 150-mph winds crippled a Louisiana electric grid already vulnerable from aging transmission lines, electricity bottlenecks and $2 billion worth of damage caused by three hurricanes that hit last year.
Ida’s landfall on Sunday left a wake of destruction and suffering. More than 1 million customers were without electricity immediately after the storm – a hardship that, for some, could last weeks.
Entergy Corp (ETR.N), the largest Louisiana utility, is facing tough questions on whether it had done enough to harden the electric system, which lost eight major transmission lines delivering power to the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Entergy was in the midst of upgrades throughout its system after Hurricane Laura in 2020. From 2017 to 2019, Entergy’s Louisiana subsidiary spent about $1.2 billion on numerous projects to improve its transmission system.
A pivotal question now for Entergy and its consumers is how well those capital improvements survived the hurricane’s wrath compared to the company’s older infrastructure. Entergy declined to detail the age of the eight New Orleans-area transmission lines that failed.
Hurricane Ida’s remnants created deadly havoc in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York days after the system hit the Gulf Coast — some 1,000 miles away.
There was “just the right mix of weather conditions” in place to fuel the system, according to Tripti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Syracuse University.
“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago,” she told NPR. “But we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms.”
Bhattacharya’s research on regional rainfall and climate change was cited in the U.N.’s recent climate change report.
Click the link to read the interview.
The Washington Post: U.S. covid death toll hits 1,500 a day amid delta scourge.
Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. The dead include two Texas teachers at a junior high, who died last week within days of each other; a 13-year-old middle schoolboy from Georgia; and a nurse, 37, in Southern California who left behind five children, including a newborn.
What is different about this fourth pandemic wave in the United States is that the growing rates of vaccination and natural immunity have broken the relationship between infections and deaths in many areas.
The daily count of new infections is rising in almost every part of the country, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. But only some places — mostly Southern states with lower vaccination rates — are seeing a parallel surge in deaths. The seven-day average of daily deaths is about a third of what it was in January, the pandemic’s most deadly month, but it is forecast to continue rising as high numbers of patients are hospitalized.
Florida reported 2,345 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.
The daily average rose 36% to 335, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The data is based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.
People 65-and-over accounted for 63% of the deaths reported in the period. Cumulatively over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors have made up 79% of deaths.
On Friday, NBC 6 Miami reported that 15 staffers and educators in the Miami-Dade County school system have died of COVID 19 — just in the past ten days.
“Sonia Diaz, a spokesperson for several unions in the school district, confirmed the number of deaths to NBC 6,” reported Johnny Archer. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools resumed classes on Aug. 23, and it’s unknown when the employees contracted COVID-19.”
The news comes as school districts and state governments around the country wrestle with how to handle the continued spread of the Delta variant.
The Washington Post: Here’s what we know about the mu variant.
A coronavirus variant known as “mu” or “B.1.621” was designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” earlier this week and will be monitored by the global health body as cases continue to emerge across parts of the world. It is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO….
The variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021, where cases continue to rise. It has since been identified in more than 39 countries, according to the WHO, among them the United States, South Korea, Japan, Ecuador, Canada and parts of Europe….
About 2,000 mu cases have been identified in the United States, so far, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences in the world. Most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York among others.
However, mu is not an “immediate threat right now” within the United States, top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci told a press briefing on Thursday. He said that while the government was “keeping a very close eye on it,” the variant was “not at all even close to being dominant” as the delta variant remains the cause of over 99 percent of cases in the country.
More Coronavirus stories:
Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic: What We Actually Know About Waning Immunity.
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: The Masks Were Working All Along. Now we have definitive proof that masks really are effective.
Trump Supporters’ Threats on Democracy
Ellie Silverman at The Washington Post: Former Trump campaign operative plans rally for those charged in Capitol riot.
One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”
When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.
The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.”
Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.
After Bannon’s endorsement, the “precinct strategy” rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.
Read the rest at ProPublica.
That’s my news summary for today. Take care Sky Dancers!!
Good Day Sky Dancers!
All the headlines are rather dire today. The Andrew Cuomo stories of sexual harassment are growing with worse-than-ever details. The Republicans have gone deficit hawk and are now refusing to increase the deficit level. The Delta Variant news just keeps getting worse. However, the recent climate change research backs up our anecdotal stories on what we see and experience as intense outlier weather events are related to worsening climate change. A newly released UN report suggests that “Humans have pushed the climate into ‘unprecedented’ territory, landmark U.N. report finds. U.N. chief calls findings ‘a code red for humanity’ with worse climate impacts to come unless greenhouse gas pollution falls dramatically. This coverage is from WaPo
The landmark report, compiled by 234 authors relying on more than 14,000 studies from around the globe, bluntly lays out for policymakers and the public the most up-to-date understanding of the physical science on climate change. Released amid a summer of deadly fires, floods and heat waves, it arrives less than three months before a critical summit this November in Scotland, where world leaders face mounting pressure to move more urgently to slow the Earth’s warming.
Monday’s sprawling assessment states that there is no remaining scientific doubt that humans are fueling climate change. That much is “unequivocal.” The only real uncertainty that remains, its authors say, is whether the world can muster the will to stave off a darker future than the one it already has carved in stone.
“What the world requires now is real action,” John F. Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, said in a statement about Monday’s findings. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.”
It certainly is not, according to Monday’s report.
Humans can unleash less than 500 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of about 10 years of current global emissions — to have an even chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.
But hopes for remaining below that threshold — the most ambitious goal outlined in the Paris agreement — are undeniably slipping away. The world has already warmed more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), with few signs of slowing, and could pass the 1.5-degree mark early in the 2030s.
This report is sliced and diced as the big headline in every news source around the world. Will it get a decent listen and bring about much-needed action? This is from CNN: “Earth is warming faster than previously thought, scientists say, and the window is closing to avoid catastrophic outcomes .”
As the world battles historic droughts, landscape-altering wildfires and deadly floods, a landmark report from global scientists says the window is rapidly closing to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes that would transform life as we know it.
The state-of-the-science report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders agreed warming should remain below to avoid worsening impacts.
Only by making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can we halt the precipitous trend. “Bottom line is that we have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s here,” Michael E. Mann, a lead author of the IPCC’s 2001 report, told CNN.
Unlike previous assessments, Monday’s report concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis and confirms that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred, some of them irreversibly.
The authors — nearly 200 leading climate scientists — hope the report’s findings will be front and center when world leaders meet for a major climate conference in November.
The effects of that warming are obvious and deadly around the world. Heat waves, droughts and floods are killing people and disrupting lives around the world this summer. Wildfires are burning with unprecedented frequency and intensity, including in places that used to rarely burn. Smoke and smog are choking people in cities and towns from Asia to the Arctic. Ocean heat waves are threatening entire ecosystems and supercharging hurricanes and typhoons.
The science is clear: Human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary driver of such changes.
One of the biggest recent advances in climate research is in the field of so-called attribution science, which ties global warming to individual weather events such as hurricanes or heat waves. Scientists can now say with certainty that humans are causing more extreme weather, including heavy downpours and extended heat waves and droughts.
“This whiplash — this increase in both extreme wet and dry events — is projected to increase through the 21st century,” says Kim Cobb, one of the report authors and a paleoclimate scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology.
This is the first time that paleoclimate researchers, who study the climate of the past to understand how Earth will change in the future, have helped write every chapter of the report. Their work helps put today’s climate in perspective. “We can now say global surface temps are reaching levels not seen in 100,000 years,” says Cobb. “The rate of warming since 1970 is higher than any 50-year period in the last 2,000 years.”
The report also confirms that global sea level rise is accelerating. Globally, sea levels rose about 8 inches on average between 1901 and 2018, although the water rose much more in some places, including in some cities on the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States.
Sea level rise is primarily driven by melting glaciers, and Arctic ice. There’s a lag between emissions and ice melting, which means even if humans were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, sea levels would continue to rise for a few decades, the report notes.
“Sea level change through the middle of this century has largely been locked in,” says Bob Kopp, one of the report’s authors and the director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University. That means no matter what, people living in coastal areas will need to adapt to higher seas.
This tweet links to the reports.
Of course, nothing changes if we can’t get the world to change or even change things at the local level. My state’s politics are somewhat driven by the priorities of the Oil and Gas industry. They throw money around to ensure it stays that way. This is from Forbes. “Fugitive Methane Worsens Warming: New Assessments Point To Urgent Oil And Gas Fix.” Methane is the third leg of this discussion.
The word fugitive methane conjures up the Harrison Ford movie, where the hero was always running and hiding. It’s a good concept for methane leakages that occur in all phases of natural gas production and processing, except they are not heroes.
Methane has also been hiding from the press which has paid most attention to controlling carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas (GHG). But the poor sister has now awakened to tell us she is responsible for 25% of present global warming. The world should have had a second Paris Agreement for methane back in 2015.
But its not too late as the “methane lever” can still be moved to make a substantial change to current warming by global GHG emissions.
Methane is the second important greenhouse gas. Methane emissions are surreptitious and really bad. The global warming effect of methane is 20-80 times that of carbon dioxide, depending on duration (how many warming years are counted).
The amount of methane in the atmosphere has more than doubled in the past 250 years since the industrial revolution
Fossil fuels, agriculture, and waste management comprise the big three sources of man-made methane. In the US, methane emissions from oil and gas are almost half of all man-made methane emissions.
So, that’s a lot to read and think about so I’ll leave the down thread shares to you as well as the discussion.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?