We’re having another heatwave here in the Boston area–four days of 90 degrees or more–with a high temperature today of 99 degrees. Thunderstorms are expected to break the heat tomorrow night, with temperatures in the 80s on Thursday. But that is nothing compared to what is happening in the Pacific Northwest. I talked to my sister in Portland, OR, yesterday, and she said the temperature was supposed to hit 115 degrees! She said her garden is dying even though she is soaking her plants every morning.
The New York Times: How Weird Is the Heat in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver? Off the Charts.
Heat waves and the “heat domes” that can cause them aren’t rare, but the recent weather that’s been smothering the Pacific Northwest has little precedent in at least four decades of record-keeping….
The heat has been not only widespread, but also intense, in some places surpassing previous records by double digits.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, this past weekend’s temperatures were far above norms for this time of year, and a town in British Columbia reached nearly 116 degrees, the highest recorded temperature for any place in Canada in its history. In Seattle, there have been only two other days in the last 50 years with temperatures in the triple digits: in 2009 and 1994.
The heat has resulted from a wide and deep mass of high-pressure air that, because of a wavy jet stream, parked itself over much of the region. Also known as a heat dome, such an enormous high-pressure zone acts like a lid on a pot, trapping heat so that it accumulates. And with the West beset by drought, there’s been plenty of heat to trap.
In Seattle, Portland and other areas west of the Cascades, hot air blowing from the east was further warmed as it descended the mountains, raising temperatures even more.
Climate is naturally variable, so periods of high heat are to be expected. But in this episode scientists see the fingerprints of climate change, brought on by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Karin Bumbaco, Washington’s assistant state climatologist, said that any definitive climate-change link could be demonstrated only by a type of analysis called an attribution study. “But it’s a safe assumption, in my view, to blame increasing greenhouse gases for at least some portion of this event,” she said.
On a global average, the world has warmed about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. “When you have that warmer baseline, when you do get these extreme events it’s just going to get that much warmer,” she said.
This heat wave is also unusual because it occurred earlier than most. Those two previous triple-digits days in Seattle, for example, happened in late July, about 30 days later.
This one occurred just a few days after the summer solstice, which may have contributed to the extreme conditions. “The days are longer, and we’re not getting that cool-off at night,” she said.
Read more details at the NYT, with maps and charts.
The Washington Post: The Pacific Northwest heat wave is shocking but shouldn’t be a surprise.
More than three decades ago, in his seminal study predicting the course of human-caused climate change, NASA scientist Jim Hansen wrote that “temperature changes within several decades will become large enough to have major effects on the quality of life for mankind in many regions.”
Hansen used the analogy of “loaded dice” to describe how climate change would increase the likelihood of extremely hot weather in a given year while decreasing the chance of unusually cold weather.
Even before that, in 1979, the National Research Council published a study led by the late meteorologist Jule Charney that predicted serious global warming would evolve. “It appears that the warming will eventually occur, and the associated regional climatic changes so important to the assessment of socioeconomic consequences may well be significant,” the report said.
Since those prescient projections 30-to-40-plus years ago, heat waves all over the world have intensified. Heat domes, the sprawling zones of high pressure at high altitudes that essentially bake the air underneath them, have strengthened.
During the European heat wave in 2003, blamed for 70,000 deaths, the average temperature was higher than any year since at least 1851. A study published in 2004 found human influence “at least doubled the risk” of a heat wave of that magnitude.
By 2010, when a historically intense heat wave killed 50,000 people in Russia, the risk of such an event was tripled due to climate change, according to a study published in 2012.
In 2016, a report from the National Academies of Sciences concluded that of the connections between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events, heat waves had among the most straightforward ties.
See also this excellent piece at Axios that summarizes a great deal of information about the heat wave. It’s much longer and more detailed than the usual Axios post: Pacific Northwest heat wave reaches astonishing peak on Monday.
In other news, Axios analyzed traffic at “partisan” news sites and discovered big drops in clicks since Trump was ejected from the White House: Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media.
In the months since former President Donald Trump left office, media companies’ readership numbers are plunging — and publishers that rely on partisan, ideological warfare have taken an especially big hit.
Why it matters: Outlets most dependent on controversy to stir up resentments have struggled to find a foothold in the Biden era, according to an Axios analysis of publishers’ readership and engagement trends.
By the numbers: Web traffic, social media engagement and app user sessions suggest that while the entire news industry is experiencing a slump, right-wing outlets are seeing some of the biggest plunges.
- A group of far-right outlets, including Newsmax and The Federalist, saw aggregate traffic drop 44% from February through May compared to the previous six months, according to Comscore data.
- Lefty outlets including Mother Jones and Raw Story saw a 27% drop.
- Mainstream publishers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters dropped 18%.
App visits tell a similar story. Both right-leaning (including Fox News, Daily Caller) and left-leaning (including Buzzfeed News, The Atlantic) saw considerable average drops in app user sessions over this time period at 31% and 26%, respectively, according to Apptopia data.
- Data from Sensor Tower shows that downloads of fringe-right social networking apps like MeWe, Rumble, Parler and CloutHub have also plummeted.
Engagement on social media has taken the biggest dive, according to data from NewsWhip.
- Left-leaning and right-leaning publishers have seen social interactions on stories drop by more than 50%, while mainstream publishers have experienced a slightly more modest drop of 42%.
The big picture: Opposition media traditionally relies on traffic booms when a new party takes office, but right-wing outlets have seen some of the most precipitous declines in readership since a Democratic president took office.
Political news sites would get a big upsurge in hits if the Trump Organization is indicted in New York this week. The Washington Post: Trump attorneys meet with New York prosecutors to argue that his company should not be criminally charged over its business practices, By David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Shayna Jacobs.
We’ve reached the end of another week in the post-Trump era, and we continue to deal with crises that developed and worsened during the monster’s regime. It’s clear that it will take a long time to recover–if recovery is even possible. On the plus side, it’s great to have a normal president again–a person with empathy and compassion–and a caring, engaged first lady, and White House pets!
Biden’s Covid relief package appears to be on track for passage, despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress. The New York Times: Republicans Struggle to Derail Increasingly Popular Stimulus Package.
Republicans are struggling to persuade voters to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, which enjoys strong, bipartisan support nationwide even as it is moving through Congress with just Democratic backing.
Democrats who control the House are preparing to approve the package by the end of next week, with the Senate aiming to soon follow with its own party-line vote before unemployment benefits are set to lapse in mid-March. On Friday, the House Budget Committee unveiled the nearly 600-page text for the proposal, which includes billions of dollars for unemployment benefits, small businesses and stimulus checks.
Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a “payoff to progressives.” The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments — which they call a “blue state bailout,” though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans — and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.
Out in the real world, even Republican voters support the relief bill.
More than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.
While Mr. Biden has encouraged Republican lawmakers to get on board with his package, Democrats are moving their bill through Congress using a parliamentary process that will allow them to pass it with only Democratic votes.
“Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion dollars; that’s too much,” Mr. Biden said at an event on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”
House Republican leaders on Friday urged their rank-and-file members to vote against the plan, billing it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” They detailed more than a dozen objections to the bill, including “a third round of stimulus checks costing more than $422 billion, which will include households that have experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.” Ms. Pelosi’s office issued its own rebuttal soon after, declaring “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is moving forward with it’s investigation of Trump’s finances. Reuters: Exclusive: New York City tax agency subpoenaed in Trump criminal probe.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.
The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.
Along with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties….
The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the commission’s operations. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.
Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors, they added.
Subpoenas also have been issued to at least two creditors that helped finance Trump’s real-estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters has previously reported.
The Federal investigation into the January 6 insurrection is continuing to heat up.
The Washington Post: U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters.
Last night The New York Times revealed that Deutsche Bank has been cooperating in the New York Attorney General’s investigation of the Trump Organization for quite some time:
The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued the subpoena last year to Deutsche Bank, which has been Mr. Trump’s primary lender since the late 1990s, seeking financial records that he and his company provided to the bank, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.
The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.
But in a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.
Trump, Deutsche Bank has been a frequent target of regulators and lawmakers digging into the president’s opaque finances. But the subpoena from the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., appears to be the first instance of a criminal inquiry involving Mr. Trump and his dealings with the German bank, which lent him and his company more than $2 billion over the past two decades.
Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena. Over a period of months last year, it provided Mr. Vance’s office with detailed records, including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump had provided to the bank as he sought loans, according to two of the people familiar with the inquiry….
The subpoena to Deutsche Bank sought documents on various topics related to Mr. Trump and his company, including any materials that might point to possible fraud, according to two people briefed on the subpoena’s contents.
That must have been quite a shock to Trump.
As The Daily Beast explains, Trump himself triggered the public announcements by Vance by mischaracterizing the investigation in legal filings: The Footnote That Could Lock Trump Up in 2021.
Things had already been going badly for Trump in this legal fight but he bought time as the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which ultimately rejected his argument, reasoning that “the public has the right to every man’s evidence.” The high court then returned the matter to a district court, while affording Trump with little remaining basis to object, in the absence of any reason to conclude that the subpoena will interfere with his official duties.
It is well established that grand juries have wide latitude to conduct investigations. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson put it, a grand jury “can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurance that it is not.” Therefore, if Trump had been astute, he would have accepted the high court’s decision and given up on his effort to block Vance’s subpoena. But Trump chose to overplay his hand. Last month, the president’s lawyers declared that the nature and scope of Vance’s investigation is limited to an inquiry into Trump’s illicit efforts to funnel hush money payments to former sexual partners during the months leading up to the 2016 election through his fixer, Michael Cohen, and contended that the purported narrowness of the inquiry meant that Vance had no right to make a broad demand for Trump’s financial records.
Yet Trump had no basis to make declarations about the scope of the DA’s investigation; indeed, the only detailed explanation Vance has offered to date is contained in a (properly) secretly filed portion of a declaration by one of his prosecutors that has been reviewed only by the court. Furthermore, by making uninformed assertions about the scope of the investigation, Trump was all but daring Vance to comment about the nature of an ongoing investigation in the run up to an election….
After noting that the DA has no obligation to disclose the nature or scope of an ongoing criminal investigation in response to a challenge to a subpoena—let alone improperly disclose grand jury evidence – Vance’s office stated that Trump’s claims about the supposedly limited scope of the investigation “is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record.” The DA’s brief then went on to quote the judge himself, who months ago—after reading Vance’s secret account of the matters under review—observed that it is related to “alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers.”
Ooopsie! Read more details at the link above.
Meanwhile, Trump is still pushing for schools to fully open around the country. It’s not going well in the places that have followed his advice.
Last week, schools in Corinth, Miss., welcomed back hundreds of students. By Friday, one high schooler tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By early this week, the count rose to six students and one staff member infected. Now, 116 students have been sent home to quarantine, CNN reported Wednesday.
Despite the quick fallout, the district’s superintendent said he has no plans to change course.
“Just because you begin to have positive cases, that is not a reason for closing school,” Superintendent Lee Childress said in a Facebook Live broadcast on Tuesday on the school district’s Facebook page.
As districts around the country debate the merits of in-person classes versus remote learning amid an escalating novel coronavirus pandemic, the Corinth School District’s early experience shows how quickly positive tests can lead to larger quarantines.
Fourth graders at a school in North Carolina have been asked to quarantine for 14 days after a student there tested positive for COVID-19.
The school, a Thales Academy in Wake Forest, said it was notified on Monday that the student became infected after having contact with an infected family member.
The student was asymptomatic and was last at school on Friday. Teachers who were exposed also will be quarantined.
Thales Academy, a network of private non-sectarian community schools with eight locations in North Carolina, made the news last week after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited a classroom and applauded the school for reopening.
Pence and DeVos visited a campus in Apex, not Wake Forest.
Two suburban Atlanta school districts that began in-person classes Monday with mask-optional policies face more questions about COVID-19 safety protocols after on-campus pictures showed students packed shoulder-to-shoulder. The day after school resumed, one school announced a second grader tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the child’s teacher and classmates to be sent home to quarantine for two weeks, CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports.
In Cherokee County, dozens of seniors gathered at two of the district’s six high schools to take traditional first-day-of-school senior photos, with students squeezing together in black outfits. No one in pictures at Sequoyah High School in Hickory Flat or Etowah High School in Woodstock wore a mask.
In Paulding County, student pictures taken Monday and Tuesday show crowded hallways at North Paulding High School in Dallas. Fewer than half of the students shown are wearing masks.
More on this school from Buzzfeed News: The Truth Behind A Viral Picture Of A Reopening School Is Worse Than It Looked.
Behind a viral photo of a crowded hallway at a high school in Georgia, a potentially dire situation is brewing. Students, teachers, and parents fear the Paulding County school’s rushed reopening plans may be spiraling out of control just two days after students — who said they were told they could face expulsion for remaining home — returned to class despite reports of positive coronavirus cases among students and staff.
North Paulding High School, about an hour outside Atlanta, reopened Monday despite an outbreak among members of its high school football team, many of whom, a Facebook video shows, worked out together in a crowded indoor gym last week as part of a weightlifting fundraiser.
Within days of that workout, several North Paulding players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The school’s parents were notified just hours before the first day of class.
And multiple teachers at North Paulding say there are positive tests among school staff, including a staff member who came into contact with most teachers at the school while exhibiting symptoms last week. Teachers and staff said the school won’t confirm coronavirus infections among district employees, citing privacy reasons.
“That was exactly one week ago, so we are all waiting to see who gets sick next week,” a North Paulding teacher told BuzzFeed News of her exposure to the virus.
Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most cases.”
Read more at the link.
The Nashville Tennessean: These Tennessee school districts are already reporting COVID-19 cases after reopening.
Just two weeks after the first school districts in Tennessee reopened to students amid the coronavirus pandemic, some are already closing their doors.
Nearly 50 school districts have started the school year as of Wednesday — the majority of them in-person — and at least 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to schools have already been reported.
Two school districts, Coffee County Schools and Blount County Schools, have already closed schools or altered their schedules as a result of exposures to the virus.
Click the link for details.
Citing the “confluence” of the flu season and increased exposure, one doctor with experience in advising city officials on public health said schools can either taking strict health safety precautions or expect to shut the school down again by the end of October if they reopen.
Matt Lambert, an emergency medicine physician and the former chief medical information officer for New York City Health and Hospitals, the nation’s largest public health system, told Business Insider that he is “all for very thoughtful attempts at reopening schools.” [….]
“For local schools, if they want to try and open up using some really practical techniques around mask-wearing and distancing and maybe even rotations of when students come, I think that is something worthwhile to try,” Lambert said, adding, “But the virus is more prevalent now than it has been at any other time.”
“If we move to open up schools, even with the best models we can think of, passing the virus is going to be inevitable,” he continued. “Kids can contract the virus; kids can transmit the virus. There might be some varying levels of what it’s like in kids compared to adults, but it is clear that they can do that.”
Lambert said, given the transmission of the virus, it would be “inevitable” for an infected student to pass on the coronavirus “to either a chronically ill teacher or an elderly loved one at home who may have a bad outcome from this.”
Naturally, teachers are scared. NPR: Most Teachers Concerned About In-Person School; 2 In 3 Want To Start The Year Online.
As the school year starts in many districts across the country, a new national poll of teachers from NPR/Ipsos finds overwhelming trepidation about returning to the physical classroom.
Eighty-two percent of K-12 teachers say they are concerned about returning to in-person teaching this fall, and two-thirds prefer to teach primarily remotely. On the latter point, teachers are aligned with parents and the general public: Another recent NPR/Ipsos poll found two-thirds of respondents thought schools in their area should be primarily remote, including 62% of parents of children under 18.
The teacher poll was conducted July 21-24 and included 505 respondents. Half teach at low-income schools.
When it comes to going back to the classroom, 77% of teachers are worried about risking their own health.
Read the rest at NPR.
There’s much more happening in the news. I’ll add more in the comments and I hope you will too.
Just a short time ago, the woman who accused former IMF head Dominque Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her spoke briefly at press conference at a Brooklyn church.
“I’m here because I had people call me a lot of bad names,” Ms. Diallo said softly at the Christian Cultural Center on Flatlands Avenue. “A lot of things they said about me was not true.”
Before being introduced by Rev. A.R. Bernard, senior pastor at the center, Ms. Diallo, 32, dressed in a dark suit, rubbed her fingers together slowly, blinking often as she gazed out the windows of the lobby, past the bank of cameras and reporters.
“Me and my family, we are going through a lot,” she said. “We cry every day.”
She spoke for less than five minutes and was escorted from the podium when she finished without taking any questions; her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, and other supporters remained at the microphone and spoke with reporters.
Diallo’s attorney says that the Manhattan DA’s office either mistranslated or deliberately misinterpreted taped conversations she had with an Arizona prison inmate.
Ms. Diallo and her lead lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, spent much of Wednesday at the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, where they listened to a recording of conversations Ms. Diallo had with a fellow African immigrant in an Arizona jail after she said she was attacked. Law enforcement officials told Mr. Thompson and The New York Times last month that Ms. Diallo could be heard saying on the tape “words to the effect of: ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.’ ”
But after listening to the recording on Wednesday, Mr. Thompson told reporters at a news conference that Ms. Diallo’s statements had been mischaracterized. He said that at no point did she raise the issue of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s wealth or status in the way that prosecutors had described it. Rather, he said, the man she was speaking with, who initiated the calls to Ms. Diallo, remarked during one conversation that Ms. Diallo could stand to gain money from the case, but she quickly dismissed the idea and said it was a matter for her lawyer.
Thompson also noted that in the first phone call, Diallo’s description of what happened with Strauss-Kahn was
consistent with what she told investigators a day earlier. In sexual-assault cases, people who hear an early account of an attack are called “outcry witnesses,” and are often used to buttress the credibility of a person making an accusation.
“She told the guy that someone tried to rape her at her job,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview after his news conference. “She said: ‘I didn’t know who he was. We fought each other. Because he wasn’t able to take off my clothes, he put his penis in my mouth. He touched me. They took me to the hospital, and they arrested him.’ ”
The DA’s office said they could not comment on evidence in an ongoing investigation. But didn’t they already have quite a bit to say? Someone leaked negative information about Diallo to the media, resulting in Strauss-Kahn being released on bail while his accuser was treated like a liar and money-grubber. From CNN Justice:
The hotel maid who has accused the then-head of the International Monetary Fund of sexually assaulting her met Wednesday with prosecutors for at least seven hours….
Prior meetings between the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, and prosecutors who are deciding whether to pursue charges against French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn ended abruptly last month after Thompson accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of “abandoning” her.
Prosecutors had disclosed credibility issues with Diallo, who is from Guinea.
Diallo’s attorney said the Sofitel New York employee wants to tell a jury what happened to her. “I want justice. I want him to go to jail,” Diallo told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired this week.
I give Diallo a lot of credit for coming forward publicly and revealing her identity. I hope Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance will let her have her day in court.