Good morning, Gnusies! And a wonderful morning it is, since it marks the day when those of us in the northern hemisphere move from the darkest day of the year toward the bright days of summer. The winter solstice has held special meaning for humans since prehistoric times, and we have traditionally appreciated it not only as a metereological event but also as a time for introspection, goal-setting, and renewal.
In many ways, we are in a dark time now. So let’s use the solstice to find our inner strength, set some goals for being an active force for good in the world, and focus on what it will take to renew our hopefulness and our energy. Please note that I’m not talking about “resolutions,” which have a long sad history of failure, probably because they’re too rigid. A resolution says “I will do...” but a goal says “I will work towards...”
So as we celebrate the return of light to our hemisphere, let’s work towards bringing more of the light of understanding, kindness, and hope to those around us.
Beloved Oregon poet William Stafford had some advice for how we should relate to the world:
Being a Person
Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.
A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.
Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone's dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn't be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.
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For today’s musical breaks, I’ve chosen some fresh renditions of familiar holiday music and one contemporary Christmas song that I think deserves to be heard more often. Settle in with your morning beverage of choice and enjoy the music and all the good news I’ve found. As usual, there’s lots of it!
I’ll start with an especially lovely rendition of the Ukrainian carol we know as “Carol of the Bells,” performed by Portland’s own Pink Martini.
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Good news for and from President Biden — and VP Harris
Biden will address the nation about Omicron on Tuesday as cases rise
Biden has been tirelessly proactive in promoting vaccinations and setting clear policy around the pandemic. (If only the CDC were doing the same!) The Omicron surge has Americans rattled enough that more vax-resisters might be convinced to get their shots.
From The New York Times:
President Biden will address the nation on Tuesday to respond to the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has sent infections soaring in parts of the country and raised new fears of the health of the country and its economy in the months to come.
Mr. Biden “will announce new steps the Administration is taking to help communities in need of assistance,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter on Saturday, “while also issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated.”
“We are prepared for the rising case levels,” she wrote in a follow-up Twitter post, and Mr. Biden “will detail how we will respond to this challenge. He will remind Americans that they can protect themselves from severe illness from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and getting their booster shot when they are eligible.”
In Trump country, a willingness to set aside politics as Biden visits
One of Biden’s greatest gifts is his authenticity, and it was on full display during his visit to the places devastated by the Kentucky tornadoes. Even Trumpists noticed.
From The Washington Post:
As Biden arrived in Mayfield..., he came to perhaps the most conservative place he has visited as president, the one where open hostility would be most apparent. He set foot in a county that voted for Donald Trump by nearly a 4-to-1 margin. Many here protested his election, and some still do not accept that he is the rightful president.
But the storms that have transformed parts of western Kentucky suggest that a natural disaster remains one of the few spaces left in American life where, however briefly, many attempt to put their politics aside. Biden’s response to the tornadoes has won praise from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who rarely has warm words for the president. Most here say they welcome Biden’s visit, even if they question how effectively he may be able to help them. ✂️
Touring the downtown destruction, Biden unexpectedly approached two women who were clearing rubble from a family-owned business called Debi’s Tax Service. “He said, ‘Hi, my name is Joe,” recalled Shawna Driscoll, a 45-year-old lifelong Mayfield resident. “I said, ‘I know who you are!’ ”
The exchange was positive, she said, adding that the encounter was shocking because she had just met the president and because he seemed so normal. Asked if she was a Trump supporter, Driscoll deflected, saying, “I’m a supporter of whoever wants to support us.”
White House calls out Joe Manchin
The Biden administration has had it with Manchin’s double-dealing. And no one crafts more powerful statements than Jen Psaki.
ICYMI, I copied this complete transcript from an excellent DKos diary by A Siegel.
Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework “in good faith.”
On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.
Senator Manchin claims that this change of position is related to inflation, but the think tank he often cites on Build Back Better—the Penn Wharton Budget Institute—issued a report less than 48 hours ago that noted the Build Back Better Act will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures. Many leading economists with whom Senator Manchin frequently consults also support Build Back Better.
Build Back Better lowers costs that families pay. It will reduce what families pay for child care. It will reduce what they pay for prescription drugs. It will lower health care premiums. And it puts a tax cut in the pockets of families with kids. If someone is concerned about the impact that higher prices are having on families, this bill gives them a break.
Senator Manchin cited deficit concerns in his statement. But the plan is fully paid for, is the most fiscally responsible major bill that Congress has considered in years, and reduces the deficit in the long run. The Congressional Budget Office report that the Senator cites analyzed an unfunded extension of Build Back Better. That’s not what the President has proposed, not the bill the Senate would vote on, and not what the President would support. Senator Manchin knows that: The President has told him that repeatedly, including this week, face to face.
Likewise, Senator Manchin’s statement about the climate provisions in Build Back Better are wrong. Build Back Better will produce a job-creating clean energy future for this country—including West Virginia.
Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.
In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.
We are proud of what we have gotten done in 2021: the American Rescue Plan, the fastest decrease in unemployment in U.S. history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, over 200 million Americans vaccinated, schools reopened, the fastest rollout of vaccines to children anywhere in the world, and historic appointments to the Federal judiciary.
But we will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their child care, health care, prescription drug costs, and elder care—and to combat climate change. The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year.
Doug Emhoff playing an age-old role with a new twist
Emhoff is an unexpected gift to this administration and to our nation. It’s wonderful to see him grow into his role so perfectly.
From The Washington Post:
When an animal-rights activist dashed onstage and wrenched a microphone from the hand of his startled wife, Kamala D. Harris, at a 2019 campaign event, Emhoff hurtled onstage, joining a tangle of security guards to wrestle the protester away.
...Emhoff is the first man to be second spouse, and no longer first in line to respond to physical threats against Harris. But during a groundbreaking if uneven first year for his wife, Emhoff is playing a role for Harris that is just as critical, if less obvious. ✂️
In some ways, it’s a highly traditional role for a political spouse, reaching out to constituencies that may be harder for Harris to engage, with a soft touch that takes off the political edge. ...But Emhoff, of course, is also different. He is the White male spouse of the first woman of color to reach such a prominent position in American politics. Her allies say he serves as a sort of emissary to an array of groups, including those who may, whether they admit it or not, feel unease about women of color in positions of power. ✂️
“I have heard him express very clearly that he sees part of his role as showing the world the beauty and the power and the wisdom of his partner,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous… ✂️
In public comments and among White House staffers, Emhoff has leaned into the role of supportive spouse and even feminist icon.
“I realize now men need to step up,” he said during a “Gender Equality Listening Session” in Paris during Harris’s visit to France last month. “They need to step up and be part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem. And I’m going to do everything I can in this role to try to keep messaging and to just keep saying men need to support women — period, end of story.”
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Good news in politics
Favorite holiday political meme
H/t to the great Shower Cap for this one!
We’re working on it, Cap ✊
MoveOn launches big effort to defeat Trump-backed secretaries of state
MoveOn has a lot of members, so this effort has the potential to be a game-changer.
From an email sent by MoveOn:
Once described as "apolitical," secretaries of state may now be the most crucial officials standing between democracy and authoritarianism.
Which is why MoveOn is doing something we've never done in our 23-year history: We're launching a powerful, multimillion-dollar effort to defeat Trump-backed secretaries of state across the country and elect individuals who will count every vote and ensure fair elections. ✂️
It's no coincidence that as he masterminds a plot to steal the presidency in 2024, Trump has already endorsed several secretary of state candidates in key states—and these candidates are nothing short of terrifying.
Indeed, several Republican candidates for secretary of state deny that Biden won the 2020 election. ✂️
Who will protect democracy? It will be us, the American people.
Chip in $5 today to take down Trump's plot to install his lackeys as elections officials and to safeguard our constitutional democracy.
Schumer digs in with ambitious plans for BBB, voting rights
By Steve Benen on Maddow Blog, MSNBC:
In a new letter to his Democratic colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer apparently isn't prepared to give up, at least not yet. After the New York Democrat said he and his colleagues must persevere "despite moments of deep discontent and frustration," Schumer added:
"These are just some of the major issues the Build Back Better Act would immediately address. We were elected to address these many needs and we will not stop fighting until we do. Therefore, Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television. We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done."
The "not just on television" line was hardly subtle — Manchin told Fox News about his rejection of the BBB package before he told Schumer — but also note the majority leader's reference to a vote on a "revised version" of the legislation. ✂️
The majority leader's letter added, "I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders' intentions. As Former Senator Robert C. Byrd said in 1979, Senate rules that seemed appropriate in the past 'must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.'”
It was a pointed reference: Byrd was a political giant in West Virginia, and Manchin has said many times he looks up to the late senator and tries to honor Byrd's legacy.
Schumer knows that. It's almost certainly why he quoted Byrd this morning.
The letter concluded with news that Senate Democrats will "hold a virtual Special Caucus" tomorrow night. It's bound to be interesting.
Senate passes Uyghur forced labor bill
Some of the big corporations that depend on cheap Chinese labor, like Nike and Coca-Cola, bitched about this, but fortunately they couldn’t block it.
In a rare bipartisan compromise, the Senate unanimously passed a bill punishing the Chinese government for its genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities… ✂️
The Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act, which passed the House on Tuesday, would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines with "clear and convincing evidence" that they were not made with forced labor.
- The White House confirmed this week that President Biden will sign the bill, after months of allegations from Republicans that the administration was lobbying against it.
- Just one member of Congress — Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) — voted against the original version of the bill, reflecting the overwhelming bipartisan consensus of the need to respond to Beijing's human rights abuses.
Why it matters: Human rights activists say the bill will impose the first substantive costs the Chinese government has ever faced for its atrocities in Xinjiang — and could set a precedent for other countries to follow suit.
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Good news from my corner of the world
Sweeping plan to wean Oregonians from fossil fuels approved by regulators
Oregon’s Democratic leadership has gotten serious about cutting the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. This is the issue that caused the infamous walk-out of Rethug senators during the 2019 Oregon legislative session. The policy has now been put in place by environmental regulators via an executive order by our Dem governor, by-passing a legislative vote.
From The Oregonian:
Policymakers for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday voted 3-1 to adopt a controversial Climate Protection Plan that would eventually have far-reaching impacts on every resident of the state. ✂️
The new plan was developed by the Department of Environmental Quality after Republican walkouts in 2019 and 2020 killed efforts to pass economy-wide cap-and-trade legislation. The governor responded with an executive order directing agencies to develop plans to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The plan requires fuel suppliers to reduce greenhouse emissions from the products they sell by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 – even more aggressive than the state’s overall goals. Some 13 industrial facilities will also be required to reduce their emissions consistent with the best and most cost-effective technology, with aggregate emission reductions targeted at half of today’s levels by 2035.
The plan doesn’t prescribe a way to achieve those reductions or mandate the use of any type of fuel or technology, such as biodiesel or electric cars and trucks. It simply sets up a regulatory backstop in which DEQ will establish a declining limit on emissions from fuels covered by the program. Suppliers who can’t meet them will face escalating costs, which will be passed through to consumers at the pump, in their monthly utility bills and in the cost of goods they buy.
The program covers all fossil fuel suppliers, including diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and propane used in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings. Bottom line, it will force Oregonians to eventually slash their use, switch to alternatives or pay significantly higher prices to continue burning them.
Ban on gas-powered leaf blowers back on table in Multnomah County
As GNR regulars know, these ear-splitting, fume-spewing monstrosities are among my biggest pet peeves, so this news is music to my sore ears! That said, I do have sympathy for the small landscapers, many of whom are Latino immigrants, who may not have the resources to replace their old equipment, so I hope the proposal provides some financial assistance for them.
From The Oregonian:
Multnomah County commissioners voted Thursday to talk with the City of Portland about banning gas-powered leaf blowers, citing the devices’ emissions and noise as reason to eventually take them off the streets.
The leaf blower measure county commissioners approved has no immediate impact on Oregonians who regularly use the devices. The work group will convene in 2022, the office of the commissioner spearheading the proposal said, with a proposal potentially ready by the middle of the year.
In addition..., commissioners approved measures to phase out the county’s own use of the devices by 2024, install charging stations and educate the public about the devices’ hazards.
Gas-powered leaf blowers have been on the political docket in Oregon for several years, with bills filed in 2019 and this year in the Legislature seeking their prohibition, one statewide and the other in counties with 400,000 or more residents. Neither made it to a vote.
When testifying against the older bill, a representative of the landscaping industry said a ban could do real harm to smaller landscapers who can’t afford to transition to all electric equipment.
Union grocery workers reach tentative agreement, ending strike at Fred Meyer, QFC stores
A significant labor victory which took only one day! I’m convinced that one of the main reasons that Kroger settled so fast is that the public was solidly behind the strikers and very few shoppers were crossing the picket lines at a time when these stores usually have their annual peak sales.
From Oregon Public Broadcasting:
The union representing thousands of Oregon grocery workers reached a tentative labor agreement with management Friday night, ending a strike that was scheduled to run through Christmas Eve.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, representing many employees at Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers stores, says the new agreement provides significant wage increases and workplace protections, new retirement and healthcare benefits.
The union has been in negotiations for months with the Kroger-owned supermarket chains. Last weekend, UFCW announced its members had authorized a strike, which began Friday morning at stores in Portland, Bend, Newberg and Klamath Falls. ✂️
Prior to reaching a tentative agreement, union representatives said that Fred Meyer has been underpaying certain workers in violation of contract terms. A UFCW spokesperson has also said the grocery chain hasn’t been providing necessary information to the union to refute or verify its concern, or to address it through the grievance process.
The UFCW said this inadequate pay and lack of documentation constitute unfair labor practices — and it’s on the basis of these unfair labor allegations that the UFCW had been preparing to strike.
Intel will boost pay by more than $2 billion in cash and stock as labor market tightens
More evidence that the balance of power these days is with workers rather than employers.
From The Oregonian:
Intel told employees this month that it plans to increase employee compensation by more than $2 billion as it seeks to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive hiring market.
Intel is Oregon’s largest corporate employer, with 21,000 people working at its Washington County campuses. Beginning next year, it will boost wages across the company by $1 billion and increase stock compensation by $1.4 billion, according to a presentation to employees. That’s beyond the standard pay increases Intel makes every year. ✂️
Oregon is [Intel’s] largest and most advanced site, home to the company’s leading-edge research, advanced computer chip factories and various corporate functions. ...Intel is hiring several hundred in Oregon as it prepares to open a $3 billion expansion to its D1X research factory in Hillsboro early next year. ✂️
Intel is hoping the pay boost, along with seminars on mental health and time off for wellbeing, will help make the company an attractive place to work. In November the company announced that most employees would move permanently to a hybrid schedule, splitting work time between home and the office, which Intel hopes will be an appealing perk.
Portland student recycles plastic into bricks for homeless huts
This is a great story about one of the amazing kids that are working to fix our environment and our society. Please click the link to read the whole thing. And if you like, you can make a donation at Charlie’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/recycled-living
From the Portland Tribune:
Solve homelessness and the plastic trash problem in one go? It's the kind of audacious intersectionality that people might get excited about.
Charlie Abrams is a Cleveland High senior already known for having been a climate advocate since fourth grade. He was one of the organizers of the Climate Strike downtown in 2019. Now he's sunk his teeth into something less abstract. Abrams started a nonprofit in 2020 called Recycled Living to make 20-pound building bricks out of compressed waste plastic and build tiny homes for the homeless. ✂️
He taught himself architectural rendering on Blendr software and designed a series of tiny homes that were more than just the shed-on-a-pallet model so often chosen by local authorities. He cites the city of Los Angeles building eight-by-eight-foot cabins with no amenities and just a bed and a chair as the opposite of what he wants to do.
"Do we want to create a project where the community looks like a set
of boxes with 64 padlocks on them?...We could create something beautiful within this community. They're not 64-square-foot boxes. It's creating something real that someone would want to live in."
Abrams also built the three machines needed to turn plastic into bricks: The shredder, the heater, and the compressor. The shredder is laser cut from steel and assembled from a kit designed in Poland. The other two machines he designed himself. Again, he taught himself the engineering required to build all three. Rather than buy off the rack, they had to be custom-made to make the large bricks he wanted. …
Regular recycling only handles a few kinds of plastic. Abrams' aim is more about keeping plastics out of the landfill and is almost omnivorous when it comes to plastic. His machine can take anything from hard plastic crates to thin plastic bags. ...Once shredded into flakes and mixed, they can be warmed to about 110 degrees in the heating chamber, softened and pressed into a steel form. The result is a plastic brick with two holes to allow for rebar to hold them together when laid.
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Good news from around the nation
A Promising Court Victory for Mobile-Home Residents
From The New Yorker:
In 2009, Suellen Klossner purchased a 1977 double-wide trailer home in Table Mound Mobile Home Park, in Dubuque, Iowa, for twenty-eight thousand dollars. According to court documents, Klossner, who is sixty-two, suffers from multiple mental- and physical-health issues, and has been receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration since 1993. She is unable to work, and her income is about a thousand dollars a month. The rent Klossner paid for the lot that her trailer home occupied when she first moved in was two hundred and thirty-five dollars a month. The rent increased about two per cent each year until 2017, when a corporate entity called I.A.D.U. Table Mound M.H.P. took over the park. The new owner raised her rent by 14.3 per cent, to three hundred and twenty dollars, and then raised it again a little more than a year later to three hundred and forty-five. A year after that, it went up to three hundred and eighty. Klossner could not pay the new amount, and she couldn’t afford most other housing options in the area. She applied for, and received, Section 8 government-housing vouchers to help defray the cost. She then asked Table Mound’s owners if she could use the vouchers toward her rent. To Klossner’s surprise, the park manager said no. In September, 2020, Iowa Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against I.A.D.U. Table Mound M.H.P. and its corporate owner, Impact M.H.C. Management, on Klossner’s behalf, alleging that the company had violated the Fair Housing Amendments Act by refusing to accept her housing vouchers. ✂️
Last August, the case went to trial and, on October 6th, the judge delivered a decision in Klossner’s favor and ordered Impact to accept Klossner’s vouchers. Although Impact has appealed, the court’s ruling represents a substantial win, and is the first time that the question of whether the Fair Housing Amendments Act can require landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers for people with disabilities has been decided after a trial. “[T]his is a significant victory for both manufactured-home owners and disabled Iowans alike,” Alex Kornya, a legal-aid attorney who tried the case with his colleague Todd Schmidt and another lawyer at a Missouri law firm called Kennedy Hunt, P.C., told me. It “will help preserve a critical property right—a roof over one’s head—for the most vulnerable among us.”
Idaho’s Historical Markers Are Getting a Makeover
From Reasons to Be Cheerful:
Many of Idaho’s 290 historical markers resemble the one near the Salmon River, which until recently declared that explorers Lewis and Clark had “discovered” the waterway in 1805. Of course, that’s not true: Indigenous Peoples had lived there for thousands of years before that, nourishing their communities with the river’s abundance of fish.
Now, these inaccuracies are finally being acknowledged. The state’s Historic Preservation Office is working with Idaho’s five tribes to revise or replace many of the state’s historical markers. The new signs will use original tribal language for place names when possible, and be rewritten in consultation with cultural historians from the tribes. The corrections could be tricky — each sign has room for only a limited number of words, a reflection of how flagrantly they have simplified history. “We are trying to look critically at the stories we are putting out there,” said one Preservation Office official.
Harvard says it won't require SAT or ACT scores through 2026
From CBS News:
Harvard on Thursday said it won't require applicants submit SAT or ACT scores through 2026, as the Ivy League institution joins other colleges that are either temporarily or permanently becoming "test optional" for would-be students.
That means that students seeking entry into the classes of 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2030 won't need to send Harvard an SAT or ACT score as part of their application.
"Students who do not submit standardized test scores will not be disadvantaged in their application process," said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, in a statement. ✂️
The move comes amid a debate about the fairness of the tests, given that Black and Latino students on average score lower than White students, an issue that experts say reflects generational gaps in education, income and other standards of well-being. But experts also note that SAT or ACT scores don't actually predict how a student will perform in college — instead, grades are much more predictive of college success. ✂️
Other colleges and universities are also moving to test-optional policies temporarily or permanently. Among them are fellow Ivy League institutions Columbia University and Cornell University, which have both gone test optional for applicants entering in the fall of 2024.
An Astounding List of Artists Helped Persuade the Met to Remove the Sackler Name
It’s ground-breaking news that the Met, “torn between...donors and artists, ...ended up heeding the artists.”
From The New Yorker:
For nearly five decades, the Met Gala, among the fashion world’s most significant events, has been held in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a dramatic space featuring a wall of glass, a sleek reflecting pool, and the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur. ✂️
On Thursday, the Met released a short statement saying that “seven named exhibition spaces in the Museum, including the wing that houses the iconic Temple of Dendur, will no longer carry the Sackler name.” It was not the first museum to take such action (the Louvre had already done so), nor was it the first major American institution (Tufts University took the name down in 2018, followed by New York University last year). But the Met is in a class of its own. Not only is it the premier art museum in the United States, it is the museum with which the Sackler family has the longest history. It was also the site of the first dramatic protest by the photographer Nan Goldin and her advocacy group, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (pain), which has sought to shame museums into ending any association with the Sackler name….The boards of many [other high-profile museums]—and the activists and students who are pressuring them to do something—have been watching the Met to see how the museum would react. As long as the Met did nothing, inertia might have seemed like a viable option. ✂️
Because of Goldin’s prominence in the art world, and the moral vigor of her campaign, she was able to assemble an astounding list of signatories, featuring many of the most significant living artists, among them Ai Weiwei, Laurie Anderson, Maurizio Cattelan, Jim Dine, Jenny Holzer, Arthur Jafa, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, Cindy Sherman, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Kara Walker. ...Torn between these two constituencies—donors and artists—the Met ended up heeding the artists.
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Good news from around the world
Leftist millennial wins election as Chile’s next president
After all the dire predictions that more and more nations would be taken over by far-right autocrats, here’s more evidence that the Gloom ‘n’ Doomers were wrong. And what a welcome breath of fresh air for Chile!
A leftist millennial who rose to prominence during anti-government protests was elected Chile’s next president Sunday after a bruising campaign against a free-market firebrand likened to Donald Trump.
With 56% of the votes, Gabriel Boric handily defeated by more than 10 points lawmaker José Antonio Kast, who tried unsuccessfully to scare voters that his inexperienced opponent would become a puppet of his allies in Chile’s Communist Party and upend the country’s vaunted record as Latin America’s most stable, advanced economy.
In a model of democratic civility that broke from the polarizing rhetoric of the campaign, Kast immediately conceded defeat, tweeting a photo of himself on the phone congratulating his opponent on his “grand triumph.” ✂️
Amid a crush of supporters, Boric vaulted atop a metal barricade to reach the stage where he initiated in the indigenous Mapuche language a rousing victory speech to thousands of mostly young supporters.
[He] highlighted the progressive positions that launched his improbable campaign, including a promise to fight climate change by blocking a proposed mining project in what is the world’s largest copper producing nation…and also promised to end Chile’s private pension system — the hallmark of the neoliberal economic model imposed by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. ✂️
He also gave an extended shout out to Chilean women, a key voting bloc who feared that a Kast victory would roll back years of steady gains, promising they will be “protagonists” in a government that will seek to “leave behind once and for all the patriarchal inheritance of our society.”
South Africa to give J&J vaccines to other African nations
South Africa will donate just over 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to other African countries to boost the continent’s COVID-19 vaccine drive, the government announced Friday.
The doses, worth approximately $18 million, will be produced at the Aspen Pharmacare manufacturing facility in Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth, and be distributed to various African countries over the next year, according to a statement.
“This donation embodies South Africa’s solidarity with our brothers and sisters on the continent with whom we are united in fighting an unprecedented threat to public health and economic prosperity,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in the statement. ✂️
South Africa’s donation will add to the more than 100 million vaccine doses that have been donated to the African Union’s African Vaccination Acquisition Trust. The African vaccination group has also purchased 500 million doses to be distributed to countries across the continent.
The EU proposed laws to protect gig workers
From Positive News:
Uber drivers...and other gig economy workers will be entitled to the same benefits as regular employees, under draft rules proposed by the European Commission.
The legislation would compel digital platforms to ensure those working for them receive sick pay, holiday pay and the minimum wage. The move would impact up to four million gig workers in Europe, where there are growing concerns about conditions and pay.
“For too long platform companies have made huge profits by dodging their most basic obligations as employers at the expense of workers,” said Ludovic Voet of the European Trade Union Confederation. “The commission’s proposal should finally give workers real certainty about their employment status.”
Uber said the proposals could push up prices and jeopardise jobs. The legislation will now be negotiated by member states in the European Parliament.
David Adjaye plans slavery museum in Barbados as new republic severs ties with Britain
From The Art Newspaper:
The architect David Adjaye is to design a major new heritage site in Barbados, the country’s prime minister announced this weekend. The new site on the Caribbean island will lie next to a burial ground where the bodies of 570 West African victims of British transatlantic slavery were discovered.
The Barbados Heritage District “will be dedicated to unlocking the enduring trauma and histories of enslavement,” Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s office says in a statement.
Work on the district is scheduled to begin on 30 November 2022, to mark the first anniversary of Barbados becoming a parliamentary republic. The design is based on blueprints created by the celebrated British-Ghanian architect, and will be located next to the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial, a former sugar plantation near the island’s capital Bridgetown where African slaves once worked under bondage. ✂️
The district will comprise a research institute and museum, and will be the first Caribbean memorial and archive of its kind.
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Dr. John brings us a New Orleans style funky, jazzy “Silent Night.”
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Good news in medicine and science
Wearable battery opens up new possibilities for medical monitoring
From The Optimist Daily:
Clothing with integrated electronic technology has a huge number of potential applications in the medical field. This technology can monitor vital signs, like breathing and muscle activity, as well as feed these stats back to computers, allowing cross talk between our clothing and machines.
One challenge in expanding wearables is making an electronic garment that [is] flexible enough for comfortable movement, waterproof enough to be able to put through a washing machine, cheap enough to be cost efficient, and safe enough for every day close contact with the body.
A team from the University of British Columbia has been able to engineer a battery that fits all of these criteria. ✂️
The paper, published in Advanced Energy Materials, discussed the way the battery was reimagined from its traditional rigid lithium-ion form to a flexible zinc and manganese dioxide alternative. These materials were embedded in a polymer, forming a stretchable, cheap, and lightweight product. “We went with zinc-manganese because for devices worn next to the skin, it’s a safer chemistry than lithium-ion batteries, which can produce toxic compounds when they break,” stated Nguyen.
So far, the battery can withstand 39 wash cycles, an impressive display of the strong seal.
These FDA-approved eyedrops offer an alternative to reading glasses
From The Optimist Daily:
The first FDA-approved eye drops that clear up age-related blurry near vision (presbyopia) have been introduced to the market in the US, which means that the estimated 128 million Americans affected by the common condition of presbyopia now have an alternative to reading glasses.
Presbyopia is a normal part of aging. It happens because as we age, our lenses start to harden which means that it begins to become more difficult for our eye muscles to adjust them so that they can change their focal points. That’s why people affected by presbyopia are often seen holding their reading material at an arm’s length.
The revolutionary eye drops, called Vuity, are administered once daily to the eyes. Its active ingredient pilocarpine stimulates the eye so that pupil sizes are reduced. Reducing the size of the pupil allows for increased depth of field, which means that more of the image that the eyes take in looks sharper wherever the lens is focused. ✂️
Possible side effects include headaches and eye redness, but these only affected less than five percent of the subjects in the trial, and none of them reported any “serious adverse effects.”
AI system can predict lightning strikes
From The Optimist Daily:
Lightning is one of the leading causes of destructive wildfires, but its notoriously difficult-to-predict nature means that firefighters and residents rarely have an accurate prediction about where and when lightning may strike. Researchers from the University of Washington hope to use AI to better predict this weather phenomenon.
The researchers are combining weather reporting with a machine learning equation. In tests, their method was able to predict lightning over the southeastern US two days earlier than traditional models. This technology could also have implications for tornado forecasting, as tornadoes form from thunderstorms.
The AI system was trained using lightning data from 2010 to 2016 gathered by the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN). The system is more accurate in predicting lightning in regions where it is common, as it has more data to learn from in these regions. ✂️
Moving forwards, the researchers plan to continue to improve the accuracy of the system with more data, as well as train it to anticipate weather variables.
AI and robots team up to piece together ancient Pompeii frescoes
From The Optimist Daily:
The Roman city of Pompeii was buried in ash by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and has fascinated archeologists since its discovery in the 1700s. Unfortunately, piecing this ancient city back together is no easy feat. To more efficiently reconstruct the ancient city, researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) are turning to robots and artificial intelligence.
Called RePAIR (Reconstructing the Past: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics meet Cultural Heritage), the team’s robot will use AI to reconstruct parts of Pompeii that have stumped archeologists. Over the next several months, the team will train the robot using wall frescoes that have already been pieced back together. Then, they will deploy the robot to work on fresco fragments that researchers have yet to decipher.
Although there is no guarantee that the robot will be successful, if it is, it could revolutionize how we approach archeological research. The endeavor is supported by a 3.5-million-euro grant from a European Commission. The hope is that the robots can take on the task of digitizing and sorting artifacts, so human researchers can focus their time and effort on more complex tasks.
The robot itself takes the form of a machine with a torso and arms. It is being developed by researchers at the Humanoid & Human Centered Mechatronics lab at IIT in Genoa. With gentle prosthetic hands, the robot will be able to grasp and move delicate fragments. Once tested and ready, the first task for RePAIR will be frescoes from the Schola Armaturarum, a military-like headquarters located on Pompeii’s main street. First discovered in 1915, the site was severely damaged by an Allied bomb in 1943 and flooding in 2010. As there is some documentation of what the site looked like before it was compromised, it makes a good initial test project for the robot.
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Good news for the environment
Native Americans’ farming practices may help feed a warming world
From The Washington Post:
Indigenous peoples have known for millennia to plant under the shade of the mesquite and paloverde trees that mark the Sonoran Desert here, shielding their crops from the intense sun and reducing the amount of water needed.
The modern-day version of this can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where a canopy of elevated solar panels helps to protect rows of squash, tomatoes and onions. Even on a November afternoon, with the temperature climbing into the 80s, the air under the panels stays comfortably cool.
Such adaptation is central to the research underway at Biosphere 2, a unique center affiliated with the University of Arizona that’s part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.
Learning from and incorporating Indigenous knowledge is important, believes Greg Barron-Gafford, a professor who studies the intersection of plant biology and environmental and human factors. But instead of relying on tree shade, “we’re underneath an energy producer that’s not competing for water.”
A new type of charging cable could charge electric cars in 5 minutes — way less than Tesla's Superchargers
From Business Insider:
Ford and Purdue University are working on a new cable that they say could help electric cars charge up in about the amount of time it takes to fill up a gas tank.
The technology is still patent-pending and the prototype cord hasn't been tested with an electric vehicle yet. But Purdue's research is a promising step toward making clean, battery-powered cars as convenient as ones that run on polluting fossil fuels.
As it stands now, charging electric cars can be a slow and painful process. ...But Purdue engineers funded by Ford say they've made a breakthrough that could slash charging times to five minutes or less.
They've done this by addressing one of the key challenges hindering charging speed: overheating. The faster current flows through a charging system, the hotter everything gets, from the battery to the charging cable.
Cooling things down can allow for higher currents and faster charging — and that's exactly what Purdue has done. Researchers developed a cable that uses liquid-and-vapor cooling to accommodate a current of over 2,400 amps, almost five times that of today's most advanced EV chargers. Tesla Superchargers, Purdue says, deliver up to 520 amps.
World’s First 3D-Printed House Made Of Local Raw Earth
From the Good News Network:
Inspired by the potter wasp, an Italian architecture firm has used 3D printing to make the domed, beehive-like structure of a house out of zero-emissions clay in the hope of showing what heights of sustainability can be reached with the technology.
Like the industrious wasps, the houses are made using the clay from wherever they are being built, which also means if they have to be knocked down, the only waste is the plumbing, gas, and electrical components.
Mario Cucinella Architects in Bologna maintains that “the idea of the city must be challenged” and their contender is a modular-series of clay pods not out of place inside the Great Enclosure in Zimbabwe.
The method is called TECLA, short for technology and clay, co-developed by Cucinella with help from another company called WASP, which specialize in 3D-printing solutions.
Their modular design utilizes two 3D-printing arms at once to create two domed spaces out of 350 layers of undulating clay and rice chaff as insulation, similar to the traditional building methods of the Moroccan Kasbah. The goal is to be totally off-grid, and the design and durability can be modified according to climate and local challenges. ...[one of the spaces] is designed for the day,with a large circular skylight and door letting in plenty of natural light, and another one for night, with a smaller, warmer, enclosed setting under a smaller window.
Music companies sign Music Climate Pact, pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050
From Positive News:
Some of the world’s biggest record labels have joined smaller independents in pledging to make the music industry net zero by 2050. The sector has a hefty carbon footprint to contend with, driven largely by global touring.
The three labels – Sony, Universal and Warner – plus independents such as Warp, Ninja Tune and the Beggars Group all signed the Music Climate Pact. It commits signatories to work together to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by the end of the decade, and achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.
For inspiration, they might want to look to Coldplay. The band says its forthcoming world tour has been designed to produce 50 per cent fewer emissions than the last one.
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Another musical break
A tasty take on this holiday standard by some of Portland’s favorite jazz musicians. Phil Baker is also the bassist for Pink Martini.
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A poem to celebrate winter
Now through the white orchard my little dog
Romps, breaking the new snow
With wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
Hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
Until the white snow is written upon
In large, exuberant letters,
A long sentence, expressing
The pleasures of the body in the world.
Oh, I could not have said it better myself.
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Good news for and about animals
Brought to you by Rosy, Nora, and Rascal.
The Power of Connection: Duke’s Story
As a rescue pup herself, Rosy loves stories about other rescues. This poor guy was rescued just in time.
From the Oregon Humane Society blog:
In December, Duke was sick, emaciated and unable to walk. But a good
Samaritan took him to Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital for critical care. He was then transferred to Multnomah County Animal Services since he was considered a stray.
On the last day of 2020, he was transferred to the Oregon Humane Society to continue his recovery… ✂️
Last year had also been extremely challenging for Julie Downes. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. Due to the pandemic, she was forced to spend her recovery alone and isolated.
During this time, Julie began to think about getting a dog. ...Meanwhile, Duke had spent almost two months in an experienced OHS foster home while he gained weight and learned to be a dog again. He was finally ready for his next step — a loving home.
Julie had been looking at pet profiles online when Duke’s photo caught her eye. “I saw his picture and I was hooked,” adds Julie. ✂️
Since Duke went home with Julie, their bond has only grown stronger.
“He is so special, and I am so in love with him. He always has to be near me and touching me,” says Julie. “We have both been through hell and are getting better together.”
Recently, Julie has been well enough to participate in one of her other favorite activities: attending Mini car enthusiast rallies with the Rose City Minis club. Of course, Duke is at her side the entire time and has become a favorite among other club members. “He’s so adorable — like this little velvet cushion with legs. Everyone just loves him.”
65 Cats Are Treated Like Favored Guests at the Hermitage Museum in Russia
Nora would prefer the headline to read: “65 Cats Are Treated Like Royalty...” But she likes the story anyway.
From Good News Network:
Like the building itself, the cats which roam freely around the basement of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg have endured through changing fortunes.
Originally brought into the massive Baroque building by Empress Elizabeth I to catch mice, the 65 felines have outlived and even replaced the Tsars which adopted them.
Treated like royalty down in the “Cat’s Quarters,” they enjoy 24-hour veterinary care, feeding, and freedom from the adoring public thanks to their own press secretary. ✂️
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many in St. Petersburg could no longer afford to feed and care for their cats, and so the Hermitage, which had been open to the public for more than 100 years, decided to adopt some of the strays to add to the descendants of the original cats brought from the city of Kazan 100 years before that.
Now as then, the Hermitage will take in stray cats that find their way into the museum’s underbelly, perhaps by befriending one of the furry staff members. These are given a new life and kept fed and healthy, mostly through staff and visitor contributions. ✂️
Many of the cats’ ancestors have been immortalized for their service to the state in paintings on the very walls of the museum they defended.
A Talking Crow Befriending a School Has a Foul Mouth But is Still Beloved by Kids in Oregon
Rascal was delighted that this local story was picked up by the Good News Network. And, of course, he loves this plucky crow (or, judging from the beak, probably raven).
From Good News Network:
In one Oregon town, kids at a local school noticed that a particularly nosey and brave crow seemed dead-set on getting into the classroom.
...Finding an open window at Allen Dale Elementary School [in Grants Pass], the bird made its way into a fifth-grade classroom and started helping itself to some snacks—all the while adoring the attention from the kids, and being quite friendly.
Oh, and it began talking.
...the crow was actually a rescued bird that ... had lived with a family in the community for years, since it was a baby. None of the students or teachers knew that however, and its calm demeanor and vocabulary left them stunned.
“It would say ‘What’s up?’ and ‘I’m fine’ and a lot of swear words,” said Education assistant Naomi Imel. ✂️
[After Animal Control and the State Police wildlife officer failed to capture the crow, the crow’s owner was found.] Returning from an out-of-town Thanksgiving this year, resident JaNeal Shattuck was devastated to find her bird missing.
‘Cosmo’ had escaped, and then been captured by a neighbor, who evidently didn’t like the teasing—which Cosmo had a reputation for doing to those who were uncomfortable around birds—and so whisked the crow away to an animal sanctuary.
Not realizing, however, that the bird was something akin to a housepet, the sanctuary released him back into the wild. That’s when he found his way to the school to “hang out.” ✂️
Cosmo loved those school children so much, it took 45 minutes of temptation with sardines to get [the crow] into custody once again.
And here’s a story all three of my furred/feathered editors wanted me to post. May this movement spread throughout the world!
Spain Passes New Law Recognizing Animals As Sentient Beings And Not “Objects”
The Congress of Deputies in Spain passed a new bill on animal sentience last Thursday, ruling that animals in the country should be afforded the protections of “sentient beings” by law. With it will come new sanctions on the seizure, mistreatment, and abandonment of domestic and wild animals, including the way in which custody of pets is decided post-divorce.
While the Spanish Criminal Code already had legislation relating to animal sentience, this new ruling adds an animal rights string to the Spanish Civil Code’s bow. It will add legal guidance to civil spats regarding property, family, and divorce so that decisions are ruled in the best interests of the animals, as well as their humans. Before now, “animals were not considered different from a television” in such legal battles, said Guillermo Díaz of the Citizens Spanish political party, reports El Pais. ✂️
The positive move for animal rights was met with widespread support, only being contested by Ángel López Maraver of the far-right political party Vox, former president of the Spanish Hunting Federation, who branded it “insanity, nonsense, stupidity. It humanizes animals and dehumanizes man.”
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www.theatlantic.com/… We Have One Shot to See the Universe Like Never Before. “Days from now, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch and unfold a whole new view of the cosmos. That is, if it actually works.”
civileats.com/… Hunger Continues to Plague Americans. Here’s Why—and What to Do About It. ”Food insecurity—and our failure to address it—remains one of our largest challenges. The pandemic allowed researchers to track what programs and interventions actually work.”
www.theatlantic.com/… People’s Choice: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021. A stunning collection of some of the best wildlife photos of the year.
www.bbc.com/… Bird songs bump stars off Australian music chart. A lovely story about the unexpected success of an ornithologist’s recording of the songs of endangered Australian birds.
www.newyorker.com/… How the Week Organizes and Tyrannizes Our Lives. “From work schedules to TV seasons to baseball games, the seven-day cycle has long ordered American society. Will we ever get rid of it?”
cityobservatory.org/… Drive-thrus are ruining cities and helping kill the planet. “Your 12 ounce latte comes with a pound of carbon emissions, just from the drive-thru.” Not good news, but good to think about!
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Wherever is herd…
A tip of the hat to 2thanks for creating this handy info sheet for all Gnusies new and old!
Morning Good News Roundups at 7 x 7: These Gnusies lead the herd at 7 a.m. ET, 7 days a week:
- The Monday GNR Newsroom (Jessiestaf, Killer300, and Bhu). With their five, we survive and thrive.
- Alternating Tuesdays: NotNowNotEver and arhpdx.
- Wednesdays: niftywriter.
- Thursdays: Mokurai the 1st and 2nd Thursdays, WineRev the 3rd, MCUBernieFan the 4th, and Mokurai the 5th (when there is one).
- Fridays: chloris creator. Regular links to the White House Briefing Room.
- Saturdays: GoodNewsRoundup. Heart-stirring and soul-healing introduction and sometimes memes to succumb to.
- Sundays: 2thanks. A brief roundup of Roundups, a retrospective, a smorgasbord, a bulletin board, an oasis, a watering hole, a thunder of hooves, a wellness, a place for beginners to learn the rules of the veldt.
hpg posts Evening Shade diaries at 7:30 p.m. ET every day! After a long day, Gnusies meet in the evening shade and continue sharing Good News, good community, and good actions. In the words of NotNowNotEver: “hpg ably continues the tradition of Evening Shade.” Find Evening Shades here.
oldhippiedude posts Tweets of the Week on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. Central Time — New time! Our second evening Gnusie hangout zone! In search of a TOTW diary? Look here or here.
For more information about the Good News group, please see our detailed Welcoming comment, one of the first comments in our morning diaries.
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How to Resist: Do Something …
The following invaluable list was put together by chloris creator:
Indivisible has created a Truth Brigade to push back against the lies.
Propaganda, false characterizations, intentionally misleading messages, and outright lies threaten our democracy and even our lives. We can effectively combat disinformation, despite the well-funded machines that drive it. They may have money, but we have truth and we have people. People believe sources they trust. When we share and amplify unified, factual messages to those who trust us, we shift the narrative. When we do this by the thousands--we’re part of the Indivisible Truth Brigade, and we get our country back. Join us.️
Our own Mokurai is a member. You can see all of the diaries in the Truth Brigade group on DK here.
From GoodNewsRoundup (aka Goodie):
Most important: DON'T LOSE HOPE. This is a giant and important fight for us but, win or lose, we keep fighting and voting and organizing and spreading truth and light. We never give up.
And I’ll add a recommendation for you to check out Activate America (formerly Flip the West), which is recruiting people to send postcards to Dem voters whose GQP Representatives voted against the infrastructure bill. The message is about all the benefits of the new law so they’ll be likelier to vote for the Dem challenger.
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This beautiful song with a message reflecting the true spirit of Christmas was written by American folksingers Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, who also perform it here.
❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Thanks to all of you for your smarts, your hearts, and
your faithful attendance at our daily Gathering of the Herd.
❤️💙 RESIST, PERSIST, REBUILD, REJOICE! 💙❤️