We begin today with Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times, and the news of a slower inflation rate.
Slower inflation is unquestionably good news, because it allows consumer paychecks to stretch further at the gas pump and in the grocery aisle. And if inflation can come down sustainably without a big increase in unemployment or a painful economic recession, it could allow workers to hang on to the major gains they have made over the past three years: progress toward better jobs and pay that has helped to chip away at income inequality.
The White House, which has spent over a year on the defensive over rising prices, celebrated the fresh report, with President Biden calling the current economic moment “Bidenomics in action.” And stocks soared as investors bet that the Fed would be able to be less aggressive in its fight against inflation — even halting its interest rate increases after a final July move — in light of the new data.
“This is very promising news,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior economist and founding partner at MacroPolicy Perspectives. “The pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together. But it’s just one report, and the Fed has been burned by inflation before.”
Rex Huppke of USA Today encapsulates the ridiculousness of the case Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee attempt to lay out against FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Republican who was appointed by Number 45.
So the Republicans who want to defund and discredit the FBI, the ones who eagerly dragged the FBI director through the mud Wednesday with absurd allegations grounded in zero facts, want you, the American people, to believe this: The nation’s premier law enforcement agency has been weaponized against Republicans under a director who is a lifelong Republican and who reached his current post by being selected and confirmed to positions by two Republican presidents and two Republican-led Senate bodies.
Forget that all this is in defense of former President Donald Trump, a one-term, twice-impeached lifelong con artist who now faces more than 70 felony charges in two cases, with more indictments on the horizon.
Forget that Hunter Biden was actually charged with two misdemeanor tax offenses and a felony firearm offense.
Forget that, despite relentless investigation, Republicans have produced nothing linking President Biden to his son’s activity, or the fact that the person they touted as a key whistleblower was just charged with arms trafficking and acting as an unregistered agent for China.
Ashton Pittman of the Mississippi Free Press reports that the Department of Justice has filed a complaint against a new Mississippi law designed to appoint unelected judges and disenfranchise Black voters.
H.B. 1020 gives the white Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice, Michael K. Randolph, the power to appoint unelected judges to serve in majority-Black Hinds County, where the capital City of Jackson is located. Under the law, the chief justice would appoint four new judges to serve in the Hinds County Circuit Court until 2026 and one permanent municipal judge to serve in the Capitol Complex Improvement District. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who is also white, would appoint special two prosecutors in the new CCID court.
Legislative leaders said during debate over H.B. 1020 that their goal was to make Jackson safer and fight crime. Opponents of the law have long argued that the appointments will take power away from mostly-Black locally elected circuit court judges and diminish Black voters’ power in Hinds County. Hinds County is 70% Black, and Jackson is 80% Black. [...]
With its complaint, the Justice Department seeks to intervene in an NAACP-led federal court case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson; Judge Henry T. Wingate is presiding over the case. The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments in a separate state-level case over H.B. 1020 last week, but the justices have yet to render a decision.
Alan Halaly and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald describe the new climate “normal” for Miami and southern Florida, and the environmental consequences.
Now-viral maps from the University of Miami show record highs for this time of year just about everywhere off the coast — including the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay.
“Welcome to our new reality,” said Todd Crowl, director of Florida International University’s Institute of Environment. “Temperature is one thing we can’t control in the short term.”
Waters off the state’s southeastern coast are running about three and a half degrees higher than normal in Fahrenheit, with waters in the Florida Keys up a stunning seven degrees above average. That’s significant historically and hot enough that even people not in the business of monitoring marine temperatures are beginning to notice, with some visitors commenting about unpleasantly warm swims on social media.
But the potential impacts are far more wide-reaching — soaring numbers can have dire consequences for state waterways battling algae blooms, coral bleaching and fish kills. It also may add powerful fuel to tropical systems that pass through coastal waters during hurricane season.
Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker writes about the complex and increasingly grim emotions people are feeling because of climate change.
It may be impossible to seriously consider the reality of climate change for longer than ninety seconds without feeling depressed, angry, guilty, grief-stricken, or simply insane. The earth has warmed about 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times, and the damage is irreparable. Vast zones of hypoxic water expand in the oceans; wild bees, fireflies, and birds are disappearing; one study suggests that around half of trees currently alive will be dead in forty years. A year ago, the pavement melted in Delhi. The year before that brought end-of-days flooding to China and Western Europe; in western North America, one of the most extreme heat waves ever recorded; and an apocalyptic ice storm in the central United States. Thousands of people died in these disasters. Millions perish from pollution, drought, and other climate-related causes each year. “The earth is really quite sick right now,” Joyeeta Gupta, the co-chair of the Earth Commission, said recently, after the organization published a study arguing that seven of eight environmental thresholds needed to protect life on the planet have already been breached. And this, today, is as good as it will ever get within our lifetimes: every day that we step out into the uncanny weather, we experience a better and more stable climate than any we will ever experience again.
Should we change the subject before we get too despondent? There’s no shortage of other crises competing for our attention, and climate change can make knowledge feel pointless, or worse: in the three decades since the first international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, we have released more carbon into the atmosphere than in the rest of human history combined. The ice sheets keep melting, the permafrost keeps releasing its methane, and the future continues to harden into a psychic zone of suffering and dread. By mid-century, hundreds of millions of people will be displaced because of global warming. In a 2021 survey of Gen Z-ers, fifty-six per cent agreed that “humanity is doomed.” And the worse things get, the less we seem to talk about it: in 2016, almost seventy per cent of one survey’s respondents told researchers that they rarely or never discuss climate change with friends or family, an increase from around sixty per cent in 2008.
Mike Magner of Roll Call writes about the attempts of House Republicans to impose budget cuts in climate funding.
At least four of the fiscal 2024 House Appropriations bills released so far propose to rescind some funding included in the IRA, including a big chunk of a $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund established at the EPA.
The rescissions, targeted at the administration’s landmark effort to spend nearly $370 billion to address climate change, have drawn the ire of environmentalists. Republicans have defended them as part of their no-holds-barred campaign to reduce federal spending.
David Shadburn, senior government affairs advocate at the League of Conservation Voters, said in an interview that Republicans “are very aggrieved certainly at how successful the administration has been so far.”
“Apparently they are doing the bidding of their polluter donors, being very clear that the Inflation Reduction Act is a big target of theirs, because they don’t want to see the clean energy transition that we need to combat the climate crisis,” Shadburn said.
Nathalie Tocci of The Guardian reports on a “greenlash” against progress on climate issues in Europe.
Yet grey (or rather brown) clouds are now massing on the horizon. Across Europe, worrying signs of a green backlash are surfacing, as citizens and businesses start feeling the costs of the energy transition. Dutch farmers are up in arms over stringent limits on nitrogen emissions, arguing that they will make European agriculture financially unviable. The German public is fretting over the phaseout of gas boilers, while the car industry has successfully squeezed in a loophole for synthetic fuels to lengthen the lifespan of conventional combustion engines, which are meant to be phased out across the EU by 2035. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo, have both publicly called for a “pause” in the EU’s green legislative agenda, while Poland is fighting for exemptions to sustain its coal subsidies. In the European parliament, conservatives and centre-right MEPs are putting spokes in the wheels of the nature conservation law, the biodiversity part of the EU’s green deal.
Theresa Gaffney of STATnews reports on the progress and problems with the “988” mental health emergency system hotline.
In an ideal world, for example, a caller in New York looking to talk would be routed to a New York call center, so that hotline workers could direct them to the most relevant information on local resources. But right now, calls are routed to the system by area code — meaning someone based in New York, but whose phone has a Massachusetts area code, will be routed to a Massachusetts call center.
Calls, texts, and online chats to the 988 line have continued to increase since the number first launched in July 2022, with about 250,000 contacts that month. By comparison, over 400,000 calls and messages were made in May of this year. It’s a major increase from calls to the national hotline before the three-digit number became available, despite public awareness of the line remaining relatively low.
Amid such volume, each center strives to answer calls at least 95% of the time, with varied success. In May 2023, 18 states had phone answer rates above 90%, according to data from Vibrant, the company that administers the line. Across the network nationally, 89% of calls were answered that month.
Finally today, additional investigative reporting by Nick Beake and Kostas Kallergis of BBC News casts even more doubt on the veracity of the Greek coast guard’s account of the sinking of a migrant boat off the Greek coast.
Two survivors have described how the coastguard pressed them to identify nine Egyptians on board as traffickers.
A new video of the overcrowded boat foundering at sea also challenges the Greek coastguard's account.
It was taken when the boat was said to be on a "steady course".
BBC Verify has confirmed the footage was filmed when the coastguard claimed the boat was not in need of rescue - and was in fact filmed by the coastguard itself.
We have also confirmed that the larger vessel in the background is the oil tanker Faithful Warrior, which had been asked to give supplies to the migrant boat.
The official Greek coastguard account had already been challenged in a BBC Verify report
- but now we have seen court documents which show serious discrepancies between survivors' witness statements taken by the coastguards, and the in-person evidence later presented to a judge.
Have the best possible day, everyone!