Let’s dive right in!
We begin with the upcoming COP26 climate change summit, beginning in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 31. The Editorial Board of The New York Times emphasizes the enormous stakes of the COP26 climate summit.
Beginning on Oct. 31, in Glasgow, the now 197 signatories to the Rio treaty will try once again to fashion an international agreement that might actually slow and then reliably (and, it is hoped, quickly) reduce emissions and thus prevent the world from tipping into full-scale catastrophe late in this century. As with other climate meetings — notably those in Kyoto in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015 — Glasgow is being advertised as a watershed event. John Kerry, the former secretary of state who led the American negotiating team in Paris and will lead this one, called Glasgow the world’s “last best chance” to avoid ecological calamity. President Biden said he will “be there with bells on,” and 100 other world leaders are set to attend, including, of course, the host, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but not, at least so far, President Xi Jinping of China, which is by far the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Of all the earlier meetings, Paris was the most successful, in part because negotiators agreed to abandon years of fruitless efforts to achieve legally enforceable targets, instead eliciting modest voluntary pledges, known as nationally determined contributions, from nations large and small to do the best they could as part of a collective effort to keep the average global temperature from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — just a few tenths of a degree hotter than the world is today. The 1.5 number was believed then, as it is now, to be a threshold beyond which lie warming’s most serious consequences.
The lack of progress since Paris invites cynicism — at the very least, wariness — about Glasgow. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have since risen above annual averages of 400 parts per million, long seen as a dangerous threshold. In 2019 the world logged the most annual greenhouse gas emissions ever recorded, equivalent to more than 60 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a figure that includes methane and other climate-warming agents. The economic downturn caused by the Covid pandemic hardly moved the needle.
Shane Harris and Michael Birnbaun write for The Washington Post about a first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the threats to national and global security posed by climate change.
The new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on climate, a first-of-its kind document by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, builds on other grim warnings from national security officials about how a changing climate could upend societies and topple governments.
As developing and vulnerable nations cope with the effects, they may turn to Washington for help, “creating additional demands on U.S. diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources,” the report says.
The Pentagon warns that disruption to fisheries could spark conflict over food security. Unpredictable rainfall might increase tensions over access to rivers that cross national boundaries, such as the Nile and the Mekong. Even efforts to combat climate change could lead to unintended consequences, such as conflicts over access to the rare minerals that are needed to build circuitry and wind turbines.
The report says the Defense Department should ready itself to provide humanitarian assistance in climate crises, incorporate climate-related issues into its war-games — and also work on “countering malign actors who seek to exploit climate change to gain influence.” Some of the most specific analyses remained classified.
Charles Pierce of Esquire suggest we leave aside the cynicism about the intelligence community and take the NIE climate change assessments seriously.
These are not utopian tree-huggers making these predictions. They are hard-nosed intelligence analysts who don’t talk to blueberries before picking them or ask permission of mushrooms before eating them. They are people who spend their time looking for loose nuclear material and the next bin Laden. I have no use for some of their past crimes and blunders, nor for the cover-ups that ensued thereafter. The intelligence “community” has been in need of serious reform as long as I’ve been alive. But there’s no reason to discount this report. We didn’t all work to overthrow the elected governments of Iran and Guatemala, but we all are living with the consequences of the climate crisis, and our descendants will live with those consequences as they deepen. And the NIE is unsparing in its assessment of whether or not current nation-states are willing to confront the crisis head-on.
The Washington Post investigative reporting team of Jacqueline Alemany, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger, and Jon Swaine construct a timeline and narrative for the various activities occurring at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., just before the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob would draw the world’s attention to the quest to physically block Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s victory. But the activities at the Willard that week add to an emerging picture of a less visible effort, mapped out in memos by a conservative pro-Trump legal scholar and pursued by a team of presidential advisers and lawyers seeking to pull off what they claim was a legal strategy to reinstate Trump for a second term.
They were led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was an occasional presence as the effort’s senior political adviser. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik was there as an investigator. Also present was John Eastman, the scholar, who outlined scenarios for denying Biden the presidency in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
They sought to make the case to Pence and ramp up pressure on him to take actions on Jan. 6 that Eastman suggested were within his powers, three people familiar with the operation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.
The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.
Lindsey McPherson and Laura Weiss of Roll Call dig into the sausage-making process taking place in Washington this weekend with regard to the pending infrastructure bills in Congress.
Pelosi met with Biden at the White House Friday morning. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., whose chamber finished its legislative business for the week Thursday, joined remotely.
After the meeting, Pelosi cited health care as a policy area where there are “a couple outstanding issues.”
She also said the tax-writing committees were still discussing the final mix of revenue raisers that would fully offset the package, which is expected to cost around $2 trillion, perhaps a little less. Pelosi suggested the topline was still fluid based on the unresolved spending matters.
Meanwhile, programs in the bill to combat climate change “are significant and they are resolved,” Pelosi said.
Senior vice president of forecasting operations and chief meteorologist for Accuweather Jonathan Porter pens a piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer, advising that Mid-Atlantic cities and states prepare for severe rainstorms as if they were snowstorms.
The forecasts and warnings about Ida and its associated devastating impacts were clear and accurate, days in advance, every step along Ida’s track. When compared with Hurricane Camille and other hurricanes of decades past, the number of lives lost would have been much higher if not for the highly accurate and actionable lifesaving warnings provided by today’s forecasting community.
AccuWeather meteorologists applied cutting-edge science to benefit communities from Louisiana and the Gulf Coast to the Northeast, including predicting 4 to 8 inches of rain expected to come “fast and furious” within just a few hours. In New York City, Philadelphia, and the surrounding I-95 corridor, AccuWeather forecasters intentionally used strong language to communicate the risk, warning of “significant flash flood risk, watch for rapidly rising waters,” and later, “major, widespread and life-threatening flash flooding.” The National Weather Service issued a rare “high” risk for flash flooding in the Northeast the day before Ida arrived, along with flash-flood watches. WPVI in Philadelphia warned its audience in advance to brace for dangerous flooding to come regarding Hurricane Ida.
Even with a great forecast, however, clearly, we all must do more to protect people and improve our resiliency. Despite all of the advance warnings, neither Mayor Jim Kenney in Philadelphia nor Bill DeBlasio in New York issued a travel ban, for example, ahead of Ida. Why did life continue on as normal?
Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times deconstructs some myths about hospice care.
According to the American Cancer Society, hospice is “a special kind of care that focuses on the quality of life for people and their caregivers who are experiencing an advanced life-limiting illness.” That organization describes hospice as “compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live fully and comfortably as possible.”
But hospice, as well as palliative care, the specialized care for people with serious chronic diseases, has gotten a bad rap.
Although hospice has been around since the 1980s, prevailing myths prevent families from accessing the help they need to provide their loved ones with quality care as they “rage against the dying of the light.”
For instance, a persistent myth is that hospice is a place and can only be provided in a hospital or nursing home setting. Not so. About 70% of hospice care takes place in the patient’s home. And while half of hospice patients nationwide have a cancer diagnosis, the other half have other diagnoses, according to the American Hospice Foundation.
Ed Yong of The Atlantic documents the rise and troubles of American public health over the last century.
… public health has succeeded marvelously by some measures, lengthening life spans and bringing many diseases to heel. But when the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, it found a public-health system in disrepair. That system, with its overstretched staff, meager budgets, crumbling buildings, and archaic equipment, could barely cope with sickness as usual, let alone with a new, fast-spreading virus.
By one telling, public health was a victim of its own success, its value shrouded by the complacency of good health. By a different account, the competing field of medicine actively suppressed public health, which threatened the financial model of treating illness in (insured) individuals. But these underdog narratives don’t capture the full story of how public health’s strength faded. In fact, “public health has actively participated in its own marginalization,” Daniel Goldberg, a historian of medicine at the University of Colorado, told me. As the 20th century progressed, the field moved away from the idea that social reforms were a necessary part of preventing disease and willingly silenced its own political voice. By swimming along with the changing currents of American ideology, it drowned many of the qualities that made it most effective.
Yoga instructor Kaye Waterhouse writes for The Sydney Morning Herald about her journey from vaccine hesitancy—and demonstrates what it really means “to do your research,” and how to examine your privilege while doing so.
I have spent nine months shifting slowly away from being justifiably vaccine-hesitant.
From believing “it’s just a flu”, to recognising that my health, immune function, my financial status, my age, my support system, my race, and weight, are all privileges.
The idea that “I’ll be a bit poorly” if I contract COVID (and therefore don’t need a vaccine) minimises the absolute fear felt by those who can and will die from COVID.
My parents are in their 60s, my grandmother even older. What is their life worth if I decide to rely on my privilege alone?
My industry is teeming with the vaccine-averse. The wellness community is ironically divisive and kind discussions are hard to have.
David M. Herszenhorn writes for POLITICO Europe that the Biden administration is backing the European Union’s development of its own defense capabilities.
U.S. political and military leaders have long resisted coordinated EU military and defense initiatives, warning that they could create redundancies or even conflict with NATO. Instead, they pushed European countries to spend more on their individual militaries.
Biden offered his own backing for Europe bolstering its military prowess during a call last month with Macron, in which the U.S. president was trying to smooth over a diplomatic crisis over the announcement of a new U.S.-led Indo-Pacific security pact with the U.K. and Australia that caught France by surprise. As part of the new program, Australia canceled a contract to buy French-made submarines.
While input from U.S. military leaders on needed capabilities might help guide European allies, who often don’t agree with each other on defense priorities, Austin’s comments suggested Washington’s support would be more tacit than active. Some influential EU military officials, including outgoing German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, have said the debate on strategic autonomy is misplaced because EU countries can make more effective use of capabilities that already exist.
To that end, Germany and four other NATO allies have proposed a new joint “rapid-reaction force” using existing capabilities to better handle military crises.
Nicola Abé and Santiago Mesa of Der Spiegel document the increasing number of migrants crossing the dangerous Darién Gap at the Panamanian-Colombian border.
When engineers in the 1930s built the Panamericana, the highway from Argentina to Alaska, they left out this bit. The rainforest, with its mountains and swamps, the thick vegetation, was simply too inaccessible. What’s left is a gap, approximately 100 kilometers long. The Darién Gap, a lawless space.
Since time immemorial, nature has been killing people here like flies, yet humans are actually the most dangerous of the beasts in Darién. The route is also used to transport drugs. On the Colombian side of the border, the jungle is controlled by the infamous Clan del Golfo, which also smuggles humans and is involved in the illicit organ trade. On the Panamanian side, armed gangs attack the families, steal, rape and murder.
A few thousand migrants used to pass through the forest every year, mostly adults. This year, 90,000 people had tried their luck by the beginning of October, many of them families with young children. Financially crippled by the economic consequences of the pandemic, yearning for a better future and perhaps driven by the hopes of a more lenient immigration policy under U.S. President Joe Biden, they sought to cross this deadly strip of land. It’s unknown how many have died.
Finally today, Nathan Lewin of Tablet writes about two “Shabbos goys”: Colin Powell and Thurgood Marshall.
The sad passing of Colin Powell has generated many loving accounts in Jewish media of his recollections serving as a “Shabbos goy” in his youth, when he assisted with tasks that were forbidden to observant Jews on the Sabbath. “Collie,” as his Jewish employer called the teenaged Powell, told Jewish audiences that in addition to serving as a “shlepper” in a Bronx infant-goods store owned by an Orthodox Jew, he collected a quarter each Friday night for turning off the lights at the synagogue.
What many may not know is that Powell was not the only Shabbos goy to grow to greatness. In the summer of 1965, I was introduced to another national icon who—I discovered to my surprise—had youthful exposure to this same Jewish practice. I had been working for two years as an assistant to the solicitor general of the United States under Archibald Cox, a Harvard Law professor who had been appointed by President John F. Kennedy. (Years later, Cox gained national fame as the Watergate special prosecutor fired by President Richard Nixon.) That year, however, President Lyndon Johnson chose to replace Cox with the nationally respected attorney Thurgood Marshall, as a stepping-stone to making Marshall the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice.
Everyone have a great day!