History and Hope.
January 21, 2021
At Daily Pnut we love America. We love our country, democracy, and our fellow citizens. In our lifetimes we have seen America ascendant (emerging from the Cold War), America attacked (9/11), America in a quagmire (Iraq and Afghanistan), America in a Great Recession (2007-2009), and America afflicted by a pandemic (2020). Despite all these challenges we believe America’s best days are ahead. We share President Biden’s belief that “Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.”
“We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.” — Amanda Gorman, Inaugural Ceremony, January 20th, 2021
Biden Gets Busy
For most presidents, the inauguration ceremony is enough for one day. Spend the morning getting ready, the middle of the day at the ceremony, a reception in the afternoon, and celebrate in the evening. Maybe there’s time for a call with a foreign head of state or a meeting with Congressional leaders. But Joseph R. Biden is not most presidents. After swearing the oath on his family’s gargantuan bible, our 46th President got right to work, signing a whopping 15 executive orders by dinnertime.
Many of the executive orders directly reversed actions taken by the man who sat in his chair only one day before. Biden initiated the process of rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, reversed the travel ban on some Muslim-majority and African nations, and revoked the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
He restored the recently-closed National Security Council’s directorate for global health security and defense, revoked an executive order which attempted to exclude non-citizens from the census, and disbanded the 1776 Commission only two days after it published it’s ridiculed report. Adding insult to injury, President Biden halted construction on the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, perhaps the crown jewel of his predecessor.
But Biden has his sights set on much more than just destroying the legacy of President #45. He moved swiftly on many policy ideas of his own. Among his first orders was a mask mandate on all federal lands, followed by extensions for the federal eviction moratorium (through March 31st) and student loan payment pause (through September 30th), expansion of the DACA program, and a temporary moratorium on oil & gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
He also began the work he promised on creating racial equity, starting with a requirement for all agencies to submit a report on how to remove barriers for political & policy opportunities, as well as reversing his predecessor’s directive to limit diversity & inclusion training in federal agencies. Much more is needed, but it’s a start.
Whew, that was exhausting. Even with all these executive orders, President Biden admits “we have a long way to go,” and the necessary work with Congress is only just beginning. But, after this first day, maybe — just maybe — there’s reason to believe things will get better. (NPR)
Fuel Companies Look To Fatten Their Profits With Surinamese Oil
- While the Atlantic coast of Guyana has become one of the most happening oil fields in the world, oil companies have turned their sights to the coastal waters neighboring Suriname as their next point of expansion.
- Oil companies project that they can produce oil at $30-$40 per barrel, well below the production costs in the US, which are just under $50 per barrel. The price cuts come from Suriname’s lack of regulation: the country demands smaller cuts of oil producers’ profits compared to other South American countries. The nation recently emerged from years of turmoil and authoritarian regimes, and the IMF expects its economy to shrink by 13.1 percent this year.
- Oil fields like Suriname’s have emerged as a new way of keeping oil prices low, flooding the market with barrels upon barrels of cheap oil. Guyana’s oil reserves are projected to hold roughly 10 billion barrels, and Suriname supposedly holds at least 3 to 4 billion barrels. Oil companies continue looking to expand into similar regions to remain competitive in the energy markets as renewable technologies become increasingly affordable. (NYT, $)
Guatemalan And Mexican Authorities Follow Trump’s Lead
- After four years of rejection and inhumane treatment by the previous administration, Central American migrants seeking refuge in the US from poverty, violence, government corruption, weather disasters, and a pandemic could scarcely wait for President Joe Biden to take office.
- On Sunday, Guatemalan security forces stopped a caravan estimated at 7,000 men, women, and children hoping to make their way to America. Soldiers and police blockaded a road between the Honduran border and the city of Chiquimula in southeastern Guatemala, beating back crowds with truncheons, shields, and tear gas.
- About 6,000 people were thought to be corralled between Chiquimula and the Honduran border, while hundreds more eluded security and made it to Guatemala City. Mexican authorities deployed additional troops and immigration officers along their country’s southern border with Guatemala in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.
- President Joe Biden has promised to immediately ask Congress for a broad overhaul of immigration rules, including changes that would provide a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million illegal immigrants now in the US. He also wants to extend aid to help damaged Central American economies and people fleeing violence, but emphasized the new changes could take months to effect. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Lopez Obrador calls for U.S. to fix immigration status of Mexican migrants (Reuters)
- US embassy to stay in Jerusalem: Biden’s top diplomat Blinken (Al Jazeera)
- Chinese billionaire Jack Ma makes first public appearance in months (Guardian)
- China’s Oppression of Muslims in Xinjiang, Explained (NYT, $)
- ‘Absolute carnage’: EU hauliers reject UK jobs over Brexit rules (Guardian)
- Israel issues tenders for 2,500 new settler homes (Al Jazeera)
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Court: EPA Can’t Sacrifice Green To Put Power Plants In The Black
- On January 19th, the final day of the previous administration, a federal appeals court shut down the EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy rule. The court called the plan, which sought to weaken regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a “fundamental misconstruction” of federal environmental law.
- The EPA’s argument for upholding the rule stated that the only way to interpret the Clean Air Act of 1970 is that the Act blocked the federal government from ever setting national restrictions on emissions. This interpretation would prevent future administrations from regulating emissions from power plants, blocking possible attempts to tackle climate change.
- The court’s decision follows a long string of defeats for the Trump EPA, which has a losing streak that experts have described as one of the worst legal records in the agency’s history. An EPA spokeswoman said the decision “risks injecting more uncertainty at a time when the nation needs regulatory stability,” while environmental groups saw the decision as supporting the ability of future administrations to fight climate change. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Pandemic Teacher Shortages Imperil In-Person Schooling (NYT, $)
- US stocks open higher ahead of Biden’s inauguration (Al Jazeera)
- Trump Revokes Ethics Rules As He Leaves White House (NPR)
- US coronavirus death toll passes 400,000 amid grim forecast over winter (Guardian)
- Deepening Schism, McConnell Says Trump ‘Provoked’ Capitol Mob (NYT, $)
- Chris Stirewalt, Bill Sammon depart Fox News amid Arizona projection fallout (WaPo, $)
- Trump Pardons Steve Bannon, Lil Wayne In Final Clemency Flurry (NPR)
- Facebook and Twitter’s world leader problem didn’t end with Trump’s ban (Vox)
Lab-Based Plants, But So Far Nobody’s Botany
- It seems like every day the threat of climate change asks us to change our behavior. Eat less meat. Use less plastic. Drive less. But stubborn humans will always look for a way around lifestyle change. The latest innovation: lab-grown plants.
- MIT researchers have developed a method for growing plant tissues in a lab, not unlike recent developments in growing lab-based meat. Lab-grown plants could be a substitute for the vast amount of natural resources destroyed by the agriculture and forestry industries. Rather than wasting multiple acres of land to feed a single cow or raze a forest to build a few more wood-frame houses, companies may soon purchase lab-grown materials instead.
- Just as with lab-grown meat, the development process has far to go, and scaling up to massive amounts of lumber is an immense challenge, but the potential of lab-grown plants to revolutionize climate-destroying industries is tremendous.
- How whales help cool the Earth (BBC)
- Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment in “The Hill We Climb” (NYT, $)
- Palantir’s God’s-Eye View of Afghanistan (Wired)
- Africa’s deadly 1000C fire lake (BBC)
- Your Cat Isn’t Just Getting High Off Catnip (NYT, $)
- Sweden to build reindeer bridges over roads and railways (Guardian)
- Social Media Bans Are Really, Actually, Shockingly Common (Wired)
- The Future of the Coronavirus? An Annoying Childhood Infection (NYT, $)
Don’t Count America Out
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
– James Weldon Johnson, Lift Every Voice and Sing
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