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Introducing a New Look for The Atlantic
Today, we launch our December issue, built around a single theme: “How to Stop a Civil War.” This issue, an exploration of our dangerous political moment, also represents the debut of a new visual identity for The Atlantic. It is the most dramatic new look for our magazine in its 162-year history, and one that, we hope, reflects boldness, elegance, and urgency. The redesign of the print magazine, as well as the new look of our website, was led by Peter Mendelsund, our creative director. His design work, carried out in collaboration with many teams across our magazine, is also reflected in the new Atlantic app that launched today. I sat down with Peter to talk about the new design, his creative process, and how his work was informed by the history of our magazine.Jeffrey Goldberg: The first issue of The Atlantic was published in November 1857. How do you, as the creative director of a 162-year-old publication, use history without being burdened by history?Peter Mendelsund: The interesting thing to me about the first cover in 1857 is how clear the hierarchy of information is. The forthrightness, the omitting of needless information, the seriousness of purpose and mission—I would say those are all components of the design that represent what The Atlantic, as an institution, does well.The first issue of The Atlantic (Katie Martin)Even though our journalistic principles haven’t changed over the years since that first issue, our look has been all over the map, a chaos of signifiers and various styles. There is a 20-year period, between 1929 and 1949, in which we redesigned the magazine five times.That constant chopping and changing alleviates some of the pressure on me and my team, because—to use a phrase from start-up culture—we’re just iterating on some level. And hopefully improving! But I did want to stem the tide. I thought that if we returned to first principles, we could do something that would, hopefully, last a little longer.Goldberg: One of the first things you did when you got to The Atlantic was dive into the archives.Mendelsund: Because the design has changed so often, you get an amazing flyover of the history of short-lived vernaculars of 20th- and 21st-century design. For instance, in the early part of the 20th century you see all of these type-only constructions, covers as tables of contents, and then in the 1920s and ’30s you see classical deco typography and art and design. Jumping forward quite a bit, in the late ’60s and ’70s you get the bubble type and a sort of funky, “At the Carwash”–style Atlantic. Some of my favorite covers are from the ’60s and ’70s, when we really just focused on a single image and a simple headline. We’ve also gone through periods of what I would call design maximalism, where we were just trying to put as much information on the page as possible.Goldberg: Is that maximalism or accretion?Mendelsund: It’s both. You have these ornaments and rule sizes and type conventions that aren’t serving a function anymore, but sort of stick around. And before you know it, the page is this kind of hodgepodge.If we wanted every issue to be a genealogy of The Atlantic, then we could continue on that same course—but we don’t. We want the reader to be able to focus on what they’re reading, and we want the art and photography to be able to amplify that experience rather than distract from it.Goldberg: The most notable change in this redesign is the new nameplate, the move to the A as representative of the whole. When you first raised this idea to me, I was, if you recall, surprised by the drama of it, and also surprised that I liked it.Mendelsund: When Oliver Munday, my senior art director, and I began rethinking the wordmark, we tried a number of angles, mainly finding ways to repurpose and redraw old marks from The Atlantic’s past. But the notion occurred to us that we would eventually need a mark that wouldn’t be so horizontal; in other words, a mark that wasn’t a word, such that it could fit in all of those confined spaces where, physical magazine aside, The Atlantic lives. Like on your phone, and on your social-media feeds, etc. It seemed obvious to us that what we needed was an emblem—a logo. A “swoosh,” if you will. But what could that logo possibly be? At some point, we noticed that we had already been clicking on that very logo, every time we went to The Atlantic online, or on the app, or on Twitter—that is, a giant A. There it was, staring us in the face. And the more we explored The Atlantic’s long history, the more we saw that A, Zelig-like, showing up. Which is to say that, although the A seems radical, it is in fact historically grounded. Like The Atlantic itself.Goldberg: Tell me about Atlantic Condensed, our new typeface.Mendelsund: Atlantic Condensed is the typeface that we commissioned based on the type forms that the founders chose for the first issue. We looked through original issues and at type foundry specimens from that time. The founders chose a typeface that’s very condensed—which is good, because it means you can fit more type onto the page. They also chose one that’s generally used in its capitalized form—which is also good, because it means that you can easily signal that something’s important. It is a serif typeface, and what’s known as a “Scotch” face, which describes the way the serifs are designed. It is an extremely legible, classical kind of typography, but also transmits a certain kind of vehemence and urgency that works nicely for our contemporary purposes.Atlantic Condensed, a new custom typefaceGoldberg: What were your north stars when you started working on the design?Mendelsund: I come to this work at The Atlantic primarily as a reader. And the things that were interesting to me as a reader were those designs that could best suit the language on the page. I wanted the design to be readerly. And I wanted it to feel confident. And, again, I wanted to make pages that weren’t clamoring for your attention in too many ways—that allowed you to enjoy that one-to-one experience, reader-to-writer.I think that’s accomplished in a number of different ways. One is through good grids, making sure that the page itself has a rigorous, almost Euclidean logic to the way it’s laid out. Another is by ensuring that the type is interrupted as little as possible, and that when it is interrupted by imagery, the imagery is contained within its own cordoned-off space. I really wanted to frame our images so that they weren’t full bleed—they didn’t go off the edge of the page. The idea of imagery in magazines for decades now has been that bigger is bolder. But I find that when a picture has a frame around it, it allows you to focus more on the thing itself. And the primary job here was to make sure that the reading experience was vibrant, interesting, and less interrupted.Goldberg: Tell me about your theory of cover design.Mendelsund: I would say that a cover can accomplish, maximally, three things at once. As soon as you try to make more than three moves in any visual space, there’s a real diminishment of effect. What are those three things? With a magazine cover, what you really want to do is push the fact that you’re reading a particular magazine. So that’s the branding aspect. Then you want something vibrant and attention-grabbing, which will represent the cover story, or the issue as a whole. And then in most cases you want room for the typography that will push whichever other stories you decide to add to that space. But you really have to choose very carefully what it is you want to say and to decide which elements are doing the saying—for example, whether the image is doing the heavy lifting or the typography is—and then make sure all of the elements are in their proper proportions.Goldberg: On the “How to Stop a Civil War” cover, I think it takes a moment to realize that the handprint is also a map of America. There are levels to it, like any good piece of art.Mendelsund: My favorite kind of design is a kind of time-released design, where you look at something and you have an immediate impression of it, and then you, upon further reflection, find something in the design that adds to or subverts that first impression. For a cover as important as this one, to inaugurate this redesign, I thought it was important that we not crowd out interpretation, but rather invite it. We wanted the cover to transmit, obviously, the notion of the nation itself, and also some sense of a hand being stuck up to say “Stop.” There is something both metaphorically and literally arresting about the image. The operative word in the headline here is Stop. We all recognize that we’re in a particularly perilous moment in American culture and politics, and The Atlantic is not a magazine that tiptoes around difficulty. We thought of this issue as being really a bracing kind of wake-up call.The Atlantic’s December 2019 issueGoldberg: When did the image of Poseidon, used in countless colophons over the years, first come in to our pages?Mendelsund: The first version, the engraved colophon, was printed on the cover starting in 1910. Like the rest of the magazine, Poseidon has gone through a lot of transformations. When the magazine started using big color images on the cover, in 1947, an illustration of Poseidon by the designer W. A. Dwiggins was featured on the first redesigned issue. There was a variation in the ’80s where he gets a tan and some more defined muscle tone. When the editors sought a return to the magazine’s design “roots” in 2001, they revived the original engraving.Poseidon through the yearsWhen Oliver and I first encountered Poseidon in its modern form, we both looked at it and thought, Who is Poseidon, and what has he to do with this whole endeavor? Only when I later saw the engraved version of Poseidon did I realize that it wasn’t important who Poseidon was in this context—aside from being a general nautical signifier—but rather that the engraving itself signified “old.” In other words, the medium was the message. The old Poseidon told the reader that The Atlantic had been around a long time. We made a whole ecosystem of “engraved” nautical emblems to serve as visual interest on the page, on the website, and so on. Poseidon is just one of many. And the style of these emblems, we hope, signals a kind of historically informed classicism.A new ecosystem of “engraved” emblemsGoldberg: Why did you want to include the established date on the cover?Mendelsund: I think what it came down to for me was just my own personal surprise at not knowing that incredibly rich history, not knowing who the founders were, never having read the original manifesto. And just wanting to have other people have the same experience that I had—to have that joy of discovery.
2019-11-12 10:45:00
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
Teflon Salvini: Italy’s Untouchable Politician
ROME—The scoop from BuzzFeed News was a huge one: audio recordings in which a close associate of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and the country’s most powerful politician, is heard negotiating a complex energy deal with Russian interlocutors that would route funds to Salvini’s right-wing populist League party ahead of European Parliament elections. “A new Europe has to be close to Russia as before because we want to have our sovereignty,” Salvini’s associate is heard saying.There’s no evidence that the deal, which would have violated Italian campaign-finance law, ever happened. But that’s hardly the point. The audio showed incontrovertible if shadowy aspects of Russian reach into European politics and raised questions about business dealings in the sottobosco, or undergrowth, of the League. (It built on an earlier report of the meeting that appeared in February in the Italian center-left weekly L’Espresso.)Neither Salvini nor his associate responded to questions from BuzzFeed or L’Espresso, but Salvini, who has long expressed his deep admiration for Vladimir Putin, said his party had never taken “a ruble” from Russia. The associate downplayed the meeting in Italian media, adding that he had not done anything illegal and anyway, the money hadn’t arrived. He hinted that the leak of the audio might be the result of a power struggle between spies, noting that it appeared a week after Putin had visited Rome.[Read: It’s the right wing’s Italy now]In another country, and another moment, such damning allegations might have brought down a government, as happened recently in Austria. In Italy, they have done no such thing. The BuzzFeed report could weaken Salvini in the long term, but in the short term it might actually strengthen the current government—an uncomfortable coalition of the League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement—by delaying the prospect of early elections, and bolster Salvini by showing his political agility.In elections for the European Parliament in May, which are a gauge of national voter sentiment, Salvini’s League doubled its percentage of the vote compared with its showing in national elections last year, while the Five Star Movement’s standing shrank. This opened the tense prospect of early elections, which the League might have won with a solid-enough majority to govern on its own.[Read: Italy’s populist victory is both tragedy and farce]After the BuzzFeed scoop—and with Italy’s economy in dire shape, forecast to have the lowest growth rate in the European Union this year—it’s no longer in Salvini’s immediate interest to bring down the government in the hope of securing a majority in a new vote. Instead, he turned to his social-media feeds, which have become a powerful arm of government and a way of connecting with voters, and pulled a classic maneuver: When under fire, play the victim.On Thursday, Salvini tweeted about stray dogs left behind at a center for asylum seekers after the government shut the center down. (He said the dogs needed adopting, and has generally shown more empathy for the dogs than for the asylum seekers.) He tweeted a picture of himself after a vote reducing the number of Italian members of Parliament. And he posted an 18-minute handheld video on Facebook in which he conflated the BuzzFeed report with an unrelated incident in which someone had sent a .22-caliber bullet in the mail to him, addressed to “il Duce Salvini,” the term used for Mussolini.“Waking up with a bullet aimed at you isn’t the best way to wake up,” Salvini said. He also mentioned the bullet when he addressed the Italian Senate on Thursday in a debate about immigration. Never mind that he is the most powerful politician in Italy—in his telling, really, he’s the one under attack.[Read: The Italian Donald Trump visits Washington]Here he has some allies. The president of the Italian Senate, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, who is from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, dismissed the report as “journalistic gossip.” Yet Salvini also has some critics. The center-left opposition and two previous center-left prime ministers have called for a parliamentary inquiry into the BuzzFeed report. The Milan prosecutor’s office said it had opened a judicial investigation into the allegations reported by BuzzFeed, as well as those in the earlier story in L’Espresso.And here we have a déjà vu moment. If the Berlusconi era teaches anything, it’s that citizens struggle to keep track of confusing facts, details, and legal sagas, and tend to vote out of loyalty. Berlusconi, who for a long time was also untouchable, spent years attacking magistrates he said were on a witch hunt against him.Salvini is proving equally adept at this, and he does so as a minority member of a coalition government in which he has all the power without all the responsibility. If you were with Salvini before, you’ll probably still be with him, no matter what his associates were up to last October in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. If you were against him, your reasons keep multiplying. And he will continue to deflect them, borrowing a line from Mussolini: “More enemies, more honor.”
2019-07-11 19:23:12
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
2 y
theatlantic.com
When a Local Tragedy Becomes National News
ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Wendi Winters was assigned to report on Davis’ Pub on Friday. The owner, Kevin Colbeck, told me she had pitched them an interview about life at a beloved local hangout; the bar is like “the Cheers of Annapolis,” one bartender told me. These kinds of stories were a regular part of Winters’s beat. The 65-year-old veteran reporter most enjoyed writing her column on the “teen of the week,” her daughter told me, and a recent series on “off-limits” places.But Winters will never write that story. On Thursday, she was one of five employees shot and killed at the offices of the Capital Gazette, Annapolis’s local newspaper. Keith Cyphers, an insurance salesman who works across the hall from the paper, described what he remembers seeing through the glass doors of his office. “There’s a guy, he’s got a ponytail. He’s wearing this outfit that makes him look like a video-game soldier character,” Cyphers told me. “He’s got, like, the tactical pants on, and they’re tucked into his black boots, and he’s wearing a black T-shirt, and he’s got these amber shooting glasses on. And he’s holding this enormous, black gun.”On Thursday night, local residents wrestled with what it means to be swept up into a narrative: about mass shootings, about violence against the media, about the toxic and divisive culture of the U.S. Within hours of the shooting—with many facts still unknown—that kind of punditry had already begun. But just like the surviving Capital Gazette reporters, who got to work covering their own story right away, people in Annapolis are straining to prevent this shooting from becoming just another talking point. To keep control of the story. To stay local.By Friday morning, the suspect’s identity was confirmed in online court records from the District Court of Maryland, as reported earlier by The Baltimore Sun: 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder. The Sun described him as a Maryland resident who had been involved in a legal feud with the paper over its coverage of a criminal harassment charge against him. The acting police chief of Anne Arundel County, William Krampf, told reporters on Thursday night that “this was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” and that there had been past threats against the newspaper made on social media which “indicated violence.”Thomas Marquardt, the former editor and publisher of the newspaper, was named in a 2012 defamation suit filed by Ramos, according to the Sun. He told me that Ramos had personally threatened him, and that he wasn’t surprised to hear reports that Ramos is the suspect. “There is a strong possibility that this guy would probably have wanted to make me the victim of his rant,” Marquardt said, but he was not in Annapolis at the time of the shooting. “Was that bullet meant for me?” he asked. “I can’t help but feel guilty for not being there.”By all accounts, the Capital Gazette is a beloved local newspaper that has managed to hang on as the news industry has contracted across the country. The paper claims history dating decades before the founding of the American republic, and was owned for years by Philip Merrill, the former diplomat who served in Republican presidential administrations. In 2014, it was soldto the Baltimore Sun Media Group. Along with hard news, opinion columns, and editorials, the paper covers “small-town stuff,” Marquardt told me: soap-box derbies, high-school honors, neighborhood cooking demonstrations. Ultimately, this is what people want to read, he said.But even this kind of local institution has been affected by political and cultural hostility toward the media, he said. Police haven’t released much detail about the suspect’s motive or state of mind, and according to the Sun, his issues with the newspaper started in mid-2011. But Marquardt nevertheless pointed tothe shooting as evidence of a broader willingness to commit acts of violence against the press. “You have a president who says that everything we do is ‘fake news,’ who has no compunction about disparaging the people whose assignment is to go out and report what he does, and who gives us token sympathy and prayers,” he said, alluding to President Trump’s tweeted statement about the shooting on Thursday. “The fact that this happened in a newspaper is no coincidence.”Many of the people I spoke with were similarly grappling with how the attack on the Capital, as it’s called, fits into bigger cultural conversations. “There was a part of me that was still just aghast that I was now involved in one of these situations,” said Cyphers, the eyewitness from across the hall. “This is what happens to people on the TV. This is not what happens to me, in real life.”Late on Thursday night at Davis’ Pub, Doug Gibson, a sergeant with the Baltimore City Police Department, told me he doesn’t usually carry his gun when he’s off-duty and going out for a beer. But “I’m scared that something’s going to happen, and I’m not going to be able to take action,” he said. He’s generally a supporter of gun rights, he added, but he’s beginning to question societal norms around firearms. The shooting at the Capital “does disrupt the [assumption] that this is a safe place,” he said. “The reality is that it can happen anywhere, and it’s happened here.”But his girlfriend, Anita Hagan, was adamant that what happened in Annapolis may not be connected to any larger patterns of violence in the U.S. “I’m not going to lump it into a big political conversation or social commentary, because nobody knows right now,” she said. “There’s too many pundits starting to talk about what this means. … It may have no meaning at all.”After a while, Hagan seemed to become agitated by our conversation and walked outside. She came back just a few minutes later: The victims’ names had finally been released, and she knew one of them. She, too, had been interviewed by Wendi Winters, the reporter who had been slated to show up at that very bar the next day. Hagan began to cry.“It’s just sad and unfortunate that this older lady, who was at the end of her career, writing about kids’ frickin’ soccer games, is suddenly the victim of something stupid,” Hagan said.Of the five dead victims who were named on Thursday, only one was under 55, according to the Sun. But Eric Smith, the Capital’s long-time cartoonist, told me he had been thinking most about the young staffers who had been affected by the shooting. “They have to love journalism to take a job in a dying industry,” he said. For those who died, “I pray that if they make it to heaven, they get a really nice newsroom and a good boss.”The newsroom they left behind seems to come close. On Thursday, facing the deaths of their colleagues, the reporters at the Capital decided to get to work. A photographer, Joshua McKerrow, took pictures of the crime scene outside of his office. The reporter E.B. Furgurson III claimed prime territory right behind Krampf, the acting police chief, at the Thursday evening press conference. Another reporter, Chase Cook, tweeted, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”In the early hours on Friday morning, the Capital tweeted a screenshot of the next day’s cover story about the shooting. Pictures of the five staff members who were killed—Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters—line the top of the page.Winters’s eldest daughter, whose name is Winters Geimer, told me her mom had always dreamed of working at one of the big national media outlets. “It’s a pity that she’s making national news,” she said, “and she’s not the one who’s writing it.”Elaine Godfrey contributed reporting.
2018-06-29 14:55:04
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
3 y
theatlantic.com
West Virginia's Teachers Are Not Satisfied
Updated on March 1, 2018 at 10:23 a.m.MARTINSBURG, W. Va.—Although West Virginia governor Jim Justice on Tuesday at last signaled an end to the standoff that has kept all the state’s public-school employees and students out of classrooms for a week, teachers remain on strike and schools are still closed. After a town-hall circuit throughout the state, the Republican governor at a press conference on Tuesday evening said he’d agreed to raise teachers’ salaries by 5 percent—and throughout Wednesday it appeared as though the strike had ended and that classes would resume Thursday. But teachers and their supporters insist the pay raise doesn’t suffice.That increase, which would satisfy one of the teachers’ unions’ demands, would mark a sizable improvement from the 2 percent raise they were originally going to receive this year and from salary stagnation they’d previously experienced since 2014.But the teacher dissatisfaction continues. First, there is a process hurdle to clear: West Virginia’s legislature still has to approve the proposed increases, which also include a 3 percent raise for other school personnel. And beyond the legislative uncertainty, the bottom line is that teachers across the Mountain State’s 55 counties say the raise does little to assuage the bigger concerns that propelled them to the picket lines in the first place.Teachers in West Virginia stressed to me on Tuesday that the salary issue pales in comparison to the key problem that prompted the walk-out: the rising costs associated with the state’s health-insurance system, the Public Employees Insurance Agency, typically referred to by its acronym PEIA. “[People] see us out here and think it’s money—they think it’s only about the pay raise. It is so not about the pay raise,” Annette Jordan, a teacher at Hedgesville High in Berkeley County, told me as she picketed in front of the school’s campus along Route 9. Holding a sign that read, “I’d take a bullet for YOUR child but PEIA WON’T cover it,” she explained that because of structural changes to the health-insurance system, her family’s monthly premiums would more than double starting July 1. An agreement hasn’t yet been reached on PEIA; Justice said on Tuesday that he’s going to appoint a task force to “try to look for solutions and a permanent fix” for the health-insurance system.Jordan and others also pointed to what they described as a wholesale attack on the teaching profession—through legislation proposing to lower qualifications and to eliminate seniority protections—in explaining the reasons for the statewide walk-out. In part because of how little West Virginia pays its teachers—$45,622 on average in 2016, making it 48th in the country for educator salaries—districts have had to lower the hiring bar to fill vacancies. A sizable percentage of the instructors who’ve been hired for full-time teaching positions lack conventional certification and training: Close to four in 10 instructors teaching math courses for students in grades 7 through 11, for example, are not fully certified. Meanwhile, teachers haven’t had a statewide salary raise since 2014.West Virginia has in recent years grappled with a budget deficit and a weak economy that Justice and policymakers have said hamper their ability to increase teachers’ pay and to fully fund PEIA. But critics argue that politicians’ resistance to taxing coal, natural gas, and manufacturing corporations is to blame for the lack of funds.Educators say these realities help explain why West Virginia ranks so poorly compared to other states when it comes to its educational performance. The state received a C- in Education Week’s 2017 report card on school quality, and it got one of the worst grades in the nation in the analysis’s “chance for success” category, which uses various metrics to “look at the role of education in promoting an individual’s chance for success over the course of a lifetime.”As soon as Justice announced the 5 percent raise, teachers and their supporters were quick to worry that the upshot of the latest development could be business as usual. “We’re highly skeptical that this [pay-raise announcement] was meaningful,” Audra Slocum, a West Virginia University assistant professor of English education who collaborates with a lot of K-12 teachers, said in an email on Wednesday. “Rather, it was a clear attempt to disrupt the momentum of the teachers.”Others suggested that the move was evidence of how disingenuous Justice had been earlier in the week, when he indicated in his town-hall appearances that the state would struggle to fund even a 2 percent increase. “Teachers are frustrated that on Monday governor Justice said, in so many words, ‘too bad.’ But by Wednesday afternoon, he'd found enough funding” to meet the salary demands, said Karla Hilliard, an English teacher at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County. Governor Justice’s office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.Overall, teachers say they’re concerned that, absent a genuine, comprehensive shift in how West Virginia treats them and other K-12 employees, school quality will continue to suffer—and with it the health of the state as a whole. West Virginia’s shrinking GDP, among other factors, has contributed to severe brain drain, and educators told me schools could be key to abating that trend and reviving the state’s economy. “You are not going to be able to attract the jobs, the companies, the multinational corporations that West Virginia needs to be competitive without a strong educational system in place. … Companies are not going to want to come in and have their companies educate their children in a terrible [education system],” said Craig Arch, a special-education teacher at Spring Mills High who identified himself as politically conservative.Improving the quality of the education system is all but impossible without skilled teachers who feel they’re valued—and who are paid like it, they argue. And as much as they love West Virginia—a deeply felt fidelity to the state was evident throughout my conversations with teachers, almost all of whom were born and raised in the state—the temptation of better pay and benefits elsewhere is often hard to withstand. Some estimates suggest there are more than 720 teacher vacancies statewide.“We don’t have to move to make more money—we can cross the bridge right over here and be in Maryland, and drive right down the road and be in Virginia. We’ve got other options without a long commute, that’s for sure,” said Rebecca Lindsey, a kindergarten teacher at Widmyer Elementary School in Morgan County, in the state’s Eastern Panhandle. That’s a last resort for the area’s teachers, she said, but it could be the only option if West Virginia’s politicians continue to show they don’t “care for our people.”Politicians “are fussing about test scores,” Lindsey continued. “Well, you need to put qualified educators in the classroom if you want your test scores to go up.”Jessica Salfia, an English teacher at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, emphasized that educators had been striking on behalf of all state workers who are affected by the PEIA’s rising costs. “The fight is not over,” she told me on Wednesday, noting that it would continue in earnest with the upcoming elections in November. “Every 2018 candidate needs to make fixing PEIA a major focal point of his or her campaign.”Indeed, as frustrated as teachers remain, they’re optimistic about their ability to achieve change in the long term—and that’s largely because of the solidarity they have built, as well as the outpouring of community support. As I drove from picket line to picket line on Tuesday, almost every passing truck honked its horn in support of the demonstrating teachers. “Overall, I think teachers have learned a lesson themselves—that being united and 55 Strong is powerful and has forced change,” Spring Mills High’s Hilliard said. “Although there’s still unrest, we’ve taken a step in the right direction.”
2018-02-28 22:57:30
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
3 y
theatlantic.com
This Average Joe Is the Most Quoted Man in News
Meet Greg Packer, a retired highway maintenance worker who has been interviewed by American media outlets over a thousand times. Since his name first appeared in a newspaper in 1995, Packer’s penchant for media appearances has led him to meet four former presidents and two popes. He has spoken to reporters on subjects ranging from the war in Iraq to the release of the first iPhone. Ultimately, Packer’s quest for media ubiquity was so successful that the Associated Press sent its staff a memo banning interviews with him. Andrew David Watson’s short documentary The Most Quoted Man in News shows how Packer took up the mantle of the American everyman. “Greg goes to incredible lengths to be in the right place at the right time,” Waston told The Atlantic. “He does, in fact, have a method that puts him in front of the reporters and TV cameras.” Ironically, Packer’s seasoned ability rendered Watson’s job more challenging. “Greg is so used to quickly coming up with the best short sound bite that getting him to answer a question with more than five words proved difficult,” Watson said. “Luckily, we were able to finally hit a conversational tone to the interview, but it took a little bit of time.” “I think Greg’s obsession reveals a lot about our news ecosystem,” Watson continued. “It shows the weakness of the need for constant reporting and America’s obsession with the desire to be in the spotlight.”
2018-02-20 19:55:45
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
3 y
theatlantic.com
The Unsinkable Benjamin Netanyahu?
Israeli police recommended Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The announcement signals the culmination of a year-long investigation into the longtime Israeli leader and sparks questions about his ability to remain in power.Netanyahu is insisting he will remain in office. “Over these years, there have been no less than 15 investigations against me with the goal of bringing me down,” he said in televised remarks. “They all began with explosive headlines, live broadcasts from the studios, and some of them even with noisy police recommendations [to indict], just like today. All those efforts, without exception ended with nothing.”“I know the truth; these will also end without anything,” he said.Netanyahu has consistently denied wrongdoing, but the allegations—and the charges—are the most serious ever faced by the four-time prime minister of Israel, who has dominated the country’s politics for the past more than two decades. A final decision on whether to file charges against Netanyahu lies with Israel’s attorney general—and that process could take months.The details of cases 1000 and 2000—as they are known—have been around for more than year. The first scandal centers on champagne and cigars Netanyahu allegedly received from a political benefactor. The second involves conversations he had with the publisher of Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli newspaper. Israeli reports say Netanyahu agreed to help weaken a rival newspaper—Israel Hayom, owned by Sheldon Adelson—in exchange for favorable coverage from Yediot Aharonot. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face legal troubles. Over the past two decades, each one of Israel’s prime ministers—Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak—has been investigated for corruption, though neither Sharon nor Barak was charged. (Olmert was tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. He served 16 months.) Nor is this the first time Netanyahu has been tarnished by scandal—though the accusations previously did little to affect his popularity.He was investigated in 1997—his first term as prime minister—for fraud and breach of trust. No charges emerged in that case. Neither did they emerge two years later when he was investigated again for fraud. While the various cases may suggest a high level of corruption in Israel, the country is hardly alone: Many modern states created after World War II have similar problems. Israel, in fact, has perhaps the strongest civic institutions.Still, as Gregg Carlstrom wrote in The Atlantic in 2017, Netanyahu and his wife “have long occupied pride of place in this crowded field of wealth-seekers.” In 1994, a Jerusalem paper wrote about the family’s penchant for dining and dashing. Their appetites grew after Netanyahu became prime minister for a second time in 2009: a $2,500 contract for gourmet ice cream at their official residence, and a $127,000 bed installed on a government plane so they could nap on the five-hour flight to London. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has been investigated for stealing patio furniture, and his son, Yair, for accepting free Mariah Carey tickets. None of this seemed to put a dent in the Netanyahu family’s political fortunes. But it all made for good headlines. Nor are the corruption-related investigations restricted to the prime minister. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was put on trial for breach of trust and fraud—before being acquitted. Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, have been investigated for corruption as well.But Israel isn’t perceived as corrupt—certainly not in comparison to its Arab neighbors, with the exception of the United Arab Emirates, according to Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index. Israel ranks 28th of 177 countries (UAE is 24th), and its ranking has mostly held in recent years. Indeed, while political corruption has become a high-profile Israeli problem, the country’s other institutions—especially its judiciary—are seen as effective and not corrupt.The possibility of political corruption doesn’t appear to have much impact on whom Israelis support, anyway. Netanyahu is a four-time prime minister, a record he shares with David Ben-Gurion, the country’s founder and first leader.Shmuel Rosner, a political editor at The Jewish Journal, wrote in The New York Times that it’s not that Israelis don’t care about corruption, it’s that they don’t believe politicians should be harassed because, in his words, “everybody knows that politicians often tend to be, well, not the most honorable people. Still, we need them, and we need to let them do their jobs.”That’s a view that’s commonin many of the countries that gained independence in the 1940s—as Israel did—as European powers shed their colonies following the devastation wrought in World War II. Corruption continues to be asignificant issue in many of these countries. With a few exceptions, governance is poor. In Israel, however, national institutions continue to function the way they were designed. What Israel, a country that was founded on principles of economic egalitarianism, increasingly does have in common with many of these nations is growing income inequality—inequality in the country is the highest among OECD nations, and it has been rising steadily since the 1980s.As Paul Krugman wrote in the Times: “[T]he political economy of the promised land is now characterized by harshness at the bottom and at least soft corruption at the top. And many Israelis see Mr. Netanyahu as part of the problem.”Krugman wrote that nearly three years ago. Netanyahu’s legal woes suggest it’s even truer now.
2018-02-13 22:02:29
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
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theatlantic.com
Eric Garcetti Isn't Expecting Much From Washington
There are at least two things that bother the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, about Donald Trump’s presidency.“I am totally opposed to so much of the immorality coming out of the White House right now, but I’d like to also talk about its impracticality,” Garcetti told The Atlantic. “This is a very impractical White House. When it comes to public safety, I listen to police chiefs and cops, not to a cable-news station. When it comes to environment, we’re not engaged in ideological conversation about the merits of climate change. We’re actually dealing with the impact.”Garcetti’s criticism of Trump comes at a time when chatter about Garcetti as a candidate in the 2020 presidential race is increasing. So is he running? The mayor now gets this question a lot from reporters, but has so far only offered artful dodges. “I don’t ever say no,” he says, “but I’m pretty darn focused on being mayor.”In the latest episode of The Atlantic Interview, Garcetti speaks with The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, about how major cities can help the country, how he is trying to insulate L.A. from the whims and scorn of what he says is a very impractical White House, and where to find the best tacos in town.An edited and condensed transcript of their conversation is below.Jeffrey Goldberg: Explain to me what’s happening in American politics. Why is the center not seeming to hold?Eric Garcetti: Look, I spend most of my time with mayors. In local communities, politics actually is working pretty well. There’s a lot of progress and investment being made on the local level that the national government isn’t capable of doing. In Houston, in Florida, or in Northern California—between hurricanes and fires—people are actually dealing with the [climate-change] crisis. And I haven’t seen this sort of pace of implementation on a crisis in my lifetime. This is pretty breathtaking. People are looking at a hundred-percent renewable energy. That was a dream. We’re actually coming up with a plan to do it. That was unimaginable.Goldberg: If I didn’t know better, I would think that you’re basically saying that America’s going to be okay.Garcetti: Well, I do trust that America will be okay.Goldberg: Why? Because for the first time in my life, I’m thinking this thing is spinning a little bit out of control.Garcetti: Because America has never come from Washington out to the local communities. It’s vice versa. If this was the 1960s or ’70s, America’s cities would be coming to Washington—with people leaving cities, the cities burning, full of poverty—saying, “Washington, please save America’s cities.” Right now, it’s the opposite. America’s cities are here to say, “We can help save Washington.”Goldberg: The 19th century was the century of empire, the 20th century was the century of the nation-state. Is this century possibly the century of the city-state? Is there a possibility that we’re moving toward another kind of system of global governance?Garcetti: No. I think cities have always been the most important and will continue to. The nation-state isn’t going away. What we’re returning to is cities have roles to direct cross-national boundaries and come up with trade agreements, environmental accords—and the speed at which we can share information, that’s what’s different.Goldberg: When you’re president—for the purposes of this conversation let’s just assume you’re president—what do you do to convince people in the moneyless places—in the rural parts of the country, in the Ohios of America—that they are better served, ultimately, unified with the cities?Garcetti: You make the case that Los Angeles and Ohio are not different. We have high poverty in Los Angeles and we have the same struggles. We’ve had car factories close down. We created 20,000 green jobs in the last four years in L.A. That’s about 40 percent of all the coal jobs in America. And that can happen in Ohio and West Virginia.Goldberg: You represented Hollywood for many years on the city council. Is something rotten happening in that industry?Garcetti: Well there’s no question that there are gender issues in Hollywood, and this isn’t just a reflection of one bad producer. But it’s very important not to see this as a Hollywood issue. Last year, we had a report that came out about rape, in our high rises, of janitors—women who are sometimes undocumented or immigrants. This is something across all sorts of industries. The impact of this is much bigger than the workplace. This is causing people to be homeless. This is causing people to go to prison. If you want to cut crime, if you want to end homelessness, you have to deal with sexual violence, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.Goldberg: You have talked about the fact that you don’t want to think of Los Angeles as a sanctuary city, and you’ve got some critiques from the left on that.Garcetti: The “Democratic position” is to return to where Ronald Reagan was, and where George W. Bush wanted to be—a place where we had a pathway for making sure that people could become citizens. Not just some semi-legal status but full citizens.I don’t shy away from the term. If “sanctuary city” means a city where our cops are not immigration-enforcement agents, then we are, and proudly so. We care about our own public safety a hell of a lot more than anybody in Washington, D.C. Those policies in L.A. are traced back to a guy named Daryl Gates, who was about as right-wing a police chief as you could imagine—a guy who used to say that black folks were more easily choked out because their bodies were different than white people when they were being killed by LAPD officers—and even he understood that to be effective police officers meant getting trust from immigrant communities.Goldberg: You’re not going to stop domestic violence if an undocumented immigrant is afraid to call 911.Garcetti: We were worried this year because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, we saw a drop-off with Latinos—and no other group—in reporting both sexual violence and domestic violence.A couple of months ago, we took down a big operation—two years in the making—of MS-13. This gang that the president is obsessed with. We were able to do that because the intelligence that we gathered from Los Angeles Police Department in immigrant areas where some people are legal immigrants and some people are undocumented immigrants because they trust Los Angeles Police Department.Ironically, the Trump administration is saying they’re going to take away grants from the Department of Justice. We used one of those grants to fund that very same operation. So somebody who says he cares so much about our safety is literally going to take away the federal dollars that we use against MS-13. The irony is too thick to even stir.Goldberg: So you’ve said something that’s marginally nice about Daryl Gates, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush—you’re obviously running for president, right?Garcetti: No, no! The point is Americans have always found a common ground on issues of immigration. We used to on the environment. And we just did recently, in California, where you had Republicans voting yes in our state legislature for cap and trade. And, vice versa, Democrats can be for things like lower income taxes. Don’t let that explode our heads because most Americans live in that space.Goldberg: We’ve never elected someone to the presidency directly from a mayor’s office. Why is that?Garcetti: I hope some mayors run. Mayors are really good at dealing with things practically. I am totally opposed to so much of the immorality coming out of the White House right now, but I’d like to also talk about its impracticality. This is a very impractical White House. When it comes to public safety, I listen to police chiefs and cops, not to a cable-news station. When it comes to environment, we’re not engaged in ideological conversation about the merits of climate change. We’re actually dealing with the impact.Goldberg: Back to the Los Angeles Police Department. We still have this image of LAPD.Garcetti: We’re not better than any other city. But when I watched what happened in Ferguson, I realized we went through it a long time ago, before there were cellphone cameras. We went through a consent decree. We learned the lessons. And we’re not perfect, but we’re much more resilient. We’ve got amazing officers who reflect our ethnic diversity. We’ve done a training for everybody of de-escalation of force.Policing is really difficult. And there will always be difficult situations when violence is misused. But the measure is not whether or not you have those incidents. Every city will. It’s how resilient you are in dealing with the incidents. We still have a long way to go.Goldberg: You don’t think there’s a possibility of an incident triggering another riot?Garcetti: No. We’ve had incidents that could have—and in the past might have. But we’ve gotten through them, even while I’ve been mayor. Not always to everybody’s satisfaction, but not in a way that explodes the city. People—more than less—trust the system to work. Now, I think it’s the best big-city force in America.Goldberg: You talked about ethnic diversity. Which ethnic group aren’t you a member of? And which one do you need in order to get the presidency?Garcetti: Look, I’m a typical mutt American. I have an Italian last name. Half-Mexican, half-Jewish.Goldberg: I’m interested in this ethnic question because I think one of the issues involving this discussion about immigration—there’s a fear that if you bring in immigrants at too fast a pace, they won’t adopt the creed, the set of ideas and behaviors that that make someone an American. You see in Los Angeles, even, where people are waving the Mexican flag and that’s like a gift to Trump.Garcetti: Look, people fly the Irish flag on Saint Patrick’s Day.Goldberg: That’s a little different.Garcetti: Well, see? People think it’s different, but—Goldberg: —but it’s not political.Garcetti: It was and has been. Of course it is. I think there’s a tradition in America of different generations that have had waves of immigrants come in—the anti-Chinese, the anti-Irish, the anti-Polish. And right now it’s predominantly anti-Mexican, anti-Latino, and anti-Asian.Goldberg: But I’m talking about a shared American feeling.Garcetti: Look, it’s tough for people. Some people who are first-generation immigrants are learning English and are able to integrate themselves. And I think that that is an important American value. I think it’s one that we need to make easier, not more difficult. But the first way to do that is by saying, how can we welcome you here? How can you become a citizen? The public libraries in Los Angeles have “citizenship corners.” Every single one of them. So we have tens of thousands of people that we’ve helped on the pathway to citizenship. That seems to be a much better approach than us yelling at each other.Goldberg: Lightning Round. What’s your favorite movie about Los Angeles?Garcetti: Airplane.Goldberg: What's your second-favorite movie about Los Angeles?Garcetti: Airplane. It really is my favorite movie about L.A.Goldberg: What’s your favorite city in California that’s not Los Angeles?Garcetti: Probably San Diego. I spent a lot of time there for Navy duty.Goldberg: Why do you hate San Francisco?Garcetti: San Francisco is a very nice boutique city.Goldberg: That’s some significant shade!Garcetti: I actually love San Francisco, I love San Diego, New York. Whenever I traveled there as a kid, they’d always rag on L.A. I always felt like L.A. is a good secret. I don’t care if you come or don’t.Goldberg: What’s the most misunderstood thing about L.A?Garcetti: That there’s no soul to it, that there’s no history.Goldberg: Final question. What’s your favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?Garcetti: Not a taco stand, right?Goldberg: I didn’t say that.Garcetti: Yuca’s Tacos. They have the best cochinita pibil, this marinated pork dish from the Yucatán. You stand in a parking lot across from a grocery store. Best taco in town.Goldberg: Will you actually run for president?Garcetti: I don’t ever say no but I’m pretty darn focused on being mayor.
2017-12-09 13:00:00
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theatlantic.com
The Particular Horror of Church Shootings
Updated at 9:10 am EST on Monday, November 6Twenty-six people were killed in a shooting attack on a rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, said Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who called it “the largest mass shooting in state history.”The alleged gunman was identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio.The attack comes in the wake of another church shooting, in September, outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where a 25-year-old man allegedly opened fire on Burnette Chapel Church of Christ at the end of its Sunday service, killing one woman and injuring seven others. Taken together with the deadly attacks in Las Vegas and New York City, the shooting at First Baptist Church in Texas is part of a disorienting wave of mass violence this fall.Details of the Texas shooting are still emerging, but initial reports suggest the attack resulted in a large number of deaths. Albert Gamez Jr., a Wilson County commissioner, told MSNBC that “there was one shooter who came in and started shooting inside that little church,” adding that “there are a lot of fatalities.” KSAT 12, a local news station, reported that both the FBI and the Texas Rangers were on the scene, and that police have confirmed the shooter’s death.Frank Pomeroy, the church’s pastor, told ABC News that his 14-year-old daughter is among the dead. A video of last week’s church service shows a small congregation gathered for song and prayer. “Keep your eyes up, keep your head up, and focus on Christ this week,” the pastor says.Shootings at houses of worship can be particularly disorienting for both parishioners and community members—attacking during prayer is a way of hitting people at a moment of vulnerability, and exploiting the openness on which many communities pride themselves.“Churches, you don’t lock the doors,” Joey Spann, the minister of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, told The Tennessean after the shooting attack on his church. “But we may have to. It’s sad.”The list of attacks goes on and on. In 2015, when Dylann Roof opened fire in the Mother Emanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the victims felt their welcoming of a stranger had been rewarded with violence. “Every night somebody else gets killed in this country, and I have to relive that pain,” Sharon Risher, the daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the people who died, told Time. “I know what these people are going through.”In 2012, a gunman murdered six people worshipping at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. “That day shattered my world,” Prabhjot Singh Rathor, the young son of one of the victims, recently told The Washington Post.In 2008, a man shot eight people, killing two, during a play at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. “This guy does not realize how many lives he totally destroyed,” said Amira Parkey, a teen who was in the play, in an interview with The New York Times. “People who do this, they think they’ve got problems, but they destroy so many other people’s lives.”And in December 2007, a gunman, Matthew Murray, shot up two separate Colorado churches. The dead included two teenage girls. “I knew this was one of life’s indelible moments,” one of the church’s pastors later told Christianity Today. “As horrible as it was, I knew God was there.”On Sunday, a pastor at a neighboring church in Texas told KSAT 12 that “we’re just standing on the fact that we know that all those who were in that church … were believers.” The pastor, Paul Buford of River Oaks church, said his congregation was in the middle of its own worship service when he got the call about what had happened at First Baptist. “That’s the thing that’s going to keep us strong,” he said, “is knowing in our faith that they’re with their Lord and savior right now.”President Trump tweeted his support for the church’s community shortly after the attacks, saying that he is “monitoring the situation from Japan.” Later, he condemned the attack on “a place of sacred worship” and said that “Americans will do what we do best: We pull together and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sadness we stand strong.”An Air Force spokesperson told CNN that Kelley had been court-martialed in 2012 on two counts, for assaulting his spouse and their child. He received a bad-conduct discharge, 12 months confinement, and was reduced in rank. Kelley drove away from the scene, Abbott said, and was found 11 miles away at an intersection, in his vehicle.The fall has seen mass killings at music concerts and on American city sidewalks—and now another church has joined that list.This story will be updated.
2017-11-06 02:00:00
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theatlantic.com
The U.S. Economy Reaches Lowest Unemployment Rate Since 2000
In October, the U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That reverses the job losses sustained during September, after two major hurricanes struck the South, at the time, leading to the first job decline in seven years. And the unemployment rate ticked down slightly lower, to 4.1 percent—the lowest rate since December 2000.October’s report is certainly better than September’s, but job growth was still slightly lower than expected. Economists expected an addition of over somewhere between 300,000 to 325,000 jobs during the month, according to surveys from The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and bank economists.Despite missing expectations, this is a significant rebound. Last month, the economy lost 33,000 jobs, the first decline in seven years, following hurricanes Irma and Harvey, according to initial figures. That reading was later revised to show an addition of 18,000 jobs. The slump was primarily felt in restaurants, bars, and construction operations. In October, employment in the food-service-and-beverage industry rose significantly, showing signs of recuperation from the storms. There were also few signs of economic distress rippling out from the fires that have consumed portions of Northern California.While the highlights of the report—jobs added and unemployment rate down—were fairly strong, there are still some causes for concern. Wage growth and labor-force participation remain below the levels most economists would expect at this point, and in October labor-force participation slumped slightly to 62.7 percent. Wages, which jumped 12 cents in September likely because of a drop-off in low-wage jobs in the South after the Hurricanes, declined by one cent.October’s report repeats a general trend of recent jobs readings, showing an economy that is generally strengthening, with some concerning and important exceptions that have yet to be figured out.
2017-11-03 15:48:30
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theatlantic.com
Who Is Jerome Powell, Trump’s Pick for Fed Chair?
Updated 4:45 p.m.On Thursday, Donald Trump announced that he will nominate Jerome Powell to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve board, an appointment that Trump has been building suspense around for weeks. “We need strong, sound and steady leadership at the United States Federal Reserve,” the president said during a press conference on Thursday. “There are few more important positions than this.” If Powell is confirmed by the Senate, he will take office after the term of Janet Yellen, the current chair, expires in February.Powell, a Republican, is a compromise pick who will likely gain the approval of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. (While Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate, bipartisan support will likely stave off attempts at stalling Powell’s confirmation.) Democrats would have liked to see Trump renew Yellen’s term, but will likely still vote to confirm Powell, who in his five years serving on the Federal Reserve board has supported many of Yellen’s decisions about interest-rate hikes and has never cast a dissenting vote on monetary policy at a Federal Open Market Committee meeting during her tenure. It is some comfort to Democrats that Powell will likely stay the course when it comes to monetary policy, concentrating on slowly raising rates and pulling back on the quantitative easing put in place during the Obama administration. And as Democrats well know, Powell takes a more moderate approach to monetary policy than some of the other candidates Trump was reportedly considering, such as Kevin Warsh, who is known as an inflation hawk, and John Taylor, who has recommended that interest rates should be raised threefold.Senate Republicans’ support of Powell is more straightforward. Powell is a member of the party and has voiced a willingness to reexamine some of the regulations put in place after the Great Recession, a primary focus of the Trump administration. In a speech in early October, Powell said, “More regulation is not the best answer to every problem.” He’s also in the past backed the Fed’s moves to peel back some regulatory requirements on banks deemed too big to fail, and has expressed a desire to rein in bureaucracy. “[Corporate] directors feel buried in hundreds or even thousands of pages of highly granular information to the point where more important strategic issues are crowded out,” he told attendees of an event at the Chicago Fed in late August, referring to what he considers onerous reporting processes for bank boards.Until now, Trump had little opportunity to control the direction of the Fed. With Yellen, an Obama-era appointee, chairing it and no sign that she planned to resign early, the agency has continued its policy of slow, cautious interest-rate hikes—a tactic that many Republicans have long been critical of. But if Powell is confirmed, it’s not clear that that strategy would change all that drastically, at least in the short term. Indeed, a Powell-led Fed could bode well for the ongoing market rally: The policy decisions made during the recovery, particularly the choice to keep interest rates low, have pushed investors to purchase stocks, sending the market to all-time highs and boosting corporate earnings.One unusual thing about Powell’s appointment is that he is a lawyer, not an economist. From Yellen going back to Alan Greenspan, who started as chair in 1987, all Fed chairs have held a Ph.D. in economics. Alan Blinder, an economist at Princeton, has said that a doctorate has become more or less a prerequisite of the job—without one, he told Harvard Business Review, “the Fed’s staff will run technical rings around you.” While that remains to be seen, it is true that there are over 300 Ph.D. economists on the Fed’s staff, and Powell could end up needing to lean on their expertise more than a Fed chair with a doctorate in economics might. It could also mean that he would be more swayed by arguments made by fellow Fed governors—which could shape the long-term direction of the Fed, because by the time Powell starts his term, a significant number of its positions will also be filled by conservative Trump appointees.Trump’s choice not to reappoint Yellen, though not surprising, is also important. Yellen, who is the first woman to lead the Fed, is also set to become the first Fed chair in recent history to complete a first term and not be nominated for a second. It’s not unusual for presidents to keep in place their predecessor’s Fed chair: The last three Fed chairmen—Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and Paul Volcker—were all reappointed for second terms by presidents of an opposing party. Trump, after criticizing Yellen during the presidential campaign, did say that he would consider reappointing her, but he has also said that the Fed is something on which “you’d like to leave your own mark.”He’s now opted to do that, which is in keeping with his removal of other Obama-era government appointees. That said, while Yellen will in all likelihood no longer be the head of the Fed come February, the tactics she put in place are expected to continue to guide the central bank even after Powell takes over.
2017-11-02 21:11:26
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theatlantic.com
Trump Is Turning the Fed Pick Into a Reality Show
Will the next Fed chair be Jerome Powell, or won’t it?Before Trump was president, he was doling out brash criticisms and weekly drama on his reality television show, The Apprentice. Thus far, he seems pretty keen on bringing a similar flair, suspense, and tension to his presidency. Take, for example, his approach to appointing a new Federal Reserve chair—a choice that he’s been teasing the American public with for months.The New York Times and Politico are reporting that President Trump plans to announce Powell as his selection for the next chairman of the Federal Reserve Board as soon as Thursday. That timeline tracks with what Trump said in a video posted to Instagram, last Friday, which was a bit more of a dramatic approach than a press conference or run-of-the-mill press release. Big announcement next week! Together, we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! #USA A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on Oct 27, 2017 at 1:42pm PDT The drama started ramping up earlier this summer when the rumored then-favorite Gary Cohn, who leads the National Economic Council, criticized Trump’s response to Charlottesville. Soon after, it was reported that Trump was no longer considering him for the Fed role. That led to speculation about who could who could possibly fill the role.In September, the president announced that he’d had meetings with four potential candidates for the head of the Fed, and said that he would decide within two to three weeks. Then, last week, Trump told Lou Dobbs that he had narrowed it down to two or three people and would be announcing his decision “over the next very short period of time.” He went on to banter back and forth with Dobbs, asking whether or not the television host had a preference for top Fed slot. (Dobbs said he’d pick Yellen.) Then on Friday, Trump released a trailer of sorts, promoting his upcoming announcement of the appointment, in which he said that his pick was a person who “hopefully will do a fantastic job.” That’s a lot of hype surrounding the appointment of a person that only 24 percent of Americans can correctly identify, according to a 2014 survey done eight months after Yellen’s appointment.So who are the finalists?The consensus among Fed watchers is that Trump’s pick will be Jerome Powell, who has been a governor on the Fed’s board since 2012. Powell, a Republican who served in the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration, is considered a choice that people on both sides can feel good about. For Democrats who want a Yellen reappointment, Powell is a decent alternative given that he has shown support for many Yellen-issued decisions when it comes to policy, including the choice to maintain low rates through small and not-that-frequent rate hikes. But Powell’s ideology may diverge from Yellen on a key issue for Republicans: the stringency of financial regulations. Yellen has largely maintained support for the regulations put in place after the crisis, saying that they have made the economy stronger and cautioning that any changes should be “modest.” Powell, for his part, has seemed a bit more skeptical when it comes to those regulations, noting that some are perhaps too onerous and need to be pared back.Then there’s the dark horse candidate (and liberal preference), Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Yellen was pointed by Obama and her four-year term expires in February of 2018, but she is still eligible to serve another term. Before the election, that idea would have seemed ludicrous. Trump spent much of his campaign deriding the choices of the Fed under her tenure, saying that her policies of low rates were creating a false boom in the stock market that could ultimately hurt the economy. Democratic supporters, however, credit Yellen’s slow and steady approach to rate hikes with the receding unemployment rate and continued economic recovery. But since he took office, he’s seemed to change his stance. Trump invited to Yellen to the White House, as a candidate for the job. As recently as October, Trump told Lou Dobbs, in that same interview, that he was still considering Yellen for the position, saying, “I think she’s terrific. We had a great talk. And we’re obviously doing very well together, you look at the markets.”While that seems like a fairly glowing review, Trump’s primary approach to governing thus far seems to be eliminating all vestiges of the Obama administration. “You like to make your own mark,” Trump told Dobbs. “Which is maybe one of the things she’s got a little bit against her.”Another option that’s been floated is Kevin Warsh, a professor at Stanford and a Wall Street veteran who also worked for the Fed under George W. Bush. Warsh has been described as an inflation hawk, which could appeal to some Republicans who have criticized Yellen’s slow interest rate hikes and expressed concern over potential inflation growth. (More rate hikes, in the opinion of conservatives, would have a dual benefit: tamping down inflation and benefitting investors. Liberals and progressives, by contrast, have recently supported fewer rate hikes, in exchange for the possibility of spurring growth and pushing the unemployment rate lower.)Finally there’s John Taylor, an economist who is also a professor at Stanford, and Warsh’s mentor. The two share many of the same ideas on monetary policy and the potential direction of the Fed in the next few years. A Taylor pick over Warsh would mean that the administration is keen to pursue an especially aggressive strategy when it comes to interest rates. Taylor is the creator of the Taylor rule, which presents a guide for how interest rates should be set in relation to economic conditions. According to some estimates, application of the Taylor rule under current economic conditions, with the current inflation target of 2 percent, would more than triple current rates.Whoever Trump picks to head the Fed will have the power, once confirmed by the Senate, to control monetary policy, which affects the lives of every American in significant ways and unseen ways. For millions, how they fare during the next recession or expansion will be the result of the policies and strategies this person believes in.
2017-10-30 21:51:09
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theatlantic.com
Trump Reverses His Stand on DACA
Updated on September 14 at 11:27 a.m. ET“No deal was made last night on DACA,” President Trump insisted early Thursday morning on Twitter, right before he proceeded to describe what sure sounded like the outlines of a deal with Democrats to codify protections for undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.The night before, the president had dined over Chinese food at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. When the working dinner was over, Schumer and Pelosi issued a joint statement proclaiming that the three leaders “agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly.” The DACA program shielded undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and allowed them to work legally after a criminal background check.In exchange for securing protections for the “Dreamers,” (the popular term for DACA recipients among immigration activists), Schumer and Pelosi said they would back a legislative package bolstering border security but “excluding the wall”—Trump’s prized proposal that Democrats have declared a nonstarter since before he took office. DACA for border security, no wall. That was the deal.None of this should come as a surprise to those who have closely watched the fallout from Trump’s decision earlier this month to wind down former President Barack Obama’s DACA program. Trump declared that the protections would end after six months and almost immediately signaled that he wanted to strike a deal to codify them legislatively. His surprising agreement on a fiscal agreement with Schumer and Pelosi—over the objections of his own party—laid the groundwork for a deal on DACA, both by handing leverage to Democrats in the next round of spending negotiations in December and by showing a willingness to work across the aisle for the first time in his presidency.Of course, Trump and congressional Republicans would need something in exchange for giving Democrats the protection they wanted for “Dreamers.” Schumer and Pelosi made clear early on what they would be willing to offer: additional border security measures—this usually means money—as long as they didn’t include funding or authorization for the massive border wall Trump campaigned on, and which he promised would be paid for by Mexico. This still left a lot of wiggle room for negotiations.As Schumer pointed out on Wednesday, Democrats have repeatedly agreed to stiffer security at the border as part of immigration deals, including the construction of “fencing” along the southern divide. The comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate but not the House in 2013 would have deployed tens of thousands of additional border patrol agents, funded 700 miles of fencing (including double fencing in some areas), and significantly expanded the use of drones and other surveillance technology. Democrats even agreed to boost border security in a smaller spending deal to avert a government shutdown this past May.In a series of subsequent tweets, Trump essentially confirmed that this would form the basis of an agreement. After denouncing DACA during the campaign and ending it as president, he defended the beneficiaries of the program in glowing words that could have been cribbed from Obama. The border security, he assured, would be “massive” and “BIG.” In another tweet, he slyly redefined what he meant by the wall. “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built,” the president wrote. In other words, while an agreement for Dreamers may not include a new border barrier, it does not stop work on the fencing that’s been in place for years and which Democrats voted to authorize under President George W. Bush.Later in the morning, Trump was even clearer: “The wall will come later,” he told reporters as he boarded Marine One. “We want to get massive border security. And I think that both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, I think they agree with it.” At a second briefing with reporters upon his landing in Florida, he warned Democrats against trying to “obstruct” the wall indefinitely—something they have made their explicit goal. “It doesn’t have to be here but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else,” Trump said, perhaps referring to the next fight over federal spending in December.Semantic disputes aside, a deal in Washington is never done until legislation is signed, and in that sense, codified protections for DACA have a long way to go. Even the victory-claiming Democrats acknowledged that significant details must still be ironed out. One aide described the agreement as “general principles.” “We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMers from deportation,” Pelosi told her members in a midnight memo. “Hopefully, we can get this all done in a matter of weeks.”In a second joint statement on Thursday morning, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump’s tweets were “not inconsistent” with the agreement they reached at the White House. They said: “We agreed that the president would support enshrining DACA protections into law, and encourage the House and Senate to act. “What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible. While both sides agreed that the wall would not be any part of this agreement, the president made clear he intends to pursue it at a later time, and we made clear we would continue to oppose it. “Both sides agreed that the White House and the Democratic leaders would work out a border security package. Key questions include: What counts as border security? Will Republicans demand additional measures to bolster interior enforcement as well, such as cracking down on visa overstays? And what exact protections will DACA recipients obtain? The DACA program merely shielded them from deportation for a period of time; it did not give them legal status. But Pelosi made clear that Democrats would insist on enactment of the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard of California that offers a path to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before turning 18 and meet other requirements.In an illustration of just how much is left to decide, Trump told reporters in Florida that he was “not looking at citizenship” for DACA recipients. But the legislation that Democrats are pushing would provide exactly that. And shortly before the president spoke, a White House spokeswoman, Lindsay Walters, used the words “legal citizenship over a period of time” to describe what Trump had in mind for the so-called Dreamers.And then there is the tricky matter of the Republican Party, which by and large has fought the legalization of any class of undocumented immigrants for more than a decade. Unlike his last deal-making meeting with Democrats, Trump didn’t even bother to invite House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to dinner on Wednesday night. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, defended their exclusion by noting that Trump is “the leader of the Republican Party.” Trump told reporters they were both “on board,” but neither issued an immediate comment. Their support will be necessary to bring any legislation up for a vote, and the forces of opposition quickly mobilized on Wednesday night.“Unbelievable!” Representative Steve King of Iowa, the House GOP’s most vocal immigration hard-liner, tweeted. “Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law breakers coupled with the reward of the objective of their crime.” He warned that Trump’s base would be “blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.” Breitbart, the conservative outlet run once again by Trump’s ousted chief strategist, Steve Bannon, blared in a headline, “Amnesty Don.”Yet as both Ryan and McConnell recognize, this would be a deal that only Trump could strike. Ryan has backed immigration reform for years and on Wednesday reiterated that deporting the approximately 800,000 Dreamers was not “in America’s interest.” But he no longer has the political standing among conservatives to lead the GOP on the issue. When Ryan reluctantly stepped forward to run for speaker in 2015, immigration was the one hurdle he had to overcome to win the support of the House Freedom Caucus. Within weeks of taking the job, he announced that immigration reform was dead for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. And in recent days, he has hewed closely to Trump’s position, citing additional border security and enforcement as prerequisites for a deal on DACA. Ryan also signaled on Wednesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, that any legislation must win support from a majority of House Republicans to receive a vote—a tough standard that helped kill the chances for immigration reform under his predecessor, John Boehner.So it will be up to Trump to sell the GOP base and their representatives in Congress on an agreement that many of them would otherwise oppose. He might also have to hammer out details on an agreement that could easily fall apart if left to the warring factions on Capitol Hill. That process began on Thursday. The president and Democratic leader might not have struck “a deal” to help DACA recipients Wednesday night, but it appears they took a significant step forward.
2017-09-14 16:04:18
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
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theatlantic.com
Republican Senators Plead for One Last Chance to Repeal Obamacare
The latest—and likely, for now, the last—Republican attempt to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act began on Wednesday with an epic, and revealing, exaggeration.“Behind me is the only thing between you and single-payer health care, a small band of brothers looking for a sister,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters as he, three other GOP senators, and one former senator unveiled a bill that would scrap Obamacare’s insurance mandates and convert the rest of the law into a block-grant program for the states.Graham was referring to that other big health-care rollout occurring in the Capitol on Wednesday: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s introduction of a “Medicare-for-all” bill that has picked up support from Democratic senators positioning themselves for possible presidential runs in 2020. The South Carolina Republican, himself a failed White House contender last year, embraced the Sanders plan as a point of contrast with his own, and he framed the consequences of failure in dire terms for his party.“We need people onboard now to stop what I believe is inevitable if we fail,” Graham said.This is what the final embers of the GOP’s repeal-and-replace effort has become—not so much a debate over the merits of the increasingly popular health-care law currently in place, but a competition with a liberal dream that remains years away from a viable shot at enactment. No matter the outcome of Graham’s Hail Mary for Obamacare repeal, Sanders’s single-payer bill is not inevitable, at least not anytime soon. Not with just 15 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, and not without Democratic majorities in Congress and a Democratic president in the White House.Graham’s argument against the Sanders plan seemed to say more about the chances for his own proposal than it did about single payer. The 141-page bill has been in development for two months, ever since Graham joined with Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to shop around an alternative to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s faltering Obamacare-replacement plans. Their pitch is federalism for health care, giving states a chunk of money and allowing them to devise insurance systems as they see fit. If they want to require individuals to buy coverage and employers to provide it, as under the ACA, they can. But with some restrictions, if they want to loosen regulations and pursue a more conservative approach, that’s an option, too.In recent weeks, Graham and Cassidy have picked up support from two Republican senators who had been critics of McConnell’s approach: Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who is up for reelection in 2018 and faced pressure to oppose the leadership’s original plan from his state’s governor, Brian Sandoval.Yet Graham and Cassidy still face two obstacles that may be insurmountable: a lack of time and Republican willpower. Under the Senate’s procedural rules, Republicans have only until September 30 to pass a health-care bill with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of a filibuster-proof 60. And after multiple legislative efforts collapsed in July, party leaders have moved on to tax reform and other issues, showing little interest in returning to yet another uncertain repeal push. Even President Trump, after angrily demanding that Republican senators stay in Washington until they sent him a health-care bill, appeared to give up on the effort last week. A narrow bipartisan fix for Obamacare under consideration in the Senate health committee appears to have a better shot at passage in the next few weeks, although its success is far from assured.For Graham, the press conference on Wednesday became as much an effort to jawbone Republican leaders and the White House as it was about selling the bill. “There’s a lot of fight left in the Republican Party when it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” he said. “The question is, is there any fight left in Washington when it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare?”Then, in a dig at McConnell’s apparent disinterest in his bill, Graham added: “The only thing stopping us from having this debated on the floor of the United States Senate is lack of leadership.” Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the majority leader was noncommittal on whether the Graham-Cassidy proposal might get a vote before Republicans run out of time. Graham indicated he got a similar response from McConnell in private. “I think Mitch would vote for it, but he said, ‘Go get 50 votes,’” he recalled.Graham also called out Trump, urging him to “pick up the phone” and lobby Republican lawmakers to back the bill, just as he had when the repeal effort came up in the House this spring. “Mr. President, help us,” Graham said. “Because we’re trying to help you.”It was another way of saying that right now, his bill lacks the votes to pass, and there isn’t much time to get them. Trump did put out a statement of support for the proposal on Wednesday afternoon, saying, “I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis.” But nowhere in the statement was a promise to help whip votes to pass it. The president’s schedule this week also told an opposite story: After a pair of meetings with a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers, he was due to have dinner with Democratic congressional leaders Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.Taking no chances, Democratic advocates and organizations blasted the Graham-Cassidy bill in a wave of statements Wednesday. They warned that it was no better than earlier repeal proposals, that it would result in millions losing coverage and sharp cuts to Medicaid. In a bid for Republican votes, Graham and Cassidy would redirect money from states that expanded Medicaid (more of which are led by Democrats) toward states that did not, fulfilling a conservative goal of ensuring that GOP-led states are not “punished” for their decisions. But that decision is likely to complicate the effort to win support for the bill, since there are a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate who represent states that stand to lose money under the proposal. Graham and Cassidy had hoped to win statements of support from at least 20 Republican governors, but so far those have yet to come. Even Heller’s governor isn’t sold. Asked about Sandoval’s support, the senator replied: “It’s a work in progress.”If it was an exaggeration for Graham to warn that his bill represents a final bulwark against single-payer health care, it’s also an exaggeration to say his proposal is dead on arrival. The Congressional Budget Office is now reviewing the measure, and McConnell has shown that the Senate can move quickly when a majority of its members wants to. Ironically, the deal that Democrats struck with Trump on spending and the debt ceiling last week freed up time on the congressional calendar in September for Republicans to revive the repeal effort one more time.But the question remains: Do they want to? And unfortunately for Graham and Cassidy, the answer so far seems to be no.
2017-09-13 23:07:01
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theatlantic.com
The Expanding Investigation Into Michael Flynn
Earlier this year, it became clear that Michael Flynn’s disclosures of his meetings and lobbying work prior to becoming national-security adviser were incomplete. On reflection, maybe the retired general would have been better off just disclosing who he wasn’t working for.Wednesday brings new details in the bizarre story of Flynn flogging a private-sector plan to build a slew of nuclear reactors across the Middle East. The idea, first revealed by Newsweek in June, was that the U.S., along with Russia’s state-run nuclear-energy agency, would build a series of nuclear power plants across the Middle East. This would assuage the desire of Arab countries to acquire their own nuclear programs, helping to keep the peace. Even better, it would be funded by Saudi Arabia, meaning that U.S. business would prosper but taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay a cent. The Arab countries would have also purchased military hardware from Russia under the agreement.The geostrategic logic here is debatable at best—its backers included other high-profile retired military brass—as is the rather grandiose nickname of the “Marshall Plan,” but whether the idea was wise or not, Flynn was supposed to disclose the trip he took to Egypt and Israel in summer 2015 in support of the plan. House Democrats say that Flynn did not disclose his travel or contact with foreign nationals, as he was required to do when he applied for a renewed security clearance. Politico adds that Flynn continued to push the project to the Trump administration during the presidential transition, after he had been named national-security adviser to President Trump, but he did not disclose that he had been paid by the plan’s backers, with whom he remained in contact. According to The Wall Street Journal, Flynn instructed National Security Council staffers to meet with the project’s principals, though it’s unclear whether this continued after Trump’s inauguration.Flynn first publicly disclosed that he had worked for X-Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge Group, the backers of the “Marshall Plan,” in a February 11 filing, but did not mention any payments. Two days later, he was forced out of the Trump administration. Flynn had improperly discussed the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration, but he lied about that fact to, among others, Vice President Mike Pence. He is also under investigation for lying to the FBI. The Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn was lying and making himself vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, but Trump has insisted that Flynn was fired only for lying to Pence, and not for his imprudence. The White House has continued to praise Flynn’s character.But the “Marshall Plan” omission is not the only case where Flynn’s disclosures failed. In 2015, he traveled to Russia for a banquet celebrating RT, the Kremlin-backed news and propaganda channel, and dined at President Vladimir Putin’s table. As a former top military officer—Flynn was a lieutenant general and led the Defense Intelligence Agency before being pushed out by former President Barack Obama—he should have sought permission before receiving payment for that trip, and he also should have disclosed it when he reapplied for security clearance in January 2016. Democrats in the House say there is no evidence he did either.Flynn also did lobbying work for a Dutch company that turned out to be a conduit for the Turkish government. Despite having once been highly critical of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership—even celebrating a failed attempted coup in summer 2016—Flynn suddenly became a cheerleader for Erdogan and an advocate for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive religious leader and ally-turned-enemy of Erdogan whom Turkey’s government blames for the coup. Flynn also failed to register as a foreign agent with regards to that work, for which he was paid $530,000, either on federal forms or to the Trump transition team, even as he took on a top job that would entail dealing with Turkey. The Trump transition team reportedly knew that Flynn was under FBI investigation over that work. Flynn finally disclosed the work under the Foreign Agent Registration Act in March.According to former CIA Director James Woolsey, Flynn was also involved in a conversation about covertly bundling Gulen out of the United States and to Turkey. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating whether Flynn was involved in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from a hacker. NBC reports that Flynn’s son, also Michael Flynn, is subject to Mueller’s probe as part of his work for the Flynn Intelligence Group, which his father founded after leaving the government. Among other things, he accompanied his father on the 2015 trip to Russia.The White House’s decision to hire the elder Michael Flynn despite a series of red flags, and an explicit warning from Obama not to do so, raises serious and troubling questions about the Trump administration’s hiring process and about the president’s claims to hire the best people. Given his record and work, Flynn should never have been entrusted with the post of national-security adviser. But the misdeeds in question are mostly related to Flynn’s personal conduct—whether he failed to disclose or seek permission to receive moneys; whether he mingled his business interests with his government work.These various stories about Flynn suggest a couple of tendencies. One was an entirely mercenary approach about his business partners, in which he was agnostic about who paid him and apparently eschewed due diligence about them. Flynn apparently had few reservations about where he was receiving income, as long as he was receiving it. Russia is an interesting case. Many Americans view Russia as a dangerous geopolitical rival (although the Obama administration attempted a failed “reset” in Russo-American relations), but while it does not explain or excuse failures to disclose under the law, Flynn had apparently decided that Russia was a prospective friend. “We have to figure out how to work with Russia instead of making it an enemy,” he told The New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle. But in the case of Turkey, Flynn abruptly switched his view on Erdogan, despite his longheld critique of Islamist politicians, when he started getting a paycheck.The second tendency is that Flynn has mixed his work in government and his private-sector work, either intentionally or because of sloppiness. Perhaps Flynn, as a lifelong military officer, came to believe that as a loyal U.S. soldier, his own interests were inseparable from the national interest. But his lobbying on behalf of Turkey and his work on the “Marshall Plan” created perhaps irreparable conflicts of interest between his clients’ wishes and U.S. government policy, especially given his access to the country’s most closely guarded secrets.Although the “Marshall Plan” provides yet another link between Flynn and Russia, if a tangential one, investigations into these matters veer toward the “red line” the Trump team has attempted to establish, insisting that although Mueller has the authority to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, the special counsel must not veer into private business dealings of the president or anyone else in his inner circle. In fact, as my colleague Adam Serwer drives home, Mueller has the authority to investigate more or less whatever he wants.It’s easy to see why the president’s lawyers would attempt to direct Mueller and other investigations away from private business dealings, and also why the Flynn cases would be cause for concern. In his indifference to his business partners, and in his tendency to mingle personal and government work, Flynn resembles few people so much as Donald Trump himself. Trump has long shown little care for who his business partners are, taking a don’t-ask, don’t-tell approach whether dealing with American organized crime or associates of the Iranian Republican Guard. And Trump has steadfastly declined to remove himself from his business empire, leading to conflicts of interest and enrichment of his business properties. Trump might not be in the same sort of trouble that Flynn is right now, but the former aide offers a cautionary example.
2017-09-13 22:55:24
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theatlantic.com
New Census Data Shows More Americans Emerging From Poverty
Eight years after the end of the Great Recession, more of America’s poorest families are beginning to emerge from poverty, suggesting that the effects of a booming job market and an expanded safety net may finally be helping the country’s most vulnerable residents. Census data released today show that the number of people living in poverty has finally returned to pre-recession levels, with poverty declining for all ethnic groups.This doesn’t mean poverty is anywhere near disappearing in America: There were still 40.6 million people in poverty last year, and the poverty rate was 12.7 percent, down from 13.5 percent in 2015. And in some cases, people are still doing worse than before the recession; the average income of people in the lowest 20 percent of households remains down from what it was a decade ago.But, despite this, the Census data points to improvements in the poverty rate for the people who had been struggling the most: African Americans, single mothers, and those without a high school diploma. “It looks like the labor market growth is finally reaching down to some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Scott Allard, a professor at the University of Washington and the author of the book Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty.The decline wasn’t just the result of an improving economy. Safety-net programs including Social Security, refundable tax credits, food stamps, and housing subsidies also helped to reduce the number of people in poverty, the Census data show. Social Security, for example, reduced the number of people in poverty by 8.15 percent last year; refundable tax credits like the EITC reduced the number of people in poverty by 2.55 percent.This indicates that the situation of people in poverty remains precarious as Republicans in Washington and in states across the country consider restricting eligibility for these very safety-net programs. Earlier this year, Republicans proposed adding work requirements for Medicaid, a program that has been shown to decrease poverty by reducing out-of-pocket medical expenses. Many states now require that recipients of food stamps, housing, and cash assistance work or volunteer to receive such benefits. Republicans have also proposed putting every American applying for the earned-income tax credit through a mini audit before they could get their refund. “I worry that the good economic news will take away from that message that the things that we know matter for poverty are on the chopping block in D.C. right now,” Allard told me. “We are seeing lots of positive developments, but that doesn’t mean we should be cutting our safety net.”Education continues to be an essential factor in determining whether or not Americans are living in poverty. Nearly a quarter of people without a high-school diploma were still in poverty last year, and the poverty rate for people with a high-school diploma and no college was 13.3 percent. Just 4.5 percent of people with at least a bachelor’s degree were in poverty last year.As millions pass from below the poverty line to above it, it does not mean they find themselves in stable, prosperous economic positions. DeAndre Hawkins, 29, is a Chicago resident with just a high-school diploma who has long struggled to pay his $350 a month in rent; sometimes, he told me, he goes without food so he can have enough money for rent and bus fare. After getting laid off from a job as a hotel clerk in 2011, he strung together part-time jobs doing food deliveries and working for fast-food restaurants. It was only last year, with the help of a Chicago nonprofit, Metropolitan Family Services, that he was able to find a more stable job with a landscaping company. It’s not what he wants to do in the long run, but it’s an improvement from scraping together enough money to eat. “It’s pretty hard to find a real job where you can support your family and start a savings account,” he told me.The declining poverty rate is closely related to Americans’ ability to earn a good wage in today’s economy, and the Census data showed that Americans’ earnings are, after more than a decade of stagnation, increasing: Median household income grew 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, to $59,039, the second year in a row that the figure has increased.A few other notable points from the report:Regionally, economic growth was uneven.The median household income in the Midwest grew just 0.9 percent from last year, which is not a statistically significant amount. In the South, by contrast, the median income grew 3.9 percent; in the West, it grew 3.3 percent. “The Midwest is the place where we should have the greatest worry in part because we didn't see any significant growth,” said Mary Coleman, the senior vice president of Economic Mobility Pathways, a national nonprofit that tries to move people out of poverty. Median household income was also stagnant in rural areas, growing 13 percent, to $45,830. In contrast, it jumped significantly inside cities, by 5.4 percent, to $54,834, showing that cities are continuing to pull away from the rest of the country in terms of economic success.Women made some progress compared to men.Women made 80.5 percent of what men did last year, but women are slowly catching up to men. The female-to-male earnings ratio was 1.1 percentage points higher than it was in 2015, the first time the ratio has experienced an annual increase in a decade. In 1990, by contrast, women made only 70 percent of what men did. The median earnings of all women last year was $41,554, compared to $51,640 for men.African Americans and Hispanics experienced significant gains in income, but still trail far behind whites and Asians.All ethnic groups saw incomes rise between 2015 and 2016, the second such annual increase in a row. The median income of black families jumped 5.7 percent between 2015 and 2016, to $39,490. Hispanic residents also saw a growth incomes, by 4.3 percent, to $47,675. Asians had the highest median household income in 2016, at $81,431. Whites saw a less significant increase than African Americans and Hispanics, of 1.6 percent, but their earning are still far higher, at $61,858.The poverty rate for black residents also decreased last year, falling to 22 percent, from 24.1 percent the previous year. The poverty rate of Hispanics decreased to 19.4 percent, from 21.4 percent in 2015. In comparison, 8.8 of whites, or 17.3 million people, were in poverty in 2016, which was not a statistically significant change from the previous year, and 10.1 percent of Asians, or 1.9 million people were in poverty, which was also similar to 2015.Health insurance coverage is continuing to expand.More and more Americans have health coverage as Medicaid becomes available to more people. About 91.2 percent of Americans had health insurance last year, up from 86.7 percent in 2013, the year before many of the significant changes from Obamacare went into effect. The increases in coverage were the most significant in states that accepted the federal expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, the Census data show, where the uninsured rate dropped to 6.5 percent last year, compared to 11.7 percent in states that did not expand Medicaid. Around 62 million people are now covered by Medicaid, up from 55 million in 2013.Income inequality isn’t disappearing anytime soon.Despite the improvements in poverty and income across ethnic groups, the American economy is still characterized by significant income inequality; while the poor are finally finding more stable footing following the recession, the rich have been doing well for quite some time now. The average household income of the the top 20 percent of Americans grew $13,749 from a decade ago, while the average household income of the bottom 20 percent of Americans fell $571 over the same time period. The top 20 percent of earners made 51.5 percent of all income in the U.S. last year, while the bottom 20 percent made just 3.5 percent. Around 13 percent of households made more than $150,000 last year; a decade ago, by comparison, 8.5 percent did. While that’s something to cheer, without a solid middle class, it’s not indicative of an economy that is healthy and stable more broadly.
2017-09-13 00:10:00
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theatlantic.com
The Looming Superfund Nightmare
The line between the acts of God and human acts has always been too blurry for our comfort. And the distinction between the two has perhaps never been less meaningful than it is now, with the Atlantic basin churning out an unprecedented slate of storms that have threatened areas across the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the southeastern coast of the United States.Yes, hurricanes are by definition natural disasters, spawned by the primordial forces of sun, water, air, and earth. But even as science is ever more certain that human activity has intensified hurricanes themselves, there are a slew of other anthropogenic problems that have intensified their horrific effects. Perhaps the greatest is the curse of chemical pollutants—artificial toxic substances absorbed and unleashed by Mother Nature.The storm-fueled spread of contamination is already an acute concern among those living in the Houston area, which was battered late last month by Hurricane Harvey. The region has several hazardous-waste sites currently managed by the federal and state governments. Among them are 13 Superfund sites. These are industry-contaminated, abandoned areas that the Environmental Protection Agency has slated for cleanup, or where it has already helped launch massive construction projects to contain the chemicals. Or, at least, that’s the goal.Parts of Greater Houston saw 40 inches or more of total rainfall as Harvey stalled over the city. The flooding caused explosions at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, which has already led to a lawsuit alleging that Arkema’s negligence exposed first responders to poisonous fumes. And pollutants have washed up in neighborhoods. Along the San Jacinto River, just across from one hazardous waste site, poisonous globules of mercury appeared on the banks days after the storm.According to Yvette Arellano, a research fellow with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, or TEJAS, residents have been more concerned about the chemicals from local industrial wastelands than they are about the floodwaters still lingering in many parts of the area. “I think we’re all exhausted,” said Arellano, who is a local herself. “A lot of people want a lot of answers.”Of particular concern to residents is a fenced-off Superfund site in Houston’s Fifth Ward community—where an old metal-casting foundry and chemical-recycling facility leached lead into the ground—and various sites along the San Jacinto. Residents smelled creosote, a derivative of tar, during the flood and saw sheens in pooling water that they feared might have come from petrochemical spills.Their concerns were captured in a recent story from the Associated Press. Reporters Michael Biesecker and Jason Dearen described how in the immediate aftermath of Harvey, one particular concern was the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site, an ongoing remediation of an old paper-mill waste dump that had once leaked potentially carcinogenic dioxins into the surrounding soil and groundwater. The site had been covered by an “armored cap” of a waterproof lining covered with rocks to keep contaminants from further leaking in the case of a flood.Biesecker and Dearen also reported that EPA officials had not yet visited the 13 Harvey-affected Superfund sites near Houston. The agency claimed the locations had “not been accessible by response personnel,” though Dearen was able to reach most of them by boat and car. The EPA criticized the story—and Biesecker personally—after it was published on September 3, though the agency did not dispute specific facts in the team’s reporting. On September 6, the EPA and its state partner, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, announced that TCEQ had completed initial inspections of most sites.David Gray, the acting deputy regional administrator for the EPA’s Region 6 office, which includes Texas, told me evaluations have continued since then. “EPA completed site assessments at all 43 Superfund sites affected by the storm,” Gray wrote in an email. “Of these sites, two (San Jacinto and U.S. Oil Recovery) require additional assessment efforts.”The “armor” part of the armored cap covering the San Jacinto waste pits—the layer of rocks—had been at least partially displaced during the flood, although no damage to the liner itself has been reported so far. At the U.S. Oil recovery site in Pasadena, where the EPA has attempted to keep used oil products from entering waterways, crews were working to vacuum floodwaters from the facilities, Gray said, adding that “no sheen or odor was observed in the overflowing water.” He anticipated that further assessment at both sites would take several days.Still, word that no major leaks have been reported may be little comfort to local communities, which already have to plan for low-level contamination incidents and the risk of further contamination thanks to regular (albeit more mundane) flooding in the area. Many of those communities tend to fall into TEJAS’s “environmental justice” category; marginalized by race, income, or both, they face the greatest dangers from contamination and the longest road to recovery.Superfund sites aren’t the only polluted zones affected by Harvey. There are several Resource Conservation and Recovery Act–managed areas—active dumping or waste sites being managed by the EPA—around Houston, too. But Superfund sites contain some of the worst hazards—old plants and dumps that operated before the EPA’s rules were in place—the mitigation of which requires federal oversight and funding. Environmentalists told me after Harvey that the agency may not be up to the task, and that its readiness is in decline.The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 established the EPA’s Superfund program to remediate or recover contaminated sites that couldn’t continue to be used. Though federal funding kicks in if offending companies won’t foot the bill, it hasn’t always been adequate.Originally, environmental taxes on chemical manufacturers and other companies supported the government’s share. But since the taxes were repealed in 2001, appropriations from the federal general fund have paid for the program. That money dwindled in the ensuing years, since Congress always appropriated less than the expected revenue from the old taxes, and the number of Superfund cleanups plummeted. Environmental activists and lawyers fear the EPA’s capabilities to monitor and manage Superfund sites are diminishing, too. And one key component of that monitoring and management is disaster response.“I see a severe problem with the lack of funding for EPA, because it renders them unable to respond to a disaster like this,” said Lisa Evans, a senior counsel at the environmental-law organization Earthjustice. “One has to budget for these inevitable contingencies, otherwise you can leave those communities high and dry.”Harvey isn’t the first hurricane to threaten people with contamination and test the EPA’s mettle. Perhaps the worst-case scenario for Houston right now is what happened in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. According to Erik Olson, the director of the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, flooding from Katrina, and from Hurricane Rita just weeks later, clearly disrupted hazardous-waste sites at dozens of Superfund and RCRA sites.“The problem is that you could see a lot of waste that was supposedly ‘under control’ getting mobilized into waterways and spreading throughout the community,” Olson said. Working with the NRDC and other environmental groups, local residents did their own water testing and “found widespread contamination around Superfund and RCRA sites.”That contamination was eventually confirmed through numerous assessments by the EPA and outside researchers. A 2009 study from Mary Fox, Ramya Chari, Beth Resnick, and Thomas Burke at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that “multiple persistent contaminants were found together in the soils and sediments sampled in Orleans Parish,” and that EPA studies of individual pollutants in soil and water understated potential health effects of cocktails of multiple chemicals at once. Subsequent studies of the Agriculture Street Landfill Superfund site found that sediments deposited around the area by Katrina and Rita contained high levels of benzo[a]pyrene, a carcinogen.Seven years after Katrina, another storm demonstrated similar environmental risks. Hurricane Sandy flooded a region with numerous Superfund sites and ongoing constructions of Superfund containment structures: New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area have one of the densest concentrations of Superfund sites in the country. “There’s lots of local contamination that happens in a major storm,” said Burke, who once worked at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA. “I think in retrospect, the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area was very lucky that in many sites the caps held, and the contamination was luckily not major.” Still, the extent of the contamination might have been underreported. As the Associated Press reported in late 2012, minimal testing and inspection by EPA officials meant the agency often didn’t even test the water or soil at some flooded locations.It’s not clear that today’s EPA is any more equipped to handle flood disasters than earlier iterations were. One of the few concrete policies proposed by current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was an overhaul of the Superfund program, so that “the EPA's land- and water-cleanup efforts will be restored to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.” To that end, the EPA has commissioned a task force for revitalizing the program and is following their recommendations.But environmentalist critics of Pruitt’s EPA argue that his plan, which will focus Superfund resources on sites “with the most reuse potential,” will merely end up channeling federal and private money into a small number of projects that can be salvaged for potential industrial or commercial use. Pruitt has also championed President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the agency—which would slash the Superfund by about one-third—as a way to “to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies.” While those cuts likely won’t be implemented in full, and even Republicans in Congress have balked at Trump’s proposed cuts, Superfund’s history would suggest that funding reductions lead to fewer cleanups—and cause existing sites to languish and become more and more vulnerable to disasters.People living near Superfund sites have been afraid of that exact thing. In a bit of tragic foreshadowing, residents of the Fifth Ward, a historically black and low-income sector of Houston, held meetings in July expressing unease with the EPA budget cuts. In particular, they were concerned about any potential lapse in protection from the lead-poisoned waste in the middle of their neighborhood, where the Many Diversified Interests Superfund site covers an old industrial facility.Officials at EPA headquarters haven’t responded to requests for comment, but the agency has pushed back against criticisms of their work during and after Harvey. On September 8, the EPA released the results of spectroscopic analysis of neighborhoods near the Valero refinery—which the agency monitors, but isn’t a Superfund site—that showed “no levels of targeted toxic chemicals were detected above the Texas TCEQ Air-Monitoring Comparison Values.” Additionally, the EPA has outlined its plans to respond to any disruption of Superfund sites by Hurricane Irma, taking steps that “are consistent with how EPA has historically prepared Superfund sites for natural disasters, such as hurricanes.” On Saturday, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the AP’s Biesecker and Dearen that in the case of Irma, “so far no sites have risen to this level [of an immediate threat] that we are aware of.”Still, the storm, which began battering the Florida Keys Sunday morning, could prove a challenge, both to the EPA’s response and to its reputation. On Thursday, Irma skirted Puerto Rico at Category 5 strength, whipping up waves that battered the coast of the main island, and hit outlying areas even harder. One of them was Vieques, a tiny island where for years residents have been battling health issues allegedly linked to a Superfund site. It contains depleted uranium and other heavy metals from old Navy munitions.Natasha Bannan, a counsel with LatinoJustice who has worked in Vieques, said that while the island’s immediate concern is surviving the storm, there’s always a level of concern about the contamination spreading. “When you are in a toxic environment, of course there’s risks,” Bannan said. “I’m not a scientist, but when you have a hurricane come through that’s moving soil and water, of course there are going to be risks.”Irma’s devastation didn’t end in the Caribbean. Over the following days, its path through Florida took it over dozens of hazardous-waste sites, including several where residents have long faced higher-than-average incidences of cancer.And Irma won’t be the last. Hurricane season is far from over, and Harvey and Irma will make large swaths of the country even more vulnerable to future storms. In all, with what seems to be an especially volatile hurricane season, multiple communities living near Superfund and RCRA sites in coastal areas will live in trepidation.The EPA could never erase that trepidation in its entirety, even if the Superfund program were again funded by polluter taxes and the agency put full remediation plans and caps on every one. The forces of nature are unpredictable, and truly catastrophic storms can destroy even well-laid protections. But currently, as sites have languished with no plan or budget to fix them, and as protections on remediated sites age, and as the agency has historically downplayed some concerns of environmental-justice communities, residents near contaminated areas have been placed in limbo.Even in places where caps on contaminated sites hold, risk remains. Most sites aren’t fully remediated, several have no firm timeline for remediation, and the caps in place degrade with age, wear, and exposure to floods. And all of this is happening as activists say the EPA has lost its ability to administer the program and cope with disasters. “The large majority of Superfund sites contain the nightmare in place,” Burke told me. But for how long?
2017-09-12 14:00:00
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theatlantic.com
An Ousted NSC Official Is Joining the House Intelligence Committee Staff
A former National Security Council official, forced out by National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in July, is set to join the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, according to two sources familiar with his move.Derek Harvey, who was the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East and had been appointed by the former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, was among several officials who were ousted this summer. That list also includes the former senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and a director for strategic planning, Rich Higgins, who produced a memo alleging a deep-state plot against President Trump.The House Intelligence committee is chaired by Representative Devin Nunes, who had to recuse himself earlier this year from the investigation being conducted by the committee into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nunes had accused former National-Security Adviser Susan Rice of having improperly “unmasked” the names of Trump transition officials in intelligence reports based on materials that he obtained from White House officials.Despite his recusal, Nunes has not fully divorced himself from the Russia investigation, and has since issued several subpoenas. Earlier in September, he sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in which he threatened to call Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to testify publicly about the Russia dossier. Representative Adam Schiff, who leads the Democrats on the committee, has publicly criticized Nunes for holding on to his subpoena power in the investigation.Harvey has previously served on Capitol Hill; a September 2016 letter from Nunes to top intelligence officials asks them to reach out to Harvey if they have any questions.In a July statement, Harvey said he was leaving the NSC “to take advantage of a new opportunity to continue serving,” and that he was “excited about the opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East under President Trump's leadership.”Harvey was one of the most hawkish members of the NSC with respect to Iran, and was seen as an ally of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. There were also concerns about his management and relationships with other agencies.Harvey did not immediately return requests for comment, nor did Nunes’s spokesman. Schiff’s spokesman said he “would encourage you to reach out to the Majority.”
2017-09-12 01:53:22
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theatlantic.com
More Than 10 Million People Lost Power in Florida
Hurricane Irma slammed the west coast of Florida on Sunday, making landfall first in the Keys and then at Marco Island, 15 miles south of Naples. Since then, it’s been making its way northward, visiting destruction on the state as it weakens.As the storm progressed through Florida, it knocked out the lights all over the state. In a press conference Monday morning, Eric Silagy, the president of the state’s largest electric utility, Florida Power and Light, estimated that more than half the state is without power. That’s more than 10 million people, which dwarfs the number who lost electricity during Hurricane Sandy, which had been the record holder for hurricane-related power problems with 6.2 million affected.Florida Power and Light is the nation’s third-largest utility and provides power to 4.9 million homes and businesses. Early Monday morning, 4.4 million of those customers had lost power, some multiple times, as the utility restored service and then it was knocked out again. “We’ve had over 5 million outages across our territory. That is unprecedented,” Silagy said. “We’ve never had that many outages. I don’t think any utility across the country has. It is, by far, the largest in the history of our company.”Already, the company has restored 1 million connections, though some only temporarily.On Sunday, the utility’s VP of communications, Rob Gould, told ABC that residents on the east coast could expect a standard post-storm restoration timeline, but that the west coast’s electrical grid would need a “wholesale rebuild.”“This is going to be a very, very lengthy restoration, arguably the longest and most complex in U.S. history,” Gould said.That task will begin very soon. The company plans to have 16,000 people, including thousands from other utilities, working out on the lines.The restoration of power to western Florida will be a test of the resilience of Florida Light and Power’s vaunted smart-grid infrastructure. The utility says it has invested over $3 billion in making its grid “stronger, smarter, and more storm-resilient.”It was standing with FPL’s CEO that President Obama announced $3.4 billion in smart-grid grants through the Department of Energy as part of the stimulus package, and when the utility finished its smart-grid installation in 2013, it was lauded as smart-grid technology’s coming-of-age moment.All the investment appeared to pay off last year during hurricanes Hermine and Matthew. All the fancy new gear prevented some outages and helped the utility get things back running quickly.The Edison Electric Institute, a utility-industry trade group, gave FPL two awards earlier this year for "Emergency Recovery" and "Emergency Assistance" because of its performance during the 2016 hurricanes.In other words, FPL’s grid was about the best the country could have brought to the table. And now, apparently, Irma has laid waste to at least a large chunk of that system.What could a “wholesale rebuild” mean?An electric grid is a complex technical system. There are power plants that feed electricity onto the grid and there are consumer loads that take the power. In between, there is connective tissue that allows for long-distance transmission of power as well as for the local distribution of that electricity: high-voltage transmission lines, substations, transformers, and regular local power lines.Generally speaking, power outages usually happen toward the edges of the network, when local power lines get snapped or their poles are felled.FPL’s statement indicates that the west-coast grid has sustained damage beyond the standard downed power lines. Pieces of the system’s core have been compromised. However, given how early they are in the effort to bring power back, they haven’t had a chance to inspect all their facilities.“We haven’t seen structural damage,” the utility’s president Silagy said Monday morning, “but I am sure we will see some.”This happened to several utilities during Hurricane Sandy in 2013—which, until today, had caused more people to lose power than any other in history. In a deep postmortem, Greentech Media detailed some of the carnage inflicted on one utility, Public Service Enterprise Group. Sandy had damaged 16 substations, one-third of its transmission circuits, multiple power plants, and thousands of distribution lines and poles. Two million of their 2.2 million customers lost service.By November 3, a few days after Sandy struck, 65 percent of PSEG’s customers had power. A week later, 98 percent of service had been restored.Given that the aftermath of Sandy is one of the parables of the electric-utility industry, it’s fair to say that Gould means that the restoration project on the western coast of Florida will take longer and be harder, despite FPL’s state-of-the-art grid.FPL operates 6,926 miles of transmission lines and 605 transmission, subtransmission, and distribution substations. Major ones are shown on the map below, which highlights that most of FPL’s infrastructure is on the eastern seaboard. The red lines are key power-import links, which run into Georgia and tap the Southern Company’s power plants. Completed in 1982, they substantially upgraded peninsular’s Florida’s electrical reliability.Florida Power and Light’s electrical transmission infrastructure (Florida Power and Light)This Homeland Security map of substations shows the relative density of electrical infrastructure within the bottom half of the state.Homeland Security electric substation map (ArcGIS)FPL’s storm preparations are a matter of the public record. Each year, they submit a report to the Florida Public Service Commission detailing their distribution reliability and storm preparedness. Two things are clear from reading this document: First, FPL’s overall reliability was excellent both in absolute terms and relative to other utilities in the state. Second, the utility learned from the northeastern utilities’ experience with Sandy. For example, it installed flood monitors in 223 substations, which are supposed to help protect critical components, though how well they worked during Irma is unknown. They’ve also been investing hundreds of millions a year into hardening the system near key locations like police, fire, and sewage stations. And they established an initiative to coordinate more closely with local governments, an area that became a flashpoint after Sandy.As the storm continues northward and the restoration effort begins in earnest, FPL’s ability to bounce back will become a test of how resilient the smart-grid and post-Sandy systems really are.Despite the huge numbers of people who have lost power, the early results have portend a faster restoration of service. Silagy, in particular, noted that the substation flood monitors seem to have performed well.“Frankly those flood monitors [at substations] saved 3 or 4 days of work and millions of dollars worth of equipment that would have had to be be replaced rather than simply re-energized,” the FPL president told reporters at the Monday press conference.
2017-09-11 17:52:22
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theatlantic.com
Why a Hurricane Like Irma Poses a Particular Challenge to Florida
The government’s biggest challenge in responding to Hurricane Irma may not be its strength as much as its size.Federal, state, and local officials had been preparing for more than a week before the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane over the Florida Keys on Sunday morning and shot north toward Naples and St. Petersburg. They ordered more than 7 million Floridians to evacuate their homes, and Governor Rick Scott said he called up 7,000 members of the National Guard and opened 400 shelters in anticipation of a devastating hit.But officials warned that Irma’s enormous size, spanning hundreds of miles and covering the entirety of Florida’s southern peninsula, could slow rescue and recovery efforts once the storm passes up the state’s gulf coast. “This is like Andrew for our whole state,” Scott, a Republican, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, referring to the Category 5 hurricane that hit the Bahamas and southeast Florida in 1992 and became, at that point, the costliest storm in U.S. history.Ordinarily, the governor said the state would position assets on one coast to be able to quickly deploy to the other once a storm hits. But because Irma is so wide and is lashing Miami and other cities on the eastern coast with hurricane-force winds as well, Scott said most responders will have to travel south from northern Florida and even out of state. “So it’s going to take us a little bit longer, though, to do everything we care to do after a storm,” Scott said.In television interviews on Sunday, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said he was worried that Irma’s late westward shift represented a possible “worst-case scenario” for the state, since it could represent the first direct hit on Tampa in nearly a century and residents there had less time to prepare. “I know our local officials have been working hard to move people,” Rubio said. “The problem we have is there's nowhere to move. The whole state is being impacted by this.”Local officials have been warning residents who did not evacuate that police and fire departments could not respond to emergency calls during high winds and dangerous conditions. Scott said that a review of traffic cameras showed that roads were clear and suggested that most, but likely not all, Floridians in the southern impact zones had heeded calls to evacuate.Scott said he had spoken repeatedly to President Trump and Cabinet officials, who pledged support from the federal government. Trump has been monitoring the storm from Camp David along with his Cabinet. Scott on Sunday morning formally requested that the president issue a major disaster declaration for the entire state, which would allow Florida to access the maximum amount of initial aid from FEMA. He also asked for volunteers to help staff shelters in the northern part of the state, and he urged people to donate to relief efforts.The federal government has been in disaster-response mode since before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, and elected officials in both parties have generally praised its preparedness, coordination, and response. “It’s been very good,” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat, said on CBS. Unlike during Hurricane Andrew a quarter century ago, he said, cooperation among the state, federal, and local governments had been “seamless.”Congress on Friday gave final approval to $15.25 billion in initial relief for Texas and Louisiana after Harvey, an action that also refilled FEMA’s dwindling coffers in anticipation of Irma. (Another storm, Hurricane José, is threatening to strike the nation’s East Coast in a week’s time.) But those ravaged states will need far more money from Congress to rebuild, and Nelson warned that Florida would need a quick infusion of federal money as well. Lawmakers in Washington, he said, would need to approve another emergency supplemental appropriations bill by mid-October.For the moment, however, officials can do little other than watch Irma and see exactly how much havoc it wreaks. “I know a lot of people around the world want to help,” Scott said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “The biggest thing you can do now is pray.”
2017-09-10 21:50:05
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theatlantic.com
The Uncertainties of Being Asked to Work During a Hurricane
People who live in the possible paths of Hurricane Irma, which could make landfall on American shores as soon as this weekend, face the difficult decision of whether to stay in place or flee. In addition to weighing the costs of leaving town, many also have to consider whether evacuating could put their job at risk.Almost as soon as government officials started warning residents of many parts of South Florida to get out of Irma’s path, people began seeking advice on social media on what rights and protections workers have during the storm. One of the most common questions surfacing on Reddit and Twitter was whether workers could be fired for not showing up to work because they had left town ahead of the storm.The answer to that question, in many cases, is that they can indeed be fired. Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law School and a former Department of Labor employee, says a major storm, even one that yields a state of emergency, doesn’t suspend labor laws. This means that laws that protect workers’ pay still stand, but because in Florida, workers are employed at-will, it also means that (barring a collective-bargaining agreement or contract stating otherwise) workers can still be fired for their absence. “You can be fired for a good reason [or] a bad reason—as long as it's not an unlawful reason, which is usually discrimination,” Block says.There are also those who worry less about showing up at work and more about how long they will be stuck there. Some workers at hospitals that will remain open during the storm are being asked to stay on the job until it passes. At least one hospital in South Florida, Baptist Health South Florida, is doing that. The hospital says this is a normal procedure that it has put in place for similar events in the past, and that it makes preparations for staff and their families to stay onsite, or nearby, during the hurricane.But confusion around these issues has been a problem in the past, including in Florida. In 2005, Orlando’s Florida Hospital was ordered by the Department of Labor to provide approximately $2 million in back pay to workers who were told to stay onsite during storms in 2004, but not paid for all the hours they remained at the hospital. Block, the law professor, says the law is clear on this: “If you are obligated to be at work and your discretion on how to use your time is limited because of responsibility that your employers asked you to take on, you have to be paid.”An administrator at Baptist Health South Florida says there’s no question about payment in these cases. “No matter how long they’re here they’re compensated for at least 24 hours, even if they left at 20 hours,” says Wayne Brackin, the hospital’s chief operating officer. “In no case ever would they be here for that period of time and not be compensated.”Major weather events bring other work-related considerations too. Block notes that when people can’t physically get to their jobs—say, because of flooded streets or downed trees—whether or not they end up getting paid for the missed days depends on their wage status. Salaried workers stand the best chance, but hourly workers only have to be paid for the hours that they are actually working, which means that they will likely lose out on pay even if a missed workday isn’t their fault.The end of the hurricane won’t necessarily mean the end of questions similar to these. In the aftermath of a storm there’s always a struggle over who will bear the cost of shuttered businesses, rebuilding efforts, and missed workdays: workers, employers, or the government. Block notes that in the wake of a major disaster, the government can choose to suspend certain worker protections, like those for safety or wages, to help businesses recover. A prominent example of that, according to Block, was when the George W. Bush administration decided not to strictly enforce safety and health protections for some rescue workers after September 11th, 2001. The result, she says, was that many workers became gravely ill from hazards at the site. A similar problem arose post–Hurricane Katrina, she says, when Occupational Safety and Health Administration protections weren’t harshly enforced for workers doing recovery and rebuilding work.After the devastation of Katrina, regulators became more attuned to worker protections, particularly for those aiding in rescue and recovery efforts. So, while storms bring devastation and uncertainty, they can expose weaknesses and gaps in the laws meant to protect workers—and that can sometimes lead to improvements before the next disaster.
2017-09-09 13:00:00
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theatlantic.com
Congress Passes Harvey Aid and Seals Trump's Deal With Democrats
Congress has delivered the first installment of federal relief to the states ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, approving $15.25 billion as part of a package that includes a three-month extension of government funding and an increase in the debt ceiling.The House on Friday morning passed the legislation on a 316-90 vote, acting barely 72 hours after President Trump struck an agreement with Democratic leaders to attach the stopgap spending and debt measures to the bill and postpone a fiscal standoff until December. The Senate approved the bill on Thursday on a vote of 80 to 17, and it now goes to Trump for his signature.With a second and potentially more devastating hurricane about to hit Florida, it was a notably swift response from a Congress that has struggled to enact significant legislation in the first year after Republicans won full power in Washington. The first tranche of federal assistance will arrive in Texas and Louisiana less than two weeks after Harvey slammed into Galveston and then flooded Houston with more than 50 inches of rain. And the $15.25 billion is likely only a fraction of what Congress will ultimately have to send in disaster relief this fall: Texas and Louisiana are expected to seek tens of billions more for long-term reconstruction efforts, and lawmakers might have to act just as quickly if Hurricane Irma causes similar damage to Florida. It’s already caused widespread destruction in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.Earlier in the week, the House in a nearly unanimous vote had approved $7.85 billion in Harvey aid. But the Senate added an additional $7.4 billion to fund community-development block grants to help the affected areas rebuild, along with the temporary extensions of federal funding and the debt ceiling. The bill also included a three-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire on September 30.While the storm relief was the most important piece of the legislation, this week’s votes also represented one of the more remarkable political moments of Trump’s first term, as Republican majorities in the House and Senate ratified an agreement the president sealed with Democrats over the objections of both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The deal came together rapidly at the end of an hour-long meeting at the White House on Tuesday, when Trump acceded to demands from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the Harvey package include only a short-term increase in the debt limit. Ryan and McConnell had wanted a much larger increase that would last through the 2018 elections, to shield Republican lawmakers from another politically painful vote and to block Democrats from demanding additional concessions in exchange for their votes.Trump’s decision stunned Republican lawmakers, who suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of an impulsive president’s desire to claim a bipartisan win. “The word that comes to my mind is bewilderment,” said Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and generally an ally of the president. “I think this caught everybody a little bit off-guard,” he said in an interview Thursday evening. Walker voted against the package on Friday.The White House spun the agreement as a way for Trump to “clear the decks” for a push on tax reform, and the president made clear that he wanted a show of bipartisanship as the nation faced not one but two natural disasters. Yet the votes in Congress were less a kumbaya moment than another display of Republican division. While the legislation won unanimous support of Democrats in both chambers, GOP lawmakers were torn between the desire to show support for the regions devastated by Harvey and their anger at the deal Trump signed off on. Trump sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney, his budget director and a former fiscal hard-liner, to Capitol Hill on Friday to round up some last-minute votes, but the effort appeared to move few members. While the bill won a majority of House Republicans, the 90 who voted against the agreement were mostly conservatives, including a large chunk of the House Freedom Caucus and even four members representing Texas. Opposition also came from four committee chairmen, including two from Texas: Representatives Jeb Hensarling, head of the Financial Services Committee, and Mac Thornberry, who leads the Armed Services Committee.Other GOP lawmakers swallowed hard and voted for an agreement they did not like. Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said in a statement that increasing the debt limit without fiscal reforms was “irresponsible” and that funding the government in three-month increments is “far from ideal.” But he voted yes anyway. “Despite my disappointment, I refuse to punish my fellow citizens who are in desperate need of help,” Gowdy explained.Trump was banking on that sentiment prevailing when he shook hands with Schumer and Pelosi. On Friday, the president got the votes he needed and a temporary reprieve from fiscal warfare. More significantly, Texas and Louisiana got a down payment on their long road to recovery.
2017-09-08 19:22:04
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theatlantic.com
Watch Cargo Ships Skitter Away From Hurricane Irma
Modern cargo ships are huge, slow machines that ply the world’s oceans, delivering fuel, raw materials, and products to power the economy.Sailing the seas is dangerous. Thanks to safer ships and weather forecasting, it’s not as dangerous as it used to be, but rough seas can sink a modern ship, as we saw when the freighter El Faro sank during an Atlantic storm in October 2015, killing all 33 seafarers aboard.This September, Irma has been beating its way across the Atlantic Ocean toward the edge of the Caribbean Sea. And cargo ships have been powering away from a broad swath of ocean to avoid the storm. In this case, many ships are seeking shelter on the west side of the islands that mark the eastern boundary of the Caribbean. Their specific routes are chosen by captains with the aid of company headquarters, usually relying on specialized forecasters who work with shippers.MarineTraffic is a service that tracks the movement of ships using Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons on board. They sent me images of ship positions from early on September 4th through September 5th. I was able to roughly match those frames with wind-track data provided by the National Hurricane Center, so you can see what it is that the ships are avoiding.In the animation below, the maroon represents the route that hurricane-speed winds took. The yellow is the envelope of tropical-storm-level winds.The ship colors represent different types of vessels: Tankers are red, cargo ships green. Pleasure craft are pink.Marine Traffic ship tracking data combined with the National Hurricane Center’s historical wind tracking data for Hurricane Irma.Already, ships are returning to routes that are behind the storm and clearing out of the areas that remain in the path. This map shows MarineTraffic data overlaid with a roughly contemporaneous image of Irma from the GOES satellite on Thursday.As you can see, many ships are still hiding from the storm behind the islands, waiting for it to pass by on its way to making landfall in Florida.
2017-09-08 17:11:03
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theatlantic.com
The Banality of the Equifax Breach
Consumer data breaches have become so frequent, the anger and worry once associated with them has turned to apathy. So when Equifax revealed late Thursday that a breach exposed personal data, including social-security numbers, for 143 million Americans, public shock was diluted by resignation.There are reasons for the increased prevalence and severity of these breaches. More data is being collected and stored, for one, as more people use more connected services. Corporate cybersecurity policy is lax, for another, and sensitive data isn’t sufficiently protected. Websites and apps, which are demanded by consumers as much as they serve the interests of corporations, expose paths to data that should be better firewalled. Software development has become easy and popular, making security an afterthought, and software engineering has failed to adopt the attitude of civil service that might treat security as a first-order design problem. And hacking and data theft have risen in popularity and benefit, both as an illicit business affair and as a new kind of cold warfare.People have started to experience data loss and theft in a new way. Breaches have settled into a kind of modern malaise, akin to traffic or errands. They are so frequent and so massive that the whole process has become a routine.Online data, like usernames and passwords, have been leaked and hacked with such frequency and in such great quantities (a hacker stole more than a billion Yahoo! email accounts in 2013), that savvy people treat their credentials as violated in advance. Breaches of more sensitive data, like bank, social-security, address, and health or employment records, have also become common. Home Depot, Target, Sony, Anthem, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and other recent violations felt shocking and violating at first, but over time that sensation has waned. With over half of the entire U.S. adult population potentially exposed by the Equifax breach, what’s left to do but shrug and sigh? I’ve got so many stacked-up subscriptions to credit-monitoring services from previous consumer breaches, adding another one would be superfluous.Most organizations affected by hacks and leaks have treated the matter with great seriousness and care, understanding that their reputations were on the line. But whether intentionally or not, Equifax appears to have leaned into the new malaise, treating this massive breach with the bureaucratic apathy one might expect from a big, faceless credit-reporting agency—a company everyone must use, but no one chooses to.The announcement of the breach, which came after hours on Thursday, offered the first sign of indifference. Media outlets, including The Atlantic, rushed to cover the matter, but details were slim. When my colleague Gillian White contacted them, Equifax offered no further comment beyond the materials they had published on an informational website. Other outlets experienced similar silence.Those websites confused the matter more than they clarified it. The company had launched a new domain, equifaxsecurity2017.com, to communicate about the breach. That site appeared, to some users, like a phishing effort. Given the option to assuage concern, why set up a new domain that would only instill more of it? Once inside, this sensation only amplified. The site offers a tool to “determine if your personal information may have been impacted by this incident,” but accessing it requires submitting a last name and the last six digits of a social-security number. That’s a lot of data to hand over to anyone, especially an organization that has just demonstrated that it cannot be trusted with it.Once submitted, the website either confirms no impact, or it offers an ambiguous response, inviting the supposedly impacted person to sign up for credit-monitoring services from TrustedID Premier, an Equifax subsidiary. Even that task cannot be performed immediately; the user is presented with a date on which the process can continue. The website also warns that no further notice will be provided to the user. It recommends marking your calendar. Even those who were not affected, according to Equifax’s confusing tool, are invited to sign up for TrustedID, making the whole affair feel like a grotesque marketing campaign.In press coverage and on social media, some have speculated that submission of the personal information requires the individual to agree to Equifax terms of service that mandate arbitration in the case of dispute. If true, such an agreement would prohibit affected parties from suing Equifax, including via class-action lawsuits. But even this ambiguity seems unclear. TrustedID Premier’s terms of use do require agreeing to arbitration to use the service, but TrustedID’s services are separate from Equifax’s. The terms page itself is identical to the one that appears on TrustedID’s stand-alone website, although it was updated the day before the breach was made public, suggesting that the company buttoned up in anticipation.Ultimately, not only is it unclear if one must agree to arbitration for access to the free credit-monitoring services—it’s also uncertain if consumers even learn the fact and details of their breached data without signing up for TrustedID, with or without agreeing to arbitration with Equifax. The whole affair is permeated with unknowable rules, some of which feel like traps.In the end, the truth of the Equifax breach—who was affected, and how, and what the company will do to help, and what the terms of such assistance entail—might not be the most important lesson from this incident. More than anything, it suggests that a corner has been turned in corporate consumer data responsibility. Like severe weather, breaches have become so frequent and severe that they can begin receding from prominence. No matter their grievous effects, Equifax’s response suggests that fatalism might replace responsibility, planning, and foresight. This is just what happens now.
2017-09-08 16:39:46
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
4 y
theatlantic.com
A Cybersecurity Breach at Equifax Left Pretty Much Everyone's Financial Data Vulnerable
Updated at 8:15 p.m.On Thursday, Equifax, one of three major credit reporting agencies, revealed that highly sensitive personal and financial information for around 143 million U.S. consumers was compromised in a cybersecurity breach that began in late spring. There are only around 125 million households in the U.S.According to the company’s statement, the cybersecurity breach started in May of this year and continued until it was discovered on July 29. While criminals did not appear to have accessed what Equifax describes as “core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases,” which help in the generating of credit scores, some pretty important personal information was accessed. According to the company, criminals were able to access the social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses for a massive—but as yet unspecified—number of U.S. consumers. The hack also included credit card numbers for more than 200,000 Americans and documentation related to disputes, which contain personal and identifying information, for some 180,000 Americans. On top of that, financial disclosures show that three top Equifax executives sold $1.8 million worth of company stock in the days after the breach was discovered, according to Bloomberg."This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes," said the company’s CEO Richard F. Smith in a statement. Equifax declined to comment further.As Sarah Jeong has written before for The Atlantic, new technologies have resurfaced old problems related to the collection—and protection—of financial data. The circumstances in present times are reminiscent of the ones that precipitated the creation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, she explains. But even with rules in place about how to separate and collect financial data from individuals, the transition to digital has brought those problems back, and they haven’t yet been satisfactorily addressed. Add to that the ongoing challenge of securing important information online—one that just about every organization faces—and the ability to harm the public in the course of normal operations for businesses built to collect and create crucial, personal, highly sensitive data becomes enormous.This breach comes on the heels of a recent finding by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government agency responsible for monitoring and regulating the financial industry, that Equifax had been deceiving American consumers, signing them up for costly products without their knowledge, misrepresenting credit scores, and violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. At the start of 2017, Equifax, along with another credit reporting agency, Transunion, were ordered to pay $23 million in fines and restitution by the CFPB. The credit-reporting industry is controlled largely by three companies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Their culling and dissemination of financial data is what allows—or prevents—people from being able to buy or rent houses, get auto loans, have credit cards, and a host of other everyday necessities.The Equifax breach, in its size, duration, and scope, is more than an unfortunate mishap. Part of the tragedy in all of this is that, those whose information has been compromised never asked to have their information collected in the first place—all major credit reporting agencies receive data directly from a host of financial companies, such as banks and credit card companies, in order to build credit reports. For Americans who want to protect their personal financial information, there is no way, in our current system, to do so.
2017-09-08 01:52:51
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
4 y
theatlantic.com
The Exploding Chemical Plant Outside Houston Faces Its First Lawsuit
“Toxicity is a relative thing.” So Arkema executive Richard Rennard described the noxious fumes emanating from a plant that had been flooded by Hurricane Harvey last week. Locals had claimed that the plant, which is dangerously close to residential areas, had caught fire—with some containers possibly exploding—and sent potentially poisonous chemicals across the area. Rennard and other Arkema officials vehemently denied those claims, claiming that the “pops” residents heard were not explosions, and that the chemical fumes leaking from the plant were “noxious,” but not necessarily poisonous.A new lawsuit filed in a Harris County district court not only directly contradicts those claims from Arkema, but paints a much more harrowing picture of the facility’s meltdown following the flood. The suit alleges that a series of explosions on August 31 spread dangerous fumes to a perimeter 1.5 miles around the plant, where it incapacitated police officers charged with maintaining that perimeter, and then even overwhelmed medical professionals responding to their calls. The suit—filed by some of those first responders who say they were made ill by the fumes—also alleges that a series of negligent decisions by Arkema and operators at the plant led directly to those explosions, and to planned explosions on September 3 that it claims spread contaminated material into the surrounding neighborhoods.The Crosby, Texas, facility, which French-owned Arkema operates, manufactured organic peroxides for the creation of plastics. Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on August 25 and stalled over the gulf region of the state for the week after, dumped up to 40 inches of rain on the Crosby plant. Its main power source went out on August 27, and backup generators failed on August 28. Since organic peroxides need refrigeration to avoid ignition, Arkema feared explosions were imminent. On August 30, concerned about such explosions, the Harris County fire marshal evacuated people within that 1.5 mile perimeter, citing “a potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire at the facility, which could produce a large amount of black smoke.”The lawsuit alleges that at least some of that buildup was avoidable. The plaintiffs cite the frequency of flooding in Houston—which has seen disastrous floods in each of the past three years—as a reason for Arkema officials to have been better prepared for the flood. According to the plaintiffs, Arkema “never heeded the warnings and ignored the foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare.” Those preparations might have included the adequate provision of backup refrigeration services in the case of loss of power, and the evacuation of critical personnel.On the day of the fires, the plaintiffs allege that first responders were required to secure the perimeter and wait for the “inevitable” explosions that would come. According to the suit, the fumes immediately sickened police officers, then sickened emergency medical personnel who were called to tend to them, and left several individuals hospitalized. Further, the suit claims that those responders had been put in the position to fall ill—and suffer potential unknown future health issues—because of the misrepresentations of Arkema executives, who have maintained that the substances leaking into the air and exploding were not toxic.Just days after the last planned explosions at the Crosby facility, residents near the plant began moving back into their homes. But the lawsuit by the first responders has some implications for them as well. Residents have been wary of Arkema’s assurances that the plants fumes weren’t anything more than unpleasant, and of claims that other forms of chemical contamination hadn’t affected their homes. If during discovery—during which the plaintiffs have sought to obtain a restraining order on Arkema from tampering with evidence—and the course of the trial, the plaintiffs find that the chemicals first responders were exposed to were more dangerous than advertised, and that negligence on behalf of the company led to bodily harm, then residents of homes within and even outside the explosion may have similar concerns about exposure.The suit, in which plaintiffs are seeking damages over $1 million, is one of a few proceedings that will probe the nature and genesis of the Crosby plant explosion. In a statement on August 31, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board announced it would launch an investigation into the Arkema processes and protocols as soon as “the emergency response activities have been completed and the facility is deemed safe for entry.”Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency, which apparently hasn’t inspected the Arkema facility in 14 years, is working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to monitor the site. On September 6, TCEQ announced “an open investigation into the Arkema incident that will include an evaluation of any impacts due to the fires at the site.”
2017-09-08 01:27:19
2021-05-08T11:09:48.000000
4 y
theatlantic.com