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How Ted Cruz Became America’s Least Friendly Politician

“Senator Cruz was in politics in 2012, trying to pass himself off as the greatest conservative in the world,” Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said in 2017. “What I said at the time, to him and everyone, was if you represent a coastal state, don’t do that, because your day will come.

In the end, he was another man who would succeed in leveraging Mr. Cruz’s trademark fire tactics for the presidency. After a 2016 primary campaign in which he called Mr. Trump a “pathological liar”, a “serial runner”, a “totally amoral” conspirator and a peerless narcissist, Mr. Cruz embarked on a extensive reputational repair campaign aimed at wooing support the new president and the conservative base that supported him.

Mr. Cruz’s ability to seemingly put aside some deeply personal insults – Mr. Trump suggested that Mr. Cruz’s wife was unattractive and implied without evidence that her father was involved in the murder of John F. Kennedy – has become further evidence for his detractors of the senator’s assassination. shameless political postures. This year, he led the charge to reverse Mr. Trump’s electoral loss, promoting his baseless allegations of fraud and perpetuating Tory fantasies of a stolen election. Last week, he defended the former president’s speech during his rally ahead of the Capitol riot on January 6, saying his comments were not an impenetrable offense.

“Until Donald Trump came along, this guy was the biggest interpreter of conservative politics,” said Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and housing secretary. “He was the one who was trying to position himself as the identity of the conservative moment.”

Mr Castro added: “He presents himself as a fake and he shows much more concern with himself than anyone.”

Texas Democrats like Mr. Castro saw new opportunities in the trip to Cancun, quickly calling for Mr. Cruz to step down. Republican state officials, many of whom were sitting in their own cold homes, have remained largely silent.

“Frankly, I haven’t followed people’s vacation plans,” Governor Greg Abbott told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

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A glimpse into America’s future: climate change is a problem for power grids

Huge winter storms plunged large parts of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis this week as frigid explosions in arctic weather crippled power grids and left millions of Americans without electricity in high temperatures dangerously cold.

The network outages were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up to power outages Tuesday morning. Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called for emergency reform of the Texas Electricity Reliability Council, saying the state’s power grid operator “has been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours.”

Analysts have started to identify some key factors behind the Texas network outages. Record-breaking cold weather prompted residents to ramp up their electric heaters and pushed demand for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios predicted by network operators. At the same time, many of the state’s gas-fired power plants have been shut down in freezing conditions, and some factories appear to be suffering from fuel shortages as demand for natural gas has increased across the country. Many Texas wind turbines also froze and stopped working, although that was only a small part of the problem.

The resulting power shortages have forced grid operators in Texas to impose rotating power cuts on homes and businesses, starting Monday, to prevent a wider system collapse. Separate regional networks in the Southwest and Midwest are also under serious strain this week.

The crisis has highlighted a deeper warning for power systems across the country. Power grids can be designed to cope with a wide range of harsh conditions – provided that grid operators can reliably predict future dangers. But as climate change accelerates, many power grids will face new and extreme weather events that go beyond the historical conditions for which these grids were designed, putting systems at risk of catastrophic failure.

Building resilient power grids in the face of increasingly wild and unpredictable weather conditions will be a huge challenge, experts said. In many cases, this can prove to be costly, although, as Texas shows, the costs of a network outage can also be extremely expensive.

“It’s basically a matter of how much insurance you want to buy,” said Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University. “What makes this problem even more difficult is that we are now in a world where, especially with climate change, the past is no longer a good guide for the future. We need to prepare much better for the unexpected. “

Texas’ main power grid, which operates largely independently from the rest of the country, is primarily designed to deal with the state’s most predictable weather extremes: soaring summer temperatures that prompts millions of Texans to turn on their air conditioners at the same time.

Although freezing temperatures are rarer, grid operators in Texas have long known that demand for electricity can increase in the winter as well, especially after severe cold spells in 2011 and 2018 that drove millions of Texans to mount their electric heaters and put a strain on the system.

But this week’s winter storms, which buried the state in snow and ice, and led to record high temperatures, exceeded all expectations – and pushed the grid to its breaking point.

Texas grid operators had predicted that in a worst-case scenario, the state might need 67 gigawatts of electricity to handle a winter peak. But by Sunday evening, demand for electricity had exceeded 69 gigawatts. As temperatures dropped, many homes depended on older, inefficient electric resistance heaters, which used more energy.

The problems worsened from there, as freezing weather shut down power plants with a capacity of more than 30 gigawatts by Monday night. The vast majority of these outages occurred in thermal power plants, such as natural gas generators, as falling temperatures crippled plant operations and growing nationwide demand for natural gas seemed to leave some factories find it difficult to procure fuel. A number of state power plants were also offline for scheduled maintenance in preparation for the peak summer.

At times, the state’s wind farm fleet has also lost up to 5 gigawatts of capacity as many turbines froze in freezing conditions and stopped working.

“No power system model imagined that all 254 Texas counties would be subject to a winter storm warning at the same time,” said Joshua Rhodes, a state power grid expert at the University of Texas at Austin . “This puts a strain on the electricity grid and the gas grid, which supply both electricity and heat.”

In theory, experts say, there are technical solutions that can avoid such problems. But their installation can be expensive and the difficulty is to anticipate exactly when and where such solutions will be needed.

Wind turbines, for example, can be fitted with heaters and other devices so they can operate in freezing conditions – as is often done in the upper Midwest, where the cold is more common. Gas plants can be built to store the oil on site and burn the fuel if needed, as is often done in the Northeast, where natural gas shortages are more common. Grid regulators can design markets that pay extra to keep a fleet of standby power plants in reserve for emergencies, as is often the case in the Mid-Atlantic.

But all of these solutions cost money, and network operators are often reluctant to force consumers to pay extra for warranties if they don’t think it will be necessary.

“Building resilience often comes at a cost, and there is a risk of both underpaying but also overpaying,” said Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. “It’s a difficult balancing act.”

In the coming months, as network operators and policymakers in Texas study this week’s winter storm, they may begin to wonder how and if the network could be hardened to withstand extremely cold temperatures. Are there aging infrastructures that are in urgent need of repair? Would it make sense to create more connections between the Texas power grid and other parts of the country to balance electricity supplies – a move the state has long resisted? Should homeowners be encouraged to install expensive backup batteries or more efficient heat pumps that consume less electricity? Should state electricity markets be altered to keep additional power plants in reserve?

One of the challenges is that climate change makes preparation more difficult. Overall, the state is warming as global temperatures rise, and cold weather extremes are becoming, on average, less frequent over time.

But some climatologists have also suggested that global warming could, paradoxically, lead to more winter storms like this week’s. Some research suggests that the warming of the Arctic is weakening the jet stream, the high-level air current that circles northern latitudes and generally holds back the icy polar vortex. This allows cold air to escape southward, especially when an additional warming explosion hits the stratosphere and warps the vortex. The result can be episodes of plunging temperatures, even in places rarely suffocated by frost.

But this remains an active topic of debate among climatologists, with some experts less convinced that polar vortex disturbances are more and more frequent, which makes it even more difficult for network planners to anticipate the dangers ahead.

Power utilities and grid operators across the country face similar issues as climate change threatens to intensify heat waves, droughts, floods, water shortages and other calamities, all of which could create new and unforeseen risks to the country’s power systems. Dealing with these risks will come at a cost: A recent study found that the South East alone may need 35% more electrical capacity by 2050 just to cope with the known dangers of climate change.

And the task of building resilience is becoming increasingly urgent. Many policymakers are increasingly promoting electric cars and electric heaters as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as more of the national economy depends on reliable electricity flows, the cost of blackouts will become increasingly dire.

“It’s going to be a tall order,” said Emily Grubert, electrical systems expert at Georgia Tech. “We need to decarbonize our power systems so that climate change doesn’t get worse, but we also need to adapt to changing conditions at the same time. And the latter alone is going to be very expensive. We can already see that the systems we have today don’t handle this very well.

John Schwartz and Dave montgomery contribution to reports.

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How Biden’s climate ambitions could change America’s global footprint

John Kerry, America’s new climate change envoy, has spent the past few days repeatedly telling world leaders that the United States is ready to help the world “rise to its ambition” to fight global warming. However, it could mean big changes for America’s role in the world.

Foreign policy experts say the Biden administration’s efforts must go far beyond returning to the Paris Agreement, the global pact of nearly 200 governments aimed at slowing climate change. Tackling climate change will require a reassessment of everything from US priorities in the Arctic to helping fragile countries cope with the fallout from climate risks.

“It changes the posture of defense, it changes the posture of foreign policy,” said John D. Podesta, a former official in the Obama administration. “It’s starting to drive a lot of decision-making in foreign policy, diplomacy and development policy.”

The first acknowledgment of this change is expected Wednesday, with the White House asking intelligence agencies to produce a national intelligence estimate on climate security and asking the Defense Secretary to do a climate risk analysis of Pentagon facilities and facilities. .

“The fight against climate change can, and will be, a central pillar of the Biden administration’s foreign policy,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who served as deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush and now leads the Energy Geopolitics Project at Harvard Kennedy School. “It means injecting climate and environmental issues into our trade policies, our foreign aid programs, our bilateral discussions and even our military readiness.”

Mr. Kerry, a senior member of President Biden’s National Security Council, is tasked with leading this change. Here are four big things to watch out for in the weeks and months ahead.

On the first day of his mandate, Mr. Biden began the process of reintegrating the Paris Agreement. Now comes the hard part: The United States, which is responsible for most of the greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet since the industrial age, must set specific targets to reduce its own emissions by 2030 – and policies to reach them.

Greenpeace has called for a 70% reduction in emissions from 2010 levels, while the World Resources Institute and other US advocates have pushed for around 50%.

This puts Mr. Kerry in an awkward position. More ambitious targets would give it more weight over other countries before the next global climate negotiations, scheduled for November in Glasgow. But setting national emissions reduction targets will not be so easy politically, especially with a divided Senate.

In a speech to U.S. mayors on Saturday, Kerry said the administration would seek to strike a balance between the ambitious and the realistic. “We have to go to Glasgow with reality and we have to go to Glasgow with strength,” he said.

The climate is perhaps one of the few areas of cooperation in an increasingly strained relationship between Washington and Beijing. Both countries are the world’s largest emitters and the world’s largest economies, and without ambitious measures from both, there is no way for the world to slow warming.

Mr Podesta said the Biden administration should create “a protected path in which other issues do not close the conversation on climate change.”

China is also ahead in some ways. Its president, Xi Jinping, said last September that Beijing aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, which means that it plans to capture its carbon emissions or offset them by buying credits for green projects like tree planting programs.

Mr Kerry described China’s target for 2060 as “insufficient”.

It is not for nothing that Mr Kerry’s first overtures as climate envoy have been made to European leaders. Its best chance to put pressure on Beijing is to do so alongside the other great world economy: the European Union.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly reiterated his intention to “raise the ambition” of all countries. The United States has a few diplomatic sticks and carrots at its disposal.

Mr. Kerry could use a bilateral trade deal between the United States and Mexico, for example, to persuade Mexico to open up to US investment in clean energy projects. He could encourage US private investment to encourage India to move away from coal and accelerate renewable energy.

And it could channel U.S. development assistance to help countries switch to a green economy – it’s not something Washington is known for, as Kelly Sims Gallagher, a former head of the Obama administration.

“For the United States to be seen as a country that helps vulnerable countries become resilient and enable low-carbon development, in effect promoting low-carbon development, would gain us a lot of goodwill,” said Dr Gallagher, now a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “It would be a major turnaround.”

Climate advocates have called on the Biden administration to ensure that development aid is channeled to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and to work with allies in Europe to encourage developing countries to build clean energy projects instead of polluting coal plants.

Few details have emerged from the White House on how to use US money to advance climate goals abroad. Mr. Kerry only said that the United States, having reneged on its $ 2 billion commitment to the United Nations-backed Green Climate Fund, would “honor” its financial commitment to help vulnerable countries cope with climate risks. .

The elephant in the room of a climate-focused White House is what to do with US relations with Saudi Arabia.

The geopolitics of energy had already changed. The United States had gradually become less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, thanks to the shale boom in their country. A climate-focused White House should accelerate change.

“We have the opportunity to rethink and reset our relationship in the Middle East because of this,” said Dr Gallagher. “Climate change is an additional factor.”

Barely had Mr Biden been elected when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia unveiled plans for a car-free city.

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How America’s Food System Could Change Under Biden

The transition notes from the left flank of American agriculture began to pile up almost as soon as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential victory was clear.

There were big and small pleas. Set the rules for organic livestock keeping and reverse the department’s toll on black farmers. Restore school food standards and strengthen GMO labels. Prioritize the climate crisis. It has even been suggested to change the name of the United States Department of Agriculture to Department of Food and Welfare.

Chef Michel Nischan is among those who spoke to Biden’s transition team on nutrition and agricultural policy. His pro-food resume dates back to the first Bush administration. It was his idea to double the value of food stamps for fruits and vegetables, a notion that became a national program.

He has a message for his fellow food warriors, many of whom say their problems were pushed several boxes on the game board under former President Donald J. Trump: The Department of Agriculture is a sub agency – workforce facing staggering hunger and security issues caused by the pandemic. The repair must take place before the reform.

“It’s like, we know you want us to go from meat to going vegan,” Mr. Nischan said. “But man, we need to fix the stove first.”

Tom Vilsack, who was Agriculture Secretary in the Obama administration and is expected to be confirmed by the Senate for another round, said in an interview Friday that he had already outlined his agenda.

“There are probably five very, very big challenges that need to be addressed very quickly,” he said. Topping the list is to protect Agriculture Ministry employees and people who process the country’s food from the virus, and determine what universities, government laboratories and other land granting department offices might be able to store. and administering vaccines.

The fight against hunger is an urgent issue, as are two of his boss’s other priorities: promoting social justice and fighting climate change.

Then comes the strengthening of regional food systems and assistance to farmers. “Once we are a bit on the other side of the virus itself, then we have the important task of revitalizing the rural economy that has been affected by this,” Mr Vilsack said.

Mr. Vilsack is returning to a very different department from the one he ran during Obama’s time, when he landed on Forbes’ list of America’s top employers. Morale is low and many positions are vacant, especially in agencies that provide the data and scientific research on which policy decisions are made.

“Mentally and emotionally, the career staff are just devastated,” said Sam Kass, the White House chief who became President Barack Obama’s senior nutrition adviser and spoke to Mr. Vilsack about his agenda. . “They have to start stabilizing the ship.”

Followers of the good food movement, which promotes healthy local foods grown in an environmentally friendly way by people who receive a fair wage, say that out of necessity, many organizations have grown stronger during an administration. Trump dedicated to agro-industry and factory farming. They had to find ways to be innovative without the support of the huge federal food agency.

The Department of Agriculture, with a budget of $ 153 billion and nearly 100,000 employees, manages 29 agencies and offices whose tasks range from feeding the poorest Americans and regulating food from public schoolchildren to forest management and helping farmers sell products like soybeans abroad.

Progressive food policy at the federal level had grown slowly but steadily since the Clinton administration, when California chef Alice Waters began urging the White House to improve school food and set up a vegetable garden at the White House; when the first national organic standards were introduced; and when the ministry’s attention to civil rights issues increased.

Under Mr. Obama, infant nutrition and the quality of school meals have become a priority. Michelle Obama created a permanent garden for the White House. Thousands of microcredits have been granted to smallholder start-up farmers, and climate-friendly policies have gained ground.

When Mr. Trump arrived at the White House, his supporters joked about turning the garden into a putting green. Its agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, transferred the department’s largest scientific research agencies, the Economic Research Service and the National Food and Agriculture Institute, from Washington to Kansas City, in the Missouri. Whether by design or by default – many employees resigned rather than relocated – staff were emptied, limiting agency efficiency.

Mr Trump has become a champion in many rural communities, easing regulations and paying farmers when his tough trade policies and the pandemic hurt sales.

“In my more than 40 years covering agricultural affairs in Washington, I have seen a president talk about agriculture and trade policy as much as our president,” said Jim Wiesemeyer, Farm Journal Washington correspondent, in an interview with the magazine.

But the mood was dark on the other side. “Looking back, it was pretty brutal,” said Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association, which represents a $ 50 billion segment of the food industry. “The root of it was a hyper-anti-regulatory agenda with no respect for organic produce or other forms of sustainable agriculture.”

Some, like Ms Batcha, trust Mr Vilsack, who was most recently the top executive of a global dairy trade group.

Others see it as a retread, without a fresh, step-by-step view of how to improve the food system. Not all agro-industry and commodity farmers are satisfied either. Many hoped the job would go to Heidi Heitkamp, ​​a former senator from North Dakota with close ties to rural issues. Fighters for social justice and environmental issues campaigned for Marcia L. Fudge, a congresswoman from Cleveland whom President Biden ultimately appointed secretary of housing and urban development.

In Mr Vilsack, the new president went with the experience, looking for someone who could immediately get down to work on the safety and nutrition issues related to the pandemic. The number of Americans facing hunger has risen, by some estimates, to over 50 million in 2020, from about 34 million in 2019.

President Biden signed an executive order on Friday that would increase both the amount of federal food aid for an estimated 12 million people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as Food Stamps) and the grocery money donated to school-aged families. children. He also included more money for food stamps and other federal food programs in his proposed $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package.

“Of all the problems we face in this country, for me hunger is the most soluble,” said Billy Shore, founder and executive chairman of Share Our Strength, which works to end child hunger in the United States. United States. “We are so focused on vaccine or testing shortages. There is no shortage of food in the country or food programs. I think this is a moment of enormous opportunity.

Public schools scramble to feed students even when the pandemic has kept them at home, which has renewed a call for universal school meals. The idea is to remove the administrative complexities of the $ 18 billion program and make healthy foods available to all students, regardless of their family’s income, such as bus rides or textbooks. . (Under a Trump administration order relating to Covid, all children have temporary access to free school meals until the end of the school year.)

The department could help heal political divisions by making it easier to use locally grown foods and making meals healthier for schools, said Curt Ellis, chief executive of FoodCorps and a group pushing for a summit of the White House on child nutrition during Biden’s First 100. days.

“This type of local economic development is very popular in rural communities in the Red State, as well as in urban communities in the Blue State,” Mr. Ellis said, adding that the school nutrition professionals with whom he works had made progress despite the Trump administration. Strategies.

“The question now is what can we accomplish with the wind at our back,” he said.

The pandemic has shown how fragile the food supply chain is, Vilsack said, and highlighted the need to open more regional and local markets and increase the number of meat processors so that the country not be so dependent on a handful of factories. .

Changes that many people thought were decades away, like universal school meals, stronger urban and rural supply chains, and e-commerce for agriculture, accelerated during the pandemic and the Trump administration, has said Krystal Oriadha, senior director of policy and programs at the National Farm to School Network.

Farmers, cooks, environmentalists and anti-hunger advocates – groups that often pull in different directions – have been forced to strengthen relationships based on intersectionality and a new understanding of interconnectedness and connection. the vulnerability of the food system.

“It’s a new time, with a new generation of voters pushing for ideas regarding environmental and racial justice issues like we’ve never had before,” she said. “For the first time, we can all see each other there.”

Even Ms Waters, the leader who has long relied on connections with high-profile politicians to further her quest to improve children’s education through gardening, works closer to home now. She is lobbying the University of California to replace its food supply system with a system based on a network of local farms as part of its global food initiative and to include food in the aggressive carbon neutral plan of the university.

In a recent interview, Ms Waters said that despite the change in administrations, she has given up on looking to Washington for solutions to what she sees as a broken food system.

“If we have one idea for all at the national level, it is just watered down,” she said. “I can no longer think nationally. I need to act locally. I need to go where the doors are open.

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A blow to America’s troubled democratic image

PARIS – The choreography was unusual: French President Emmanuel Macron, standing in front of the Stars and Stripes, declared in English: “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.

And so Donald Trump’s presidency ends with a French leader forced to declare his faith in the resilience of American democracy, a remarkable development. Mr Macron’s larger point was pretty clear: The throng of Trump loyalists in Washington trying to disrupt America’s peaceful transition of power was a threat to all democracies as well.

The reputation of the United States may be tarnished, but its identification with the global defense of democracy remains singular. So when an angry horde, instigated by President Trump himself, was seen seizing control of the Capitol, sullying its sacred chambers with staunch contempt as lawmakers gathered to certify the victory of President-elect Joseph R Biden Jr., the fragility of freedom was felt. palpable in Paris and around the world.

“A universal idea – that of ‘one person, one voice’ – is being undermined,” Macron said in a speech that began in French and ended in English. It was the “temple of American democracy” that had been attacked.

The institutions of democracy prevailed in the early hours of the next morning, but the images of the mob rule in Washington struck a particular nerve in fractured Western societies. They were confronted with the emergence of an illiberal authoritarian model in Hungary and Poland, and the rise of right-wing political forces from Italy to Germany. They have also been confronted with the earthiness of leaders like Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who declared liberalism “obsolete,” or Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, who offered the world the model of surveillance state. of his country as he crushed the democratic demonstration. in Hong Kong.

“For European societies, these are deeply moving images,” said Jacques Rupnik, political scientist. “Even though America was no longer the beacon on a hill, it was still the pillar that supported European democracy and extended it east after the Cold War.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “furious and saddened”. She unequivocally blamed Mr. Trump for the storming of Capitol Hill that left a woman dead. “The doubts about the outcome of the elections were fueled and created the atmosphere that made last night’s events possible,” she said.

The Germans, for whom the United States was the savior, protector, and post-war liberal democratic model, watched Mr. Trump’s attempts to overthrow the democratic process and the rule of law with particular dismay.

Their anxiety has grown in recent years because the unraveling of democracy through polarization, violence, social collapse and economic hardship has not been confined to the United States. The coronavirus pandemic has heightened anxieties and mistrust of the government. In this context, the crowds passing through the Capitol seems to reflect the disruptive forces lurking in many parts of the Western world.

If it could happen at the heart of democracy, it could happen anywhere.

Last year, as battles for racial justice raged in several American cities, German weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrayed Mr. Trump in the Oval Office with a lit match and called him “Der Feuerteufel” or literally “The Fire Devil”.

The message was clear: the US president was playing with fire. This could only wake up German memories of the Reichstag fire of 1933 which allowed Hitler and the Nazis to destroy the fragile Weimar democracy that brought them to power.

The painful memory was not limited to Germany. Across much of Europe – a continent where totalitarian rule is not a distant specter, but something people living today have experienced – Mr Trump’s attacks on an independent judiciary, a press free and the sanctity of the ballot have long been regarded as disturbing.

Ms Merkel herself began her life in Communist East Germany. She saw the post-1989 euphoria evaporate over the inevitability of a free democratic world, deflated by the rise of authoritarian governments. Mr. Trump, attacking the foundations of this world like NATO or the European Union, often seemed to want to tip the world in the same illiberal direction.

He was defeated. American institutions have resisted the chaos. Mr. Biden’s victory was duly certified by Congress once order was restored.

Vice President Mike Pence, whom Mr. Trump had tried to mobilize in his efforts to overturn the November election result, claimed Mr. Biden was the winner. Mr. Trump issued a statement saying, for the first time, that there will be “an orderly transition on January 20”. Two Senate race wins in Georgia put Democrats in control of the Senate, a final scathing rebuke to Mr Trump that sets the stage for the new president to continue his agenda.

So, is everything okay after all? Not really. The American idea and American values ​​- democracy, rule of law, defense of human rights – have come under sustained assault during Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr Rupnik suggested that it would be “very difficult” for Mr Biden to project America as “the organizer of a community of democracies,” an idea the new administration has circulated to signal a return to basic principles. from America.

For a while, the rest of the world will view the United States with skepticism as it seeks to promote democratic values. The images of the invaded Capitol will be there, for those who want to use them, to argue that America had better avoid teaching lessons in exercising freedom. Dictators of the hard and soft variety have new and powerful ammunition.

“Fractured Democracy” was the headline of the French daily Le Figaro, above a photograph of the besieged Capitol. An editorial suggested that Mr. Trump could have left office with “a contested but not insignificant record.” Instead, “his narcissism having conquered all dignity, he has manhandled institutions, trampled democracy, divided his own camp and ended his presidency in a ditch.”

There were signs that Mr. Trump’s magnetism was already waning. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a supporter of Mr Trump, quickly changed his Twitter profile picture to one showing him wearing a red MAGA-style baseball cap with the words ‘Silné Česko’ (Strong Czech Republic) , to one which shows him wearing a mask with the Czech flag.

The turmoil in Washington has finally shown that the United States is bigger than one man, which Mr Macron seemed to want to argue. He alluded to the joint American and French support for freedom and democracy since the 18th century. He spoke of Alexis de Tocqueville’s praise for American democracy. He spoke of the American defense of French freedom during two world wars.

Mr Macron’s message seemed clear. The America of “We the People,” the America which made it clear when it was created that “all men are created equal,” was still needed, and urgently, for “our common struggle for to ensure that our democracies emerge from this moment that we all live even stronger.

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America’s most prolific serial killer Samuel Little dies at 80

Samuel Little, who even outgrown predators as deadly as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy to become the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history undetected for decades, died Wednesday in a hospital in the United States. Los Angeles area, California corrections officials said. He was 80 years old.

No cause of death had yet been determined for Mr. Little, who had been serving a life sentence in a Los Angeles County state prison since 2014 for the murder of three women in South Los Angeles in the 1980s .

There was no sign of foul play in connection with Mr. Little’s death, Vicky Waters, spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in an email Wednesday evening. The Associated Press reported that Mr. Little suffered from diabetes, heart problems and other unspecified ailments.

Mr. Little confessed to committing 93 murders between 1970 and 2005, at least 50 of which were verified by law enforcement, the FBI said. He had been convicted of at least eight murders, some of which were solved through DNA analysis.

Many of Mr. Little’s victims were marginalized young black women, estranged from their families and struggling with poverty and drug addiction. In many cases, their deaths did not attract the same level of attention or outrage as other murders.

It was only in recent years that Mr. Little confessed to the California jail cell murders, his third stint in state prison. He said he strangled his victims, many of whom were originally declared to be overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes, the FBI said. The account of his crimes came after a Texas Ranger seeking information approached Mr. Little.

Last year, the FBI officially declared Mr. Little the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history and enlisted the public’s help in connecting him to dozens of murders he had confessed to.

The FBI has posted a series of creepy faith-based videos featuring Mr. Little on its website, along with sketches of his victims. The agency said at the time that it believed all of his confessions were credible.

“For many years Samuel Little believed he wouldn’t get caught because he thought no one was accountable for his victims,” ​​said Christie Palazzolo, a crime analyst with the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program at the time. from the FBI. “Even though he’s already in jail, the FBI believes it’s important to seek justice for every victim – to close all possible cases.”

In one of the videos, Mr. Little became visibly excited while discussing the murders. Asked by a detective about a woman he said he killed in North Little Rock, Ark., In 1994, Mr. Little replied, “Oh, man, I loved her. I forgot his name. Oh yes. I think it was Ruth.

Prior to Mr Little’s death, prosecutors had considered whether to formally charge him with the numerous murders in at least 14 states he had described to authorities.

The number of murders Mr. Little has confessed to has far exceeded that of well-known serial killers.

Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River killer, was convicted of 49 murders in Washington state during the 1980s and 1990s, the highest number of murder convictions for an American serial killer.

Mr. Bundy had been linked to the murder of 36 young women before being executed in 1989.

Mr. Gacy, convicted of the sexual murders of 33 young men and boys, was put to death by lethal injection in 1994.

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See where America’s intensive care units fill up

The number of hospitals with full or nearly full intensive care units has doubled across the country since early October, according to a New York Times analysis of data reported by hospitals and released by the Department of Health and Human Services. .

Currently, more than two in five US hospitals with intensive care units have achieved occupancy levels of 85% or more. When the availability of beds decreases, hospitals begin to operate in crisis mode; in California, 85 percent occupancy is the threshold to trigger regional stay-at-home orders. At the beginning of October, only a quarter of the ICUs in US hospitals were that full.


Share of US hospitals with full intensive care units is increasing





One in five hospitals has a

ICU full or almost full

One in five hospitals has a

ICU full or almost full


Source: New York Times analysis of US Department of Health and Human Services data

Most patients hospitalized for Covid-19 do not require intensive care, but those who tend to stay awhile, meaning additional patients can overwhelm an intensive care unit particularly quickly.

“When patients get really sick with Covid, they are hospitalized for weeks,” said Dr Arghavan Salles, a doctor who worked in intensive care units in New York and Arizona during the pandemic.

“It would be different if people got sick with Covid, and they were in the hospital for three days and they left. We could handle that, ”said Dr Salles. “But once someone gets sick, they’re in that room and in that bed fighting for their life for weeks.

The surge in hospitalizations across the country has taken a huge toll on health workers across the country, many of whom are treating more patients than normal. Many hospitals have added intensive care beds to deal with the upsurge in patients with Covid-19, but they still have a limited and fixed number of health workers available to care for patients.

Staff shortages are particularly critical now that so many hospitals are simultaneously facing crisis conditions, making it more difficult to transfer patients to a less crowded hospital or to hire additional staff. In November, Dr. Salles returned to an Arizona hospital where she had also worked during the summer. Things were different, she said.

“Even if you think back to the summer when Arizona had its last wave, there were several other hot spots, but it wasn’t like that now. So human power could still be moved to where it was needed most, ”said Dr Salles. “Now there are too many places and not enough people.”

Since the fall, the epidemic has spread from the Upper Midwest to the south and also to both coasts. The same goes for increases in the occupancy rate of intensive care units. Hospitals in the Upper Midwest were the hardest hit in November, but hospitals in California, the Southwest and the Southeast are among the busiest right now.

The maps below show snapshots of USI capacity at the regional level at two-week intervals over the past three months. The maps are divided by hospital reference regions – regional healthcare markets as defined by the Dartmouth Atlas Project – which offers an easy way to see changes in occupancy over time for large swathes of the country.



Where intensive care beds fill up

Occupation by reference region of the hospital

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Source: New York Times analysis of US Department of Health and Human Services data; Dartmouth Health Care Atlas·Note: Displays the average number of patients over seven days by referral region of the hospital ending on the specified date.

Hospital referral regions contain smaller health care markets called hospital service zones, which represent local markets where residents can receive most of their health care. The size of hospital service areas varies by region, but most have only one hospital.

Examining the ICU data disaggregated at this level allows for a more granular view of the pressure on hospitals, as in the map below of average occupancy and capacity in the 3,436 health zones. US hospital services for the week ending December 17.

Many Covid patients require a long stay in intensive care. For this reason, the occupancy rate of intensive care units may remain high even after the case curve in one area has flattened or started to decline, especially in more rural areas which have limited capacity. even in normal times.

In Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, for example, the number of cases peaked in mid-November. But a month later, several hospitals in those states had intensive care units that remained full.



Share of occupied ICU beds

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Source: New York Times analysis of US Department of Health and Human Services data; Dartmouth Health Care Atlas·Note: Displays the seven-day average number of patients by hospital service area for the week ending December 17th.

While a first wave of vaccinations offers hope for an eventual return to more normal conditions, many US hospitals are being pushed to their limits and their staff members have borne the brunt of the stress of the pandemic for months.

“We have taxed healthcare workers so much already for all these months,” said Dr Salles, both in terms of the physical and mental toll of the oversized workload and the emotional toll of the announcement. bad news.

“I’m just at the end of three weeks,” Dr Salles said last week of his last visit to Arizona, “but I don’t know how many conversations I can have with people sobbing across the country. the line and I have almost nothing I can offer outside of empathy.

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Video: America’s first coronavirus vaccines leave Michigan factory

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America’s first coronavirus vaccines leave Michigan factory

Workers at a Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., Packed boxes of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Sunday morning and loaded them into trucks. Nearly 3 million doses are expected to reach all 50 states this week.

[Applause]

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Video: America’s first coronavirus vaccines are expected to be delivered on Monday

new video loaded: America’s first coronavirus vaccines are expected to be delivered on Monday

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America’s first coronavirus vaccines are expected to be delivered on Monday

General Gustave F. Perna, head of Operation Warp Speed, said boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were being prepared for shipment with an emphasis on quality control.

“We have achieved the largest public-private partnership of modern times: doctors, scientists, researchers, factory workers, logisticians and hundreds of others all came together for a single purpose. This goal: save lives and end the pandemic. We checked our ego at the door. We worked collectively to resolve the issue. And we have achieved success as was identified last night by the FDA when it approved the Pfizer vaccine EUA. “Make no mistake, the distribution has started. At present, the boxes are packed and loaded with vaccines with an emphasis on quality control. Within the next 24 hours, they will begin moving the vaccine from Pfizer’s manufacturing facility to UPS and FedEx hubs, and then it will flow to the 636 sites nationwide, which have been identified by states and territories. We expect 145 sites in all states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, completing the initial delivery of Pfizer vaccine orders. “We remain nimble and adaptable to whatever the situation brings us as we work across many time zones, many areas of concern. We will manage the distribution on a daily basis. “

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Historian Jon Meacham, who wrote on “America’s Soul,” worked on Biden’s speeches.

Jon Meacham, the presidential historian and biographer, helped write the speeches for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to several sources involved, including helping to draft Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech he gave Saturday night. Wilmington.

In this remarks, Mr. Biden spoke of a mission “to rebuild the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected again in the world” . Mr. Meacham’s 2018 book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” has long served as a touchstone for Mr. Biden, who read it and has contacted Mr. Meacham in the past for information. discuss the passages he liked.

Mr. Biden’s speech-writing process is led by Mike Donilon, longtime advisor to the president-elect. But behind the scenes, Mr. Meacham played a bigger role than previously known, both writing drafts of speeches and proposing edits to many of Mr. Biden’s big addresses, including the one he ‘he delivered in Gettysburg last month and his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August.

TJ Ducklo, a spokesperson for Mr. Biden, downplayed Mr. Meacham’s role. “President-elect Joe Biden wrote the speech he gave to the American people on Saturday night, which outlined his vision to unite and heal the nation,” Ducklo said. “Given the importance of speech, he consulted a number of important and diverse voices as part of his writing process, as he often does.

A Biden official added that Mr Meacham was involved in discussions about the themes of the victory speech.

Mr Meacham, who voted for the chairmen of both parties, played an unusual role during the campaign. He publicly endorsed Mr. Biden in an op-ed and was given a top DNC slot this year.

“Saving history doesn’t mean you’re far from it,” Mr Meacham said over the summer, noting that he had been friends with Mr Biden for a long time.

Mr. Meacham is not currently expected to join the administration. But his role in helping to craft Mr. Biden’s greatest addresses has nuances of presidential historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Mr. Schlesinger worked for Mr. Kennedy’s campaign and as a member of his White House staff.

Mr Meacham declined to comment on his role.

During the Trump years, Mr. Meacham was a regular feature on MSNBC and NBC News shows, where he was a paid contributor.

The network declined to comment on Monday, but Mr Meacham will no longer be a paid contributor in the future, according to a person familiar with the decision. This person added, however, that Mr. Meacham would be welcome on the airwaves as a guest.

Indeed, Mr. Meacham appeared on MSNBC shortly before and after Mr. Biden’s speech. About half an hour after the speech ended, presenter Brian Williams introduced Mr. Meacham by saying, “I’m not the historian that you are, and I don’t have the Pulitzer that you do, but are- Do you agree that this is the way we are used to hearing our presidents?

“Absolutely,” Meacham replied, without revealing that he was involved in drafting Mr. Biden’s speech.