Daily Digest 9/26 – Bezos Breaks His Climate Pledge, How the Pandemic Will Finally End


How Do You Know If You’re Living Through the Death of an Empire? (Merle2)

I spent the better part of a decade thinking about the end of the Roman Empire in its various manifestations. Academics, being academics, agree on very little about the topic. The idea of “fall” is now passé, for better and for worse; scholars prefer to speak of a “transformation” of the Roman world taking place over centuries, or better still, a long, culturally distinct, and important-in-its-own-right Late Antiquity spanning the Mediterranean world and beyond. If the Roman Empire did ever come to a real end, all agree, it was a long, slow process spanning many lifetimes—hardly the stuff of dramatic narratives. There are still a few catastrophists out there, but not many.

SEC Raises Bar for Shareholder Resolutions (000)

Commissioners voted 3-2 to pass a final rule requiring shareholders to hold $25,000 of stock for a year, up from $2,000 currently, in order to submit such proposals. That threshold will fall to $15,000 after two years of ownership and to $2,000 after three years, setting a sliding scale that gives priority to longer-term shareholders.

The new rule also raised the percentage of votes that proposals must receive to be resubmitted—and prohibits multiple shareholders who don’t individually meet the minimum thresholds from joining together to submit a proposal.

Stakeholder Capitalism Gets a Report Card. It’s Not Good. (jdargis)

Financed by the Ford Foundation, the study is the work of KKS Advisors, a consultancy that counsels companies on environmental policy, and The Test of Corporate Purpose, a group of researchers convened to assess how corporations have responded to the pandemic and the movement against racial injustice. Its advisory board includes a professor of management at the University of Oxford, and senior executives from financial firms including Morgan Stanley and Liberty Mutual.

At Pentagon, Fears Grow That Trump Will Pull Military Into Election Unrest (000)

President Trump gave officials no solace on Wednesday and Thursday when he again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election, and on Thursday, he doubled down by saying he was not sure the election could be “honest.” His hedging, along with his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has incited deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections.

‘There will be an orderly transition’: McConnell dismisses Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer (tmn)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted Thursday: “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

On his way to the Senate floor after his tweet, McConnell ignored a reporter’s question on what he would do if Trump refuses to step down and whether he’d insist he do so.

We Aren’t Nationally Mourning The 200,000 COVID-19 Victims Because If We Did It Would Be A Reckoning (tmn)

Instead, at the highest levels of government, there have been attempts to downplay the severity of the pandemic and even discount the dead. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump insisted that the number of deaths from the coronavirus in the US — the highest in the world — was much lower “if you take the blue states out.” At a rally on Monday night, he told supporters, “it affects virtually nobody.”

Among people of color asked to join Covid-19 vaccine trials, worries about inequities run deep (tmn)

Lurking underneath both of those interactions was that old, oh-so-American anxiety about being unable to get medical care. It was just one of the everyday inequalities that made would-be volunteers hesitant as researchers scrambled to include more people of color in their studies — a must to ensure that the shots are equally safe and effective for everyone.

Comparative experimental evidence on compliance with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic (Stephan N.)

Compliance varies systematically with COVID-19 fatalities and the strictness of lockdown measures. We also find substantial heterogeneity in the role of individual-level predictors. While there is an ideological gap in social distancing in the US and New Zealand, this is not the case in European countries. Taken together, our results suggest caution when trying to model pandemic health policies on other countries’ experiences. Behavioral interventions targeted towards specific demographics that work in one context might fail in another.

Here’s How the Pandemic Finally Ends (tmn)

They agree there’s a lot of fog left in the Covid-19 crystal ball, but most accept several likelihoods: At least one effective vaccine—hopefully several—will be approved in the U.S. by early next year. Producing and distributing a vaccine will take months, with the average American not receiving their dose (or doses) until at least mid- or late 2021. And while widespread inoculation will play a large role in bringing life back to normal, getting the shot will not be your cue to take off your mask and run free into a crowded bar. The end of the pandemic will be an evolution, not a revolution, the vaccine just another powerful tool in that process.

Bezos breaks his climate pledge (tmn)

According to a report from E&E News on Monday, the Amazon founder and CEO “promised in February to pour at least $10 billion of his personal fortune into fighting climate change, and [said] that the effort would ‘begin issuing grants this summer.’ [Tuesday] is the first day of fall, and the Bezos Earth Fund — as he dubbed the venture — has yet to announce a single grant. Further, there’s been little public evidence of much other work or spending.”

Amazon did not respond to E&E News’s requests for such evidence. A spokesperson wouldn’t even go on the record to decline comment.

Why dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ are allowed in US drinking water (000)

PFAS compounds are also ubiquitous, used in a range of products, from food-delivery boxes to nonstick cookware to stain-resistant clothing. But one of the most troubling routes to PFAS exposure is drinking water that has been contaminated by discharges from factories and other facilities.

Indeed, PFAS have been detected in the drinking water of more than 1,400 communities in 49 states, according to research by the PFAS Project at Northeastern University in Boston and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization that estimates that 110 million people may have tap water contaminated with the chemicals.

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