End Global Warming With This One Weird Trick! Tabs, Friday, June 2, 2023

I’m about a third of the way through listening to the Audm audio version of this new York Times story (gift linky) on Vienna’s “social housing” system, which since 1919 has provided public housing not only to low-income folks, but also to middle-income Wieners as well — for about 3.5 percent of “the average semiskilled worker’s income.”

In Vienna, a whopping 80 percent of residents qualify for public housing, and once you have a contract, it never expires, even if you get richer. Housing experts believe that this approach leads to greater economic diversity within public housing — and better outcomes for the people living in it.

Vienna’s wide availability of public housing even keeps the costs of private housing low. Amazing stuff. America’s worship of the mythical “free market” is why we can’t have nice things. [New York Times gift link]

Joe Biden tripped over a sandbag onstage at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony and got up again, and it’s as if Gerald Ford never even existed. Funny, though, for being on death’s door, he still out-negotiated that youngster McCarthy. [Reuters]


Chuck Schumer says the Senate will stay in session until it passes the bill to raise the debt ceiling. [Guardian]

Oh, yay, it passed, and will now go to Joe Biden for his signature. Huzzay. [NBC News]

No, Skynet isn’t here. But in an Air Force simulation, an AI drone went a little funny and “killed” the human operator who was supposed to give final approval for the drone’s attacks. This all happened in a computer, so nobody was actually harmed, although we can’t guarantee that the AI didn’t also sent a little CGI flag to a grieving spouse in The Sims. Also, nerds were pretty they recognized that plot line. [Vice] Update: an Air Force spokesperson later denied that any such simulation had actually been run, and that the colonel who told the story at an aviation conference had been speaking “anecdotally,” which we assume means “pulling a good story out of his butt.” [Guardian]

This is not to say that idiot businesspeople won’t make extremely stupid decisions about AI, using their own stupid organic brains, like the operators of an eating disorders helpline who reacted to the threat of workers unionizing by laying off their human workers and planning to shut down the phone line, which would be replaced by a chatbot. Before the chatbot was out of beta testing, the nonprofit reversed course because the chatbot gave advice that could have encouraged disordered eating. [Vice again]

That said, one of my favorite Rogue AI science fiction stories is a My Little Pony fanfic set in our own world, in which Hasbro develops an AI toy that takes its mission of building an immersive online My Little Pony MMOentirely too seriously, with world-changing consequences. Enjoy “Friendship Is Optimal.”

An intrepid reporter figured out that a small plane circling over West Baltimore for weeks was — ta da! — an FBI surveillance plane. What exactly it was looking at/for is still a mystery. A nice journalistic whodunnit, or whoflewit maybe. [Baltimore Banner]

Far Right Twitter hatemonger Tim Pool is just the latest rightwing idiot astonished to learn that Rage Against the Machine is not fond of Nazis. [Uproxx]

By complete coincidence, just hours later, horrorporncomedy novelist Chuck Tingle (Author of Space Raptor Butt Invasion and Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt) released a new ebook with the distinctly Chuck Tingly title CONSERVATIVE POUNDED BY THE REALIZATION THAT THE PROTEST MUSIC HE GREW UP ON DOES NOT ACTUALLY SUPPORT HIS CURRENT HATEFUL IDEOLOGY. It is about a Senator Porp Gringle, who’s bent on keeping everyone from having nice things — even healthcare for unicorns! He sadly realizes that his once-favorite band, Anger Against The System, is actually Angry at him. Then there’s a lot of fucking, as you’d expect. [Chuck Tingle on Twitter / Amazon (Wonkette-gets-a-cut link)

A US Housing and Urban Development program will provide $837.5 million to retrofit older public housing units to make them energy efficient and more resilient to climate change, installing heat pumps, solar panels, and improved roofing. It’s terrific, but because Joe Biden’s initial plan for $15 billion for the work got whittled down to less than a billion in the Inflation Reduction Act, HUD will only be able to upgrade a few hundred of the nearly 24,000 properties that could be eligible. Mark that one down on the list for second term goals, please, along with restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit. You wouldn’t catch Vienna cheaping out like certain senators from a coal state did. [Grist]

Speaking of climate — and are we ever not? — a report from Arizona’s Department of Water Resources this week found that there’s not enough groundwater under the Phoenix metro area to meet expected demand in the next century, which could finally put the brakes on developments in the outlying suburbs. And yet again the ghost of Edward Abbey is giving us the finger and saying “I said that more than 50 years ago!” [Washington Post gift link]

Speaking even more of climate, don’t forget that this afternoon we’ll be posting the third installment of our Wonkette Book Club discussion of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future (as ever, that Amazon link gives Wonkette a tiny cut of sales). Today, we’ll talk about chapters 31 through 50, but even if you haven’t done the reading, join us for the discussion of climate anyway. It’s not a class and you won’t be graded. I’m genuinely delighted by the quality of our discussions so far! Also, check out our previous two chats about the book! Part 1Part 2

Finally here are your traditional pics of Thornton, who went right back to sleep after I clumsily bumped the chair where his little basket bed sits. oh! oh! jail for father! jail for father for One Thousand Years!

Happy Friday!

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The world hitting ‘peak baby’ and other stories you might have missed this year

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 2022 was full of big stories.

After two years dominated by COVID-19, these headlines took attention away from a pandemic that stubbornly rages on.

We’ve compiled a list of your 15 most-read for the year.

Anthony Albanese led Labor back from the political wilderness in 2022. (AP: Rick Rycroft)

After almost a decade in the political wilderness, Australian voters returned Labor to office in 2022, led by Anthony Albanese.

While self-described “bulldozer” Scott Morrison had made a last-ditch pitch to voters to keep him in power, his unpopularity would play a key role in a raft of Coalition seat losses.

Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just one of those high-profile candidates sent packing, amidst a so-called “teal” (independent) wave.

A disgruntled-looking Novak Djokovic spreads his arms wide as he looks down at the court  after a point during a match.
The federal government spectacularly deported Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open. (AP: Kamran Jebreili)

Confusion reigned in January when nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was granted an exemption to travel to Australia without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

With Melburnians having spent more than 260 days in lockdown, there was also a fair share of public anger at the seeming double standard.

The federal government subsequently stepped in, announcing that it would deport the 34-year-old, with Djokovic spending the night in immigration detention as his lawyers appealed.

The fiasco made headlines around the world, with the world number one eventually deported on the eve of the tournament.

A man in a suit stands in front of a red backdrop.
At least 6,702 civilians have died since Russia invaded Ukraine. (AP: Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo)

News first broke in February that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorised a military operation in the Eastern European country.

As of December, war still rages in Ukraine, with scores of civilians dead and millions displaced.

A recent UN report, released on December 4, estimated that 6,702 civilians had died, with Russian forces killing at least 441 in the first weeks of the invasion.

All is not going to plan for Putin, however, with discussion recently turning to the possibility of Ukraine recapturing all of its southern territory — even liberating Crimea.

A huge grey cloud rises from a submarine volcano, as a forked bolt of lightnight hits the left side of the rising ash plume.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted off Tonga in January, causing widespead chaos.(Reuters: Tonga Geological Services)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption came to a powerful climax in the middle of January, causing tsunamis locally as well as in New Zealand, Japan, the US, Russia and Peru, to name a few.

Australia’s east coast and islands were also issued tsunami alerts, while at least six people were reported dead.

NASA later declared that the Tongan tsunami was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold smiles with the police badge behind them.
Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in a deadly siege in rural Queensland in December.(ABC News: Lewi Hirvela/Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Two police officers and a member of the public lost their lives in horrific circumstances in December, after police were called out to a property in Wieambilla, west of Brisbane, searching for a missing Dubbo man.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said Constable Rachel McCrow (29), Constable Matthew Arnold (26) and neighbour Alan Dare (58) were killed in a “ruthless, calculated and targeted execution”.

“Just such a tragedy, this should never happen,” Leavers said.

“They’re both under 30, they’ve hardly lived life and their lives have been cut short.”

Rapid antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19
Should you be asking for an antibody test to see if you’ve been infected with COVID-19?(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

This article starts with a scene from the start of the year that could well describe the situation today.

Omicron cases are much higher than official numbers, and it’s increasingly difficult to access a PCR test to find out whether or not the scratch in your throat is COVID or hayfever.

So how do you know if you’ve actually been infected with COVID-19?

Antibody tests can answer that question (depending on the time frame in which the test is done, and whether you mounted a detectable response to infection), but experts like AMA vice-president Chris Moy say there should be a clear clinical reason for conducting them.

A good example of when an antibody test might be appropriate is if someone is experiencing symptoms consistent with long-COVID.

hundreds of little human models in a big crowd
The world is now inhabited by over 8 billion people, but there may never be more children alive than there are today.

By the time you read this paragraph, the world’s population grew by around 20 people, writes Casey Briggs.

That’s about the best way to wrap your head around what it means for the world to be inhabited by eight billion people.

But while population growth has been rapid — increasing by seven billion in the last two centuries — we are now at “peak baby”, meaning there will never again be more children alive than there are today.

That’s in part because fertility rates are plummeting across the globe, although trends differ geographically: just eight countries are projected to be responsible for more than half the world’s population increase by 2050.

a young girl smiling and holding an umbrella
Charlise Mutten, 9, was on holiday in the Blue Mountains before she was allegedly murdered by her mother’s fiancé.(Supplied)

Five days after nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was last seen in the Blue Mountains, police charged 31-year-old Justin Stein with her murder.

Police alleged Stein, who was engaged to Charlise’s mother, acted alone, after Charlise’s remains were found in a barrel in the bush near the Colo River.

A number of inconsistencies in Stein’s story raised suspicions, including his purchase of 20 kilogram sandbags from a hardware store, and fuel for his boat.

Charlise lived with her grandmother in Coolangatta in Queensland, but had been holidaying in NSW with her mother and Mr Stein.

Stan Grant speaks about not being seen as a human being image
Stan Grant wasn’t afraid to talk about the big issues facing First Nations people in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. (Four Corners )

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Stan Grant’s analysis focused on the stuff “we aren’t supposed to talk about”: colonisation, empire, violence, Aboriginal sovereignty and the republic.

He wrote of his anger at the ongoing suffering and injustice of First Nations people — in particular those “languishing in cells. Those who take their own lives. Those who are caught in endless cycles of despair”.

He also reflected on the inevitable online abuse he and his family would receive in the wake of his column, before resolving not to be scared into silence.

“Why? Because a voice is all we have. Because too often that voice is silenced.”

A framed photograph of Shane Warne on the cricket pitch says 'THANK YOU SHANE'.
The news that 52-year-old Shane Warne had died of a heart attack prompted a global outpouring of grief. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

For many, “Warnie” was larger than life, a once-in-a-generation cricketer famous for reinvigorating the art of leg spin, as well as his embodiment of the “Aussie larrikin” trope.

So it was with great shock that many responded to the news that he had died of a heart attack in Thailand, aged just 52, leaving behind the three children he had with his former wife Simone Callahan.

It led to an outpouring of grief around the world, with Premier Daniel Andrews offering a state funeral and the MCG rebranding the Great Southern Stand the “Shane Warne Stand” in the Victorian’s honour.

The Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl, with drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
Taylor Hawkins (left) had been the Foo Fighters’ drummer for the last 25 years.(AP: Kevin Winter)

The announcement that Taylor Hawkins had died at age 50 came just hours before the Foo Fighters were due to take the stage at a Colombian music festival in Bogota.

Hawkins had been the band’s drummer for the last 25 years, taking over from original drummer William Goldsmith in 1997.

Apart from founder Dave Grohl (formerly of Nirvana), he was arguably the most recognisable face of the band, and is survived by his wife Alison and their three children.

Water rises over a riverfront restaurant precinct, making the restaurants look like part of the river
South-east Queenslanders were hit with “unrelenting walls of water” in February. (Supplied: Shae Laura)

In February, south-east Queensland was battered by what Premier Anastacia Palaszcuk described as “unrelenting walls of water”.

Multiple lives were lost as thousands of homes flooded, tens of thousands were evacuated, schools were closed and businesses were left without power.

It was just the start of a series of floods that would occur in Queensland and New South Wales over the coming months, devastating communities in both states.

A woman with long brown hair and a green blouse smiles while looking at the camera.
Julia Hunt wants to destigmatise public housing in Australia.(Supplied: Julia Hunt)

Victorian Liberal MP Wendy Lovell offended many in March when she told parliament that social housing should not be placed in affluent suburbs.

This article explores the stigma of growing up in social housing, and its increasing association — from the 1970s onwards — with “crime and criminality, disorder, anti-social behaviour [and] welfare dependency”.

Author Bridget Judd explores the efforts of youth worker Julia Rudd and others to combat “postcode discrimination”, writing: “For those living in public housing, it’s not an abstract policy discussion, it’s home.”

Rain on the lense
BOM didn’t have good news for us about the long-term weather outlook. (Matt Grbin)

Natural disasters (and the ongoing effects of climate change) were in the headlines again in October, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) releasing a long-range forecast — until April 2023 — for Australia’s “upcoming severe weather season”.

The state-by-state forecast warned of an increased risk of widespread flooding for eastern and northern Australia, as well as an increased risk of an above-average number of tropical cyclones and tropical lows.

None of it read like great news, as many of us are experiencing currently.

The Queen shaking hands with Liz Truss in a living room
Liz Truss was sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II just two days before the monarch died. (Reuters: Jane Barlow)

Liz Truss’ prime ministership might have lasted just 44 days, but it will be remembered for the most dramatic series of events.

Truss was famously sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6, just two days before the monarch died.

She then implemented a raft of economic measures that saw the world’s sixth-biggest economy abruptly crash, saved only by extraordinary interventions from the Bank of England.

After a series of humiliations and U-turns, the British tabloid the Daily Star then set up a live feed of an unrefrigerated iceberg lettuce, asking who would last longer, the lettuce or Truss.

The lettuce won.

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‘Living in despair and hopelessness’: A lack of affordable housing can put people’s health at risk | CNN



KHN
— 

When Louana Joseph’s son had a seizure because of an upper respiratory infection in July, she abandoned the apartment her family had called home for nearly three years.

She suspected the gray and brown splotches spreading through the apartment were mold and had caused her son’s illness. Mold can trigger and exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma and has been linked to upper respiratory tract conditions.

But leaving the two-bedroom Atlanta apartment meant giving up a home that rented for less than $1,000 a month, a price that is increasingly hard to find even in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.

“I am looking everywhere,” said Joseph, who is 33. “Right now, I can’t afford it.”

Since then, Joseph, her 3-year-old son, and infant daughter have teetered on the edge of homelessness. They have shuffled between sleeping in an extended-stay motel and staying with relatives, unsure when they might find a permanent place to live.

A nationwide affordable housing crisis has wreaked havoc on the lives of low-income families, like Joseph’s, who are close to the brink. Their struggle to stay a step ahead of homelessness is often invisible.

Rents soared during the pandemic, exacerbating an already-severe shortage of available housing in most U.S. cities. The result will be growing numbers of people stuck in substandard housing, often with environmental hazards that put them at higher risk for asthma, lead poisoning, and other medical conditions, according to academic researchers and advocates for people with low incomes. These residents’ stress levels are heightened by the difficulties they face paying rent.

“People are living in despair and hopelessness,” said Ma’ta Crawford, a member of the Human Relations Commission in Greenville County, South Carolina, who works with families living in extended-stay motels.

Housing instability — such as having trouble paying rent, living in crowded conditions, or moving frequently — can have negative consequences on health, according to the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

In addition to potentially facing environmental risks, people who struggle with housing insecurity put off doctor visits, can’t afford food, and have trouble managing chronic conditions.

Losing a home can also trigger a mental health crisis. The suicide rate doubled from 2005 to 2010, when foreclosures, including those on rental properties, were historically high, according to a 2014 analysis, published in the American Journal of Public Health, that looked at 16 states.

Rents jumped 18% nationally from the first three months of 2021 to early 2022. And there is no county in the country where a minimum-wage worker could afford a two-bedroom rental home, according to an August report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Nationwide, only 36 affordable housing units are available for every 100 people in need, forcing many families to cobble together temporary shelter.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” Crawford said. “Every motel here has a school bus stop.”

In the Southeast, evictions are more common than anywhere else in the nation, says an analysis published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Georgia has 19 evictions for every 100 renter households, according to data from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. There are 23 evictions for every 100 renter households in South Carolina, and Virginia has 15 evictions per 100 renter households. The national rate is about eight evictions per 100.

Despite President Joe Biden’s promises to address the affordable housing shortage, researchers and activists say inflation — and Democratic deal-making — is only worsening the health threat.

Last year, the Biden administration included billions of dollars in the “Build Back Better” bill to increase the number of Housing Choice vouchers — a difficult-to-get benefit that helps people with low incomes pay rent. Under the voucher program, also known as Section 8, recipients put 30% of their income toward rent, and the federal government pays the remainder. Currently only 1 in 4 people who qualify receive the vouchers because of limited funding.

But lawmakers stripped out the provision that raised the number of vouchers, a compromise to pass the bill that became known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

About 2.3 million households rely on the program to help pay rent. Joseph applied years ago but has yet to receive any benefits.

The day before her son was born in September 2019, Joseph moved into an apartment complex in southwestern Atlanta, one of the poorest sections of the city. A year later, she upgraded to a two-bedroom unit in the same complex that cost $861 a month, far less than the typical apartment in metro Atlanta.

Recently, Joseph returned to the two-bedroom apartment to show KHN its condition. What appeared to be mold surfaced after a pipe burst and the air conditioning broke, but the complex owners did little to fix the situation, Joseph said.

The gray and brown splotches were on her mattress, sofa, and other plastic-wrapped belongings. They covered boxes of diapers stacked on dressers, an Elmo doll lying facedown, a child’s sneaker, and pink onesies.

After a pipe burst and the air conditioning broke in Louana Joseph's apartment, gray and black splotches covered a ventilation grille.

A property manager at Seven Courts Apartments, where Joseph lived, declined to comment when reached by phone. The management company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A few months after leaving the apartment, Joseph and her two children moved in with her sister in Orlando, Florida, with their remaining possessions — a car and some clothes.

A lack of affordable housing can force families with low incomes, like Joseph’s, to endure health risks such as mold, vermin, and water leaks, said Alex Schwartz, a housing expert at the New School in New York City. And the trauma of evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness can undermine physical and mental well-being, Schwartz said.

For five years, Nancy Painter lived in an apartment in Greenville, South Carolina, that had mold and cracks in the walls, ceiling, and floor. Sometimes, Painter said, she carried a can of bug killer in both hands to fend off roaches.

An autoimmune disease makes her extremely susceptible to colds and other respiratory illnesses, and arthritis causes her crippling pain. But she stayed in the apartment until last year because the rent was $325 a month. Painter moved out only after the landlord made plans to renovate the unit and raise the rent.

Painter, 64, now lives on about $1,100 in Social Security disability benefits. Her poor health left her unable to keep working in a fast-food job. She pays more than 70% of her income for a room in a house she shares with other adults who can’t find affordable housing.

Such renters should put no more than 30% of their income toward housing so they have enough left over for other basic needs, according to federal government formulas. “My options are so slim,” Painter said. “All I want is a small place where I can have a garden.”

In August, Louana Joseph's son, M.J., developed an upper respiratory infection that his mother suspects was caused by mold that was spreading in their apartment.

The problems are especially acute among Black people and other groups that have been denied good jobs, mortgages, and opportunities long beyond the Jim Crow era, said Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of population health and health equity at Virginia Commonwealth University. Life expectancy can vary by 15 to 20 years between different neighborhoods in the same city, he said.

Federal lawmakers routinely fail to prioritize the nearly 50-year-old housing voucher program, said Kirk McClure, a professor emeritus of urban planning at the University of Kansas. The U.S. offers less help with housing than do other rich countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia, where voucher programs allow everyone who meets income requirements to get help, McClure said.

“In the wealthiest society in the world, we could give every poor person a voucher,” McClure said. “This doesn’t require anything magical.”

Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the voucher program, did not respond when asked whether the administration planned to push for more housing vouchers.

Joseph’s prospects of finding another home remain dim as rents skyrocket.

The fair-market rent — which is determined annually by the federal government based on a rental home’s size, type, and location — for a two-bedroom home in the U.S. reached $1,194 a month, on average, in 2019, according to a 2020 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A family of four living on poverty-level income could afford $644 a month, the report said. In the city of Atlanta, the median rent for apartments of all sizes is $2,200, up nearly 30% since January 2021, according to the real estate website Zillow.

A lack of child care has kept Joseph from pursuing full-time jobs. But she can’t qualify for one state child care assistance program since she doesn’t have full-time employment, and another state program she sought out won’t have openings until next year.

She sued the Seven Courts Apartments’ owner in small claims court in June for $5,219 to compensate her for the ruined belongings and rent she has already paid. A settlement could allow her to move into a new home.

“I am stuck because I have nowhere else to go,” Joseph said.

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