In this edition: (1) Republicans take the Virginia governorship. (2) The FDA approves three Vuse vaping products. (3) The US and China continue to escalate over Taiwan. (4) Nineteen countries may be about to pledge to stop public financing for fossil fuels at the UN’s COP26. (5) Barbados ditches Queen Elizabeth. (6) The report about human rights abuses in Tigray was published, raising the war crimes question (again).
Housekeeping: The Stringer publishes every other week. Don’t hog it: share the love.
New pieces from me:
Experts probe zoning rules’ effect on inequality, housing availability in Tennessee: (My first piece for the punchy Tennessee Lookout) I talk to a pair of experts about whether the removal of single-family zoning would help with affordable housing in Tennessee.
What Impact Does Industrialization Have on Wages?: A jaunt into the history of industrialization and how it has changed wages and standards of living.
Bias in the Home Appraisal Process: The valuation of homes in the US is weighted by biased policies. Here’s a tour of what is known.
An Incisive History of Discriminatory Underwriting Guidelines in the Insurance Industry: Underwriting guidelines have contributed to inequality. Here’s an excursion into some of the details.
Items from the news over the last couple of weeks.
From the United States:
Virginia Is for Republicans: The Virginia gubernatorial election occured yesterday, Tuesday. The Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, won the election in an upset. Youngkin had turned the election into a proxy for many of the culture war issues, such as critical race theory, dissatisfaction with mask mandates, and parental frustration over school boards, among others. The loss is a bitter warning for the Democrats.
Vaping Breaks Good: The US Food and Drug Administration approved vaping devices, three Vuse products. This was the first actual market approval for this category of device. As someone who used to cover the industry in excruciating detail—and who’s working on a book about how the industry has interacted with regulations—this grabbed my attention. The story of the industry has been the tale of a public health tech disruption, which shows some of the gaping pitfalls waiting for those who try to innovate their way out of existing problems.
The Infrastructure Bill: The Biden agenda—Build Back Better negotiations and the Infrastructure bill—have tested the limits of the Democrats’ coalition, pitting centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin, D-W.V., against progressive members. Manchin has reportedly said that “it’s time to vote on infrastructure,” trying to uncouple it from reconcilation and accusing other Democratic members of holding infrastructure “hostage.”
Three’s Company: Biden’s presidency was pitched as anti-Trump incarnate, a complete and total rejection of Trump’s policies and style. One Trump-era policy that Biden has not sought to undo or distance himself from is escalation with China.
Biden’s administration has redirected resources and shored up alliances in the Asian Pacific, tried to check China’s influence with its Build Back Better World, and tried to reorganize its military pacts with AUKUS. In a Trump-like move, President Biden himself has now said that the US would back Taiwan if China attacked it, leaving his staff to “scrambling” (in the words of The Hill’s coverage) to insist that the US isn’t shifting its policy. Here’s an NPR rundown.
Since that comment, the White House has walked back the comment. However, tensions with China have remained high at COP26 and in negotiations. The US has continued to sell arms to Taiwan and has even given Taiwan more vaccines.
Fossil Fuel Off the Public Dole: This week, COP26, the United Nation’s climate change conference, began. Among the news to come from the conference so far, Reuters has reported that at least 19 countries intend to pledge to cease public funding for fossil fuel projects by the end of the year.
Meet the New Boss: Barbados elected Dame Sandra Mason. She will serve as their first president. The country is establishing itself as a republic which involves ditching Queen Elizabeth as the head of the state later this year. Barbados Mia Mottley, the country’s prime minister, gave a much-praised speech at COP26.
War Crimes By Any Other Name: The United States pulled Ethiopia’s special trade status this week over the atrocities in Tigray. They have been actively blocking aid and humanitarian assistance to the region, further imperiling the already beleagured civilians.
The only report on the atrocities commited in the region that we’re likely to get was published today, Wednesday. It reports harrowing killings, weaponized rape, forced displacement, looting, and other brutalities from all sides of the conflict.
The phrase war crimes has made another serious appearance, although it has not been said declaratively by an international body yet.
This time in the UN report:
“The Joint Investigation Team has found serious abuses and violations of human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, committed by the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Eritrean Defense Force, Tigray Special Forces and allied militia, Amhara Special Forces and allied militia, as well as other affiliated parties to the conflict,” the report said, “The Joint Investigation Team has reasonable grounds to believe that a number of these violation may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, which require further investigation to ensure accountabiliy.”
Reportedly, the US State Department is preparing a declaration that would label Ethiopia’s actions in Tigray as a genocide.