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Reprinted with permission from Uexpress.

 

Meanwhile, in other disasters, Planet Earth is doomed.

Or so says writer Roy Scranton in an essay published this week (July 16) in The New York Times. Scranton is no climatologist — in fact, he is a college English professor — but he has immersed himself in the science of climate change, writing a book of essays called “We’re Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change.”

And this is his conclusion: “Anyone who pays much attention to climate change knows the outlook is grim. … The middle and later decades of the 21st century — my daughter’s adult life — promise a global catastrophe whose full implications any reasonable person must turn away from in horror.”

As a journalist, I have spent my adult life poring over (and writing a few) news articles and feature stories about natural disasters, wartime atrocities and all sorts of mayhem and madness. And this piece would easily have been the most depressing thing I’d ever read if I hadn’t already digested Scranton’s 2013 essay, “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene,” in which he suggests that the best we can do at this point is adapt to the death of human civilization as we know it.

Yes, President Donald J. Trump is behaving toward Russia in a manner that can only be described as treasonous. Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court is lost to progressive causes for the rest of my life. Yes, the Republican Party, in thrall to Trump, has clearly chosen partisanship over patriotism. And, yes, Trump will go down in history as one of the nation’s worst presidents (if not the worst).

But that assumes a history to judge him. Scranton says there might not be one. And he is not alone. In 2017, the late and legendary physicist Stephen Hawking was featured in a BBC documentary, “Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth,” in which he predicted that humanity has only 100 years to find a new planet to colonize — or face extinction.

Among the people paying attention to these grim predictions are men and women of childbearing age. Some, according to news reports, are reconsidering parenthood because of the disastrous ecological effects of climate change. Not only are they afraid of the desperate lives their children may inherit, but they are also heeding the warnings of some environmentalists, who argue that the best thing anyone can do for the planet is refuse to reproduce.

They represent the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from the doubters, the skeptics, the deniers who compose much of Trump’s base. With the encouragement of leading Republicans, those conservative voters dismiss the science of climate change as “fake news.” Trump has led the leap down the rabbit hole, infamously insisting during the presidential campaign that climate change is a “hoax.”

How could anyone deny the evidence all around us?

Nine all-time temperature records have been broken this summer; 2018 is on track to be the fifth-hottest year on record. The hottest years, by the way, are all in the 2010s. New England, where vacationers from other regions frequently go to cool off, suffered through a searing heat wave in late June. Public health officials linked 53 deaths to a heat wave in Montreal.

Global warming doesn’t just produce higher temperatures; it fuels all sorts of extreme weather events, including more droughts, which will lead to more wildfires, more rainfall (that’s counterintuitive, but warmer air holds more moisture) and, because of rising ocean levels, more flooding. Japan is enduring two of those extremes: Just after hundreds were killed when torrential rainfall provoked flooding and mudslides, a scalding heat wave struck, adding to the death toll.

It’s hard to know how to prepare a child for the future we will bequeath to them, but I can teach my 9-year-old not only responsible stewardship of the environment, but also resilience and resourcefulness. I will try to pass on to her some of her grandmother’s old-school habits, such as gardening and canning.

And I will hope and pray that her generation inherits a bit of luck along with the catastrophe that we are leaving to them.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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