Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.
The pandemic first today, since the light at the end of that tunnel is growing ever larger. Despite everything you’ve heard about Europe’s vaccine rollout being a total catastrophe, new expectations are that the EU will have sufficient vaccine supplies to immunize the majority of people by the end of June, reports Bloomberg. (Although Serbia is already crushing the game.) COVAX is up and rolling, with over 38 million doses sent worldwide so far.
In about a week and a half, President Biden says all American adults 16 and up will be eligible, the US is setting daily vaccination records, and 916,000 jobs were added in March, which is hundreds of thousands above expectations. It’s time for optimism about a COVID recovery, says the National Review, and we’re on board.
These are very welcome numbers from Monday:
Given all of the death, economic strife, and everyday struggle, you’d be forgiven for assuming that US suicide rates in 2020 would be through the roof. That’s what the experts were saying would happen, anyway. But, some data is in, and 2020 saw the fewest suicides since 2015, almost 3,000 fewer than 2019. It is especially interesting given that there has been a rise in suicide rates generally since the 50s, which started to reverse in 2019.
We’ve been writing a lot recently about what has already gone right. This week, something meaningful that could go right: AUMF reform. (If you know what that is before reading on, email us so we can send you an “A+ citizen” badge.)
AUMF is Authorization for Use of Military Force, aka the congressional action that both Obama and Trump have invoked to justify strikes against terrorist groups like ISIL and other enemies. “This effectively cuts Congress out of its constitutional role of declaring war,” Michael Brendan Doughtery wrote in his recent National Review piece “Is Biden Ending Endless War?” (The answer: possibly.)
Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced a measure to repeal AUMFs from 2002, 1991, and 1957 (yes, there’s one that has been hanging around since 1957). This is progress, but they’re leaving in place another AUMF from 2001 that would allow Biden and future presidents to circumvent Congress in regard to US military engagement, for example in Niger, Yemen, Iraq, or Afghanistan, all conflicts we are currently embroiled in. This means, that in addition to being beholden to the whims of whomever is president, that Congress gets to duck responsibility for endless war. If you’re an American reader of ours and you feel like you have absolutely no say in what the US does abroad, AUMFs are one of the reasons why.
The good news is that Biden has asked for further AUMF reform. “Done correctly,” Doughtery wrote, “it would provide him and his successors room to confront D.C.’s foreign policy ‘blob,’ a class of people . . . who move from sinecure to benefice, launching foreign-policy crusades while in office, and then profiting as financial consultants when out of it.”
Hear, hear. For more constructive foreign policy critique, we suggest TPN Member Robert Wright’s writing or the work produced by The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, founded by TPN Member Andrew Bacevich.
Back to what has gone right, some recent activist wins: since 2015, 70 million more chickens haven’t had to endure living in miniscule cages where they can’t even open their wings, thanks to animal welfare efforts. And Tuesday was a particularly productive day for San Jose locals, when Google reached an agreement with the city to build or subsidize over 2,000 affordable homes and turn over $150 million to a community-controlled fund.
Below in the links section, Cote d’Ivoire eliminates sleeping sickness, why fewer people are dying of natural disasters, and more.
From us: Though not as flashy as the “stimmies” we all know and love, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit could be a real game changer. It’s expected to reduce child poverty by nearly half, putting the woefully-behind US in the company of wealthy countries that offer parents assistance with the costs of raising children. How will it work and what progress might come next? Find out in our latest Progress in 5 Minutes.
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TPN picks: our suggested reads and listens this week 🤓
- Progress in 5 minutes: slashing child poverty in half | The Progress Network
- Cote d’Ivoire eliminates sleeping sickness | WHO
- An HIV vaccine based on the Moderna vaccine is showing promise | Refinery 29
- Why fewer people are dying from natural disasters | Positive News
- How Biden could end our endless wars | National Review
TPN Member originals
- The miracle of mRNA technology | Diane Francis
- Both the US and Israel are trying to define anew what it means to be a pluralistic democracy | Thomas L. Friedman
- The case for optimism: a conversation with Steven Pinker | John Horgan
- The line between cancel culture and accountability | Scott Galloway
- The high cost of poor leadership | R. P. Eddy
- What the West needs to do to improve public health outcomes | Yascha Mounk
Other good stuff in the news
- Biden calls for $100 billion to expand US broadband access | Reuters
- The biggest animal welfare success of the past six years | Vox
- New York will end long-term solitary confinement in prisons and jails | NY Times
- Researchers are hatching a low-cost coronavirus vaccine | NY Times
- Climbers clean 2.2 tons of garbage off Mt. Everest (thanks to reader Annie for this one ) | Indian Express
- There have been zero traffic deaths in Hoboken, New Jersey, for years | StreetsBlog
Globalization and Cooperation: What Technologized Future Will We Create? | Zachary Karabell | April 14
The Social Media Summit at MIT | Andrew McAfee & Eli Pariser | April 22
Brain Snack To-Go
Here’s the problem: as we know, the environmental track the world is on will soon lead to serious consequences. It’s imperative we reduce our collective carbon emissions in order to avoid them. And yet poorer countries looking to grow economically and provide their people with a better life are dependent on carbon-heavy technologies to do so.
How do we solve for that? If you’re stumped, it’s because everyone else is, too. The solutions on offer are lacking. One of them, for instance, is called “degrowth.” If economic growth is linked to carbon emissions, degrowthers reason, the only way to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce economic output. This is the kind of solution that stinks for everyone, but it really stinks for the people living in poverty who are going to have to stay there.
But the assumptions this argument rests on may be faulty. New analysis from The Breakthrough Institute shows that economic growth may not be absolutely linked to carbon emissions after all; in fact, 32 countries have decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions since 2005.
Conclusion: We may not need to choose the lesser of two evils. “It’s possible to envision a world,” energy analyst Seaver Wang wrote on Twitter, “that is prosperous, equal, and net-zero emissions.”
And we’re out. See you next Thursday.