Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

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.


What Could Go Right? What do we owe Tyre Nichols?

Transforming a culture of police brutality, bit by bit

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Transforming a culture of police brutality

What do we owe to Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old black man beaten to death by Memphis police? It’s a question that resists answering, due not only to the morass of complex factors at play but also to the emotional resilience required to face it. 

“Just witness the countdown to the release of the Nichols video that had media gathered around like officials and spectators in the Roman Colosseum awaiting the visceral rush of that era’s version of blood sport,” The Progress Network (TPN) member Peniel E. Joseph wrote in The Boston Globe.

I haven’t watched cable television in years—I find it to be the worst offender of the media’s bad habits, from sensationalism to an overreliance on punditry—so I missed the ickiness Joseph describes above. But I think it stands in contrast to the feelings of many Americans who are not at all eager to view the video. In fact, they have avoided it, because the footage is profoundly disturbing in its own right, and because it feels like watching a play we have all seen before. How many times must we see the casual disregard of human life by those charged with protecting it?

There is a sentiment that often arises when the discussion around police brutality gets to this point, and that sentiment is shame. Once, a friend of mine here in Greece, where I live, was filling me in on the details of a 2008 Greek police shooting case. She offered by way of explaining the weeks of riots that followed, “This is not the US. We actually care about this stuff.” I felt that shame then. I didn’t know how to explain to her that many Americans do care, very much, but that we also can’t seem to find an entry point on police brutality that doesn’t devolve into partisan warfare.  

On a federal level, at least. I always find it grounding to remember that the US is a massive country with numerous police departments, which makes solving for police brutality much trickier business than in a country like Greece, with a population smaller than New York City’s and one mostly homogenous to boot. Still, though, as Americans we care for all of our countrymen and women. We feel a responsibility to fix this nationwide, as we should. But lacking a national constructive framework to do so, the shame turns into despair, and sooner or later, to apathy.

It’s critical that instead of moving toward apathy, we help each other find and follow through with any entry points that exist. Here are a couple that I’ve found useful to consider over the past few days:

1) If we can’t end qualified immunity, the law that protects police officers from civil lawsuits, on a federal level, it’s possible to do it patchwork. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would have done so federally, died in the Senate. Perhaps it may be resurrected, perhaps not. In the meantime, as this Atlantic piece summarizes, “Since May 2020, lawmakers in more than half of the states have proposed bills” that would allow people to “bring state-law claims for constitutional violations where qualified immunity could not be raised as a defense.” Such bills have been passed in Colorado and New Mexico, failed in a handful of other states, and are on the agenda in several more. So it’s something you can track in your own state.

2) Professionalize the police and “get rid of secretive ‘elite’ policing units like the SCORPION squad,” as discussed in Reason. The officers who pulled Nichols over were a part of this squad, variations of which exist across the country, elite teams that operate with “far more leeway and less oversight than do regular police officers.” Members of SCORPION, criminal justice author Radley Balko writes in The New York Times, were trained with a mere “three days of PowerPoint presentations, one day of criminal apprehension instruction and one day at the firing range.” It has been popular among many writers this week to point out that the US requires more training hours of a cosmetologist than a police officer, as well as far fewer hours in comparison to police officers in other English-speaking countries. Pushing for better training is something that you can be involved in at the local level.

Nichols’ case is unusual in that it led to the prompt firing and charging of the officers involved. The Memphis Police Department has also already disbanded SCORPION. I don’t think we can expect a sudden, large shift in the US where one day we wake up and police brutality has been banished forever in all corners of the nation. But enough local and/or state successes, taken together, could indeed be turned into the constructive national framework we’re missing now. That way, by focusing on shifts we can make happen in our own communities, we may very well wake up and see that we have, over time, transformed our society as a whole by transforming it bit by bit.

Before we go

Last week the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, which measures how close humanity is to total annihilation, was moved to 90 seconds to midnight. (Midnight equals annihilation.) It’s the closest we have ever been since the clock was dreamt up in 1947 to warn the world about nuclear threat. Jonah Goldberg in The Dispatch is excellent on why we should take this new “measurement” with a very large grain of salt.

We saw this in the newsletter of our friends at Future Crunch: “In the space of a single generation, the number of children dying under the age of five has fallen by 59%. Four low-income countries, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, and 15 lower-middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Mongolia and Uzbekistan, have reduced child mortality by more than 75% since 1990.”

Last but not least, we’ll need a lot of rare minerals in the process of going green. One study says that we can breathe easy: it seems like despite their name, the Earth holds enough rare minerals for the green transition.

Below in the links section, French mini-forests, chatbot watermarks, YouTube college credits, and more.

Oil company BP has cut its outlook for oil and gas demand through to 2050. Taking into account Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, the group says that a global push for greater energy security will lead to more investment in renewables, reducing carbon emissions in each of the three scenarios laid out. The green line represents the estimated emissions downturn if trends of the last few years stay the same. The orange and blue lines represent additional climate action. 

The silent killers sweeping the world, and a new initiative to tackle them

A Bangladesh-based international development organization is leveraging local expertise to tackle noncommunicable diseases. | Read more 

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Department of Ideas 💡
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Three cheers for gradualismPersuasion
The case for incremental change in a radical age.

Why we picked it: In a society that struggles to agree on history, facts, and future direction, is radical reform the best way forward, or would incremental improvements be more effective? —Brian Leli

Until Next Time

We could all use a fun fact about wombats. ⚡️

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.