Four (more) non-traditional politics stories


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Railroad trouble, drought, Aussie football, bodybuilders

It’s time, once again, for The Daily 202 feature that generates the most friendly reader feedback: When we take four pieces that are about politics but without the traditional trappings of political news, like candidates, polling, or tediously spiteful anonymice (plural for anonymouse sources).

Today’s installment features two developments with potentially earthshaking ramifications for the economy, one largely symbolic gesture in the frequently political world of sports, and yet another industry revealed to have long tolerated abuse of women.

Uh-oh. That averted railroad strike isn’t looking so averted

Back in September, President Biden went to the Rose Garden to cheer an apparent deal to avert what would have been a terribly damaging railroad strike. The tentative agreement, which needed formal adoption by organized labor, grew out of extensive administration outreach.

In theory, pending union approval, his administration had turned aside the threat of a strike that would have dealt a terrible blow to supply chains already strained by covid, fueling inflation and shortages.

On Wednesday, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen union, which represents about 6,000 members, became the second union to vote against ratifying the agreement. Six of the 12 unions involved have voted in favor.

All of this sets up the possibility of a year-end strike. Josh Funk of the Associated Press reports: “the two biggest unions that represent conductors and engineers, who are most affected by the railroads’ demanding schedules, won’t announce their votes until mid-November.”

Drought weakens the Mississippi River

The Daily 202 has flagged water shortages as important political stories before they cross state boundaries and affect everything from drinking water to commercial traffic to agriculture.

My colleagues Brady Dennis, Laris Karklis, Scott Dance and Tim Meko filed this scary report about the iconic Mississippi River, its water levels at historic lows due to months of drought.

“For weeks now, that slow-moving crisis has made it difficult, if not impossible, to move barges down a river that serves as a highway for about 60 percent of the nation’s foreign-bound corn and soybeans,” they reported.

Their piece stitches together a phenomenon that is social (tourists coming to see), economics (trade and agriculture), engineering (the technology of harnessing the river) and of course has a major political dimension as humanity tries to solve a very big problem.

Socceroos take a stand on Qatar

The Australian men’s national soccer team the Socceroos have done something no other squad has done in the run up to the World Cup being played in Qatar. They have issued a sharp collective condemnation of the Gulf monarchy’s human rights record. 

The Socceroos put out a video today that features 16 players individually speaking to the camera about the “suffering” of migrant workers in Qatar and discrimination against LGBTQ people.

While there have been reforms “in paper, and in practice” the implementation has been “inconsistent and requires improvement.” They cite “the suffering and … the harm of countless of our fellow workers” who moved to Qatar for jobs, and how LGBTQ people are “not free to love the person that they choose.”

Will other countries join in? Will Qatar respond?

The sexual exploitation of female bodybuilders

“Officials of bodybuilding’s two premier federations have been sexually exploiting female athletes for decades — pressuring them to pose for nude photographs, posting those photos to soft-core pornography sites, and, at times, manipulating contest results in favor of cooperative competitors, a Washington Post investigation has found.”

That’s the dispiriting news from my colleagues Desmond Butler, Amy Brittain, and Alice Li.

“Interviews with dozens of competitors, judges, officials and others connected to the sport reveal the systematic exploitation of female athletes often rendered vulnerable by extreme dieting and workouts, lack of financial stability and a drive to win. The Post found that some women believed their scores depended on their willingness to pose for sexual photos or to please the sport’s leading judges, promoters and managers, almost all of whom are male,” they reported.

The alleged abuse of female athletes or women in athletic settings, or women performers more generally is sadly not a new phenomenon. What’s new, or at least recent, is the systematic revelation of wrongdoing, which could spur political action, or action before the courts. Will it do so here?

U.S. economy grows in third quarter, reversing a six-month slump

“The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the third quarter, marking its first increase in 2022 and a sharp turnaround after six months of contraction — despite lingering fears that the country is at risk of a recession,” Abha Bhattarai reports.

  • “The third-quarter gross domestic product figures, released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, provide an upbeat snapshot less than two weeks before midterm elections, in a year that has seen the economy and high inflation become a persistent challenge for Democrats.”

Mortgage rates rise above 7 percent as Fed scrambles to slow economy

“The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, the most popular home-loan product, reached 7.08 percent, according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac. The last time mortgage rates climbed so high was April 2002, and they are slated to keep climbing as the Fed moves swiftly to tame a red-hot housing market, a key step in lowering rent costs and ultimately quelling inflation in the broader economy,” Rachel Siegel and Kathy Orton report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Overt U.S. antisemitism returns with Trump, Ye: ‘Something is different’

What has struck some experts is how blatant the comments about Jews are at a time when incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence against them have been at their highest levels since at least the 1970s. Recent data already showed that a majority of American Jews fear violence against them,” Michelle Boorstein and Isaac Arnsdorf report.

Experts said the climate is the product of a stew of forces including a digital culture that spreads misinformation and hate and right-wing political forces focused on protecting White Christians’ status. Some said current antisemitism is also aggravated by more people downplaying it as merely an interreligious issue instead of a dangerous form of racism; in the past majorities from Germany to America made clear they saw Jews as a distinct and inferior race.”

Inside the Dems’ elaborate attempt to woo TikTok influencers

President Biden spent more than an hour this week at the White House with eight TikTok stars with a combined following of more than 67 million who were brought to Washington in hopes that their posts will turn out votes for Democrats in the Nov. 8 midterms,” Taylor Lorenz reports.

Sure, Twitter and Facebook have deepened polarization — just not in the way you think

The researchers who study this stuff don’t believe that echo chambers — the ‘social-network homophily’ of everyone retreating to bubbles of like- mindedness — are the real problem. Studies have shown that even when we step outside our preferred digital circles, our opinions don’t change much. Yet our views have somehow hardened, no matter what information or ideas we’re exposed to,” Business Insider’s Adam Rogers reports.

“Now there’s a new hypothesis. Maybe the problem isn’t that social media has driven us all into like-minded bubbles. Maybe it’s that social media has obliterated the bubbles we’ve all lived in for centuries.”

Election Day is Nov. 8, but legal challenges already begin

More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the upcoming midterm elections. The suits, largely by Republicans, target rules over mail-in voting, early voting, voter access, voting machines, voting registration, the counting of mismarked absentee ballots and access for partisan poll watchers,” the Associated Press’ Colleen Long reports

The cases likely preview a potentially contentious post-election period and the strategy stems partly from the failure of Donald Trump and his allies to prevail in overturning the free and fair results of the 2020 presidential election that he lost to Joe Biden.

For those still trying to duck covid, the isolation is worse than ever

There’s no reliable tally of the people who are ‘Still COVIDing’ but certainly they’re in the minority. A September poll by Monmouth University found that 22 percent of people are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill with covid, compared with 45 percent the previous September. And a quarter of Americans supported mask mandates and social distancing guidelines, down from 63 percent last September,” Ellen McCarthy reports.

Biden faces new challenges holding together a coalition to support Ukraine

The White House said on Wednesday that it sees no current prospects for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, even as President Biden faces new challenges keeping together the bipartisan, multinational coalition supporting the effort to drive out Russian invaders,” the New York Times’ Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger report.

Protected immigrants at risk of losing U.S. work permits

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mainly from Central America, are at risk of losing their work permits after negotiations with the Biden administration to extend them broke down this week, advocates said Wednesday,” Maria Sacchetti reports.

Xi says China can work with U.S. before possible Biden meeting

Better communication between the two nations would bolster global peace and development, Xi said in a letter to the National Committee on US-China Relations’ annual dinner Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported,” Bloomberg News’ Rebecca Choong Wilkins and Jing Li report.

Israel’s Herzog warns Biden of mounting Iran ‘challenge’

“At the start of an Oval Office meeting with Biden, Herzog noted it had been 40 days since the death of Mahsa Amini in Iranian security custody, which spurred the protests across Iran. He also noted that Iran was ‘moving toward’ becoming a nuclear power and alluded to Tehran providing Russia with drones that are ‘killing innocent citizens in Ukraine,’the AP’s Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller report.

The rise of climate-warming methane, visualized

The amount of methane in the atmosphere is racing ahead at an accelerating pace, according to a study by the World Meteorological Organization, threatening to undermine efforts to slow climate change,” Steven Mufson and Sarah Kaplan report.

Fetterman’s debate performance reveals a divide about disability

Whatever voters ultimately decide at the polls, Fetterman’s performance marks something of a milestone for the disability community, which remains underrepresented at every level of elected office. The debate not only put Fetterman’s cognitive challenges and need for accommodation on full public display, say disability advocates, but it revealed the ableism inherent in the electoral process and the added scrutiny that candidates with disabilities receive compared with their non-disabled counterparts,” Amanda Morris reports.

  • By the numbers: “An analysis of more than 36,000 politicians between 2013 to 2017 found that while the number of elected officials with disabilities has gone up, they are still underrepresented in politics — making up 12 percent of politicians on the local level and only about six percent of politicians at the state and federal level. By comparison, the federal estimates suggest that about 26 percent of U.S. adults have a disability.”

Trump to hold rally in Florida with Rubio — but not DeSantis

The apparent snub angered some people within DeSantis’ orbit, who complained that the Florida governor’s team was not informed of the rally prior to Trump announcing it. The timing of the Trump and Rubio event means any campaign event DeSantis holds that day won’t get as much attention during the all-important final stretch of the 2022 midterms,” Politico’s Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout report.

At 12:25 p.m., Biden will leave the White House for Andrews, where he will fly to Syracuse, N.Y. 

Biden will speak about Micron’s investment in chip manufacturing in Upstate New York and give a speech contrasting the GOP and Democrats’ economic policies at 3:30 p.m.

At 5:15 p.m., Biden will leave Syracuse for Delaware, where he will spend the night.

D.C.’s most famous bald eagle couple rebuilds nest in Washington

D.C.’s most famous pair of bald eagles, Mr. President and Lotus, Lady of the United States, tended to their nest on Oct. 23 at the U.S. National Arboretum. (Video: American Eagle Foundation/DC Eagle Cam)

Mr. President, Washington’s most famous bald eagle, has had a busy love life over the past few years. Now he’s getting ready to try fatherhood again,” Dana Hedgpeth reports.

“His original partner, known as the First Lady, flew the coop from their nest at the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington three years ago. But Mr. President soon welcomed in a new female eagle, Lady of the United States, who was quickly dubbed Lotus. The eagles bonded, mated and last year successfully produced two eaglets, but only one survived.”

Now love is in the air again.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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