2023, this critter starts delivering to our rural mailbox

The new van, manufactured by Oshkosh Defense, will get a massive overhaul that will provide some significant and desperately needed upgrades for the folks who ensure that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom” prevent your packages and letters from arriving on time. While the polygonal-like build and massive front windshield of the new truck have some wondering if the USPS stole Homer Simpon’s car idea or perhaps tapped Pixar to do the design, it’s what’s on the inside that is most interesting. Sure, there are high-tech advances like the inclusion of 360-degree cameras and front- and rear-collision avoidance, but postal workers will welcome one feature in particular: climate control.

…Uncle Sam is hoping to squeeze a long life out of these new vehicles, too, equipping them with both gasoline and electric drivetrains to ensure they are prepared to transition to a fossil fuel-free future. It seems likely that the government will lean heavily into the electric option, as the vehicles won’t hit the road until 2023 and President Biden recently expressed his interest in converting the entirety of the government’s fleet of vehicles over to electric. That would have to include the USPS, which makes up about one-third of the government’s fleet.

Overdue…

Public health, public policy in the Trump era

This report by the Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era assesses the repercussions of President Donald Trump’s health-related policies and examines the failures and social schisms that enabled his election.

Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health.

His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection. He chose judges for US courts who are dismissive of affirmative action and reproductive, labour, civil, and voting rights; ordered the mass detention of immigrants in hazardous conditions; and promulgated regulations that reduce access to abortion and contraception in the USA and globally…

Click through to the article. Registration is free and gives you access to the complete report.

Fertile Soil Gone From Midwestern Farms


Evan Thaler/NPR

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America’s Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared…

The new study emerged from a simple observation, one that people flying over Midwestern farms can confirm for themselves. The color of bare soil varies, and that variation is related to soil quality.

The soil that’s darkest in color is widely known as topsoil. Soil scientists call this layer the “A-horizon.” It’s the “black, organic, rich soil that’s really good for growing crops,” says Evan Thaler, a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

It’s full of living microorganisms and decaying plant roots, also called organic carbon. When settlers first arrived in the Midwest, it was everywhere, created from centuries of accumulated prairie grass. Plowing, though, released much of the trapped carbon, and topsoil was also lost to wind and water erosion. The soil that remains is often much lighter in color.

RTFA. The history isn’t unknown. The effects are still (sometimes) debated. It takes many tons of additives annually to keep productivity and profitability close to each other. Healthy? That’s another question.

First Arctic Navigation in February


Alexander Ryumin/TASS

A tanker sailed through Arctic sea ice in February for the first time, the latest sign of how quickly the pace of climate change is accelerating in the Earth’s northernmost regions.

The Christophe de Margerie was accompanied by the nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker as it sailed back to Russia this month after carrying liquified natural gas to China through the Northern Sea Route in January. Both trips broke navigation records…

The experimental voyage happened after a year of extraordinarily warm conditions in the Arctic that have sent shockwaves across the world, from the snowstorm that blanketed Spain in January to the blast of cold air that swept through Canada in mid-February, moving deep into the South as far as Texas.

If the Bloomberg link is acting up, try accessing through Flipboard to Bloomberg.

Texas Republicans should take responsibility for their Cheapskate Disaster

The Texas grid failure that’s left millions struggling without power in freezing conditions has ignited a feud between Democrats and the GOP over Republicans’ decades-long oversight of the energy industry and prompted calls for a system more resilient to extreme weather conditions.

Texas has avoided federal regulation by establishing its own power grid that’s nearly cut off from the rest of the country — an isolated system that conservatives in power have long praised.

But the system collapsed this week from a surge in energy demand coupled with frozen utility plants during a brutal winter storm, which then increased energy prices and triggered the state’s worst blackouts in decades…

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-TX, blamed Texas Republican leaders for prioritizing “stupid culture wars,” like efforts to make Texas a gun “sanctuary state,” rather than protecting residents from extreme weather events made worse by climate change.

“So much of this was avoidable,” O’Rourke said this week on an interview with MSNBC. “Going back to the deregulation of our electricity grid in Texas, which has created an incentive to actually not weatherize or protect against these events.”

“The energy capital of North America cannot provide enough energy to warm and power people’s homes,” O’Rourke continued. “We are nearing a failed state in Texas. And it has nothing to do with God or natural disasters. It has everything to do with those in positions of public trust who have failed us.”

Texas worked harder than any other state to substitute Republican slogans for technology, science or good sense. The citizens of Texas suffered the logical result of ignorant partisan politics.

Republican party hacks deserve to be thrown out of office for acting like obedient pawns in the game of economic life.

Getting too warm…sent the Polar Vortex down into North America, Europe and Asia

It was…temperatures high in the stratosphere above Siberia. In the first week of January, they increased from about minus 92 degrees Fahrenheit to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. While these “sudden stratospheric warming” events happen to some extent every year, this one is categorized as a major event and is less common.

The mass of extremely warm air threw the freezing polar vortex out of balance, shoving it off its North Pole axis so forcefully that it in effect split in two, as if growing a pair of legs: one over North America and one over Europe…

The interaction between disruption to the stratosphere and weather in the troposphere is still not precisely understood. But when the vortex in the stratosphere is disrupted—split, displaced, or elongated—it can push the jet stream below it south, bringing Arctic air into cities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

What this article was predicting over a week ago has landed in our lap. And many others in the Northern Hemisphere. Read the article for the complex and predictable parts of the process that dropped Arctic temperatures in lands further south.