feibisi / 2019年1月6日

Elizabeth Warren’s first question at an Iowa event: Why release your DNA results?

”My decision was to put it all out there.”

In her first official campaign swing through Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is already heading off questions about her claims of Native American ancestry.

At an event in Sioux City on Saturday morning, an audience member confronted the Massachusetts Democrat, asking why she decided to release the results of her DNA test proving her Native American heritage, even as it gave President Donald Trump “more fodder to be a bully?”

”My decision was to put it all out there,” Warren said.

“I am not a person of color,” she added. “I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes — and only tribes — determine tribal citizenship, and I respect that difference.”

The question of her ancestry will almost certainly surface again now that the progressive senator officially declared her 2020 presidential bid this week by forming an exploratory committee. Now, Warren’s in the middle of a three-day tour through Iowa, where she’s scheduled to meet with local women leaders and host community roundtables across the state.

It’s Warren’s first trip to Iowa since 2014, where she’s continued to drill down on a message of economic populism. Still, the question of her ancestry was the very first issue raised at the Sioux City event on Saturday. Warren lamented how Republicans “honed in on this part of my history” since she first ran for public office and made a lot of “racial slurs. Trump may be at the top of that list, but Warren says there’s little she can do about it.

“I can’t stop Donald Trump from what he’s going to do,” Warren said. “I can’t stop him from hurling racial insults. I don’t have any power to do that.”

But Warren did previously choose to engage with the president’s repeated criticisms of her ancestry in October by releasing the DNA analysis of her genes. The results “strongly suggest” Warren has Native American ancestry that dates back some six to 10 generations ago, and revealed she was anywhere between 1/1024th and 1/32nd Native American.

A tailwind to the controversy over Warren releasing her DNA results

By releasing her DNA results, Warren inevitably fanned the flames for Trump, who for years has mocked her Native heritage by calling her “Pocahontas” and in July dared her to take the genetic test. He made a show of offering to donate $1 million to charity if she did (he later denied ever promising to pony up the money, saying, “Who cares?”).

Months later, she relented by releasing the DNA analysis in full.

That hasn’t forestalled the criticism, however. Either from the right Trump took a swipe at her again this week by tweeting a (factually inaccurate) meme manufactured by the Daily Wire that looked like a campaign seal with the tagline “Warren: 1/2020th” — or, as the Iowa campaign stop shows, from her own supporters. The DNA test-reveal also reportedly rankled tribal leaders.

But there’s reason to believe some reports of the backlash may be overstated. Whether her DNA reveal was politically savvy or not, the controversy has fed into the image that she’s a lightning-rod political figure whose approval ratings are consistently low — when maybe the common denominator is the negative reactions that female candidates and any woman with ambition provokes among Americans.

feibisi / 2019年1月5日

Vox Sentences: A ton of German politicians just got hacked

Another week ends with no shutdown resolution; Germany’s politicians get hacked.

Another week ends with no shutdown resolution; Germany’s politicians get hacked.

Tonight’s Sentences was written by German Lopez and Dara Lind.

Sorry, still closed

 Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • In the first week of the new year, the federal government has remained partially shut down as President Donald Trump refuses to sign a spending deal that doesn’t include $5 billion for a wall at the US-Mexico border. [Vox / Li Zhou]
  • Trump reportedly told Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that he’s ready to keep the government shut down for months or even years if necessary. [USA Today / David Jackson and Michael Collins]
  • Trump also said that, if he doesn’t get his way, he may try to declare a national emergency to build the wall. It’s not clear if and how Trump could do that. [Washington Post / Seung Min Kim, Erica Werner, and Josh Dawsey]
  • People are already feeling the effects of the shutdown. Not only are tens of thousands of federal workers going without pay (even as some of them are expected to work), but there’s other problems with government services too — like the Washington, DC, Marriage Bureau closing down. [Washington Post / Fenit Nirappil]
  • National parks, meanwhile, are getting trashed. [Visalia Times-Delta / Calley Cederlof]
  • The longer the shutdown goes on for, the worse it will get. For example, 2018 tax refunds could be delayed if the shutdown lasts past mid-January. [Vox / German Lopez]

Germany, hacked

  • Someone on Twitter hacked and leaked the personal information of hundreds of German lawmakers, from letters to contact details. The breach apparently affected politicians from all parties except the far-right Alternative for Germany, a.k.a. AfD. [New York Times / Melissa Eddy]
  • Twitter shut down the account leaking the private information on Friday. The account had apparently been publishing the information going back to December, but it wasn’t really noticed until Thursday. [The Guardian / Josie Le Blond]
  • It remains unclear if all of the leaked data is authentic, but at least some of it seems to be. [Associated Press / Geir Moulson]
  • The data breach is just the latest to hit a major government, with France experiencing a similar hack during its 2017 election. Similar to the hack in Germany, the French incident seemed to benefit the far right. [BuzzFeed / Zeynep Tufekci]
  • And, of course, Democrats got hacked during the 2016 election — to the benefit of Donald Trump. [Vox / Alvin Chang]

Miscellaneous

  • Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson isn’t a household name, but she should be. Hopefully this profile will fix that. [New Yorker / Nathan Heller]
  • Beauty work is work; reading this lovely illustrated personal essay from cartoonist/writer (and former model) Carolita Johnson about beauty work is not. [Longreads / Carolita Johnson]
  • The only PowerPoint tutorial on how to take pictures of food you will ever need. [Helen Rosner]
  • An encounter with a member of China’s “Fifty-Cent Army” — so called because they’re rumored to get paid fifty cents for every time they troll a critic of the Chinese government on social media. [Popula / Brian Hioe]

Verbatim

“El Chapo Got Wiretapped Because The Cartel’s IT Guy Screwed Up.” [Vice / Keegan Hamilton]

Watch this: Why monks had that haircut

There was a lot of thought behind the style — and controversy. [YouTube / Phil Edwards and Gina Barton]

We want to bring you more videos and ambitious series with the hosts you love. Join the Vox Video Lab today to support our work on YouTube: vox.com/join

feibisi / 2019年1月4日

The new Democratic House just approved two bills to reopen the government

The Republican Senate has said it isn’t planning to consider them.

House Democrats just approved two bills to reopen the government — putting more pressure on Republicans and President Donald Trump to provide some kind of counteroffer.

These bills aren’t expected to go anywhere since the Republican-controlled Senate has already indicated it is not interested in taking them up without the president’s support, but they do call on the GOP to outline its own response.

Democrats — who have just officially retaken control of the House — passed the two measures in order to fund 25 percent of the government that is currently shut down after lawmakers failed to a pass a set of seven appropriations bills in late December.

The first of these measures is a package of six bills that funds parts of the government that are not particularly controversial, including the departments of Treasury, State, and Justice. This measure would keep these agencies funded through the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in September.

The second bill would provide short-term funding for the more contentious Department of Homeland Security through February 8, separating the conflict over the border wall from the other outstanding government funding bills and kicking this fight a bit further down the road. This stopgap bill would maintain funding for DHS at current levels, which includes $1.3 billion for border security — though not, notably, a wall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week that the upper chamber would not be considering either of these bills, since the President has signaled that he wouldn’t sign them.

While this means that the legislation is effectively dead in the water, these bills also dial up the pressure on Republicans as the partial government shutdown nears the two-week mark.

By passing this set of funding bills, Democrats have laid out their solution for the shutdown. As newly minted Speaker Nancy Pelosi has emphasized, there are no plans to give Trump any more money for his wall.

This move puts the onus on Republicans to come back with an offer of their own that Trump would be willing to sign. Up till now, $5 billion for border wall funding has been Trump’s position, though Vice President Mike Pence has previously proposed $2.5 billion — something the Democrats rejected.

Trump is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders about the shutdown yet again on Friday. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to arrive at any deal to reopen the government.

feibisi / 2019年1月3日

Russia detained an American for espionage. Here’s what we know.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 27, 2018.

Paul Whelan, a former Marine and businessman, was arrested over the weekend while attending a wedding in Moscow.

Russian authorities detained an American citizen in Moscow last week on allegations of espionage, a curious move that could worsen already tense relations between the US and Russia.

Paul Whelan, a 48-year-old former Marine, was reportedly in Moscow to attend a wedding when he was arrested on December 28. Russia’s domestic security services (FSB) said Whelan was apprehended while on a “spy mission,” but did not elaborate on the charges against him.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed to Vox Wednesday that US Ambassador Jon Huntsman visited Whelan at a Russian detention facility, but didn’t offer any other details due to privacy concerns. The spokesperson added that Huntsman had been in touch with Whelan’s family.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefly addressed Whelan’s detention during a trip to Brazil. “We’ve made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he’s been accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday.

Whelan’s family members, for their part, have dismissed allegations of espionage. In a statement, they said Whelan’s “innocence is undoubted.”

Whelan’s detainment comes about two weeks after 30-year-old Russian national Maria Butina, who was arrested on charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government in July 2018, admitted to participating in a campaign backed by Russian officials to secretly influence US politics, including trying to sway the Republican Party to be more receptive to Russia. Some experts have speculated that Whelan’s arrest may be an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate.

Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted for spying. But the details of his arrest, and Russia’s motivations or justification for detaining him, are still unclear. Here’s what we know so far.

Who is Paul Whelan?

Paul Whelan’s family describes him as a former Marine and former law enforcement officer from Michigan, and a kind and loyal person who had an interest in Russia and Russian culture. The Kremlin claims the American was a spy — but so far has offered no real evidence to back up its explosive allegations.

Whelan served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1994 to 2008 and, according to the Wall Street Journal, was deployed twice to Iraq, though he didn’t see combat. Whelan was discharged in 2008 for bad conduct, after being court-martialed on charges of larceny. The details of the case are not clear.

Whelan currently works as the director of global security for BorgWarner Inc., a Detroit-based auto parts supplier, according to his family and the company. “He was not on company business, it is our understanding he was on a personal trip,” Kathy Graham, a spokesperson for BorgWarner, told the New York Times. “We do not have any facilities in Russia.”

Whelan’s family said he flew to Moscow on December 22 with plans to attend the wedding of a fellow former Marine. David Whelan, Paul’s twin brother, told CNN that when his brother didn’t show up for the Saturday wedding, the couple filed a missing persons report. It wasn’t until Monday that Whelan’s family confirmed he had been detained by Russian authorities.

But this wasn’t Whelan’s first trip to Russia. A Marine Corps publication dated November 2006 (h/t Quartz) printed a photo of Whelan in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square, with a caption that said he was spending “two weeks of rest and recuperation leave in Moscow.”

On his personal website, Whelan wrote after that trip that it had been a “dream” to visit Russia. “I was fortunate enough to meet nice people and had several pleasant excursions throughout the country,” he wrote, according to the Daily Beast.

The Washington Post interviewed several of Whelan’s acquaintances in Russia, who described him as “a friendly man who greatly appreciated Russia,” with a basic command of the language.

Whelan’s brother David also told the Wall Street Journal that Whelan, having traveled to Russia before, was aware of the risks. Whelan, he said, “would not have knowingly broken any law, let alone one involving espionage.”

Was Whelan’s detainment revenge for Maria Butina?

US Ambassador Huntsman met with Whelan on Wednesday, five days after his arrest. But the details of why Russia thinks Whelan is a spy are still frustratingly unclear.

The timing of Whelan’s detention is certainly notable. A little more than two weeks ago, Russian citizen Maria Butina admitted that she tried to influence US politics by infiltrating Republican political circles and conservative-leaning interest groups — most notably the National Rifle Association. Butina was arrested in July but reached a deal with federal prosecutors in December and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent.

After Butina’s arrest in July, the Russian foreign ministry started a campaign in support of the Russian citizen — complete with the hashtag #FreeMariaButina. Putin previously claimed that he hadn’t heard of Butina until her arrest in the US and denied she had any ties to Russian spies.

At a speech and press conference on December 20, though, the Russian president went further, claiming that the charges against Butina were concocted and that she pleaded guilty only under threat of a lengthy prison sentence. “I don’t understand what she could have pleaded guilty to because she was not there to fulfill any government tasks,” Putin said.

“We will see how it plays out,” he added. “We do care, and we will keep an eye on this case and provide our support accordingly.”

Putin’s apparent ire over Butina’s arrest has led some to speculate that Whelan’s detention is a form of retaliation — not an unusual move for the Kremlin. “Russia has a history of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, and so forth, when there’s any kind of a spy case,” Kimberly Marten, a Russia expert and political science professor at Barnard College, Columbia University told me.

Marten added that Putin’s remarks about Butina in his December address also indicate that Whelan’s arrest could be a form of payback. But, she cautioned, “we don’t really know enough yet to say for sure.”

But other Russia watchers have expressed similar concerns. Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called the situation strange on Tuesday and demanded Russia provide an explanation. Bill Browder, a longtime critic of Putin whose lobbying of Congress led to the passage of the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in 2012, called Whelan’s detention “a hostage situation.”

Experts have also noted that it’s pretty rare for Russia to detain a private US citizen, and that Whelan’s background doesn’t exactly scream spy.

“The one thing I can say for certain,” John Sipher, a former member of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, told NPR, “is this is not how the US commits espionage overseas. We would never put a US citizen, without diplomatic immunity, in harm’s way this way, especially looking after low-level things like this.”

At a press conference in Brazil on Wednesday, Secretary of State Pompeo said the US would demand Whelan’s release if his detention was inappropriate, but the Trump administration has otherwise been pretty quiet about the arrest.

That’s a bit surprising since President Donald Trump has personally taken up the causes of Americans who were being held abroad in the past. He had success in returning American hostages where other presidents have failed, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, who’d been imprisoned in Turkey since 2016, and multiple Americans detained in North Korea. (As of publication time, the White House had not responded to Vox’s request for comment.)

Whelan’s arrest also comes as relations between Russia and the US are under strain. There’s continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine. The US is still grappling with Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, and there’s evidence the Kremlin continued to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

In his December 20 speech, Putin warned of the risk of nuclear war because of the US’s decision to abandon Cold War-era weapons treaties. The US has given Moscow until February to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and some experts think a breach could potentially jump-start an arms race.

Whelan’s arrest and status remain mostly a mystery, for now. Plenty of questions remain about Putin’s endgame, and whether this will exacerbate tensions between the US and Russia.

feibisi / 2019年1月1日

Climate and energy news in 2018 actually wasn’t all bad

Growing support for a Green New Deal was a major development in climate change and energy policy in 2018.

Three big trends are helping us address the climate crisis: better technology, cheaper technology, and more ambitious policies.

You might have thought the news about climate change in 2018 was all bad. And indeed, global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high this year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius said we may have only until 2030 to avert catastrophic climate change.

There was also the Trump administration’s aggressive rollback of climate policies, including its efforts to replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan with a much weaker rule, freeze fuel economy rules for cars and light trucks, and lift greenhouse gas limits for coal plants. And let’s not forget all the signs of how dangerous climate change is for humans (think wildfires) and biodiversity (think the insect apocalypse).

Yet that’s not the whole story. In 2018, clean energy technologies also got bigger, better, and cheaper. The political will to fight climate change gained considerable momentum. And the business case for cutting greenhouse gases got stronger.

Voters are increasingly concerned about climate change. Public opinion shifted in 2018 in favor of regulating greenhouse gases, and 100 percent renewable energy goals became wildly popular. In the November midterm elections, several candidates for governor and congressional offices campaigned — and won — on their climate change bona fides. And activists began pushing representatives even further, demanding a comprehensive strategy — a Green New Deal — for decarbonizing the economy and making it fairer and more just.

NET Power’s 50 MW Demonstration Plant in La Porte, Texas burns natural gas without emitting carbon dioxide. PRNewsfoto/NET Power, LLC
Net Power started up a 50 MW-thermal demonstration power plant in La Porte, Texas, that burns natural gas without emitting carbon dioxide.

Climate change is unquestionably a sprawling, incredibly urgent global problem, and the transition away from fossil fuels is the biggest challenge humanity has ever taken on. But our policies and our technological tools continue to improve. Here are some of the most encouraging trends of the year.

Clean technology keeps getting bigger and better

In 2018, we saw a wide range of new and established clean technologies being deployed. These tools — which are critical to reducing emissions from transportation, the power sector, and industry, as well as removing carbon from the atmosphere — keep getting better. And the tool chest itself is getting larger.

For instance:

  • Electric scooter rentals arrived in cities across America. They’re helping urban commuters avoid driving, get to metro stations, and glide swiftly between neighborhoods, filling in a crucial transit niche.
  • As part of its restructuring, General Motors said it wants to devote more attention to Bolt, its all-electric car, and developing other EVs.
  • Companies are investing in gigantic wind turbines that can harvest air more efficiently and cheaply.
  • A vast suite of new solar energy technologies, from floating solar farms to self-cleaning photovoltaics to double-sided panels, is helping good old PV panels go further.
  • Net Power started up a new natural gas plant with carbon capture and storage this year. In 2018, there were 43 CCS facilities in operation, under construction, or in development.
  • New plants that suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air to recycle it or remove it from the atmosphere entirely came online this year. Direct air capture is still in its infancy, though, and needs lots more R&D.
  • Carbon dioxide–spewing coal plants are closing down despite the Trump administration’s desperate attempts to prop up the ailing industry. The US is on track to retire a record 15.4 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity in 2018.
Renewable energy consumption is growing dramatically in the United States. Energy Information Administration
Renewable energy consumption is growing dramatically in the United States.

Clean tech is also getting cheaper

The big reasons these technologies are taking off are their declines in price. A major driver of price declines is economies of scale. And the reason there’s such large-scale demand is the price. See how that works? It’s a virtuous cycle.

Take a look at how solar power has taken off in the United States as prices have fallen:

As prices come down, solar installations go up. Economics. Energy Innovation
As prices come down, solar installations go up. Economics!

In 2011, the US Department of Energy launched the SunShot Initiative. The goal was to lower the price of installing solar energy such that it can compete with conventional energy sources without subsidies. The program hit its target for utility-scale solar, 6 cents per kilowatt hour, three years ahead of schedule. The agency has now set an even more ambitious price target of 3 cents per kilowatt hour by 2030.

It’s a similar story with offshore wind, electric vehicle batteries, carbon capture, and so on as costs continue to fall faster than expected. And there’s no sign of these plummeting prices slowing down anytime soon. That means clean energy is increasingly competitive on its economic merits.

In Europe, major renewable energy projects are already starting to take root without direct subsidies. In the US, renewables are rapidly closing the gap with natural gas power plants despite low natural gas prices.

This year, several huge corporations signed record-breaking purchasing agreements for renewables. There are at least 158 private companies like Ikea, Allianz, and Apple aiming to power their operations with just renewable energy. Google now buys enough renewable energy to match its annual energy demand.

This demand for clean energy is now forcing utilities to respond. Some are trying to slow down the stampede. But Xcel Energy announced that it’s committed to going completely carbon-free by 2050 (and 80 percent carbon-free by 2030).

Climate change is now a serious political issue

Polls show that while climate change isn’t usually a top-tier issue in the US, the policies for addressing it have broad support. Just check out the results from this August survey of 22,000 Americans by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Americans generally want policies that advance clean energy and reduce fossil fuels. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
Americans generally want policies that advance clean energy and reduce fossil fuels.

That support is now increasingly being reflected in policies at the local and state level. In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order committing the state to the most ambitious climate target in history: total, economy-wide carbon neutrality and 100 percent use of zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

Protestors rally outside NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office on August 16, 2018, calling on him to stop fossil fuel infrastructure and shift New York to 100 percent renewable energy. Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
Protestors rally outside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office on August 16, 2018, calling on him to stop fossil fuel infrastructure and shift New York to 100 percent renewable energy.

According to the Sierra Club, more than 90 cities, 10 counties, and two states have set targets for 100 percent renewable energy. That includes cities ranging from Berkeley, California, to Boulder, Colorado, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Concord, New Hampshire.

Several candidates in the 2018 midterm elections ran on clean energy ambitions. Democrat Steve Sisolak won the governorship of Nevada after announcing his support of a ballot initiative that would mandate Nevada use 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. “In fact, as governor, I would like to get us on the road to 100 percent,” Sisolak said in a campaign video.

Some of the Republicans that did support policies to address climate change, like a carbon tax, lost their seats in the election. But the more recalcitrant members of Congress that held their seats are finding it harder to wave away climate change.

Oil giant Exxon Mobil also launched a lobbying initiative this year to advance the case for a carbon tax. Behind the scenes, Shell lent its weight to a carbon tax proposal too.

Environmental activists also began mobilizing this year around a Green New Deal. (You can read the full explainer here.) The contours of the proposal will be under discussion for some time, but in essence, it demands a major government-led investment program in clean energy to cut greenhouse gas emissions while creating a vastly larger energy employment sector. It’s become a new progressive shibboleth, alongside Medicare-for-all.

While federal action on climate change is unlikely anytime soon, even the president of the United States can’t dodge the question.

Make no mistake: We do still need much more federal, state, local, and private action on climate change, and on a vastly larger scale than anything we’ve seen to date. Policy is essential to the development and deployment of clean energy, and we need stiffer mandates for emissions reductions and the clean energy transition from every level of government. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there’s “no documented historic precedent” for the global economic and social changes required to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

What we accomplished in 2018 is nowhere near enough, but it’s not nothing. We have a better sense of our climate goals, we have a pretty good idea of what it would take to meet them, and we have some momentum. The challenge now is building the global will to launch ourselves further and faster than ever toward a future without carbon emissions.

feibisi / 2019年1月1日

Stranger Things 3 premieres July 4, 2019. Watch the latest teaser now.

The trailer seems to introduce at least a few new clues as to what season three will entail.

Netflix rang in the new year with a special announcement: Stranger Things season three finally has a premiere date. In a new teaser trailer released at 12:01 am Eastern on New Year’s Day, the streaming network revealed that the 1980s-set series will officially return on July 4, 2019.

The teaser is appropriately New Year’s-themed, featuring archival footage of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from 1984: As the ball drops in Times Square and 1985 dawns, things take a turn toward the Upside-Down just as the clock is about to strike midnight. While the clip doesn’t seem to contain any new footage from season three, it does build on a previously released teaser, with Hawkins, Indiana’s Channel 5 news station noting that the Times Square broadcast is “Brought to you by: Starcourt Mall.”

Stranger Things fans who’ve been eagerly tracking any and all details about season three will surely remember that Starcourt Mall was the subject of the season’s first teaser, released in July 2018:

But in addition to that callback, the New Year’s-themed teaser also introduces at least a few new clues regarding what season three might entail. The footage of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is intercut with shots of an old-school green-on-black computer screen, which at one point displays the phrase, “WHEN BLUE AND YELLOW MEET IN THE WEST.” The screen also serves up the following “scene,” which appears to show someone accessing an entity called “Lynx Corp.” and running the program “SilverCatFeeds.exe”:

So if you’d like to spend your New Year’s Day speculating as to what any of this means, consider this teaser a special gift from Netflix to you.