Saturday Reading


For nearly a century, a wooden tower has loomed over the prairie town of Andrew in western Canada, rising from the rolling landscape land like a lone sentinel. Built during the agricultural boom of the early 20th century, the grain elevator – and six others that stood nearby – once bore testament to the town’s prosperity.

Today, the main street of Andrew is quiet, even on a weekday at noon. Many of the town’s storefronts are shuttered and all that remains of the railway line is a faint imprint on the ground. The local school only has 70 students, and residents wonder how long it can remain open.

Andrew is no stranger to loss: over the years, jobs and residents have slowly dwindled. But when its last remaining grain elevator was slated for demolition, the community battled hard to win a stay of execution.

“Trying to save this thing was like praying to God,” said Dave Cuthbert, a resident. “You were never certain if your voice was being heard.”

Leyland Cecco @ THE GUARDIAN

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Mark Fiore

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Truthdig Thursday


Legal, Lunch Money Bullies.

In Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, an area with a poverty rate of 13.8 percent, about 1,000 families received letters in August warning that unless their arrears were paid in full, they could be taken to Dependency Court for negligence. “The result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care,” threatened the missive, which was sent a month before the 2019-2020 school year began. The total owed, the district reported, was more than $22,000.

Meanwhile, in Richfield, Minnesota, where arrears totaled almost $20,000, 40 Richfield High School students — some of whom owed as little as $15 in meal fees — were given cold sandwiches after their hot lunches were tossed in the trash.

This phenomenon is so pervasive that it has a name: lunch shaming. It refers to a particular set of humiliating behaviors, most typically verbal taunts or threats, that are lobbed by school personnel after a caretaking adult falls behind in paying for a child’s breakfast, lunch or after-school snack. It can take a variety of forms and sometimes targets the blameless child and sometimes targets the adults, both of whom are victims of penury.

Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout

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Wall Street Wednesday


China has pledged to buy $50 billion more in U.S. energy supplies, and will raise U.S. agriculture purchases by some $32 billion over two years above 2017’s $24 billion baseline, according to a source briefed on the deal to be signed on Wednesday. The deal also stipulates purchases of an additional $80 billion in manufactured goods.

Those totals would certainly trim the roughly $300 billion annual trade gap between the countries. However, analysts who study Chinese commodity flows remain skeptical that Beijing can absorb such quantities of U.S. goods without threatening trade ties with other suppliers, hurting its own domestic producers, and making substantial changes to import standards and quotas.

“Either China massively increases imports and reduces current account surplus from the current 1.5% of GDP, or it engages in trade diversion away from current providers of goods which compete with the U.S.” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, Chief Economist Asia Pacific at Natixis in Hong Kong. “I see this second scenario as much more likely.”

Hallie Gu, Tom Westbrook @ Reuters

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Carrots from the Sky Tuesday

A wallaby eating a carrotNew South Wales Environment Minister Environment Minister Matt Kean

Thousands of pounds of carrots and sweet potatoes are falling from the sky in Australia, air-dropped to help feed the Brush-tailed Rock wallabies whose habitats have been devastated by massive brushfires.

The wallabies, agile marsupials that use their furred tails for balance while climbing trees and vertical rocks, tend to survive fires. But their vegetation is often destroyed, according to the New South Wales government, which on Sunday announced it was coordinating helicopter drops in the state as part of recovery efforts. New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean shared photos of the hungry marsupials on Twitter:

Samantha Michaels @ MOTHER JONES

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Melting Monday


Polar bears foraging in a rubbish dump near the village of Belushya Guba, in the Russian Novaya Zemlya archipelago. Melting ice is forcing the bears to move further inland and into contact with humans in their search for food. Photograph: Alexander Grir/AFP/Getty Images

Melting glaciers, coral reef death, wildlife disappearance, landscape alteration, climate change: our environment is transforming rapidly, and many of us are experiencing a sense of profound loss. Now, the scientists whose work it is to monitor and document this extraordinary change are beginning to articulate the emotional tsunami sweeping over the field, which they’re naming “ecological grief”. Researchers are starting to form support groups online and at institutions, looking for spaces to share their feelings. I talked to some of those affected.


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Betelgeuse Sunday

One day, perhaps in our lifetimes, perhaps a million years from now, the red giant Betelgeuse will dim a little–and then explode. The resulting supernova will rival the full Moon and cast shadows after dark, completely transforming the night skies of Earth. No wonder astronomers are closely tracking the current “fainting of Betelgeuse.”

“Fainting” is an actual astronomical term. It means dimming, the opposite of brightening. And right now, Betelgeuse is definitely fainting.


Edward Guinan of Villanova University and colleagues caused a minor sensation last month when they reported “[Betelgeuse] has been declining in brightness since October 2019, now reaching a modern all-time low of V = +1.12 mag on 07 December 2019 UT. Currently this is the faintest the star has been during our 25+ years of continuous monitoring.”

Dr.Tony Phillips @ SPACEWEATHER

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