Good morning on Caturday, December 10, 2022: National Lager Day. It could have been worse: it could have been National IPA Day, with overhopped beers that many people seem to love. (There are some good lagers, but none of them are American.)
It’s also Nobel Prize Day, celebrating the man who gave the money (Nobel died on Dec. 10, 1896), Dewey Decimal System Day, Gingerbread Decorating Day, Festival for the Souls of Dead Whales, mourning all the whales humans have killed, and Human Rights Day. Which reminds me—aren’t the Nobels to be awarded soon?
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the December 10 Wikipedia page.
*This is a bit of a surprise: Kirsten Sinema, bane of the Senate Democrats, has just decided to change her party label from “Democrat” to “Independent”.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is changing her party affiliation to independent, delivering a jolt to Democrats’ narrow majority and Washington along with it.
In a 45-minute interview, the first-term senator told POLITICO that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate. “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.
Provided that Sinema sticks to that vow, Democrats will still have a workable Senate majority in the next Congress, though it will not exactly be the neat and tidy 51 seats they assumed. They’re expected to also have the votes to control Senate committees. And Sinema’s move means Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 chamber the past two years — will hold onto some but not all of his outsized influence in the Democratic caucus.
Sinema would not address whether she will run for reelection in 2024, and informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of her decision on Thursday.
So why did she do it? Axios gives four reasons:
Sinema hopes her switch to the new label will free her from partisan pressures and the expectations of her caucus as she attempts to remain a key bipartisan broker, the sources said.
- “Her registration is now catching up with her reality. She was always miraculous at not caring about media reports and criticisms, but it’s just one less thing to worry about,” former Sinema aide John Labombard told Axios.
- “It’s kind of a helpful reset of expectations. Anyone who assumed at any point that moderates in our party would always just fall in line, and do what the most vocal and loudest voices in our party wanted them to do was never a reasonable expectation,” he added.
Between the lines: Sinemaprides herself on having been a crucial, bipartisan dealmaker over the last two years — helping cut compromises on infrastructure, gun reform, the CHIPS bill, and more — and often did so without the support of her Democratic colleagues.
- While her success in 2018 can in large part be owed to the Democratic Party’s support, Sinema maintains she’s always considered herself a separate entity.
- On the campaign trail in 2018, she often touted bipartisanship and ran an ad titled “Independent.”
If Walker had won in Georgia, things would be the same as before, with the Democrats (including Sinema) still controlling the Senate, but Sinema would have more power, because her vote is essential to get the 50/50 split in the Senate to allow Harris to break the tie. And doesn’t Sinema lose party funding from the Democrats? I’m not sure, really, what she has to gain rather than having a label that corresponds more with her “lived experience.”
*There were two games today in the World Cup, and this one is a shocker!
The World Cup continues Friday with the first two quarterfinals, and the day opened with a stunner: Croatia scored an equalizer in the final minutes of stoppage time and then eliminated five-time champion Brazil in a penalty shootout, 4-2, after a 1-1 draw. The top-ranked Brazilians were a heavy favorite to reach the semifinals, but now Croatia, the 2018 runner-up, will face the Netherlands or Argentina on Tuesday. Continue reading for highlights from the game.
The NYT comes pretty close to blaming the Brazilian loss on Neymar’s embrace, along with several of his teammates, of national extreme-right politics. It’s a very weird op-ed. But one thing’s for sure: nobody expected Croatia to win. Here are the highlights. The Croatian goalkeeper is the star!
I thought the matchup would be Brazil vs. Argentina in the final, but that’s clearly not to be. But at least Argentina still has a chance, as it beat the Netherlands—but in another game decided by penalty kicks:
Argentina almost did it the easy way. For a while, Lionel Messi and his teammates were sailing smoothly into the World Cup semifinals. And then, all of a sudden, they were not. They got there in the end, thanks to a victory over the Netherlands in a penalty shootout, but they had to suffer for it first.
With a few minutes to play in front of a typically boisterous, partisan crowd at Lusail Stadium, Argentina was on course for a double victory. It led the Dutch by two goals, one created by Messi and the other a penalty converted by him. That was good enough. Even better was that it had already seen Brazil eliminated from the tournament, its greatest rival and its most immediate obstacle en route to the final, suddenly vanished.
Perhaps, as the game seemed to amble to its close, Argentina’s players might have allowed their thoughts to drift to next week, to an appointment with Croatia, or maybe even a little further still. If they did, they were soon snapped back to reality: Wout Weghorst, the looming Dutch striker, halved the deficit; and then, nine minutes into added time, thanks to the quicksilver imagination of Teun Koopmeiners, Weghorst drew the Dutch level. This was not the easy way.
. . . The last time these two teams had met on this stage, in 2014, it had gone to penalties; so it would again.
Emiliano Martínez, Argentina’s goalkeeper, is a specialist on these sorts of occasions. He saved the first two Dutch efforts. But that would have been the easy way, and Argentina does not take the easy way. Enzo Fernández missed. The Dutch started to claw their way back. It all came down to Lautaro Martínez, the final penalty taker. And he, at last, ended Argentina’s calvary. Brazil is gone. Argentina is through, even if it took the long way around.
The highlights (I’m rooting for Argentina because I want Messi’s team to win his last World Cup). Messi’s pass to set up Argentina’s first goal is one of the finest passes I’ve ever seen: there was no room for error.
*The tale of how the Russians came to trade Brittney Greiner for arms dealer Viktor Bout is a long and convoluted one, or so the NYT reports. What’s interesting is that the Russians were also willing to release American Paul Whelan (accused of espionage, I have no idea if he was guilty) IF the Germans threw in a Russian prisoner they were holding.
Month after month, as American diplomats pushed for the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan from Russian prisons, they received the same, infuriating answer: If you want both prisoners, we want Vadim Krasikov as part of the deal.
Mr. Krasikov is an assassin who murdered a Chechen fighter in a park in Berlin in broad daylight in 2019, a brazen killing that the German authorities say was committed at the behest of Russia’s intelligence services. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Germany, Mr. Krasikov was not in U.S. custody to be traded to Russia.
It was, the Americans thought, hardly a viable request for a swap that would include Ms. Griner, a W.N.B.A. star, and Mr. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, who were being detained on what Biden administration officials considered trumped-up charges. American officials felt out their German counterparts to see if they might agree and were hardly surprised when Berlin refused to release what they considered a cold killer. Trying to be creative, the Americans even explored some sort of three-way deal that would give the Germans something in return, but that did not go anywhere, either.
The Germans weren’t interested in giving up Krasikov, both because they had nothing to gain and because of the nature of his crime. In the end, Russia made out better than the U.S. as Bout apparently has connections with the Russian security apparatus. And the NYT also reports that Putin is selling this as a victory over America. And it is, of a sort, but it’s a pretty pathetic way to offset Putin’s big losses in Ukraine.
*Ahead of next week’s UN biodiversity summit in Montreal, the NYT has an interactive article, “Animals are running out of places to live” (h/t Steve). First the article makes you sad by showing you all the animal species that have lost 30% or more of their habitat, and then makes you sadder when you read about this is is probably irreversible:
The groups of animals you just scrolled through aren’t the only species that have lost a third or more of their global habitat. They’re just some of the mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles researchers can currently track. Most live in tropical forests.
“If the forest disappears, they will disappear,” said Walter Jetz, a professor of biodiversity science at Yale University who leads Map of Life, a platform that combines satellite imaging with ecological data to determine how species ranges are changing around the world. Map of Life shared data with The New York Times.
Biodiversity, or all the variety of life on the planet — including plants, invertebrates and ocean species — is declining at rates unprecedented in human history, according to the leading intergovernmental scientific panel on the subject. The group’s projections suggest that a million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.
Nations are meeting in Montreal to try to chart a different path. Delayed two years because of the pandemic, delegations are working to land a new, 10-year agreement to tackle biodiversity loss under a United Nations treaty called the Convention on Biological Diversity.
“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” said António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, in his opening remarks on Tuesday in Montreal.
The last global biodiversity agreement failed to meet a single target at the global level, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity itself, and wildlife populations continue to plummet.
Well, I was glad I lived at a time when I could still visit unspoiled areas of rain forest; and I hope (but don’t expect) that this would be possible in a few generations.
*The Washington Post reports that shark week, well, let me give you the headline that tells the tale (click to read the piece by Daniel Wu; h/t Luana):
What? They quote a woman shark biologist.
[Lisa] Whitenack led a team of researchers to examine hundreds of “Shark Week” episodes that aired between 1988 and 2020. In a study published last month by the Public Library of Science, their research claims that Discovery’s programming emphasized negative messages about sharks, lacked useful messaging about shark conservation and overwhelmingly featured White men as experts — including several with the same name.
The programming featured more White experts and commentators named “Mike” than women, said David Shiffman, a conservationist at Arizona State University who was a co-author of the study.
“When there are hundreds of people of color interested who work in this field, [and] when my field is more than half women, maybe it’s not an accident anymore that they’re only featuring White men,” Shiffman said.Discovery did not respond to a request for comment on the study’s findings. The company told NBC Boston that it wouldn’t comment on a study “that has yet to pass any scientific approvals” after a preliminary version was presented 2021. It has since undergone a scientific review, Whitenack said.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s all puffed up (fur plus winter weight plus normal avoirdupois):
Paulina: You look threatening.Hili: We all try to make a strong impression on others.(Photo: Paulina)
Paulina: Wyglądasz groźnie.Hili: Wszyscy próbujemy robić mocne wrażenie na innych.(Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
FOUR cat memes today. First, one from Simon:
From the Not Another Science Cat FB page:
I found this on Masih’s site, retweeted by Rowling. Iran is starting to execute protestors, even young ones:
Mohsen Shekari was murdered by the state for wanting freedoms so many of us take for granted. My thoughts are with his family and all who loved him. #MohsenShekari #IranRevolution #Mahsa_Amini https://t.co/VnWWjx5Ya7
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 9, 2022
Iranian regime is willing to execute her son.
“My son is not a rioter but an artist. I’m begging you to stop my son’s execution.” pic.twitter.com/vU6MqNv2mo
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 8, 2022
Matt Taibbi has a grim tale of dark doings about censorship at Twitter, recounted on Twitter. The long thread starts here:
1. Thread: THE TWITTER FILES
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
From SImon. But how could God be wrong? As Archie Bunker said, he’s inflammabe!
God was wrong. https://t.co/zALHq4FVkQ
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) December 8, 2022
From Barry: Moggies in flagrante delicto
You're home early… pic.twitter.com/3pm9v2nzsn
— ❤️🎄Duchess🎄❤️ (@duchessofdis) December 8, 2022
From the Auschwitz Museum: a Jehovah’s Witness who lived but twenty days in the camp before she died:
10 December 1942 | Deliana Rademakers, a Dutch Jehovah’s Witness perished in #Auschwitz. She was registered in the camp on 20 November 1942. One of at least 387 Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Auschwitz.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) December 10, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, a VERY NEEDY cat!
This cat demands her mom's attention 24/7 💛 pic.twitter.com/1zfsSE0iko
— The Dodo (@dodo) December 7, 2022
I’m sure I’ve posted this one before, but hey, it’s good!
Challenge accepted 😂 pic.twitter.com/DtohjCYqQS
— CCTV_IDIOTS (@cctv_idiots) December 8, 2022
I had a baby skunk, raised on a skunk farm (and descented), and it was just like this one. But they really do belong in the wild, and I wouldn’t get another:
— The Dodo (@dodo) December 9, 2022
Who said cats weren’t useful to humans beyond catching mice?
Amazing babysitter. pic.twitter.com/zk97qYZ8F8
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) December 8, 2022
REALLY OLD galaxies!
Galaxy brain 🤯
Preliminary Webb science shows galaxies confirmed by spectroscopy to date back to less than 400 million years after the big bang. Finding and confirming early galaxies is a continuous process, and Webb is just getting started: https://t.co/ZNAQMB6Ox4 pic.twitter.com/H0auEe9LCp
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) December 9, 2022