Peter Coy | Do Handouts Work? – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“Josephy Amosi Kamanga, who lives in Malawi, couldn’t afford to pay the examination fee for his eldest child, so she dropped out of school two years ago. She later got pregnant and is living at home. The fee that changed his daughter’s life? Just $4.98.

That story comes from GiveDirectly Inc., an American charity that offers a simple proposition: Give poor people cash, with no strings attached, and good things will tend to happen. It certainly did to Kamanga and his family. GiveDirectly gave him $51.75 a month for a year. That enabled him to reopen a shop that sells soap, drinks, body lotion, sugar, eggs and cooking oil, and to buy a secondhand phone to operate the business. With the profits from the grocery he covered school expenses for three other children. He told a GiveDirectly interviewer that the news he’d been selected to receive the money “brought joy in my heart.” “

Nicholas Kristof | Spy Cams Show What the Pork Industry Tries to Hide – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The hog industry hails the gas chambers in which pigs are prepared for slaughter as “animal friendly,” “stress free” and “painless.” That would be a good thing, since on average, four pigs are slaughtered each second in the United States.

But a California activist recently sneaked into a slaughterhouse at night and installed spy cams inside a gas chamber to record this supposedly humane process. The resulting videos are horrifying: They show the pigs squealing desperately, thrashing about and gasping for air before eventually succumbing.

“Everyone’s been lied to,” the activist, Raven Deerbrook, said. “It’s a massive consumer fraud.”

She may have a point. These gas chambers, which use carbon dioxide to render pigs unconscious, are how “animal friendly” modern meat plants across North America and Europe often prepare hogs to have their throats slit.”

Editorial | Watching the Watchmen – The New York Times

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

“American communities need robust law enforcement, and the vast majority of police officers are public servants performing dangerous work with dedication. The footage of Memphis police officers killing Tyre Nichols in early January, however, is all the more unbearable because Americans have seen the likes of it so many times before. Too many Americans today live in fear that they may suffer abuse or excessive force at the hands of police officers who are sworn to protect them.

Police officers killed 1,096 people in the United States last year, according to The Washington Post, which painstakingly tracks the death toll because the government does not keep a complete count. That was the most such deaths in any year since 2015. The victims, including Mr. Nichols, are disproportionately young Black men.

To keep Americans safer, the federal government and state and local governments need to match continued investments in policing with reforms that make law enforcement agencies as a whole — as well as individual officers — more accountable to the communities that they serve.

The single most important change Congress can make is to write out of existence the misbegotten legal doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which makes it unreasonably difficult to hold officers or agencies financially liable for misconduct. Under federal law, government officials can face civil lawsuits for violating a person’s constitutional rights. But the Supreme Court has inserted an “absolute shield,” as Justice Sonia Sotomayor has called it, that effectively prevents police officers from facing this important tool for accountability by imposing a set of threshold tests that plaintiffs almost never meet. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in 2018, the current standard “tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.” “

‘80 for Brady’ Review: Remember These Titans – The New York Times

3 MIN READ

80 for Brady
Directed by Kyle Marvin
Comedy, Drama, Sport
PG-13
1h 38m

“Tom Brady, the oldest starting quarterback in N.F.L. history, has said he is retiring “for good” at the age of 45. But at a combined age of 335, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno muscle “80 for Brady,” a comedy about a fan club’s frenetic Super Bowl weekend, over the goal line. The setup is that Lou (Tomlin), who is living with cancer, is adamant that she and her besties will attend a Super Bowl before she returns an urgent message from her oncologist. Betty (Field), a math professor, calculates that they have a .0013% chance of winning a call-in contest to see the 2017 showdown between Brady’s New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. But wish fulfillment is in their favor, as is the director Kyle Marvin’s choice to treat obstacles like breakaway paper banners to be torn through by its winning team.”

Zeynep Tufekci | H5N1 Bird Flu is Causing Alarm. Here’s Why We Must Act. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“As the world is just beginning to recover from the devastation of Covid-19, it is facing the possibility of a pandemic of a far more deadly pathogen.

Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic.

But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.

Alarmingly, it was recently reported that a mutant H5N1 strain was not only infecting minks at a fur farm in Spain but also most likely spreading among them, unprecedented among mammals. Even worse, minks’ upper respiratory tract is exceptionally well suited to act as a conduit to humans, Thomas Peacock, a virologist who has studied avian influenza, told me.”

Nicholas Kristof | Inclusive or Alienating? The Language Wars Go On – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Before the millions of views, the subsequent ridicule and finally the earnest apology, The Associated Press Stylebook practically oozed good intentions in its tweet last week:

“We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing ‘the’ labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college educated.”

“The French”?

Zut alors! The result was a wave of mocking conjecture of how to refer sensitively to, er, people of French persuasion. The French Embassy in the United States proposed changing its name to “the Embassy of Frenchness.” “

Richard Powers | Five Years Ago, I Wrote a Fictional Disaster That Is Now Playing Out in Real Time – The New York Times

Mr. Powers is the author, most recently, of the novel “Bewilderment.” Mr. Greer is an artist and educator based in Atlanta.

5 MIN READ

“What could make a person die for trees?

About five years ago, I published a novel called “The Overstory,” the tale of several characters who come together to protect an old-growth forest. The book follows these characters as they put their lives on the line in increasingly aggressive confrontations against powerful interests in the hope of saving trees. In the story, decent and principled people cross over the edge into retaliatory violence while trying to defend the living world.

Now a similar story is playing out just a four-hour drive from where I live. Atlanta has been shaken by an apparent shootout that occurred two weeks ago when law enforcement officers tried to clear protesters from South River Forest, a wooded area just outside of the city that has been designated as the site for a controversial new police and firefighter training center. A Georgia state trooper has been hospitalized with a bullet in the belly. A 26-year-old protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, is dead, gunned down by law enforcement in what they are calling an act of self-defense.”

Sturgeon Outlasted the Dinosaurs. Can They Survive Us? – The New York Times

“The American caviar rush began on the lower Delaware estuary, a landscape today crowded with chemical plants, container ports and the sprawl of Philadelphia. But this was the 1870s, when nature edged up to the city’s limits, when probably nowhere else in the country was home to more Atlantic sturgeon: During the spring spawn, an estimated 360,000 adults thronged the reach that marked the brackish threshold between bay and river. Theirs was the roe prized by the Russian czars, whose brokers at one point paid more than $1,400 in today’s dollars for a single female Atlantic sturgeon. Bayside, N.J., came to be known as Caviar, a miniature, pop-up New Bedford in the state’s marshy south. During the fishery’s peak, in 1888, 16,500 Atlantic sturgeon — they can live 60 years and grow to 14 feet and 800 pounds — were “harvested,” or killed. Most were female, and the millions of eggs that each could produce during a spawn never made it into the water within which they were meant to hatch.

For an estimated 10 to 15 million years, Atlantic sturgeon, or Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, have spawned in as many as 38 rivers throughout eastern North America. An anadromous fish, it is born in fresh water, spends its adulthood in salt water and returns to its natal rivers to spawn. Because individuals from different rivers do not commonly interbreed, their homing instinct has produced populations whose genetics are unique to the waterways of their birth. But the caviar rush of the late 19th century ravaged the Atlantic sturgeon, and today breeding populations remain in only 22 of its 38 natal rivers. In 2012, the species became protected under the Endangered Species Act.

At the time, researchers estimated that the Delaware population consisted of 300 or fewer spawning adults per year. While the Delaware Atlantic sturgeon is just one branch of the species, its decline epitomizes the global biodiversity crisis. “If you lose one population and their functional genetic diversity, then you’re possibly eliminating the ability for the species to adapt to new conditions in the future,” says Isaac Wirgin, an associate professor of environmental medicine at N.Y.U. Langone Health, who has sequenced Atlantic sturgeon DNA. In other words, when one branch is extirpated, a block from the genetic Jenga tower is removed and the whole family teeters further.”

David Lindsay Jr.

NYT comment:

Thank you Andrew S. Lewis et al. This is an amazing, and depressing story. We should bend over backwards to try and save the North Altantic sturgeon, as well as many other endangered species as well. How do we stop the corruption in our own regulatory agencies? David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Peter Coy | Worker Overtime Pay Is Dying. It Shouldn’t Be. – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“Time and a half for overtime is one of the best-known and most important protections for workers in the United States. Yet many employers routinely undermine the protection by misclassifying workers as managers and thereby making them ineligible for overtime pay.

The extent to which employers game the overtime system was made starkly clear in January in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The title says it all: “Too Many Managers: The Strategic Use of Titles to Avoid Overtime Payments.” “Food cart manager,” “price scanning coordinator,” “carpet shampoo manager,” “lead shower door installer,” “grooming manager” and “director of first impressions” (for a front desk clerk) are some of the “fake-sounding” titles uncovered by the authors, Lauren Cohen of Harvard Business School and Umit Gurun and N. Bugra Ozel of the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management.

I talked to three people who want to make it harder for employers to misclassify workers: Nick Hanauer, a wealthy entrepreneur who founded Civic Ventures, a public policy incubator in Seattle; Heidi Shierholz, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on low- and middle-income workers; and David Weil, who ran the wage and hour division of the Department of Labor during the Obama administration but was rejected by the Senate for the same job in the Biden administration.”