1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

The scoop: American infrastructure is aging and the problem is two-fold. Large cities need federal funding to support ambitious projects, while small cities can't afford any new projects.

Disaster in Miami, Detroit: As the story unfolds, it appears the Surfside condo tower likely collapsed from deteriorating infrastructure. In the Midwest, Detroit suffered from unprecedented rain, but also decades of underinvestment.

Rising cost of construction: US infrastructure rebuilds are extremely expensive, 6th highest in the world. Despite that, we dedicate a lower percentage of our GDP to infrastructure than the EU or China.

One solution: Prioritize domestic infrastructure projects over foreign interventionism to fund new projects. Don't just use deficit money to fund it. In fact, money alone will not be sufficient to ensure new construction is a success.

Successful federal projects require careful planning, strategic management and people-first politics. America needs to rebuild itself bearing both today's economy and future economies in mind. It's important we don't forget either.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: El Salvador announced that Bitcoin is now legal tender. Citizens can pay taxes with it and stuff.

Why it matters: El Salvador is the first country to recognize a cryptocurrency as a legal form of currency. This marks a major shift toward government's view of decentralized financial systems, and a potential shift away from central banks.

The energy problem: We all know Bitcoin has an energy problem. To combat that, El Salvador plans to use geothermal energy from its volcanoes to produce cheap, clean energy for bitcoin mining. Let's see if they can build sophisticated infrastructure to match pent-up demand.

Bottom line: In the rush to make bets on the future of finance, governments around the world are responding with crypto plans for citizens.

Question: Will this push for legal forms of cryptocurrency help or hurt its climate impact in the long-run?

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
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  4. Politics and Policy
Dig deeper to find out how Biden can build a message of unity for America…

Biden re-signed the Paris accord this week. Like I wrote about last week, the next four years will have major implications about the role of federal governance in climate mitigation.

Here at SR, we don’t endorse politicians but we certainly criticize them. Expect us to watch this administration closely and keep you up-to-date on America’s progress on environment-related issues.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: With control of Congress and the White House, the Democrats have the weight of the world take serious climate action. If they fail, perhaps government is incapable of getting the job done.

Some talking points:

  • Any climate plan taken in the next few years should be targeted at institutions, not individuals.
  • We're looking for stringent environmental protections laws, and harsher rules on corporate carbon emissions. Let's not damage SMB's either, please.
  • ^In that light, if there was a vaccine-like waitlist for taking climate action, corporations should be at the top of the list. Let's get them out of the way.

Bottom line: The legacy of federal governance (fair or not) lies in the hands of an aging Biden. If his administration fails to bring about tangible change, the distrust of government may be irrevocable.

Dig deeper --> 1 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Below are top 10 head-scratchers for the so-called 'COVID-19 Relief Package'.

  1. Despite spending 15 years and billions of dollars, American counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan are ineffective (Foreign Aid)
  2. The Fish and Wildlife Service is subsidizing yachting (Environment, Energy,Science)
  3. NIH paid to find out if hot tubbing can lower stress (Health Care)
  4. Using CARES Act funds, the FAA renovated a taxiway at the airport on Nantucket Island most often used by private jets (Miscellaneous)
  5. NIH paid researchers to interview San Franciscans about how they use edible cannabis (Health Care)
  6. FEMA paid for test tubes for COVID tests but received contaminated mini soda bottles (Miscellaneous)
  7. NIH paid researchers to develop methods to stop grown adults from binge-watching television (Health Care)
  8. DOD lost more than 100drones over Afghanistan (Military)
  9. USAID is open to creating a venture capital fund in Bosnia & Herzegovina for bad investments (Foreign Aid)
  10. NSF ran lizards on a treadmill (Environment, Energy, Science)
  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy
  5. Thinking
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The scoop: The World Bank projects extreme poverty to rise for the first time since the 1990s, while 270 million people are at risk of starvation (2x higher than 2019).

Lockdowns and inequality: 20+ million Americans are still unemployed. 160,000 US business have closed. Despite that, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Costco (for example) are posting record high online sales.

What can we do? Go beyond SBA loans and stimulus checks. We should like, actually be doing everything we can to keep small business owners afloat.

Local coffee shops > Starbucks, Thrift > Marshall's, Art galleries for Home Decor > Amazon.

Bottom line: We can clean up this institutional mess by creating a new structure around congressional term limits, monopoly break-ups, whistleblower support, and free speech... or we can allow the same actors to weave the world we've grown to love and hate.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
  4. Thinking
Busy? Try the speed read.

What to know: For the first three US presidential elections, the runner-up became VP. The 12th amendment rewrote the rules in 1804 so that candidates ran with a running mate. Electors are required to submit one electoral vote for a candidate, and one electoral vote for a candidate's running mate.

Picture this: A climate-focused Gore sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden's economic recovery bid?

One more point: Imagine if a climate-focused Gore was sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton was sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden during his economic recovery bid?

Bottom line: We all know the American republic is under scrutiny. Our divisive two-party system, though highly profitable for Big tech and media, is at its breaking point. In a close race, allowing a runner-up candidate to serve as veep could help quell the American political fire.

Dig deeper 🠒 2 min

  1. Federal
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The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.

Why Paris no bien:

  1. It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
  2. It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).

Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

The scoop: The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. They spent 10 minutes on the topic.

Why it matters: Recent polls revealed 12% of likely voters considered climate change to be their #1 issue behind the economy and coronavirus.

Stuff to know: Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is made up of 300 billion trees and 1/5 of the world's species. Trump acknowledge anthropogenic climate change (sort of) for the first time.

Bottom line: The world is suffering from a public health disaster that has leaked into the global economy, yet voters still consider climate change a centerpiece issue. That is a sign of things to come.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Big picture With social distancing mandates and divisive partisanship on the Hill, experts speculate as much as a week’s delay on election results. They need to manually count millions of mail-in ballots. And the side-effects of a delayed election are enormous. Who would act as President while we counted the winner?

Possible outcomes

  1. As the law currently states, the Speaker of the House, followed by the President Pro Tempore, would fall in succession to serve in the case of a disputed presidency. President Pelosi?
  2. BUT, Congressional elections occur every two years. That means that every single House seat will expire on Jan 3. That means if the House majority is unclear, the Speaker of the House may be disputed also.
  3. Section 3 of the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, outlined an alternative for undecided presidential elections. Basically, Congress can dub any "Person" deemed suitable for office to serve as president in the interim. That list would stretch out to Former Presidents, Secretaries of State, etc.

What it all means I know it’s become quite a partisan issue, but I truly believe our best bet is to vote at the booth and minimize mail-in ballots. It’s in the best interest of our safety, integrity and ensured continuity as a nation. Enact whatever social distancing policies we need, designate specific time slots for seniors, but make it happen. If Costco can do it, so can we.

Bottom line Given the current political climate, an election dependent on mail votes could be catastrophic.

Dig deeper → 4 min

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