My inbox overflows with reader submissions — remember, the submission link is embedded right under this column. Enough for many columns. If I did not use yours this week, please send another. And as always, let me know if I can use your first name, last initial, and location.
Mike H. in Fairfield, Maine, sent in a timely suggestion about a fight over, yes, lobster. Timely, because the first course of the state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron was butter-poached Maine lobster with caviar.
Maine Public Radio’s Robbie Feinberg reported how the grocery chain Whole Foods is halting sales of Gulf of Maine lobster after a U.K.-based nonprofit that sets standards for sustainable fishing suspended the fishery’s certification.
“The Marine Stewardship Council suspended the fishery’s certification last week, only months after the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program red-listed the lobster because of risks to endangered North Atlantic right whales. The MSC says its decision was based on an independent audit of the fishery’s risk to the whales.”
This really has it all: International trade, a locally vital economic resource, environmentalism. There’s even a Biden administration angle.
I can’t credit this to just one reader: A study that found not only did the U.S. gun death rate in 2021 hit a level not seen in nearly 30 years, but the rate for women has been growing faster than for men, with Black women hit hardest.
Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press has the details: “Among Black women, the rate of firearm-related homicides more than tripled since 2010, and the rate of gun-related suicides more than doubled since 2015,” according to a new study.
“For Black women, the firearm suicide rate rose from about 1.5 per 100,000 in 2015 to about 3 per 100,000 last year. Their homicide death rate last year was more than 18 per 100,000, compared with about 4 per 100,000 for Hispanic women and 2 per 100,000 for white women.”
“The highest homicide gun death rates continue to be in young Black men, at 142 per 100,000 for those in their early 20s. The highest gun suicide death rates are in white men in their early 80s, at 45 per 100,000, the researchers said.”
The politics: Everyone who reads this column is familiar with the politics of firearms. But the study also shines a light on an aspect of gun violence that is often eclipsed by the coverage of mass shootings — its role in suicides. That speaks to a mental health crisis that is an issue for political leaders as well.
Shortage of poles, not polls
From reader Deb S. in Baltimore came this unexpected news nugget: The city of Baltimore has somehow run into a shortage of poles.
Here’s Adam Willis of the Baltimore Banner vaulting into the story:
“Baltimore’s efforts to affordably control traffic and promote resident safety have hit a bump in the road due to a shortage of poles, a basic component for the installation of stop signs, speed hump alerts and other street markers.”
“While the city’s stockpile of sign poles may sound like an obscure and inconsequential detail, Jed Weeks, interim executive director of the cycling advocacy group Bikemore, said road signs and speed humps are among a set of cheap, easy tools the city can use to help control traffic and protect residents. The transportation agency often doesn’t have the resources to pursue the sorts of multimillion-dollar projects that would have transformative effects for city streets, Weeks said.”
The politics: Weeks made the political point here, which is that the shortage is preventing the city from carrying out simple policy fixes that can save citizens’ lives.
Can’t lie: This one’s all me. Water shortages are huge political stories. They cross local, state and national boundaries and can affect everything from drinking water, to power generation, to trade.
My colleague Joshua Partlow has a read-the-whole-thing piece about the Colorado River. A drought threatens electricity production at Glen Canyon Dam if the water level at Lake Powell — “a man-made reservoir along the Colorado River that’s already a quarter of its former size” — falls far enough.
“If that happens, the massive turbines that generate electricity for 4.5 million people would have to shut down — after nearly 60 years of use — or risk destruction from air bubbles. The only outlet for Colorado River water from the dam would then be a set of smaller, deeper and rarely used bypass tubes with a far more limited ability to pass water downstream to the Grand Canyon and the cities and farms in Arizona, Nevada and California,” Joshua reported.
That’s it for our nonpolitical political stories for this week. Keep those suggestions coming.
Edward Snowden swears allegiance to Russia and receives passport, lawyer says
“Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about U.S. surveillance programs, swore an oath of allegiance to Russia and has collected his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media on Friday,” Natalia Abbakumova and Adela Suliman report.
Alex Jones files for bankruptcy as he owes nearly $1.5B to Sandy Hook families
“Infowars founder Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy Friday, weeks after a court ordered him to pay close to $1 billion in damages to the families of victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,” Justine McDaniel reports.
U.S. added 263,000 jobs in November, a strong showing amid tech slowdown
“The U.S. labor market showed little sign of slowing in November, with employers adding 263,000 jobs, a surprisingly robust pace amid a slowdown in the tech industry. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained unchanged from 3.7 percent a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
Netanyahu’s far-right allies could escalate West Bank crisis, critics fear
“Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu has finalized a deal with his far-right coalition partners granting the ultranationalist parties sweeping authority that could, critics say, herald new levels of bitter conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” Shira Rubin reports.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Drugs killed 8 friends, one by one, in a tragedy seen across the U.S.
“Oct. 2, 2013, was not the day the drug epidemic reached Greenville. But beginning with [Jackson Laughinghouse’s] death that day, a group of at least 16 young men and women who grew up together in this small, eastern North Carolina city would succumb to overdoses of opioids and other drugs over nine years. More of their peers became addicted or overdosed but managed to survive,” Lenny Bernstein and Jordan-Marie Smith report.
“In a nation that suffered more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 alone, there are many Greenvilles — places where the powerful opioid fentanyl and other drugs have produced clusters of overdose deaths, or picked off victims one at a time. Here, drugs worked their way inexorably through a group of friends, year after year, for nearly a decade. In one family, loss piled upon tragic loss until almost no one was left.”
DOJ tried to hide report warning that private border wall in Texas could collapse
“A private border wall built along the Rio Grande in South Texas could collapse during extreme flooding, according to a federally commissioned inspection report that the government sought to keep secret for more than a year,” Perla Trevizo and Jeremy Schwartz report for ProPublica and the Texas Tribune.
“The 404-page report, produced by the global engineering firm Arcadis, confirms previous reporting from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It also shows for the first time that the federal government independently found structural problems with the border fencing before reaching a settlement agreement with the builder, Fisher Industries, in May.”
Haley, Pence and other potential ‘24 candidates buff up their dark money groups
“Experts say that the social welfare groups, classified as 501(c)(4)s, are growing increasingly common for those with White House aspirations out of public office; that’s in part because the groups, unlike a political action committee, do not have to publicly disclose their donors. The source or sources behind a $2 million and $1 million gift to Pence’s group, for example, remain unknown,” Politico’s Hailey Fuchs reports.
Biden says he might meet with Putin — but not now
“President Biden said Thursday he is prepared to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about ending the war in Ukraine, though he stressed that such a discussion is not imminent because Putin has not shown a willingness to seek a peaceful resolution and has employed horrific tactics against Ukrainian civilians,” Yasmeen Abutaleb, Rick Noack and Toluse Olorunnipa report.
To boost Georgia’s Warnock, Biden heads to Massachusetts
“Days before polls close on Tuesday, Biden still has no plans to visit Georgia. Instead he’ll aim to help Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection campaign from afar with appearances Friday at a Boston phone bank and fundraiser,” the Associated Press’s Zeke Miller and Bill Barrow report.
At state dinner, Biden and Macron stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’
“On Thursday night, the youngest-ever French president and the oldest-ever American president toasted each other during the White House’s first state dinner in more than three years, since before the pandemic swept away millions of lives and froze Washington’s fancy rituals. Emmanuel Macron, three weeks from turning 45, raised a slender crystal Baccarat flute of California brut rosé to President Biden, freshly 80, whose vessel reportedly contained the divine elixir of the teetotaler: ginger ale,” Dan Zak, Roxanne Roberts, Jada Yuan and Jura Koncius report.
Biden is open to ‘tweaks’ to subsidies that angered U.S. allies
“Mr. Biden said he makes no apology for the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides subsidies to U.S. manufacturers and tax incentives for electric vehicles and other products that are assembled in North America. But he said changes might be needed to ensure that the law doesn’t have unintended consequences,” the Wall Street Journal’s Noemie Bisserbe, Andrew Restuccia and Tarini Parti report.
The history of the House’s partisan split, visualized
“Republicans narrowly recaptured control of the U.S. House in the 2022 midterms. But it was hardly the red wave most analysts anticipated … Republicans’ narrow gains, however, do follow in the footsteps of a long pattern in U.S. politics — Democrats and Republicans trading control of the House fairly regularly since 1994, when Republicans stole the majority from Democrats for the first time in 40 years,” The Post reports.
Sen. Gillibrand hires former crypto lawyer
“It’s maybe the least likely possible time for anyone on Capitol Hill to hire a crypto lawyer, given the taint of the industry and its bipartisan influence-peddling campaign. But that’s what Gillibrand has done,” Jarod Facundo writes for the American Prospect.
“While most watchdogs have paid attention to government officials moving into the crypto sphere, Timi Iwayemi, a senior researcher at the Revolving Door Project, explained to me that Gillibrand hiring DeWitt is a pioneering move, where a crypto insider is entering government, rather than vice versa.”
Biden’s student loan forgiveness reckoning
“Not much of the federal government is working well these days, but the courts are holding up their end. The latest example is the Supreme Court’s order Thursday that it will hear the merits of a challenge to President Biden’s $420 billion unilateral cancellation of student loans,” the WSJ’s editorial board writes.
“This is excellent news. President Biden has tried to pull a constitutional trick for the ages by ordering the forgiveness of up to $20,000 per borrower on his own authority. Congress had given the executive no such power, as even Mr. Biden had previously noted.”
At 12:25 p.m., Biden will leave for Joint Base Andrews, where he’ll fly to Boston. He’ll arrive at 2:15 p.m.
Biden will meet with the Prince of Wales at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum at 2:50 p.m.
At 4:10 p.m., he will participate in an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers phone bank.
Biden will participate in a reception for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee 5:45 p.m.
He will leave Boston for Andrews at 6:55 p.m. and arrive at Camp David after 8:30 p.m.
The real goal of the state dinner
Thanks for reading. See you next week.