National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 17 (May 9–15)
I struggled a lot this week about whether to tackle the current Gaza conflict–it’s an issue I care about a great deal, and we need to be talking about it. But in the end, I decided that writing about it would be a trip out of my lane until the U.S. gets more directly involved. I’m happy to talk with folks directly about my thoughts–I assure you, I have many!–and I’m here if I can help anyone process. These are still rough times, y’all.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a pipeline!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup In Aisle 45:
This was something of a weird week for Election Rejection, but by this point I’m pretty sure these stories are the news and not some bad mushrooms. Here’s what I have for you:
- Republicans Behaving Badly (Election Rejection Edition). This week, ho boy. First of all, the GOP did indeed vote to give Liz Cheney the old heave-ho on Wednesday, on account of she wouldn’t stop not lying, and replaced her with someone more obviously bribeable. (It has been fascinating to watch the dregs of the GOP old guard decide whether they want to take their ball and go rogue in response.) But speaking of voting, a Heritage Foundation affiliate was in the news because their director bragged about ghostwriting voter suppression laws–a thing everybody probably already knew they were doing, but she wasn’t supposed to say the quiet part out loud.
- Voting Investigation Developments. We also saw movement on multiple voting-related investigations. The Russia investigation was in the news for another week, because Congress has reached an agreement about a former Trump advisor’s testimony on the matter. They also announced a deal for a formal January 6 commission. Given the overall complexity of prosecution on the matter, it’s probably a good thing that Congress is working on it too.
This was also an interesting week for Biden Rebuilding, given the larger backdrop of foreign affairs news. Here’s what I have for you:
- Domestic Administration News. The Biden administration had a few interesting domestic adventures while eyes were mostly elsewhere. He undid some more Trump decrees intended to Make America Racist Again, though by this point outlets barely bother to cover this type of cleanup. He also held more talks about his infrastructure package, which is good because a Memphis bridge was in the news this week for being so cracked they had to shut it down. And speaking of infrastructure, his interior department also approved the country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, which will be right here in extremely windy Martha’s Vineyard, MA.
Your New Normal:
- Gas Shortage Shaming. A ransomware group literally called DarkSide targeted the Colonial Pipeline, which provides energy to much of the southeastern coast, with malware that held the pipeline’s billing operations data hostage. The group demanded 75 Bitcoin, the equivalent of about $5M, in exchange for making the system operate again. While this was being sorted and Colonial couldn’t bill consumers, they shut down the pipeline. American consumers, upon being informed that gas might be scarce for a bit, began panic-buying extra gasoline and emptied out gas stations all along the southeastern seaboard–because apparently nobody learned anything from The Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020. I hate everyone at this party but I don’t have a ride home (cause the neighbors bought up all the gas).
- Republicans Behaving Badly (Normal Badness Edition). Speaking of people behaving badly, I have more sketchy Republican news for you–here’s the stuff that didn’t actually involve election rejection. Matt Gaetz was in the news because his tax collector buddy pled guilty to six counts of federal sketchiness, including charges related to sex trafficking of a seventeen-year-old that likely implicate Gaetz. Meanwhile, Marjorie Taylor Greene was in the news for aggressively harassing her progressive colleagues again, and you know it must be bad if even Nancy Pelosi wants something done about it.
- State of the COVID-19. By far, the biggest COVID news of the week was the confusing CDC announcement on Thursday that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks indoors anymore, except for, y’know, all of the places where vaccinated people still need to wear masks indoors. As stores began to announce that you didn’t have to wear masks to shop there anymore, Pelosi announced that you do have to wear a mask to vote in Congress, and eight J&J-vaccinated Yankees members got COVID, most of the country pretty much just wondered what the hell was going on and why we were doing this when so much of the country is not yet vaccinated. And honestly, that reaction seems pretty valid, because lots of places were also in the news for using vaccine incentives to attempt to overcome hesitancy. At any rate, the Yankees story is an anomaly and it does seem true that vaccines dramatically reduce transmission, but there’s still a lot to question about what is happening.
- Promising Vaccine Developments. That said, COVID news wasn’t all confusing doom and gloom this week; we had some more direct and promising news as well. After Pfizer got approval from both the CDC and the FDA for emergency use, states are beginning to plan vaccine rollout for 12–15 year-olds. And increasingly, studies are finding that COVID vaccines safely protect pregnant women. So while things remain confusing, those are both silver linings of the week.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this excited puppy dance and a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more hours in the night to sleep!