At the last second possible second, and maybe even after the last possible second, Washington's bipartisan redistricting commission approved new Congressional District and Legislative District maps that will largely determine the balance of political power in Washington for the next 10 years. The hours-long meeting was — to borrow a phrase — an absolute shitshow. The meeting was supposed to be public, but commissioners mostly negotiated district boundaries behind closed virtual doors. They only popped out of private quarters a few times to remind viewers of the late hour and to pat themselves on the back for working so hard.
Though they approved the maps at midnight (by my clock), they didn't transmit their votes until 12:01 am (due to technical difficulties), which could become a legal problem. (I'm not a lawyer, but I'm inclined to buy this analysis: the decision has been made and the courts won't fuck with the boundaries even if someone sues.) The commission did not show the public the maps before they approved them, and during the penultimate public update, which came 16 minutes before the midnight deadline, commissioners listed six or seven boundaries that appeared to still be under consideration. Though the commission said we'd see the new maps at "sunrise" and/or at "dawn," as of 8:30 am, we still hadn't seen updated maps.
Just leaving this here in case you are a member of a state redistricting commission that meets once per decade, approving maps at midnight with no public deliberation. WA open meetings law defines “deliberation” + “discussion” as “action” that must happen in public #waleg #waelex pic.twitter.com/3GQQJzylB1
— Melissa Santos (@MelissaSantos1) November 16, 2021
Freaky atmospheric river updates: Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in 14 counties. More than 500 people have been displaced from their homes in Whatcom County, and shelters have been set up at elementary schools and at a church, KING 5 reports. A tree fell on a home in Auburn, but no one was hurt. The Coast Guard helped rescue 10 people near Forks. And mudslides closed both lanes of I-5 through Bellingham at least through Tuesday morning.
Bruce Harrell thinks he's going to fix graffiti: "'So I’m going to first investigate the culture and then I’m going to try to start a relationship with a lot of these folks,' Harrell said of his plan to 'clean up' and prevent graffiti, a promise he repeated throughout his campaign," according to the Seattle Times. This episode only provides more evidence to suggest that Harrell's administration will devote its time and energy to addressing cosmetic concerns rather than root causes.
Choose 180 to pay staff $70,000: The Burien-based nonprofit raised all of its staff salaries, amounting to about $400,000 added to its 2022 budget. Executive director Sean Goode says he initially opposed the idea, but his perspective shifted after talking to more employees, some of whom were working multiple jobs, the Seattle Times reports.
More traffic cameras are coming: SDOT plans to install eight new traffic cameras to ticket drivers blocking intersections, crosswalks, and bus lanes, MyNorthwest reports. The intersections include several downtown crossings, and tickets will be $75.
Reminder of why we need these: Don't block the fucking box.
An update on hospital staff vax rates: About 94% of hospital workers are fully vaccinated, and the rest have either received exemptions or are on leave until they get vaccinated. Another 3,000 workers, about 2% left after refusing to comply, KING 5 reports.
I guess I didn't know we could do this? With a fourth COVID-19 wave hitting Europe and a 14 percent increase in cases in the U.S., some states and New York City have authorized boosters for all adults who want them before the CDC and the FDA have authorized widespread boosters for those over 18. Aside from NYC, the New York Times reports that Colorado, California, New Mexico, and now Arkansas jumped to the front of the booster line. That said, the FDA and CDC will likely approve boosters for all adults nationwide this week.
Beto's back: He lost his 2018 Senate bid, he bowed out of his 2020 presidential bid, but now he's taking on one of the worst governors in one of the best states in the country. In his announcement video, O'Rourke adopts a popularist stance, running on stuff everyone likes, such as fixing the power grid, expanding Medicaid, legalizing pot, and making Texas "big again." Politico reports that he's also been "hammering" Gov. Abbot on the mounting COVID dead, the abortion bounty bill, and anti-democratic voting laws. Though he starts nine points and $55 million behind Abbot in what looks like a bad year for Democrats, Texas Dems think Abbot's record makes him vulnerable.
I’m running for governor.
Together, we can push past the small and divisive politics that we see in Texas today — and get back to the big, bold vision that used to define Texas. A Texas big enough for all of us.
Join us: https://t.co/eMY5wwf6an pic.twitter.com/yrG1WOkpqk
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 15, 2021
Sounds like President Xi accidentally (or maybe on purpose?) trolled Biden: Apparently no one expects anything of substance to come of the virtual meeting between the leaders (and senior advisors) of the two most powerful countries in the world, but one interesting detail did emerge in the Washington Post's coverage of the meeting. Earlier this summer people gave Biden shit when Xi called him an "old friend." Biden said, "We know each other well; we’re not old friends. It’s just pure business.” Then last night Xi opened up the meeting by saying he was very happy to see his "old friend" again. Gotta respect it.
Russia blew up one of its own satellites to test a weapon: The explosion created a bunch of debris that posed an immediate danger to international crews working on the space station. The debris "will remain in orbit putting satellites and human spaceflight at risk for years to come," the BBC reports. The US and the UK say they're pissed, and a state department spokesperson said the US plans to "work with our partners and allies to respond to their irresponsible act." Russia rolled its eyes in a tweet.
Экипаж Международной космической станции штатно выполняет работы согласно программе полёта.
Орбита объекта, из-за которого экипаж сегодня был вынужден согласно штатным процедурам перейти в космические корабли, отдалилась от орбиты МКС. Станция находится в «зелёной зоне» pic.twitter.com/nGk3x7nvhc
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) November 15, 2021
Our Space Force general dude is pissed:
Russia’s destructive test of an anti-satellite missile is another visible example of irresponsible behavior in Space. Access to & freedom to use the domain are critical to our collective way of life. This debris-causing demo threatens global security & the peaceful use of space. https://t.co/7tirJZQ8h5
— Gen. Jay Raymond (@SpaceForceCSO) November 15, 2021
If you want to catch up on the coming space wars (alright, fine, Star Wars), then read this month's feature from Rachel Riederer in Harper's. Turns out the "primary source for international law in space is a drastically outdated document from 1967 called the Outer Space Treaty," which basically says "you can’t have nuclear weapons in space," and that's about it. Right now it's the "wild, wild West" up there: lots of satellites, including some that that spy on other satellites, some that can blow up other satellites and oopsie maybe start a war, only a few extremely protected satellites (the ones that handle military comms), and also 1,700 Starlink satellites for Elon Musk's big internet project.
The U.S. destabilized Iraq and Afghanistan: Now thousands of Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers are freezing along the Belarusian border after that country's dictator allegedly tried to funnel the refugees to the EU in retaliation for sanctions the EU imposed on Belarus for violently cracking down on pro-democracy protesters, Al Jazeera reports. On Monday night, the EU responded with more sanctions on Belarus.
Let's end on some Lucio Battisti: Restart your morning with "Anima Latina."