“Recognizing student excellence via honor rolls and class rank can be detrimental to learners who find it more difficult to reach academic success, often for reasons beyond their control.” —The New York City Department of Education, which wants schools to rethink honor rolls and class rankings because they’re “detrimental” to some kids, according to a new grading guidance. The DOE wants schools to widen recognitions to include “contributions to the school or wider community, and demonstrations of social justice and integrity.”
“This is another example of ‘democracy’ being used to mean ‘stuff I agree with.’ Everything Texas is doing is implemented through a democratically elected house, a democratically elected senate, and a democratically elected governor. You may disagree, but how is it not democratic?” —Journalist Zaid Jilani, in response to CNN political analyst Ronald Brownstein’s Washington Post opinion piece on the new Texas law banning abortions later than six weeks: “Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like.”
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.” —Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has proven to be a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party as it tries to pass legislation via the budget reconciliation process, paving the way for a massive infrastructure infusion without Republican votes. In a 50-50 Senate, they'll need every single Democrat’s support, including Manchin’s.
“This is about making safe spaces for all children in today’s society and not pushing, sometimes forcing, children to conform.” —California state Sen. Scott Wiener, regarding the proposed legislation that would require some department stores to have a gender neutral section for some child products, like toys and hygiene and teething products. This is at least the third attempt to pass a bill like this.
“I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.” —Steven Marshall, the Premier of South Australia. One of the country’s six states, South Australia’s government has developed and is now testing an app as Orwellian as any in the free world to enforce its quarantine rules, which have been among the most draconian in the entire world1. Returning travelers quarantining at home will be forced to download an app that combines facial recognition and geo-location. The state will text them at random times, and thereafter they will have 15 minutes to take a picture of their face in the location where they're supposed to be. Should they fail, the local police department will be sent to follow up in person.
“We resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize.” —Dr. Linda Manyguns. The Canadian academic announced she was joining the “lowercase movement” to reject symbols of hierarchy “wherever they are found,” and will not use capital letters “except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.”
“The perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” —President Joe Biden, in a leaked recording of a phone call with former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani that was obtained by Reuters. Many believe the lines show Biden instructed Ghani to lie, if need be, about the failed U.S.-led effort to contain the Taliban in the weeks leading up to the chaotic Kabul evacuation, and that given former president Donald Trump’s foreign policy quid pro quo accusations as recent impeachment precedent, Biden’s words should be sufficient to trigger impeachment proceedings.
“Department of State has requested urgent guidance.” —Afghanistan Task Force SitRep No. 63, a situation report sent to all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad after Afghan intake centers in the United Arab Emirates and Wisconsin identified numerous incidents in which young Afghan girls have been presented to authorities as the “wives” of much older men. U.S. officials are looking into reports that in the frantic evacuation of desperate Afghans from Kabul, older men were admitted together with young girls they claimed as “brides” or otherwise sexually abused. Another document, described to the AP by officials familiar with it, says Afghan girls at a transit site in Abu Dhabi have alleged they have been raped by older men they were forced to marry in order to escape Afghanistan.
“We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused.” —An anonymous spokesperson from Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s experimental commercial space company, after it was discovered that the British billionaire — who’s known for his flamboyance and showmanship, and for being an outspoken environmentalist — faked the “livestream” of himself arriving by bicycle at the spaceport the day of the company’s first flight. Branson had himself filmed a week earlier and then made it look like it had happened that morning.
“[Broadcasters] must resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.” —The National Radio and TV Administration of China. The Chinese government has banned effeminate men on TV and told broadcasters to promote “revolutionary culture,” broadening a campaign to tighten control over business and society and enforce official morality. The new mandates reflect official concern that Chinese pop stars, influenced by the sleek, fashionable look of some South Korean and Japanese singers and actors, are failing to encourage China’s young men to be masculine enough.
$4.5 Billion: Amount that the Sackler family — owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin (a pill that contains oxycodone, a drug molecularly akin to heroin) — has agreed to pay as part of a wide-ranging bankruptcy settlement. Many people believe that Purdue Pharma deserves much, if not all, of the blame for the opioid epidemic, as the company misrepresented OxyContin’s risk of addiction and potential to be abused2. The payment, along with the profits of a new drug company rising from Purdue Pharma’s ashes with no ties to the Sackler family, will mainly go to addiction treatment and prevention programs across the country. The painstakingly negotiated plan will end thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments, tribes, hospitals, and individuals to address a public health crisis that’s led to the deaths of more than 500,000 people nationwide. But the agreement includes a much-disputed condition: It largely absolves the Sacklers of the company’s opioid-related liability, and as such, they’ll remain among the richest families in the country.
39: Years since Social Security payments made to retired Americans have exceeded tax revenues coming into the federal government, a record that will end in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic downturn, according to a new government report.
8: The number of states that have agreed to allow electronic driver’s licenses to be added to digital wallets on Apple devices. Arizona and Georgia will be the first states to enact the feature.
31%: The increase in accidental gunshot deaths by children handling a gun since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared to a year prior. There have been at least 259 unintentional shootings by children since the beginning of this year which have resulted in 104 deaths, placing the nation on a trajectory to surpass the record set in 2017 of 383 accidental shootings by minors which caused at least 156 deaths.
55,000: The number of people Amazon is planning on hiring for corporate and technology positions in the coming months, which amounts to more than one-third of Google’s and nearly the entirety of Facebook’s workforce.
8.8%: Increase in the Black unemployment rate during the month of August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
$7,500: Amount of money that Vermont is offering people to move to the state and work in the occupations most in need of employees. To be eligible for the grant, out-of-staters must have moved to Vermont on or after July 1 and become a full-time employee of a Vermont employer in a role that has been listed by the state’s Department of Labor as one of the most in demand. The list of 50 jobs includes fast-food, restaurant, and retail workers as well as construction and farm laborers.
6: Percentage points that President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Biden’s overall job approval rating in the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, is down to 44%, with 51% disapproving—up 9 in disapproval since late June. Sentiment has moved decidedly negative: Many more now strongly disapprove, 42%, than strongly approve, 25%.
83%: Estimated percentage of Americans ages 16 and up who are now protected from COVID-19 either through vaccination or prior infection, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. While 80% has previously been cited as a herd immunity goal, experts now say more vaccinations and boosters are needed to protect against Delta.
94: Number of Fox News telecasts in the top 100 most-watched cable news shows during the month of August, out-drawing CNN and MSNBC combined among both total day and primetime viewers and finishing as the most-watched network in all of basic cable. MSNBC’s most-watched program, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” finished sixth and was the only non-Fox News Channel offering among the 14 most-watched cable news programs of the news-heavy month.
$25,000: Expected price point of the “Tesla Model 2,” which the company plans to release in 2023. The relatively cheap price tag is made possible through Tesla’s new battery cell and battery manufacturing effort, which could reduce battery costs by over 50%. In addition to being fully autonomous, the car has been rumored to not have a steering wheel.
Australia has long been known as one of the world’s freest societies, but in a bid to keep the coronavirus out of the country, federal and state governments have imposed extremely stringent restrictions. Nobody’s even allowed to leave the country. Until last month, Australians who are residents of foreign countries were exempt from the rule so they could return to their residence. But the government tightened the restrictions further, trapping many of them in the country too. Citizens are prohibited from leaving home without an approved excuse from an official government list. In New South Wales, the Australian military was deployed to enforce lockdowns and in Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city, anti-lockdown protests were banned, and when dissenters gathered anyway, hundreds were arrested and fined.
The company sent an army of sales reps into regions with high disability rates to promote the idea that pain was vastly under treated, relentlessly pushing OxyContin as a safe pain management drug, blatantly lying to the public and making billions of dollars in the process. OxyContin was ideal because it was a pharmaceutically produced pill with a legal medical use, and it created addicts out of people who wanted nothing more than pain relief—addicts that could literally doctor-shop for prescriptions using disability checks.
But government intervention led to a sharp decrease in the supply of pharmaceutical opioids, which led to a scarcity of pills on the streets. Demand remained constant, however, and the price of OxyContin inflated. Overnight, the drug that had been a mainstay for millions of budding addicts was now all but impossible to afford; pill habits couldn’t be sustained due to the financial impositions innate to basic economics.
Mexican cartels saw the sudden vacuum in the American drug market. They seized the opportunity, flooding the country with heroin, a cheaper and far more potent alternative to pills. A single dose packet of premium black tar heroin could be purchased for $10. It was simple math. While the era of pills had featured addicts selling to other addicts on mostly local levels, the logistics of heroin called for a much more complex distribution network. Heroin was moved, controlled, and sold by people who had never used a drug in their entire lives. Cartel families and drug cells ran incredibly sophisticated operations, and they were virtually invisible to law enforcement. These people were smart and business savvy; they studied the U.S. and predetermined the parts of the country where the heroin market would thrive. It took them less than a few months to build an empire.
An estimated 81% of heroin users started with prescription opioids.
If anyone’s interested, I wrote a novel based on the opioid epidemic that sheds a little more light on the issue.