×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
May 8, 2014

January's massive chemical spill in the Elk River, right upstream from Charleston, West Virginia, had a pretty strange effect on the West Virginia lawmakers in session when the tap water turned toxic: They passed legislation protecting water resources from certain chemicals. On Wednesday night's Daily Show, Jordan Klepper found a name for this phenomenon — FIMBY (watch below) — and talked to a conservative state lawmaker, Del. Cindy Frich (R), about her post-spill embrace of modest government regulation.

Frich is funny and good-natured, but near the end she realizes — and it's impressive that so few subjects of these segments do — that this is The Daily Show, and it's probably a trap. --Peter Weber

10:38 a.m. ET

It's not me, it's you. The city of Little Rock, Arkansas, sent Amazon that message Thursday to let the company know Little Rock was no longer interested in their new HQ2 project ... by placing a full-page breakup letter in The Washington Post.

The city is concerned that the new 8 million-square-foot headquarters that Amazon wants to build will disrupt transit and traffic flow — and Little Rock isn't alone. Some say the so-called HQ2 will likely detract from local businesses by bringing in outside construction companies. Housing prices could also rise as a result of the development; rent prices in the Seattle area, where Amazon's primary home base is located, spiked 7.2 percent last year alone, according to real estate database Zillow.

Seventy-three community groups from cities across the U.S. have signed onto a "wish list" for Amazon in an open letter. The civic leaders are pushing for the online retailer to show a commitment to whichever city it chooses in the form of affordable housing and tax revenue.

It's not all bad news for Amazon, though. Some cities are actively trying to impress the company, which has promised to hire 50,000 full-time employees after the $5 billion HQ2 project is completed. Tucson, Arizona, pulled out all of the stops by shipping a 21-foot cactus to the Seattle-based company in an attempt to impress, NBC News reports.

Cities' bids for HQ2 were submitted Oct. 19. Read Little Rock's full break up letter below. Elianna Spitzer

8:42 a.m. ET

Polluted air, soil, water, and work environments were responsible for 1 in every 6 deaths in 2015, a massive new study published in the The Lancet on Friday found. The more than nine million premature deaths from pollution in 2015 primarily took the form of noncommunicable diseases, including asthma and cancer, with lead pollution contributing to half a million deaths on its own. The study warned that if not addressed, pollution "threatens the continuing survival of human societies."

Poor populations are the most vulnerable to pollution-related deaths, with toxic environments causing a quarter of all deaths in nations like India, Chad, and Madagascar, The Guardian reports. The United States broke the top 10 for countries with "modern" pollution, including fossil fuel-related pollution and chemical pollution.

The report comes at a sensitive time for the Trump administration, which has been accused of wanting to "eviscerate" the Environmental Protection Agency. "Trump has asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to help dismantle much of President Obama's environmental legacy," The Week writes, including the "Clean Power Plan, which promotes renewable energy and curbs greenhouse gas emissions; rules requiring cars and light trucks to average 36 miles per gallon (up from 25 mpg) by 2025; and the Clean Water Rule, which expanded the number of small streams and wetlands that qualify for federal protections."

The authors of the Lancet report urged immediate action to curb pollution. Professor Philip Landrigan, who co-led the Commission on Pollution and Health behind the study, said: "We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the Earth can carry." He added: "We always hear 'we can't afford to clean up pollution' — I say we can't afford not to clean it up." Jeva Lange

8:24 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a conservative think tank that the "intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election," significantly mischaracterizing a report the intelligence community issued in January. A CIA spokesman quickly clarified, "The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had."

The unclassified January report from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) office did "not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election," describing the Moscow-linked activities as unprecedented in scope and aimed at undermining American faith in its institutions and helping elect President Trump. Former DNI James Clapper said on CNN in September that "our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory."

Pompeo, a former GOP congressman, has been accused of downplaying Russia's effect on the election, as has Trump. "This is another example of Pompeo politicizing intelligence," a former senior U.S. intelligence official told The Washington Post. Pompeo "is the most political CIA director since Bill Casey" during the Reagan administration, the official added. "This significantly undermines the intelligence community's credibility." In his talk on Thursday, Pompeo also said the "former CIA talking heads on TV" are required to stay quiet about their work far "beyond the day you turn in your badge." Peter Weber

7:46 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump assured critics that he would officially declare the opioid crisis to be a national emergency next week, which was apparently news to his own officials. "They are not ready for this," one public health advocate told Politico after discussing Trump's promise with Health and Human Services officials. A senior Food and Drug Administration official agreed, calling it "such a mess."

Opioids are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. STAT estimated earlier this year that opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade. But "Trump's off-script statement stunned top agency officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic," Politico writes.

Part of the disagreement boils down to how to declare the emergency: The Stafford Act, which is normally used for natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, could open up federal dollars for the opioid crisis but might not be legally sound. Trump could instead declare a more narrowly focused public health emergency, but that would rely on the mere $57,000 in available money from HHS. Trump could also look to Congress, but that approach still hasn't been finalized.

“The reaction [to Trump's promise] was universal," one senior health official told Politico. "Believe it when [we] see it." Read more about why if the opioid crisis isn't a national emergency, nothing is, at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:28 a.m. ET

At a ceremony Friday, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared the "total liberation" of Raqqa, Syria, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. The Kurdish-led coalition then formally handed over control of the devastated city to a civilian council, though SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the coalition would continue sweeping the city for ISIS holdouts and explosives and guarantee the safety of the city and province. The SDF had declared military operations over on Tuesday, and Silo said 655 local and international fighters died in the 130-day battle to push ISIS out of Raqqa.

The SDF held its ceremony, attended by local officials and regional tribal leaders, in the sports stadium that ISIS had used as a weapons depot, prison, and torture chamber, and where its fighters made their last stand. The point, SDF commanders told CNN, was "to add insult to injury following the extremist group's defeat there." Clearing Raqqa of explosives and making sure ISIS militants are all gone from the tunnel system they built could take months. Silo cheered the "historic victory" over ISIS and its "brutal" defeat, and paid homage to the fallen SDF and allied fighters, but also asked the international community to help rebuild Raqqa. You can see a glimpse of what's left of Raqqa, after three months of battle and many more months of U.S.-led bombing, in the Associated Press drone video from Thursday. Peter Weber

6:40 a.m. ET
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Joe Arpaio is still legally guilty of criminal contempt of court despite the Aug. 25 pardon from President Trump. Arpaio's lawyers and the Justice Department had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate her July 31 guilty verdict, to wipe his record clean and prevent the conviction from being used against him in other litigation. She refused. Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5

"The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote in her 4-page ruling, quoting a 1990 appeals court ruling. "To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The court found defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The president issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, 'revise the historical facts' of this case."

Arpaio's lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Arpaio, 85, was sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years before being voted out last year. He is an immigration hardliner and significant Trump supporter. After his pardon, Arpaio suggested that he might get back into politics. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m. ET
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Keeping up with President Trump's stance on the bipartisan health-care bill that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled on Thursday, flanked by 11 Republican and 11 Democratic cosponsors, can be exhausting and frustrating. So Republicans have just started ignoring Trump's opinion, Caitlin Owens reports at Axios, and cracking jokes about Trump's policy inconstancy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said all 48 members of the Democratic caucus would support the bill, which would give it 60 yes votes if Republicans bring it up for a vote.

But if Trump objects, Republicans see a problem. If.

"Which one's he on now?" Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) asked Owens when she brought up Trump's opinion of the bill. "In this town, at this time, change seems to be the norm," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said when asked about Trump's shifting opinion. "It is what it is. So we just work around it." A GOP lobbyist told Owens: "They just need to pass it during the 5 minutes he is supportive." Alexander and others suggest that the bill faces better odds as part of a year-end package of must-pass legislation rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Alexander-Murray aims to stabilize insurance markets by extending for two years the cost-sharing subsidies that insurers use to lower costs for low-income customers — Trump ended them last week — and makes it easier for states to get waivers on ObamaCare requirements. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads