Happy Thursday. Some things future-you will know: which two European governments collapsed yesterday, why Airbnb canceled all upcoming D.C. reservations, and how the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy is related to solar panels.
“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.”
💧 Indictments in Flint Water Crisis
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday after a new investigation into the Flint water crisis.
⌛ Time Machine: The crisis began in 2014, affecting the city’s ~100k residents and causing 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
🤿 A deeper dive… The crisis arose when Flint was under guidance from state emergency managers appointed by Gov. Snyder.
The emergency managers switched the city’s water supply from Detroit’s public system to the Flint River as a short-term cost-cutting measure in April 2014 while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron.
During the switch, corrosion inhibitors were not used, causing lead from old pipes to leach into the water supply. The elevated lead levels in the water created an ongoing concern about lasting impacts on residents, particularly young children.
A 2017 study found Flint’s fertility rate fell by 12% after the city’s water supply was switched. The fetal death rate increased by 58%.
Flint connected back with the Detroit water system in October 2015.
The city began inspecting every home and building for traces of lead in their water pipes in 2016. As of last month, there’s less than 500 pipes left to inspect (26k+ in total; nearly 10k replaced).
⚖️ Court Report The former state attorney general brought charges against 15 people. Seven have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors since 2016.
The current state AG’s officedismissed the other eight cases in 2019 due to concerns its predecessor’s investigation “was not fully and properly pursued.”
At the time, officials said they would be starting the investigation anew and charges could still be refiled.
The two misdemeanor charges filed against ex-Gov. Snyder each carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1K fine. However, a misdemeanor conviction could allow a judge to issue a significant restitution order against Snyder, a former business executive and multi-millionaire.
On the Settlement Side: MI Gov. Whitmer signed a bill last month authorizing the funds for a proposed $641M settlement, negotiated between attorneys for city residents and the state. It’s still pending judicial approval.
💬 What They’re Saying:
“It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Gov. Snyder. Any charges would be meritless. Coming from an administration that claims to be above partisan politics, it is deeply disappointing to see pure political motivation driving charging decisions.
The Office of Special Counsel clearly needs a scapegoat after wasting five years and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a fruitless investigation. Rather than following the evidence to find the truth, the Office of Special Counsel appears to be targeting former Gov. Snyder in a political escapade.” –Brian Lennon, attorney for Rick Snyder.
“These are the first steps in the final process to securing justice for our community. I commend Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team for their commitment to finding the truth and fully investigating all possible criminal activity. Our community has been through a tragedy it never should have faced, but Flint is strong and we will continue moving forward.” –Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley
From Sewage Sludge, a New Perspective on the Flint Water Crisis
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🗳️ President Trump Impeached
The House voted 232-197 to impeach President Donald Trump for a historic second time yesterday, charging him with “inciting an insurrection” over last Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol. All 222 House Democrats and ten Republicans voted to impeach the president, with four GOP reps abstaining (full breakdown). The trial now heads to the Senate, where conviction and removal of President Trump would require a two-thirds majority vote.
More: The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) – who told colleagues yesterday he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote” – said the earliest he would start an impeachment trial is when the Senate returns from its recess next Tuesday, the day before President-elect Biden is inaugurated.
Researchers from the Ohio State University announced the discovery of two new strains of COVID-19 that likely originated in the U.S., one of which has become the dominant strain in Columbus, OH.
In a press release, scientists said the now-dominant strain contains three gene mutations not previously seen together.
They also said the other new strain, found in a single patient in Ohio, carries a mutation identical to the highly-infectious strain first identified in the UK but “likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States.”
More: Like the strain first detected in the UK, scientists said the new strains do not seem like they will diminish the effectiveness of vaccines.
Elsewhere… Johnson & Johnson published early-stage trial data yesterday showing its vaccine to be safe and effective in generating an immune response to COVID-19. (The full report.)
Estonia prime minister Jüri Ratasresigned yesterday, triggering a collapse of the country’s coalition government. The move came after prosecutors named his ‘Centre’ political party as a suspect in a corruption investigation related to a property development.
Ex-Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, leader of the Italia Viva party, announced plans to pull his party out of the country’s ruling coalition, effectively triggering a collapse of Italy’s government.
🇪🇺 1 More European Thing…
🐛 The EU’s food safety agency approved yellow mealworms for human consumption yesterday, the first-ever insect to receive that designation.
🏠 Airbnb’s Reservation Situation
Airbnb canceled and blocked all future reservations in the Washington, D.C., metro area during the week of President-elect Biden’s inauguration in response to government officials asking people not to travel to the U.S. capital. The company said it will refund all guests who had reserved a place, and likewise reimburse all hosts with the money they would have earned from the canceled reservations.
Snapchat announced plans to permanently ban President Trump’s account on January 20 after locking it indefinitely following last week’s riot at the Capitol. (Left-Center | Right-Center)
📝 Cancer Answers
A new report from the American Cancer Society identified the largest-ever single-year decrease in cancer mortality took place from 2017-2018 (2.4% reduction in deaths). The study found an overall drop of 31% when comparing data from 2018 with 1990, largely attributing the decrease to less smoking and continued advances in lung cancer treatment.
🌳 Apple Plants Roots
Apple announced the launch of three new projects as part of its $100M June pledge to help combat racism after the killing of George Floyd. The tech giant said it will open a software-developer academy in Detroit later this year in collaboration with Michigan State University, as well as establish two venture-funding initiatives for young “Black and Brown entrepreneurs.”
🍩 DONUT Holes:
📈 Shares of online payments firm Affirmjumped nearly 100% in its market debut on the Nasdaq yesterday.
🍼 Flo,a fertility app with more than 100M customers, settled an FTC investigation into accusations the company shared data with Google, Facebook, and other companies without users’ consent.
🚪 Glassdoor published its annual Best Places to Work 2021, topped by Bain & Company. The full list.
Gas station attendant Bradley Rowe, who works at a Safeway Fuel in Astoria, OR, likes to chat with customers as he fills up their gas tanks. One Friday in November, Bradley struck up a conversation with a man by telling him that he was attempting to secure a loan for $2,000 to buy a 1998 Ford Explorer.
Later that day, Bradley was visited by Bill Ring, a local Kia dealership owner, who let him know the anonymous customer had purchased a car for the gas station attendant.
After work, the 23-year-old and his girlfriend went to the dealership, where they picked out a 2016 Kia Sportage. The vehicle is the newest car Bradley has ever owned.
But wait, there’s more…
After contracting a series of debilitating illnesses while on a backpacking trip through Latin America, 27-year-old Reuben Schoots of Australiafound unexpected solace in horology – the 200-year-old art of watchmaking.
On Christmas Day, newlywed Amber Rose and her dad recreated their father-daughter dance from her 2020 wedding for Amber’s grandmother, who was unable to attend the actual ceremony. (The heartwarming moment was captured on video.)
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🔑 You Shall Not Pass(word)… a San Francisco resident and programmer has just two attempts left to access the password to an online wallet containing 7k Bitcoins – worth ~$260M as of Wednesday night – that he received as payment a decade ago.
🌿💨 Science Gets the Munchies… in a novel study, researchers found that legalizing recreational marijuana leads to increased sales of ice cream, cookies, chips, and other junk food in the area.
☀️🌶️ Bring the Heat… scientists identified a secret ingredient allowing solar panels to capture more energy – capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy.
😷 You Merely Adopted the Mask… Razer unveiled a hi-tech smart mask that filters the surrounding air and amplifies your voice – similar to Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.
🍿 Movie Magic
Which Disney film was the first full-length animated feature to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?
A) Toy Story B) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs C) The Prince of Egypt D) Beauty and the Beast
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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