Newscoop Footnotes: July 2, 2018

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes — the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

To start with, we’d like to make note of the obvious fact that there is so much going on in the U.S. right now that’s deeply disturbing, but also flying under the radar — so people aren’t hearing about it. Because of that, we could easily become U.S.-centric in our Footnotes. We promise not to let that happen.

First, the good news. There appears to be a breakthrough in the effort to clean up the terrible plastic bottle pollution in the world’s oceans. Millions of those plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world, and only a fraction of them are recycled. Many end up in the world’s oceans. But in 2016, a bacteria that naturally evolved to eat plastic was discovered at a Japanese waste dump. Then, as scientists tried to understand it in the lab, voila’!  They accidentally made it better, creating a mutant enzyme that voraciously eats plastic bottles.

Now, the bad news. On June 25th, the Intercept reported that they’ve identified a large number of fortress-like buildings owned by AT&T across the U.S. from which surveillance operations are being conducted for the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA. In these buildings in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory are being monitored, unbeknownst to American consumers. Edward Snowden has called the report “the most important surveillance story you will see for years.”

Next, a July 2nd report commissioned by four French and Egyptian human rights groups charges France with being complicit in the brutal crackdown of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi against his people. Following el-Sisi’s overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the EU declared that all member states had suspended exports to Egypt for equipment that could be used for domestic repression. But this new report states that 8 French companies have profited enormously from providing weapons and surveillance systems to el-Sisi’s government.  “By supplying Egyptian security services and law enforcement agencies with powerful digital tools, they have helped establish an Orwellian surveillance and control architecture that is being used to eradicate all forms of dissent and citizen action.”

Then there’s Puerto Rico. A May 2018 New England Journal of Medicine study determined that nearly 5,000 people may have died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, primarily because of “interruption of medical care”. 64 had been the official death toll. The concern now is that the Trump Administration has been minimizing the death toll in order to spend less money on relief and rebuilding efforts for the island.

And lastly, in April 2018, ProPublica reported that the Trump Organization has been suing local governments around the country, trying to minimize their taxes in areas where they own properties. So far, communities in Florida, New York and Illinois have all been sued since Trump took office. The Trump Organization now claims those properties are actually worth much less than reported on Trump’s required financial disclosure reports. The problem?  Conflict of interest. Trump oversees federal funding for the states and municipalities, and he is intimately involved in policies that impact those same communities. But we’re sure his personal financial interests will play no part in his policy decisions for those towns. 

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention. Tune in next week for more.

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