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Explainer: Was Tornado Outbreak Related to Climate Change? (Maria)

The authors write, “The calendar said December but the warm moist air screamed of springtime. Add an eastbound storm front guided by a La Nina weather pattern into that mismatch and it spawned tornadoes that killed dozens over five US states. Tornadoes in December are unusual, but not unheard of. But the ferocity and path length of Friday night’s tornadoes likely put them in a category of their own, meteorologists say. … Warm weather was a crucial ingredient in this tornado outbreak, but whether climate change is a factor is not quite as clear, meteorologists say. Scientists say figuring out how climate change is affecting the frequency of tornadoes is complicated and their understanding is still evolving. But they do say the atmospheric conditions that give rise to such outbreaks are intensifying in the winter as the planet warms.”

Mystery of Florida’s ‘Ghost’ Candidates Grows: Major Energy Company Linked to GOP Scheme (DonkeyHotey)

From Salon: “Back in March, Frank Artiles, a former Republican Florida state representative with strong financial ties to the utility industry, was arrested on suspicion of orchestrating an election fraud scheme that helped oust one of Florida’s most prominent climate advocates, former state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat. According to investigators, Artiles reportedly paid an auto salesman with the same surname as Rodríguez to run as a third-party ‘ghost’ candidate against Rodríguez and his then-Republican challenger, state Sen. Ileana Garcia. Farcical as it sounds, it worked. The auto salesman, despite never campaigning, likely siphoned off 6,300 votes from Rodríguez’s re-campaign to ensure Garcia’s victory. Now new revelations suggest that Artiles, the alleged mastermind, may have just been the tip of the iceberg.” 

Republicans in Texas County to Administer Their Own 2022 Primary, Despite Officials’ Warnings (Reader Steve)

From Votebeat: “The Potter County Republican Party plans to conduct its own election during the Texas primary on March 1, independent of the county election administration. People voting in Republican races on Election Day will cast hand-marked ballots that will be hand counted, which the party believes to be more secure. Experts say the move will introduce a higher risk of fraud, confuse voters, and likely result in legal challenges. ‘This introduces a lot of potential mistakes and it also introduces opportunities for fraud,’ said Christina Adkins, the legal director of the Texas Secretary of State’s elections division. ‘The candidates on this ballot really need to think about whether this is how they want their election run.’”

The Secret History of the US Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan (Reader Pat)

From The New Yorker: “The debates and decisions in Washington, Kabul, and Doha that preceded the Islamic Republic’s fall took place largely in private. Hundreds of pages of meeting notes, transcripts, memoranda, e-mails, and documents, as well as extensive interviews with Afghan and American officials, present a dispiriting record of misjudgment, hubris, and delusion from the very start.”

Meat Packers’ Profit Margins Jumped 300 Percent During Pandemic (Dana)

The author writes, “Four of the biggest meat-processing companies, using their market power in the highly consolidated U.S. market to drive up meat prices and underpay farmers, have tripled their own net profit margins since the pandemic started, White House economics advisers said. Financial statements of the meat-processing companies — which control 55%-85% of the market for beef, poultry and pork — contradict claims that rising meat prices were caused by higher labor or transportation costs, advisers led by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese wrote in an analysis published on the White House website Friday.”

Buy Nothing Groups Offer an Antidote to Waste and Isolation, With a World of Free Stuff (Russ)

The author writes, “What started in 2013 as a hyperlocal network of ‘circular gift economies’ in Bainbridge Island, Wash., has ballooned into a constellation of Buy Nothing groups with 4.3 million members in 44 countries. Members can request or offer any item or service as long as it’s legal; however buying, selling and bartering are prohibited. The groups are well-represented on social media, particularly Facebook, Reddit and Nextdoor. The Buy Nothing app, launched on Black Friday, has been downloaded more than 125,000 times.”

Friendly, Foul-Mouthed Crow Befriends Entire Oregon Elementary School Before State Police Are Called In (Reader Steve)

From The Oregonian: “A friendly, if somewhat foul-mouthed, crow became a temporary mascot at Allen Dale Elementary School in November when the bird took up residence at the Grants Pass school. ‘This crow showed up at our school just out of the blue one morning,’ said Naomi Imel, an education assistant at Allen Dale, over the phone on Thursday. It began looking into classrooms, Imel said, and pecking on doors. At one point, it made its way into a fifth-grade classroom where it ‘helped itself to some snacks,’ she said.”

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