Alan Martofel is the CEO of Feminist Apparel, a T-shirt company run out of a New Jersey strip mall. After Donald Trump’s election, a number of Feminist Apparel campaigns and products went viral—and its shirts were a common sight at women’s marches. It was a Hashtag Resistance success story, with 360,000 followers on social media and a growing staff. But this past July Feminist Apparel became the focus of a global Internet shitstorm, when Alan fired all but one of his employees. It started five years ago, when Alan wrote a Facebook post admitting to having ”grinded up on women on buses and at concerts without their consent” and once putting “a woman’s hand on my dick while she was sleeping.” He cataloged his sins, apologized, and declared the creation of Feminist Apparel his “humble attempt” at penance. The post was public — and has since been deleted. But his employees had no idea. And when they discovered it, they were furious. Alan had other ideas. Feminist Apparel would remain in business. But in an email to staff, he informed 9 of his 10 employees that they had been fired. Feminist Apparel’s ex-employees say that the truth about the company’s founding is only part of their problem with Alan.
We currently live in the safest time in human history. Sure, “strongman politics” has made a comeback, many of the planet’s biggest problems remain unsolved, and there was that god-awful year where half of the world’s most beloved celebrities dropped dead. Nevertheless, relatively speaking, the 2010s are a great time to be alive.
So, what was the crappiest time to be alive? This question was inadvertently raised by a recent historical study attempting to figure out how the European monetary system changed after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Writing in the journal Antiquity, the researchers were looking for evidence of pollution from silver processing in the ice cores buried deep in the European Alps. In doing so, they came across all kinds of insights into natural disasters and climate changes throughout the centuries.
One thing was clear: the century following the year 536 CE was a goddamn miserable time to be alive.
“It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” study author Michael McCormick, a medieval historian at Harvard, told Science Magazine.
This era was grim, not because of bloody wars or ferocious diseases, but due to a number of extreme weather events that led to a widespread famine. Although there are many theories floating around as to why this famine occurred, some of the sturdiest evidence points towards a “volcanic winter,” where ash and dust were thrown into the air from an eruption of a volcano, thereby obscuring the Sun with a “mystery cloud.”
Nobody is completely certain which volcano was the culprit, although El Salvador’s Ilopango has long stood as a top contender. However, this new study hints that the eruption was in Iceland, as the ice cores in Europe contain volcanic glass that’s chemically similar to particles found across Europe and Greenland.
Whatever the volcano, its effects were widespread, sparking the “Late Antique Little Ice Age” and a chain of global crop failure and famine. Snow fell during the summer in China, and droughts hit Peru. Meanwhile, Gaelic Irish annals talk of “a failure of bread in the year 536 [CE].” It seems there was scarcely a corner of Earth left unscathed. Procopius, a Byzantine historian living in the Middle East at the time, also wrote of “dread” caused by a foggy eclipse of the Sun.
The mini ice age also brought up a load of social problems. Some researchers have even argued that the effects of the volcanic event in 536 CE were so profound, they brought down empires (or at least tipped them over the edge). As noted in a 2016 study in Nature Geoscience, the century after the volcanic eruption saw the collapse of the Sasanian Empire, the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire, political upheavals in China, and many other instances of bloody social turmoil across Eurasia.
All in all, a crummy time to be alive.
[H/T: Science Magazine]
These Summary Findings represent a high-level synthesis of the material in the underlying report. The findings consolidate Key Messages and supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 chapters that focus on societal response strategies (mitigation and adaptation). Unless otherwise noted, qualitative statements regarding future conditions in these Summary Findings are broadly applicable across the range of different levels of future climate change and associated impacts considered in this report.
Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts. Prioritizing adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations would contribute to a more equitable future within and across communities. Global action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions can substantially reduce climate-related risks and increase opportunities for these populations in the longer term.
To understand how the sky cleanses itself, a team of Australian and US researchers is heading to Antarctica to track down the atmosphere’s main detergent. By drilling deep into polar ice, the scientists hope to determine how the sky’s capacity to scrub away some ozone-depleting chemicals and potent greenhouse gases has changed since the Industrial Revolution—information that could help to improve global-warming projections.
The first members of the project travelled to Law Dome, their drilling site in East Antarctica, this week. There, they hope to capture the first historical data on concentrations of the dominant atmospheric detergent, the hydroxyl radical. This highly reactive molecule, made of an oxygen atom bonded to a hydrogen atom, breaks down about 40 gases in the air. They include methane and hydrofluorocarbons, but not the most prevalent greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide.
Although studies of other atmospheric gases have been used to infer the abundance of hydroxyl over the past four decades, atmospheric chemists still refer to the chemical as ‘the great unknown’.
“We have been more or less in the dark when it comes to how hydroxyl has evolved from pre-industrial times to present day,” says Apostolos Voulgarakis, an environmental scientist at Imperial College London. “This new research endeavour can provide unprecedented information on hydroxyl variations in the deeper past, which is exciting.”
Over two and a half months, the team will drill at least two ice cores—three if time allows—down to depths of about 230 metres. They will then melt the cores to extract bubbles of air that were trapped as the ice froze. The samples will represent the atmosphere back to about 1880, before emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity started to increase.
Hydroxyl radicals form naturally in the atmosphere in a reaction involving ultraviolet rays, ozone and water vapour. But because the radicals last about a second before they react with other gases and break them down, as a proxy, the team will instead measure the tiny fraction of carbon monoxide that contains the carbon-14 isotope.
Carbon-14 in carbon monoxide is produced in the atmosphere by cosmic rays at a known rate, and is almost entirely removed by hydroxyl. Because of this, scientists can use the trend in its abundance to infer the trend of the radical, says David Etheridge, an atmospheric chemist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Aspendale, Australia, and a co-leader of the drilling project.
But measuring levels of carbon monoxide that contain carbon-14 is tricky, because there are only a few kilograms of it in the atmosphere, says Etheridge. “And we’re trying to measure a bit of that over the last 150 years in the Antarctic ice.”
There is also a risk that the ice cores will become contaminated with external sources of carbon-14 from cosmic rays. This high-energy radiation cannot penetrate the ice, but the moment the cores are removed, they are at risk of exposure. This would interfere with the signal the team is trying to measure, says co-leader Vasilii Petrenko, an ice-core scientist at the University of Rochester in New York. To avoid that risk, the researchers will melt the ice and extract the air on-site.
Robert Swan Mueller III wears a $35 Casio watch with the face on the inside of his left wrist, in the style of an infantryman trying to avoid giving away his position with a glint of sunshine off the glass.
Covert and careful, Mueller is still moving with stealth in Washington DC, 50 years after he was shot and wounded in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the US Marines.
For 18 months now, the former long-serving director of the FBI has been the calm centre of a gathering storm which may be about to break over Donald Trump’s White House.
During an exhausting period of perpetual leaks across DC, the office of Special Counsel Mueller has stood apart, seemingly impervious and water-tight.
While Mueller has cast a shadow over Trump for 18 months now, he has been almost entirely silent since he was brought out of retirement as a special counsel tasked with picking up the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump”.
Mueller’s silence has led to intense scrutiny of his personal appearance – that watch, steely hair parted on the left with scrupulous accuracy, his pin-striped Brooks Brothers suits, the white Oxford button-down collar shirts, always paired with dull geometric print ties. A study in methodical caution.
Robert De Niro has played him with predictable menace on Saturday Night Live, looming like a predator from every shady character’s worst nightmare.
Trump, of course, has had a lot to say about Mueller – denouncing his work as an all-caps “WITCH HUNT”, calling him “highly conflicted” and declaring last week that his team was not only “a disgrace to our Nation” but had gone “absolutely nuts”.
In attempting to discredit Mueller, Trump has implied that the lifelong Republican is a partisan stooge of Barack Obama. In fact, since the 1980s, Mueller has been appointed to public positions – as prosecutor and investigator – by five consecutive presidents, one of them called Reagan and two of them called Bush.
He was inherited by Obama as director of the FBI, and was so widely admired that when his term limit of 10 years in the job approached, the Senate voted 100-0 to change the law so that he could stay on for two more years.
Garrett Graff, author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI and the War on Global Terror, interviewed Mueller for about 12 hours for the 2011 book. He said: “He is probably America’s straightest arrow, very by-the-book, very professional.”
The word integrity seems to be almost sewn into the fabric of his pin-striped suits. “It’s why [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein brought him into this role of special counsel,” Graff said, “because he is probably the one person in Washington that you could never accuse of having a partisan agenda – he’s always seen things with a very strong moral compass, instilled in him by his father, and really sees the world with a pretty black and white, right or wrong vision.”
Following a period of self-imposed public inactivity during November’s midterm elections, there is a new urgency surrounding the investigation.
Trump has fired the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and installed Matthew Whitaker, a political ally who many fear will move to shut Mueller down; Trump has huddled with lawyers and has submitted his written answers on questions from Mueller’s team about possible collusion between his campaign and Russia; Paul Manafort, the convicted former Trump campaign chairman, is co-operating with the special counsel and by 26 November could be unveiled as a star witness in a new criminal case aimed squarely at Trump world. Could Donald Trump Jr or the longtime Trump aide Roger Stone be next?
Yet as rage, speculation and tension mount, Mueller keeps his profile low.
Congress is barreling toward a looming deadline to prevent a partial government shutdown.
Negotiators say they don’t want to kick the funding fight to next year, but lawmakers will have just 10 scheduled work days to strike a deal by the Dec. 7 deadline.
Significant political clashes are shadowing the funding battle.
Republicans are losing power in the House, and want to finish the bill while they have the majority.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is locked in a battle for the speakership, which could make it tougher for her to compromise.
Here are five areas to watch.
The fight over Trump’s signature issue is the biggest threat to government funding.
The House’s homeland security bill would provide $5 billion for the border including funding for technology and new fencing, compared to $1.6 billion in the Senate’s version of the legislation— the same amount the administration got for the 2018 fiscal year.
Senate Republicans are hoping they can negotiate a boost for the administration. But they are also managing expectations.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he told Trump during a recent meeting that he wanted to fund the government. He said he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) want to avoid a shutdown and Trump “seemed” to agree with them.
But they’ve yet to settle on a figure with Democrats. Shelby said Republicans didn’t discuss numbers with Trump and predicted negotiating would begin in earnest after the Thanksgiving recess.