News, July 19th

5.4-magnitude quake hits South Indian Ocean

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 jolted South Indian Ocean at 02:15:12 GMT on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 8.68 km, was initially determined to be at 10.9052 degrees south latitude and 93.815 degrees east longitude.

China flooding: 14 killed at Three Gorges Dam on Yangtze River as water peaks

At least 14 people were killed Saturday in southern China because of seasonal rains and flooding.

Three floodgates of the Three Gorges Dam that spans the Yangtze River were opened as the water level behind the massive dam rose more than 50 feet above flood level, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The dam was holding back about 45 percent of the water, Xinhua said, citing China Three Gorges Corp.

Upstream, 11 people had been killed in Chongqing as of Saturday morning, China National Emergency Broadcasting said in an online report, citing the municipal emergency agency. More than 20,000 people had been evacuated and 1,031 homes destroyed.

Three landslides in Dunhao town in a mountainous part of Chongqing left six dead, the city’s Emergency Management Bureau said. The bodies had been found by Friday evening after more than 200 people were dispatched for a search and rescue operation. Rainfall in the town of Dunhao totaled 15 inches, the bureau said.

Three more people died in neighboring Hubei province, the emergency management department said in a social media post.

State broadcaster CCTV showed people cleaning up still wet, muddy streets and shops in the city of Enshi after severe flooding Friday. Rescue workers used inflatable rafts to rescue more than 1,900 people trapped in their homes and other buildings.

Downriver, firefighters and others finished filling in a 620-foot break in a dike on Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, Xinhua said.

The dike gave way nine days ago, flooding 15 villages and agricultural fields in Jiangxi province, the news agency said. More than 14,000 people were evacuated.

The incoming waters were expected to peak Saturday behind the Three Gorges Dam, but more water is forecast to arrive around Tuesday, Xinhua said. The hydropower dam is used to mitigate catastrophic flooding.

Seasonal flooding strikes large parts of China annually, especially in its central and southern regions, but the rainfall has been unusually high this year.

About 1.8 million people have been evacuated and direct losses attributed to flooding are estimated at more than $7 billion, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Major cities have been spared so far, but concern has risen over Wuhan and other downstream metropolises that are home to tens of millions of people.

China’s worst floods in recent years were in 1998, when more than 2,000 people died and almost 3 million homes were destroyed, mostly along the Yangtze.

China renews yellow alerts for downpours, heat

China’s national observatory on Sunday (July 19) renewed a yellow alert for rainstorms, as incessant downpours would continue to wreak havoc in vast stretches of the country.

From July 19 morning to July 20 morning, heavy rains and rainstorms are expected in parts of Tibet, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi, among other regions, the National Meteorological Center said, warning that some areas of Jilin, Liaoning and Anhui will experience downpours with up to 150 mm of daily rainfall.

Some aforementioned regions will see over 70 mm of hourly precipitation, accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds, the center said.

The center advised local authorities to remain alert for possible flooding, landslides and mudslides, and recommended halting outdoor operations in hazardous areas.

Also, on July 19, the center renewed a yellow alert for high temperatures in the country’s southern areas, as well as in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Sichuan.

Parts of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Xinjiang will see temperatures range from 37 to 39 degrees Celsius and even exceed 40 degrees Celsius on July 19.

Relevant authorities should guard against fires caused by excessive power consumption and heavy load of power equipment, the center said.

China has a four-tier color-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

EU summit extends as leaders split over recovery plan

A special face-to-face summit of leaders of the European Union (EU) is set to extend into Sunday as they failed to reach a consensus on an ambitious recovery plan designed to lift the bloc out of the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The leaders will reconvene on Sunday afternoon, a spokesman for the European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter late Saturday night.

The summit was supposed to run from Friday to Saturday, reports Xinhua news agency.

The summit, the first face-to-face one since the outbreak of the pandemic, came at a critical moment as the bloc is seeking a consensus on the European Commission-proposed 750-billion-euro recovery plan.

The next seven-year EU budget worth more than 1 trillion euros is another focus of the summit.

In the debt-financed recovery plan, 500 billion euros will be paid as non-repayable grants to crisis-hit countries and 250 billion as loans.

But the EU member states differed greatly in discussions on Friday.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria, nicknamed the Frugal Four, opposed the non-repayable grants, and called for linking aid to reform plans, while Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic, called for reaching the consensus as soon as possible.

As the host of the summit, Michel proposed a compromise on Saturday, cutting the portion of the grants in the recovery fund to 450 billion euros from 500 billion and an “emergency brake” on disbursement would be added.

Michel held eight-hour one-on-one discussions and then explored further solutions before asking all 27 leaders to dinner together.

The positions were apparently still too far apart for an agreement.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday described the negotiations on the recovery fund as unexpectedly difficult.

According to him, there were still many unresolved problems, and the ratio of grants and loans remained controversial.

However, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that “things are moving in the right direction”.

The talks are complicated because the recovery fund is negotiated in a package with the bloc’s next seven-year financial framework, which is largely based on contributions from the countries.

In addition, Hungary and Poland refused to link the recovery grants to compliance with the rule of law in the future.

Indonesia records highest Covid-19 fatality since March 11

Indonesia records its highest number of Covid-19-related fatalities in 24 hours with 127 cases, since the first death was reported on March 11.

This brings the cumulative death toll in the republic to 4,143.

Indonesian government spokesperson for COVID-19, Achmad Yurianto, said 52 deaths were recorded in East Java, Central Java (23), Jakarta (nine) and the rest in other provinces.

He added that between noon yesterday and noon today, another 1,639 new positive cases were recorded, bringing the total cases to 86,521.

“Some 37,505 patients are still under Covid-19 surveillance,” he said in his daily press briefing which was aired through the official YouTube channel of Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) today.

To date, East Java province holds the highest number of deaths with 1,401 cases, followed by Jakarta (736), Centra Java (323) and South Sulawesi (279).

The highest number of Covid-19 positive cases was also recorded in East Java province with 18,308, while Jakarta recorded 16,538 and the rest in other provinces.

The Electoral College: protecting the rich from democracy since 1787

Some people are hailing the recent Supreme Court ruling on so-called “faithless electors” as a victory for democracy. However, we should be acutely aware that the Electoral College is actually a firewall against democracy.

The case came from Washington state in 2016 when four electors were fined $1,000 each for refusing to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton who had won the state’s popular vote. The four electors cast their votes for Colin Powell rather than Hillary Clinton in a last-ditch attempt to get Republican electors to break from voting for Donald Trump. Washington State then fined them $1,000 under a new state law that requires electors to abide by the popular vote.

The intended goal of the suit was not to escape the $1,000 fine. The scope was larger. The plaintiffs were hoping to settle a 230-year-old question: Are electors independent, or can a state force them to follow the popular vote of their state? Their desired outcome was for the court to rule that electors could vote their conscience, bringing into question the entire validity of the Electoral College. Another stated outcome they desired was that the conversation created around such a ruling would lead to “a popular uprising to change the Constitution, ditch the Electoral College and embrace the national popular vote.” (Seattle Times)

The history of the Electoral College begins with the history of the United States, or the “American experiment.” In the bourgeois revolution that shook off the yoke of British rule, the colonial settlers set out to form a new type of state without a monarch.

Originally, they envisioned a ‘league of friendship” between the 13 colonies and thus formed the Articles of Confederation that created a weak central government. However, class antagonisms would soon arise from the agrarian population against the state governments dominated by the merchant classes in the north. One stark example was the debt crisis that occurred in Massachusetts which would lead to an open rebellion.

Shay’s Rebellion revealed some of the flaws of the Articles of Confederation. The new I.S. bourgeoisie sought to remedy these flaws and to take advantage of what they saw as the “blank slate” of the North American continent. The landed, capitalist and slave-owner elite convened in 1787 to debate a new form of government; one that would protect their ruling class interests.

Much of the foundation of the Federal Republic was laid out by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in the Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays with a central theme of preventing direct democracy, preventing rule by the majority and advocating for a commercial republic (a republic with a foremost duty to protect commerce and property).

The end result was a system of government designed to suppress and prevent democracy. The Constitution specified who exactly could vote (white men with property), how exactly people were selected for various offices, and how representation would be determined.

The Constitution featured the notoriously racist Three-Fifths Compromise which gave unfair representation to the white landed elite in the South slave owning states by counting slaves as ⅗ of a person for the sake of determining representation in Congress.

“The popular vote was first only offered to those who owned property. Even as the property terms were gradually eliminated, Black people and women were totally excluded. Popular elections were only made available for the House of Representatives; U.S. senators were selected by the leading politicians of each state, while the president was selected by an elite Electoral College.” (Eugene Puryear, Revolution Manifesto)

The Electoral College was drawn from the Federalist Papers (No. 10, by James Madison, and No. 68 by Alexander Hamilton), a bludgeon against the popular vote. It was a way to divorce the selection of the highest office of the land from the will of the majority of voters. In fact, it has done so five times in U.S. history: In the 1824 Presidential Election, the 1876 Presidential Election, the 1888 Presidential Election, in the 2000 Presidential Election, and most recently in the 2016 Presidential Election.

The anti-democratic intent of the Electoral College can be inferred from the language of Madison and Hamilton in the Federalist Papers:

“Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” (James Madison, Federalist No. 10)

“It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided… to men chosen by the people for the special purpose…. It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station…. A small number of persons….” (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 68)

Some people claim that the Electoral College prevents Presidential candidates from solely campaigning in densely populated areas. On the other hand, this leads to over campaigning in so called “Battleground States” because of the winner take all method of the Electoral College – only 51 percent of the vote in a state is needed for 100% of the Electoral College votes. This leads to “Electoral College math” in which a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the election.

The Electoral College is not the sole or even greatest obstacle to true democracy in the United States. The United States is a plutocracy, in which corporations are people with rights to free speech and freedom of religion. Corporations are free to pollute the air, water and land of the Earth and advance climate change with the use of unsustainable fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Black people cannot even feel safe to walk, run or even sleep without facing racist police terror, and an ever-increasing number of people are living in or near poverty and homelessness as the rich get richer. A government that was truly “of, by, and for the people” would address these and other foundational crises of society. The Electoral College is designed to protect the U.S. government from excessive influence from the “unruly mob.”  It is inherently an undemocratic institution. With the new ruling from the Supreme Court that forces electors to cast their votes in accordance with the popular vote of their state, the Electoral College is nothing more than a formality. This leads us to the question: Why even have it at all?

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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