Saturday, the 7th of May

The Question

How do you sell nuclear power to a country that experienced the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl?

Talking Points

The count is off. PHOTO: Michael Dantast / AFP
  1. Covid deaths crossed 15m — three times the reported figure
  2. Russian troops attacked the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol
  3. Reports detailed how the US is helping to kill Russian generals
  4. Greece's LGBT+ community protested a murder trial verdict
  5. Liverpool got its wish: a Champions League final with Real Madrid
  6. Turkey's inflation reached 70% (!!!) in April
  7. A sandstorm blanketed Iraq sending thousands into hospitals
  8. JD Vance found a winning formula: Trump's backing and Thiel's cash
  9. The Fed increased interest rates by 50 basis points
  10. The Met Gala dazzled and galled in equal measure

Deep Dive

Now that's an endorsement! PHOTO: AFP

This week unscalable barriers were erected around the United States Supreme Court to keep protesters at bay. It's now about as difficult to enter the highest court in America as it is to get a legal abortion in Missouri.

The long game

On Monday night, Politico published its biggest scoop of the year: Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito's draft opinion overturning Roe v Wade. In 1973, America's highest court had passed a law giving women the constitutional right to choose an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Half a century later, America may be back to square one. Amidst the ensuing brouhaha some commentators decried the politicisation of the court. One presumes these same commentators came down in the last shower. It's well established that appointments to America's Supreme Court are a matter of arch political usefulness. It is not yet known whether Alito's opinion is also the majority opinion, but the make-up of the current conservative super-majority on the bench means it may well be.

In his opinion Alito states, "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision." Perhaps so, but then women as a whole weren't mentioned in the US Constitution either. And the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment does accommodate changes to the document (which is useful since it was penned a quarter of a millennium ago). But according to the court, the only changes permitted are those that "have deep historical precedent in America". Alito believes that abortion fails this important test of tradition . He was also of the view that the implied constitutional right to privacy was stretched fairly far by the Roe v Wade justices - a view that is shared by many.

This battle is the culmination of a relentless and disciplined campaign from America's religious right. In the years after Roe v Wade, powerful preachers like Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell rescued the cast-aside "Catholic issue" of abortion and made it something of a battle standard for politically-minded evangelicals. They found their champions in a group called the Federalist Society, a club in law schools that drank deeply from Reagan-era small-government philosophy and wanted to apply it to the courts. At its core was the desire to reorient jurisprudence toward literal interpretations of the constitution, and to return power to the states. Today, that little club is no longer just a hobby group — six of the nine Supreme Court justices are affiliated with it. Roe v Wade is, to the Federalist Society, an example of liberal justices making things up as they went .

If Alito's opinion is part of a majority ruling, women's reproductive rights in America will be transformed. There are already nine states with unenforced abortion bans on their books. Thirteen more are ready to go . Tens of millions of women will watch their rights rolled back by half a century.

Indeed, America will join El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Poland as only the fourth country to roll back abortion rights in the last 25 years.


Now THAT'S an endorsement. PHOTO: AFP

Family affairs

Absent some kind of cataclysmic divine retribution, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be voted in as president of the Philippines on Monday. But even if he was struck down tomorrow, the man known affectionately as Bongbong Marcos (or BBM) could still join Dennis Hof on the roll call of dead people who won high office. Recent polling shows he is supported by 56% of the population — more than double his nearest rival, Leni Robredo. She may have endorsements from Filipino priests but Marcos has a higher power in his pocket: Facebook.

While we don't believe people should be held responsible for the crimes of their fathers (murder, corruption, brutality, etc) one does get a whiff of the Marcos family values from the son. Reeling off the bad days of the Marcos dictatorship is mostly an academic exercise now, given the vast majority of Filipinos were too young to remember it. And its precisely that kind of generational amnesia that the Marcos team has worked to exploit . The Philippines is one of the most active countries on social media and there has been a blistering barrage of historical revisionism repainting Marcos Sr as a nice guy who definitely didn't steal $10bn from the country while running it into the ground. See you on polling day!

The other fun news which will probably break as you read this on Saturday morning is the results of the Northern Irish elections. Sinn Féin is on the brink of a majority in Stormont. If they do succeed it will be the first time that governments on either side of the Irish border support reunification. Unless you are particularly fond of the colour orange it's looking like a day for Guinness. Sláinte!

Cereal crops are experiencing 'terminal heat' stress. PHOTO: Getty / Xinhua

Crop spirals

Cynthia Rosenzweig has been asking the right questions for nearly four decades. How do agricultural emissions impact climate change? And how will climate change impact agriculture? It's just taken that much time for the world to catch up. In the 1980s, she worked on early climate models for NASA. By the end of the decade, she had transferred that skill to the Environmental Protection Agency and started to focus on American agriculture. Rosenzweig's life's work has been to link rampant agriculture emissions (from land-clearing and pesticide use) to the challenges those very same farmers will face from a more dangerous climate. This week she was awarded the World Food Prize. It's a timely nod.

Last week we delved into the South Asian heatwave sapping life, health, and industry from the sub-continent. If it had risen one degree higher in southern Pakistan last week, human bodies would have cooked . The heat has scorched wheat fields across India's north and west. The major wheat crop of the year (the rabi) is still waiting to be harvested. Farmers fear the plants will expend their energy and moisture on survival instead of forming wheat ears. Shrivelled, dead plants mean reduced yields (up to 15% according to some farmers) and diminished exports. Prices will ratchet up further in a market already tight from the Ukraine-sized hole in production. This week we've been asked: how will the world feed itself ? The answer our species has authored is a disturbing one: much of it won't.

The Best Of Times

Kyrie Irving . PHOTO: Getty

Observant, dominant

Dominating in the National Basketball League is a sign of extraordinary skill. Doing it on an empty belly is ascendent. Kyrie Irving has been on fire for the Nets (34 points in a playoff last month) while fasting for Ramadan. Unfortunately for Brooklyn his team couldn't follow that lead. An incredible performance — reminiscent of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.

Stop logging old-growth forests

Tasmania isn't carbon neutral. It's carbon negative .

The Worst Of Times

Leak Mead reaches historic lows. PHOTO: AP

Cold case in a hot future

The sharply declining water level in Lake Mead could have a disastrous impact on reliant communities. It's revealing more than a failure of climate policy. This week, authorities were puzzled by the discovery of human remains in a barrel that had been submerged since the 1970s. You just can't hide a body like you used to.

Broke Ape Yuck Club

The NFT market is collapsing . Sale volumes are down 92% and active wallets 88% from the high-water mark late last year. What can we say about NFTs? They may have been a perfect vehicle for pump-and-dump schemes and large-scale money-laundering but at least the art was good [citation needed] .


The Image

These striking 'shells' used to embellish a concrete footpath outside a Bangkok shopping mall have recently been identified as 66-million-year-old ammonite fossils. Image supplied by AFP .

The Quote

"The reality is that, despite all the fancy control systems, large parts of trading are still manual and human-driven, meaning the 'fat-finger' isn't just a metaphor."

– A portfolio manager explains how a few errant keystrokes led to the Nordic flash crash this week. An unnamed individual in Citigroup's London office accidentally sold a lot of Swedish stocks sparking knee-jerk reactions which briefly erased €300bn from European stocks . It comes just two years after another Citigroup employee accidentally sent $1bn to someone he shouldn't have. The masters of the universe need to master touch-typing.

The Numbers

A $6.2bn profit

- BP is laughing. Despite writing off a $25.5bn stake in Russia's Rosneft the British oil giant posted huge oil and gas profits this week. Beyond Petroleum? Yonder be petroleum.

1,200,000 obesity-related deaths

- Europe is suffering from an obesity epidemic. 60% of adults and nearly 30% of school kids are overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes, cardivascular disease, and multiple cancers are linked to the complex condition.

The Headlines

"Ukraine admits 'Ghost of Kyiv' fighter pilot is a myth" The Independent . In other news: sky is blue.

"Brazil's Inflation Is So Bad Even Central Bank Workers Protest"

Bloomberg . Wait, if you're all out here, who's in charge?

The Special Mention

Contemporary news values do not hold love in particularly high regard. It is much too complex and subjective for newsprint — a subject better left for fiction. But this week we're awarding our special mention jointly to Vicky White and Casey White (no relation). They bonded on either side of prison bars at the federal facility where she worked and he resided. It was such a powerful connection that last week she walked him right out the side door and disappeared into the sunset. Love finds a way.

The Best Long Reads

The Answer...

Very carefully. In the decade after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, Japan remained opposed to switching on its 60 decommissioned nuclear powers. This year, with energy shocks and decarbonisation front of mind, a slight majority support it .