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    France says trains-not-planes and other nonpolitical political tales


    Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1965, according to the Associated Press, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered on CBS.

    France says trains-not-planes and other nonpolitical political tales

    Welcome to this week’s grab-bag of political stories that don’t have the trappings of classic inside-the-Beltway political pieces, or aren’t obviously about politics but have significant local, national, or international import.

    Please keep sending your links to news coverage of political stories that are getting overlooked. The submission link is right under this column. Make sure to say whether I can use your first name, last initial and location. 

    Prenez le train, pas l’avion

    France just got the OK from the European Commission to ban domestic flights between destinations that are connected by train rides of less than 2.5 hours. Right now, the restrictions only apply to three routes, for three years, but they could expand as rail service improves.

    Key: The destinations have to be served by several direct, high-speed trains. Some routes the Commission looked at didn’t qualify because existing rail service doesn’t enable passengers to arrive “early enough in the morning or to depart from there late enough in the evening.”

    Over at Euro News, Lottie Limb reported “France is also cracking down on the use of private jets for short journeys in a bid to make transport greener and fairer for the population.” 

    “Transport minister Clément Beaune said the country could no longer tolerate the super rich using private planes while the public are making cutbacks to deal with the energy crisis and climate change,” Limb wrote.

    The politics: It’s a pretty limited climate policy, but it’s climate policy. And it could catch on.

    There is no lawsuit, only Juul

    E-cigarette maker Juul Labs announced this week that it is settling 5,000 cases with nearly 10,000 plaintiffs, my colleague Kelsey Ables reported. It did not reveal a dollar figure.

    “The settlements include compensation for those suffering from nicotine addiction and other health problems as well as reimbursement for those who purchased Juul products. School districts, cities, counties and Native American tribes will also receive resources to fight nicotine addiction among youths,” Kelsey wrote.

    “Partially owned by tobacco giant Altria, Juul has come under fire for marketing to minors, fueling an increase in youth vaping and misrepresenting its products as a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes. While e-cigarettes have not existed long enough to determine their long-term health consequences, they have been linked to nicotine addiction, lung damage, asthma and mental health problems,” Kelsey reported.

    The politics: The politics of tobacco, threats of regulation, consumer action, and of course America’s reliance on litigation to shape policy.

    Will masking make a comeback?

    It’s the holiday gift no one asked for.

    Three very contagious respiratory viruses — influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — are running rampant with just weeks before the festive winter season. And that may mean fresh encouragement for Americans to wear masks.

    While mask mandates are unlikely in most parts of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, in airports and on planes, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces,” my colleagues Fenit Nirappil and Tara Parker-Pope reported.

    The so-called “tripledemic,” they reported, “is straining hospitals and forcing parents to miss work in record numbers.”

    “With such a heavy burden of illness straining the health-care system, it may be hard to believe that something as simple as a face mask could make a meaningful difference. But health experts say a quality medical mask — such as an N95, KN95, or KF94 — remains a highly effective line of defense, especially when combined with vaccination, hand washing, better ventilation and avoiding crowds,” Fenit and Tara noted.

    The politics: Former president Donald Trump made the pandemic political. That includes mask-wearing.

    Vermont’s housing crunch

    My home state is in the grip of a housing crisis. And Derek Brouwer of Seven Days VT took a look at Jericho, Vt., — population 5,100 — to illustrate how it happened in one small town.

    “As white professionals moved in during the 1960s, residents erected an invisible firewall against perceived threats to their rural oasis. They drafted and adopted local zoning rules that outlawed mobile home communities and mandated large lot sizes that curtailed starter homes. Fewer, and bigger, homes were built, commercial development was strictly controlled, property values rose, and resident incomes skewed higher.”

    “Young families have been locked out of homeownership or pushed to locations far from where they work. Costs have soared for hard-to-find rentals, displacing residents. Public schools can’t hire teachers because there’s nowhere for them to live. More companies have been forced to provide employee housing. Older Vermonters are stuck in large homes that are expensive to maintain, socially isolating and physically unsafe for them. Homelessness has spiked.”

    The politics: This is a problem — many problems, actually — crying out for public policy solutions.

    And support local news media!

    See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

    Sinema says switch to independent ‘a reflection of who I’ve always been’

    “Today, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) is shaking up the Senate with an announcement that she is switching her party affiliation from Democratic to independent … With the move, Democrats will still control the chamber, but their hold could become more tenuous,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

    More: White House says it expects to continue working with Sinema

    Biden to call for African Union to permanently join G-20

    “President Biden next week will announce U.S. support for the African Union to become a permanent member of the Group of 20 nations, a step that would give African nations a long-sought prize and could make it easier for Biden to secure their cooperation on issues like Ukraine and climate change,” Yasmeen Abutaleb reports.

    Brittney Griner lands in San Antonio after release from Russian prison

    WNBA star Brittney Griner landed in the United States early Friday after being released in a prisoner swap with Russia. The plane carrying Griner was seen landing around 4:30 a.m. local time in San Antonio, according to a live broadcast. Photos showed Griner deplaning,” Niha Masih reports.

    Lunchtime reads from The Post

    After a massacre, stores, clubs, offices confront whether to reopen — and how

    “As shootings devastate one setting after another around the country, the people who run or own them face a grim calculation they don’t (yet) teach in management school: When, whether and how to resume business in places of mass death,” Steve Hendrix reports.

    “In city after city, institutions have struggled to balance commerce and grief, respect and resilience, weighing the sometimes-conflicting views of survivors, victims’ families, displaced workers and local officials.”

    Advocate tells lawmakers of ‘stealth’ efforts to influence Supreme Court

    Evangelical minister Robert L. Schenck recruited wealthy Christian couples to serve as ‘stealth missionaries’ at the Supreme Court for about two decades, forging friendships with conservative justices to ‘bolster’ their views, particularly on abortion, Schenck told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday,” Ann E. Marimow and Emma Brown report.

    “For decades, Indian officials have rebuffed Western pleas to phase out coal, a reliable but dirty energy source that produces one-fifth of all planet-warming carbon emissions. India’s fast-developing economy — it is the world’s second-largest consumer of coal and third-largest carbon emitter — must burn coal for several more decades out of necessity, not choice, they say,” Gerry Shih, Niha Masih and Anant Gupta report.

    But the story of [Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s] power plant in Godda offers a stark example of how political will in India often bends in favor of the dirty fuel — and the business titan who dominates the country’s coal industry.”

    Jan. 6 committee considers criminal referrals for at least 4 others beside Trump

    “The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection is considering criminal referrals for at least four individuals in addition to former President Donald Trump,” multiple sources told CNN’s Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen and Pamela Brown.

    The panel is weighing criminal referrals for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, right wing lawyer John Eastman, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the sources said.”

    For Black families in Phoenix, child welfare investigations are a constant threat

    “From 2015 to 2019, the last full year of federal child welfare statistics available before the pandemic, DCS investigated the family lives of 1 of every 3 Black children in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county and home to Phoenix,” ProPublica and NBC News report.

    “Last year, a study published by the National Academy of Sciences used similar data to project that by the time Black children in Maricopa County turn 18, there’s a 63% chance that they will see their parents investigated by child services, the highest rate of any of the 20 largest counties in the nation.”

    U.S. to levy human-rights sanctions on Russia, China

    The U.S. is set to levy fresh sanctions against Russia and China on Friday, actions that include targeting Russia’s deployment of Iranian drones in Ukraine, alleged human-rights abuse by both nations and Beijing’s support of alleged illegal fishing in the Pacific, according to officials familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama and Ian Talley report.

    Inside Biden’s agonizing decision to take a deal that freed Brittney Griner but left Paul Whelan in Russia

    “Despite Biden’s attempts to link Griner’s case to that of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine arrested on espionage charges in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison two years later, it became plain recently that Putin would not budge,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Phil Mattingly report.

    “The choice was bringing Brittney Griner home right now, or bringing no one home right now,” one senior administration official said.

    Biden’s hopes for Sweden and Finland in NATO are stuck on Erdogan’s demands

    As the year winds down, the two Nordic countries are still waiting for admission to the 30-member alliance. Twenty-eight members have approved their membership and another, Hungary, plans to vote early next year,” the New York Times’s Michael Crowley reports.

    But one holdout remains: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has raised objections to the plan and, Western officials fear, may be willing to delay it for several more months.”

    Biden earned political capital this fall. He’s quietly spending it.

    Biden aides have been working with outside advisers to help sketch out components of a reelection ramp up, including Obama alum Jim Messina, with whom the president has discussed polling in recent weeks, according to two people familiar with his involvement,” Politico’s Christopher Cadelago, Jonathan Lemire and Eli Stokols report.

    They are also reengaging donors and zeroing in on key staff roles and hires to fortify a unit that could operate outside the close-knit group that runs operations at the White House.”

    Which House members voted for or against the Respect for Marriage Act, visualized

    Thirty-nine House Republicans joined all Democrats in support of the Respect for Marriage Act. The Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan vote on Nov. 29, after including a bipartisan amendment to ease some Republicans’ concerns about religious liberty,” Hannah Dormido, Adrian Blanco and Kati Perry report.

    “Forty-seven House Republicans had supported the earlier version of the bill.”

    The Respect for Marriage Act sets a dangerous precedent for civil rights

    “Evangelical, right-wing legal advocates have been pushing hard for religious exemptions to everything, including Covid regulations, laws securing LGBTQ and sex equality, workers’ rights to unionize and a minimum wage, laws criminalizing domestic violence or child abuse, and the law of divorce … Evangelical conservatives will surely use the Respect for Marriage Act as a precedent for including explicit and broad religious exemptions in almost any conceivable law,Katherine Franke writes for the Nation.

    Private RNC member emails reveal anger to Trump, frustration with McDaniel’s response to him

    A handful of Republican National Committee members denounced former President Donald Trump, with one pushing for fellow members and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to forcefully condemn his decision to host a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with antisemites,” Politico’s Meredith McGraw reports.

    “I am flabbergasted at the lack of outrage from Ronna about this,” Oscar Brock, a national committeeman from Tennessee, wrote in one of a series of private email threads obtained by POLITICO. “I tweeted to her yesterday, asking her to condemn this. We must, as a party, oppose all racism and prejudice, and condemn those who accept and endorse it, which includes inviting neo-nazi’s [sic] to dinner.”

    There is nothing on Biden’s public schedule this afternoon.

    The context: Maxwell Frost, future Gen Z congressman, denied D.C. apartment over bad credit

    Thanks for reading. See you next week.



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