News roundup for Fri, Aug 26, 2022

In short:
  • Global monkeypox cases declined by 21%—cases in the US still rising.
  • Europe’s worst drought in 500 years will last until November.
  • The tropics will have up to six months of dangerous heat a year by 2050.
Economy, food security, supply chain

The White House announced a student loan forgiveness plan; some worry it will fuel inflation. The administration is forgiving up to $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. Biden extended a payment freeze on federal student loans and interest accrual until Dec 31.

Here’s the WH factsheet and an explainer from Federal StudentAid.

Some extra reading: Student loan forgiveness – experts on banking, public spending and education policy look at the impact of Biden’s plan; Everything you need to know about Pell Grants; Will student loan forgiveness make inflation worse?; Big US banks like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are pretty ‘meh’ on Biden’s student loan forgiveness; Student loan crisis awaits new generation despite Biden plan.

US baby formula waiver for WIC recipients is extended through Dec 31 or 60 days after the state’s emergency ends, whichever is first.

US food stamp spending went up 89% in the past two years because of the pandemic. According to the USDA, spending on food stamps over the past decade has increased by $53.5 billion, which is how much the program cost in 2009 during the Great Recession.

Pandemic-era unemployment programs expired in September. Here’s what to know about benefits if you need to file for them.

Scientists in India are exploring ways to adapt dairy production to climate change. Researchers at the National Dairy Research Institute are developing things like new breeds of buffalo and testing new crops of shrubs for protein content. India is the world’s largest milk producer, generating more than 200 million tons annually. The dairy industry relies on 80 million farmers across the country (most with small herds) and accounts for nearly 5% of India’s economy.

High gas prices are affecting fertilizer production in Europe:

Study: A rapid reduction in fossil fuel use required to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 could create a shortfall of sulfuric acid by 2040. Sulfuric acid is used to make phosphorus fertilizer or to extract metals used in everything from solar panels to electric car batteries. The demand for sulfur could be reduced by recycling and using alternative industrial technologies that don’t rely on sulfuric acid intensively.


Twenty million US homes are behind on energy bills and could face shut-offs. Average electricity prices rose 15% in July, the biggest increase since 2006. The power bill crisis is worse in Europe, where natural gas prices have spiked since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Via Bloomberg

Germany approves energy-saving measures for winter. Measures include limits on lighting and heating in public spaces and will roughly reduce gas usage by 2-2.5%. The legislation also approved the prioritization of energy transport on the nation’s railways.

Explainer: Why are UK energy bills rising?

Japan wants to restart its nuclear plants and consider opening new ones. The decision is based mainly on the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has increased energy costs across the globe.

Study: Conflict in the South China Sea threatens 90% of Australia’s fuel imports.

Does turning the air conditioning off when you’re not home actually save energy? A group of engineers believes that letting your home heat up while you’re out at work and cooling it when you get home can use less energy than keeping it consistently cool–but it depends on how energy intensive it is to remove heat from your home. More about the study here.

Ford F-150 Lightning drivers who boost the power grid might get paid in North Carolina. About 100,000 owners of the Lightning could get a rebate to help stabilize the local power grid during peak times. An interesting example of how electric vehicles could come to prop up local power grids.

France is paying car drivers nearly €4,000 to switch to electric bikes.

Climate change, environment, extreme weather

Flash floods rushed through Mississippi, which received one foot of rain in a day:

Monsoon rains and floods have killed over 900 people in Pakistan this year.

Monsoon clouds are mesmerizing, though:

The European Commission said that Europe is facing the worst drought in 500 years. 47% of Europe is under warning conditions, with an evident lack of soil moisture. Western Europe and the Mediterranean will likely experience warmer and drier conditions until November. 2022 yields for grain maize are set to be 16% below the average of the previous five years.

And the extreme heat experienced this year will be the norm by 2035:

The Mediterranean Sea is warming up so much that it is driving native species to the brink. There have been temperature increases ranging from 3 C (5.4 F) to 5 C (9 F) above normal. Water temperatures regularly exceeded 30 C (86 F) on some days.

China’s summer heat wave is also breaking all records.

Study: Deadly heat to surge by 2100, even with emissions reductions. By 2100 there are likely to be 15 days a year in which some countries near the equator experience heat indexes exceeding 124 F (51 C). Countries in the tropics and subtropics would likely experience as many as 180 days (6 months) of dangerous temperatures (a heat index above 103 F) by 2050. By 2100, those regions would likely experience a heat index at that level for most of the year.

Via Inside Climate News

Severe droughts have been bringing archaeological wonders and historic horrors to the surface all over the world. And now, even 113 million-year-old dinosaur tracks.

From the past: Hurricane Andrew

‘Baptized by fire’: How Hurricane Andrew redefined the power of a monster hurricane.

NOAA: Hurricane Andrew at 30: Where science has taken us.

Thirty years after Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida, researchers are using a ‘Wall of Wind’ to design safer homes – but storms are getting even more intense.

Yes, photo shows flamingos in zoo bathroom during Hurricane Andrew. And here they are 😀

Via Snopes

Global monkeypox cases declined by 21%, led by a drop in infections across Europe. Over the past three weeks, sixteen countries have not reported new infections. The US currently has over 16,000 cases across all 50 states. Bavarian Nordic has expanded production in the US and is exploring the possibility of using technically expired doses to help bridge a growing supply-demand gap.

There was a steep rise in type 2 diabetes among children during the Covid pandemic. Children diagnosed with diabetes appear to get complications faster than adults. Here are the community’s tips on how to prep for rare/refrigerated medications.

Surgeries fail to return to pre-pandemic levels, resulting in severe backlogs and deferred surgeries that could have serious health care and cost implications for the future.

The rest

See below Dr. Chris Ellis‘ take on FEMA’s 2021 National Preparedness Report, which looks at the statistics and demographics of America’s preparedness—related: Five types of Resilient Citizens outlined by Cornell University and where to find them.

Here’s a short article on Swedish preppers and one on Japanese preppers.

And a list of TP’s articles and guides relevant to this roundup:

Read about this lovely English gentleman who started storing rainwater after the drought of ’76 and is now prepared for the current water restrictions:



    • Karl Winterling

      The student loan default rate is highest among people with low balances, like between $2,000 and $10,000. Those are usually low-income people who either went to college for one or two semesters and then dropped out or took a vocational certificate program that lasts less than one year but couldn’t find a job (when, possibly, they didn’t know a local community college offers the same program for much cheaper).

      Those people would disproportionately benefit from loan forgiveness and there might be a stronger argument that the HEROES Act allows this because low-income people took a pretty big hit during the pandemic.

      The policy argument for doing this with law school debt or business school debt is a little more tricky. Law schools probably couldn’t charge outrageous tuition or “professional student surcharge” if there wasn’t a big payoff for many students.

      The TLDR of opinion is most economists oppose a general student loan forgiveness because the conventional wisdom is that forgiveness encourages students to borrow more in anticipation of more forgiveness, which encourages colleges to raise tuition. I think a pretty strong counterargument is that many students were heavily pressured to go to a “first choice school” that’s a lot more expensive, even though lifetime earnings don’t really depend on which school you went to, only that you graduated.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      Great collection of related links, Carlotta. I think the ‘preparedness trio’ of exercise, building a pantry, and working on finances are the links that relate to something in the news roundup almost every week. Are there other activities you all work on each week?

      What else you can do about it:

      • Track what you eat for two weeks. This may help you to review and analyze your diet, to see what foods you usually buy.
      • Analyze your diet. Is there anything you’d like to change, or anything you could do without? e.g. would reducing milk or meat help to save you some money, or make your diet more resilient?
      • Consider ways to reduce your electric bill. Wash with cold water, rather than hot. Line dry your clothes instead of running a dryer. Take shorter showers. Replace old incandescent lightbulbs with LED models. If you have a tank hot water heater, considering lowering the temperature to 120 Fahrenheit / 49 Celsius. Try using a fridge or freezer thermometer to keep your fridge at 37 Fahrenheit / 3 Celsius and your freezer at 0 Fahrenheit / -17 C.
      • Consider filling empty freezer space with freezable jugs or containers of water, to help keep the freezer cold. In the winter – turn your thermostat down by 6 degrees Fahrenheit or 3 degrees Celsius when you are asleep or away from the house.
      • Plant some trees. Consider if you can plant to provide shade or a windbreak for your house, to help regulate temperature.
      • Install some curtains or shades.
      • Keep your Go Bag ready
      • Practice traveling your evacuation route. In the event of a fire or flood – do you know where you will go?
      • Get some exercise

      Have a productive weekend.

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    • Karl Winterling

      The situation in Europe looks like it could get pretty bad. Macron talked about an “end of abundance,” which is pretty rare for a G7 politician to say.

      I also follow Javier Blas on Twitter, some highlights:

      • There might be an electricity shortage in the EU/UK rather than just higher prices.
      • The Biden administration seems worried about refined gasoline and diesel inventories.
      • Energy firms in the UK are not renewing small business contracts because of price increases.
      • I don’t have links with me, but I’ve heard European local governments talk about “washcloth baths” to save on water and heating.

      (EDIT: There has been a lot of discussion on forums like Reddit claiming there’s a civil war risk because of the Inflation Reduction Act, Mar-a-Lago, and forgiving student loan debt. It’s more likely there will be civil unrest, and at worst attacks on targets like government agencies or political groups)

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    • Bradical

      43 eco-terrorists were arrested after breaking glass displays at gas pumps, covering them with spray paint, or gluing themselves to gas stations across London. Just another reason to store gas at home and always keep your tank 1/2 full. If a wave of eco-terrorists go through and destroy the pumps in your city, you might have to drive far away to get gas for a few weeks while they are repaired. link

      Reddit video of them doing it

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    • Hardened

      I’m grateful that I got to experience Earth during a time of stable climate and anticipate telling younger people about what it was like, similar to how today I tell them what life was like before cell phones were invented.

      I’m going to prioritize world travel so that I can gather memories before things get too bad and it becomes wiser to hunker down.

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