News roundup for Tue, Mar 1, 2022

Ukraine invasion: Russia has taken over Chernobyl and is stirring up radioactive dust and debris by occupying the area. Radiation levels are exceeding known control readings in multiple places. There is concern that radioactive material from Chernobyl and from other, damaged Ukrainian nuclear facilities could be weaponized against Ukrainians.

In the wake of Putin’s escalation of nuclear readiness stance, the NATO Response Force has been activated for the first time. The force is on standby and has not yet been deployed. In the meantime, the US, multiple EU countries, and even a few traditionally neutral countries are supplying Ukraine with assets and weapons to help fight against the invasion.

The WHO is releasing $3.5 million to help bolster access to humanitarian aid and much-needed medical supplies to Ukraine.

Economic sanctions from all around the globe are going to cripple the Russian economy. Russian markets are in a panic, and so are the people–lines for ATMs are reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the past:

Even oil companies are divesting from Russia:

The invasion is not going how Putin expected, and as the EU and other countries unite against this campaign, Putin has his back to the wall. There are very few offramps for de-escalation here, and Ukraine doesn’t seem to have capitulated to Putin in meetings today. It’s possible that Putin will escalate his attacks on Ukraine, particularly in light of the mounting economic pressure his country is facing:

Supply chain: Chipmaker Nvidia is investigating a potential cyberattack that impacted operations this week. The company is being cagey about the nature of the attack and is not releasing a lot of information about it. It’s unclear if it’s related to the Russia/Ukraine conflict, but cyberattacks are a known part of Russia’s campaign of aggression.

Joliet, Illinois, a major supply chain hub, is running out of water. There’s a billion-dollar proposal to connect the city to Lake Michigan, but the proposal is controversial and contested. Joliet’s current water infrastructure is old, lead-lined, and leaking up to one-third of its supply. Community members are being overcharged for this terrible, leaky infrastructure, and they don’t trust the stakeholders involved to operate in good faith with the new pipeline.

Climate, environment, and energy: As the Russia/Ukraine conflict rages, the EU is being forced to turn away from Russian gas. The EU’s interest and investments in renewables are skyrocketing, with renewables stocks making strong gains despite a conflict-nervous market. Germany is accelerating its renewables goals.

California is about to test solar canals as a means to both protect the water supply from evaporative loss and to strengthen renewable energy utilization. Researchers from UC Merced are working on scaling up this program.

The new UN Climate Report is out, and it’s pretty dire. Deadly, extreme weather events are going to get worse and more frequent. If we don’t act quickly, we could be locked into irreversible climate trouble.

Pandemic: The world has over 436.8 million COVID cases. The world has gained 39 million cases in the last three weeks. There have been nearly 6 million deaths in total. The US has had over 80.6 million cases cumulatively. The US gained about 2.4 million cases in the last three weeks, which is a significant slowdown compared to the beginning of the month. Over 974,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—over 10,600 in the last week. The US gained over 18,000 new cases on Sunday and over 19,700 by late afternoon Monday. Not all states are reporting daily anymore.

As this most recent pandemic wave wanes, so too are mask mandates. The CDC is issuing new, more relaxed guidance:

Longer intervals between COVID vaccine doses can help some people be protected longer. There is some risk in this tactic as well, as protection can dip during the waiting period between doses, but in times of low community prevalence, it might be a strategy worth following.


    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      Good luck this week.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      Great update as always, Stephanie.

      A minor vote on formatting: I like the bold topic names. They make things easy to follow and group

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    • Hardened

      The presence of nuclear power plants in a war zone is very concerning but the linked article doesn’t support the assertion that “radioactive material from Chernobyl and from other, damaged Ukrainian nuclear facilities could be weaponized against Ukrainians.”  Damaged power plants are terrible weapons and the Russians have a vast arsenal of superior weapons already deployed, including conventional and nuclear.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Hardened

        This is very much THE concern. Striking or deliberately damaging (or even accidentally damaging) Chernobyl or any of the active reactors in the country could spew radioactive contamination very broadly. “The reactors present a daunting specter. If struck, the installations could effectively become radiological mines.”

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Stephanie Arnold

        It would be ludicrous to do this, as Russia would be downwind of any serious radioactive mishap–and so is the use of a nuclear arsenal. But these are both concerns that multiple agencies around the globe are monitoring very, very closely.

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      • Hardened Stephanie Arnold

        > Striking or deliberately damaging (or even accidentally damaging) Chernobyl or any of the active reactors in the country could spew radioactive contamination very broadly.

        Right, and broadly spewed radioactive contamination from damaged nuclear reactors lasts a hell of a lot longer than contamination from nuclear bombs.  Hence why it would be a terrible weapon and is in no danger of being “weaponized”.

        Russia doesn’t have resources to waste on conquering lands it can’t use due to contamination.

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      • Karl Winterling Hardened

        Russia’s GDP in 2021 was half of California’s. Their only advantages are nukes (gulp!), a much larger population (compared to other countries) that’s ready for military service, land area, and natural resources. They don’t have the resources to benefit from land that’s contaminated.

        My thinking: Hope for a speedy and peaceful resolution, or at least one that contains the damage. Prepare, help people, help people victimized by aggression, etc. You shouldn’t throw away paintings by Russian artists or pour Russian vodka that you already own down the drain (unless you’re quitting drinking, of course).

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    • más picante

      The economic sanctions are largely milquetoast in light of the fact that Russia’s main export is oil and gas sales – it is the third-largest producer in the world.  The US buys 500k barrels from them per day, and Europe gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia (50% for Germany).  You’ll note that no one is proposing stopping this, particularly Germany, which relies on that gas due to them shutting down their nuclear reactors.  Even if they did, it would simply result in the west purchasing more of these resources from the Saudis.  In such a case, China would most likely pick up the slack for Russian demand since their leadership has tacitly supported this invasion (China is Russia’s largest trading partner already).  China, Russia, and their allies also have their own alternative to SWIFT in place, lessening the consequences of booting them from that. 

      I wouldn’t expect any of this stuff to get Russia to back off.  In fact, it may provoke them further.  Rats mostly leave you alone until you corner them, and then, look out.  And these rats are heavily armed.  

      Finally, as a general note, take all corporate media coverage of this conflict with a grain of salt.  We don’t really know what’s going on there, and there is a lot of propaganda, as well as a natural instinct to root for the underdog, coloring the coverage.  The term “fog of war” exists for a reason.  I think we in the west have become complacent that other countries will “fall” as easily as Iraq or Afghanistan (not that those had good endings for us, either), which may be leading to 99% of the DC establishment openly advocating for provoking Russia further.  This is becoming suicidal.  

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    • MainPugh

      The CDC official page on Covid risk also has a drop down menu County Check which I like better than the risk map

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    • Momof6

      Aaaannnd they’ve hit a nuclear power plant.

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      • Hardened Momof6


        Good thing Ukraine learned its lesson from the Chernobyl disaster and shut down all nuclear power plants for good.  Oh wait, that’s my fantasy mind writing.  Looks like instead they doubled down and made the largest nuclear power plant in all of Europe.  👏

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