Mauricio Urbina was trying to save the planet on the day he realized he was simultaneously destroying it. A biologist who studies the bodies of fish and other sea creatures, Urbina was working on a project to understand what happens to crabs that eat tiny particles of plastic waste thrown out by careless humans. But after one particularly long day in the lab, he looked down and noticed — he was a careless human. A lot of his tools were plastic and would be thrown out after a single use, contributing to the stream of waste packing landfills and polluting waterways. He was working on the solution, but he was part of the problem.
Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
At the end of February, a team of researchers submitted a paper to the medical journal The Lancet that predicted the top 25 U.S. counties most at risk for measles in 2019. Now, almost halfway through what is on track to be the nation’s worst year for measles outbreaks since 1992, their study is looking rather prescient. Of the counties named in the paper, published in May, 14 have had cases of measles. At least 12 counties on the list are adjacent to counties that have ended up with measles cases this year. This includes two of the counties in the largest ongoing outbreak: Nearly 500 confirmed cases in Queens and Kings counties, New York.
We’re launching a new column, Climate Questions From A Grown-Up, and we need your help to make it happen.
For the first time this cycle, there was just one debate night, and only 10 candidates made the cut — so now we’re trying to make sense of what happened when the front-runners shared the stage. In recent weeks, the polls have shown a top tier of three to five candidates, with former Vice President Joe Biden leading, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tied for second, and Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, a distant fourth and fifth — but did that change last night?
Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is famous for his plan to implement a universal basic income to help Americans who lose their jobs to robots. And that isn’t the only place tech innovation takes center stage in his platform. He also advocates that your online data be treated as personal property that you can choose (or not) to sell to companies like Facebook. In a Yang presidency, election results would be verified through blockchain (an encryption system best known for shoring up cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin), quantum computing research would be better funded, and a Legion of Builders and Destroyers would have the power to overrule local zoning and land-use decisions for the greater infrastructure good. He is definitely the only presidential candidate talking seriously about fighting climate change with giant space mirrors.
Former Vice President Joe Biden returned to the top of the media heap last week.
The Midwest has been drenched by rain and beset by floods. California is bracing for wildfires after several years of record-breaking burns. Hurricane season is just getting into gear in the Atlantic Ocean, which has been hit by more storms than usual over the past three years, and those storms have been above-average in intensity. Heat waves have been increasing across the country for decades. Just last weekend, New Yorkers were being warned to use less air conditioning to prevent blackouts — and to charge their phones for when the blackouts would inevitably happen.
As political journalists, we follow the 2020 presidential primary race day by day — or even minute by minute. Still, we know that plenty of Democrats have been paying attention, too. But which Democrats are most likely to be plugged in?
“How do we stop these people?” the president says, referring to immigrants and refugees crossing the southern U.S. border. “Shoot them,” a voice calls from the crowd. And the president chuckles.