1/ Biden warned Russia against using nuclear or radioactive weapons in Ukraine after Moscow’s unfounded accusation that Kyiv was planning to use a “dirty bomb” on its own soil and blame Russia for it. Diplomats from the U.S., France, and Britain called the claim “transparently false” in a rare joint statement, suggesting that the Kremlin could be planning a so-called “false flag” operation. “Let me just say, Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake were it to use a tactical nuclear weapon,” Biden said. Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator, meanwhile, said that Russian forces occupying the nation’s largest nuclear power plant were engaged in secret work at a site where spent fuel is stored, which suggests “they are preparing a terrorist act using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)
2/ Progressive House Democrats retracted a letter written four months ago but released Monday that urged Biden to directly negotiate with Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Representative Pramila Jayapal claimed the letter – which called on the Biden administration to “seek a realistic framework for a cease-fire,” and to “pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine” – was “released by staff without vetting.” It was originally drafted and signed in June. Congress has committed more than $60 billion in security and humanitarian aid for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN)
3/ An estimated 4.6 million people in the U.S. will be ineligible to vote during this year’s midterm elections due to prior felony convictions – roughly 2% of the voting age population in the country. There are currently 11 states that deny voting rights to people even after they’ve completed their full sentences, including parole and probation. Further, “1 in 19 African-Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate 3.5 times that of non-African Americans.” (NPR)
4/ Roughly 5% of all plastic products are recycled in America and the vast majority ends up in landfills, according to a report from Greenpeace. The report estimates that the U.S. reprocessed about 2.4 million tons of plastic waste in 2021 out 51 million tons produced, and that no plastic packaging in America meets the threshold to be called “recyclable” according to standards set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Initiative. Plastic must have a recycling rate of 30% to reach that standard. The rate of plastic recycling in the U.S. is also expected to drop further as “the industry plans to triple plastic production by 2050.” The report concludes that “plastic recycling is a failed concept.” (NPR / HuffPost)
5/ More than 80% of the continental U.S. is experiencing unusually dry conditions or drought – the largest proportion since NOAA began tracking 20 years ago. Record-low water levels on the Mississippi River are making it difficult to move cargo by barges, while the drought across the Mississippi Basin is allowing salt water to enter from the Gulf of Mexico, which could contaminate drinking water. In the West, the 22-year megadrought is now considered the driest in at least 1,200 years, and a recent study found that 42% of the drought is attributable to human-caused climate change. Last week, the National Weather Service projected another warm and dry winter for California, which follows the state’s three driest years on record. (Politico / Washington Post)
poll/ 62% of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to fight climate change. While Congress approved in August the largest investment in climate spending in history, 49% of Americans say it won’t make much of a difference on climate change, 33% say it will help, and 14% think it will do more to hurt it. (Associated Press)
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