Why We’re Choking on Canada’s Smoke

A general view of a hazy New York City as the air quality is at unhealthy levels due to smoke from Canadian wildfires on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! There’s nothing like the love between a man and his dog—especially when that man is President Joe Biden and his dog is a German shepherd named Commander who has reportedly bitten people no fewer than 10 times in four months, sending one Secret Service agent to the hospital.

Willow would never.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A federal judge in California on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration’s policy barring from asylum most migrants who cross the border illegally without having first filed for asylum in any country through which they traveled on their way to the United States. District Judge Jon Tigar—an Obama appointee who struck down a similar measure under Trump—ruled that the so-called “transit ban” violates the law by penalizing asylum seekers for crossing the border between entry points and requiring many to apply for asylum in unsafe third countries. Tigar delayed the effect of his decision for two weeks, and the Department of Justice has filed a notice of appeal.
  • The Biden administration announced Tuesday it would send additional military aid to Ukraine to replenish the country’s dwindling stocks as the counter-offensive continues.  The $400 million package—drawn from existing Defense Department stockpiles—will include additional Patriot missiles, HIMARS rocket launchers, and Stinger anti-aircraft munitions, plus additional artillery and mortar rounds and 32 more Stryker armored personnel carriers, among other items. 
  • The Department of Education Monday opened a civil rights investigation into Harvard University’s legacy admissions policy. The investigation responds to a complaint filed by three legal groups earlier this month alleging the school’s practice of giving preference to the children of disproportionately white alumni illegally discriminates against black, Hispanic, and Asian applicants who are otherwise more qualified. The move follows the Supreme Court decision last month striking down Harvard’s consideration of race in admissions.
  • UPS and the Teamsters union reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to avoid a strike of roughly 300,000 drivers and package sorters that had been slated to begin August 1. Pending employee ratification, the deal will hike starting part-time wages from about $16.20 to $21 an hour and give union members a raise of $7.50 over the next five years. The agreement would also require UPS to put air conditioning in new delivery vans.
  • A federal judge in D.C. vacated the 2017 desertion conviction and dishonorable discharge of former Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off of a base in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years before being freed in a prisoner exchange in 2014. The judge argued Bergdahl did not receive a fair trial because the judge in the case failed to disclose he was concurrently applying for a job in former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department—Trump had called Bergdahl a traitor and suggested he should be executed. Bergdahl may now face a second trial before a different judge.
  • The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index recorded a 0.5 percent year-over-year drop in home prices in May—up from a 0.1 percent decline in April and the largest such drop since 2012 as mortgage rates have stayed high, cooling demand, after 2022’s fast interest rate hikes. House prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent month-over-month in May, however, the third straight month of increase.
  • Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign confirmed yesterday dozens of staffers have been laid off in recent weeks as concerns over the organization’s finances mount. Among the layoffs was Nate Hochman, a onetime Dispatch intern and former National Review reporter who campaign sources told Axios was responsible for the creation of a recent pro-DeSantis video that contained neo-Nazi imagery.
  • Chinese state media reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Qin Gang—who hadn’t been seen publicly in a month—has been removed from office after only seven months in the role. Qin’s unexplained absence had disrupted diplomatic engagements with China, and official reports offered no reason for the ouster of an official previously seen as close to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. His predecessor Wang Yi will return to the role of foreign minister.
  • U.S. Air Force officials said a Russian fighter jet flew within several meters of a U.S. Reaper drone completing a mission in Syria Sunday and dropped flares, damaging the drone’s propeller and forcing it back to base. Sunday’s incident was the latest in a recent string of risky Russian maneuvers interfering with U.S. operations in the region—Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said last week U.S. analysts are assessing possible reasons for the uptick.
  • Israeli Defense Forces killed three Palestinian members of Hamas in the occupied West Bank Tuesday. The IDF said the militants had fired at Israeli troops from a black vehicle and that Israeli security forces confiscated M-16 rifles and other military equipment from the militants’ car.

We May Have Started the Fire

We’re pretty sure the U.S. Forest Service wasn’t trying to join the Barbenheimer buzz this week, but it did so anyway—just as Christopher Nolan released a film about building the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Forest Service admitted its own planned burn started a forest fire last year that almost scorched that very town.

The United States has so far had a comparatively mild wildfire season, but smoke drifting down from Canadian wildfires has shrouded city skies with a yellow-orange haze. Among this week’s casualties are Chicago and Minneapolis—and spectacular Door County, Wisconsin. The smoke has refocused attention on managing fires, but as the Forest Service’s blunder demonstrates, that’s a tricky business in an age of heat waves exacerbated by climate change.

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