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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Look closer. These non-political stories are political.

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1940, Romania signed the Tripartite Pact, officially becoming an “Axis” power with Germany, Italy and Japan. Happy Thanksgiving! We’ll be back on Monday.

The big idea

Your weekly lineup of nonpolitical stories that are, in fact, political

Here’s our weekly roundup of pieces that have major political dimensions at the local, national, or global level but fewer of the trappings of what passes for “a political story” inside the Beltway (voters, campaigns, polling, anonymous backstabbing).

Please send me a link via my author page if you see something published or broadcast in your regional media that might fit the bill for this feature. Be sure to let me know whether I can use your first name and last initial and where you live.

This week:

  • A hospital crisis in Mississippi
  • More news about efforts to avert a damaging freight rail strike
  • Opioid lawsuit settlement
  • A pause on executions in Alabama
The alarm sounds for Mississippi hospitals

From Wicker Perlis of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger comes word that more than half of the Magnolia State’s rural hospitals are in danger of shutting their doors in the face of a financial crisis.

State Health Officer Daniel Edney told a Senate committee on Monday “there are 38 rural hospitals that are at risk of closing, about 54% of the total, with Greenwood Leflore Hospital in the most immediate danger, followed by a number of other hospitals in the Mississippi Delta,” Perlis reported.

At the Associated Press, Michael Goldberg gives us more context for a problem that could make the medical care picture worse in a poor state that already suffers from poor health outcomes.

“Rural hospitals were under economic strain before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the problems have worsened as costs to provide care have increased. Mississippi's high number of low-income uninsured people means hospitals are on the hook for more uncompensated care. At the same time, labor costs weigh on hospitals as they struggle to pay competitive wages to retain staff,” Goldberg reported.

The politics: The state is looking at a bunch of options for keeping the hospitals open, including voting to expand Medicaid, something deep red states have long resisted, as dozens of other states have done.

A freight rail strike? You shouldn’t have!

My colleagues Lauren Kaori Gurley, Jacob Bogage and Toluse Olorunnipa have the latest sobering news about prospects of a freight railroad workers’ strike heading into the holiday season.

“One of the largest railroad unions narrowly voted to reject a contract deal brokered by the White House, bringing the country once again closer to a rail strike that could paralyze much of the economy ahead of the holidays, union officials announced on Monday.”

Seven of the 12 unions that have to ratify the tentative deal President Biden celebrated in September have done so. But three smaller unions have also said “no.”

“The main sticking points for rank-and-file members have been points-based attendance policies that penalize workers for taking time off when they are sick or for personal time, and contribute to grueling, unpredictable schedules that weigh on workers’ mental and physical health, they say.”

The politics: The White House really doesn’t need a strike that would cripple the economy right at the holidays.

A possible opioid lawsuit settlement

At Reuters, Brendan Pierson reports on a new development in the opioid crisis, which has claimed one million lives in the 21st century.

“Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and AbbVie Inc have finalized the terms of settlements worth more than $6.6 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits by U.S. state and local governments over the marketing of opioid painkillers, the companies and lawyers for the governments said Tuesday.”

  • They didn’t admit wrongdoing.
  • “The sprawling litigation over opioids, which began in 2017, has yielded more than $40 billion in settlements with drugmakers, distributors and pharmacy chains,” Pierson reported.

The politics: In addition to the tragic personal consequences for Americans, the opioid crisis has strained state and local government resources. Bipartisan frustration over fentanyl, a highly potent and deadly drug, has a lot of political power.

Alabama pauses executions

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) wants a pause in executions and has ordered a review of how the state imposes capital punishment after two failed lethal injections in two months, three total since 2018, my colleague Victoria Bisset reported.

Ivey “asked the state’s attorney general Monday to withdraw requests to set execution dates for two prisoners, the only two such cases pending before the state’s Supreme Court, and to refrain from seeking further executions for other inmates on death row, according to a statement from the governor’s office.”

The politics:  It’s not clear whether the investigation will be independent, or could serve to justify resuming executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 27 states have the death penalty, while 23 do not. Three states — California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — are under a governor-imposed moratorium, but technically have it on the books.

What’s happening now

Railroads to settle years-long dispute over Gulf Coast passenger service

An agreement between Amtrak, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern offers a path forward to the return of passenger trains along a 140-mile route from New Orleans to Mobile, Ala., 17 years after Hurricane Katrina flooded the region’s rail infrastructure,” Luz Lazo reports.

Twin blasts in Jerusalem kill one, injure 18 in morning bus station attack

A student was killed and at least 18 others injured after explosions went off at two bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of the morning rush hour, in what Israeli security forces are treating as a ‘combined terror attack,’” Shira Rubin reports.

Kurds brace for renewed Turkish assault as commander urges U.S. help

“A U.S.-supported Syrian enclave braced for attacks by Turkish forces as its leading commander called on Washington to do more to oppose the threatened ground invasion,” Louisa Loveluck reports.

Gunman who killed 6 at Virginia Walmart was store employee, police say

“The shooter who opened fire late Tuesday at a Walmart in the Tidewater area of Virginia was an employee of the store, Chesapeake police said at a news conference Wednesday. … Police said the gunman used a pistol in the rampage and apparently died of a ‘self-inflicted gunshot wound,’ Dana Hedgpeth and Tom Jackman report.

Follow The Post’s live coverage of the shooting’s aftermath here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

For LGBTQ community, Colorado Springs shooting meant ‘safety betrayed’

Community members, close friends and former employees paid respects on Nov. 22 to the five victims who lost their lives at Club Q in Colorado Springs. (Video: Zoeann Murphy, Alice Li/The Washington Post)

“The rampage at one of the only gay bars in Colorado’s second-largest city has devastated its tightknit LGBTQ community, whose members describe Club Q as a welcoming haven for free expression in one of the capitals of American conservatism. As Colorado Springs struggled to move past its label as ground zero for the evangelical push to limit gay rights, the bar served as the rare gathering space where those rights were never up for debate, and safety was presumed,” Reis Thebault and Teo Armus report.

The science on remote schooling is now clear. Here’s who it hurt most.

“Students who learned from home fared worse than those in classrooms, offering substantial evidence for one side of a hot political debate. High-poverty schools did worse than those filled with middle class and affluent kids, as many worried. And in a more surprising finding, older students, who have the least amount of time to make up losses, are recovering much more slowly from setbacks than younger children,” Laura Meckler reports.

Advertisers are dropping Twitter. Musk can’t afford to lose any more.

More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the past two weeks, a Washington Post analysis of marketing data found — an indication of the extent of skittishness among advertisers about billionaire Elon Musk’s control of the company,” Naomi Nix and Jeremy B. Merrill report.

… and beyond

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover triggers partisan clash on government’s role

Democrats including President Biden have pointed to Mr. Musk’s ownership of Twitter, most recently citing staff cutbacks that some Democrats say could potentially compromise the platform’s ability to secure the personal data of its users,” the Wall Street Journal’s John D. McKinnon reports.

Republicans including Kevin McCarthy of California, the likely incoming House speaker next year, said Democrats are going after Mr. Musk because of his willingness to give conservatives a voice on the platform. Mr. Musk recently reinstated the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump.”

Trump’s Jan. 6 supporters feted at his Mar-a-Lago campaign launch

A POLITICO review of social media posts of the Mar-a-Lago guests, as well as encounters at the venue, revealed at least six who were in Washington the day of Trump’s speech and the insurrection. Some of them marched on the Capitol and then posted pictures and videos of themselves on social media in the hours and days after,” Politico’s Christopher Cadelago and Daniel Lippman report.

The latest on covid

Fauci urges updated coronavirus shots in ‘final message’ from White House

“Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, who has served under seven presidents, used his valedictory at the White House podium on Tuesday to urge Americans to get updated coronavirus booster shots,” Eugene Scott reports.

The Biden agenda

At Qatar’s World Cup, Biden’s envoy balances firmness and flattery

Blinken’s visit represents the Biden administration’s difficult balancing act with regard to Qatar, which is fast emerging as one of Washington’s most valuable partners in the Middle East despite its policies toward migrant laborers and LGBTQ people. The secretary made pointed statements about both issues,” John Hudson reports.

Taiwan says it’s in ‘comfortable’ position after Xi-Biden talks

“Talks between the leaders of China and the US were good for peace in Asia-Pacific, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said, underscoring how tensions in the region have eased in recent weeks,” Bloomberg News’s Sarah Zheng reports.

Harris rebukes China on visit to Philippines

“Vice President Harris said Tuesday that the U.S. stands with the Philippines ‘in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea,’ delivering a sharp rebuke to China,” Meryl Kornfield and Jhesset Thrina Enano report.

Student loan-payment freeze extended as courts weigh debt relief

“The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it will again extend a pandemic-era pause on payments for federal student loans as courts weigh the fate of its debt forgiveness program,” Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports.

Historical CO₂ emissions by country, visualized

“The debate over what China owes to countries that are least responsible for global warming — but most harmed by its effects — has dramatically intensified in the wake of the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Egypt,” Maxine Joselow, Michael Birnbaum and Lily Kuo report.

Hot on the left

Congressmembers tried to stop the SEC’s inquiry into FTX

“The Securities and Exchange Commission was seeking information from collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX earlier this year, the Prospect has confirmed, bringing a new perspective to an effort by a bipartisan group of congressmembers to slow down that investigation,” David Dayen writes for the American Prospect.

The March letter from eight House members—four Democrats and four Republicans—questioned the SEC’s authority to make informal inquiries to crypto and blockchain companies, and intimated that the requests violated federal law. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), whom the Republican caucus just elected as majority whip, the number three position in the House GOP leadership, led the letter.”

Hot on the right

How the right’s radical thinkers are coping with the midterms

In the weeks following the election, some incipient cleavages have started to emerge inside the New Right and its many subfactions, with the most interesting debates falling into three distinct, but interconnected, buckets,” Vox News’s  Zack Beauchamp reports.

  1. The first bucket is the question of how best to prosecute the culture war going forward. Some on the New Right sound surprisingly open to some tactical moderation in light of the midterm results — most notably by bracketing abortion or even softening the GOP’s position on the issue.”
  2. The second bucket centers on 2024: whether Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis represents the movement’s future, and what reasons there are to prefer one over the other.”
  3. The third and final bucket centers on democracy. A minority of New Right thinkers responded to defeat by suggesting the electorate is too far gone for conservatives to ever triumph — and even questioning the value of democracy itself.”

Today in Washington

The president is in Nantucket. There is nothing on his public schedule this afternoon.

In closing

Last-minute help

How much turkey per person? And other Thanksgiving questions, answered.

Every year it’s something new at your holiday gathering, but by now, we’ve just about heard them all. We field many of the same questions year after year, so if you’re wondering the same things as Thanksgiving creeps closer, trust us, you’re not alone,” Matt Brooks and Becky Krystal write.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.