Reuters

What We’re Following

Slow suffocation as foreign policy

(Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Venezuela’s crisis continues, and the opposition leader now calls for an uprising. Juan Guaidó appeared alongside soldiers today to demand the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro—leading to a spate of violent clashes. Economic strife has ravaged the country in recent years, and three months ago, Guaidó, with backing from the United States, declared himself the interim president. In the battle for the future of Venezuela, one of the Trump administration’s approaches has been to pressure Cuba to pressure Venezuela. But for that geopolitical calculus to work, so much more needs to fall in line.

The 2020 candidate with the most detailed climate plan so far is … Beto O’Rourke. The former congressman from Texas has been squishy when it comes to policy—yet this week he debuted a $1.5 trillion proposal to move the American economy away from fossil fuels. The plan looks to address climate change in three ways: first, making it more expensive to emit carbon; second, trying to make clean energy cheaper; and finally, helping Americans buy things to prepare for the worsened weather to come. What makes the plan surprising isn’t the details, but the man behind them: O’Rourke has had a somewhat testy relationship with the environmental left.

The director John Singleton, who died on Monday, ushered in a new renaissance of black film. His 1991 film, Boyz n the Hood, released when Singleton was just 23 years old, stunned audiences with its nuanced portrayal of a group of black men growing up in South Central Los Angeles. What made the film revelatory was that Singleton didn’t just put black actors on-screen—he shined a light on the totality of triumphs and pain of black life in America. “To call Singleton a pioneer of black cinema—and of film more broadly—feels like a colossal understatement,” writes Hannah Giorgis. Read on, for more about his cinematic legacy.

Saahil Desai


Snapshot

An emperor abdicates

(Associated Press)

After nearly 30 years, Japan’s Emperor Akihito is abdicating the symbolic throne and passing it on to his son Crown Prince Naruhito.

In the photograph above, from 1960, then–Crown Prince Akihito shakes hands with Air Force Captain L. Gordon Cooper, one of the seven American men being trained as astronauts, at Langley Field in Virginia.

→ See more images from the decades of the royal life of Akihito


Evening Reads

Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Exploding

(Katie Martin / The Atlantic)

Why is it still so easy for consumers to buy poorly made, dangerous batteries that explode, and why is it so difficult to tamp down on counterfeits or hold the sellers—or the platforms the sellers use, such as Amazon—accountable?

Nicholas Jones didn’t think twice about purchasing a lithium-ion battery from Amazon in 2016. Like most Americans, he was used to ordering whatever he needed on the site and having it show up at his front door days later. So when his laptop’s battery stopped working, Jones, then a graduate student, went online, found a replacement HP battery for about $15, and bought it.

A few nights later, he was sitting on the couch in his Buffalo, New York, apartment when he heard a sound like a gunshot. His fiancée screamed. The lithium-ion battery in the laptop sitting next to him had ignited, setting his couch on fire. Battery cells were flying all over the living room, leaking acid. “It was like a war zone,” Jones told me. Later, he was treated for first-degree and chemical burns. His computer and hardwood floor were destroyed.

→ Read the rest

Conservatives Have a Different Definition of ‘Fair’

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Do liberals and conservatives have a different mental conception of “fairness”?

This conservative version of fairness is wired deeply in the human brain, and liberals ignore it at their peril. In the laboratory, psychologists study the roots of economic and political attitudes through exercises like the ultimatum game, in which one player (the allocator) makes an offer to another player (the recipient) about how to split a small pot of money put up by the researchers. The recipient can accept the other player’s offer and take the cash—or reject it, in which case neither player gets anything. Not surprisingly, when the allocator offers a 50-50 split, recipients accept it.

→ Read the rest


Urban Developments

Texas High Speed Rail Faces a New Threat: Semantics

(Texas Central)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Claire Tran shares today’s top stories:

A private company wants to connect Houston to Dallas through a zippy 90-minute bullet train. But opposition to the project focuses on an oddly existential debate: “Simply self-declaring that you are a railroad does not make it so.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pittsburgh displaced about 8,000 residents of a majority-black neighborhood to make way for an NHL arena. Its latest redevelopment of the area might help right a historic wrong.

In a booming Toronto exurb, partnering with Uber was cheaper than starting a public bus system. But it worked so well that the town now has to raise fares and cap rides.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Subscribe to the CityLab Daily newsletter.


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