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Oct 15, 2020: Ratings War Trumps Debate

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Early voting has kicked off in more states, as court battles over ballot counting and voter registration continue. There’s a ratings war, too: Donald Trump and Joe Biden are holding separate televised town halls instead of a debate.

Meanwhile, fears are growing that Russia and Turkey could get dragged into the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are oil pipelines involved, which never bodes well.

And lastly, scientists think they know how to solve climate change and prevent mass extinction: by turning over a share of the world’s cropland back to nature. It sounds so simple when you put it that way...


Tonight was originally supposed to be the second debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Instead, Americans will be subjected to a ratings contest, with rival candidate town halls on rival TV networks. ABC News is hosting a town hall with Biden at 8 p.m. Eastern time. And, at the same time, NBC News will host a Trump town hall. ABC’s Biden programming was scheduled a week ago, but NBC reached its deal with Trump only yesterday. On Twitter, former NBC News executive Vivian Schiller called the head-to-head programming decision shameful and said it wouldn’t serve the public interest.

In other election news, early voting opened yesterday in Kansas, Rhode Island and Tennessee. In Virginia, the Washington Post reports that a federal judge has extended the state’s voter registration deadline through 11:59 p.m. tonight. A severed fiber optic cable kept Virginia voters from registering online most of Tuesday, prompting the extension.

Pennsylvania’s highest court will take up the question of whether counties should count mail- in ballots when a voter’s signature doesn’t necessarily match the one on their registration. The state Supreme Court will decide the matter tomorrow, per the Associated Press. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, told counties that said state law does not permit them to reject a mail-in ballot solely over a perceived signature inconsistency. Trump wants more ballots to be rejected, so his campaign took Boockvar to court.

Finally, Politico reports that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has declined to commit to keep troops away from polling stations next month. Democratic Representatives Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey told reporters this week that Esper was evasive in written answers to questions they submitted regarding the role of the armed forces in a peaceful transition of power. Is it too early to start drinking?

Russia Mediates Armenian Conflict

A cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan appears to be failing. More than five hundred people have died in seventeen days of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is inside Azerbaijan but governed by Armenians.

Yesterday, Reuters reports, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of trying to attack its oil and gas pipelines, and warned of a severe response. Fears are reportedly growing that Russia and Turkey could be sucked into the conflict.

Turkey’s weapons sales to its ally Azerbaijan rose six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military hardware rising to $77 million last month alone. Turkey has accused Armenia of occupying Azeri territory and vowed full support for Azerbaijan. Turkey has also repeatedly called upon international mediators including the United States to urge Armenia to withdraw.

But it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin who has stepped in to play mediator. Putin spoke to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by phone yesterday and expressed his concerns about the participation of Middle East fighters in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Kremlin said in a statement. The statement also said that both Putin and Erdogan reaffirmed the importance of a Moscow-mediated ceasefire. Moscow has a military treaty that calls for it to assist Armenia should its sovereignty be threatened, per the Guardian. However, Russia has made clear it does not regard defending Nagorno-Karabakh as part of its treaty obligations. Here’s hoping for a new cease-fire. One thing the world does not need is a wider war.

Scientists Propose Farmland Re-wilding

Meterological data released yesterday showed that this year the world had its hottest September on record. But there was also some hopeful news, published in the journal Nature.

Researchers report that returning thirty percent of the world’s farmland to wilderness could greatly help fight climate change and prevent mass extinction.

According to the New York Times, the researchers began with a map from the European Space Agency that breaks down the surface of the planet into a grid of parcels classified by ecosystem: forests, wetlands, shrub lands, grasslands and arid regions. Then, using an algorithm they developed, the scientists evaluated which parcels would yield the highest returns for mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss, if returned to their natural states.

The scientists found that benefits rise and fall depending on how much land is restored. Relinquishing fifteen percent of strategic farmlands, the Times reports, could spare sixty percent of predicted extinctions and sequester about thirty percent of the built-up carbon in the atmosphere. The authors estimate that at the global level, fifty-five percent of farmland could be returned to nature while maintaining current levels of food production by using existing agricultural land more effectively and sustainably.

Great – so when do we start?


An update from the third and final day of Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings: the Washington Post reports that she declined to share her legal views on abortion rights, voting rights and the Affordable Care Act. She also failed, when asked, to name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. For what it’s worth, they are the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and the right to petition the government. In fairness to Barrett, nobody told her that question would be on the test.

The leaders of the Golden Dawn party in Greece were each sentenced yesterday to thirteen years in prison, the Guardian reports. A court previously ruled that the fascist party was in fact a criminal gang. One member, who fatally stabbed an anti-fascist hip-hop artist, was sentenced to life in prison. Some Greek leftists said the punishments were inadequate. After living through a prolonged neo-Nazi terror campaign, can you blame them?

Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest poultry producers in the US, said yesterday it would pay nearly $111 million to settle federal charges that it helped fix prices for chickens and thenpassed on higher costs to consumers, the AP reports. Separately, the company’s controlling shareholder pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn of conspiring to violate the foreign corrupt practices act, and paying bribes to Brazilian officials in exchange for state financing. Hey, there’s another good reason to buy local.

According to the Payday Report, the seventy thousand-member Rochester, New York AFL-CIO Labor Council this week became the first regional AFL-CIO body in the US to call for a general strike if Trump does not respect the outcome of the election. Council president Dan Maloney said they hope to encourage other labor groups and get the discussion started now about possible action strategies if Trump does not follow a Constitutional transfer of power. Yes, more of this, please!

That’s all for the AM Quickie. Join us this afternoon on the Majority Report.

OCT 15, 2020 - AM Quickie

HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner

WRITER - Corey Pein

PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw