Stories about Donald Trump are like Crocs in the early 2000s -- they're everywhere, and if we truly lived in a just universe, they never would have been allowed to exist in the first place. Given how obsessed the media is with every single stupid thing he does (with good reason -- he is the president of the United States), it's easy to forget that all those other major news stories we used to be concerned about haven't gone away -- they're just not getting the attention they deserve. For example ...
Of course you're no longer seeing any stories about Flint, Michigan. An entire city's water supply was being poisoned with freaking lead. A state of emergency was called. The government wouldn't take more than an entire year to figure out how to stop poisoning its populace. That catastrophe was solved ages ago.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Wake up! Wake up! You were having that dream where the world made sense again.
Like the D student that it is, the U.S. government did do something about the Flint Water crisis -- the bare minimum. Tests show that lead levels are back down to regulation levels, but nobody's gotten around to changing the pipes yet, which was one of the causes of the problem in the first place. So everyone in Flint still has to use bottled water and filters like the whole town has a sponsorship deal with Evian. However, Michigan has pledged to spend up to $97 million to fix the water lines. You know. At some point. In the next three years. There's probably going to be a movie about Flint getting safe water before Flint actually gets safe water.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
#FlintWaterCrisis will still be trending when they remake that movie too.
And that's just for the water situation. What about the damage already done to its citizenry? While Michigan has agreed to provide extra funding to health programs for Flint above its federal levels, some of those programs stop in September 2018. Others stop in March 2021. You know what won't stop by 2021? The effects of lead poisoning. There aren't any treatments that can cure the side effects of lead exposure, which include heart, kidney, and nerve damage, reduced fetal growth in pregnant women, and a multitude of cognitive, behavioral, and hearing problems in children. Only medications and continuous treatment can reduce the effects. Apparently, in this America, the government only has money for either healthcare or clean water, not both at the same time. Maybe they can ask UNICEF to lend a hand.
What's one thing the LGBT community, the state of California, and fans of college sports all have in common? They all think North Carolina is the worst. In February 2016, the good people of Charlotte decided that maybe LGBT people should have some legal protections, like the right for trans people to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity, among others. As a response, North Carolina state legislators promptly jumped on the nope train to Fuckthatville and passed the monstrous House Bill 2, the so-called "bathroom law" that forced trans people to use the bathroom corresponding to the biological sex written on their birth certificates, just a month later.
Reprisals were swift. California banned state-funded travel to North Carolina, the NBA pulled their All-Star Game from Charlotte, and the NCAA moved seven championships from the state because seriously, North Carolina is the worst. After the state realized that being bigots would cost the state an estimated $3.76 billion from all the boycotts, it finally dropped the bill. If this were a Disney movie, there would be a happy song, the credits would roll, and we'd all have learned the lesson that you shouldn't be an asshole to trans people.
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And the bathroom-sign industry lived profitably ever after.
But this is North Carolina. It has a reputation to uphold. On March 30th, HB2 was finally repealed, but the smell lingered. A new "compromise" bill was put in its place, to which Republican lawmakers managed to add a ban on local governments from creating or amending non-discrimination ordinances until 2020. North Carolina doesn't include sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class in their anti-discrimination laws, so now not only can you discriminate against the LGBT community everywhere in the state without fear of legal consequences, but local governments who want to extend protections to LGBT people in their jurisdiction are forbidden to do so. That makes it sound less like the repeal of a toxic bill and more like giving a bunch of regressive assholes exactly what they wanted because they were willing to cost their state billions of dollars until they got their way. We don't care where NC lawmakers go to the bathroom, but we're sure it needs to have a changing table for their gigantic baby bottoms.
But the bill itself has been dumped, which proved enough for some corporations to stop pretending like they care about people. So the NBA 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte is back on track and the NCAA also ended its boycott. California, however, is maintaining their ban on state travel to North Carolina, because North Carolina is the fucking worst.
Way back in 2013, Judge Analisa Torres got fed up with the New York Police Department's racial profiling. In particular, she objected to the department's stop-and-frisk policies, refusing to believe that their disproportionate targeting of black people and Latinos was just a wacky coincidence. Judge Torres told the NYPD to either stop being racist or strap on some goddamn body cameras. The NYPD picked body cameras.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
"Oh thank god!"
It took four long years, but the pilot program finally rolled out this April -- at one precinct. The goal is to expand the program to 20 precincts this fall and for all officers in the NYPD to wear body cameras by 2019, but the program keeps getting bogged down by both police and public pushback. One of the reasons it took four years for the NYPD to get from the court order to the pilot program was because nobody could agree on when the cameras should be turned on. Many New Yorkers bristle at the idea of police officers driving around like mobile security cameras, giving them the same privacy invasive powers as, say, Google Earth. They settled on requiring officers to turn their cameras on for certain circumstances like crimes in progress, arrests, and most searches and stops, but allows them some discretion in whether to switch them on or off for other events, like using the bathroom or taking a bribe.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
"All dick pics need to be cleared with you watch commander."
However, giving police officers control over when to turn on their body cams as opposed to simply having them run at all times has had mixed results in the past. The Denver Police Department tried this out already during their own body camera program. More than half of 45 incidents of use of force weren't recorded because the body camera wasn't on or the footage was unusable. Most of those cases happened because events escalated too quickly for the officer to turn the camera on, since hitting the power button isn't high on the priority list when things get violent. Since recording situations like these is the main point of body cameras, they're about as useful a camera as the one under the bed of most student filmmakers.
For months, the story of the Dakota Access and Standing Rock was all over the news, where an alliance of environmentalists and Native Americans battled the feds and private oil for the privilege of not having capitalists ejaculating their toxic fuel anywhere near their ancestral homes. Eventually, after a lot of tear gas, attack dogs, and Donald Trumps, the pipeline completed construction. But while the protest camps are mostly gone, anti-pipeline resistance against Dakota Access is still going strong.
In March, some folks went the not-so-legal route by taking blowtorches to the pipeline in two different spots in two different states, cutting holes in the thick pipes:
Mahaska County Sheriff's Office
Meanwhile, a couple of groups who think the lawsuit is mightier than the blowtorch are still challenging the pipeline in court. Most notable of them are the four Sioux tribes trying to convince a federal judge that running an oil pipeline under their water source is roughly the same as hiring a lobster to babysit your children -- it's a shortsighted operation with dangerous flaws that will become almost immediately apparent.
These safety concerns are not unfounded. Dakota Access isn't fully operational yet but it's already had three leaks due to technical difficulties, spilling over 100 gallons of crude oil in North Dakota. Now, to be fair, all three were quickly and expertly cleaned up. The company who operates Dakota Access has gotten really good at this, because Energy Transfer Partners builds pipelines that are leakier than a carnival goldfish bag. They have another pipeline in Ohio that sprung a massive leak originally said to be 2 million gallons of drilling fluid, but in actuality might be more than twice that, with 18 similar incidents in 11 counties.
Ohio's worst man-made disaster since the Browns.
But the revolution has only begun. Protests like the one opposing Dakota Access are emerging everywhere companies are trying to build pipelines, such as in Florida and Texas. Even if the fight against this one ultimately fails, expect to hear a lot more about these kinds of protests in the news ... whenever normality resumes.
Remember Zika, the terrifying virus that causes babies to be born with tiny heads thanks to swarms of vampiric asshole insects? Unless you haven't seen a mosquito in the past half year, there's no reason to assume that incredible tragedy just went away. And it's this lack of awareness that could be making things worse.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
"THIS MEANS YOU, CLAIRE!"
While Zika is still raging on in South America, it's easy to see why so few people outside of the continent think it's a problem. The United States has had 5,300 Zika cases from January 1, 2015, to May 24, 2017, according to the CDC. The bulk of those infected were also people who'd gotten it while traveling to places where the virus was widespread, like Brazil and the Caribbean. Only 224 cases came from local mosquito transmission, mostly in Florida and Texas (and 48 people got Zika through boning, in case you were wondering). But the virus is a sneaky bastard. While reported cases aren't rising, this shouldn't be taken as a sign that the situation has stagnated like the water that births the angry sword-faced plague carriers. That's because 80 percent of Zika cases have no symptoms at all. One study even figures that Zika was already in Florida for two months before anybody noticed, like the cat burglar of mosquito-born diseases.
Those numbers aren't going to improve now that awareness has taken a nosedive and temperatures are rising. In Texas, only four people showed up to a recent Zika awareness meeting held in an area at risk for an outbreak this summer. That's especially bad news for poor people, because mosquitos love to bite them. Poor areas in Texas's Rio Grande Valley have loads of standing water, and their sprawling layouts render bug spraying useless -- the perfect conditions for a mosquito orgy. Luckily, we've got some scientists trying to genetically engineer our way out of an outbreak.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Plan B is arming Mosquito Control with the world's tiniest shotguns.
They are modifying swarms of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to make them "self-limiting insects," which is a scientific term meaning "we have cursed their dicks." These modified mosquitoes are then let into the wild to mate with infected females, who do all the actual biting and disease spreading. Thanks to the cursed penises of those male mosquitoes, like some mosquito Greek tragedy, these females can only produce offspring that dies in its infancy before it has a chance to start spreading the virus. Within a relatively short time, humanity should be in the clear from Zika, because judging by every film made in the 1990s, genetically modifying insects to cure a serious disease cannot possibly backfire in any way.
For more things we'd like to remind you about, check out 9 Stories That Were Huge (And Immediately Forgotten) In 2016 and 22 Huge Scandals You Don't Even Think About Anymore.
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