Amazon HQ2 was all for Jeff Bezos' ego

Issue 123

Paris Marx

Hey urbanists!

I don’t have an essay this week — it’s been a busy one! As I write this on Saturday night, I’ve just gotten back from canvassing for Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire and I’m absolutely wiped — but there are still plenty of great reads!

This week, I recommend the pieces on Amazon’s elevated injury rate in Texas, new revelations on Amazon HQ2, why the Hummer EV isn’t green, Berlin’s rent freeze, Finland’s winter cycling, unrecyclable wind turbine blades, and either of my two pieces on the Green New Deal.

Have a great week!


Tech dystopia

🇺🇸🗳 The app used by the U.S. Democratic Party for its Iowa caucus “was clearly done by someone following a tutorial.” It cost $63,182 — more than enough to pay some more people to accept election results over the phone. “Election security experts have been saying for years that we should not put election systems online, and that we shouldn't be using apps to transmit results. And, if U.S. election officials are going to use apps like this, that they should be open to scrutiny and independent security audits.”

📦🤕 Leaked documents show one of Amazon’s oldest warehouses in Texas, which already had a reputation for being unsafe, has gotten even worse. The industry average incident rate was 4.4 in 2017, but that warehouse had a rate of 8.15 in 2017, 8.72 in 2018, and 9.59 in 2019. That means workers are in more danger than if they worked at a “state psychiatric hospital (7.4), aluminum foundry (8.5), or a prison (7.3)” and “about one in 10 employees in that warehouse have been involved in a workplace incident severe enough to merit reporting to OSHA.”

🇨🇦👩‍⚖️ Canada’s federal privacy commissioner is asking the Federal Court of Appeals to open hearings into Facebook’s breach of federal privacy regulations

😈💰 Why did the Amazon HQ2 campaign happen? A new report reveals Jeff Bezos was jealous that Elon Musk got such a big government handout from Nevada and wanted more of that government largess for himself, even though employees were wary.

🚗📉 Uber lost $8.5 billion in 2019, but claims it will be profitable in 2020 (lol)

🇺🇸🛒 15 Instacart shoppers in Illinois voted to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546

📱📍 A performance artist dragged around 99 smartphones in a red wagon to make Google Maps think there was a traffic jam — and route vehicles elsewhere

📚 Bookshop wants to help indie booksellers take on Amazon by offering profit-sharing and larger affiliate percentages

Critical urbanism

🚙 “The sidelining of the environmental benefits of EVs aligns with the role Hummer and other gigantic SUVs have played in our environmental challenges. The Hummer, in all its militaristic aggressiveness, is the very embodiment of the wasteful excess that contributed to the climate crisis in the first place. Cars are inherently about projecting a self-image, and hundreds of thousands of Americans chose to project one of profound, pathological selfishness. The electrification of the Hummer is not a signal of climate progress. It is a declaration that it’s still OK to be an asshole.”

🇩🇪✊ Why has Berlin been able to win a five-year rent freeze, “new rent-cap rules, which for many landlords could mean lowering rents by as much as 40%,” and the possibility of a referendum on forcing the city to buy back an eighth of its housing stock and turn it into public housing? Because >80% of Berliners rent — a result of rents that have been cheap until recently, and distinct policy choices, such as how “[t]enant regulations also distinctly favor renters, while federal tax laws offer no incentives to homeowners.”

🌏🏘 “Neighborhoods with more short links and intersections—and fewer dead-ends and cul-de-sacs—have lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” but since 1975, “sprawl has migrated from American suburbs and is proliferating quickly in Southeast Asia, India, and other parts of the developing world.”

🇪🇺🚄 As more people look to use trains instead of planes in Europe, operators are adding new night routes, increasing frequency, and trying to make it easier to book trips that transit multiple countries. It’s a mindset shift, but a welcome one for many passengers.

🇫🇮🚲 Finland is known for having great schools, but it also wants to lead the world in preventative health. One of the ways it does that is making it easy to get around on a bike, even in the winter, and encouraging students to ride them to school.

🚫🚗 “L.A. should introduce parking maximums downtown. New buildings would still be allowed to construct on-site parking, but only up to a limit. […] Additionally, a tax on new spaces could finance public infrastructure improvements, such as protected bus and bike lanes”

📺🚗 “[O]ne thing you definitely won’t see on a Super Bowl Sunday is any suggestion that America’s future might involve fewer cars, less energy, and more walking, transit, and bicycles.”

🇳🇱👩‍⚖️ The top court in the Netherlands ruled that Airbnb renters in Amsterdam must have a permit, and increased the fine for non-compliance from €6,000 to €20,500

Climate crisis

📚🌎 By Paris:The 2020s Must Be the Decade of the Green New Deal” (OneZero): “We’ve entered the make-or-break decade, our final shot to avoid the worst-case scenarios of a warmer world. It’s more crucial than ever that we engender mass climate action, and it’s imperative that any political project put people first. The Green New Deal can do that.”

🇨🇦🛢 By Paris:A Canadian Green New Deal is Alberta’s Best Hope for the Future” (Canadian Dimension): “Our governments have a history of failing to plan for major US policy shifts, but the possibility of a Green New Deal south of the border should be a signal that Canada must become more ambitious, not wait for our industries to be decimated before we consider taking another approach.”

🇦🇺🔥 Destructive bushfires are “pushing Australians to face the need to part ways with what they have been told is an essential fuel for their economic growth: coal. The continent’s best—and perhaps only—option for doing so may also be its most radical: Nationalize the coal industry to shut it down.”

🌬 “Wind power is carbon-free and about 85% of turbine components, including steel, copper wire, electronics and gearing can be recycled or reused. But the fiberglass blades remain difficult to dispose of.”

🇲🇽🇦🇷 Mexico and Argentina elected new left-wing governments, but they’re doubling down on fossil fuels, not moving away from them

🌡 Antarctica hit 18.3°C (64.9°F), its highest recorded temperature, surpassing its previous high in March 2015 by 0.8°C

🇺🇸🌊 Sea level rise in the United States accelerated in 2019

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