What’s happening? Two massive fires are in the process of ravaging large swaths of California: “Woolsey Fire” and “Camp Fire”. Woosley Fire is present just outside of Los Angeles and in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Camp Fire is located north of the state capital, Sacramento. Below is a visual representation of the where the fires are located:
What’s the damage?
Camp Fire “Camp Fire” has burned and destroyed over 140,000 acres of land destroying along with it over 10,321 structures including homes. The fire is said to be 40% contained as of Thursday afternoon. At least 66 people have been killed by the fire as of Friday morning, with more than 600 people still missing. It is considered the most destructive wildfire California has ever seen.
Woolsey Fire The “Woolsey Fire” has burned 98,362 acres of land as of Thursday afternoon and killed at least three people. Roughly 57% of the fire is contained and is unlikely to spread beyond the structure built around it. It took three lives, destroyed 548 structures with over 57,000 currently in danger.
Air pollution Not only have both fires wreaked physical destruction on land and buildings, but they have also caused high levels of smog and pollution affecting cities hundreds of miles away. A monitoring station near Camp Fire is reporting 13 times higher pollutant levels compared to a station on the Nevada state line in Truckee, California. How do forest fires start? A spark. The fact is that wildfires can start from the smallest of mistakes: a cigarette butt, a match, a downed power line next to brush, wind, trees, especially in a state such as California. Plus, once a small fire starts, it only grows in speed and intensity. Camp Fire at its most intense moment was burning the equivalent of 60 football fields per minute. You may think that most wildfires are caused by some sort of natural disaster such as a lightning strike, but humans cause the vast majority. According to a comprehensive study in 2017 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 84 percent of wildfires in the USA are started by human beings. Climate change, although under debate, is also said to increase the intensity and risk of wildfires because of the increase in heat levels across the country.
Amazon Selects NYC and Northern Virginia for HQ2
Amazon chose New York City and Northern Virginia (just outside of D.C.) as the two locations for its new headquarters, or HQ2 as it is commonly called. It brings to a close a 14-month bidding contest between 238 cities who jockeyed to bring Amazon to town. Amazon announced its search for a second headquarters location in September 2017, promising to bring some 50,000 employees and $5 billion in investment to the city. In a surprise announcement, Amazon decided it would split the headquarters evenly between two locations instead of one, believing it would be easier to find enough tech talent if they drew from two locations. They also announced Nashville, TN as the new home to a operations and logistics center that is expected to bring 5,000 jobs to the city.
Why NYC and Virginia? New York City and Northern Virginia met a number of criteria Amazon was looking for:
Educated labor force with enough tech talent.
Proximity to an airport, mass transit systems, and housing
Culture - coffee shops, farmers market, etc.
Both of these cities offered lucrative incentive packages as well, including billions of dollars in tax incentives and cash grants, although many other competing cities offered even more. Many of the incentives are contingent on Amazon’s performance and delivery of its promised job creation and investment. Many have also pointed to the fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns a massive second home in the Washington D.C. area as a reason it was selected. What does it mean for NYC and N. Virginia? Some 25,000 high-paying jobs and $2.5 billion investments to each city. The arrival of Amazon is also expected to prompt improvements to infrastructure and transportation systems in the city in order to accommodate it. Political leaders from the two cities praised Amazon’s decision and claimed it as one of the greatest economic development victories ever. However, a number of difficulties are expected to come with the economic windfall, similar to those that have occurred in Seattle, Amazon’s home headquarters, including:
The influx of well-paid workers will increase the demand for housing, raising prices unless additional housing is built. This can force lower-income people out if they can no longer pay the higher rent.
Transportation and traffic congestion
Why is everyone talking about Amazon? The 14-month search has been criticized for the excessive publicity and the lucrative incentive packages that cities offered. According to the WSJ, large incentive packages have increased in recent years and have become very important in attracting corporate development. This has led some people to wonder why a company as successful as Amazon needs government subsidies. Furthermore, it continues a trend of tech companies congregating in coastal cities; Google is also planning a major expansion in New York.
What’s changed since election day? More than a week after the midterm elections, 6 House, 2 Senate, and 2 Governor races are either in the process of recounts or are still too close to call. Meanwhile, Democrats have improved their election wins, including an Arizona Senate seat that initially was thought to go to Republican Martha McSally, and a number of House seats. Democrats have currently gained 33 House seats, and will likely gain more when all is said and done. Races in Georgia and Florida have been surrounded by controversy after accusations of voter suppression and ballot mishandling.
Three races that are in the spotlight
Florida senate race between Rick Scott (R.) and Bill Nelson (D.) is extremely close; the machine recounted concluded Thursday and is now headed to a manual recount. Scott currently has a narrow lead.
Florida governor race: after the machine recount finished Thursday, Ron DeSantis (R) maintained his lead over Andrew Gillum (D.) and declared victory.
Georgia governor race between Stacey Abrams (D.) and Brian Kemp (R.) is awaiting final counts. Kemp is currently in the lead.
Why is there controversy? In the senate races in Florida and Georgia, there have been accusations of voter suppression, delays in reporting votes and improper handling of the election process. In Florida, although they are still waiting on a number of overseas ballots, a federal judge denied a Democratic lawsuit that sought to extend the deadline of the recount in the Senate race. The machine recount concluded on Thursday, with the manual recount set to conclude Sunday and the certified results due by November 20.
Judge Mark Walker stated that because neither party offered legal evidence that election officials would not be able to meet the deadline, he could not “fashion a remedy in the dark.” A couple of Florida counties were late or unable to submit updated machine recounts - some citing old voting equipment as the reason - meaning they will revert to original vote tallies. Further lawsuits will likely continue as Democrats try to secure more time to fix technical difficulties. The senate race in Florida has drawn comparisons to the highly-debated 2000 presidential recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Conversely, in Georgia, a U.S. district judge ordered an extension in reporting the results to give time to review a number of provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are used when a voter’s eligibility is uncertain. The certified results are due on Friday (November 16) at 5 PM. What is the recount process? Rules about vote recounts varies by state, but most follow a similar process. In Florida, for example, a machine recount is automatically triggered if the margin of victory is 0.5 percentage points or less. After the machine recount, if the margin is still 0.25 percentage points or less, a manual recount is initiated. A manual recount involves examining ballots that a machine rejected for having too many or too few markings on it. The official result deadlines for the House races still uncalled around the U.S. range from November 20 - December 4.