America This Week, July 17-23, 2022
Bad Meteor Karma, Biden Betrayed, Railway Panic, a WTF Plane Crash, the Sort-Of Ending of the January 6th Hearings, Three Finance Headlines, and more
If you’re a longtime TK reader, or reading this in a language that isn’t English, welcome. You’re reading “America This Week,” designed to recap the last week in American news, with a nod to the subtle insanities of our commercial media system.
It’s intended as an alternative to the algorithmic filters that normally list the “big news” of the week for you. Those usually say more about what the platforms have guessed about your interests and demographic status than they do about what’s happening. For instance, Twitter apparently believes I’m an aging ex-hipster Dad of semi-Asian descent with thoughts of expatriating (wait, that’s almost all true), pushing this “trending” news my way: How the first Asian American Miss Texas is changing what it means to be a pageant queen, Americans who can’t afford homes are moving to Europe instead, Photos Of Chris Hemsworth's Daughter On The Set Of 'Thor' Are Too Adorable For Words and TikTok’s Retirement House Shows You’re Never Too Old To Be An Influencer. Meanwhile, virtually every American in the last few weeks read a version of the story, Sex of Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson’s 2nd Baby Revealed.
With apologies to those weighty tales, here are headlines from this week that made my list of most newsworthy:
Railroad Strike on Hold. Last week, 99.5% of America’s 115,000 railroad workers voted to strike, prompting an anxious Joe Biden to appoint an Emergency Board, delaying a stoppage for up to 60 days. The strike is part of a global show of force, and a fascinating angle in the States is the media paralysis it’s inspired, with outlets like the Washington Post forced to publish explainers about the history of strikes for a generation of Americans who’ve never really seen one. The last time anything on this scale happened was when then-president Ronald Reagan fired over 11,345 air traffic controllers, declaring them a “peril to national safety.” Now, in an underreported development, strikes are back in a big way, with everyone from Alaska Air pilots to Philadelphia Beverage Distributors, even a San Diego car dealership voting to walk out. All this creates a looming Solomonesque dilemma for newly Covid-positive, increasingly hard-luck President Joe Biden, whose administration was already fighting to avert a walkout of the Longshoreman’s Union. “Scranton Joe” now may be forced to make a choice between allowing supply upheavals or dealing a Reagan-esque blow to labor just before midterm elections.
Meteor Crushes Optimism. A week after a quiet admission from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) went unnoticed, reporters caught on that a “micrometeoroid” caused “significant uncorrectable” damage to America’s celebrated $10 billion Webb Telescope. The delayed mega-bummer report, co-authored by 200 scientists, came just as NASA had its first major Victory Lap in ages, publishing the first five shots from the telescope. They were mind-blowing, especially the Picassoid image of the Carina Nebula, a “graveyard for some of the Milky Way’s hottest and most massive stars,” as the New York Times put it. Scientists across the country were speechless, especially since the previous Hubble telescope project was notorious for uninspiring performance, an endlessly orbiting symbol of American decline. But the Webb? “Oh my goodness, it works,” recalled one project scientist, sounding almost inappropriately stunned by the possibility of fruitful research. NASA is saying Webb still works “flawlessly,” but the meteoroid news dropping so quickly after last week’s triumph feels like a blackly comic metaphor for the shaky arc of a nation that still clings to tales of space triumph as central to national identity.
January 6th Hearings End, Sort Of Ostensibly, The January 6th congressional probe targeting Donald Trump wrapped up Thursday, in a much-hyped primetime hearing.
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