Rural hospitals, climate refugees, and other non-political political stories


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Rural hospitals, climate refugees and other non-political political stories

Here’s your final 2022 installment of political stories that don’t have the trappings of classic inside-the-Beltway political pieces, or aren’t obviously about politics but have significant local, national or international import.

Please keep sending your links to news coverage of political stories that are getting overlooked. They don’t have to be from this week! The submission link is right under this column. Make sure to say whether I can use your first name, last initial and location.

A conundrum for rural hospitals

From reader John S. in Cobleskill, N.Y., comes this meaty public-policy story in the New York Times. Reporter Emily Baumgaertner took us through efforts to help America’s struggling rural hospitals survive. At a cost to patients.

For 46 million Americans, rural hospitals are a lifeline, yet an increasing number of them are closing. The federal government is trying to resuscitate them with a new program that offers a huge infusion of cash to ease their financial strain. But it comes with a bewildering condition: They must end all inpatient care.

“The program, which invites more than 1,700 small institutions to become federally designated ‘rural emergency hospitals,’ would inject monthly payments amounting to more than $3 million a year into each of their budgets, a game-changing total for many that would not only keep them open but allow them to expand services and staff. In return, they must commit to discharging or transferring their patients to bigger hospitals within 24 hours.”

The politics: The trade-offs — and larger hospitals’ reluctance to admit transfer patients — risk leaving rural communities with no reliable care at all. This is a classic public policy challenge involving finite, even scarce, resources.

Climate refugees in … Michigan?

The global climate crisis is arguably the biggest political story out there. And from reader Daryl M. in Lafayette, La., we learned about this wrinkle: the prospects of people (climate refugees, really) moving to Michigan.

Here are Sheri McWhirter and Lindsay Moore of

Michigan looks increasingly attractive in a country where wildfires turn million-dollar mansions to ash in California, intensifying hurricanes sink homes along Florida’s coasts, and cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix face the alarming reality the Colorado River will no longer sustain them.”

“This state’s two peninsulas, meanwhile, have ample freshwater — the Great Lakes contain 90% of North America’s supply, lower temperatures, and vast swaths of undeveloped land.”

The politics: There are obvious challenges for Michigan as this phenomenon accelerates. Drinking water, sure, but also “sprawl catering to the affluent, spikes in housing prices and congested traffic,” McWhirter and Moore reported.

A ‘no’ on medically assisted death

This has been a debate in Europe and America for decades: Under what circumstances can medically assisted death be legal?

An anonymous reader from Massachusetts flagged this piece, from Mark Pratt of the Associated Press: “The highest court in Massachusetts said in a decision Monday that allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to mentally competent patients with terminal illnesses is not protected by the state constitution.”

“The high court, while noting the sensitive nature of the case, said the ultimate decision on physician-assisted suicide — also known as medical aid in dying — lies with the state Legislature.”

“The court said ‘every one of us is free to vote and encourage our legislators to enact laws, and to craft appropriate procedural safeguards, with respect to one of the only human experiences that will affect us all.’”

The politics: We’re not being cute when we say this is a matter of life and death. This goes to the core of the relationship between the citizen and the state.

Don’t blink and miss this surveillance story

Imagine the you from 20 years ago reading this story, from NBC4 New York’s Sarah Wallace: A mom (Kelly Conlon) and daughter on a Girl Scout trip to New York go to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes Christmas show. But mom gets turned away because of facial recognition.

“That’s because to Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Conlon isn’t just any mom,” Wallace reported. “Conlon is an associate with the New Jersey based law firm, Davis, Saperstein and Solomon, which for years has been involved in personal injury litigation against a restaurant venue now under the umbrella of MSG Entertainment.”

MSG has a policy banning attorneys from firms in active litigation against it from attending events at its venues, Wallace reported. Its security intercepted Conlon in the lobby, apparently having spotted her using facial recognition.

MSG stated: “In this particular situation, only the one attorney who chose to attend was denied entry, and the rest of her group — including the Girl Scouts — were all able to attend and enjoy the show.”

The politics: Government surveillance gets a lot of attention. But we aren’t having a coherent national discussion about it or about the private sector’s role.

See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

Fallout continues from Jan. 6 committee final report that blames Trump for deadly riot

“Today, fallout continues from Thursday’s late-night release of the full report of the House select committee that recommends barring Donald Trump from ever holding public office again and blames the former president’s conduct following the 2020 election for the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol. The nine-member committee is set to disband within days as Republicans prepare to take control of the House, John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

More than a million without power as frigid air overtakes eastern U.S.

More than a million utility customers are without power across swaths of the country Friday as an exceptional Arctic blast is sending temperatures tumbling in the eastern United States while a powerful blizzard is underway in the Great Lakes region,” Jason Samenow, Matthew Cappucci and Scott Dance report.

Follow our live coverage of the storm here

More: Flight cancellations exceed 3,600 Friday amid winter storm disruptions

Lunchtime reads from The Post

For John Eastman and Clarence Thomas, an intellectual kinship stretching back decades

The Supreme Court justice and the lawyer who worked to help Trump try to overturn the election have a remarkable relationship that dates back more than three decades and that began years before Eastman served as Thomas’s clerk and before Thomas joined the bench, a Washington Post examination found. In the 1980s in Washington, as acquaintances working in the Reagan administration, they each explored writings and legal theories that informed their views of the Constitution, according to interviews and a Post review of their writings and speeches,” Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

Inside the monumental, stop-start effort to arm Ukraine

“The initial war supply operation clearly wasn’t built for the long haul. As the grueling conflict continues with no end in sight, it has exposed flaws in U.S. strategic planning for its own future battles, and revealed significant gaps in the American and NATO defense industrial base. Stocks of many key weapons and munitions are near exhaustion, and wait times for new production of missiles stretches for months and, in some cases, years,” Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe and Isabelle Khurshudyan report.

Trump audit shows depths of IRS funding woes

“Before Donald J. Trump became president and after, his exceedingly complex and voluminous tax returns came under regular scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. The number of agents assigned to the audit team: one,” the New York Times’s Alan Rappeport reports.

“After he left office, the I.R.S. said it was beefing up the audit team, to three. The tax agency itself acknowledged that it was still overwhelmed by the complexity of Mr. Trump’s finances and the resistance mounted by the former president and his sophisticated army of accountants and lawyers, which included a former I.R.S. chief counsel and raised questions early last year about why even three revenue agents should be assigned to audit him.”

Far from the U.S.-Mexico border, a migrant surge strains Denver

“Colorado’s capital is some 650 miles from the border city of El Paso, but it has become the latest community struggling to manage the influx of asylum seekers entering the U.S. illegally,” the Wall Street Journal’s Robert Barba reports.

Since Dec. 9, more than 1,400 migrants have arrived in Denver, according to the city. That compares with 300 migrant arrivals over the prior two months. The increase prompted Mayor Michael Hancock to declare a state of emergency.”

Biden emphasizes national unity in Christmas address

“President Joe Biden attempted to strike a unifying message in a Christmas speech to the nation that came as he moves into the second half of his term in office,” CNN’s Donald Judd, Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez report.

“The message of Christmas is always important, but it’s especially important through tough times like the ones we’ve been through the past few years,” Biden said. “The pandemic has taken so much from us. We’ve lost so much time with one another, we’ve lost so many people, people we loved — over a million lives lost in America alone.”

Deep secrecy, high risk: How Zelensky’s improbable D.C. visit came together

“When a U.S. military aircraft landed on the tarmac in Rzeszow, Poland, on Tuesday, the plane crew thought they were picking up the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a few high-level Ukrainian officials,” Tyler Pager and Yasmeen Abutaleb report.

“What they didn’t know, until they saw him exit a U.S. vehicle, was that one of those officials was Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who with American help had just completed a dangerous trip from Bakhmut — the site of some of the war’s bloodiest fighting, more than 400 miles from Kyiv — to the Polish border for a covertly planned visit to Washington.”

Biden: Looking back at 2022, I feel more confident about America than ever

“There’s no denying that it’s been a rough few years, with a global pandemic and global inflation that have lasted longer than almost anyone expected. But as we look back on 2022 — and look forward to what lies ahead — I have never been more confident about what the American people and the American economy can achieve,” the president wrote in an op-ed for Yahoo News.

How cold it could get Friday, visualized

The forecast for Friday calls for 52 percent of the United States to be 20 degrees colder than the average minimum temperature for the date, and 18 percent of the country to be 30 degrees colder than the average minimum temperature for the date. Mean temperatures on Friday are expected to be below freezing across nearly 75 percent of the country and below zero for approximately 23 percent of the country,” Dan Stillman and Janice Kai Chen report.

Dems scour books for donations linked to Bankman-Fried

“Megadonor and disgraced crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried burrowed his campaign cash so deep into the Democratic Party that lawmakers are now preparing internal investigations to be sure they’re rid of it — and prepared for any potential restitution to victims of Bankman-Fried’s crimes,” Kara Voght reports for Rolling Stone.

  • The campaign of Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) is currently conducting an internal assessment of any donations it may have received from political or professional associates of Bankman-Fried. Once those donations have been identified, the Torres campaign will set them aside for a fund it expects the Justice Department will set up to compensate the victims of the fallen crypto magnate’ crimes.”
  • Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) is taking a similar tack. ‘We’re doing an internal audit to identify individuals who have ties or possible ties to Sam Bankman-Fried and will set aside those funds until we receive guidance on what to do with it,’ a Frost spokesperson tells Rolling Stone.” 
  • Rep.-elect Becca Balint (D-Vt.), who received more than $26,000 in donations from Bankman Fried’s colleague and allies, has also vowed to ‘hold funds in a separate account to await resolution and compensate victims,’ her campaign manager told VTDigger.”

“In a Monday email to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee, [Charlie Kirk] told them that donors and activists would desert the party unless it changed. The result, he said, would be colossal failure in the 2024 presidential election,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports.

At 4 p.m., Biden and first lady Jill Biden will leave the White House for Children’s National Hospital. They will arrive at 4:15 p.m.

The Bidens will leave Children’s hospital for the White House at 5:45 p.m., where they will arrive around 6 p.m.

Key advice this holiday season

Thanks for reading. See you in the New Year.