OUR PICKSDHS Warns of Risk to Ports from Chinese Espionage | When Americans Abandon the Constitution | Record Heat Deals Costly Damage to Texas Water Systems, and more

Published 18 September 2023

Trump-proofing the civil service with a new regulation

·  Air Force Looks to Move Spy-Plane Sensors to Satellites
Among the draws: space-based gear can often be built and launched faster than aircraft can be modified

·  DHS Warns of Risk to Ports from Chinese Espionage, ‘Disruption Operations’
Homeland Threat Assessment 2024 notes that expansion of Beijing’s maritime logistics capabilities and the use of commercial Chinese logistics technologies increase risk

·  A Summer of Record Heat Deals Costly Damage to Texas Water Systems
As dry soils contract, underground pipes rupture—disrupting cities, frustrating conservation efforts, and highlighting the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to a warming climate

·  When Americans Abandon the Constitution
Mitt Romney foresees a disaster

Biden Administration Aims to Trump-Proof the Federal Work Force  (Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman, New York Times)
If Donald Trump wins a second term, he and his allies want to revive a plan to allow a president to fire civil service workers who are supposed to be hired on merit. The Biden administration is trying to thwart it.

Air Force Looks to Move Spy-Plane Sensors to Satellites  (Marcus Weisberger, Defense One)
The Pentagon should consider moving more intelligence-gathering technology from aircraft to less vulnerable spacecraft, a top Air Force general said.
Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, spoke as the Pentagon looks for ways to conduct missions that are less susceptible to disruption by advanced Russian and Chinese surface-to-air missiles.

DHS Warns of Risk to Ports from Chinese Espionage, ‘Disruption Operations’  (Bridget Johnson, HSToday)
Ports face a heightened risk of Chinese espionage that could lead to sabotage and shutdowns, a new infrastructure security risk assessment from the Department of Homeland Security warns.
The Homeland Threat Assessment 2024 from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis has sections on public safety and security including terrorism, illegal drugs, malinformation and mis/disinformation, and transnational repression; border and immigration security including migration and watchlist encounter trends and transnational criminal organizations; critical infrastructure security including disruptive and destructive attacks as well as espionage against critical infrastructure; and threats to economic security including economic manipulation and malign influence, economic espionage, and financially motivated cyber attacks.

A Summer of Record Heat Deals Costly Damage to Texas Water Systems  (Dylan Baddour, Wired)
The hottest summer on record for many Texas cities has brought millions of dollars in damage to municipal plumbing and the loss of huge volumes of water during a severe drought.
Authorities across the state are struggling to keep up with widespread leakage even as they plead for water conservation and have restricted outdoor water use. The impact on Texas’ water systems highlights both the vulnerability of basic infrastructure to a warming climate and the high costs of adaptation.
“The intense heat and drop in annual rainfall have dried up the soil, causing a shift in water lines,” said Erin Jones, a spokesperson for the city of Houston, which logged its hottest summer on record this year. “When the pipes shift, the pipe joints can break, causing water leaks.”

When Americans Abandon the Constitution  (Tom Nichols, The Atlantic)
My colleague McKay Coppins has spent two years talking with Mitt Romney, the Utah senator, former Massachusetts governor, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee. An excerpt from McKay’s forthcoming book confirmed the news that Romney has had enough of the hypocrisy and weakness of the Republican Party and will be leaving the Senate when his term expires.
“Some nights he vented,” Coppins wrote of their conversations; “other nights he dished.” And then came a quiet acknowledgement that should still be shocking, even after seven years of unhinged right-wing American populism:

“A very large portion of my party,” [Romney] told me one day, “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” He’d realized this only recently, he said. We were a few months removed from an attempted coup instigated by Republican leaders, and he was wrestling with some difficult questions. Was the authoritarian element of the GOP a product of President Trump, or had it always been there, just waiting to be activated by a sufficiently shameless demagogue? And what role had the members of the mainstream establishment—­people like him, the reasonable Republicans—played in allowing the rot on the right to fester?

Think about what Romney is saying:
Millions of American citizens no longer believe in the Constitution of the United States of America.
This is not some pedestrian political observation, some throwaway line about partisan division. Leave aside for the moment that Romney is talking about Republicans and the hangers-on in the Trump movement; they are also your fellow Americans, citizens of a nation that was, until recently, one of the most durable democracies on Earth. And they no longer care about the fundamental document that governs our lives as Americans.
I have written before that we can no longer indulge Republicans and their various media enablers in the fantasies that Trump is a normal candidate, that we are heading into a normal election, that the Republican Party is a normal party (or, indeed, a political party at all). How we each defend the Constitution is an individual choice, but let us at least have no pretenses, even in our daily discussions, that we live in normal times and that 2024 is just another political horse race. Everything we believe in as Americans is at stake now, and no matter what anyone thinks of Mitt Romney, we owe him a debt for saying out loud what so many Republican “leaders” fear even to whisper.