The Roundup with Alex Two: Volume 1, Issue 1


America’s Billion-Dollar Tree Problem Is Spreading

There are lots of misconceptions out there about how we should go about protecting the environment, but the immensely complicated ethical calculus one could go through when attempting to see through which companies are greenwashing or not aside, it’s still incredibly important to pay attention to what parts of our environment we’re prone to losing and why. Grasslands are often overlooked, especially when we’re so used to the typical environmentalist narrative of “saving the trees,” but Brianna Randall in her article for WIRED highlights why a lack of trees in certain areas is vital to the preservation of the endangered grassland biome, serving as a reminder of the importance of listening to environmentalists.


Oath Keepers Leader Convicted of Sedition in Landmark Jan. 6 Case

Stewart Rhodes has been convicted of seditious conspiracy (finally!), and while it might seem like an obvious and inevitable result for one of the leaders of the January 6th riots, a seditious conspiracy charge is a super big deal. We haven’t had one since 1995 when 10 terrorists were convicted of the charge after stating their intentions to bomb certain New York landmarks. Considering how long it’s taking to finish up the trials against the people present at the riots, it might be refreshing to see some big progress in the investigation. 


A Florida woman is suing Kraft for $5 million, saying Velveeta microwave mac and cheese takes longer to make than advertised

This lawsuit reminds me of the Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants case in 1994, where a woman was severely injured after spilling hot coffee on her lap. A common response in the media at the time was to accuse the plaintiff of an overreaction, saying that she should expect hot coffee to be hot, and it’s her fault for spilling it. However, this coffee was hotter than hot. It was brewed in a way that brought it above boiling temperature and was certainly too hot to be drinkable. It sparked a debate over when lawsuits like these should be considered frivolous or vital to our economic system, and while the case against Kraft is certainly less extreme, it begs a similar question. 

Is it exploitative and misleading to claim a preparation time on a package that doesn’t account for opening the cup, tearing open the cheese powder bag, and pouring water? I’ll admit it’s very frivolous on the surface, but in all honesty, there’s something I quite like about suing big companies for inaccurate advertising, no matter how minuscule. Rules about advertising are less strict in the US than in other western countries. In Canada, Kraft has to use “Kraft Dinners” instead of “Mac and Cheese” on their labels because their cheese powder isn’t classified as “cheese” according to the Canadian Department of Food Safety! So maybe it’s a good thing to have an occasional reminder for corporations that exaggerating the truth of a product, no matter how frivolous, could still be considered misleading the public.


Uncertainty over Iran’s morality police over official’s ‘disbanded’ remarks

The Attorney General of Iran has made reference to the morality police, also known as the Guidance Patrol, being shut down in response to protests. On one hand, this could indicate a concession to protestors, possibly ending the 43-year presence of a government authority enforcing modesty laws. On the other hand, a disbanded morality police does not excuse the treatment of protesters and countless other infringements on human rights by the Iranian government. The protesters will continue to fight whether or not the group is disbanded, as they still have much to fight for. 


Supreme Court seems to side with web designer opposed to same sex-marriage

Lorie Smith, after losing in the lower courts twice, is taking to the supreme court over the hypothetical decision to refuse service for same-sex couples as an act of creative liberty. It’s important to note that she hasn’t actually had the opportunity to deny a same sex couple access to her wedding website service, she just wishes to argue against the application of the Colorado state law preventing refusal to serve based on “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.” The argument being made is a hypothetical one, so naturally, all the judges arguments are also hypothetical. It’s remarkably similar to the other Colorado case over a business’s right to deny service to a same sex couple, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which Masterpiece Cakeshop came out victorious. It begs the question: what’s the point of the Supreme Court taking this on? The court has full discretion over which cases they choose to see, why do they pick a purely hypothetical one?