May 22, 2019

America's rat renaissance

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

One not-fun consequence of booming cities is the scourge of rats, well fed by trash, warmed by climate change, and bringing new health threats and general grossness with them.

The big picture: “Everywhere I go, rat populations are up,” scientist Robert Corrigan tells the NYT.

  • He estimates that rat numbers may be up 15–25% in some municipalities, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C.

By the (horrifying) numbers, courtesy of National Geographic:

  • "[A] litter of nine pups 10 weeks into the year would grow to 270 pups by the 30th week and wrap up with a whopping 11,907 rats by year’s end."
  • "Rats usually reach sexual maturity by 12 weeks, and litters can vary from two to 14 pups."
  • "Reproductive rates are highly dependent on environment. The more shelter, food, and trash, the higher the rat count."

What's next: Cities are trying lots of things to fix their rat problems, and they're mostly failing.

  • Poisoning and suffocation (via dry ice) has mostly failed. Survivors can rapidly repopulate an area.
  • D.C. has even tried sterilizing the little devils.
  • On the other coast: "Rat-infested piles of rotting garbage left uncollected by the city of Los Angeles, even after promises to clean it up, are fueling concerns about a new epidemic after last year's record number of flea-borne typhus cases." (NBC 4 LA)

The bottom line: "Until cities radically change how they deal with their trash, Corrigan says, 'the rats are winning this war.'"

Go deeper

America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.

Top NSC official may be moved after "Anonymous" rumor fallout

President Trump at the Daytona 500. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Trump administration officials are in discussions to reassign deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy from the National Security Council, per two sources familiar with the planning.

Why it matters: Coates' working relationship with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who elevated her to the deputy role only months ago, has strained amid an effort by some people inside the administration to tag her as "Anonymous" — a charge she has vehemently denied to colleagues.

Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion for climate change research

Bezos at Amazon Smbhav in New Delhi on Jan. 15. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the launch of his "Earth Fund" on Monday via Instagram to fund climate change research and awareness.

What he's saying: Bezos says he's initially committing $10 billion to fund "scientists, activists, and NGOS" that are working on environmental preservation and protection efforts.