Food delivery robot surveillance. Your weekly non-Beltway political stories


Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1977, Billy Joel’s album “The Stranger” came out. I remember thinking it was so incredibly cool that one of the songs (“Movin’ Out”) had a motorcycle in it. Also, I was 7.

Food delivery robot surveillance. Your weekly non-Beltway political stories

Food-delivery robots feed camera footage to police in Los Angeles. San Francisco considers mandating drug tests and treatment for welfare recipients. A housing crunch means a post resort can’t staff its restaurants. Who bought these Maine newspapers?

These are your weekly non-Beltway political stories.

The Daily 202 generally focuses on national politics and foreign policy. But as passionate believers in local news, and in redefining “politics” as something that hits closer to home than strictly inside-the-Beltway stories, we try to bring you a weekly mix of pieces with significant local, national or international importance.

But we need your help to know what we’re missing! Please keep sending your links to news coverage of political stories that are getting overlooked. (They don’t have to be from this week, and the submission link is right under this column.) Make sure to say whether we can use your first name, last initial and location. Anonymous is okay, too, as long as you give a location.

Food-delivery robot? Or Roombocop?

No, I didn’t come up with that, but I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to use it.

This comes via the fledgling 404 Media, which has become one of my must-reads when I crack open my laptop every morning.

Through a public records request, reporter Jason Koebler figured out that a food-delivery robot company in Los Angeles gave video taken by one of its machines to the Los Angeles Police Department as part of a criminal investigation.

“The incident highlights the fact that delivery robots that are being deployed to sidewalks all around the country are essentially always filming, and that their footage can and has been used as evidence in criminal trials. Emails obtained by 404 Media also show that the robot food delivery company wanted to work more closely with the LAPD, which jumped at the opportunity,” Jason wrote.

The politics: I used to joke on my radio show (RIP) that the coming dystopia will be a robust public-private partnership. But the essential thing here is that we really are not discussing how government authorities are harnessing privately driven surveillance. And we should be.

San Francisco weighs drug tests/treatment as aid requirements

From Anonymous in El Cerrito came this story about San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) pushing mandatory drug tests and treatment of low-income residents as a condition for getting assistance payments.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s St. John Barned-Smith reported that Breed cast this as a response to the city’s homelessness and drug crisis. The city (much like America at large) has seen a surge in overdoses.

“Under state law, all counties in California must fund assistance programs — with cash and in-kind services — for indigent single adults. A provision of the law allows counties to tie assistance to treatment, if the services are actually available and free to the applicant or recipient,” Barned-Smith reported.

The politics: Barned-Smith cited addiction-treatment specialists as a warning that there is evidence projects like this do more harm than good. Breed’s proposal faces quite a bit of resistance. But public frustration over drugs, crime and homelessness may win the day.

Lots of tables, too few staff

From reader Rich J. (“Oregonian by birth, Las Vegas resident”) came this Seattle Times story about White Salmon, a vacation resort in the Beaver State’s Columbia Gorge. A housing crisis means its restaurants lack the staff to be able to meet rising demand.

“In White Salmon’s bustling downtown, a bounty of “Help Wanted” signs hang in restaurant windows, as many servers, cooks and other blue-collar workers have been priced out of town. As developers court vacationers with short-term units, affordable rentals — and housing in general — have become scarce,” food writer Tan Vinh reported.

The politics: The town has responded with plans for affordable housing and blocking the replacement of a mobile home park with a luxury development. So maybe there’s a happy ending here. But the lack of housing is a national problem with local symptoms.

Who bought these newspapers?

Reader Carl C. in South Portland, Maine, sent along this dispatch from Portland Press-Herald reporter Rachel Ohm.

“Seven weeks after the sale of Maine’s largest chain of newspapers, information about the donors who contributed to the purchase by a national nonprofit remains unclear and a local oversight board has yet to be created,” Ohm wrote. “The Maine Trust for Local News said it plans to provide more information and name board members in the coming weeks.”

The politics: I’ll take the nonprofit model over vulture capitalists buying newspapers and stripping them for parts. It’s been happening all over the country: Texas Tribune, Pro Publica, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Salt Lake Tribune, etc. Here’s hoping it works. 

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

Dianne Feinstein, centrist stalwart of the Senate, dies at 90

Mrs. Feinstein’s death, at her home in Washington, was announced in a statement from her office, which did not give a cause. She was, at age 90, the oldest sitting member of the Senate and the subject of increasing scrutiny over her fitness to serve. Mrs. Feinstein was hospitalized in February with shingles, an illness later reported to have been complicated by encephalitis,” Emily Langer reports.

Supreme Court to decide landmark Texas, Fla. social media cases and more

“The Supreme Court said Friday it would wade into the future of free speech online and decide whether laws passed in Texas and Florida can restrict social media companies from removing certain political posts or accounts,” Ann E. Marimow and Cat Zakrzewski report.

Amid GOP confusion, U.S. braces for ‘first-ever shutdown about nothing’

“Typically, funding showdowns in divided government between Congress and the White House have featured pitched battles over specific policies, such as Trump’s border wall or Obamacare. But budget experts and historians say the current impasse stands out for its lack of a clear policy disagreement,” Jeff Stein reports.

The IRS thought it was shutdown-proof. Now most staff would go home.

On Thursday, the tax agency released an updated contingency plan showing that it will furlough up to two-thirds of its workforce — 60,000 employees — if the government comes to a halt on Sunday, a move that will affect vital services to taxpayers as late-filing season closes out,” Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage report.

The agency had previously expected to be able to maintain full staffing using funds from the Inflation Reduction Act to tide it over, but the Office of Management and Budget told the agency this week that the money cannot substitute for its regular budget.

Hard-liners plot to replace McCarthy with a deputy as shutdown looms

A contingent of far-right House Republicans is plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown, according to four people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks,” Leigh Ann Caldwell and Marianna Sotomayor report.

Why Biden is taking a hands-off approach to the looming shutdown

“The last time the U.S. was facing a fiscal crisis, President Joe Biden cut short an overseas trip and swiftly met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to try to avert a debt default two weeks before the deadline. This time, two days before the federal government appears all but certain to shut down, the president was out West raising money for his re-election campaign and delivering a speech about American democracy,” NBC News’s Mike Memoli, Megan Lebowitz, Peter Nicholas and Monica Alba report.

  • Biden’s hands-off approach to the looming shutdown is intended to project an image of him out in the country executing on what he considers key accomplishments as House Republicans fight over how to fund the government, White House officials say. But a shutdown could scramble Biden’s strategy by grinding his travels to a halt.”

Menendez plans Puerto Rico donor retreat amid Democratic fears over his reelection plans

“A political action committee tied to Menendez is hosting donors in two weeks for an evening reception with the senator and his chief of staff at the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico — a move likely to prompt Democratic fears that the embattled senator will try to hang onto his seat despite his criminal charges,” CNN’s Manu Raju reports.

What to know about fall flu, coronavirus and RSV vaccines for kids

“Public health experts and medical providers are warning that respiratory viruses pose a severe risk to children this fall, and they are emphasizing the importance of vaccines in keeping kids safe,” Sabrina Malhi reports.

Biden approves new offshore oil leases, faces hits by both sides

“The Biden administration said Friday it will approve just three offshore oil and gas lease sales through 2029 — the smallest offshore oil drilling plan in history and one designed to narrowly comply with limits set by a divided Congress,” Timothy Puko reports.

  • The decision reflects how Biden is grappling with the realities of divided government and his own climate agenda, including his 2020 campaign pledge to end new offshore oil projects. In a heavily negotiated landmark climate bill last year, Congress tied the fate of offshore wind development — a Biden priority — to approval of new oil leases.”

Biden’s $100 billion chip bet caught up in Arizona union showdown

“It’s not just in the United Auto Workers strike, where Biden took a side on Tuesday by joining the picket line in Belleville, Michigan. One of the key issues in the union’s clash with the Big Three automakers is pay and workplace conditions at a slew of new electric-vehicle battery plants that will enable the White House’s climate and industrial goals,” Bloomberg’s Mackenzie Hawkins reports.

What Americans thought of the second GOP debate, visualized

Nearly 1 in 3 potential Republican primary voters watched the debate Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, but the performance of the candidates had little impact on the overall race, according to a 538/Washington Post/Ipsos poll taken after the debate,” Scott Clement, Emily Guskin and Clara Ence Morse report.

Menendez remains defiant after meeting with Senate Democrats

“Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) signaled again on Thursday that he does not plan to resign from the U.S. Senate, even as a majority of Senate Democrats have now called on him to step aside following a federal indictment last week,” Maegan Vazquez and Mariana Alfaro report.

  • “Menendez has steadfastly maintained his innocence. After a closed-door meeting with fellow Senate Democrats, Menendez said that he plans to continue with his work.”

‘Baby steps aren’t going to cut it’: Debates do little to dent Trump dominance

Nikki Haley delivered the night’s most memorable zinger. Nonconfrontational Tim Scott went on the offensive. Ron DeSantis came out swinging at an absent Donald Trump and got the best ratings from voters in a post-debate poll,” Hannah Knowles, Marianne LeVine, Meryl Kornfield and Dylan Wells report.

  • “But even as the candidates worked to capitalize on their performances Wednesday night, the chances the debates could significantly weaken Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP presidential race appeared slim, with the former president declining to participate and having little reason to change course.”

There is nothing on Biden’s public schedule this afternoon.

Fat Bear Week could be another government shutdown casualty

Fat Bear Week is in jeopardy. If Washington gridlock pushes the country into a government shutdown on Saturday night, the people who run the popular online contest celebrating the burly Alaskan brown bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve will be among the federal employees furloughed,” Natalie B. Compton and Gabe Hiatt report.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

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