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Sizzles and fizzles

Heat waves hit cities and politicians, while a cold wind blows for others

Sizzles and fizzles

Parisians cool off at the Fontaine du Trocadéro. (Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

American singer Frank Sinatra once joined a long list of musicians crooning about a love for Paris year-round: “I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles. … I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.”

But Sinatra might not have loved this much sizzle: French meteorologists reported the temperature in Paris soared to 108.6 degrees on July 25—the city’s hottest day on record. 

A summer heat wave broke records across Europe, and it even baked Alaska: The temperature in Anchorage hit 90 degrees in July.

Climate change? Perhaps, but Fort Yukon in eastern Alaska hit 100 degrees—in 1915. The previous record for Paris was 104.7 degrees, set in 1947.

What about Sinatra’s beloved “New York, New York”?

It sizzled there too, but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s response might have been more political stunt than practical solution: The mayor ordered workers in high-rise office buildings to set thermostats to 78 degrees during the heat wave to conserve energy. Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute noted that thermostat settings don’t have a major effect on the power grid and likely wouldn’t prevent outages.

While de Blasio was fiddling with thermostats, other leaders were worried about bigger threats.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a group at the Aspen Security Forum he’s concerned about cyberattacks that could disrupt power grids, water, electricity, banking, and transportation for millions of Americans: “That’s kind of the one that keeps me up at night.”

Back in Washington, D.C., if the prospect of Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress had been keeping any politicians up at night, the former special counsel’s appearance on July 24 offered more fizzle than sizzle. Democrats hoping for Mueller’s hot takes about President Donald Trump met a much cooler response: “The report is my testimony.” The report was the 448-page document produced by Mueller and at least 40 investigators examining Russian interference in the 2016 elections and whether Trump colluded with Russians to sway the outcome.

Mueller said his report didn’t exonerate Trump, but the report also didn’t offer evidence that Trump colluded with Russians. Some House Democrats had hoped Mueller’s testimony would provide kindling for potential impeachment efforts. But Mueller’s clipped answers and sometimes-halting responses likely dampened the flames—at least for some.

Mueller’s most forceful moment may have been his warning about Russia’s ongoing attempts at election meddling: “They are doing it while we sit here.” A few days later, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report saying Russians likely had targeted election systems in all 50 states during the 2016 presidential election. That’s a fire worth combating before 2020 contests are in full blaze.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t surprising to see the flames of a contentious political atmosphere grow hotter, as the president responded to criticisms from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., about the situation on the U.S. border.

Trump tweeted that Cummings should focus on his home district in Baltimore and called the district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infected mess.”

Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Elijah Cummings (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Perhaps a better approach: Lament some of the terrible conditions for Americans living in neighborhoods that need help and also ask, How can government promote decent education, safe streets, and stable families, while churches and other nonprofits do the long-term work of tending to bodies and souls?

At least one former Baltimore physician may have more time to contemplate such questions: Leana Wen announced Planned Parenthood had fired her after less than a year on the job. Wen said the board of the nation’s largest abortion facilitator terminated her employment while she was still in negotiations to step down.

Why such a short stint? It appears Wen wasn’t political enough. She said she believed the best way to “protect abortion” is “to be clear it’s a health care issue and not a political one.”

Cue the fizzle. A decade ago, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards set a standard the organization appears unwilling to let go: “We aim to be the nation’s largest, kick-butt political organization.” Abortion advocacy appears to be the tip of that political spear.

Also ousted from a big job: the governor of Puerto Rico. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans poured into the streets of San Juan in late July, demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

The massive protests came after two high-ranking officials were indicted on corruption charges and after the leak of a trove of offensive messages sent between the governor and other officials.

Rosselló became the first governor in the history of Puerto Rico to resign, but replacing him may not be easy: Rosselló nominated Pedro Pierluisi as his successor on July 31, but it was unclear whether Puerto Rican lawmakers would confirm the pick.

Another apparently unpopular job: astronaut. Even as the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a poll of American children ranked “astronaut” as their least preferred job from a list of five potential occupations.

The most popular? Becoming a famous YouTube personality.

Maybe parents can slide a little Frank Sinatra into their kids’ YouTube viewing during the waning days of summer. It’s probably best to skip “My Way” and go straight for “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.