Category Archives: Abrams

The Book of the Moon – Maggie Aderin-Pocock


The Book of the Moon

A Guide to Our Closest Neighbor

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: April 9, 2019

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Have you ever wondered if there are seasons on the moon or if space tourism will ever become commonplace? So has Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock. In fact, she earned her nickname “Lunatic” because of her deep fascination for all things lunar. In her lucidly written, comprehensive guide to the moon, Aderin-Pocock takes readers on a journey to our closest celestial neighbor, exploring folklore, facts, and future plans.         She begins with the basics, unpacking everything from the moon’s topography and composition to its formation and orbit around the Earth. She travels back in time to track humanity’s relationship with the moon — beliefs held by ancient civilizations, the technology that allowed for the first moon landing, a brief history of moongazing, and how the moon has influenced culture throughout the years — and then to the future, analyzing the pros and cons of continued space travel and exploration. Throughout the book are sidebars, graphs, and charts to enhance the facts as well as black-and-white illustrations of the moon and stars.  The Book of the Moon  will be published for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

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The Book of the Moon – Maggie Aderin-Pocock

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Mannahatta – Eric W. Sanderson & Markley Boyer



A Natural History of New York City

Eric W. Sanderson & Markley Boyer

Genre: Nature

Price: $11.99

Publish Date: December 1, 2013

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

On September 12, 1609, Henry Hudson first set foot on the land that would become Manhattan. Today, it’s difficult to imagine what he saw, but for more than a decade, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson has been working to do just that. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is the astounding result of those efforts, reconstructing in words and images the wild island that millions now call home. By geographically matching an 18th-century map with one of the modern city, examining volumes of historic documents, and collecting and analyzing scientific data, Sanderson re-creates the forests of Times Square, the meadows of Harlem, and the wetlands of downtown. His lively text guides readers through this abundant landscape, while breathtaking illustrations transport them back in time. Mannahatta is a groundbreaking work that provides not only a window into the past, but also inspiration for the future.

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Mannahatta – Eric W. Sanderson & Markley Boyer

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Climate leftists and moderates have a radical new plan to defeat Trump: Work together

The period between April and December 2019 was a magical time for climate activists. The more than 20 Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination couldn’t stop trying to one-up each other. Candidates promised Green New Deals and millions of green jobs, initiatives to save the oceans and drilling bans on public lands. But to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there’s a time to dream and a time to get down to business — and that’s exactly what climate advocates are doing now.

On Wednesday, a trio of major progressive political organizations — the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters — launched a new project called Climate Power 2020. The group’s advisory board is a hodgepodge of Democratic operatives and activists from across the climate spectrum. It includes party heavyweights like former Secretary of State John Kerry, Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta. The advisory board also includes climate activists like Varshini Prakash, of the left-wing, youth-oriented group the Sunrise Movement, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright, an architect of the original Green New Deal plan. In short, it puts factions of the party that were just recently at odds with each other under the same umbrella.

“People who were on probably opposite sides of the primary fights are coming together because they understand there are two major goals of the climate movement right now: to defeat Donald Trump and to build momentum for the next president and Congress to pass major, bold climate policy,” Jamal Raad, a former staffer on Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign and an advisor to Climate Power 2020, told Grist.

The group doesn’t have a specific policy agenda, per se. Instead, it aims to accomplish the dual tasks of galvanizing the growing bloc of American voters who care about climate and furnishing Democrats with a workable offensive strategy on the issue of climate change.

That second agenda item is long overdue. The left has yet to figure out how to hit Republicans where it hurts on climate change, even though a widening swath of the GOP’s base is coming around to the idea that humans might have something to do with rising temperatures. That might be because Republicans are just better at messaging. Medicare for all? More like socialism for all. Gun control? An attack on the Constitution. Green New Deal? Hold onto your hamburgers.

Climate Power 2020 hopes to chisel out a better messaging strategy for Democrats ahead of the general election and appeal to climate-conscious Republicans. “[L]et’s combat myths and be aggressive and proactive about the need for climate action, because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to change the dynamics for 2021,” Subhan Cheema, a spokesperson for the group, told Grist in an email.

The group’s overarching goal is to show politicians that embracing climate policy is just good politics. “There are many who think that climate is an albatross or something for the Democrats,” Cheema said, “but our data shows the exact opposite, so let’s change that conversation.”

In order to actually accomplish that, the group plans to unleash a torrent of digital messaging in key swing states across the country, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Florida. Climate Power 2020 will use videos, social media campaigns, virtual town halls, and the like to drum up support for climate policies among persuadable voters, 62 percent of whom disapprove of Trump’s climate performance, according to the group’s in-house polling. The project hired Pete Buttigieg and Jay Inslee’s social media managers, as well as staffers from Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg’s campaigns, to help get the message out.

The message itself will highlight Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic to connect the dots between this crisis and the next one. “For both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, the anti-science policies from this administration are pushing our nation into crisis,” Podesta said in a statement, offering a sneak peek at the group’s forthcoming offensive strategy.

Raad says the new project is “in the same vein” as a similarly collaborative initiative underway at Joe Biden’s camp. Also on Wednesday, Biden and his former top rival Bernie Sanders unveiled six joint policy task forces that will make policy and personnel recommendations to Biden’s campaign. The climate task force will be co-chaired by Kerry and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and will also include Prakash of the Sunrise Movement. The idea is to find the common ground underlying the policy themes that fractured the party in the primary.

For those of you following along at home, it’s clear that we’ve entered a new phase of the 2020 election. Climate organizers and policy wonks are putting aside their differences to pool resources, messaging, and even personnel. Will their unifying efforts pay off in November? Time will tell.

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Climate leftists and moderates have a radical new plan to defeat Trump: Work together

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The Lost Family – Libby Copeland


The Lost Family

How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are

Libby Copeland

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: March 3, 2020

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives   You swab your cheek or spit into a vial, then send it away to a lab somewhere. Weeks later you get a report that might tell you where your ancestors came from or if you carry certain genetic risks. Or the report could reveal a long-buried family secret and upend your entire sense of identity. Soon a lark becomes an obsession, an incessant desire to find answers to questions at the core of your being, like “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Welcome to the age of home genetic testing.   In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.   The Lost Family delves into the many lives that have been irrevocably changed by home DNA tests—a technology that represents the end of family secrets. There are the adoptees who’ve used the tests to find their birth parents; donor-conceived adults who suddenly discover they have more than fifty siblings; hundreds of thousands of Americans who discover their fathers aren’t biologically related to them, a phenomenon so common it is known as a “non-paternity event”; and individuals who are left to grapple with their conceptions of race and ethnicity when their true ancestral histories are discovered. Throughout these accounts, Copeland explores the impulse toward genetic essentialism and raises the question of how much our genes should get to tell us about who we are. With more than thirty million people having undergone home DNA testing, the answer to that question is more important than ever.   Gripping and masterfully told, The Lost Family is a spectacular book on a big, timely subject.  


The Lost Family – Libby Copeland

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Elemental – Tim James



How the Periodic Table Can Now Explain (Nearly) Everything

Tim James

Genre: Chemistry

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: March 26, 2019

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

If you want to understand how our world works, the periodic table holds the answers. When the seventh row of the periodic table of elements was completed in June 2016 with the addition of four final elements—nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson—we at last could identify all the ingredients necessary to construct our world.In Elemental, chemist and science educator Tim James provides an informative, entertaining, and quirkily illustrated guide to the table that shows clearly how this abstract and seemingly jumbled graphic is relevant to our day-to-day lives.James tells the story of the periodic table from its ancient Greek roots, when you could count the number of elements humans were aware of on one hand, to the modern alchemists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who have used nuclear chemistry and physics to generate new elements and complete the periodic table. In addition to this, he answers questions such as: What is the chemical symbol for a human? What would happen if all of the elements were mixed together? Which liquid can teleport through walls? Why is the medieval dream of transmuting lead into gold now a reality?Whether you're studying the periodic table for the first time or are simply interested in the fundamental building blocks of the universe—from the core of the sun to the networks in your brain—Elemental is the perfect guide.

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Elemental – Tim James

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Apollo – Zack Scott



A Graphic Guide to Mankind’s Greatest Mission

Zack Scott

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

July 20, 1969, marked one of the greatest achievements of mankind—the moon landing. In his infographic-packed book,  Apollo: A Graphic Guide to Mankind’s Greatest Mission ,   Zack Scott recounts the entire journey of the Apollo space program. Unlike previous books on this topic, Scott illustrates the tiniest details of how man came to walk on the moon, paying particular attention to many of the lesser known facts about the mission. Artful infographics throughout focus on a wide range of details that space-lovers will obsess over—astronaut weights, mission insignia and spacecraft call signs, fuel consumption stats, splashdown sites around the world, and much, much more. A fresh, hip approach to the subject,  Apollo  is the perfect combination of science, design, math, and space.  

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Apollo – Zack Scott

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A tale of two Washingtons: How Jay Inslee aims to take his climate plan nationwide

On a recent spring evening in Seattle, a crowd of nearly 1,000 gathered for a glimpse at one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars. When Washington Governor Jay Inslee bounded on stage, the audience let out a gasp, and collectively rose to its feet to offer a standing ovation.

Inslee was actually there to introduce Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who narrowly missed becoming the first black woman to be elected governor of a state. “I speak on behalf of 7 million Washingtonians in welcoming Stacey Abrams to the great state of Washington,” Inslee proclaimed, inviting his colleague from the South to join him at the lectern.

Like Abrams, Inslee hopes his star is on the rise. It’s been more than two months since he jumped into a then-crowded, now-overflowing Democratic presidential primary with one major item on his agenda: climate change.

In some respects, Inslee’s decision to run as the climate candidate couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Recent polling shows warming is the No. 1 issue for Democratic voters. And Inslee is in the midst of signing a slew of bills into law that will make Washington a national leader on climate.

Outside of his home state, however, crowds would likely be less moved to standing Os if Inslee unexpectedly appeared in front of them. He is currently polling at 1 percent. When I brought that fact to his attention, he quipped, “Solid!” But that level of support is barely enough to qualify for the dozen primary debates that will commence this summer.

More importantly, though, candidates with higher name-recognition are beginning to encroach on the ground he’s staked out. In 2016, it would have been easy for Inslee to set himself apart as a climate champion — presidential candidates spent a total of 5 minutes and 27 seconds discussing the issue. In 2019, the topic is a top-tier primary issue.

Already, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have released climate-related policy proposals focusing on public lands and environmental justice, respectively. This week, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke unveiled what was at the time the most comprehensive climate change plan of the bunch, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.

On Friday, Inslee came out with his own “100% Clean Energy for America Plan,” the first plank of a wider platform called the “Climate Mission.” It includes many of the positions that are gaining consensus among 2020 hopefuls: no drilling on public lands, re-enter the Paris climate agreement, ban highly polluting hydrofluorocarbons, and end tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, among other policies.

Where Inslee stakes out some new territory is with the three-pronged, central portion of his plan: Within a decade, he wants to eliminate pollution from new cars, new buildings, and our energy grid. Under the broader Climate Mission, he aims to get America to net-zero pollution by 2045 — five years sooner than Beto’s plan.

It’s an ambitious timeline, but by the time the debates roll around, Inslee expects to have a list of accomplishments in Washington that he can point to as evidence that his agenda could scale nationally. “Talk doesn’t cut it,” he told Grist. “You have to be able to actually do things, and frankly, I’m the only candidate in this race who has actually achieved results.”

Three climate-related measures proposed in Washington state — two of which Inslee will sign into law next week — appear to serve as mini-models for what he could push for if he landed in the White House.

Building efficiency

One of the bills the governor expects to sign soon will require new buildings in Washington to adhere to efficiency standards. The bill directs the state to develop efficiency standards that will ratchet down energy use over the next decade. The bill also includes incentives for existing buildings to be retrofitted to comply with the new standards. San Francisco and New York are in the midst of passing similar requirements, but Inslee says his is the first to include the retrofit component.

His presidential climate plan works much the same way. In it, he advocates for a national Zero-Carbon Building Standard by 2023 for new commercial and residential buildings, and notes that future proposals will include a plan to retrofit existing buildings. “It is a big deal because it is not romantic,” Inslee said, referring to building efficiency. “It’s the single most cost-effective, money-in-the-bank job creator of all the things we do.”

100-percent clean energy

Inslee also expects to sign a 100-percent clean electricity bill into law next week. It would eliminate use of coal power in his state by 2025 and require utilities to achieve 100 percent clean electricity generation by 2045. The law will also incorporate some of the environmental justice elements that Green New Deal advocates are championing. For instance, his bill would require that utilities take into consideration the social cost of carbon — the environmental and social damage inflicted per ton of emitted carbon. That’s another first nationwide, by the way. “It makes utilities potentially work on a performance-based system,” Inslee said, which means utilities will have incentives beyond profits for shareholders. “That’s a fundamental change.”

The national version of that bill looks similar on a slightly different timeline: It calls for retiring the U.S. coal fleet by 2030, and 100 percent carbon-neutral power by the same year (100 percent renewable electricity by 2035). And it includes a comparable switch to a performance-based system for the nation’s utilities, as well as measures that safeguard front-line communities against price hikes and pollution.

Clean vehicles

There are currently fewer than 43,000 electric cars on the road in Washington, but Inslee believes the state is still on track to meet his target of having 50,000 electric vehicles on its streets by 2020. The governor helped set up an electric vehicle charging system along his state’s highway system in 2018. He also pushed for a clean fuel standard that would have resulted in the emissions reductions equivalent to taking one-in-five cars off the road, but when that failed in the legislature, he changed course and tried to pass a state-wide cap on carbon emissions by executive action instead. It’s currently tied up in the state’s Supreme Court. “That would be the cherry on top if we got that,” he said.

His presidential plan is a bigger lift. It aims for zero emissions from new passenger cars, medium-duty trucks, and buses by 2030. That means that 100 percent of new lightweight and medium-duty cars sold in America would have to be zero emission within roughly 10 years. Inslee also aims to take a version of his low carbon fuel standard — the one that failed in his state — and apply it on a federal level. The same goes for a new nationwide EV charging system.

While Inslee’s on a bit of a roll of late, he hasn’t always had success with his climate initiatives. The governor presided over multiple carbon tax initiatives that failed both in the Washington legislature and at the voting booth. In a recent poll conducted by the New York Times, Inslee indicated he was undecided about implementing a carbon tax should he become president.

“If one thing is not working, you go to plan B, and that’s what we’ve done,” he told Grist. He added that if all of the recent climate bills he’s been championing manage to pass, it’ll have roughly the same CO2 savings as a carbon tax would have anyway.

While the legislation being passed in Olympia burnishes Inslee’s bona fides, working against him on the national stage is the prominence of the Green New Deal. Being pushed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, it’s quickly become a reference point for the climate conversation on the left. Many of Inslee’s fellow 2020 hopefuls have lined up behind the ambitious resolution — even though there’s no concrete policy tied to it yet.

When O’Rourke unveiled his surprisingly bold climate plan earlier this week, spokespeople for the Sunrise Movement, one of the main groups championing the Green New Deal, attacked his proposal. They criticized it as not aggressive enough and said that “the United States should do much more.” They argued that the 2050 goal post was insufficient and that the U.S. should shoot for net-zero domestic emissions by 2030 instead, a target widely considered impossible. (They’ve since walked back their criticism, calling O’Rourke’s plan “a great start.”) Compared to Beto’s plan, Inslee’s proposal is only five years closer to what Green New Dealers are demanding.

The question remains as to whether the Green New Deal will survive the primary season as the gold standard for climate action among Democrats, or if stances will soften heading into the general election. Back in 2007, Inslee co-authored a book called Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy, which outlined a climate action plan very similar to the Green New Deal.

When I pressed him for a position on the proposal championed by progressive rock star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, the normally folksy Inslee seemed irritated. He’d heard this question many times before. “I support the Green New Deal, is that what you’d like to hear?” he asked, lifting his palms toward the ceiling in a hopeless gesture. “I support the Green New Deal.”

Honestly, it’d be hard for him not to back ambitious climate goals, given the sole focus of his platform. But if the climate candidate wants his star to rise above a crowded field, he has to hope that his longtime clean-energy evangelism and the most ambitious plan to tackle warming (so far) carries more weight than just being another hopeful willing to embrace the Green New Deal.


A tale of two Washingtons: How Jay Inslee aims to take his climate plan nationwide

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Ten Drugs – Thomas Hager


Ten Drugs

How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine

Thomas Hager

Genre: History

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: ABRAMS

Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Behind every landmark drug is a story. It could be an oddball researcher’s genius insight, a catalyzing moment in geopolitical history, a new breakthrough technology, or an unexpected but welcome side effect discovered during clinical trials. Piece together these stories, as Thomas Hager does in this remarkable, century-spanning history, and you can trace the evolution of our culture and the practice of medicine.  †‹Beginning with opium, the “joy plant,” which has been used for 10,000 years, Hager tells a captivating story of medicine. His subjects include the largely forgotten female pioneer who introduced smallpox inoculation to Britain, the infamous knockout drops, the first antibiotic, which saved countless lives, the first antipsychotic, which helped empty public mental hospitals, Viagra, statins, and the new frontier of monoclonal antibodies. This is a deep, wide-ranging, and wildly entertaining book.

See the original article here – 

Ten Drugs – Thomas Hager

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Don’t blame Hurricane Michael victims for voting for climate deniers

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When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle and Southern Georgia last week, it devastated areas known for their poverty — and their conservative politics. And some media outlets didn’t hesitate to lean into the apparent irony.

A day after the calamity, while many were just beginning to process the scope of the damage, The Guardian ran a story originally titled “Victims of Hurricane Michael voted for climate deniers,” which some readers interpreted as victim-blaming. “Florida voters could put an end to this nonsense,” wrote the article’s author John Abraham. “Climate deniers are making these storms worse by stopping action on climate change. What the hell do we expect to happen when the deniers are writing the laws?”

The backlash to the article varied. Some people criticized the tone of the headline. Others, like Union of Concerned Scientists fellow Michael Lautner, had a different issue with the story — he saw the premise as patently flawed.

“It’s not that [those affected by Hurricane Michael] are voting for climate deniers,” Lautner told Grist. “It’s that they don’t really have much of a choice to vote in the first place.”

According to Latner, officials in both Florida and Georgia have used a vast arsenal of voter suppression methods to reduce voter turnout and distort civic representation. He says these techniques include heavy gerrymandering in low-income communities — the same places that are often most vulnerable to environmental woes.

Many of the Florida and Georgia residents who were most dramatically affected by Hurricane Michael live in low-income communities. Think Calhoun County in Georgia with a 33 percent poverty rate or Franklin County in Florida with a 23.5 percent poverty rate. (The states’ poverty rates stands at about 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively.)

Both Georgia and Florida have specific policies that could result in voter suppression. Florida has disenfranchised an estimated 1.5 million ex-felons — that’s ten percent of the state’s adult population, including one in five African Americans. And earlier this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a known climate denier, banned early voting at university campuses, which represent a younger, more liberal, diverse and climate-conscious electorate. A federal judge halted the policy, but three Florida universities announced they still would not allow early voting at their campus polls.

In Georgia, secretary of state and current Republican gubernatorial hopeful Brian Kemp froze 53,000 voter registration applications, nearly 70 percent of which belonged to African Americans, because of a mismatch with drivers license or social security information. Georgia has also reduced the number of polling places, closing eight percent of the state’s total since 2012. Three-quarters of the counties affected are communities of color. In Randolph County, an area that’s now reeling from wide-spread damage due to Hurricane Michael, local election officials attempted to close seven of nine polling places in an overwhelmingly black area, abandoning the plan only when faced with a statewide protest.

It’s unclear what, if any, effect these policies have on election outcomes. But in states like Georgia and Florida, where gubernatorial races are known to be razor-close, both voter suppression and Hurricane recovery could be significant factors.

“[In Florida and Georgia] you have a combination of factors… that are often times worse off in environmental disasters,” Lautner said. “And in communities that are already overburdened with socioeconomic distress and the like, these barriers make a difference.”

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Don’t blame Hurricane Michael victims for voting for climate deniers

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The (Possibly Illegal) Art of a $100 Billion Saudi Arms Deal

Mother Jones

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As Donald Trump heads to Riyadh today on his first international trip as president, he brings with him a gift: a massive arms deal reportedly worth more than $100 billion for Saudi Arabia. According to Reuters, the deal is specifically being developed to coincide with the visit, where he will meet with Saudi leaders and discuss the war in Yemen. And its success seems to be crucial to the president, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has personally intervened in the deal’s development. According to the New York Times, earlier this month, in the middle of a meeting with high-level Saudi delegates, Kushner greased the gears by calling Lockheed Martin chief Marilyn A. Hewson and asking her to cut the price on a sophisticated missile defense system. Other details of the package, though, have been somewhat shrouded in mystery—Congress, which will have to approve any new arms deal, has to yet to be notified of specific offerings—but it is said to include planes, armored vehicles, warships, and, perhaps most notably, precision-guided bombs.

It’s that last detail in particular that is making many in Washington sweat. The Obama administration inked arms deals with the kingdom worth more than $100 billion over two terms, but it changed course in its last months. As Mother Jones has regularly reported, the Saudi-led war against the Houthi armed group in Yemen has been fueled in part by American weapons, intelligence, and aerial refueling, and it has repeatedly hit civilian targets, including schools, marketplaces, weddings, hospitals, and places of worship. Civilian deaths are estimated to have reached 10,000, with 40,000 injured. In response, the Obama White House suspended a sale of precision-guided bombs to the country in December.

But now, despite the kingdom’s track record, President Trump is aiming to revive the deal. “Lifting the suspension on precision-guided munitions is a big deal,” says William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “It’s a huge impact if it reinforces the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, and also the signal that it’s okay with us. It’s saying, ‘Have at it. Do what you want.'”

Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at the DC-based Arms Control Association adds, “Obama’s record on arms sales wasn’t stellar in any way, but in this instance on precision-guided munitions he finally got a bit of spine and said we need to put a pause on this, because the United States is functionally contributing to this humanitarian disaster. Trump is ready to jettison any human rights concerns,” he says, noting that the administration has all but explicitly stated as much. Of course the White House has already excised “human rights” from the top of its agenda; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced plans to cut 2,300 diplomatic and civil service jobs and, in a speech to State Department employees outlining the administration’s “America First” strategy, Tillerson argued that pushing US values on other countries, such as protecting human rights, “creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

Following that logic, this arms package might just exemplify the elusive “America First” doctrine. “It’s good for the American economy,” a White House official told Reuters of the deal, suggesting that it would result in jobs in the defense sector. According to analysis by Abramson, Trump’s first 100 days in office resulted in $6 billion worth of notified arms sales—eight times that of Obama’s, whose first 100 days totaled $713 million.

But Trump may come against more opposition to the deal than he anticipates. Last year, expressing outrage over Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) won the support of 27 legislators to vote against a billion-dollar deal to supply Saudi Arabia with Abrams tanks. The deal still went through, but their opposition marked a shift in how lawmakers viewed arms deals to the kingdom and was the first time that Congress publicly debated the wisdom of the United States’ role in the war in Yemen. At the time Murphy said, “There is a US imprint on every civilian death inside Yemen, which is radicalizing the people of Yemen against the United States.” The two senators also drafted legislation that would suspend certain types of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until the country could demonstrate that it would protect civilians. This April, they reintroduced a similar bill, this one aimed specifically at air-to-ground munitions. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn), a co-sponsor, said the bill “would help protect innocent civilians and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions… We need to stand up for our values and ensure that the U.S. no longer turns a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of children, women, and men in Yemen.” Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have continued to highlight the need to address the Yemen war through humanitarian means, as well as limiting US support.

Even if Congress doesn’t put up a fight, which seems unlikely, Trump’s new deal may fall prey to other obstacles. Earlier this week, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights released their expert opinion on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and concluded that future sales may not pass legal muster. “In the face of persistent reports of wrongdoing, Saudi Arabia has failed to rebut allegations or provide detailed evidence of compliance with binding obligations arising from international humanitarian law,” the report states. “Under these circumstances, further sales under both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act are prohibited until the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes effective measures to ensure compliance with international law and the president submits relevant certifications to the Congress.”

Furthermore, Hartung isn’t convinced a deal of such tremendous proportions can realistically come to fruition unless it incorporates deals previously made under the Obama administration—especially considering that it won’t include big ticket items like the F-35 fighter jet, an offer that would make Israel deeply uncomfortable. “Where are they gonna get $100 billion worth of stuff to sell?” Hartung asks. “I don’t see where it is going to come from—are we going to ship our whole Navy over there? Under Obama, under Foreign Military Sales, they offered $115 billion in weapons over his two terms. This would be a one-shot deal that would be almost equal to that, and the Obama numbers were a record,” he says. “It seems like part of this is: Trump just likes big numbers. It’s like when he claims credit for jobs he didn’t really help create.”

If it’s for optics, there’s one clear benefit. “Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s got the short-term benefit of Trump showing that he cares about the Saudis,” says Hartung, suggesting that it possibly could be political theater as the two countries mend ties and as the US tries to project hard power in the region.

Of course, what Trump often fails to realize is that optics go both ways. In addition to what human rights groups have called indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, on multiple occasions, the Saudi coalition has blocked humanitarian aid from entering Yemen, contributing to the growing catastrophe that’s left millions on the brink of starvation and millions more who have been forced to flee their homes. “It appears that war crimes are being committed in Yemen, and if the United States is supporting that war, in a way it is also culpable for those war crimes,” says Abramson. “Most Americans don’t want their country to be engaged in war crimes. That’s another reason why we really need to pay attention to this.”

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The (Possibly Illegal) Art of a $100 Billion Saudi Arms Deal

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