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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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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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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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Trump and the Guy Who Invented the Global Warming Hoax Meet in Mar-a-Lago

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Huffington Post and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A skeptic of man-made climate change, President Donald Trump would likely shrug at the notion that rising seas could swallow his beloved “Winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago by the end of the century.

Unfortunately for Trump, climate change is not a hoax or a scam. And the president’s denial about what is happening, just feet from his luxury Florida property, doesn’t make the threat any less real.

Trump has chosen Mar-a-Lago as the place to “break the ice” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as a senior White House official put it during a background briefing Tuesday. Starting Thursday afternoon, Trump will host Xi for a highly anticipated two-day summit. It will be the first face-to-face meeting for the leaders of the world’s two largest economies and biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The two have a lot to discuss, including trade tensions and the North Korean nuclear threat, a White House official said. But if Tuesday’s briefing was any indication, climate change—a critical issue on which the U.S. and China recently parted ways—won’t be on the agenda.

Bob Deans of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council told the Huffington Post that the summit presents an opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their relationship and “make real progress on the central environmental challenge of our time.” And to walk away from that would be a big mistake.

“We’re all counting on these two leaders to take this issue seriously and to take it up at Mar-a-Lago,” he said.

In many ways, the location is perfect. South Florida, including Palm Beach County, is already taking steps to prepare for the effects of climate change, namely sea level rise. A 6-foot rise, on the high end of possible scenarios that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted by 2100, would put a significant portion of Trump’s oceanfront resort below the surface.

“Even though he’s president, Mar-a-Lago is not invulnerable to sea level rise,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a Republican, recently told Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. and China forged a strong partnership in the fight to combat global climate change. Obama and Xi met at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, last September, where they fortified commitments to reduce carbon emissions by formally joining the Paris Agreement and pledged a “continued bilateral climate cooperation.”

That move, along with India’s ratification of the agreement later that month, proved key to the pact taking effect in November.

Today, the story is strikingly different. Obama â&#128;&#149; who believed that “no challengeâ&#128;&#138; poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” â&#128;&#149; has been replaced by a president who has dismissed the phenomenon as “bullshit” and a “hoax” that was “created by and for the Chinese.”

And where China and the U.S. only months ago found common ground, Trump has chosen to take the country in an opposite, dangerous direction. Since taking office, he has worked feverishly to roll back Obama-era climate policies, and has promised to save America’s dying coal industry, increase oil and gas production and make sweeping cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency that target climate programs.

Meanwhile, China is forging ahead with efforts to move away from coal and reduce emissions, announcing in January that it will invest $360 billion on renewable energy, including solar and wind power, through 2020.

China hasn’t shied away from calling out Trump, both for his Chinese hoax remark and his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate pact. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Xi stressed that tackling climate change is a responsibility owed to future generations and urged then president-elect Trump to keep the U.S. in the pact, calling it a “hard-won achievement” that “all signatories should stick to.”

“It is important to protect the environment while pursuing economic and social progress â&#128;&#149; to achieve harmony between man and nature, and harmony between man and society,” Xi said at the time.

Climate change was mentioned only once at Tuesday’s White House briefing about the Trump-Xi summit â&#128;&#149; by a journalist, who asked on what the U.S. and China hope to collaborate now that Trump has reversed course on climate. A White House official said that North Korea is something the U.S. and China could work together on and that there are still “a lot of areas of cooperation,” including public health.

Though there are many unanswered questions about the U.S.-China relationship going forward, one thing that’s become increasingly clear is that China looks poised to lead where Trump is choosing not to.

“Since Donald Trump’s election victory, China has emerged as a potential new leader on the global stage—and today’s address does little to soften the impression that President Xi is taking an increasingly assertive stance on matters of global trade and climate change,” the World Economic Forum noted in a press release about Xi’s January address.

Given Trump’s actions since taking office, it is unlikely he or his team members will strike up a conversation about the threats of climate change. Which means that if the two are to have such a discussion, Xi will have to bring it up. The two will need to look no further than out one of the club’s many windows for the proof.

NASA research shows that global sea levels rose an average of 3 inches between 1992 and 2015. And a University of Miami study last year found that the rate of sea level rise in South Florida had tripled, to about 3/4 inch a year, over the previous decade.

In 2015, in an effort to better prepare for and minimize the effects, Palm Beach County, where Mar-a-Lago is located, hired a “climate change and sustainability coordinator,” urban land use planner Natalie Schneider.

Harold Wanless, chair of the University of Miami’s geological sciences department, understands the situation facing Florida’s coastal areas well. He has co-signed at least four letters to Trump, Mar-a-Lago or a member of the president’s administration, each stressing the urgent need to accept and combat the realities of climate change. None of the letter signees received a response, he told HuffPost.

Wanless can’t understand how Trump could disregard the evidence.

“This is so real,” he told HuffPost. “And it’s so imminent to begin having serious effects on the stability of our coastal environments and its communities and its people. And it doesn’t matter if somebody believes in it or not, it’s happening. And it’s going to be happening at an accelerated rate.”

In a post Wednesday, Melania Hart, director of China policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, listed climate change among the five issues Trump must handle correctly during the summit. She wrote that she expects Beijing will bring up the issue, if for no other reason than to “needle” the Republican president.

“On this issue, the Trump administration is setting the United States up to be the global bad guy, and that will give China leverage to push back against U.S. initiatives on other issues,” Hart wrote. “If the Trump administration denies climate science or refuses to acknowledge the positive role Beijing is playing, that will undermine Washington’s credibility when it claims to be seriously considering new measures on North Korea or trade.”

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Trump and the Guy Who Invented the Global Warming Hoax Meet in Mar-a-Lago

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Will Hillary Clinton’s Education Policy Break From Obama’s in a Huge Way?

Mother Jones

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Before Hillary Clinton gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, organizers fired up the crowd with a video extolling President Barack Obama’s key policies: health care reform that extended coverage to an estimated 20 million more people; the $62 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler that saved about 1.5 million jobs; the killing of Osama bin Laden.

But one major issue was conspicuously missing from the highlight reel of Obama’s achievements: education.

This glaring omission is just one of many signs that Clinton is distancing herself from Obama’s education policies. On her campaign website, Clinton’s K-12 page avoids any discussion of testing, accountability, or expansion of charters—the main focuses of Obama’s administration. Perhaps most telling, Clinton’s choices of advisers signal her attempt to move Obama’s test-driven K-12 agenda toward the center.

Clinton’s K-12 working policy group, according to a Democrat close to the campaign, comprises a mix of teachers’ union leaders, proponents of test-driven reforms, and advocates for increased investments in underfunded schools.

The previously unreleased list includes:

Chris Edley Jr. the president of the Opportunity Institute, a California-based think tank that works mostly on early-childhood and college access initiatives
Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s biggest teachers’ union
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-biggest teachers’ union
Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and onetime adviser to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Catherine Brown, the former vice president of policy at Teach for America and current vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress
Richard Riley, the secretary of education under Bill Clinton who’s known for his views that don’t neatly fit into the pro-reform or pro-teachers’ union wings of the Democratic Party. Riley supported testing and accountability but also pushed with equal fervor for smaller classes and more funding for schools.

The inclusion of teachers’ union leaders—who were not advising Obama’s campaigns and are among some of the most powerful opponents of his education policies—marks an especially sharp break from his administration. By contrast, many of Obama’s advisers—and later staffers at the Department of Education—viewed teachers’ unions as obstacles to school improvement and had close ties to the Gates Foundation, which championed many federal policies that encouraged both numbers-driven teacher evaluations and charter schools.

But while Clinton’s K-12 advisers may suggest a more teacher-friendly approach to policy, they don’t exactly indicate that, if elected, she would push for the end of test scores in policy decisions. The Center for American Progress, a progressive DC-based think tank closely aligned with Clinton, has been generally supportive of Obama’s test-based education policies; meanwhile, as education secretary, Riley helped lay the foundation for the modern standards and accountability movement.

Still, Clinton’s teacher-friendly speeches and lack of emphasis on test-based accountability are making many of the reform groups that had influence in the Obama administration nervous. “There’s a lot of anxiety about the transition from this president to the next administration,” said Shavar Jeffries, the president of a think tank affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, a powerful pro-testing group, during a recent education forum.

“Obama had positioned himself as a reformer who was unapologetically for charter schooling, teacher evaluations, the notion of common standards,” said Rick Hess, a veteran education policy expert with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “With Clinton, you see an agenda that leans much more toward teacher unions than the Democrats for Education Reform.”

We’re Losing Tens of Thousands of Black Teachers. Here’s Why That’s Bad for Everyone.

Most of Clinton’s shift has to do with two of Obama’s relatively small but widely unpopular federal programs: Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. These initiatives offered about $9 billion in grants that were tied to prescriptive policies like evaluating teachers based in part on student test scores and to dramatic school “turnarounds,” which included closings and mass firings of teachers. Even though these grants contributed just a tiny fraction to state education budgets (for example, Race to the Top accounted for 0.63 percent in New York in 2011), they had an outsize impact on schools: The numbers of standardized tests and curricula that mimicked multiple-choice questions exploded, especially in schools serving low-income black and Latino students. And as districts fired staff or closed schools with low scores, thousands of educators, especially black teachers, lost their jobs or left teaching all together.

In the last three years, opposition to these policies has gained a lot of steam. Last year, for example, 1 in 5 students in New York opted out of standardized tests, forcing policymakers to remove test scores from teacher evaluations. In August, Black Lives Matter organizers called for a moratorium on both public school closures based on test scores and the expansion of charters to replace them. Many of these opponents argue that test-based reforms haven’t been working: While racial achievement gaps have narrowed slightly since 2001, they remain stubbornly large and shrank far more dramatically before No Child Left Behind (NCLB), when policies focused on equalizing funding and school integration, rather than on test scores.

Perhaps because of how divisive school reform has become among Democrats, Clinton’s education campaign so far has poured most of its energy into its early-childhood initiative—an education issue that has more allies in Congress than any other and has been one of Clinton’s signature issues for decades. There is also a growing pile of evidence that investments in early childhood for poor kids may have bigger returns than a focus on raising test scores. Obama already pushed for expansion of pre-K education, and Clinton wants to make preschool universal for four-year-olds and double the number of children enrolled in Early Head Start, which includes home visits by a social worker or nurse during pregnancy and parent coaching in the child’s first three years. Paul Tough, the author of Helping Children Succeed, found that the United States spends only 6 percent of all public early-childhood dollars on interventions targeting the child’s first two years, even though that’s when kids’ brains are most malleable for positive development. (The rest goes to kids ages three to six.)

When it comes to reform ideas after preschool, Clinton’s campaign page contains relatively few policy details. It does call for investing in K-12 teachers and schools through a “national campaign to elevate and modernize the teaching profession,” rebuilding crumbling public school buildings, and increasing funding for teaching computer science. The boldest and most detailed section discusses the need to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline”; Clinton promises to send $2 billion to states to reduce suspensions and expulsions that disproportionately affect black students and “implement social and emotional support interventions.”

Clinton has made clear in speeches that she supports testing, but she has said she wants to have “better and fewer tests”—a position that mirrors comments from both Obama and Duncan over the past two years. Meanwhile, on accountability—which measures to use to evaluate schools and teachers, and what to do when they are not meeting the mark—Clinton’s campaign pages and speeches haven’t offered much detail. But that’s in large part because the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind last year, moves these decisions largely to states, and the specifics of its implementation are still being hashed out in Congress.

Many nations with higher-performing students, like Finland, Singapore, and Australia, already use fewer and broader tests for accountability. In these countries, standardized tests are used in combination with real student work, graded by trained teachers, to measure the performance of schools, as NPR’s lead education blogger, Anya Kamenetz, documents in her book The Test. Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond—who was considered for the secretary of education job after Obama was first elected, and could again be a top contender if Clinton is elected—has been calling for a similar accountability system in the United States. A 2014 testing-reform plan co-authored by Darling-Hammond recommends fewer multiple-choice tests and increased capacity at the local and state level to develop yearly “performance assessments”—student work that reflects what professionals actually do in the real world, like essays, group work, individual presentations, and science projects.

But that’s just one piece of the larger puzzle, according to José Luis Vilson, a veteran math teacher in New York City and the author of This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education. Vilson hopes to see increased investments in professional development and coaching of teachers, far beyond the three to five hours a week that’s typical in American public schools. Teachers in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea spend 15 to 25 hours each week working to improve their craft.

Today, the push to create fewer and better tests and improve teacher training faces the biggest obstacles in the schools that need them the most: those with large numbers of low-income students. In the past 10 years, the per-student funding gap between rich and poor schools has grown by 44 percent. The Title I program, a federal initiative created to equalize these disparities, is broken: A 2016 investigation by USA Today found that 20 percent of Title I money ends up funding affluent school districts. Meanwhile, a majority of US public school students come from low-income families, and about 10 percent of them live in deep poverty—in families that earn less than $11,000 a year.

Clinton has expressed support for more federal funding for poor students and those with special needs in her speeches. In a radio interview this year, Clinton said, “The federal government has an opportunity—and I would argue an obligation—to help equalize spending” on schools.

Jonathan Stith, who as national coordinator of the Alliance for Educational Justice worked closely on the development of the Black Lives Matter policy agenda, said he is encouraged to hear a call for higher investments in struggling schools. But he’s disappointed that Clinton’s K-12 agenda lacks detail and doesn’t include any discussion of systemic racism in education. “The agenda’s vague language can be seized by states to continue to do these same school ‘turnaround’ and push-out policies that have contributed in part to the rise of the Movement for Black Lives,” Stith said.

Ultimately, Stith and others agreed that Clinton’s biggest choices are still in front of her. Whether issues of race, better tests, and access to high-quality education will be addressed with meaningful policy will depend a great deal on the types of advisers and staffers she’d select as president, said Samuel Abrams, professor of education at the Columbia Teachers College and author of Education and the Commercial Mindset. Abrams, who taught in public schools for 18 years, argued that most advisers, staffers, and policymakers in the Education Department must have a proven record of success with the hardest-to-reach kids. “I failed so many times as a teacher,” he said. “Until you understand the complexities of why and how that failure happens, you won’t make good policy in education.”

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Will Hillary Clinton’s Education Policy Break From Obama’s in a Huge Way?

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The US Government Is Literally Arming the World, and Nobody’s Even Talking About It

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

When American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion a year, you’d expect to hear about it. Not so with the global arms trade. It’s good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual statistics on the state of the business come out.

It’s not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of US weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to US allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft. And once in a while, if a foreign leader meets with the president, US arms sales to his or her country might generate an article or two. But the sheer size of the American arms trade, the politics that drive it, the companies that profit from it, and its devastating global impacts are rarely discussed, much less analyzed in any depth.

So here’s a question that’s puzzled me for years (and I’m something of an arms wonk): Why do other major US exports—from Hollywood movies to Midwestern grain shipments to Boeing airliners—garner regular coverage while trends in weapons exports remain in relative obscurity? Are we ashamed of standing essentially alone as the world’s No. 1 arms dealer, or is our Weapons “R” Us role so commonplace that we take it for granted, like death or taxes?

The numbers should stagger anyone. According to the latest figures available from the Congressional Research Service, the United States was credited with more than half the value of all global arms transfer agreements in 2014, the most recent year for which full statistics are available. At 14 percent, the world’s second largest supplier, Russia, lagged far behind. Washington’s leadership in this field has never truly been challenged. The US share has fluctuated between one-third and one-half of the global market for the past two decades, peaking at an almost monopolistic 70 percent of all weapons sold in 2011. And the gold rush continues. Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon’s arms sales agency, euphemistically known as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, estimates that arms deals facilitated by the Pentagon topped $46 billion in 2015, and are on track to hit $40 billion in 2016.

To be completely accurate, there is one group of people who pay remarkably close attention to these trends—executives of the defense contractors that are cashing in on this growth market. With the Pentagon and related agencies taking in “only” about $600 billion a year—high by historical standards but tens of billions of dollars less than hoped for by the defense industry—companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics have been looking to global markets as their major source of new revenue.

In a January 2015 investor call, for example, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson was asked whether the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration and five other powers might reduce tensions in the Middle East, undermining the company’s strategy of increasing its arms exports to the region. She responded that continuing “volatility” in both the Middle East and Asia would make them “growth areas” for the foreseeable future. In other words, no worries. As long as the world stays at war or on the verge of it, Lockheed Martin’s profits won’t suffer—and, of course, its products will help ensure that any such volatility will prove lethal indeed.

Under Hewson, Lockheed has set a goal of getting at least 25 percent of its revenues from weapons exports, and Boeing has done that company one better. It’s seeking to make overseas arms sales 30 percent of its business.

Arms deals are a way of life in Washington. From the president on down, significant parts of the government are intent on ensuring that American arms will flood the global market and companies like Lockheed and Boeing will live the good life. From the president on his trips abroad to visit allied world leaders to the secretaries of state and defense to the staffs of US embassies, American officials regularly act as salespeople for the arms firms. And the Pentagon is their enabler. From brokering, facilitating, and literally banking the money from arms deals to transferring weapons to favored allies on the taxpayers’ dime, it is in essence the world’s largest arms dealer.

In a typical sale, the US government is involved every step of the way. The Pentagon often does assessments of an allied nation’s armed forces in order to tell them what they “need”—and of course what they always need is billions of dollars in new US-supplied equipment. Then the Pentagon helps negotiate the terms of the deal, notifies Congress of its details, and collects the funds from the foreign buyer, which it then gives to the US supplier in the form of a defense contract. In most deals, the Pentagon is also the point of contact for maintenance and spare parts for any US-supplied system. The bureaucracy that helps make all of this happen, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is funded from a 3.5 percent surcharge on the deals it negotiates. This gives it all the more incentive to sell, sell, sell.

And the pressure for yet more of the same is always intense, in part because the weapons makers are careful to spread their production facilities to as many states and localities as possible. In this way, they ensure that endless support for government promotion of major arms sales becomes part and parcel of domestic politics.

General Dynamics, for instance, has managed to keep its tank plants in Ohio and Michigan running through a combination of add-ons to the Army budget—funds inserted into that budget by Congress even though the Pentagon didn’t request them—and exports to Saudi Arabia. Boeing is banking on a proposed deal to sell 40 F-18s to Kuwait to keep its St. Louis production line open, and is currently jousting with the Obama administration to get it to move more quickly on the deal. Not surprisingly, members of Congress and local business leaders in such states become strong supporters of weapons exports.

Though seldom thought of this way, the US political system is also a global arms distribution system of the first order. In this context, the Obama administration has proven itself a good friend to arms exporting firms. During President Obama’s first six years in office, Washington entered into agreements to sell more than $190 billion in weaponry worldwide—more, that is, than any US administration since World War II. In addition, Team Obama has loosened restrictions on arms exports, making it possible to send abroad a whole new range of weapons and weapons components—including Black Hawk and Huey helicopters and engines for C-17 transport planes—with far less scrutiny than was previously required.

This has been good news for the industry, which had been pressing for such changes for decades with little success. But the weaker regulations also make it potentially easier for arms smugglers and human rights abusers to get their hands on US arms. For example, 36 US allies—from Argentina and Bulgaria to Romania and Turkey—will no longer need licenses from the State Department to import weapons and weapons parts from the United States. This will make it far easier for smuggling networks to set up front companies in such countries and get US arms and arms components that they can then pass on to third parties like Iran or China. Already a common practice, it will only increase under the new regulations.

The degree to which the Obama administration has been willing to bend over backward to help weapons exporters was underscored at a 2013 hearing on those administration export “reforms.” Tom Kelly, then the deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, caught the spirit of the era when asked whether the administration was doing enough to promote American arms exports. He responded:

“We are advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make sure that these sales go through…and that is something we are doing every day, basically on every continent in the world…and we’re constantly thinking of how we can do better.”

One place where, with a helping hand from the Obama administration and the Pentagon, the arms industry has been doing a lot better of late is the Middle East. Washington has brokered deals for more than $50 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia alone for everything from F-15 fighter aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to combat ships and missile defense systems.

The most damaging deals, if not the most lucrative, have been the sales of bombs and missiles to the Saudis for their brutal war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed and millions of people are going hungry. Members of Congress like Michigan Representative John Conyers and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy have pressed for legislation that would at least stem the flow of the most deadly of the weaponry being sent for use there, but they have yet to overcome the considerable clout of the Saudis in Washington (and, of course, that of the arms industry as well).

When it comes to the arms business, however, there’s no end to the good news from the Middle East. Take the administration’s proposed new 10-year aid deal with Israel. If enacted as currently planned, it would boost US military assistance to that country by up to 25 percent—to roughly $4 billion per year. At the same time, it would phase out a provision that had allowed Israel to spend one-quarter of Washington’s aid developing its own defense industry. In other words, all that money, the full $4 billion in taxpayer dollars, will now flow directly into the coffers of companies like Lockheed Martin, which is in the midst of completing a multibillion-dollar deal to sell the Israelis F-35s.

As Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson noted, however, the Middle East is hardly the only growth area for that firm or others like it. The dispute between China and its neighbors over the control of the South China Sea (in many ways an incipient conflict over whether that country or the United States will control that part of the Pacific Ocean) has opened up new vistas when it comes to the sale of American warships and other military equipment to Washington’s East Asian allies. The recent Hague court decision rejecting Chinese claims to those waters (and the Chinese rejection of it) is only likely to increase the pace of arms buying in the region.

At the same time, in the good-news-never-ends department, growing fears of North Korea’s nuclear program have stoked a demand for US-supplied missile defense systems. The South Koreans have, in fact, just agreed to deploy Lockheed Martin’s THAAD anti-missile system. In addition, the Obama administration’s decision to end the longstanding embargo on US arms sales to Vietnam is likely to open yet another significant market for US firms. In the past two years alone, the US has offered more than $15 billion worth of weaponry to allies in East Asia, with Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea accounting for the bulk of the sales.

In addition, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to build a defense relationship with India, a development guaranteed to benefit US arms exporters. Last year, Washington and New Delhi signed a 10-year defense agreement that included pledges of future joint work on aircraft engines and aircraft carrier designs. In these years, the US has made significant inroads into the Indian arms market, which had traditionally been dominated by the Soviet Union and then Russia. Recent deals include a $5.8 billion sale of Boeing C-17 transport aircraft and a $1.4 billion agreement to provide support services related to a planned purchase of Apache attack helicopters.

And don’t forget “volatile” Europe. Great Britain’s recent Brexit vote introduced an uncertainty factor into American arms exports to that country. The United Kingdom has been by far the biggest purchaser of US weapons in Europe of late, with more than $6 billion in deals struck over the past two years alone—more, that is, than the US has sold to all other European countries combined.

The British defense behemoth BAE is Lockheed Martin’s principal foreign partner on the F-35 combat aircraft, which at a projected cost of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime already qualifies as the most expensive weapons program in history. If Brexit-driven austerity were to lead to a delay in, or the cancellation of, the F-35 deal (or any other major weapons shipments), it would be a blow to American arms makers. But count on one thing: Were there to be even a hint that this might happen to the F-35, lobbyists for BAE will mobilize to get the deal privileged status, whatever other budget cuts may be in the works.

On the bright side (if you happen to be a weapons maker), any British reductions will certainly be more than offset by opportunities in Eastern and Central Europe, where a new Cold War seems to be gaining traction. Between 2014 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending increased by 13 percent in the region in response to the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The rise in Poland’s outlays, at 22 percent, was particularly steep.

Under the circumstances, it should be obvious that trends in the global arms trade are a major news story and should be dealt with as such in the country most responsible for putting more weapons of a more powerful nature into the hands of those living in “volatile” regions. It’s a monster business (in every sense of the word) and certainly has far more dangerous consequences than licensing a Hollywood blockbuster or selling another Boeing airliner.

Historically, there have been rare occasions of public protest against unbridled arms trafficking, as with the backlash against “the merchants of death” after World War I, or the controversy over who armed Saddam Hussein that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Even now, small numbers of congressional representatives, including John Conyers, Chris Murphy, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, continue to try to halt the sale of cluster munitions, bombs, and missiles to Saudi Arabia.

There is, however, unlikely to be a genuine public debate about the value of the arms business and Washington’s place in it if it isn’t even considered a subject worthy of more than an occasional media story. In the meantime, the United States continues to hold onto its No. 1 role in the global arms trade, the White House does its part, the Pentagon greases the wheels, and the dollars roll in to profit-hungry weapons contractors.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior advisor to the Security Assistance Monitor. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. To receive the latest from TomDispatch.com, sign up here.

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The US Government Is Literally Arming the World, and Nobody’s Even Talking About It

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Rising seas are lapping at the doors of Trump’s real estate empire

Rising seas are lapping at the doors of Trump’s real estate empire

By on Jul 7, 2016 5:14 pmShare

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

On a hot and lazy afternoon in Palm Beach, the only sign of movement is the water gently lapping at the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, the private club that is the prize of Donald Trump’s real estate acquisitions in Florida.

Trump currently dismisses climate change as a hoax invented by China, though he has quietly sought to shield real estate investments in Ireland from its effects.

But at the Republican presidential contender’s Palm Beach estate and the other properties that bear his name in South Florida, the water is already creeping up bridges and advancing on access roads, lawns, and beaches because of sea-level rise, according to a risk analysis prepared for the Guardian.

In 30 years, the grounds of Mar-a-Lago could be under at least a foot of water for 210 days a year because of tidal flooding along the intracoastal water way, with the water rising past some of the cottages and bungalows, the analysis by Coastal Risk Consulting found.

Coastal Risk Consulting/Jan Diehm/The Guardian

Trump’s insouciance in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change — even lapping up on his own doorstep — makes him something of an outlier in South Florida, where mayors are actively preparing for a future under climate change.

Trump, who backed climate action in 2009 but now describes climate change as “bullshit,” is also out of step with the U.S. and other governments’ efforts to turn emissions-cutting pledges into concrete actions in the wake of the Paris climate agreement. Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the agreement.

And the presidential contender’s posturing about climate denial may further alienate the Republican candidate from younger voters and minority voters in this election who see climate change as a gathering danger.

When Guardian U.S. asked its readers about their most urgent concern in these elections as part of our Voices of America series, the single issue looming on their minds was climate change.

Real estate professionals, with perhaps an extra dash of self-interest, hold similar views. In a survey published in the Miami Herald last month, two-thirds of high-end Miami realtors were concerned sea-level rise and climate change could hurt local property values, up from 56 percent of them last year.

So too for mayors in South Florida. About a third of the civic leaders in South Florida’s compact of mayors are working on strategies to protect their towns from rising seas — and lobbying Florida’s governor and fellow Republicans in Congress to acknowledge the gathering threat.

Elected officials in those same Florida towns say they are already spending heavily to rebuild disappearing beaches and pump out water-logged streets.

Republicans in coastal districts can’t afford to play politics with climate change, said Steve Abrams, a Republican and mayor of Palm Beach County.

“We don’t have the luxury at the local level to engage in these lofty policy debates,” said Abrams. “I have been in knee-deep water in many parts of my district during King Tide.”

King Tides, the extreme high tides of the autumn, are a growing nuisance in Miami and other areas of South Florida — and are creeping up the manicured lawns of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago from the intracoastal waterway, according to the CRC analysis.

Parts of the estate are already at high risk of flooding under heavy rains and storms, the analysis found. By 2045, the storm surge from even a category two storm would bring waters crashing over the main swimming pool and up to the main building, the analysis found.

Coastal Risk Consulting/Jan Diehm/The Guardian

The historic mansion at the heart of Mar-a-Lago is not going to be underwater, “but they are going to have more and more issues with health and safety, access, and infrastructure,” said Keren Bolter, chief scientist for the firm.

Despite Trump’s pronouncements, there is strong evidence that he — personally — could pay the price for climate change in his property interests along the South Florida oceanfront and intracoastal waterway.

In South Florida, sea level is projected to rise up to 34 inches by the middle of the century and as high as 81 inches by 2100, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

South of Mar-a-Lago, where the elevation is lower, water already pools in the road in front of the Trump Hollywood condos after the briefest of cloud bursts. The luxury development, where three-bedroom units are on sale for up to $3 million apiece, offers “pristine beaches.”

“Right outside your door you’ll find the Hollywood Beach broadwalk, ranked as one of the five best boardwalks in the country,” the company website says.

But Peter Bober, a Hollywood native who is now the city’s mayor, said flooding was becoming a regular occurrence, when storms coincided with high tide.

“We have had neighborhoods where the water has been up to people’s front doors. That is not something that I remember as a kid growing up in the city of Hollywood,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city is spending heavily on pumping systems and to truck in sand to replenish beaches disappearing due to erosion.

Bober said he had seen storms with water pouring over the sea walls of the intracoastal. “Water just floods the entire neighborhood, and there is nothing we can do about it,” Bober said. “We have occasional storms where we are totally overwhelmed.”

Such instances are only growing more frequent. Bolter’s modeling suggests Trump’s Hollywood condos could be turned into islands for up to 140 days a year by 2045, cut off from the low-lying A1A coastal road because of tidal flooding and storm surges. Under a category two storm, a storm surge could wash right up to the front gate.

Further south, the Trump Grande in Sunny Isles also faces a soggy future, according to the projections. In 30 years, the boundaries of the property could face tidal flooding and storm surges for 97 days a year, cutting off access to the A1A road. The beaches could also be scoured away by erosion.

“The big issue here is that if a big storm hits, you have five-foot, six-foot waves, and that is going to eat away even at the grass here. It could push the waves even to where we are standing. And if that is going to eat away this whole area, that could do some serious damage,” Bolter said.

Other Trump-branded properties, such as the golf clubs in Doral and Jupiter, are at higher elevations, above the water line amid projected sea-level rise this century. But Bolter said the courses faced different risks from heavy rainfall and poor drainage because of Florida’s high water table.

Coastal Risk Consulting/Jan Diehm/The Guardian

Scientists have long expected sea-level rise on the southeast Florida coast to occur faster than the global average, advancing rapidly on barrier islands and beaches.

The low-lying coastal areas are exposed to an additional threat of inland flooding from the intercoastal waterways, and contamination of fresh water supply by high tides and storm surges.

But the pace of sea-level rise has accelerated over the last decade because of the collapse of ice cover in Greenland and Antarctica, and because of the weakening of ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream. Nowhere is this as evident as in South Florida.

Since 2006, the average rate of sea-level rise in South Florida has increased to nine millimeters a year from three millimeters a year, for a total rise over the decade of about 90 millimeters, or about 3.5 inches, according to Shimon Wdowinski, a research scientist at the University of Miami.

As a result, flooding in Miami Beach and other low-lying areas has doubled over the last decade, Wdowinski found, using tide gauges, rain records, insurance claims, and other data to construct the flood record. “People should be aware of where they want to invest for their properties,” he said. “I think for the next 20 years it will be OK, but I don’t know if it will be in 50 or 80 years. That’s a different story.”

Other sections of the low-lying South Florida coast are just as vulnerable. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy barely grazed Florida, reserving its fury for New York and New Jersey.

But a subsequent storm unleashed huge waves that uprooted traffic lights and street signs, and caused the collapse of a 1.5-mile stretch of the A1A coastal artery in the center of Fort Lauderdale.

“When the road collapsed, that was basically a huge wake-up call,” said Jason Liechty, environmental projects coordinator for Broward County. “Sometimes when you talk about climate change and sea-level rise it seems very abstract, but if you see big chunks of concrete just sticking up out of the road, it becomes very real.

“It took $20 million and 40,000 truckloads of imported sand so far to raise the mile-long section of road by two feet, sink in metal sheets 40 feet down, and rebuild sand dunes to provide buffers from future storms — and the repairs are still under way four years later.

“So let’s do the math here: You are talking about several hundred million dollars if the whole coast line is affected, and that’s a lot of money,” Liechty said.

A number of towns in South Florida are already beginning to make the investment, calculating that it would be cheaper to put in defenses against rising seas now than wait for a catastrophe.

Miami Beach is spending $400 million to raise roads and install pumps to drain streets that experience regularly flooding at high tide — and to prevent salt water from contaminating fresh water storage inland.

In other sea-level hotspots, such as Hollywood, newer construction — including Trump-branded buildings — are being built on top of steeply graded driveways, above the flood zone.

But for some of South Florida’s cities, there may be no alternative to retreat — even if it means abandoning some of the wealthiest real estate in the country.

In his offices in the historic city hall of Coral Gables, James Cason keeps a poster-size map showing a wide swath of land, sliced up by canals, yacht moorings, and multimillion dollar homes in gated communities with elevations below four feet.

About 34 miles of Coral Gables are exposed to the ocean. The entire area — representing about $3 billion in property and about 10 percent of homes — will be underwater in the second half of the century, according to NOAA’s projections.

Two schools, 20 bridges, 21 pumping stations will all be swamped, according to the projections. Some 302 yachts will almost certainly be trapped behind low-lying bridges. Water treatment plants and pumping stations will no longer work.

Cason has no patience for those, like Trump, who deny climate change is occurring. “It’s an existential threat to a city like us,” he said. So much so that Cason has hired consultants to contemplate a future when it may no longer be able to engineer a way out of sea-level rise.

“What do you do if and when the water is up so high you can’t provide services — when do you stop charging taxes?” he asked. “If your house is underwater, can you stop paying taxes on it?”

He would like to believe that by the end of the century, scientists will have figured out a solution to the rising seas that threaten his city. But there is one thing of which he is certain: Coral Gables will not survive by retreating behind a sea wall.

“There is no Dutch solution,” he said. “You can’t really build a wall around it. It will just come up from below.”


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Rising seas are lapping at the doors of Trump’s real estate empire

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