Tag Archives: beach

Wildfire smoke is a silent killer — and climate change is making it worse

As the Kincade Fire burned through some 80,000 acres in Northern California, Ismael Barcenas, felt his lungs burning and “knots in [his] throat.” Barcenas, a farmhand at a vineyard in Santa Rosa, has asthma but kept showing up to work and choking through the smoke. After a few days, Barcenas left the county for cleaner air and checked into a hotel.

With strong gusts of wind blowing east, smoke from the Kincade Fire spread all the way to Sacramento last week, about 60 miles from where Barcenas works. There, Michal Borton, a student at Cosumnes River College, found it difficult to breathe as a well-ventilated chemistry lab let smoke in. Borton ended up leaving in the middle of the class.

Several hundred miles south near Long Beach in Southern California, Demetria Maldonado called in sick from her job as an aide for students with special needs. Smoke from the Getty and Castlewood fires had her coughing all day.

Monster fires in California have killed at least three people so far and burned tens of thousands of acres over the last couple of weeks. At least five fires are burning in the state; the Kincade Fire — which began two weeks ago — is still just 88 percent contained. The blazes have closed schools and businesses, forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate, and left behind charred rubble where entire communities once stood.

The effects have also been felt by people out of the path of the fires. Smoke from the Kincade Fire hung over the Bay Area for days, resulting in school closures and a “Spare the Air” alert — a call to avoid driving in order to reduce pollution. In Oakland, Fresno, Visalia and other cities, local public health officials have reported “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” levels of air pollution and asked residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

Of primary concern is particulate matter, specifically PM2.5 — fine particles of soot and dust that are about 30 times smaller in diameter than a strand of human hair. They can burrow their way deep into the lungs, causing asthma and cancer. As wildfires burn through towns, spurred on by a warmer and drier climate, that soot and dust also picks up toxic chemicals from burning buildings.

“Things like lead or other toxins can attach on to that particular matter,” said Mary Prunicki, a pollution biologist at Stanford University. “When that’s inhaled, these other heavy metals or toxic pollutants hitchhike on the PM2.5.”

Researchers expect that particulate matter from wildfires will rise dramatically in the Western U.S. as the planet warms. One study estimates that between 2046 and 2051, wildfire-related PM2.5 levels will likely increase by 160 percent on average if temperatures continue to rise. Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and forests in the northern Rocky Mountains will experience the worst of it, the researchers concluded.

Hotter and longer fires, especially those burning through towns with plastic and chemical materials, may also mean more toxic particulate matter, Prunicki said. “It may make things combust that otherwise wouldn’t, and when that’s put into the air, it can attach on to the particulate matter.”

Barcenas, the farmworker, has been working at the same vineyard for over two decades but said that the fires this year had him reaching for his inhaler more often than when blazes swept Northern California in 2017 and 2018. Leaving the county means missing work and less money for his family. “To me the worst thing about this fire is I’ve been without work for six days, and now four more days,” he said. “In the last fire, I was out only for one day.” He fears that if the fires continue like this, year after year, it could shutter farms in the region and put him out of work.

Barcenas and other asthma sufferers who’ve struggled to breathe the last couple of weeks may discover new health problems months from now. Researchers have found that wildfire smoke can trigger cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses months after the initial exposure, sometimes leading to premature deaths.

One study found that smoke from the Camp and Woolsey fires in California last year contributed to the premature deaths of as many as 1,400 people. That’s excluding the 88 people who died during the fires. A separate analysis last year by Reveal, a nonprofit news organization, concluded that in the months after the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Northern California that left at least 22 dead and burned about 37,000 acres, emergency rooms saw a 20 percent increase in visits by patients for cardiovascular diseases.

That spike in health problems is felt most acutely by the young, elderly, and people of color — in part a function of where they live. When researchers looked at Medicare hospital admission data between 2004 and 2009 for the Western United States, they found that more than 70 percent of black patients were exposed to more than one smoke wave, compared to just 56 percent of white patients. Overall, black residents in the West had a higher risk of hospital admissions as a result of respiratory illnesses.

A lot about wildfire smoke and public health remains unknown. Though many people wear masks as a protective measure, research on their effectiveness is scant, Prunicki said. It’s a question that she and a colleague are hoping to tackle along with looking into whether air purifiers can help people avoid breathing difficulties and other illnesses.

“There’s very little data when you try to guide people on who should be putting on masks,” said Prunicki. “That just makes it hard to make recommendations on what people should do because there’s not research to back it up.”

People also have different levels of comfort with masks. While Maldonado, the special education aide in Southern California, said that using a mask and putting a scarf across her mouth helped her breathe better, Borton, the college student, said that he found wearing a mask suffocating. He relied instead on two daily medications for asthma. “If I wear a mask, then I’m mostly just breathing in the air that I breathed out,” he said. “I just have to suffer through it.”

Jorge Rodriguez contributed reporting to this article.

Original article – 

Wildfire smoke is a silent killer — and climate change is making it worse

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Wildfire smoke is a silent killer — and climate change is making it worse

New map shows all the cities leading the world in climate action

Have you heard about the A list? It’s harder to clinch a spot on it than it is to score an invite to the Met Gala. And your city may be on it.

An environmental impact nonprofit called the CDP (formerly known as the carbon disclosure project) just released a list of cities that led the world in environmental performance last year. Only 43 metropolises got As in the organization’s first-ever assessment, and nearly half of them are in the United States!

Twenty-one cities in the United States made the list. And a whopping nine cities in the San Francisco Bay area got As, too — making up 21 percent of all the cities on the list. Cities all across the map — like Cape Town, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Paris — qualified as A-listers, as well.

So what kind of policies get you on the A list? Five of the U.S. cities are on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050 — a target that is emerging as the gold standard of decarbonization: Boston; Indianapolis; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and West Palm Beach, Florida. Those cities may be leading the charge, but they are not alone: the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 campaign has calculated that more than 90 U.S. cities have set or are in the process of setting 100 percent renewable energy targets.

The CDP determined the way each city scored by looking at things like climate risk and vulnerability, whether the city in question had a climate change adaptation strategy, how many emissions that city produces, and more. Of the 596 cities the nonprofit ranked, it only publicly disclosed the cities that got an A.

See more here:  

New map shows all the cities leading the world in climate action

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New map shows all the cities leading the world in climate action

What is your town’s risk of wildfire? New media tool lets you see for yourself

Which California town might be the next to burn? That’s the driving question behind Destined to Burn, the brand new media package produced via a partnership between the AP, Gannet, McClatchy, and others. The project examines how California can prevent wildfire devastation.

Wildfires have always been a risk in drought-prone California. But due to climate change’s drying effects on the soil and vegetation, burns are getting bigger, deadlier, and more expensive for the Golden State. Just last year, the Camp Fire killed almost 90 people and completely leveled the town of Paradise in Northern California. The climate-induced tragedy was 2018’s most expensive natural disaster.

Since then, many communities throughout California have been grappling with how to adapt to this type of threat.

And they may be right to worry. One in 12 homes in the state of California is at high risk from wildfires. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Cal Fire Maps, the Sacramento Bee recently released a search tool, which Californians can use to find out how much of their towns might be in the danger zone.

Based on their analysis, there are more than 75 California towns and cities in which at least 90 percent of residents live in “very high fire hazard severity zones,” as designated by Cal Fire. As part of the Destined to Burn package, The Sacramento Bee highlighted 10 California communities from that list: Shingletown, Nevada City, Colfax, Kings Beach, Pollock Pines, Arnold, Wofford Heights, La Cañada Flintridge, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Harbison Canyon.

In 6 out of these 10 communities, 100 percent of residents live in very high fire hazard zones — at least, according to 2010 census info. In Nevada City, the hometown of Grist’s very own Nathanael Johnson, 3,064 out of 3,068 residents live in high hazard areas. (A number that may leave some wondering: What’s the deal with those four lucky people?)

But aside from their exceptionally high wildfire risk, there isn’t that much that unites the communities on the Bee’s list. Residents of the affluent Rancho Palos Verdes (the most populated city on the list), for instance, don’t seem to be sweating too hard about wildfires. Scott Hale, an assistant fire chief for Los Angeles County, told the Sacramento Bee: “This being a coastal community, we don’t get the type of brush and that kind of fire behavior that you might get in somewhere like Paradise.”

Kings Beach, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, is a popular tourist destination. Because so many of the homes there are vacation rentals, it could be harder to mobilize the local community to push for more fire prevention measures.

In contrast, Nevada City is taking its fire prevention measures seriously. The city launched a Goat Fund Me campaign in December, hoping to raise enough funds to rent brush-clearing ruminants to maintain the city’s lands, a method that has caught on throughout California and beyond. Residents have also taken fire prevention into their own hands, creating citizen-led controlled burn squads and even helping out neighbors who may have trouble clearing dry brush near their homes.

The list isn’t exactly intended to predict the next “Paradise.” The data has its limitations — age being one of them. A new census is approaching in 2020, and Cal Fire is currently at work on a new set of fire hazard maps, which will incorporate wind patterns and other important factors. Instead, the tools put together by Gannett, McClatchy, Media News, and the Associated Press, are designed to be used as a resource as communities figure out how to prepare for their unique wildfire risks.

“Our goal with this collaboration is to put a spotlight on policy issues that can and should be raised in the halls of the state Capitol and by local communities,” wrote McClatchy Regional Editor Lauren Gustus of the project. “This is a wicked problem with no easy answers. And the more information we can share about where and how we’re falling short, the quicker we can come together on potential solutions.”


What is your town’s risk of wildfire? New media tool lets you see for yourself

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, Citizen, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Paradise, Pines, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What is your town’s risk of wildfire? New media tool lets you see for yourself

Hurricane Michael is a monster storm and an unnatural disaster

Hurricane Michael made landfall early Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below Category 5 strength.

The hurricane will likely devastate Florida’s Panhandle communities. It is, simply, a history-changing storm. According to the National Hurricane Center, “most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

As Michael approached land, meteorologists struggled to find words to describe it. On Twitter, the National Weather Service said, in all caps, “THIS IS A WORST CASE SCENARIO.” The hurricane’s winds and waves were so strong, their rumblings were detected on seismometers — equipment designed to measure earthquakes. Michael is expected to produce storm surge — typically the deadliest part of any hurricane — of up to 14 feet, smashing local records.

No storm remotely this strong has ever hit this part of Florida. The previously strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle had winds of 125 mph, 30 mph weaker than Michael’s. The local National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a chilling warning that Michael was “not comparable to anything we have seen before.”

Only the 1935 “Labor Day” hurricane, which hit the Florida Keys, and 1969’s Hurricane Camille, which struck Mississippi, were more intense at landfall in all of U.S. history. Michael is the fourth Category 4 hurricane to hit the U.S. in just 15 months, joining last year’s trio of Harvey, Irma, and Maria — an unprecedented string of catastrophic hurricane disasters.

In the hours before landfall, Michael rapidly intensified, strengthening from a Category 1 to a strong Category 4 in less than 36 hours — consistent with recent research on climate change’s impact on storms. Michael did this after passing over unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, which likely helped to increase the storm’s moisture content and provide fuel for more intense thunderstorms, a deeper central pressure, and stronger winds. Sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico have risen by about a foot over the past 100 years, so there’s a direct link between Michael’s coastal flooding and long-term climate change.

Recovery from Michael is likely to be a painfully slow process. The Panhandle is the most impoverished region of Florida, and this kind of a storm would be difficult to overcome even for wealthy communities. Calhoun County, just inland of where Michael made landfall, is the lowest-income county in the state, with a median household income of less than $32,000 per year. As we saw during last month’s Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, it’s likely that thousands of people couldn’t even afford to evacuate.

Even if Michael wasn’t making landfall in a particularly vulnerable section of U.S. coastline, it would be an unrecoverable storm for many families. Our inaction on climate change made Michael into an unnatural disaster.

View original article: 

Hurricane Michael is a monster storm and an unnatural disaster

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, ONA, Radius, Thermos, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hurricane Michael is a monster storm and an unnatural disaster

Six months after Maria, the hardest hit city in Puerto Rico is still being ignored

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

Jose Morales Menendez had some great times fishing along the beautiful southeast coast of Puerto Rico. He recalls fishing from 1 a.m. to 10 a.m., watching the lights of giant freight ships pass by his little boat. Now, mostly blind since 2005, the 75-year-old depends on others for many day-to-day things. But still, life was okay before Hurricane Maria made landfall six months ago. Now?

“Life after Maria has been really sad,” he says, sitting in the front room of his small house yards from the beach in the Playa el Negro section of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. The house, which he shares with his wife Irma, was flooded during the storm after it made landfall very near their neighborhood with sustained winds of 155 mph. “The little bit that we had was taken back.”

Yabucoa, a town of about 35,000 on the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico, was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The winds destroyed concrete homes that had withstood prior hurricanes, according to USA Today, leaving it the hardest hit city on an island wracked with devastation. Officials estimate that roughly 1,500 homes were destroyed, along with 95 percent of all municipal infrastructure. With the six-month anniversary of the storm on Tuesday, just 35 percent of the town is energized. The town is providing water to its citizens by using 25 generators to power pumps, and significant damage can be seen throughout town, including piles of debris near city hall.

The mayor is working out of a small temporary office in the center of town. Mariel Rivera, his spokesperson, explained that the sheer volume of devastation has made recovery painfully slow. She shared a spreadsheet tracking what the dozens of electrical crews from places like New Jersey, Vermont, and Florida are doing in the city, including the neighborhoods where they’re working. She credited the mayor for pushing to get as much work done in the town as has been done, slow as it is, and says the state government has largely ignored the city. Comparing it to New Orleans after Katrina, or places in Texas and Florida after Harvey and Irma, respectively, Rivera slammed Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló for neglecting her community.

“The governors of those states went first to the worst areas,” she says. “Yabucoa was a town that received a direct hit from Maria and to this day the governor has not stepped foot in Yabucoa.”

(A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to a request for comment.)

Darlene Rivera, the administrator for the municipal cemetery, says Yabucoa is “still in crisis,” and not getting the help it needs. Rivera says her mother, a cardiac patient and diabetic, died of a heart attack after Maria because she didn’t have regular access to medical care and couldn’t properly store her diabetes medication without refrigeration.

Rivera says that there have been 150 deaths registered with the cemetery in the six months since Maria passed through. In the first 10 weeks of 2018, Rivera says she recorded 40 more deaths than she did over the same period of time in 2017. Rivera can’t definitively say if the increased rate of death is linked to Maria, but “there seems to be a correlation.”

Official accountings of Maria-related deaths have been widely questioned. The island’s government recently partnered with George Washington University to conduct a new count.

The two city workers tell me about one of their coworkers who went missing after the storm. Mayra Cortéz Merced, 59, worked in the city’s property records office. After Maria, they say, Cortéz couldn’t get consistent treatment from a doctor or access to her psychiatric medications. Her neighbors say they saw her leave her house on January 31st. “She just disappeared,” Rivera, the mayor’s spokesperson, says. “When you are a mental health patient these things can get the best of you.”

A few miles from the center of town, out toward Lucia Beach along Highway 901, Luis Saul Sustache mans the bar at a roadside chinchorro called La Rumba. With a round face that makes him look much younger than his 34 years, Saul points to the new-ish looking wood that makes up roughly half the patio and explains that the bar was nearly destroyed during Maria, but was repaired quickly and reopened 10 days after the winds died down. Most of the business the bar sees is from the scores of contractors from the mainland working in the area, but even so times are tough.

“Sometimes it feels like it’s easier to just close down the business,” he says, before walking away to pack five bottles of cold water into a plastic bag for another customer.

Further down the road, at a long-term stay hotel called Lucia Beach Villas, Ana Celia Lazú reports that the property suffered some damage in the storm but that the owners have been able to finance repairs with revenue from stateside contractors who are staying as guests. Some smaller out buildings around the property, though, have been been abandoned. One, a two story house just south of the hotel, suffered heavy damage and was vacated by its owner days after the storm. Right in front of the hotel stood a beachfront chinchorro that was completely destroyed.

Jose Morales Menendez’s house sits about a mile or two down from Lucia Beach. After the storm, FEMA gave him and his wife Irma $8,000 to help with repairs, but they say it’s not nearly enough. Irma says she has a hard time sleeping, worried that the waves will again rise up and pull her out to sea, or that an earthquake will shake the home and end it all.

Still, though, she’s thankful.

“We have many blessings,” she says. Her husband shared a similar sentiment, saying that despite everything, his family and neighbors have provided help, support, and love.

“I thank my lord for the beings who have come to help,” he says.


Six months after Maria, the hardest hit city in Puerto Rico is still being ignored

Posted in alo, Anchor, Citizen, Down To Earth, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Six months after Maria, the hardest hit city in Puerto Rico is still being ignored

4 Ways Smart Home Tech Can Maximize Your Energy Use

In today?s technology-centric environment, many energy-conscious types are looking for new ways to become more responsible power consumers. In fact, a whopping 70 percent of people say energy conservation is an important factor in their daily lives and purchases.

But even if you remember to unplug your phone charger, turn your heat down, close the blinds and turn off the lights before you leave the house in the morning, there?s still a chance you could forget something.

That?s where recent innovations in connected home technology come in. Thanks to groundbreaking smart home devices, we can now use the same connected technology that powers our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprints. Here are four smart home innovations that can help you maximize your energy efficiency. (As a bonus, they could also lower your energy bills.)

Smart Thermostat

Wi-Fi-connected thermostats are becoming more common ? and for good reason. Many run-of-the-mill thermostats offer the ability to program your heat or air conditioning schedule, but high-tech smart thermostats allow you to control your home temps via your smartphone or tablet ? from anywhere in the world. So if that mid-day blizzard doesn?t come through as expected, you can turn your heat down from the office (or hopefully the beach).

In fact, if everyone in the U.S. switched to an Energy Star-certified smart thermostat, we could save an average of $740 million per year and curb greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 13 billion pounds annually.

Smart Lighting

Connected light bulbs can change color on demand and can even pulse to the beat of your favorite playlist. But parties and mood lighting aside, they?re typically LED bulbs, which means they only use 20 to25 percent of the energy that incandescent bulbs consume. Plus, they last between eight and 25 times longer than halogen incandescent bulbs.

You can also operate these smart bulbs from any connected device. Even if you have light fixtures that don?t take standard A-shaped bulbs, you can replace your dimmer switch with a connected one to gain the same energy and cost savings from every light in your home.

Smart Outlets

One of the best ways to rein in your electricity usage is to cut off power-hogs right at the source: the outlet. Similar to the devices above, smart outlets are Wi-Fi-enabled, allowing you to control them from your mobile devices.

These handy outlets come in many forms. While some require installation in the wall, others simply plug into your existing outlets. The purpose, however, is the same. Plug in your TV, desk lamp, vintage pinball machine ? anything really ? and control it from anywhere you may be.

This gives you the ability to switch off your coffee pot from your train to work or turn the slow cooker on at noon from your desk. Most importantly, it provides the peace of mind that comes with knowing none of your appliances are consuming power unbeknownst to you.

Smart Energy Monitors

If you?re really serious about improving your energy consumption, a smart energy monitor can help you take your home?s energy efficiency to the next level. These devices attach directly to your circuit breaker and allow you to view the energy output of every appliance in your home. If you spot an energy hoarder, you can adjust your usage accordingly and even get a prediction of how much that appliance will affect your next energy bill.

This puts the power in your hands, so to speak, by giving you total control of your household energy usage and spending. As with anything that requires electrical work, you should have a professional install your device. But given how much money you could save on your power bill, the installation cost is likely just a drop in the bucket.

Of course, if you want to go all-in on a connected home, there are many more options on the market to choose from. But these four devices are some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce your energy consumption and get a quick bang for your buck.
Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of industry experience in product management, design and management roles as well as claims roles at Esurance and other major industry carriers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


4 Ways Smart Home Tech Can Maximize Your Energy Use

Posted in alo, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Thermos, Uncategorized, Vintage | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 4 Ways Smart Home Tech Can Maximize Your Energy Use

Trump actually wants to enforce an environmental rule. A court says he can’t.

The city of freeways is building light rail, and passengers are hopping on board.

We’ve seen a general decline in transit riders around the country as the economy has improved, gas prices have fallen, and public transport systems have aged. But Los Angeles is bucking that trend.

Take the Expo line, which opened in May 2016 and runs from downtown L.A. to the beach. It carried an average of 64,000 riders each weekday in June 2017 — an increase of almost 20,000 riders from a year earlier. Officials had predicted the line wouldn’t get that popular until 2030.

Nearly 70 percent of Expo line riders reported that they hadn’t used mass transit regularly before the line opened, and more than half of those new riders had switched from cars, according to the Washington Post.

That’s just one light-rail route. Here’s a peek at the L.A.’s plans to expand its lines by 2040:

View post on imgur.com

For years, Angelenos thought that only the efforts of a hostile dictator would allow them to travel freely across their city. Now, they’ve found another way.

View original post here: 

Trump actually wants to enforce an environmental rule. A court says he can’t.

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, ONA, Ringer, solar, Uncategorized, Wiley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump actually wants to enforce an environmental rule. A court says he can’t.

The Trump administration is about to officially OK the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nanette Barragán is used to facing off against polluters. Elected in 2013 to the city council of Hermosa Beach, California, she took on E&B Natural Resources, an oil and gas company looking to drill wells on the beach. Barragán, an attorney before going into politics, learned of the potential project and began campaigning for residents to vote against it. The project was eventually squashed. In November, she won a congressional seat in California’s 44th district.

To Barragán, making sure President Trump’s environmental rollbacks don’t affect communities is a matter of life or death. The district she represents, the same in which she grew up, encompasses heavily polluted parts of Los Angeles County — areas crisscrossed with freeways and dotted with oil and gas wells. Barragan says she grew up close to a major highway and suffered from allergies. “I now go back and wonder if it was related to living that close,” she says.

Exide Technologies, a battery manufacturer that has polluted parts of southeast Los Angeles County with arsenic, lead, and other chemicals for years, sits just outside her district’s borders. Barragán’s district is also 69 percent Latino and 15 percent black. She has become acutely aware of the environmental injustices of the pollution plaguing the region. “People who are suffering are in communities of color,” she says.

Now in the nation’s capital, Barragán is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s newly formed environmental task force and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which considers legislation on topics like energy and public lands and is chaired by climate denier Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican. She knows the next four years will be tough but says she’s up for the challenge. “I think it’s going to be, I hate to say it, a lot of defense.”

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

Originally posted here: 

The Trump administration is about to officially OK the Keystone XL pipeline.

Posted in alo, Anchor, Citizen, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, ONA, Ringer, solar, Ultima, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Trump administration is about to officially OK the Keystone XL pipeline.

Trump Looking for Hispanic to Take Agriculture Post

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Politico reports on Donald Trump’s search for a Secretary of Agriculture:

Trump met Wednesday with two Hispanic politicians at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach to discuss the possibility of taking on the agriculture post: Dr. Elsa Murano, a former U.S. agriculture undersecretary for food safety, who is Cuban-American, and Abel Maldonado, a Mexican-American who is a former California lieutenant governor and co-owner of Runway Vineyards.

I imagine Trump’s interior monologue for his cabinet choices has gone something like this:

Lessee. Solid, silver-haired white guy for State. Check. Retired general for Defense. Check. Personal financial crony for Treasury. Check. What else? Teachers are all women, so Betsy is good for Education. Urban is code for black, so Ben will fit in at HUD. Lotta oil wells in Texas, so maybe a Texan for Energy. Perry can do it. Somebody exotic-looking for UN ambassador. Nikki really looks the part. Asians are bad drivers, maybe Elaine can get through to them at Transportation. Fill out the rest with a bunch of dull white guys. I’ll let Pence take care of it. And Agriculture. Hmmm. Gotta be Hispanic, right? They’re the ones who pick all the crops. But who?

If only I were just joking with this.

See original:  

Trump Looking for Hispanic to Take Agriculture Post

Posted in FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump Looking for Hispanic to Take Agriculture Post

Why Ben Carson’s HUD Confirmation Hearing Should Probe His Tie to a Felonious Dentist

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Donald Trump’s selection of Ben Carson as the new secretary of housing and urban development is puzzling. After all, Carson was a world-renowned brain surgeon who has never held a government job before. Recently, a top adviser to Carson noted that the retired doctor was not interested in joining the Trump administration because “he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency.” Yet Carson two weeks ago did claim he had sufficient experience for the HUD job, saying, “I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area.” But his campaign website’s issues page made no mention of housing policy. And the extent of his public pronouncements on housing seems restricted to an odd statement in which he compared attempts to desegregate public housing to “failed socialist experiments.”

Yet Carson does have experience with real estate and home building, thanks to his association with an investor who once pleaded guilty to committing fraud.

Much of Carson’s personal wealth, estimated to be at least $8 million, is tied up in a handful of real estate deals. These deals were engineered with the assistance of a close friend named Alfonso Costa. Costa was once a successful Pittsburgh dentist, but he went into the real estate game full time after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to commit health insurance fraud. Now Costa runs a successful commercial and high-end luxury real estate empire with properties in Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Italy, and elsewhere. Costa also heads the Pittsburgh office of Carson’s charity, and he appears to have managed Carson’s real estate investments.

An investigation by Mother Jones last fall showed that Carson’s investments included ownership of a commercial office building in suburban Pittsburgh that netted Carson and his wife between $200,000 and $2 million in 2015. The holding companies used to buy this building were registered at Costa’s home, and Costa managed the buildings on behalf of Carson.

But that’s not Carson’s only apparent involvement with Costa. On his most recent personal financial disclosure forms, Carson listed owning a plot of land in Palm Beach County, Florida, which seems to be a rather grand horse farm:

But according to property records, the estate was actually owned by Costa’s real estate development company. For more than a year, it was listed for sale at $10 million, but records show it has never been sold. Sotheby’s currently lists the farm, which includes a riding ring, 22-stalls, brick floors, tack rooms, and a small apartment for a caretaker, for rent at $330,000 a month. Carson’s campaign refused to confirm his role in the investment.

In response to questions from Mother Jones about Costa, Carson a year ago said:

Al Costa is my best friend. Al Costa is my very best friend. I know his heart. I am proud to call him my friend. I have always and will continue to stand by him. That is what real friends do!

Carson’s relationship with Costa dates back to before Costa’s 2007 arrest and indictment on the health care fraud charge. In a 2013 book, Carson wrote that doctors who commit health care fraud should get “the Saudi Arabian Solution,” although he allowed he “would not advocate chopping off people’s limbs.” But years earlier Carson had appeared in court as a character witness for Costa and had asked the judge to impose a lenient sentence on his friend. At that time, he wrote in a letter to the court, “Next to my wife of 32 years, there is no one on this planet I trust more than Al Costa.”

Carson and Costa have vacationed together, and Carson has spent time at a luxury villa owned by Costa on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

In years past, HUD has been an agency prone to cronyism and corruption. So it might be worthwhile for senators involved in Carson’s confirmation to vet Carson closely and to examine his relationship with a convicted felon.

View article:  

Why Ben Carson’s HUD Confirmation Hearing Should Probe His Tie to a Felonious Dentist

Posted in FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Ben Carson’s HUD Confirmation Hearing Should Probe His Tie to a Felonious Dentist