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Looking for a CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall drinking game? Bingo!

So you’ve decided to watch CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall on Wednesday evening. That means you’re either a climate wonk who’s willing to spend seven hours of your precious free time listening to politicians prattle about global warming, or you can’t figure out how to change the channel. Either way, hello and welcome!

The town hall’s rules of engagement are simple. Ten presidential candidates will have 40 minutes each to share their ideas for fixing humanity’s biggest and scariest problem ever. And what better way to prepare you to digest that marathon strategy-fest than a little climate action aperitif?

That’s right, we’ve come up with the ultimate drinking game to complement the delicate aroma of the world bursting into flames. (Though abstainers should feel free to stick with us and sub a couple of Marianne Williamson’s pre-debate yoga moves).

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If you follow our nifty drinking guide, our goal is to leave you sober enough to decipher Bernie’s thick Brooklyn accent but drunk enough to keep the TV on when Biden promises to unlock the power of “American innovation.” (Drink!)

Ready? Let’s go.

How to play

The game itself is simple: climate candidate bingo! Keep tabs on each presidential wannabe’s quotable quotes and take a sip for each phrase that gets mentioned. We’re sure the multiple hours of dense, environmental policy proposals will just fly by. (You can download a PDF version of the bingo board here.)


The games begin at 5 p.m. Eastern with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. The “fun” won’t end until Cory Booker closes out starting at 11:20 p.m., so consider chugging some water at least every time CNN switches moderators or you’ll be Wolf Blitzer-ed by the time Amy Klobuchar rolls up.

5:00 p.m. Julián Castro
5:40 p.m. Andrew Yang
6:20 p.m. Kamala Harris
7:00 p.m. Amy Klobuchar
8:00 p.m. Joe Biden
8:40 p.m. Bernie Sanders
9:20 p.m. Elizabeth Warren
10:00 p.m. Pete Buttigieg
10:40 p.m. Beto O’Rourke
11:20 p.m. Cory Booker

Pregame idea: Raise a glass to the dearly (Democratically) departed.

Your brain (and liver) should probably be grateful that not all of the original 20-some Democratic candidates have made it this far in the election cycle. But a few drop-outs had some interesting climate ideas along the way. If you’re up for pregaming, consider pouring one out for the following candidates:

Jay Inslee — Ah, the original “climate candidate.” The Washington governor’s impressive environmental record and, um, crowd appeal will be sorely missed during this town hall. I would tell you to take a shot for every climate plan Inslee released during his run for president but there are six of them and I’m not trying to kill you. So slowly sip a sustainable beverage for dear old Jay as you scan the remaining candidates for your new “climate daddy.” (Google if you dare.)

John Hickenlooper — The former Colorado governor is gone from the presidential foray but not forgotten (because he’s running for Senate). His climate plan, however, which didn’t do much to offset his history of boosting fracking in his state, might merit a little forgetting. If you do drink to his memory, just make sure it’s not fracking fluid — that’s John’s job.

Kirsten Gillibrand — The #metoo candidate was the most recent campaign casualty in the rapidly thinning Democratic primary. She is survived by her impressive $10 trillion climate plan, which includes a tax on carbon pollution. Raise a glass of whiskey, Gillibrand’s “favorite comfort food,” to that.

Bonus doomsday dares

Need some additional entertainment? Spice up the evening with a few of the following challenges:

Phone your grandma when Joe Biden calls one of the other full-grown adults on stage “kid.”
Shotgun a Michelob Ultra every time Elizabeth Warren gets raucous applause for one of her six climate plans.
Have a friend go into another room and read last year’s entire 2,000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Whoever cries themselves to sleep first wins!
Scream “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” at the TV when someone uses JFK’s moon landing project as a metaphor for taking on climate change.

Seven hours of climate policy might feel like a poor substitution for, say, an official climate debate, but it’s a major step up for broadcast media. Last year, national broadcast networks spent only 142 combined minutes discussing the issue.

Ideally, an uptick in coverage would be spread out over the course of several months, not concentrated in one brutally long political masterclass. But the occasion seems to have prompted a number of 2020 procrastinators to release climate plans ahead of the event. On Tuesday, Warren, Klobuchar, and Booker unveiled proposals, and Buttigieg slid in just under the wire, releasing his climate plan Wednesday morning. Harris said she also intended to release a plan pre-town hall.

But you know what? We’ll take what we can get, even if it’s too little too — Ding dong! Who’s there? The delivery guy with the baked potato you drunkenly ordered in honor of Amy Klobuchar.

Go to bed.

Excerpt from: 

Looking for a CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall drinking game? Bingo!

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Hurricane season 2019 is almost here. Here’s a preview.

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The official start to hurricane season is still two months away, but forecasters released their first previews of the season this week.

Both forecasts, from Colorado State University and AccuWeather, anticipate roughly near-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. Although that might sound good, it’s actually a bit of a surprise given the building El Niño, which typically dampens hurricane formation off the coastline of the eastern United States.

“A near normal season can be devastating,” CSU meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said in an interview with Grist. “Even a below normal season like 1992 can cause huge problems.”

That year, Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida. At the time, Andrew was the most damaging hurricane in U.S. history. Since then, five hurricanes have topped it, including three since 2017 — Harvey, Maria, and Irma. Last year, Hurricanes Florence and Michael both caused billions of dollars of damage in the Carolinas and Florida, respectively.

This year, forecasters expect 12 to 14 named storms, of which five to seven will become hurricanes, and two or three will grow into major hurricanes with sustained wind speeds exceeding 110 mph. That’s roughly in-line with long-term averages, though scientists think climate change is generally making stronger hurricanes more common.

Should El Niño strengthen more than currently forecast, wind patterns in the upper atmosphere might become increasingly unfavorable for stronger hurricanes, which could provide a much-needed break to regions that are still recovering from the last two disastrous hurricane seasons.

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Hurricane season 2019 is almost here. Here’s a preview.

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Meet Hurricane Beryl, now aimed at the Caribbean

The first hurricane of the 2018 season has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s headed toward the Caribbean. Those aren’t welcome words, especially considering the region’s fragile recovery after last year’s record-breaking storms.

On Friday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded a tropical storm in the central Atlantic to Hurricane Beryl, with top wind speeds of 80 mph. The storm’s hurricane-force winds are only 20 miles wide, relatively small for a hurricane, so Beryl’s behavior is especially unpredictable.

In advance of the storm, Puerto Rico’s government has opened more than 400 shelters and started distributing satellite radios to mayors. Even more worrisome: Beryl’s path takes it dangerously close to tiny Dominica, an island-nation of 75,000 people still struggling to recover after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Maria last year. Dominica’s government has already circulated a list of 120 shelters.

Beryl could strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane this weekend with winds of up to 100 mph before entering the eastern Caribbean on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Thereafter, it’s forecasted to steadily weaken as it passes by Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Islands along Beryl’s path could face torrential rains of 4 to 8 inches — enough to cause flash flooding, worrying enough in normal circumstances.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said that, despite the storm’s expected weakening, Beryl remains “a danger due to the vulnerable condition of Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico, which just finished restoring power to all of its municipalities on July 1 — 284 days after Maria made landfall — is simply not ready for another storm. Tens of thousands of people are living in homes without permanent roofs, and the power grid routinely fails during passing showers. A recent independent estimate conducted by Harvard University showed that more than 4,000 people likely died in the storm and its aftermath, making it the deadliest natural disaster in modern American history. The island’s recovery was plagued by delays and indifference by the federal government — meaning that many of those deaths were likely preventable.

Beryl could also pose significant setback for Dominica’s recovery efforts. The country lost half of its buildings from Maria’s 160 mph winds, and is in the middle of a transformational change to prepare for the future storms of a warmer world.

The National Hurricane Center plans updated forecasts every six hours until Beryl dissipates, likely on Tuesday.

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Meet Hurricane Beryl, now aimed at the Caribbean

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NOAA: Like 2017, 2018 will be a record year for floods

Thanks to global warming-induced sea-level rise, coastal waters are increasingly spilling into communities. In a report released Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration quantified the extent of that inundation with some sobering statistics.

The bottom line: As a whole, the U.S. is experiencing more coastal flooding than ever.


NOAA scientists analyzed data regarding high-tide flooding —defined as flooding that causes public inconveniences, like road closures — from nearly 100 coastal water-level gauges across the country in the past meteorological year (May 2017 through April 2018). Since 2000, the report says, parts of the U.S., primarily along the eastern seaboard, have experienced more than a 250-percent increase in yearly flooding.

“Due to sea level rise, the national average trend in high-tide flood frequency is now more than 50 percent higher than it was 20 years ago, and 100 percent higher than it was 30 years ago,” oceanographer and report author William Sweet said in a conference call with reporters.

And in the coming meteorological year, he said, “Records are expected to continue to be broken.”


Here are the takeaways from Sweet and his colleagues’ findings:

2017 was a record-breaking year for flooding. More than 25 percent of coastline areas monitored either met or surpassed their record number of flood days.
National records were broken, too. Across the country, there were an average of six flood days at each gauge that NOAA monitored — that’s more than any previous year.
The northeast Atlantic and western Gulf of Mexico Coast regions were hit the hardest — Boston, Atlantic City, and Galveston, Texas, all broke flooding records and experienced some of the most flood days nationally.
Extreme weather played a role. Storms like Hurricane Irma and nor’easters that struck New England helped contribute to the upticks in water levels.
Notably, the official report does not implicate climate change — those words are not mentioned.
What’s on tap for 2018? You guessed it! More floods. The report predicts that in the 2018 meteorological year, there will be 60 percent more high-tide floods than at the start of the century — and possible mild El Niño conditions over the next year will likely play a role in that.

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NOAA: Like 2017, 2018 will be a record year for floods

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Here’s the one dude defending Trump’s latest bid to save coal

President Trump keeps trying to make coal happen. Last week, he told Energy Secretary Rick Perry to extend a lifeline to unprofitable coal and nuclear plants that are struggling to survive while competing against natural gas plants and renewables.

The rationale for propping up these plants? We might need their power soon. The United States keeps shutting down old power plants and some worry we’re losing too much too fast. In an op-ed  supporting Trump’s move, Terry Jarrett, a former regulator of Missouri’s utilities, argues we’re going to be sorry we don’t have that extra capacity.

Jarrett points out a Department of Energy finding that without coal plants, the Eastern U.S. would have suffered serve electricity shortages and blackouts during last winter’s “bomb cyclone.”

Blackouts aren’t just inconvenient and expensive — as we saw in Puerto Rico, they can be deadly. Without electricity, pumps stop pushing water into houses, sewage systems back up, and ventilators flatline in hospitals.

That study Jarrett cites notes that during the harsh weather, congestion in pipelines kept natural gas plants from ramping up, while wind and solar generation faltered. But does that mean blackouts are more likely if we don’t bail out coal and nuclear plants? Not according to another DOE study, which concluded that retiring old plants and building a diverse set of new plants actually would make the energy system more resilient.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Richard Glick cited this second study while rejecting the Trump administration’s last bid to save unprofitable plants in January. “There is no evidence in the record to suggest that temporarily delaying the retirement of uncompetitive coal and nuclear generators would meaningfully improve the resilience of the grid,” Glick wrote. Trump appointed Glick, and all but one of the other FERC commissioners (they may thwart this new proposal as well).

This proposal is unpopular not just among Trump appointees, but also fossil fuel companies, and utilities, along with the renewables industry and environmental groups (obviously).

Although there are some environmentalists, like those at Third Way, who favor subsidizing nuclear plants, they aren’t buying the assertion that we’ll have blackouts if we don’t we keep old nuclear and coal plants running.

So there’s a ridiculously broad coalition of interests saying this is a dumb idea. It’s harder to find people supporting this idea, whether they care about climate change or not. It’s probably safe to say that Jarrett, who likes to tweet articles from climate denier websites, belongs to the latter category.

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Here’s the one dude defending Trump’s latest bid to save coal

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Tom Cotton Shouted Down After Defending Trump’s Refusal to Release Taxes

Mother Jones

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As more Republican lawmakers put pressure on President Donald Trump to finally disclose his tax returns, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Monday held firm in defending the president’s refusal to deliver on his key campaign promise by repeating the original excuse Trump offered when he was a candidate.

“As far as I’m aware, the president said he’s still under audit,” Cotton said at a town hall meeting in Little Rock, after a constituent asked the Arkansas senator if he’d “take the initiative” and force Trump to release the relevant documents.

“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find out where Donald Trump has connections overseas,” he continued. “He normally has his names on buildings.”

The response prompted loud jeers from the audience as well as demands for Cotton to “do your job”—a chant that’s been frequently used in contentious town halls across the country, where Republican lawmakers have been met by constituents angered by White House policies and congressional cooperation with the administration.

With the approach of tax day, the question of whether Republicans would press Trump to disclose his returns became a popular refrain during the meetings:

When Congress returns from its recess next week, the president will face his next legislative battle and rewrite the tax code. An increasing number of congressional Republicans have used the opportunity to insist Trump disclose his own returns or face insurmountable opposition as he attempts to satisfy another one of his campaign promises. In February, one of Trump’s fiercest supporters, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), surprised constituents when he said Trump should “absolutely” release his taxes.

A failure to overhaul the tax system would be the administration’s second legislative embarrassment in a row, following the GOP’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act last month.

Several state lawmakers, including a few Republicans, have recently proposed legislation to avoid this problem in the future, by mandating all presidential candidates release their returns in order to get on future state ballots.

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Tom Cotton Shouted Down After Defending Trump’s Refusal to Release Taxes

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The Latest: Trump Still Insisting on Vote for Doomed Health Care Bill

Mother Jones

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So here’s where we are. Apparently things are getting worse, not better, for the Republican health care bill. More and more members of the House are publicly saying they’ll vote No, and it’s threatening to turn into a bandwagon. Who wants to vote in favor of a terrible bill that’s going down to defeat anyway?

Paul Ryan and the rest of the House leadership is considering pulling the bill rather than suffering through an embarrassing loss, and Ryan has told President Trump he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Trump still wants a vote, though, so he can take down the names of the No voters and swear eternal vengeance on them. He’s already declared war on the Freedom Caucus.

Anyway, the vote is only about an hour away (3:30 pm Eastern), and it hasn’t been officially postponed yet. Sean Spicer just told the press corps that it was still going forward. Paul Ryan may know when to beat a tactical retreat, but Trump is not really a tactical retreat kind of guy. Most likely, he’s going to insist on a vote no matter what. And the bill will go down.

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The Latest: Trump Still Insisting on Vote for Doomed Health Care Bill

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Conflict Minerals Are About to Get a Reprieve

Mother Jones

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most war-torn places on earth. Much of the money to keep the war going comes from mining operations in the eastern part of the country that are are effectively controlled not by the distant central government, but by militias and warlords that enslave workers and smuggle ore out through the DRC’s eastern border. In an effort to cut off their source of funding, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill includes a provision that discourages companies from buying the so-called 3TG metals (tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold) from conflict areas. So how has that worked out?

That depends on who you ask, of course. But a surprising number of neutral and lefty sources think the policy has been a failure. For example, here is Lauren Wolfe of Women Under Siege:

Barnard College political science professor Séverine Autesserre has…estimated that only 8 percent of the country’s ongoing conflict has anything to do with natural resources. Moreover, in the September 2014 letter, the signatories noted that “armed groups are not dependent on mineral revenue for their existence.” Many groups can easily turn from minerals to palm oil, charcoal, timber, or cannabis to make money — not to mention extortion, illegal taxes, and other means.

….When Dodd-Frank passed, Congolese President Joseph Kabila put a ban on all mining and mineral exports in North and South Kivu and Maniema provinces. Though the ban was officially lifted in 2011…its ripple effects have persisted: Many artisanal mines have remained closed, and countless livelihoods have been destroyed, according to academics and activists. Laura Seay estimated in 2012 that between five and 12 million Congolese had been “inadvertently and directly negatively affected” by the loss of employment created by the ban and its aftershocks.

Here is the conclusion of a study by Dominic Parker and Bryan Vadheim:

Using geo-referenced data, we find the legislation increased looting of civilians, and shifted militia battles towards unregulated gold mining territories. These findings are a cautionary tale about the possible unintended consequences of imposing boycotts, trade embargoes, and resource certification schemes on war-torn regions.

The GAO says that most Western companies have no way of telling whether the minerals they buy come from conflict zones:

Ben Radly, one of the researchers behind We Will Win Peace, a documentary about the brutal warfare in the eastern DRC, says he has learned to be cautious about well-meaning movements:

There are three shortcomings to the “conflict minerals” campaign that came out of this work. It misrepresents the causal drivers of rape and conflict in the eastern DRC. It assumes the dependence of armed groups on mineral revenue for their survival. It underestimates the importance of artisanal mining to employment, local economies and therefore, ironically, security.

….The relationship between advocacy organizations headquartered in Western cities and their marketed constituency of marginalized and disadvantaged African groups is…tenuous. One of the most striking elements during the making of the film was the difficulty of finding Congolese groups in rural and peri-urban areas who knew about and supported the “conflict minerals” campaign. This suggests a lack of engagement with the people who stand to be most directly affected by campaign outcomes.

There are, of course, lots of advocates who continue to favor the ban on conflict minerals. They say that one of biggest militias in the conflict area has been put out of business by the ban, and that more progress can be made by strengthening the hold of the central government in the eastern DRC and tightening the programs designed to trace the source of minerals. For the most part, though, their evidence of success tends to be very anecdotal.

Beyond all this, there’s another reason it’s difficult to know for sure what the ban is and isn’t responsible for. The UN has been spending a billion dollars a year on peacekeeping operations in the conflict area for over a decade, and it’s all but impossible to know how much of the recent success—if success there’s been—is due to the Dodd-Frank ban and how much is due to the UN.

Bottom line: it’s not easy to know whether the conflict mineral ban—which Europe joined in 2015—has been successful. The whole issue is also highly politicized, since large corporations that buy 3TG minerals have fought against the ban since the start.

Why bring this up now? Because a leaked memo suggests that President Trump plans to sign a memorandum suspending the conflict mineral ban for two years. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not. However, I sure wish I had more confidence that it wasn’t just a bit of payback to companies like Intel, which have lobbied for a long time to get the ban rescinded. Trump is hoping that these companies will play ball with his continued PR campaign to take credit for every new factory built in America—as Intel did today—and this sure seems like the kind of reward that will help keep his gong show going.


Conflict Minerals Are About to Get a Reprieve

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We’re Live Blogging the Vice Presidential Debate of 2016

Mother Jones

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This was a more normal debate than last week’s, which makes it harder to call. Tim Kaine was very much the aggressor, interrupting frequently and demanding that Pence defend the most egregious of Donald Trump’s outbursts. Pence was calmer, and kept insisting that Trump had never said the stuff Kaine accused him of saying. This wasn’t true, but there’s no telling if the audience at home believed him anyway. In the future, perhaps candidates should be allowed to have a series of video clips they’re allowed to display during their answers?

On style, then, Pence probably won with his calm demeanor. On substance, it was a KO for Kaine. Trump really did say all the stuff Kaine accused him of, but Pence simply refused to engage with it. Trump did casually say he didn’t care much if other countries got nukes. Trump did say that women who get abortions should be punished.1 Trump’s tax plan does include huge cuts for millionaires. Trump did promise to release his taxes and then reneged on it. Trump (and Pence) have called Vladimir Putin a better leader than Obama. Trump has trash talked the military. And he did call NATO obsolete and then suggest he might not bother defending the Baltics if Russia invaded them.

Neither Pence nor Kaine made any terrible gaffes, and neither landed any killing blows. This means that partisanship probably weighs most heavily here, but even with that in mind I’d give the debate to Kaine. The post-debate commentary is going to make it clear that Kaine was mostly accurate about Trump, and that Pence simply wasn’t willing or able to defend him. I don’t know if that will be devastating for Pence, but it won’t make him look good. Overall, I give Kaine a B+ and Pence a B-.

As for Elaine Quijano, I really don’t know. She didn’t take control of the debate at all, and frequently allowed Pence and Kaine to talk when she should have shut them up—but just as frequently moved on when she should have let them talk. Was this because of the debate rules? Because Pence and Kaine refused to abide by the rules? Or because she’s a bad moderator? I don’t know.

A full transcript of the debate is here.

1He took it back the next day, but he still said it.

In a presidential campaign featuring superstars Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have faded so far into the background they’re almost invisible. In fact, they’ve both avoided controversy so assiduously that the main attacks against Kaine are about his defense of murderers several decades ago, while the biggest complaint about Pence is that he claimed cigarettes weren’t killers back in the year 2000. I’m exaggerating here, but only barely.

Actually, what most people seem to be looking forward to is Pence’s defense of Donald Trump’s various meltdowns. Sadly, he’s probably well prepped for this. But you never know. There might be fireworks anyway.

10:35 – And that’s a wrap.

10:33 – Pence: We’ll unify America by bringing change to Washington DC, standing tall in the world, and supercharging the economy. Um.

10:31 – How will you unify America if you win? Kaine: Republicans respect Clinton. She has a track record of working across the aisle. Kaine says he does too. Not a bad answer.

10:27 – Pence opposes abortion. Kaine supports women making their own choices.

10:26 – Now it’s a lovefest. Everybody agrees that faith is great. Everybody agrees that the other guy’s faith is great.

10:23 – Now let’s talk about faith. You will be unsurprised that both men are deeply, deeply informed by their faith.

10:20 – Quijano: I remind you both that the question is about North Korea.

10:19 – Now Kaine is talking about foundations too. The Clinton Foundation is great! But the Trump Foundation is “octopus like” and breaks the law all the time.

10:16 – What would you do to prevent North Korea from developing a missile that can reach the United States? Pence delivers a bit of mush and then….returns to Trump’s taxes and the Clinton Foundation. Huh?

10:11 – Finally Kaine says something not really true: that Trump didn’t know Russia annexed Crimea two years ago. Pence goes after it. But he’s still stuck on most of Kaine’s accusations because they’re all on tape.

10:10 – Kaine has generally been pretty aggressive in his accusations against Trump. Pence is constantly rolling his eyes and saying “Oh please” or something similar. But he rarely even tries to explain why Kaine is wrong. He just switches to an attack on Hillary Clinton. I guess he doesn’t have much choice since Kaine has mostly been accurate.

10:07 – Now Kaine makes it explicit: He’s tried to get an answer on nukes “six times.” Pence won’t defend Trump’s position. Quijano bails out Pence by moving to a new subject.

10:05 – Kaine keeps poking Pence on Trump’s casual attitude toward other countries getting nuclear weapons. Pence resolutely refuses to deal with this.

9:58 – A question about Aleppo. And speaking of Aleppo, Gary Johnson says his ignorance of geography is a benefit. Folks who know all those foreign countries and foreign leaders just end up wanting to attack them. Seriously.

9:54 – What is an “intelligence surge”? Kaine: Expanding our intelligence capacity and building better alliances. Okey doke.

9:49 – Is America more or less safe than it was eight years ago? For the record, I’d say it’s about equally dangerous.

9:48 – Kaine doing a pretty good job of running down why Trump is dangerous on foreign affairs: Trash talks the military, wants to tear apart alliances, he loves dictators, and he wants everyone to have nukes.

9:44 – Back to immigration. Pence trying to soften Trump’s plan. Kaine trying to make sure everyone knows every single detail.

9:41 – Pence now trying to make case that “basket of deplorables” is equivalent to all of Trump’s insults. It’s not working.

9:40 – Interesting that Pence rather obviously refused to say the word “wall” when talking about Trump’s immigration plan.

9:34 – Pence: Enough with all this institutional racism crap. Kaine: We can’t be afraid to bring up issues of bias.

9:31 – Both guys agree that cops are great.

9:29 – What is Elaine Quijano doing? She’s not keeping either of these guys in line, and she’s only allowing a minute or two on each subject. Come on. This isn’t a race to see who can talk about the most subjects in 90 minutes.

9:27 – Pence to Kaine: “There they go again.” Oh please.

9:26 – What the heck are the rules for this debate? Are interruptions allowed? Are there time limits? Or what?

9:22 – Pence to Kaine: “You can roll out the numbers” but the economy sucks no matter what all your egghead numbers say.

9:21 – Kaine on Trump: “His economic plan is a Trump first plan.” Meh.

9:19 – Nobody is making any funny faces yet.

9:16 – So far, our moderator is not doing a good job of keeping things in line. Maybe she’s restrained by bad rules?

9:14 – Both candidates are trying to be tough. It’s a little comedic. Sort of like five-year-olds trying to look tough next to John Wayne.

9:12 – Why do so many people think Donald Trump is erratic? How much time do we have to answer this question?

9:11 – Why don’t people trust Hillary Clinton? Hmmm. Let me think.

9:03 – And we’re off. Can I remember to use Eastern time zone time stamps this time? Wait and see!

9:00 – CNN can’t seem to make up its mind whether this debate is going to be a snoozefest or the biggest moment ever in debate history.

8:55 – David Axelrod: There will be no painting outside the lines tonight.

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We’re Live Blogging the Vice Presidential Debate of 2016

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Almonds Are Still Sucking Up Lots of California’s Water

Mother Jones

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Two new data points on the ongoing California drought and its impact on the state’s booming and thirsty farms:

• In California’s agriculture-rich, water-poor San Joaquin Valley, H2O from the state’s big irrigation projects has been especially scarce in recent years. As a result, farmers have had to rely heavily on water pumped from underground aquifers—and they’ve extracted so much of it that since 2013, land has been sinking in large swaths of the region, fouling up canals, bridges, roads, and other vital infrastructure and racking up billions of dollars in damage.

This year? Here’s an eye-popping report from the Sacramento Bee:

New wells are going in faster and deeper than ever. Farmers dug about 2,500 wells in the San Joaquin Valley last year alone, the highest number on record. That was five times the annual average for the previous 30 years, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of state and local data

Back in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown reversed a long tradition of Wild West groundwater management in California by signing a new law requiring the state’s most stressed watersheds to stop drawing down aquifers faster than they’re naturally replenished. The catch: The guidelines don’t kick in until 2040. In the meantime, San Joaquin Valley growers are embroiled in a “kind of groundwater arms race,” the Bee reports.

Aquifers don’t respect property lines, and in many cases, farmers with older, shallower wells are afraid of losing water to neighbors who are digging deeper wells and lowering the groundwater table. So they invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to drill new wells of their own. All told, farmers are expected to spend $303 million this year alone to pump groundwater, according to UC Davis researchers.

• In a new study presented last Wednesday at the Geological Society of America, Eastern Kentucky University’s Kelly Watson drills down into one of the destinations of all that water extraction: the state’s massive and growing base of almond groves.

Using satellite imagery, Watson looked at land conversions in California’s Central Valley (made up of two valleys, the San Joaquin and the Sacramento) between 2007 and 2014. She found that land devoted to the delicious (but water-intensive) nut had expanded 14 percent over that period—not surprising, given the ongoing almond boom.

The interesting finding, though, is that a huge chunk of the new almond territory was converted from fallow, completely un-irrigated land, including grasslands, wetlands, and forests. As for the rest, some of it switched over from less water-intensive crops like corn, cotton, wheat, and tomatoes; and some had been used for even thirstier crops like sugar beets, alfalfa, and clover. The bottom line: Watson calculates the net impact of the expansion was a 27 percent increase in annual irrigation needs for the converted land, putting massive new pressure on those struggling aquifers.

Over on Forbes, science writer Mallory Pickett notes that the study has yet to be published—it’s currently in peer review—and that “aerial images can only paint broad brush pictures” of the situation on the ground. But it’s not a pretty picture.

More here – 

Almonds Are Still Sucking Up Lots of California’s Water

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