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The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw – Bruce Barcott


The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw

One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird

Bruce Barcott

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 5, 2008

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

“The first time we came here I didn’t know what to expect,” she told me as we paddled upstream. “What we found just blew me away. Jaguars, pumas, river otters, howler monkeys. The place was like a Noah’s Ark for all the endangered species driven out of the rest of Central America. There was so much life! That expedition was when I first saw the macaws.” As a young woman, Sharon Matola lived many lives. She was a mushroom expert, an Air Force survival specialist, and an Iowa housewife. She hopped freight trains for fun and starred as a tiger tamer in a traveling Mexican circus. Finally she found her one true calling: caring for orphaned animals at her own zoo in the Central American country of Belize. Beloved as “the Zoo Lady” in her adopted land, Matola became one of Central America’s greatest wildlife defenders. And when powerful outside forces conspired with the local government to build a dam that would flood the nesting ground of the last scarlet macaws in Belize, Sharon Matola was drawn into the fight of her life. In The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw , award-winning author Bruce Barcott chronicles Sharon Matola’s inspiring crusade to stop a multinational corporation in its tracks. Ferocious in her passion, she and her confederates–a ragtag army of courageous locals and eccentric expatriates–endure slander and reprisals and take the fight to the courtroom and the boardroom, from local village streets to protests around the world. As the dramatic story unfolds, Barcott addresses the realities of economic survival in Third World countries, explores the tension between environmental conservation and human development, and puts a human face on the battle over globalization. In this marvelous and spirited book, Barcott shows us how one unwavering woman risked her life to save the most beautiful bird in the world. "Barcott’s compelling narrative is suspenseful right up to the last moment." –Publisher's Weekly "An engrossing but sad account of a brave and quirky champion of nature." –Kirkus “…A riveting account of one woman’s fight to save one of the last bastions of an endangered Species. . . Barcott writes of international politics, ecology and endangered species, and human relations with equal facility. This real page-turner of narrative nonfiction is hard to put down.” –Booklist


The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw – Bruce Barcott

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The shutdown shows just how vital government scientists are

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

Instead of figuring out how many Pacific hake fishermen can catch sustainably, as his job demands, scientist Ian Taylor is at home with his 4-month-old daughter, biding his time through the partial government shutdown.

Taylor’s task is to assess the size and age of hake and other commercially harvested fish species in the productive grounds from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska. These stock assessments are then used by federal managers to approve permits to West Coast fishing boats. Without Taylor’s science report, the season could be delayed — and the impact of the shutdown could spread beyond the 800,000 government employees now on furlough to include boat captains, deck hands, and others working in the seafood industry who won’t be able to head to sea on schedule. That’s what happened to Alaska crabbers during the last big federal shutdown in 2013.

Taylor, an operations research analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, says he’s frustrated that he can’t do his job. He can’t even make phone calls or use email. “It feels like a terrible situation,” he says. “Important work is not getting done.”

President Trump says he will not sign legislation to operate large chunks of the federal government unless Democrats agree to approve more than $5.7 billion for a wall along the Mexican border. Trump said Monday he plans to visit the border Thursday, hinting that any compromise will likely not happen before then.

Some federal science agencies are open, such as the National Institutes for Health and the Department of Energy, since their appropriations bills were already signed by Trump. Others, such as NASA, are continuing to operate key programs such as the International Space Station, although 95 percent of its 15,000 workers were sent home on December 22.

The shutdown has led to a hodgepodge of federal science-based activity across the country. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is sitting on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral ready for a planned launch on January 17, but without NASA personnel to oversee testing, that liftoff will be delayed. Crews that fly over the Atlantic to check on endangered Atlantic right whales and send those positions to commercial ships are still working, but they aren’t being paid.

Weather forecasters are working during the shutdown, but hundreds of scientists from NOAA and the National Weather Service have been banned from attending the annual American Meteorological Society meeting this week in Phoenix. Antonio Busalacchi was supposed to be on a panel with colleagues from federal weather agencies, but they didn’t show up. “Science is a community and this is where people come together to discuss common problems,” says Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of academic institutions that conduct and promote the study of earth sciences. “Last month, we were talking about the workforce in the future, but now we can’t discuss how best to go forward.”

Busalacchi is worried that he may have to shut down a meteorological research program UCAR runs called COSMIC that uses a fleet of existing GPS satellites to measure the atmosphere’s temperature and humidity. The data is then sent to federal NWS forecasters who use it to make both short-term weather and long-term climate predictions. UCAR runs the program with funds from the National Science Foundation, which isn’t giving out grant money right now, as well as help from NOAA and NASA.

“We may be running the risk to shut this program down because we are not getting the funds from the government,” he says. If COSMIC gets shut down, data analysis would be paused, potentially weakening some forecasts. But equally frustrating is the fact that Busalacchi is left in the dark on how to handle the program. With no information coming from his federal partners, he doesn’t know whether to keep spending money to sustain the program, or pull the plug.

Reams of scientific data are still being collected remotely by federally operated satellites, automated river gauges, or non-federal scientists, but the policies and permits that rely on this science are now in limbo. As a result, one legal expert worries that the shutdown could result in more air and water pollution being discharged by companies with permits that expire during the shutdown.

“None of the federal environmental laws are written in such a way that if the government is shut down, you can’t do anything,” says Kyla Bennett, senior attorney for the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which advocates on behalf of federal workers, and a former EPA employee. Instead, the law implies that companies can proceed on their own. “It says, if you don’t hear anything, go ahead.”

The Environmental Protection Agency furloughed about 14,000 of its employees, leaving just 753 “essential” workers on the job. That might make it more difficult for the agency to meet legal deadlines later this year for safety assessments of about 40 chemicals, according to a news report in the journal Nature. The agency has already postponed at least one upcoming advisory committee meeting related to the work.

Federal science workers are making do. Leslie Rissler, an evolutionary biologist and program director at the NSF, tweeted last week that she had applied for unemployment benefits. “This is a ridiculous shutdown unnecessarily affecting thousands of federal employees and families. Wishing all of them, and this country, better days ahead.”

For his part, fisheries scientist Taylor is budgeting his savings and using his time wisely. “I’ve been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix,” he says from his home near Seattle. “We’ve been cleaning out our closets.”

See the original article here – 

The shutdown shows just how vital government scientists are

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New NAFTA deal omits climate change, and hands oil and gas yet another win

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

President Donald Trump’s deal to tweak the trade agreement among the United States, Mexico, and Canada won early praise for changes meant to raise wages and improve safety regulations on cross-border trucking.

But on Monday, environmental groups panned the accord to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing it includes “corporate giveaways” for fossil fuel giants, excludes binding agreements on lead pollution, and contains no mention of human-caused global warming.

Neither “climate” nor “warming” are among the words in the 31 pages of the new deal’s environment chapter.

NAFTA was long criticized for encouraging companies to shift polluting operations to Mexico, the poorest country with the laxest environmental rules in the trilateral trade agreement. Particular complaints focused on the investor-state dispute settlement process, a system in which companies have been historically afforded broad corporate rights that override local environmental regulations.

The new deal limits those rights, with one major exception: U.S. oil and gas companies. Under the rules, firms that have, or may at some point obtain, government contracts to drill or build infrastructure like pipelines and refineries in Mexico ― such as ExxonMobil Corp. ― can challenge new environmental safeguards Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to erect.

“It’s like saying, ‘From here on, we’re going to protect the henhouse by keeping all animals away, except for foxes, they’re cool,’” Ben Beachy, director of the Sierra Club’s living economy program, said in a phone interview.

That’s not the only giveaway for the oil and gas industry. The updated deal, which requires congressional approval, preserves a provision that requires the U.S. government to automatically approve all gas exports to Mexico, despite another rule mandating regulators consider the public interest.

“We urge Congress to approve” the revised deal, said Mike Sommers, chief of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s biggest lobby. “Retaining a trade agreement for North America will help ensure the U.S. energy revolution continues into the future.”

The deal, rebranded the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, tosses aside a standard set of seven multilateral environmental agreements that undergirded the last four U.S. trade deals. USCMA includes enforcement language taken from just one of the environmental accords, weakens the language from another two, and makes zero mention of the other four.

“Trump’s trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is a corporate giveaway intended to sharply limit the powers of government to protect people and the planet,” said Doug Norlen, director of economic policy at the nonpartisan Friends of the Earth. “This agreement is an attack on our ability to hold Big Oil and Gas accountable for the damage they cause to our communities.”

USCMA also includes a section on good regulatory practices that Beachy said “would be better named deregulation.”

The rules essentially give corporations an extra opportunity to challenge proposed regulations before they’re finalized, and ask for existing regulations to be repealed.

“We expect that, after Trump is out of office, we’re going to have to work hard to re-regulate,” he said. “Even after Trump leaves office, Trump’s NAFTA (revision) could extend his polluting legacy for years.”

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New NAFTA deal omits climate change, and hands oil and gas yet another win

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Jerry Brown has positioned himself as a climate change hero. Not everyone agrees.

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

Before they could enter the sleek and sterile conference space where California Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit is taking place this week, attendees were greeted Thursday morning by a scene of nonviolent chaos: Hundreds of protesters blocked entrances as they confronted police who guarded the star-studded event. Protesters sang and chanted, “Tell Jerry Brown, keep it in the ground,” and held replica oil pumps and rigs and “water for life” signs.

On a day that was otherwise dominated by business leaders and politicians congratulating themselves for their leadership in addressing the crisis of a rapidly warming planet, environmental and indigenous activists marched to the Moscone Center. One of the central messages to the rest of the world: Jerry Brown’s climate legacy isn’t worth all the hype.

Mother Jones

But why not? After all, Brown started his week by signing both SB 100, which promises carbon-free electricity by 2045, into a law and an even more ambitious executive order, pledging California to go entirely carbon-neutral by 2045. These were just a few of the many announcements California has rolled out this week to showcase its global leadership in the absence of federal action. But Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Change Law Institute, is unimpressed, noting that Brown has fallen short of doing all he can to curb emissions.

“It’s pushing the problem far into the future,” she says, “when we need to take action today.”

Story continues below

What Brown could do now that would have far more impact, Siegel and others argue, is stopping new oil permits for fossil fuel projects, creating a buffer around oil and gas development in areas where people work and live, and pledging to phase out California’s existing permits for fossil fuel extraction.

“The things we’re asking for are necessary and inevitable,” Siegel says. “They can’t be denied from a scientific perspective; they can’t be denied form a moral perspective. And we’re not going away until these things are done.”

A report by the advocacy group Oil Change International released in May shows that California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has approved more than 20,000 permits for new oil and gas wells since Brown began his final two terms as governor in 2011. Those numbers are incompatible with climate leaders’ stated goals to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the report claims. Oil Change notes that 5.4 million Californians live within a mile of oil and gas development, often in communities of color with high poverty rates.

Mother Jones

Brown was not alone as a target of protests. Conference co-chair and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was interrupted by anti-capitalist protesters holding signs when he took the stage to address the summit. Earlier Thursday, he compared the morning protesters — many of them Native Americans with the It Takes Roots coalition — to people advocating for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“We’ve got environmentalists protesting an environmental conference,” he said. “It reminds me of people who want to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep people out from a country we go to for vacations. Something’s crazy here.”

Outside the summit, the message appears to have an audience: An estimated 30,000 people marched in San Francisco this weekend calling for more world leaders to stop patting themselves on the back and make the commitments that are actually needed to contain warming — and those leaders include Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg.


Jerry Brown has positioned himself as a climate change hero. Not everyone agrees.

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Do Marigolds Really Repel Garden Pests?

Excerpt from:  

Do Marigolds Really Repel Garden Pests?

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In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California

Mother Jones

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A Honduran immigrant held at a troubled detention center in California’s high desert died Wednesday night while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Vincente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, was receiving treatment for multiple medical conditions while waiting for an immigration court to decide whether to deport him, according an ICE statement. He collapsed as he was playing soccer at the detention facility and died while en route to a local hospital.

Caceres-Maradiaga’s death is the latest in a string of fatalities among detainees held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is operated by the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison company. Three people held at the facility have died in the last three months, including Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan found hanging in his cell on March 22, and Sergio Alonso Lopez, a Mexican man who died of internal bleeding on April 13 after spending more than two months in custody.

Since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions. In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of “egregious errors” by the center’s medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms.

Yet last year, the city of Adelanto, acting as a middleman between ICE and GEO, made a deal to extend the company’s contract until 2021. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $111 per detainee per day, according to California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who has fought to curtail private immigration detention. After that point, ICE only has to pay $50 per detainee per day—an incentive to fill more beds.

Of California’s four privately run immigration detention centers, three use local governments as intermediaries between ICE and private prison companies. On Tuesday, the California senate voted 26-13 to ban such contracts, supporting a bill that could potentially close Adelanto when its contract runs out in 2021. The Dignity Not Detention Act, authored by Lara, would prevent local governments from signing or extending contracts with private prison companies to detain immigrants starting in 2019. The bill would also require all in-state facilities that hold ICE detainees, including both private detention centers and public jails, to meet national standards for detention conditions—empowering state prosecutors to hold detention center operators accountable for poor conditions inside their facilities.

An identical bill passed last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. “I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities,” Brown wrote in his veto message last September. But he deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which was then reviewing its use of for-profit immigration detention. In that review, the Homeland Security Advisory Council rejected the ongoing use of private prison companies to detain immigrants, citing the “inferiority of the private prison model.” Yet since President Donald Trump took office, the federal government has moved to expand private immigration detention, signing a $110 million deal with GEO in April to build the first new immigration detention center under Trump.

Nine people have died in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, which began October 1. Meanwhile, private prison stocks have nearly doubled in value since Election Day.

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In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California

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Los Straitjackets’ New Album Is Goofy and Sparkling

Mother Jones

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Los Straitjackets
What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets
Yep Roc

Courtesey of Yep Roc Music Group

Garbed in Mexican wrestling masks and specializing in surf guitar instrumentals, Los Straitjackets have refused to take themselves seriously since their mid-’90s debut album—at least on one level. In reality, these accomplished and tasteful players have repeatedly shown that it’s possible to invest a nostalgic, seemingly outdated style with a range of moods, from tender intimacy to rowdy exuberance. The bracing What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets is devoted entirely to songs written or co-written by the great Nick Lowe, their recent tourmate and a stellar songsmith since Britain’s pub rock days of the ’70s. Though Lowe’s probably best known for his lyrics, which can be either heartrending or smart-alecky, Los Straitjackets’ snappy versions of “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” and, of course, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” make a strong case for him as a gifted melodist too. This sparkling set is good fun from first note to last, and hopefully the harbinger of a full-fledged collaboration.

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Los Straitjackets’ New Album Is Goofy and Sparkling

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If There’s Going to Be a Wall, Let It Be This Collaboration Between American and Mexican Designers

Mother Jones

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

When President Trump appealed to the public to submit proposals for his “big, beautiful” border wall, you can be pretty sure that the plan presented by the Mexican American Design and Engineering Collective (MADE) was not what he had in mind.

In response to the president’s mad quest to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, the group of 14 designers, engineers, builders, and architects from the US and Mexico proposed something entirely different—a high-tech “ecotopia” called Otra Nation.

“Otra Nation will be the world’s first shared co-nation open to citizens of both countries and co-maintained by Mexico and the United States of America,” the group says in their proposal. “Besides sharing the same geographical conditions, the continuous exchange of information, knowledge, artistic expression and migration between sides will produce fertile ground to bring forth a hybrid sense of identity.”

Reflecting their ideology, the group is an even mix of US and Mexican professionals, and while they prefer to keep their identities anonymous, MADE spokesman, Memo Cruz, says that members of the group have worked with the last four US presidents and the last two Mexican ones. “We came together as people who wanted to come up with a solution to a broken system,” Memo said. “And sometimes to break a broken system is to make a new one.”

Far from the wall Trump envisions, the MADE collective wants to build a high-speed, electric hyperloop connecting different parts of Otra Nation. According to the group’s proposal, the new co-nation would be six miles wide and span the 1,200 miles from San Diego/Tijuana to the Gulf Coast. The land would be “drill free,” and used for a “regenerative agricultural system that will become a bread basket for the two countries.” To top it off, the whole thing would be powered completely by solar and other renewable energy sources, creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in trade.

Courtesy of Otra Nation

Among the 200-plus proposals submitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by the April 4th deadline, Otra Nation was definitely one of the more idealistic.

At the other end spectrum were walls made of wire mesh impossible to climb or cut, or constructed with one-way plexiglass panels so that US citizens could look into Mexico, but not the other way around.

Other designs were so whimsical that they could only be interpreted as a mockery of Trump’s ambitions—a wall made of organ pipes or a line of trees with hammocks strung between them.

From comical to xenophobic, the range of ideas submitted to DHS highlighted just how divided the US is when it comes to issues of immigration and border security. But while many of these proposals included green technology like solar panels or windmills, none acknowledged the true environmental consequences of building a wall along the border.

The border wall’s environmental footprint

That may be in part because we don’t really know. The last and only environmental review of US border security policy was conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service—the precursor to the DHS—in 2001. Effective for five years, the review has never been updated, and since then the size of the US Border patrol has more than doubled and hundreds of miles of fences and walls have been built.

This is the basis of a legal challenge by Arizona Congressmen Raul M. Grijalva and the Center for Biological Diversity put forth in early April. Citing the the Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit calls upon federal agencies to conduct an environmental analysis of the proposed wall before any construction takes place.

“American environmental laws are some of the oldest and strongest in the world, and they should apply to the borderlands just as they do everywhere else,” said Rep. Grijalva in a statement. “These laws exist to protect the health and well-being of our people, our wildlife, and the places they live. Trump’s wall—and his fanatical approach to our southern border—will do little more than perpetuate human suffering while irrevocably damaging our public lands and the wildlife that depend on them.”

Even without a review, it’s clear to environmentalists that Trump’s wall would be a disaster. “It would be the end of jaguars and ocelots in North America,” Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Center of Biological Diversity, said, naming only two out of the hundreds of animals whose migratory patterns and natural habitats would be jarringly broken by a 30-foot tall wall.

And, while information on the environmental impact of the US Border wall is scarce, a recent European study on the security fencing dividing countries in Eastern Europe and Asia confirms Serraglio’s fears. The study conducted by Norwegian scientists showed that the 15,000 to 19,000 miles of fence, much of which was erected in response to Europe’s growing refugee crisis, poses a “major threat” to wildlife.

Much more than just a security fence, Trumps wall will cross at least four wildlife refuges, potentially impacting 111 endangered species like jaguars, ocelots, black bears and Mexican grey wolves. Beyond imperiling sensitive animal populations, conservationists also argue that of the wall would cause flooding, erosion, and irreparable damage to countless acres of public lands like Big Bend National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

“We’ve invested millions of dollars in establishing and protecting these areas over the years,” Serraglio said. “It makes absolutely no sense to throw that all away because Donald Trump wants to wall off the border.”

We only need to look at 654 miles of barriers that have already been erected along the border under the Clinton and Bush administrations to see just how bad things can get, said Serraglio. He points to instances like the destruction of the Tijuana Estuary system by erosion, and the 2008 flash flood in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that occurred because the border barrier inhibited the natural flow of rain water. The same storm led to two deaths and $8 million dollars of damage on the other side of the barrier in Nogales, Mexico.

There’s got to be a better way

Of all the designs submitted for Trumps wall, Otra Nation may be the only one advocating for a dismantling of the existing fence line. “We actually think that we can remove the physical borders that have already been put up,” said Cruz.

According to the MADE spokesman, Otra Nation would provide better border security than any physical wall could by using a high-tech system of biometric surveillance and universal smart ID cards. “The ID system that we are proposing is the toughest ID system in the world,” Cruz said. “It is far more stringent than anything the US government has right now.”

The idea may have some Orwellian undertones, but for environmentalists Otra Nation’s wall-less border is a welcome alternative to Trump’s vision. Still, many conservationists stress that it’s not just the wall, but the roads, the vehicles, the buildings, the noise, the high-powered lights, and other security installations, all of which will take its toll on the land and its inhabitants.

For now though, Trump’s wall seems about as far from reality as Otra Nation’s vision of a new age “ecotopia.” The administration has yet to figure out who will pay for the project that the DHS now estimates will cost nearly $22 billion dollars, nor has Trump answered how he intends to build the wall when 1,255 miles, or 64% of the border, runs right down the middle of the Rio Grande. Barring the unlikely scenario that Mexico will elect to host the wall on their side of the river, the US will have to effectively cede a large section of the Rio Grande to Mexico, a move which would undoubtedly affect ranchers, landowners, energy companies, and the local communities that rely on the Rio Grande for water.

Despite these inconsistencies, the president seems hellbent on fulfilling his campaign promise to build a “great” wall to keep immigrants out of the United States. His budget already sets aside $1.4 billion for the initial development of the project, and the bid process is moving forward with the DHS expected to announce a shortlist of 20 proposals by the summer. Those chosen will then build 30 ft. prototypes of their design in the Otay Mesa Community outside of San Diego.

“I know we’ve got a million to one chance of getting selected,” said Cruz. Still, he hopes that MADE’s Otra Nation proposal will at least generate conversation between members of the US and Mexican governments about alternative ways of looking at the border that don’t involve a wall. “Even if we’re not selected, to get the two governments to sit down and look at what we’ve done with these solutions, that will be a huge win for us.

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If There’s Going to Be a Wall, Let It Be This Collaboration Between American and Mexican Designers

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In Face of Corn Boycott, Trump Decides NAFTA Not So Bad After All

Mother Jones

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Mexico is threatening to use the power of corn to fight Donald Trump’s tough talk on trade:

As President Trump threatens Mexico with drastic changes on trade, its leaders are wielding corn as a weapon. Mexico’s Senate is considering legislation calling for a boycott of U.S. corn, and the government has begun negotiating with Argentina and Brazil to import corn from those nations tax-free. The threat of a boycott is Mexico’s latest and perhaps cleverest attempt to fight back against Trump, whose threats to pull out of free trade agreements and slap a 20% import tax on Mexican products have shaken confidence in Mexico’s economy.

And apparently it’s working:

The Trump administration is signaling to Congress it would seek mostly modest changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement in upcoming negotiations with Mexico and Canada, a deal President Donald Trump called a “disaster” during the campaign.

….The draft, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, talks of seeking “to improve procedures to resolve disputes,” rather than eliminating the panels. The U.S. also wouldn’t use the Nafta negotiations to deal with disputes over foreign currency policies or to hit numerical targets for bilateral trade deficits, as some trade hawks have been urging.

….Jeffrey Schott, a trade scholar at the Peterson Institute for International Economics…noted that a number of the proposed negotiating objectives echo provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact among Pacific Rim countries. Mr. Trump campaigned heavily against the TPP.

Do not underestimate the power of corn! Alternatively, maybe corn has nothing to do with it. Maybe Trump was just blathering all along and never really had any intention of getting tough with Mexico. In the end, he’ll build a few more miles of fencing, make a few modest changes to NAFTA, and then call it the greatest boon to the working man since the Wagner Act. I’ve also read a few pieces recently about China, and apparently all those Goldman Sachs folks he hired have talked Trump into backing down on a trade war there too. I guess Goldman Sachs has to be good for something.

Anyway, having given up on Mexico and China, now Trump is going after the ultra-conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus:

I’ll bet they’re scared shitless. Trump is demonstrating that his talk may be big, but he can’t make it stick. In his first two months, he’s failed on his immigration order and his health care plan, has no chance of building his wall, and has backed down on Mexico and China. His bark is unquestionably worse than his bite.

The health care bill would have flamed out in the Senate anyway. The HFC did everyone a favor by getting it off the agenda quickly so Congress could move on to important matters like cutting taxes for the rich.

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In Face of Corn Boycott, Trump Decides NAFTA Not So Bad After All

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NSC Aide Fired, Now Owes Us Account of Trump Call to Mexico’s President

Mother Jones

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Now is the winter of our discontent:

The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday….The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Earlier in the week, at a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, Deare harshly criticized the president and his chief strategist Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House, according to a source familiar with the situation.

He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president — and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump’s call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

I can’t fault Trump for firing Deare. Then again, I also can’t fault Deare for going berserk. Sometimes a marriage just doesn’t work.

However, now that Deare is out of a job, perhaps he’d like to share his detailed and embarrassing readout of that Mexico conversation? My email address is below.

Originally posted here: 

NSC Aide Fired, Now Owes Us Account of Trump Call to Mexico’s President

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