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How to tell if a Republican is serious about climate action (or not)

Nowadays, the left’s definition of a climate hawk is clear. The progressive wing of the Democratic party has unified behind a shared litmus test: Does the person in question support the Green New Deal? Sterling environmental voting records and support for a carbon tax no longer cut the mustard. A Democrat worthy of the climate hawk label must have all those things plus enthusiasm for Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey’s economy-wide proposal to wean the United States off of fossil fuels while strengthening the social safety net.

But what about Republicans?

The GOP has had an aversion to climate science for decades now. It’s grown so severe that acknowledging the reality of climate change has been politically risky for virtually any Republican public figure. Politicians who dare touch the subject have been swiftly excommunicated (pour one out for Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina).

But the party is beginning to shift, thanks in large part to young Republicans whose opinions on climate policy now align more closely with those of Democrats than with those of older members of their own party. For proof that the GOP is starting to budge on climate change, look no further than the House and Senate. Recently, bipartisan climate action groups in both chambers have attracted several unexpected members (including Lindsey Graham). A few GOPers have started to act more aggressively to combat rising temperatures locally, particularly in the wake of catastrophic wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.

And last month, House Republicans unveiled a new set of climate proposals coordinated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. The plan — the GOP’s response to Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal — won’t include an emissions-reduction target, Axios reported. Instead, it focuses on capturing CO2 from the air with trees, reducing plastic pollution, and funding new clean-energy technology.

On the precipice of what could become a major party reversal on climate action from the right, how do conservatives who care about climate change discern Republican politicians who are actually serious about tackling the issue from those who are just jumping on the green bandwagon? More importantly, what are the markings of a genuine conservative climate plan versus a smokescreen plan aimed at waylaying real solutions?

To answer these questions, Grist turned to three Republicans who’ve been beating the climate drum for years.

Alex Bozmoski, the managing director of a climate group founded by Inglis and aimed at building grassroots support for conservative climate solutions, starts by looking at rhetoric. Rhetoric might seem like a useless benchmark, as words aren’t binding, but Bozmoski says a lot can be gleaned from language. “There is substance in what politicians say about what they are doing,” he said. “When a lawmaker is talking about climate change, do the risks compel action or patience and demand for further certainty? Is it a calamity, or is it framed more as a nuisance?” Freshman Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, he says, is a good example of a Republican whose rhetoric hints at a genuine commitment to action. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Braun called climate change the country’s “next biggest issue.”

Quillan Robinson, who graduated from the University of Washington in 2018, is government affairs director at the American Conservation Coalition, an environment group that’s dedicated to engaging young conservatives on environmental issues. His standard is simple and reflects the fact that Republican climate policy is just in its nascency. Robinson asks: Has the person put his or her name on a piece of climate legislation? “We’re looking for folks who are willing to actually put pen to paper when it comes to real policy solutions which will lower global greenhouse gas emissions — that should be the litmus test for climate action,” he said.

Kiera O’Brien, a recent Harvard graduate and president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, a group that galvanizes student support for a carbon tax, thinks it’s important to discern between Republicans who are climate hawks and Republicans who are just conservationists. “The reality these days is there’s a difference between conservation and issues of climate change,” she said. “Anyone who’s fundamentally serious about conservation should be serious about climate as well, but that’s not always the case, especially among elected Republicans.”

For O’Brien, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s new climate plan doesn’t make the cut. “It does not take that step into what I would call a true Republican rebuttal to the Green New Deal by offering a comprehensive plan for reducing emissions,” she said.

She added, “You can say carbon capture, you can say we’re gonna plant a million trees, but if you’re not actually fundamentally serious about putting a price on carbon or putting another economy-wide mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, you’re not actually serious about climate change.” Going forward, she wants Republicans to advocate for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which would return the revenue generated by the tax to Americans every year.

Bozmoski reached a different conclusion about the House Republican climate plan. “You measure ambition not by dollars, not by economic reorganization, not by risk. You measure the policy of climate change by the tons,” he said. “Does the policy that they’re supporting abate, avoid, capture, or sequester greenhouse gases and how much?” That’s why he thinks McCarthy’s plan to plant a bunch of trees isn’t half-bad — it will take tons of carbon dioxide out of the air, he said. (The science behind this is actually disputed.) “I know some environmentalists scoff because they’re more interested in attacking the supply side of greenhouse gases,” he said, “but if it makes a dent, that’s how you gauge the ambition of a climate policy.”

For Robinson, McCarthy’s plan is reason for optimism that serious climate change legislation is viable under President Trump. “It’s focusing on policies we can pass today which will reduce global greenhouse emissions,” he said. In general, however, Robinson’s under no illusions about where Trump stands. “Is the president where we want him to be on the issue? Absolutely not. But we’re really encouraged by some of the things that have happened recently,” he said.

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How to tell if a Republican is serious about climate action (or not)

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As Trump questions warming, climate report warns of dire risks to U.S.

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

The United States already warmed on average 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and will warm at least 3 more degrees by 2100 unless fossil fuel use is dramatically curtailed, scientists from more than a dozen federal agencies concluded in their latest in-depth assessment.

The 13-agency consensus, authored by more than 300 researchers, found in the second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment makes it clear the world is barreling toward catastrophic — perhaps irreversible — climate change. The report concluded that warming “could increase by 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century” without significant emissions reductions.

“Observations of global average temperature provide clear and compelling evidence the global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced,” said David Easterling, chief of the scientific services division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “This warming trend can only be explained by human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

It’s the sort of staggering reality the Trump administration seems eager to minimize. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump antagonized climate scientists by tweeting, once again, that he believes cold weather disproves long-term trends of a warming climate.

“Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” he posted Wednesday on Twitter.

That the White House opted to release the long-awaited update on climate change ― which Congress mandates the administration provide every four years — on Black Friday, a popular shopping holiday the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, indicates it wanted fewer people to see the news about the findings. Monica Allen, a spokeswoman for NOAA, repeatedly pushed back against questions about when the White House decided to move up the release of the report.

“The decision was made in the last week or so,” she said. “Please, I ask you to focus on the content of the report. The substance.”

The report adds to an ever-growing, all-but-irrefutable body of scientific research that shows climate change is real and driven by human carbon emissions ― a reality that President Donald Trump and his team refuse to accept as they pursue a fossil fuel-focused, “energy dominance” agenda.

Last year, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a special report ― the first volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment ― that found Earth has entered the warmest period “in the history of modern civilization,” with global average air temperatures having increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 115 years. And in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused climate change, issued a report warning world governments must cut global emissions in half over the next 12 years to avoid warming of 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, beyond which climate change is forecast to cause a cataclysmic $54 trillion in damages.

A series of devastating natural disasters, worsened by rising temperatures, made those findings tangible. In October, Typhoon Yutu, the most powerful storm all year, struck the Northern Mariana Islands, plunging the U.S. territory into chaos just a year after Hurricane Maria left thousands dead in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. California, meanwhile, is suffering its deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record during what was once the state’s rainy season.

Last year was the United States’ second-hottest in history, and the costliest in terms of climate-related disasters, with a record $306 billion in damages. Sixteen of the last 17 years have been the warmest on record globally.

In January, the Trump administration unveiled a proposal to open nearly all U.S. waters to oil and gas development. It has since worked to roll back safeguards adopted after the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In October, the Department of the Interior approved the development of the first oil production facility in Arctic waters off Alaska, but the company behind the project has since had to extend its construction timeline due to dwindling sea ice brought on by Arctic warming, as NPR reported.

The latest findings are likely to bolster the growing protests and legal battles over climate change. Over the past two weeks, activists in the United States and United Kingdom staged major demonstrations. In Washington, youth activists with the climate justice group Sunrise Movement stormed Democratic leaders’ offices demanding support for the so-called Green New Deal, the only policy to emerge in the American political mainstream that comes close to the scale of economic change needed to make a serious dent in national emissions. British activists stopped traffic this week as part of the so-called Extinction Rebellion.

The assessment could have weight in some critical court cases. The Supreme Court is considering a landmark suit brought by 21 plaintiffs between the ages of 11 and 22, who accuse the federal government of violating their civil rights to a safe climate by pursuing fossil fuel-focused energy policies. And various states and cities are suing big oil companies over climate damages, a number that could grow since Democrats scored victories in a number of attorney general seats in the midterm elections.


As Trump questions warming, climate report warns of dire risks to U.S.

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Fire scientists know one thing for sure: This will get worse

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

Subtract out the conspiracists and the willfully ignorant and the argument marshaled by skeptics against global warming, roughly restated, assumes that scientists vastly overstate the consequences of pumping greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Uncertainties in their calculations, the skeptics say, make it impossible to determine with confidence how bad the future was going to be. The sour irony of that muttonheaded resistance to data is that, after four decades of being wrong, those people are almost right.

As of July 31, more than 25,000 firefighters are committed to 140 wildfires across the United States — over a million acres aflame. Eight people are dead in California, tens of thousands evacuated, smoke and pyroclastic clouds are visible from space. And all any fire scientist knows for sure is, it only gets worse from here. How much worse? Where? For whom? Experience can’t tell them. The scientists actually are uncertain.

Scientists who help policymakers plan for the future used to make an assumption. They called it stationarity, and the idea was that the extremes of environmental systems — rainfall, river levels, hurricane strength, wildfire damage — obeyed prior constraints. The past was prologue. Climate change has turned that assumption to ash. The fires burning across the western United States (and in Europe) prove that “stationarity is dead,” as a team of researchers (controversially) wrote in the journal Science a decade ago. They were talking about water; now it’s true for fire.

“We can no longer use the observed past as a guide. There’s no stable system that generates a measurable probability of events to use the past record to plan for the future,” says LeRoy Westerling, a management professor who studies wildfires at UC Merced. “Now we have to use physics and complex interactions to project how things could change.”

Wildfires were always part of a complex system. Climate change — carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases raising the overall temperature of the planet — added to the complexity. The implications of that will play out for millennia. “On top of that is interaction between the climate system, the ecosystem, and how we manage our land use,” Westerling says. “That intersection is very complex, and even more difficult to predict. When I say there’s no new normal, I mean it. The climate will be changing with probably an accelerating pace for the rest of the lives of everyone who is alive today.”

That’s not to say there’s nothing more to learn or do. To the contrary, more data on fire behavior will help researchers build models of what might happen. They’ll look at how best to handle “fuel management,” or the removal of flammable plant matter desiccated by climate change-powered heat waves and drought. More research will help with how to build less flammable buildings, and to identify places where buildings maybe shouldn’t be in the first place. Of course, that all presumes policymakers will listen and act. They haven’t yet. “People talk about ‘resilience,’ they talk about ‘hardening,’” Westerling says. “But we’ve been talking about climate change and risks like wildfire for decades now and haven’t made a whole lot of headway outside of the scientific and management communities.”

It’s true. At least two decades ago — perhaps as long as a century — fire researchers were warning that increasing atmospheric CO2 would mean bigger wildfires. History confirmed at least the latter hypothesis; using data like fire scars and tree ring sizes, researchers have shown that before Europeans came to North America, fires were relatively frequent but relatively small, and indigenous people like the Pueblo used lots of wood for fuel and small-diameter trees for construction. When the Spaniards arrived, spreading disease and forcing people out of their villages, the population crashed by perhaps as much as 90 percent and the forests went back to their natural fire pattern — less frequent, low intensity, and widespread. By the late 19th century, the land changed to livestock grazing and its users had no tolerance for fire at all.

“So in the late 20th and early 21st century, with these hot droughts, fires are ripping now with a severity and ferocity that’s unprecedented,” says Tom Swetnam, a dendrochronologist who did a lot of that tree-ring work. A fire in the Jemez Mountains Swetnam studies burned 40,000 acres in 12 hours, a “horizontal roll vortex fire” that had two wind-driven counter-rotating vortices of flame. “That thing left a canopy hole with no trees over 30,000 acres. A giant hole with no trees,” he says. “There’s no archaeological evidence of that happening in at least 500 years.”

Swetnam actually lives in a fire-prone landscape in New Mexico — right in the proverbial wildland-urban interface, as he says. He knows it’s more dangerous than ever. “It’s sad. It’s worrying. Many of us have been predicting that we were going to see these kinds of events if the temperature continued to rise,” Swetnam says. “We’re seeing our scariest predictions coming true.”

Fire researchers have been hollering about the potential consequences for fires of climate change combined with land use for at least as long as hurricane and flood researchers have been doing the same. It hasn’t kept people from building houses on the Houston floodplain and constructing poorly-planned levees along the Mississippi, and it hasn’t kept people from building houses up next to forests and letting undergrowth and small trees clump together — all while temperatures rise.

“Some of the fires are unusual, but the reason it seems more unusual is that there are people around to see it — fire whorls, large vortices, there are plenty of examples of those,” says Mark Finney, a research forester with the U.S. Forest Service. “But some things are changing.” Drought and temperature are worse. Sprawl is worse. “The worst fires haven’t happened yet,” Finney says. “The Sierra Nevada is primed for this kind of thing, and those kinds of fires would be truly unprecedented for those kinds of ecosystems in the past thousands of years.”

So what happens next? The Ponderosa and Jeffrey pine forests of the west burn, and then don’t come back? They convert to grassland? That hasn’t happened in thousands of years where the Giant Sequoia grow. So … install sprinklers in Sequoia National Forest? “I’m only the latest generation to be frustrated,” Finney says. “At least two, maybe three generations before me experienced exactly the same frustration.” Nobody listened to them, either. And now the latest generation isn’t really sure what’s going to happen next.

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Fire scientists know one thing for sure: This will get worse

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Climate change hits businesses where it hurts: their wallets.

Some of these articles are sensationalized very nearly to the point of inaccuracy. Others are cases of “elaborate misinformation.”

A review from Climate Feedback, a group of scientists who survey climate change news to determine whether it’s scientifically sound, looked at the 25 most-shared stories last year that focused on the science of climate change or global warming.

Of those, only 11 were rated as credible, meaning they contained no major inaccuracies. Five were considered borderline inaccurate. The remaining nine, including New York Magazine’s viral “The Uninhabitable Earth,” were found to have low or very low credibility. However, even the top-rated articles were noted as somewhat misleading. (Read the reviews here.) 

“We see a lot of inaccurate stories,” Emmanuel Vincent, a research scientist at the University of California and the founder of Climate Feedback, told Grist. Each scientist at Climate Feedback holds a Ph.D. and has recently published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Vincent says that the New York Times and Washington Post are the two main sources that Climate Feedback has found “consistently publish information that is accurate and influential.” (He notes that Grist’s “Ice Apocalypse” by Eric Holthaus also made the credibility cut.)

“You need to find the line between being catchy and interesting without overstepping what the science can support,” he says.


Climate change hits businesses where it hurts: their wallets.

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Smoke from California’s raging wildfires spreads a public health emergency across the Bay

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Smoke from California’s raging wildfires spreads a public health emergency across the Bay

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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

Mother Jones

The Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges against an officer involved in the videotaped shooting of a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last summer, the Washington Post has reported. The announcement—expected tomorrow—will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to press charges against an officer investigated in a high-profile police shooting case.

Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge Police Department officer in July 2016, setting off days of protests in the city and nationwide. Two officers had responded to a call about a man outside a convenience store who had waived a gun at someone else. When they arrived, they found Sterling outside the store selling bootlegged CDs. A confrontation ensued in the parking lot (the beginning of the incident was not caught on camera), and an officer tased Sterling after ordering him to the ground, cell phone footage of the encounter shows. Sterling remained on his feet, and an officer tackled him while another rushed to handcuff him. In a second cell phone video, one officer is heard yelling “He’s got a gun!” Then he fires several shots into Sterling. Sterling was armed, but it’s unclear from either video whether he reached for his weapon before he was shot. Witnesses told local new outlets that Sterling never reached for his gun during the encounter.

Sterling’s shooting occurred the day before an officer shot and killed another man in a Minneapolis suburb in an incident that was streamed in part on Facebook Live by the man’s girlfriend, and in the same week that a black man—admittedly upset over police shootings of black men—opened fire on officers at a protest over the two shootings in Dallas, killing nine. Just over a week after that incident, three more officers were killed ambush-style in Baton Rouge.

The Obama DOJ launched a criminal investigation into whether the officer who shot Sterling had willfully violated his civil rights by doing so. On Tuesday, the Trump DOJ—led by adamantly pro-police Attorney General Jeff Sessions—will announce that it will not pursue charges against the officer, the Washington Post reports. The decision is not unsurprising—civil rights cases are notoriously difficult to prove in court. The DOJ declined to file criminal charges against officers involved in high-profile police shooting cases on numerous occasions under President Obama, including in the case of of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014.

The report of the Sterling decision comes amid a flurry of other police-related news this week, including the police shooting death of a 15-year-old boy in a Dallas suburb over the weekend and news today that the officer filmed shooting a North Charleston, South Carolina, man in the back multiples times in April 2015 had pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges similar to those considered in the Sterling case. You can read Mother Jones‘ deep dive investigation into the trial of that officer here.

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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in Office Have Been a Disaster. Scott Pruitt’s Have Been Even Worse.

Mother Jones

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The far right’s opinion of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has plummeted since the time Breitbart News praised him for doing “the Lord’s work” in early March. In only a few short weeks, Breitbart‘s tone shifted, so by the end of the month, the news site, described by Trump adviser Steve Bannon as “the platform for the alt-right,” warned, “If Scott Pruitt is not up to that task, then maybe it’s about time he did the decent thing and handed over the reins to someone who is.”

Criticism from the left and center was inevitable for a former attorney general who challenged environmental rules on 14 occasions. But the same week the Trump administration rolled out its executive order targeting the Obama administration’s work on climate change, Pruitt also faced an onslaught of unexpected criticism from the far right. Climate change deniers think Pruitt hasn’t gone far enough or fast enough or stood his ground defending their position on the science. And that’s just for starters.

As I previously reported, one issue tops climate change deniers’ wish list for the Trump administration, and that’s gutting the climate endangerment finding. The endangerment finding is a science-based determination, prompted by a Supreme Court decision in 2007, that is the foundational basis for the agency’s regulatory work on climate change.

Analyst H. Sterling Burnett of the Heartland Institute—the right-wing think tank that is best known for pushing out misinformation on climate change—rattled off reasons he’s happy with what Pruitt and the Trump administration have done so far in their reversal of a Clean Water Act rule and clearing the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. But he was firm that the endangerment finding still must go. “My belief is if he doesn’t ultimately get rid of the endangerment finding it undermines all the good work so far,” Burnett said. He notes the endangerment finding poses a legal problem for his organization’s ambitions of gutting the EPA as we know it.

“The endangerment finding ultimately undermines all the climate rules Obama sought to impose,” Burnett continued. “If all Trump does is revisit the Clean Power Plan and the fuel economy standard and withdraw it, environmentalists can just go to court and say, ‘This is an endangerment to human health—you’ve got to do something.’ I think the courts will say, ‘You know, you’re right.'”

Heartland, which has received funding from the Koch brothers and Exxon and ultimately wants to end the EPA, isn’t the only one echoing this all-or-nothing thinking. “People I know are trying to finesse around the endangerment finding,” Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels said to Heartland Institute’s gathering of climate change deniers in late March. “There is no way to finesse around a monster.”

There appears to be an unconfirmed rumor circulating in climate change denier circles that Pruitt has not read EPA recommendations from the transition team, which was led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell. That’s according to Steve Milloy, who contends the EPA overstates the dangers of air pollution; he has also denied human contributions to climate change.

Climate change deniers make rescinding the endangerment finding sound simple. It isn’t. Climate advocates and former EPA officials remain confident it will survive, even as Trump takes aim at much of the EPA’s Obama-era climate work, from fuel economy standards to its regulations on power plants.

“The science basis for climate change and the fact that human activity is the driver of increased CO2 in the atmosphere is, if anything, more compelling than it was in 2009,” said ex-EPA air chief Janet McCabe in an email to Mother Jones. “Any review of the endangerment finding would need to consider all the available science and respond to the public comments that will certainly be provided to the agency on such an important issue. Any revision to the finding will surely be challenged in court, and EPA would need to be able to defend in court any conclusion that is contrary to the vast majority of climate and other scientists in the US and around the world.”

One executive order targeting a broad swath of climate initiatives wouldn’t be enough for the hard-liners. And aside from not having eliminated the endangerment finding, Pruitt is getting slammed by people who should be his natural supporters.

Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked Pruitt on Sunday about his recent remarks denying the role humans play in climate change and the health consequences of Trump’s EPA budget cuts. Pruitt had said he would “not agree” human activity is a “primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” Pruitt’s original comments have prompted an investigation from the EPA inspector general and drew a rare rebuke from the American Meteorological Society. During the Fox interview, Pruitt still walked the line of climate denial but more subtly, saying that “climate is changing and human activity contributes to that change in some measure.” Breitbart columnist James Delingpole seized on the exchange, criticizing the EPA administrator for wobbling on science denial. It was “an ugly and painful sight,” he wrote.

The problems don’t end there. The Trump administration hasn’t yet filled any of the key political appointments at the agency, even as several on its transition team have stepped down. David Schnare, who like Pruitt sued the agency when he was at the conservative Energy & Environment Legal Institute, recently resigned, cryptically hinting at his frustration with the slow pace of changes the Trump administration is making at the agency. “The backstory to my resignation is extremely complex,” he told E&E News. “I will be writing about it myself. It is a story not about me, but about a much more interesting set of events involving misuse of federal funds, failure to honor oaths of office, and a lack of loyalty to the President.”

The Washington Post suggested one theory for why things are moving slowly: “Pruitt is bristling at the presence of former Washington state senator Don Benton, who ran the president’s Washington state campaign and is now the EPA’s senior White House adviser.”

Then there is the pesky problem of an investigation of Pruitt by the Oklahoma Bar Association following complaints that he lied to Congress about using a private email for state business as attorney general. Less significant, but still embarrassing, the EPA didn’t quite explain how it swapped out a coal-state Republican’s glowing review of Trump last week for a Democratic senator’s blistering take. For Breitbart, this was enough to suggest that a Deep State conspiracy was at work.

Pruitt hasn’t offered any direct response to all these criticisms, but he appears to be paying attention to the conversation in conservative circles. He gave Breitbart an “exclusive” at the EPA headquarters the same week of its columnist’s critical take.

In that interview, Pruitt left the door open for changes to the endangerment finding. “I think that if there are petitions for reconsideration for the endangering sic findings, we’ll have to address those at some point,” Pruitt said. Nonetheless, at his confirmation hearing a month earlier, Pruitt, a lawyer by training, gave a more definitive answer to Democratic senators when they asked him about it. “Nothing I know of that would cause a review at this point,” he said.

Heartland’s Burnett still seems willing to give Pruitt and the Trump administration some benefit of the doubt that they will eventually do the right thing to appease conservative critics. “It’s just so early that I think it’s too early to hit the panic button,” Burnett said. “I haven’t given up hope that just because it wasn’t in this set of executive orders that it won’t be forthcoming.”

But, Burnett added, “You never know.”

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in Office Have Been a Disaster. Scott Pruitt’s Have Been Even Worse.

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Minnesota Cop Who Killed Philando Castile Is Charged With Second-Degree Manslaughter

Mother Jones

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The suburban police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a Minnesota traffic stop is being charged with second-degree manslaughter, John Choi, Ramsey County’s top prosecutor, announced on Wednesday.

Castile, 32, was shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez last July. According to Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car along with the couple’s young daughter, the officer fired his weapon as Castile reached to get his ID, after Castile informed Yanez he had a (legally permitted) gun. Reynolds live streamed the aftermath on Facebook, and her video sparked weeks of protests in Minneapolis and nationwide.

Officer Yanez’s use of deadly force “was not necessary, was objectively unreasonable, and was inconsistent with generally accepted police practices,” Choi said. “No reasonable officer—knowing, seeing, and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time—would have used deadly force under these circumstances.” Yanez’s discharge of his firearm also put Reynolds and her daughter at risk, Choi added. The officer will be charged with two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm as well.

The charging documents revealed new details about the incident: Through the driver’s side window, Yanez asked Castile for his driver’s license and insurance information. Castile provided Yanez with an insurance card and then informed Yanez that he was carrying a weapon. Yanez said “okay” and told Castile not to reach for it. Castile—apparently still reaching for something—responded, “I’m not reaching for it.” Yanez yelled, “Don’t pull it out!” Castile’s girlfriend assured Yanez that Castile wasn’t reaching for the gun. Yanez again ordered Castile not to pull his gun out, and seconds later, he fired seven shots. Castile died on the scene soon after.

Another document, made public by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, showed that Castile had a legal permit to carry a firearm.

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Minnesota Cop Who Killed Philando Castile Is Charged With Second-Degree Manslaughter

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Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

A growing rift has split the country’s biggest union federation, the AFL-CIO. Many labor activists and union members are outraged that Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, threw the AFL-CIO’s support behind the Dakota Access pipeline project earlier this month.

The AFL-CIO’s statement backing the pipeline was announced a week after the Obama administration put construction on hold. Trumka acknowledged “places of significance to Native Americans” but argued that the more than “4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs” attached to the pipeline trumped environmental and other considerations.

That move rankled many in the AFL-CIO’s more progressive wing, highlighting strains within the federation of 56 unions representing 12 million workers. Recent tensions within the AFL-CIO have deepened a long-running divide between a more conservative, largely white, jobs-first faction and progressive union members who are friendly to environmental concerns and count more people of color among their ranks.

Grist interviewed five staffers at the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Trumka’s public support for the pipeline caught these senior-level and mid-level staffers by surprise, they told Grist — especially because he had recently taken progressive positions on on Black Lives Matter, immigration, and criminal justice.

A call to Trumka’s office was not returned. The federation’s policy director, Damon Silvers, who is said to have helped write the statement, also did not respond to an interview request.

Union opponents of the pipeline project and their advocates quickly responded on social media with satire. One post on Twitter likened Trumka’s position to helping the wrong side in Star Wars.

Other frustrated union members and staffers placed calls to Climate Workers, an organization of union workers focused on climate justice, to vent. Brooke Anderson, an organizer at the group, says she fielded dozens of calls from members upset about the AFL-CIO’s position.

For those members, Anderson says, working in a federation means more than collecting a wage — it means being part of a broad movement for justice. Anderson says she thought that Trumka’s statement undermined efforts by groups like hers to protect the environment and jobs.

Trumka’s statement came out the day after one branch of the federation, the Building and Construction Trades, sent a private letter to Trumka complaining about AFL-CIO unions that opposed the pipeline.

In the weeks before Trumka’s public statement, four of the federation’s major unions – the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), National Nurses United (NNU), and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) – came out in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s battle against the pipeline project. All four are part of the so-called Bernie Unions, given their support of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sanders. The AFL-CIO endorsed Hillary Clinton in June, shortly before Sanders had conceded his candidacy, marking another fissure in the federation.

In a five-page letter to Trumka provided to Grist by union sources, Sean McGarvey, president of the Building Trades, argued that these four unions were partly to blame for Obama’s suspension of the pipeline. He wrote that union workers employed to build the pipeline have had “their lives placed on hold, their employment prospects upended and have been subjected to intimidation, vandalism, confrontation, and violence both on their job sites and in the surrounding community.”

The letter offers an anecdote to support these allegations. One unnamed worker was reportedly scared for his or her life by protestors “coming towards us.” The workers jumped in their cars and fled, according to the account, but there’s no mention of anyone getting hurt or even touched. (The Standing Rock Sioux Nation has called for protests to remain peaceful as the movement to stop the pipeline has grown.)

McGarvey blames unions opposed to the pipeline for hastening “a very real split within the labor movement at a time that, should their ceaseless rhetoric be taken seriously, even they suggest we can least afford it.”

Progressives within the labor movement describe the Building Trades as being whiter and more conservative than their counterparts. McGarvey’s letter contains what some of them consider dog-whistles. It mentions “outside agitators,” “environmental extremists,” and takes a jab at “theories of the 21st century labor movement.”

McGarvey declined an interview request from Grist, writing in an email that “[The letter] was an internal communication and we don’t comment on those!”

AFL-CIO union members who oppose the pipeline are now making their frustration public. A handful of labor activists picketed the AFL-CIO’s office in Washington, D.C., last week. And the Labor Coalition for Community Action, an alliance of groups representing women, people of color, and LGBT union workers within the AFL-CIO, released a statement in solidarity with those opposed to the pipeline.

“As organizations dedicated to elevating the struggles of our respective constituencies, we stand together to support our Native American kinfolk – one of the most marginalized and disenfranchised groups in our nation’s history – in their fight to protect their communities from further displacement and exploitation,” it says.

Although the statement makes no direct mention of the AFL-CIO’s position on the pipeline, nor of McGarvey’s letter, it calls on “the labor movement to strategize on how to better engage and include Native people and other marginalized populations into the labor movement as a whole.”

Anderson from Climate Workers, who is a rank-and-file member of the CWA, says the dispute over the pipeline represents a historic moment for the AFL-CIO. Rather than issue a statement and ignore the fallout, she says Trumka needs to participate in a crucial conversation with a wide variety of people about how the federation will balance race, labor, and the environment.

“Some of the questions [in that conversation include]: Whose land? Whose water? Whose lungs are going to suffer first? It’s communities of color and lower paid workers of color – and they’re also our brothers and sisters.”

Originally posted here:  

Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

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CNN: Secret Service Has Spoken to Trump About "Second Amendment People"

Mother Jones

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Here is today’s Twitterized version of the Trump Daily News:

This should make Trump’s Secret Service detail eager to take a bullet for him if the need arises. I sure hope they’re more professional than he is.


CNN: Secret Service Has Spoken to Trump About "Second Amendment People"

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