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Rep. Rashida Tlaib Calls Out the President: “He’s Afraid of Us”

Mother Jones Magazine -

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has clearly gotten under the skin of President Trump, who has frequently attacked the first-term congresswoman in starkly racist terms and even lobbied Israel to block her from visiting the country.

Now Tlaib says she knows why: He’s afraid.

In a recent conversation with the Guardian, billed as her first in-depth interview since the cancellation of her Israel trip, Tlaib said, “It’s been very clear to me, especially this last week, that he’s scared of us.” 

She continued, “He’s afraid of women of color…because we’re not afraid of him and we’re not afraid to speak up and say that we have a white supremacist in the White House who has a hate agenda.”

This type of blunt public criticism of Trump is what first introduced much of the public to Tlaib. Shortly after she was elected to Congress, she said it was time to “impeach the motherfucker.” Now that her profile and that of “the Squad” has grown, Tlaib and freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ayanna Pressley (D- Mass.) have become a constant target for Trump. He has repeatedly attacked them in Twitter rants, saying they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Tlaib’s interview with the Guardian comes shortly after the Israeli government denied her and Omar—the first and only two Muslim women to be elected to Congress—permission to enter the country. The White House had previously denied reports that Trump was pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for such a move, but later, in a tweet, Trump all but confirmed the behind-the-scenes efforts. 

Later, after some back and forth about Tlaib’s plans to visit her grandmother in the West Bank, Trump again attacked her in vile terms:

Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears. I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an anti-Semite. She and her 3 friends are the new face of the Democrat Party. Live with it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2019

“He’s afraid because we have a real agenda for the American people,” she told the Guardian. “He can bring it.”

Here Is Your Weekend Tariff Primer

Mother Jones Magazine -

It’s hard to keep track of all the China tariff action these days. Here’s a short primer.

Imports from China have been broken into lists, which are just what they sound like: lists of various products. Lists 1 and 2 accounted for about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports annually and were subjected to 25 percent tariffs last year. These were mostly industrial products, not consumer products.

List 3 included food and other consumer items in addition to industrial goods, clocking in at about $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Trump imposed a 10 percent tariff on List 3 last year and upped it to 25 percent earlier this year.

List 4 is everything else and amounts to about $300 billion worth of imports. Trump imposed a 10 percent tariff on List 4 products earlier this month. On Friday, he announced that this would increase to 15 percent and the tariffs on the other lists would increase to 30 percent.

However, because Trump doesn’t want to interfere with Christmas, List 4 was split into List 4a and List 4b. The tariffs on List 4b, which includes lots of popular consumer items, won’t go into effect until mid-December.

Keep in mind that tariffs are imposed on the “customs value” of products. An iPhone that retails for $1,000, for example, has a customs value of around $400. A 15 percent tariff comes to $60, or roughly 6 percent of the retail value.

All told, we import about $550 billion in goods from China annually, and when List 4 takes full effect at the end of the year all of it will be subject to Trump tariffs. Products on Lists 1-3 will be subject to tariffs of 30 percent and products on List 4 will be subject to tariffs of 15 percent. Unless Trump changes his mind between now and December, that is.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh Just Made It Official: He’ll Challenge President Trump for the Republican Nomination

Mother Jones Magazine -

Former Republican lawmaker Joe Walsh officially announced his longshot run for the presidential nomination on Sunday, challenging President Donald Trump. After hinting at it in recent interviews, Walsh announced his candidacy in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, criticizing the president and attempting to address his former support of Trump and his own long history of racist statements.

“We’ve got a guy in the White House who’s unfit, completely unfit to be president. And it stuns me that nobody stepped up, nobody in the Republican party stepped up,” Walsh told Stephanopoulos. “In the Republican party, everybody believes that he’s unfit. He lies every time he opens his mouth.”

When @GStephanopoulos pointed out the massive uphill climb Joe Walsh has thanks to President Trump's overwhelmingly high approval rating within the party, the controversial former congressman argued that conservatives don't have an alternative to Trump https://t.co/JmbrJf0GKe

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 25, 2019

The conservative radio show host from Illinois served one term in the House of Representatives. He was a vocal Trump supporter in 2016, tweeting, “if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” Now he hopes he can flip other former Trump supporters to weaken his base. 

“I have—I helped—I helped create Trump. There’s no doubt about that, the personal, ugly politics. I regret that. And I’m sorry for that,” Walsh told Stephanopolous. “I went beyond the policy and the idea differences and I got personal and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret.”

Walsh has a long history of racist comments. He promoted birtherism and other conspiracy theories against former President Barack Obama. He also defended the use of racial slurs on his nationally syndicated radio show, among other controversial statements. 

Walsh joins former two-term governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld in challenging the president for the Republican nomination. Weld has called Trump a “clear and present danger to our country, to the globe and to himself.” 

.@realDonaldTrump is a clear and present danger—to our country, to the globe and to himself. #AmericaDeservesBetter#25thAmendment

— Gov. Bill Weld (@GovBillWeld) August 21, 2019

When asked about Walsh’s challenge, the Trump campaign reportedly commented a single word: “Whatever.”

Corporate Media Get the Story Wrong on the Amazon Fires

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Intercept (7/6/19)

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More and more media are reporting on fires tearing through the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. There has been a marked increase in fires in Brazil concurrent with an increase in illegal—and climate-disrupting—deforestation, concurrent with President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to open the Amazon to mining and logging interests. Criticism of media is coming in, too—mostly for being late to cover fires that have been burning for three weeks in a uniquely critical place. But whenever they do it, corporate media addressing modern day crises like the Amazon fires will never do them anything approaching justice.

Not as long as they refuse to sustainedly challenge anti-democratic powers like Bolsonaro: When the guy who jokes about being called Captain Chainsaw was emboldening illegal land-grabbing in indigenous and protected territories, the New York Times (10/26/18) was busy worrying if he would “deliver” on his promise to cut social security. (“Markets are optimistic,” we were told.)

More important, given that failure, is the refusal to hand the mic to those who are fighting. Like the Apurinã chief who told the Intercept‘s Alexander Zaitchik (7/6/19) they had seen landgrabs before, but “with Bolsonaro, the invasions are worse and will continue to get worse…. Unless he is stopped, he’ll run over our rights and allow a giant invasion of the forest.” Or the signatories to the Bogota Declaration to the 14th UN Biodiversity Conference, who offered a plan  from 400 ethnic groups across the Amazon basin to form a “sacred corridor of life,” to share ancestral knowledge and showcase alternative modes of development and ways of living (Common Dreams, 11/21/18).

It doesn’t matter so much how many reports corporate media write; if the same people stay at the center of them, the story won’t change.

The post Corporate Media Get the Story Wrong on the Amazon Fires appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Rich Will Not Be Exempt From the Worst of Climate Change

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By the close of the century, the United States could be more than 10% poorer, thanks to the economic loss that climate change will impose.

There is bad news too for Japan, India and New Zealand, which will also be 10% worse off in a world that could be 3°C hotter than any temperatures experienced since humans began to build cities, civilisations and complex economies.

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And the news is even worse for Canada, a northern and Arctic nation that could reasonably have expected some things to improve as the thermometer rose: under a “business as usual” scenario in which nations go on burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates, the Canadian economy could shrink by 13%.

A new study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts warns that overall the global economy will shrink by 7%, unless the world’s nations meet the target they set themselves at an historic meeting in Paris in 2015, when they agreed an ambition to keep global warming to no more than 2°C above the levels maintained until the Industrial Revolution.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible”

The factor that tends to govern how bad an economy may be hit is not the global average thermometer rise, but the level of deviation from the historical normal: farmers, business people and government planners tend to bank on more or less foreseeable conditions. But conditions in a hotter world are less predictable.

“Whether cold snaps or heat waves, droughts or floods or natural disasters, all deviations of climate conditions from their historical norms have adverse economic effects,” said Kamiar Mohaddes, a co-author based at the faculty of economics at the other Cambridge, in the UK.

“Without mitigation and adaptation policies, many countries are likely to experience sustained temperature increases relative to historical norms and suffer major income losses as a result. This holds for both rich and poor countries as well as hot and cold regions.

“Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. There are risks to its physical infrastructure, coastal and northern communities, human health and wellness, ecosystems and fisheries – all of which has had a cost.”

Familiar refrain

The planet has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century, with ever more intense and frequent extremes of heat, drought and rainfall. The news that climate change could impose massive costs is not a surprise.

Researchers have been warning for decades that although the switch away from fossil fuels – along with other steps – will be costly, doing nothing will be even more expensive and, for many regions, ruinous.

Studies have warned that both Europe and the United States will pay a heavy price for failing to meet the Paris targets, and the poor in America will pay an even heavier price.

In the latest study, researchers from California, Washington DC, the UK and Taiwan started with data from 174 nations going back to 1960 to find a match between variations from normal temperatures and income levels. They then made computer simulations of what could happen under two scenarios.

Paris makes sense

They made the assumption that nations would adapt to change, but that such adaptations would take 30 years to complete. They then looked at 10 sectors of the US economy in particular, and found that across 48 states, every sector in every state suffered economically from at least one aspect of climate change.

They also found that the Paris Agreement of 2015 – which President Trump proposes to abandon – offers the best business sense. Were nations to contain global warming to the ideal of 1.5°C, both the US and Canada could expect their wealth to dwindle by no more than 2%.

“The economics of climate change stretch far beyond the impact on growing crops. Heavy rainfall prevents mountain access for mining and affects commodity prices. Cold snaps raise heating bills and high street spending drops. Heat waves cause transport networks to shut down. All these things add up,” Dr Mohaddes said.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible.”

The post The Rich Will Not Be Exempt From the Worst of Climate Change appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The 400-Year-Old Wound Wrenching At the Heart of America

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Four hundred years ago this month, the first enslaved people from Africa arrived in Virginia.

Slavery is often reduced to a crime of America’s long-ago past. But enslaved labor created the backbone for America’s capitalistic economy, allowing it to grow into — and remain — the world’s leading economy today.

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The effects of this reliance on unpaid African slave labor is still felt in America’s current racial wealth divide. Today the racial wealth divide is greater than it was nearly four decades ago, and trends point to its continued widening.

Although slavery officially ended in 1865, the unequal treatment of African Americans continued through Jim Crow, red lining, and mass incarceration, among many public policies. Our country’s historic racial wealth disparities continue to be perpetuated and increased by the trend towards extreme inequality in the United States.

To further paint a dire picture, a report released earlier this year by the Institute for Policy Studies found that between 1983 and 2016, the median black family saw their wealth drop by more than half, compared to a 33 percent increase for the median white household.

Our economy is still thriving off the backs of African Americans and other poor people. While black wealth plummets, the number of households with $10 million or more skyrocketed by 856 percent during those years.

On the other end, 37 percent of black families have zero or “negative” wealth, meaning their debts exceed the value of their assets. Just 15 percent of white families are in the same position.

The racial wealth divide is an issue that affects all Americans — and the overall health of our economy.

As the black population increases, low levels of black wealth play a key factor in the overall decline in American median household wealth — from $84,111 in 1983 to $81,704 in 2016. Across all races, the number of households experiencing negative wealth has increased from one in six in 1983 to one in five households today.

Many conversations around the depletion of black wealth point towards false narratives about the work ethic of African Americans. This is a myth — studies show that college-educated black families have less wealth than high school-educated white families. And single-parent white families are twice as wealthy as two-parent black families.

The Institute for Policy Studies concludes that these outcomes are not the result of individual behavior, but the result of black Americans having fewer resources to begin with — resources they’ve been denied for 400 years, ever since the first slaves were kidnapped from Africa and brought to America to provide free, strenuous, and valuable labor.

Employment, income, homeownership, stock ownership, entrepreneurship, and virtually all other economic indicators show stark divides around race. To truly overcome these divides, we need a massive, targeted investment similar to the massive, targeted investments that historically appropriated wealth to white communities.

It’ll take bold structural reform and the political will to finally achieve economic justice for African Americans, because clearly ending slavery wasn’t enough.

By creating a formal commission to study the issue, lawmakers can take a serious look at what reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in America could look like. Inaction — or worse, repeating the same mistakes that led to this situation — will simply widen the divide and create greater economic instability for the country at large.

Four hundred years later, it’s time to stop putting a temporary bandage on the painful and relevant history of American slavery. It’s time to heal the deep wounds of racism and inequity once and for all.

Not only to finally provide African Americans with the economic equity they deserve, but to ensure the health of our economy for generations to come.

The post The 400-Year-Old Wound Wrenching At the Heart of America appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Is the Hail Mary This Planet Needs

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This piece originally appeared on Informed Comment

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ breathtaking Green New Deal, with an advertised price tag of $16.3 trillion, is aimed at nothing less than saving the planet from the worst consequences of global heating.

Related Articles by Climate News Network by by Common Dreams

The plan aims to create 20 million new, well-paying jobs. It should be noted that one possible outcome of big Federal R&D monies and a rapid shift to renewables would be to revivify the US industrial sector, which has fallen to only 12 percent or so of the US GDP. Although the price tag seems formidable, Sen. Sanders points out that climate inaction will cost $34 trillion (I would add, at the very least) by 2100.

Yuval Rosenberg at the Fiscal Times quotes the response of the centrist Third Way think tank, which appears to represent mainly investment bankers, as criticizing Sanders’ plan on a number of points. They lament that he sidelines nuclear energy and carbon capture, and that his goal of getting rid of gasoline vehicles by 2030 is not realistic. If you reason back from these positions, what is being said is that moving quickly off coal, oil and gas is undesirable. Who would say that? Big coal, big oil and big gas, the profits of which are beloved of investment bankers. Likewise, big nuclear.

So let me explain why the critique from Third Way is pernicious. First, there is no such thing as affordable, safe, carbon capture. It is a unicorn. Even if CO2 could be captured, storing carbon dioxide gas would be extremely dangerous. When CO2 leaked from under a lake in the Cameroons, it killed thousands of people living on its shores.

Second, nuclear energy is useless in our new energy regime. Wind and solar will be the backbone, and they are intermittent. The sun doesn’t shine at night, wind often calms during the day. Until we get Big Battery capacity (which is coming rapidly), you need a baseline source of power that can be easily phased in and out. That is either hydro where it exists, or natural gas. It takes way too long to power down a nuclear plant and then power it back up. It is useless. Not to mention that the nuclear waste cannot be safely disposed of and poses very long term contamination problems. Not to mention that the plants can melt down and damage riparian ecosystems. Worst of all, nuclear-generated electricity costs 11 cents a kilowatt hour. New solar and wind bids are being let for less than 3 cents a kilowatt hour, even cheaper than coal.

As for taking transportation electric quickly, of course that can be accomplished. Maybe it won’t happen in a US dominated by Big Oil, but Sanders intends to push those corporations aside and institute a Federal industrial policy that can make things happen. The analogy is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt accomplished during World War II, when US industrial capacity vastly expanded and 16 million men were mobilized and Social Security was implemented.

These things aren’t as hard as they look, though admittedly it is a massive undertaking. In the US, 17.2 million light vehicles are sold annually, so in ten years that is 172 million. There are 272 mn. light vehicles on the road. So I conclude that the market replaces 64% of the vehicle stock every decade (helped by planned obsolescence). Therefore, if you require that all new vehicles be electric, you’d switch out 64% of the gasoline cars in a decade. (Chine already today makes an $8000 EV; so can Detroit if they’re incentivized). Putting in more public transportation and incentives for using it would make many of the other vehicles redundant. Trade-in incentives could mothball those that are left. The Obama administration already did a small version of this sort of buy-back, taking older polluting gas guzzlers off people’s hands for a rebate on a new vehicle. Trump’s tax cut on billionaires cost trillions, and over a decade his increase in the war budget will also cost trillions. The US spends more on war than the next 14 countries combined, and is expected to spend $7 trillion on “defense” over the next decade, even though we have no peer powers. Nobody thought those things impossible or fantastic.

Britain spends $45 bn. a year on defense and it has 1/4 the population of the US, so that is as though the US spent less than $200 billion a year on the Pentagon. We could go down to that and save a trillion dollars every two years for useful and productive things instead of for bombs to sell the Saudis to drop on Yemeni children. The US military is among the biggest carbon-emitting organizations in the world, so maybe we could cut those emissions, too. Bernie’s plan would be paid for in this way alone in about 32 years.

The plan is set to pay for itself over 15 years in these ways:

Making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.

Generating revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.

Scaling back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.

Collecting new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.

Reduced need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.

Making the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.

The selfish and greedy elites of the US Establishment will attempt to kill this plan just in the same way that they are killing the planet. It will only succeed if the public rallies to it, urgently seeking to limit the damage to their children’s and grandchildren’s lives done by carbon dioxide, methane, and the rest.

 

The post Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Is the Hail Mary This Planet Needs appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Anglers Don’t Know How to Stop the Hordes of Hungry Sea Lions

Mother Jones Magazine -

This story was originally published by High Country News and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. 

With the lights of Moss Landing, California, twinkling in the distance, Captain Porter McHenry stood on the top deck of the Merva W, a large commercial fishing boat. Ocean water sprayed his face and dampened his thick brown beard. A third-generation fisherman, McHenry employs a crew of three. In the dead of the night, his yellow rain jacket was briefly illuminated as he ignited the long wick of an orange firecracker and chucked it over the side of the boat into the waves. 

Seconds later, a bright flash and boom broke the sea of darkness.

The 3-inch explosives, known in the fishing world as “seal bombs,” create a blast comparable to that of a small stick of dynamite. West Coast fishermen from California to Alaska use them to scare away seals and sea lions trying to steal their catch, including squid, anchovies and salmon. Once thrown overboard, the bombs detonate below the water’s surface, producing a noise that can travel for over 40 miles underwater. “Sometimes you can throw a bunch of ’em, and sea lions will stay away for a couple minutes,” said McHenry, “and you’re able to catch.” 

McHenry’s bomb forced a school of anchovies to crowd together. The fishermen cast a net, which unfurled across the water like a blanket.   

But a nearby pack of 30 hungry, burly sea lions was only momentarily deterred.

The animals thronged the bulging net, some plunging in and out to sneak extra mouthfuls of fish. The fishermen start to haul in the more than 10 tons of anchovies in the net. One sea lion swam back in and thrashed around wildly before diving back into the waves.  

This unabashed thievery has left fishermen feeling frustrated, forced to use a deterrent that doesn’t seem to work. Interviews with fishermen and marine biologists and a review of studies reveal that seal bombs are unsuccessful at scaring sea lions away from fishing nets. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency in charge of handling nuisance sea lions, knows that seal bombs are ineffective. Yet the agency continues to enforce its policy against lethal deterrents, leaving fishermen with few options other than to illegally kill sea lions or watch the animals gobble up their valuable catch.

“This is our livelihood. This is what we do to pay our bills and help our families,” said commercial fishermen Clark Walker, who works on McHenry’s boat. “If they leave us with no resources, we’re screwed.”

Before the seal bombs became the go-to method for dealing with sea lions, West Coast fishermen used shotguns. Until the late 1950s, fishermen freely shot at sea lions encroaching on their boats. Oregon even paid people to track down and kill the animals for $10 per carcass. But when the species’ population plummeted to the verge of collapse in the 1960s, conservationists stepped in.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global authority on species conservation, listed California sea lions as very rare. This listing helped motivate President Richard Nixon to sign the Marine Mammal Protection Act into law in 1972, making it illegal to hurt, harass or injure any marine mammals. As a result, the sea lion population tripled from just under 90,000 in 1975 to over 270,000 in 2008, and the animals did not have to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This was a conservation success, but the sea lion resurgence has since become a huge nuisance for West Coast and Alaska fishermen, who lose money with every mouthful the animals take from their catch.

And the monetary impacts extend beyond the lost fish. “Not only do they eat the catch out of the net, but they do significant harm to the net, which is pretty expensive,” said Kathy Hansen, a commercial fisherwoman and director of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance, a nonprofit commercial fishing organization. Hungry sea lions are also known to chase boats, and fishermen spend more money on fuel fleeing from them.

Watching this is “like beating your head into a wall,” said Rudy Zeiss, a fourth-generation commercial fishermen from Santa Cruz.

Since the 1970s, fishermen have employed non-lethal deterrents. Seal bombs, which are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, became the popular choice. They are portable, easy to ignite and have the added benefit of creating a pressure wave that forces fish together while briefly spooking sea lions. Fishermen set off as many as 37,500 seal bombs per month in Southern California from 2005 to 2016, according to a study done by the Scripps Acoustic Ecology Laboratory. In 2009, researchers recorded over 3,000 explosions in a single night at one fishing site.

But there is growing concern over whether the bombs pose a significant risk to other marine life, both directly, by hitting animals, and indirectly, by blasting loud noises, researchers say. The noise ripples out into a marine ecosystem filled with animals that rely on underwater sounds to find their next meal.

What’s more, research across the West Coast indicates that these explosions are only somewhat effective in fending off sea lions.

Two studies in 1987 revealed that sea lions were only deterred for an average of roughly four minutes. These findings were replicated in a report by NOAA and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which examined the use of seal bombs in rivers and bays in Oregon, Washington and California from 1997 to 2008. They found that the explosives were ineffective in stopping sea lions from preying on fishery catches 

“These are animals that are about eating food, reproducing and resting,” said Robert Anderson, the marine mammal program manager at NOAA. “Those things are extremely hard-wired and hard to break.”

Researchers hypothesize that seal bombs may even act as a dinner bell by luring sea lions towards a fresh meal. Between the seal bombs and blaring lights that fishermen use, hungry sea lions are easily tipped off to where they can find free food.

Despite this, many fishermen still think the bombs are better than nothing. Former Alaska Trollers Association Director Dale Kelley said that seal bombs “provide the singular most effective and legal non-lethal means to deter sea lions from vessels and catch.” And, according to Rudy Zeiss, the explosives give commercial fishermen like him “some type of chance to make a living here. Honestly, they may not do much, but even the peace of mind thinking that it’s doing something helps. It helps everything, it helps morale.”

Finally, in 2018, NOAA abandoned non-lethal methods and permitted the use of lethal force in Oregon. Specifically, officials allowed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to start euthanizing sea lions in the Willamette River, where sea lions are harming the local salmon population. Instead of staying in their natural ocean habitat, California sea lions have traveled upriver to Willamette Falls, where salmon pass through every year on their journey to spawn. According to more than a decade of data, the number of sea lions at the waterfall has increased from 27 per day in 2014 to at least 40 per day in 2017. “None of us got into the type of work that we’re in to do something like a lethal removal program, but you kinda end up there,” said Anderson, who is managing the program.

But for commercial fishermen out in the open ocean, NOAA has no solution. According to John Ewald, director of public affairs, NOAA is developing “specific measures for deterring Endangered Species Act-listed marine mammals.” However, “through this effort, we are not evaluating effectiveness of deterrents, nor are we developing deterrent methods or technologies.”

NOAA’s own 11-year report on the use of seal bombs in Oregon, Washington and California shows that non-lethal deterrents aren’t working, yet allowing a lethal removal program in the open ocean would require passing new laws in favor of culling a once seriously threatened species in its natural environment. This conflicts with the agency’s mission to be stewards “of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat.”

So, rather than develop new tools, NOAA is doubling down, focusing its efforts on teaching fishermen how to use seal bombs and other non-lethal deterrents properly. But with no new and more effective deterrent in sight, fishermen are left with a growing sense of frustration and few other options. National Geographic report last year found that West Coast fishermen are now illegally using shotguns; between 1998 and 2018, around 700 sea lions were found with gunshot or stab wounds. 

There is “no way other than shooting them,” says fisherman Clay Eldredge, who is based out of Half Moon Bay in California. “But you go to prison.” The penalty for killing a sea lion can be a year in prison and a fine of up to $28,520. However, without eyewitness accounts, video evidence, or confessions, tracking down perpetrators is close to impossible. Since 2003, just five fishermen in California have been convicted.  

“It’s the last option for the fishermen,” says Eldredge. “It’s all we’ve got.”

68 Protesters Detained as Leaders Gather at G-7 Summit

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BIARRITZ, France—The Latest on the Group of Seven summit (all times local):

11:05 p.m.

French authorities have detained 68 people taking part in a tense protest near the G-7 summit.

The regional administration says those detained are accused of throwing projectiles, concealing their faces or possessing objects that could be used as weapons.

Police fired tear gas, water cannon and dispersion grenades at a crowd of about 400 mostly peaceful anti-capitalism demonstrators Saturday in the town of Bayonne. The regional administration says no injuries were reported in the skirmishes.

World leaders gathered in nearby Biarritz on Saturday to open the Group of Seven summit.

Security is high, and some yellow vest protesters angry at the French president and economic injustice have threatened action Sunday.

___

7:40 p.m.

A French diplomat says President Emmanuel Macron tried to reduce the pressure exerted by President Donald Trump over a new digital services tax the country is imposing on internet giants.

The official, who spoke anonymously in accordance with the French presidency’s customary practices, said Macron told Trump the tax is not an anti-American policy.

During a two-hour working lunch with Trump, Macron stressed the need for every country to be able to tax digital activities.

Trump repeatedly vowed to retaliate against France for the new digital tax the country is imposing on big tech companies that sell online advertising by placing tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S.

The French diplomat said Macron told Trump there was no link to be made between the digital tax and the wine tariffs and tried to convince him there was no point in opening a trade war on that issue.

—By Sylvie Corbet

___

7:30 p.m.

France’s Basque country is on the menu for the G-7 summit informal dinner of leaders.

Saturday night’s dinner in the seaside resort of Biarritz features local specialties of the Basque country. According to the menu released by the French president’s office, dinner starts with a contemporary take on a piperade, a dish typically made with tomatoes, onions, green peppers and a dose of the local dried red pepper, known as piment d’Espelette.

The appetizer will be followed by line-caught red tuna, prepared in a style known locally as Marmitako, something like a stew cooked in an earthenware dish traditionally with tomatoes and other vegetables.

The meal ends with local cheeses, and dessert featuring hand selected peaches and a selection of Basque cakes.

___

7:10 p.m.

Police have fired water cannon and tear gas at about 400 anti-capitalist protesters blocking roads in a town near the venue of the G-7 summit in southwest France.

A few protesters threw rocks at police but the crowd in Bayonne was largely peaceful, with some activists dancing.

Police responded with warning shots and then water cannon. The incident took place near a bridge barricaded by police as part of extensive security measures around the Group of Summit meeting that opens Saturday.

Earlier Saturday thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully from the area to the Spanish border to demand more action against climate change and economic inequality. U.S. President Donald Trump is among leaders at the summit that runs through Monday.

___

6:45 p.m.

A French diplomat says French President Emmanuel Macron outlined details of a French plan to ease tensions with Iran during his working lunch with President Donald Trump at the G-7 summit.

The official, who was speaking anonymously in accordance with the French presidency’s customary practices, said France has been working for several weeks on the plan.

The diplomat said France and the United States share the same interests: preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

France’s plan would allow Iran to export oil for a limited amount of time. In exchange, Iran would need to fully implement the 2015 nuclear deal, reduce tensions in the Gulf and open talks.

Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Russia, along with Britain, Germany and China, remains a part of the accord.

—By Sylvie Corbet

___

6:20 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’ll push Donald Trump to de-escalate the American trade war with China.

As he touched down at the G-7 summit in the French resort town of Biarritz, Johnson was preparing for what will be a closely watched first meeting with the U.S. president. He said he planned to push back particularly on the Amazon fires and would press Trump on the trade dispute with China.

Britain’s economy has taken a beating over Brexit and relies heavily upon global trade, including with China.

___

6 p.m.

With Brexit at the top of their agendas, European leaders took advantage of a small window of time before the official start of the G-7 summit.

Boris Johnson, under pressure with the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline approaching, sat down at a small table facing the men and woman whose agreement he needs no avoid a no-deal departure from the European Union.

Already Johnson had traded barbs with the EU Council President Donald Tusk over who would earn the ignominious title Mr. No Deal. Later, he sat with Tusk, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s caretaker leader Guiseppe Conte.

Johnson has already met separately this week with Merkel and Macron, who have challenged him to come up with a better alternative to the main sticking point, the deadlock on the Irish border question.

___

3:10 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has touched down in the French seaside resort of Biarritz for his first Group of Seven summit, a gathering where he will meet U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time.

The meeting between the two men is expected to be crucial as Johnson prepares to pull Britain out of the European Union.

Johnson spoke earlier this week with French President Emmanuel Macron, the host of the summit of leaders of the world’s rich democracies, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Responding to European Council President Donald Tusk’s comment earlier that he didn’t believe Johnson wanted to go down as “Mr. No Deal,” referring to Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, Johnson effectively said their fates were tied over the issue of Ireland.

Johnson said that “if Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr. No Deal Brexit, then I hope that point should be born in mind by him too.”

___

2:45 p.m.

A march against the Group of Seven summit has ended peacefully, after thousands of activists for various causes walked from southwest France into Spain under heavy security.

Regional police said no arrests or incidents were reported during Saturday’s march from Hendaye in France to Irun in Spain, and estimated some 9,000 people took part.

Protesters came from multiple countries to demonstrate for more action against climate change, for indigenous peoples, free trade deals and other causes. Some wore masks representing G-7 leaders meeting in nearby Biarritz.

Protester Gael Gilles, 30, told The Associated Press, “there is too much inequality in this world and I am here to demonstrate peacefully against this G7 … to tell (the leaders) that they do not go into the good direction on the climate and other things.”

___

1:35 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he’s launching an appeal to all world powers to help Brazil and other South American countries fight the fires burning in the Amazon.

Before the Group of Seven summit, which begins Saturday, Macron thrust the rainforest fires to the top of the agenda. He touched on it again in a national address, which took place just as U.S. President Donald Trump touched down in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

Macron also called for an end to the trade wars he said are “taking hold everywhere.” Just before Trump left the United States, he again threatened tariffs on French wines in retaliation for a French measure taxing technology companies.

___

12:40 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk has promised EU retaliation if the U.S. makes good on its threats to impose tariffs on French wine.

Just before leaving for the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, U.S. President Donald Trump again threatened new taxes on French wine in response to a French measure taxing internet companies.

Tusk said that “the last thing we need and want is confrontation with our best ally, the United States.” But he said France can count on EU loyalty for one of its most valuable exports.

___

12:35 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says this year’s Group of Seven summit will be an “unusually difficult” meeting of the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful democracies.

The summit begins Saturday in the southern French resort town of Biarritz. Tusk warned in particular against trade wars, which he said could lead to a global recession. Other threats include climate change, and technology that is developing more quickly than the ability to regulate.

He warned that it could be the last moment to restore unity among the G-7 countries.

___

12:25 p.m.

France is pressing the White House to endorse a global pledge at the Group of Seven summit to better fight against the spread of hate speech on the internet.

Cedric O, a French official in charge of digital economy, told reporters that the other six nations in the G-7 have already backed the pledge, as have Google and Facebook.

The U.S. didn’t endorse a similar pledge after the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year. O said the pledge includes a commitment to fight terrorist and hate speech on the internet, transparency on the process, and defense of freedom of expression.

___

11:50 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters are marching as Group of Seven leaders arrive in the French resort town of Biarritz.

Protesters planned to cross into Spain from the French border village town of Hendaye. As the march began, they held cardboard signs aloft with pictures of Earth, protesting against climate policies they blame on the world’s G-7 countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, the host, put the Amazon fires at the top of the agenda for the weekend meeting.

___

11:30 a.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arrived for the Group of Seven summit amid escalating tensions with South Korea.

South Korea canceled a deal to share military intelligence, mainly on North Korea, after a trade dispute between the two countries.

Relations between two countries, both allies of the U.S., are at their lowest point since they established diplomatic ties in 1965.

Abe’s plane touched down in the French seaside resort on Biarritz on Saturday morning.

___

11:05 a.m.

Germany says that impeding a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur won’t help reduce the destruction of rainforest in Brazil.

On Friday, Group of Seven summit host French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to block the recently agreed trade deal with Mercosur, which also includes Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Ireland joined in the threat.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear she shares Macron’s concern about the fires. But her government said in an emailed response Saturday to a query about the threat to the Mercosur deal that its trade section “includes an ambitious sustainability chapter with binding rules on climate protection,” in which both sides committed to implementing the Paris climate accord.

It added: “the non-conclusion (of the deal) is therefore from our point of view not the appropriate response to what is currently happening in Brazil.”

___

10:55 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the Group of Seven leaders “cannot be silent” in the face of fires sweeping parts of Brazil’s Amazon and will call for everything to be done to stop fires in the rainforest.

Germany is backing French President Emmanuel Macron’s call to discuss the fires at the weekend’s French-hosted G-7 summit. Merkel said in her weekly video message released Saturday: “Emmanuel Macron is right — our house is burning, and we cannot be silent.”

She said leaders are “shaken” by the fires and that they will discuss “how we can support and help there, and send a clear call that everything must be done so that the rainforest stops burning.”

Amid a series of policy and trade disagreements, which she didn’t address explicitly, Merkel said that “talking to each other is always better than about each other — and the G-7 is an excellent opportunity for that.”

___

10:30 a.m.

World leaders and protesters are converging on the southern French resort town of Biarritz for the G-7 summit.

French President Emmanuel Macron is the host of the summit, which begins Saturday and has emptied out the town famed for its beach on the last week of the summer break. He has downplayed any expectations of a unified front from the leaders of the Group of Seven democracies.

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives later in the day. At last year’s meeting, Trump left early and repudiated the joint statement from Air Force One.

At the top of the agenda are climate change – and especially the fires burning in the Amazon – and a global economy teetering on the edge of recession.

The post 68 Protesters Detained as Leaders Gather at G-7 Summit appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Brazilian Troops Deploy to Fight Amazon Fires

TruthDig.com News -

RIO DE JANEIRO— Backed by military aircraft, Brazilian troops on Saturday were deploying in the Amazon to fight fires that have swept the region and prompted anti-government protests as well as an international outcry.

President Jair Bolsonaro also tried to temper global concern, saying previously deforested areas had burned and that intact rainforest was spared. Even so, the fires were likely to be urgently discussed at a summit of the Group of Seven leaders in France this weekend.

Some 44,000 troops will be available for “unprecedented” operations to put out the fires, and forces are heading to six Brazilian states that asked for federal help, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo said. The states are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins, Para, Acre and Mato Grosso.

The military’s first mission will be carried out by 700 troops around Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia, Azevedo said. The military will use two C-130 Hercules aircraft capable of dumping up to 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of water on fires, he said.

An Associated Press journalist flying over the Porto Velho region Saturday morning reported hazy conditions and low visibility. On Friday, the reporter saw many already deforested areas that were burned, apparently by people clearing farmland, as well as a large column of smoke billowing from one fire.

The municipality of Nova Santa Helena in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state was also hard-hit. Trucks were seen driving along a highway Friday as fires blazed and embers smoldered in adjacent fields.

The Brazilian military operations came after widespread criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis. On Friday, the president authorized the armed forces to put out fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

Azevedo, the defense minister, noted U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer in a tweet to help Brazil fight the fires, and said there had been no further contact on the matter.

Despite international concern, Bolsonaro told reporters on Saturday that the situation was returning to normal. He said he was “speaking to everyone” about the problem, including Trump, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and several Latin American leaders.

Bolsonaro had described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil’s economic development, sparring with critics who say the Amazon absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gasses and is crucial for efforts to contain climate change.

The Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries who believe Bolsonaro has neglected commitments to protect biodiversity. Protesters gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions in European and Latin American cities Friday, and demonstrators also marched in Brazil.

“The planet’s lungs are on fire. Let’s save them!” read a sign at a protest outside Brazil’s embassy in Mexico City.

The dispute spilled into the economic arena when French leader Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a European Union trade deal with Brazil and several other South American countries.

“First we need to help Brazil and other countries put out these fires,” Macron said Saturday.

The goal is to “preserve this forest that we all need because it is a treasure of our biodiversity and our climate thanks to the oxygen that it emits and thanks to the carbon it absorbs,” he said.

In a weekly video message released Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Group of Seven leaders “cannot be silent” and should discuss how to help extinguish the fires.

Bolivia has also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields. A U.S.-based aircraft, the B747-400 SuperTanker, is flying over devastated areas in Bolivia to help put out the blazes and protect forests.

On Saturday, several helicopters along with police, military troops, firefighters and volunteers on the ground worked to extinguish fires in Bolivia’s Chiquitanía region, where the woods are dry at this time of year.

Farmers commonly set fires in this season to clear land for crops or livestock, but sometimes the blazes get out of control. The Bolivian government says 9,530 square kilometers (3680 square miles) have been burned this year.

The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales has backed the increased cultivation of crops for biofuel production, raising questions about whether the policy opened the way to increased burning.

Similarly, Bolsonaro had said he wants to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms. Brazilian prosecutors are investigating whether lax enforcement of environmental regulations may have contributed to the surge in the number of fires.

Brazil’s justice ministry also said federal police will deploy in fire zones to assist other state agencies and combat “illegal deforestation.”

Fires are common in Brazil in the annual dry season, but they are much more widespread this year. Brazilian state experts reported nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018.

More than half of those fires occurred in the Amazon region.

___

Associated Press journalists Juan Karita in Robore, Bolivia; Victor Caivano in Porto Velho, Brazil; Christopher Torchia in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

The post Brazilian Troops Deploy to Fight Amazon Fires appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Welfare Reform Was a Disaster for the Poor. Trump Wants to Make It Even Worse.

Mother Jones Magazine -

This week marked the 23rd anniversary of welfare reform, a law that ripped a hole in the nation’s safety net under the guise of encouraging personal responsibility among poor families. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has marked the anniversary with a look back at how low-income families have fared under the “reform,” and it isn’t heartening.

Very few eligible poor families now receive cash benefits compared with 23 years ago. Overall, CBPP estimates that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program could be serving 2.5 million more families living below the poverty line than it does now. Some states are worse than others on this front. At the very bottom end of the scale are Louisiana and Texas, where according to CBPP, only four out of every 100 eligible families receives cash assistance from TANF.  If Louisiana served the same percentage of poor families as it did in 1996, nearly 70,000 families in the state would have received assistance in 2017. Instead, only about 6,000 did. In Texas, the caseload would have been well over 250,000 families. Instead, only 25,000 Texas families received TANF in 2017. 

The reason for the large drop in the number of poor families benefiting from TANF is pretty simple. In 1996, Congress passed legislation to eliminate the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, which provided cash benefits mostly to poor, single mothers. As an entitlement program, the AFDC program budget adjusted automatically to meet the need, so it didn’t require an act of Congress to increase benefits during a recession. But by the mid-1990s, it had become hugely controversial and plagued with false, racist stereotypes about layabout welfare recipients supposedly living large on the public dime.

With a seal of approval from President Bill Clinton, the GOP-controlled Congress replaced AFDC with TANF, a block-grant program that gave the states a fixed amount of funding, about $16 billion, regardless of how many people were on the welfare rolls or how high the unemployment rate went. The revamped law required strict new work requirements for recipients and imposed time limits on how long someone could receive benefits. States took the opportunity to drop millions of families from the welfare rolls, all while keeping the federal money. States today spend only about a quarter of their TANF budgets on cash assistance to help poor families buy diapers, keep the lights on, and avoid evictions. The rest of the money goes into other things, including anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, abstinence-only sex education, and the foster care system—the very place welfare benefits were supposed to keep kids out of.

The original cuts came at a time when the economy was booming during the Clinton years, but since then, the impact of the change has become clear: TANF is doing little to alleviate poverty. That hasn’t kept Republicans from continuing to attack the program as free stuff for the underserving.

In November, President Donald Trump issued an executive order demanding that federal agencies review their welfare policies and find ways to crack down on the lazy and indolent. “Our country still struggles from nearly record high welfare enrollments,” White House adviser Andrew Bremberg said when the order was issued. “Part of President Trump’s effort to create a booming American economy includes moving Americans from welfare to work.”

Report: Trump’s Businesses Could Save Millions If Fed Cuts Interest Rates

Mother Jones Magazine -

In recent months, Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the Federal Reserve and its chairperson, Jerome Powell, for setting interest rates higher than Trump would like. “The only problem we have is Jay Powell and the Fed,” the president tweeted on Wednesday. “Big U.S. growth if he does the right thing, BIG CUT – but don’t count on him! So far he has called it wrong, and only let us down.” On Friday, he went further, declaring, “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?”

Trump pretty clearly sees recent economic turmoil—much of which he has caused by provoking a trade war with China—as a major threat to his reelection bid. He’s hoping the Fed can juice the economy enough for him to win a second term. But as the Washington Post reported Saturday, Trump may have an ulterior motive. It turns out that his businesses could save millions of dollars in interest payments if rates fall:

In the five years before he became president, Trump borrowed more than $360 million via four loans from Deutsche Bank for his hotels in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, as well his 643-room Doral golf resort in South Florida. 

The payments on all four properties vary with interest rate changes, according to Trump’s official financial disclosures. That means he has already benefited from falling interest rates that were spurred in part by a cut the Federal Reserve announced in July, the first in more than a decade—and his payments could drop by millions of dollars more annually if the central bank grants Trump’s wish and further lowers short-term rates, experts said.

[…]

The central bank’s benchmark rate is one factor in determining interest owed on variable-rate loans, the kind the president has on his properties. Mortgage rates have also been driven down because of the trade war with China and anxieties about global growth.

When Trump became president, he refused to divest from his vast array of business ventures—despite the obvious conflicts of interest they pose. His hotels and clubs have continued raking in money from foreign officials (though the Trump Organization says it donates these profits), and he’s threatened to impose tariffs on wine imports that compete with his winery. Now he stands to benefit from bullying the Federal Reserve.

Here’s My Summary of All the Climate Plans

Mother Jones Magazine -

Here’s my summary of the climate change plans from all of the top-tier Democratic candidates. My assessment is based mostly on three things:

  • How practical is the plan? I’m not interested in kitchen sinks. It’s easy to propose a plan that does everything, but if it has no chance of gaining public support then it’s not a serious effort.
  • The plan should allocate huge sums for energy R&D. The past two decades have made it clear that the public—and that includes everyone reading this—is not willing to endure huge lifestyle changes in order to save us from planetary suicide. The only way we’re likely to beat climate change is by finding new technologies that provide lots of carbon-free energy at low prices.
  • The United States is responsible for only about 15 percent of global carbon emissions. This means that while subsidies for things like solar and wind are good ideas, they are nowhere near enough. Even if the US completely decarbonized by 2050, it would have virtually no effect unless the rest of the world joins us. Any serious plan has to address this head on.

I understand that this is not the usual way of grading climate plans. The usual way is to count up how many boxes have been checked and how much money is being promised. This rewards the same old kitchen sink plans that have been failing to gain public traction for the past two decades and I have no interest in going down this path. Climate change is shaping up to be the biggest catastrophe in human history, and it demands not wishful thinking, but a clear-eyed view of reality and human nature.

I’m interested in plans that demonstrate some thought; show a willingness to prioritize; and take into account what the public is and isn’t likely to support. In other words, plans that are likely to work. Here are my grades:

Candidate Grade Comments Joe Biden C+ $1.7 trillion plan is not bad. It takes R&D seriously and spends considerable time acknowledging that we’ll get nowhere unless we get the rest of the world on board. Unfortunately, it’s way too timid. Multiply the R&D by ten and it would be pretty good. Cory Booker Inc. No plan yet. Placeholder is mostly about environmental justice and doesn’t look promising. Pete Buttigieg Inc. No plan yet. Even the placeholder looks like an afterthought. Kamala Harris Inc. No plan yet. Placeholder is mostly about taking on big oil and promoting environmental justice. Beto O’Rourke F $1.5 trillion plan is small and allocates only $200 billion for R&D. It’s so full of jargon that it’s hard to figure out what it really means. Once you cut through the cant, there’s nothing much there. Bernie Sanders D- $16 trillion plan is the king of the kitchen sinks: just say you support everything so you don’t have to prioritize anything. It is plainly meant more to impress than to provide a practical way forward. There’s more about vanquishing the left’s enemies and providing jobs than there is about genuinely tackling climate change. Elizabeth Warren C- $2 trillion plan is incomplete and too small, but it’s genuinely focused on climate change rather than using climate change as a cover for other progressive priorities. It needs more thought, and like Biden’s plan, the R&D spending needs to be multiplied by ten.

Top EU Official Blasts Trump’s Plan to Invite Russia to G7 Meeting

Mother Jones Magazine -

President Donald Trump has reportedly been complaining up a storm about having to represent the United States at this week’s meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France. It’s hard to blame him, really. He hates it when he can’t sleep in his own bed or at one of his own resorts. Plus the Europeans don’t like him very much. He was greeted upon arrival by French President Emmanuel Macron, who pestered him at an impromptu lunch about climate change and other issues, such as inequality, that Trump doesn’t care about. And Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, which represents the 28 members of the European Union, kicked off the week’s meetings by taking Trump to task for his repeated insistence that the G7 invite Russia to rejoin the group of world economic powers. 

The group expelled Russia in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimea Peninsula. Russia continues to support anti-Kiev rebels fighting the Ukrainian government. Trump has blamed President Barack Obama for Russia’s expulsion, and he apparently believes the invasion of Crimea was justified because people who live there speak Russian.

Trump said on Tuesday that he believed it is “much more appropriate to have Russia in” the G7 meetings than out because “a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.” The comments prompted Tusk to make a public statement Saturday throwing cold water on the idea of Russia rejoining the group.

G7 News: Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, announces that “under no condition” will the EU agree to Trump’s suggestion to invite Russia back into the G7. In fact, Ukraine may be invited as a guest to next year’s summit. #G7Biarritz #G7Summit pic.twitter.com/e2iL6v1Sq8

— Stephanie Kennedy (@WordswithSteph) August 24, 2019

“One year ago, in Canada, President Trump suggested reinviting Russia to G7, stating openly that Crimea’s annexation by Russia was partially justified and that we should accept this fact,” Tusk said. “Under no condition can we agree with this logic.” Officials from Germany, France, and the United Kingdom made similar comments earlier in the week.

Tusk went on to explain: “When Russia was invited to G7 for the first time, it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Is there anyone among us, who can say with full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?”

Instead, Tusk, who is Polish, suggested that next year, “it would be better to invite Ukraine.”

Beto O’Rourke Gets an F for His Climate Plan

Mother Jones Magazine -

Beto O’Rourke’s climate plan presents a problem: it’s so full of jargon and voodoo accounting that it’s genuinely hard to figure out what he’s saying. For starters, he calls it a $5 trillion plan, but it turns out that he plans only to “mobilize” $5 trillion by “leveraging” a $1.5 trillion direct investment. Of that dubious $5 trillion, he targets $4 trillion on infrastructure buildout, including this:

More than $1 trillion through limited-duration, performance-focused climate change tax incentives that accelerate the scale up of nascent technologies enabling reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, through efficiency and alternatives.

What does that mean? It reads like a parody of corporatese, not a real attempt to say something. In any case, what O’Rourke is actually proposing is $600 billion in spending on infrastructure buildout that, in some unstated way, will spur a total of $4 trillion in infrastructure buildout.

On the R&D front, O’Rourke proposes spending $200 billion. This will “catalyze follow-on private investment,” but he doesn’t pretend to put a number on that. There’s no detail about what this money will be spent on, which is OK since that decision should be left to experts, but it would be nice to include at least enough to show that he’s given it some thought instead of just repeating platitudes.

Beyond this, he proposes a “legally enforceable standard” to meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050:

This standard will send a clear price signal to the market to change the incentives for how we produce, consume, and invest in energy, while putting in place a mechanism that will ensure the environmental and socio-economic integrity of this endeavor — providing us with the confidence that we are moving at least as quickly as we need in order to meet a 2050 deadline.

I guess this means a carbon tax? Or cap-and-trade? Once again, the jargon quotient is so high that it’s hardly possible to say what O’Rourke really means here.

Taken as a whole, O’Rourke’s plan is the smallest one out there; it targets only $200 billion for R&D; it doesn’t even acknowledge that the rest of the world exists; and it’s so full of buzzwords and funny money that it’s genuinely hard to figure out what he really means. He gets an F.

Joe Biden Gets a C+ for His Climate Plan

Mother Jones Magazine -

Joe Biden has proposed a $1.7 trillion climate plan over ten years that includes the following major components:

  • Net zero emissions by 2050.
  • $400 billion (over ten years) on R&D targeted at: grid-scale storage; small modular nuclear reactors; zero net energy buildings; using renewables to produce carbon-free hydrogen; decarbonizing industrial heat needed to make steel, concrete, and chemicals; leveraging agriculture to remove carbon dioxide from the air; and sequestering carbon dioxide from power plants deep underground.
  • Special attention paid to R&D on nuclear power and carbon sequestration.
  • A climate adaptation agenda.
  • A lengthy plan to “rally the world” to address climate change.
  • All the usual shoutouts to climate justice and protection for fossil-fuel workers who lose their jobs.

This is . . . surprisingly good. There are two key components to any good climate plan: (a) it can’t rely on lifestyle sacrifices that people simply won’t accept, and (b) it has to be truly global. The United States accounts for about 15 percent of total carbon emissions, so even if we spend trillions in subsidies to become carbon free it will represent only a drop in the ocean unless the rest of the world comes along.

Biden’s plan doesn’t say this as explicitly as I just did, but its emphasis on R&D and global action is obvious: nearly 20 percent of the report is taken up by R&D and another 20 percent by the need to work with other countries. What’s more, Biden has obviously taken some expert advice on the R&D front. His suggestions for general areas to spend money on are quite good.

That said, Biden’s suggestion of $400 billion in R&D is laughably small. Multiply by ten and you might have something serious. This is the place where Biden’s natural caution and centrism work against him. He’s on the right track here, but climate change is the single biggest catastrophe our planet has ever faced. If we’re going to do something about it, we’re going to need the single biggest response our planet has ever put forth.

So: right idea, but pitifully small. I’ll give it a C+. A sharp bump upward in the R&D budget would get Biden a solid B.

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