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An erupting Indonesian volcano may alter global climate.

After Puerto Rico canceled its controversial contract with the small Montana company last month, Whitefish had agreed to continue repairs on the island’s devastated grid until Nov. 30. But on Monday, the company paused work 10 days early. According to Whitefish, PREPA, Puerto Rico’s government-owned utility, owed it $83 million.

“It may have not been the best business decision coming to work for a bankrupt island,” Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski told CNN. PREPA was $9 billion in debt before Hurricane Maria.

Whitefish claims that some of its contractors and subcontractors are going unpaid due to PREPA’s delayed payments. Meanwhile, PREPA says it paused payment to Whitefish on Nov. 16 at the request of a subcontractor claiming Whitefish owed it money. Sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation?

Congress and the FBI are currently investigating the $300 million Whitefish contract, which drew scrutiny for its anti-auditing measure and unusually high fees, among other things. A congressional hearing last week found that PREPA ignored lawyers’ advice in signing the deal in the first place. Soon after the hearing, PREPA’s CEO resigned.

Puerto Rico could use an end to the Whitefish drama — and the power outages. Two months after Hurricane Maria, less than half of the power has been restored and entire communities are still living without electricity.

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An erupting Indonesian volcano may alter global climate.

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced yesterday that it plans to curb power plant emissions by 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

The participating states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — will finalize the agreement on Sept. 25. According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts wanted to set the bar higher by “reducing carbon emissions 5 percent a year. But Maryland balked and threatened to pull out of the pact, saying it would lead to higher energy costs for consumers.”

The agreement caps the emissions from the power generation only (unlike California’s system, it does not include other industry, transportation, or agriculture), and allows those electricity generators to buy and sell emissions rights. This latest move simply lowers the cap.

Even though Washington, D.C., tends to suck up all the oxygen in the conversation, local and regional leaders are trying different approaches to suck all the carbon out of the economy. In these statehouses, it’s a lot less hot air, and a lot more action.

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

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Top Intel Official Won’t Deny Reports That Trump Pressured Him to Push Back on FBI Investigation

Mother Jones

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Tuesday refused to tell Senators whether President Donald Trump had asked him to push back against against the FBI investigation into potential links between Trump’s associates and Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, an allegation that was reported by the Washington Post Monday night.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked about the accuracy of Post‘s report that Trump had asked Coats and NSA director Michael Rogers to “publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.” According to the Post’s sources, both Coats and Rogers felt Trump’s request was “inappropriate” and refused to comply. Coats declined to answer McCain’s question.

“As the president’s principal intelligence adviser, I’m fortunate to be able and need to spend a significant amount of time with the president discussing national security interests and intelligence,” said Coats. “As it relates to those interests, we discuss a number of topics on a very regular basis. I have always believed that given the nature of my position and the information which we share, it’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that. So on this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president.”

Trump’s alleged request to Coats and Rogers came after then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed publicly on March 20 that the FBI was investigating possible links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, and whether any coordination between them existed during the 2016 campaign.

According to the Post, an internal NSA memo written by a “senior NSA official” documented Trump’s request at the time he made it. Of course, that memo wouldn’t be the only time a senior intelligence official apparently documented an inappropriate request made by Trump regarding the Russia investigation. As the New York Times revealed last week, Comey wrote a series of memos documenting his communications with Trump, including one in which he apparently wrote that Trump had asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

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Top Intel Official Won’t Deny Reports That Trump Pressured Him to Push Back on FBI Investigation

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Gabe Sherman: Bill O’Reilly Is Out at Fox News

Mother Jones

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Gabriel Sherman, who has made a career out of reporting about Fox News, says serial lech Bill O’Reilly is out:

The Murdochs have decided Bill O’Reilly’s 21-year run at Fox News will come to an end. According to sources briefed on the discussions, network executives are preparing to announce O’Reilly’s departure before he returns from an Italian vacation on April 24. Now the big questions are how the exit will look and who will replace him.

…Sources briefed on the discussions say O’Reilly’s exit negotiations are moving quickly. Right now, a key issue on the table is whether he would be allowed to say good-bye to his audience, perhaps the most loyal in all of cable (O’Reilly’s ratings have ticked up during the sexual-harassment allegations). Fox executives are leaning against allowing him to have a sign-off, sources say. The other main issue on the table is money. O’Reilly recently signed a new multi-year contract worth more than $20 million per year. When Roger Ailes left Fox News last summer, the Murdochs paid out $40 million, the remainder of his contract.

O’Reilly’s audience apparently likes the fact that he hits on women constantly in crude and demeaning ways. I guess this doesn’t surprise me. Or does it? I’m not sure. But one thing is for sure: O’Reilly’s audience really, really hates the idea of caving into the liberal social justice warriors.

So: no Roger Ailes, no Megyn Kelly, no Greta van Susteren, no Gretchen Carlson, no Bill O’Reilly. It’s just not the same at Fox anymore. At least they still have Sean Hannity.

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Gabe Sherman: Bill O’Reilly Is Out at Fox News

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From Tech Workers to College Kids, Trump is Also Taking on Legal Immigrants

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration is well known. But since his inauguration, he has also attempted to overhaul legal immigration, most notably with his executive order barring travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Speculation about other ways the president could restrict legal immigration have been fueled by his statements as well as leaked draft memos. Additionally, there are concerns surrounding potential conflicts of interest between the president’s businesses and his immigration policy, since some of the Trump’s companies rely upon visas that he now controls.

Few people understand the United States’ notoriously labyrinthine immigration system. The confusion is understandable. The State Department lists 76 visa categories that fall under two umbrellas: non-immigrant visas, for those seeking to come to the country for a fixed period, and immigrant visas, for those seeking a path to citizenship.

Here are some of the visas issued by the US government and what we know about Trump’s plans for them:

EB-5: The “millionaire” or “investor” visa
EB-5 holders are required to make a minimum business investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in a “high unemployment” or rural area), creating at least 10 jobs. This visa is controversial: Some argue that it allows foreigners to buy citizenship. Others suggest that these visas are processed too quickly, potentially opening the door to money laundering and other security risks. Earlier this month, Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) cosponsored a bill to end the program.

As Bloomberg reported, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, owns an apartment complex that has taken $50 million in EB-5 funds, mostly from Chinese investors. Trump has not commented on this visa program.

H-1B: Highly Skilled worker visa
H-1Bs allow foreigners who work in a “specialty occupation,” such as technology, engineering, mathematics, or business, to work in the country for three years. (They may renew their visas an additional three years so long as they remain employed.) The worker must have an employment agreement with an American company. The number of H-1Bs is capped at 85,000.

Trump’s stance on H-1Bs has varied. He used harsh language about them on his website, but then in a campaign debate said, “I’m softening the position on his website because we have to have talented people in this country.” He then hardened his position again in a press release, stating that “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.” In his inauguration speech, Trump said, “We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.” This has raised questions about how a “hire American” requirement might impact American businesses that rely on skilled foreign employees, particularly Silicon Valley.

According to a draft executive order obtained by Bloomberg, Trump has plans to overhaul this visa program. The draft order sparked a wave of panic in India’s technology sector, whose workers are the top recipients of H-1Bs. According to executive order drafts leaked to Vox, one of the ways Trump could alter this visa would be to stop the spouses of H-1B holders from working in the United States and restricting these visas to companies that are “the best and the brightest,” which presumably means only largest and most successful American companies.

H-1B3: The “model visa”
This visa is a subset of the “highly skilled workers” visa. When the immigration system was reformed in the 1990s, the modeling industry expressed concern that while supermodels were covered by the O-1 visa (see below), non-supermodels were left out. The “model visa” was created.

First Lady Melania Trump originally worked in the United States on such a visa, and has cited it as proof that she immigrated legally and that others should follow her example. Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has benefited from hiring foreign models using this visa. However, as Mother Jones reported last year, some of the company’s models say they came to the United States on tourist visas, which did not allow them to work legally. A Trump Organization executive did not deny the claims.

H2: Seasonal worker visa
H2s allow companies to temporarily hire agricultural workers or other workers without advanced degrees, such as waiters and housekeepers, provided that employers prove that they could not fill these position with citizens.

According to the Washington Post, Trump’s vineyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently applied for six H-2A visas. As BuzzFeed reported last week, the vineyard applied for nearly two dozen more earlier this month. Similarly, Trump’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago resort requested 78 H2B visas for foreign servers, housekeepers, and cooks. When asked about this at a debate last March, Trump said, “It’s very, very hard to get people. But other hotels do the exact same thing…There’s nothing wrong with it. We have no choice.” Perhaps that was a signal that he’ll leave this visa alone.

F-1: Student visas
These visas allow students to travel to the United States to study at high schools, universities, seminaries, and other educational institutions.

Many students with F visas have been affected by the travel ban. As Mother Jones has reported, many college students were stranded by the ban while returning from winter break. Four thousand Iranian students will be affected should the ban remain in place. Fortune estimates that US colleges could lose $700 million annually if these students’ tuition money dries up. Though Trump hasn’t spoken specifically about changes to student visas, during his campaign, he has called for ending the J-1 visa program for visiting scholars and professors.

O-1: The “artist” or “genius” visa
This visa allows “individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement” to come to the United States to work in their field of expertise. This visa covers everyone from athletes and musicians to famous authors and Nobel Prize-winning scientists. (Athletes who are entering for a specific competition may enter on a P-1 “athlete’s visa.”)

If Trump’s travel ban is upheld, celebrities from the seven specified countries could be affected. International disapproval of the ban could affect major events, such as Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympics, which will be decided in September. According to ESPN, international soccer officials’ disapproval of the president’s travel ban could affect the United States’s chances of hosting the World Cup in 2026.

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From Tech Workers to College Kids, Trump is Also Taking on Legal Immigrants

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ExxonMobil could reap as much as $1 trillion under Trump, report says.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a report Tuesday morning that adds up the many ways in which the incoming Trump administration could enrich the world’s largest oil company.

The report comes a day before Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s former CEO, starts his nomination hearing to be President-elect Trump’s secretary of state.

In that role, Tillerson could do a lot for his former employer. The oil giant has massive holdings in foreign oil reserves and remains one of the biggest investors in the Canadian tar sands, with rights worth around $277 billion at current prices.

As it happens, the State Department is responsible for approving the fossil fuel infrastructure that could bring Canadian tar sands oil to the U.Smarket. Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? It could come back from the dead and get approved by Tillerson.

Tillerson could also undo sanctions on Russia that have blocked Exxon’s projects there, including a deal with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, worth roughly $500 billion.

And then there are the Trump administration’s domestic plans to lift every restriction on extracting oil from public lands and offshore. The CAP report also figures that Trump’s Department of Justice is unlikely to investigate Exxon’s effort to mislead the public about climate change. Tally all the benefits and you get nearly $1 trillion.

So who was the biggest winner of the November election? According to the CAP report, ExxonMobil.

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ExxonMobil could reap as much as $1 trillion under Trump, report says.

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Living At Home Has Become Steadily More Popular Since the 1960s

Mother Jones

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According to the Wall Street Journal, millennials are living in their parents’ basements at record rates:

Almost 40% of young Americans were living with their parents, siblings or other relatives in 2015, the largest percentage since 1940, according to an analysis of census data by real estate tracker Trulia.

Despite a rebounding economy and recent job growth, the share of those between the ages of 18 and 34 doubling up with parents or other family members has been rising since 2005. Back then, before the start of the last recession, roughly one out of three were living with family.

Hmmm. “Rising since 2005.” I’ll assume that’s technically true, but take a look at the chart that accompanies the Journal piece. The number of young adults living with their parents rose in the 70s. And the 80s. And the aughts. And the teens. Basically, it’s been on an upward trend for nearly half a century. That seems more noteworthy to me than the fact that it failed to blip slightly downward after the Great Recession ended.

Part of the reason, of course, is that people have been getting married and settling down later in life. According to the OECD, the average age at first marriage has increased nearly five years just since 1990, and ranges between 30 and 35 around the world:

The United States is still at the low end of the world average.

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Living At Home Has Become Steadily More Popular Since the 1960s

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Tired of waiting on humans, microbes cooperate to clean up our messes.

That’s according to a Reuters investigation that analyzed blood tests from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 1,100 of those communities have lead levels four times as high as those observed in Flint.

Nationwide, the exposure could be much higher: Data was only available for 21 states, accounting for 61 percent of the U.S. population.

The CDC estimates that 2.5 percent of children across in the United States have at least slightly elevated levels of lead, which can lead to lowered IQs, developmental delays, and learning difficulties, as well as miscarriage and premature birth. The local water supply is frequently the source of lead, but some communities are additionally plagued by industrial waste, lead paint, and lead pipes.

On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump vowed to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — including the lead crisis — but many of his cabinet picks have a history of combating legislation that protect public health.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, sued that very agency for using the Clean Water Act to prosecute waterway polluters. According to Pruitt, the Act threatens the “property rights of the average American.” He didn’t mention their brains.

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Tired of waiting on humans, microbes cooperate to clean up our messes.

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Trump’s Pick for Budget Director Isn’t Sure the Government Should Fund Scientific Research

Mother Jones

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Mick Mulvaney, the ultra-conservative South Carolina congressman whom Donald Trump has tapped to be his budget director, has questioned whether the federal government should spend any money on scientific research.

If confirmed by the Senate to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney, a deficit hawk who recently spoke before a chapter of the right-wing-fringe John Birch Society, would be in charge of crafting Trump’s budget and overseeing the functioning of federal agencies. One thing he seems to believe the budget and the agencies should not be funding is research into diseases like the Zika virus.

Two weeks before Congress finally passed more than $1 billion to fight the spread of Zika and its effects, Mulvaney questioned whether the government should fund any scientific research. “Do we need government-funded research at all,” he wrote in a Facebook post on September 9 unearthed by the Democratic opposition research group American Bridge. Mulvaney appears to have deleted his Facebook page since then.

In the post, he justified his position on government-funded research by questioning the scientific consensus that Zika causes the birth defect microcephaly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded in April that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other defects. But Mulvaney wrote:

And before you inundate me with pictures of children with birth defects, consider this:

Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic continues to pose a mystery — if Zika is the culprit, why are there no similar epidemics in countries also hit hard by the virus? In Brazil, the microcephaly rate soared with more than 1,500 confirmed cases. But in Colombia, a recent study of nearly 12,000 pregnant women infected with Zika found zero microcephaly cases. If Zika is to blame for microcephaly, where are the missing cases? According to a new report from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), the number of missing cases in Colombia and elsewhere raises serious questions about the assumed connection between Zika and microcephaly.

According to the New York Times, the relatively low rate of microcephaly in Colombia has indeed puzzled some researchers, who point to the fact that many women likely delayed pregnancy or had abortions when testing revealed the birth defect. But that doesn’t change the scientific consensus linking Zika to microcephaly.

Here’s the full post from Mulvaney:

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Trump’s Pick for Budget Director Isn’t Sure the Government Should Fund Scientific Research

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Climate Change Is Shrinking Reindeer and Devastating Their Herders

Mother Jones

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Reindeer are getting smaller and lighter as a result of climate change’s disruption to their food supply, researchers revealed during the British Ecological Society annual meeting in Liverpool this week.

The findings come by way of ecologists from the James Hutton Institute, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences who have been measuring reindeer in the high Arctic every winter since 1994. According to their measurements, adult reindeer have shown a 12 percent decrease in overall body mass over the years—from 121 pounds in 1994 to 106 pounds in 2010.

JellisV/iStock

Researchers believe the stunted growth of reindeer is directly tied to increasing temperatures in the Arctic—a region particularly vulnerable to warming—over the past two decades. Among several speculated reasons, all linked to climate change, warmer winter temperatures bring more rain, which freezes when it falls onto snow, making it more difficult for reindeer to access food below the ice. For pregnant females, the resultant starvation causes them to abort or give birth to malnourished calves. Over the long term, this could also lead to “extensive die-offs” in the reindeer population, according to lead researcher Steve Albon.

Reindeer aren’t the only victims of a rapidly shifting Arctic climate—those who herd them have also fallen prey. The Sami peoples of northern Scandinavia consider reindeer a linchpin of their cultural identity. Climate change—on top of the existing mental strains that indigenous herders face from social stigma—has contributed to a widespread mental health crisis and mounting suicide rate among the Sami in recent years. According to Sami psychologist and researcher Petter Stoor, half of Sami adults in Sweden suffer from anxiety and depression, and an astonishing one-third of young herders have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Sami herder brings food to reindeer. Dmitry Chulov/iStock

As climate change intensifies, the reindeer herders stand to lose not only their livelihood, but their culture. “We are the nature people,” Frøydis Nystad Nilsen, a Sami psychologist, told the health news site STAT. “When you lose your land, you lose your identity.”

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Climate Change Is Shrinking Reindeer and Devastating Their Herders

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