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Climate science opponent Lamar Smith will retire from Congress.

Poor dumb turtles and fish, always chomping on the ubiquitous plastic in the water by accident — or so the story went, until a handful of recent studies suggested sea creatures may actually be choosing to eat plastic.

In one of these experiments, researchers took single grains of sand and particles of microplastic — both around the same size and shape — and dropped them onto coral polyps. The tiny creatures responded to the plastic the same way they would to a tasty piece of food, stuffing the bits of trash into their mouths like so many Snickers Minis.

“Plastics may be inherently tasty,” Austin Allen, a study coauthor and marine science doctoral student at Duke University, told the Washington Post.

Coral polyps rely on chemical sensors — taste buds, essentially — to determine whether something is edible or not. And they were repeatedly chosing to swallow plastic during the study. Only once in 10 trials did a polyp make the same mistake with sand. In fact, the cleaner and fresher and more plastic-y the plastic was, the more readily the coral gulped it down.

While the long-term effects of the plastic-saturation of the planet are still unknown, this research suggests that accidentally tasty microplastics could pose an extra hazard to already beleaguered corals around the world.

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Climate science opponent Lamar Smith will retire from Congress.

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National parks could get a lot more expensive in 2018.

The demonstrations call on households, cities, and institutions to withdraw money from banks financing projects that activists say violate human rights — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and efforts to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

The divestment campaign Mazaska Talks, which is using the hashtag #DivestTheGlobe, began with protests across the United States on Monday and continues with actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven people were arrested in Seattle yesterday, where activists briefly shut down a Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.

The demonstrations coincide with a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, involving a group of financial institutions that have established a framework for assessing the environmental and social risks of development projects. Organizers allege the banks have failed to uphold indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects developed on their land.

“We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the front lines but every person on this planet,” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network community organizer, said in a statement.

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National parks could get a lot more expensive in 2018.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

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

The former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief has some advice for the Trump administration after back-to-back hurricanes in the past month: You have to look at climate change science if you want smarter disaster relief.

Drawing on eight years of experience leading FEMA under President Barack Obama, Craig Fugate warned on Tuesday that flood-prone areas can’t simply “rebuild to the past” using historical data on 100-year flood risk. Instead, he said at an event at the liberal Center for American Progress, the country needs to “build to future risk.”

The situation is especially critical now that Congress will be appropriating billions in aid to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Climate change is helping make these disasters bigger and nastier, but Fugate said they are only natural hazards that “become natural disasters when we’re pricing risk too low. We’re putting vulnerable populations and your tax dollars at risk.”

Fugate refused to discuss President Donald Trump’s or FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico in his remarks or in conversations with the press on Tuesday, but his discussion of the Obama administration’s response to Superstorm Sandy in 2013 presented a stark contrast. He recounted how Obama gave him a specific charge after Sandy, saying that “we need to start talking about climate adaptation” to better cope with the new risks posed by rising global temperatures.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had the opposite response after the hurricanes, saying a discussion of “a cause and effect isn’t helping.” When Trump was asked about climate change after Harvey, he said only, “We’ve had bigger storms.”

Just 10 days before Harvey’s record rainfall in Houston, Trump reversed Obama’s 2015 executive order to hold federal infrastructure spending to higher elevation standards in floodplains. Building even a foot or two above the existing standards saves money, and potentially lives, in the long-term, Fugate said. “Putting more money in the front end, we save the taxpayer in the long run,” he said. He also criticized the federal flood insurance program for pricing risk so low that it encourages overdevelopment in vulnerable areas, shifting the losses from flooding to the federal taxpayer.

Speaking to reporters at the event, Fugate gave an example of why climate adaptation is necessary. If, after a natural disaster, you rebuild a fire station at the same elevation, to the same building codes, then you risk losing critical emergency resources when they’re needed most. But if you build it to withstand the future risk we know is coming, then the fire station stays intact to help residents through the disaster.

“In many cases we’re doing things that just don’t make sense … and you’re saying you’re building back better,” Fugate said, adding, “We have to rebuild [Puerto Rico] back for a Maria.”

Mother Jones AJ Vicens has been reporting on the ground from Puerto Rico; read his story about how FEMA supplies and assistance have been slow to reach some communities, including one just 45 minutes from the capital, San Juan.

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Obama’s FEMA chief: To rebuild after hurricanes, let’s talk climate change

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News shows ignore the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

The devastation wiped out 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production, according to Puerto Rico’s agriculture secretary, Carlos Flores Ortega. The New York Times visited farmer José A. Rivera after the winds flattened his plantain, yam, and pepper fields.

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” Rivera, told the Times. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”

Food prices will surely rise on the island, although the loss of crops will not necessarily mean people will starve. Puerto Rico imports about 85 percent of its food. Even so, the storm damaged the infrastructure used to distribute imported food, like ports, roads, and stores.

On CNN, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló pleaded for aid from Congress. “We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America,” he said. FEMA and the Coast Guard are working in the territory.

Flores, the agriculture secretary, appeared to be looking for a silver lining. This may be a chance to rebuild the island’s agriculture so that it is more efficient and sustainable, he told the Times.

As climate change accelerates, we can expect the rate of disasters like this to accelerate as well.

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News shows ignore the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

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In Which I Waste a Lot of Time on Climate Change Yahooism

Mother Jones

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Boy did I waste some time yesterday. It started with this post from David French:

The Environmentalist Left Has to Grapple with Its Failed, Alarmist Predictions

I’m pasting below one of my favorite videos, from a Good Morning America report in 2008….Truly, it’s a stunning piece of work, depicting the deadly dystopia that awaited Americans in . . . 2015. Manhattan is disappearing under rising seas, milk is almost $13 per “carton,” and gas prices skyrocketed to more than $9 per gallon. But if you’re familiar at all with environmentalist predictions, there’s nothing all that unusual about the GMA’s report (except for its vivid visuals).

….As I wrote in early 2016 — after the world allegedly passed Al Gore’s “point of no return” — environmentalist predictions are a target-rich environment. There’s a veritable online cottage industry cataloguing hysterical, failed predictions of environmentalist catastrophe. Over at the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry keeps his list of “18 spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions” made around the original Earth Day in 1970. Robert Tracinski at The Federalist has a nice list of “Seven big failed environmentalist predictions.” The Daily Caller’s “25 years of predicting the global warming ‘tipping point’” makes for amusing reading, including one declaration that we had mere “hours to act” to “avert a slow-motion tsunami.”

….Is the environmental movement interested in explaining rather than hectoring? Then explain why you’ve been wrong before. Own your mistakes.

I would be a lot more impressed with complaints like this if conservatives had spent the past decade loudly insisting that although climate change was important and needed to be addressed, we shouldn’t panic over it. That would be defensible. Needless to say, that’s not what they’ve done. Instead, for purely partisan reasons, we’ve gone from lots of Republicans supporting cap-and-trade to a nearly unanimous rejection in 2010 of what they now fatuously call cap-and-tax, followed in 2016 by the election of a man who’s called climate change a hoax.

Still, alarmism from activists is nothing new, so I was ready to believe plenty of them had gone overboard. At the same time, I was suspicious because the GMA video was rather oddly cropped. It was a hyperactive promo for a forgettable ABC program called Earth 2100 that aired eight years ago, so I wasted some time watching it. Here it is, so you can watch it too if you want to make sure I describe it accurately:

The program is very clear at the beginning that it’s dramatizing a worst-case dystopia of climate change if we do nothing. That said, the show’s actual depiction of 2015 includes these vignettes: an oil shortage spikes gasoline prices to $5 per gallon; higher oil prices make suburbs less desirable places to live; eating meat uses a lot more oil than eating grain; Congress approves 40 new coal-fired power plants; a huge storm hits Miami; a huge cyclone hits Bangladesh; a drought in China causes wheat shortages; and world leaders fail to reach agreement on greenhouse gas reductions.

That’s…not at all what French describes. And it’s not especially alarmist, either. The big drought was (is) in South Sudan, not China, and the most intense cyclone ever was in the eastern Pacific, not Bangladesh or Miami. It was the Lima conference that produced no climate agreement (that would have to wait for Paris at the tail end of 2015), and for pretty much the reasons described in the program. Extreme weather events have increased and wildfire damage in the western US has intensified. But the show did get a couple of things wrong: there was no oil shortage and no new coal-fired plants.

After I finished my vintage TV watching, I trudged through each of French’s catalogs of ridiculous environmental predictions. First up was Mark Perry’s list of bad prediction from the first Earth Day. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about a random assortment of stuff from 50 years ago, but whatever. Perry has a list of 18 items, and of them, (a) six were from Paul Ehrlich, (b) two were vague warnings about humans destroying the planet, which we were certainly doing in 1970, and (c) four were dire predictions of things that might happen if we did nothing. But of course, we didn’t do nothing. That leaves six: two predictions of famine, two predictions of resource shortages, one prediction of mass extinction, and one prediction of an impending ice age. I can’t find any backup for the mass extinction thing, but the guy who allegedly predicted it got a Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan, so how bad could he be? Nor could I find any backup for the supposed prediction of a coming ice age, and the data it’s based on makes it seem unlikely.

So if we agree that Paul Ehrlich was just way off base, we’re left with four guys who got some stuff wrong. If this is the best we can find from the entire maelstrom of the environmental movement of 1970, it doesn’t sound like those guys did so badly after all.

Next up was the Federalist list, but it was pretty much the same stuff.

Finally there’s the Daily Caller’s list of bad predictions about a global “tipping point.” I had to trudge through each one and click through to see what it really said, and it turns out the first five cases were all routine statements about how much time we had left until the next climate conference, where we really had to get something done. The sixth was from Prince Charles, so who cares? The seventh was a claim that we needed to do something by 2012 in order to keep climate change from getting out of control. The eighth was a piece about the unsustainability of eating lots of meat. And the ninth was a 1989 prediction that we needed to get moving on climate change by 2000 to avoid catastrophe.

So we have a grand total of two people saying that we need to act fast or else it will be impossible to keep future climate change under 2°C. This is a pretty mainstream view since there’s a lot of inertia built into climate change, so I’m not sure why this list is supposed to be so scandalous in the first place. We do need to act quickly if we want global warming to peak at 2°C or less. What’s wrong with saying that at every opportunity?

When you get done with all this, there’s virtually nothing of substance left. Sure, some people got some stuff wrong. That’s always the case. The whole point of science is not to get everything right, but to have a mechanism for correcting its errors. And if you look at consensus views, instead of cherry picking individuals, I think environmental scientists have as good a track record as anyone. Aside from creating listicles that get passed around forever on the internet by ignorant yahoos, what’s the point of pretending that they’ve been epically wrong for decades and need to offer up abject apologies before we ever listen to them again?

There’s no need to answer that. I think we all know exactly what the point is.

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In Which I Waste a Lot of Time on Climate Change Yahooism

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It’s No Mystery That Donald Trump Isn’t Paying Much Attention to Immigration

Mother Jones

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From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers baffled that immigration getting short shrift in Washington

Meh. Trump never cared much about immigration. It was just a campaign tool, and he practically admitted as much at one point. That’s not to say he won’t try to get something done about it, but it’s never likely to be a huge issue for him. And without him putting a lot of energy behind it, it won’t go anywhere. There are too many Republican members of Congress who are opposed to highly punitive immigration rules.

Eventually the immigration hawks will learn the same thing as everyone else: it’s all just one long con. Trump doesn’t care about policy. Not immigration, not taxes, not abortion, not health care, not ISIS. He has vague inclinations on all these things, but that’s all. He’s mainly driven by whatever can keep him in the spotlight for the next week or two.

That’s probably the real reason he pulled out of the Paris climate accord. If he stays in, he gets nothing. If he pulls out, he gets a week or two of attention. It was an easy choice.

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It’s No Mystery That Donald Trump Isn’t Paying Much Attention to Immigration

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

Mother Jones

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was seen taking refuge on the roof of his office building in Vista, California, Tuesday, taking photos of angry constituents who had gathered below to protest the congressman’s voting record. The incident comes before a much-anticipated town hall meeting this Saturday at San Juan Hills High School, where the nine-term congressman is expected to face a hostile crowd because of his support for various Trump administration policies, including the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer who recently announced his bid to challenge Issa in 2018, shared an image of the congressman appearing to avoid demonstrators on social media, where it was roundly mocked.

Others saw his retreating to a rooftop as reminiscent of Michael Scott, Steve Carrell’s character in The Office who memorably took to the roof in the episode titled “Safety Training.”

Issa, on the other hand, described his trip to the roof a bit differently. Shortly after the criticism, he took to Twitter to offer this narrative. We recommend zooming in to take a closer look at the signs:

For more on Levin and the fight to defeat Issa, the richest man in Congress, head to our profile here.

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

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How the Trump White House Has Tried to Interfere With the Russia Investigations

Mother Jones

The pattern is increasingly clear: As investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to and possible collusion with Russia have intensified, so too have efforts by the president and his staff to quash those probes or put pressure on US officials to publicly deny the validity of the swirling allegations.

For his part, President Donald Trump has long insisted there is nothing to the investigations: “The entire thing has been a witch hunt,” he said during a recent press conference at the White House. “There’s no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign—but I can only speak for myself—and the Russians. Zero.”

But behind the scenes, Trump and his team appear to have worked assiduously to get FBI investigators to either stop their digging, or to lean on congressional and intelligence officials to get them to back Trump by saying there is nothing there. Here are the US officials who have reportedly been the subject of White House pressure:

Daniel Coats and Admiral Michael Rogers: The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump asked each of these two top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against the FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russia. Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, refused to comply with the requests, which they believed were inappropriate, according to the Post. In congressional testimony Tuesday, Coats declined to discuss whether the president leaned on him.

James Comey: As the New York Times reported in mid-May, Trump asked the FBI director during an Oval Office meeting in February to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Comey, according to a contemporaneous memo Comey wrote. Trump fired Comey on May 9, giving conflicting reasons for his action. Trump has since denied that he asked Comey to stop his investigation of Flynn, responding to a question at a news conference by cutting off the reporter and saying only, “No, no—next question.”

Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Devin Nunes: In February, the Post reported that the White House asked senior members of Congress to contact news organizations to try to counter news stories about the growing Russia scandal, including Burr and Nunes—the two Republican chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees investigating Trump. A spokesman for Nunes confirmed that he spoke to reporters and delivered the requested message. In an interview, Burr acknowledged that he had conversations about Russia-related news reports with the White House and engaged with news organizations to dispute articles by the New York Times and CNN that alleged repeated contact between Trump campaign members and Russian intelligence operatives. Nunes later stepped down from the House investigation, after revelations about him working closely with the White House to instead focus attention on alleged surveillance activities by the Obama administration.

Andrew McCabe: Also in February, according to the Guardian, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, asked the FBI to deny media reports that campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russians during the election. Priebus’ reported discussion with McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director—who took over as acting director after Comey was fired—prompted sharp criticism from Democrats, who said Priebus violated policies intended to insulate FBI investigations from politics.

These are the examples known so far, but other instances of White House pressure or meddling in the investigations may well come to light: As the Post also reported this week with its scoop on Coats and Rogers, Trump White House officials “sounded out” with other “top intelligence officials” the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop the investigation into Flynn.

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How the Trump White House Has Tried to Interfere With the Russia Investigations

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

Mother Jones

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How did the FBI’s investigation into the Trump-Russia connection get started, anyway? Former CIA director John Brennan says he was the one who got the ball rolling:

I encountered . . . intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan said, adding that he did not see conclusive evidence of collusion but feared that Trump associates were wittingly or unwittingly being used to advance the interests of Moscow.

….Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and people with links to the Trump campaign. “That raised concerns in my mind,” Brennan said….With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began in July — the first time a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.

That’s from the Washington Post. Brennan was testifying before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the New York Times adds this disheartening tidbit:

On Aug. 4, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Mr. Brennan warned Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., not to meddle in the election. Not only would interference damage relations between the two countries, he said, it was certain to backfire.

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in election.”

Mr. Brennan’s warning proved futile. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered with the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. President Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

I don’t blame Brennan for thinking that Russian interference in the election would outrage everyone regardless of party. I suppose I might have thought the same thing. But it ain’t so anymore:

As always, click the link for the whole story.

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

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Donald Trump Just Released a Plan to Destroy Medicaid

Mother Jones

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When President Donald Trump released his first full budget Tuesday, he directly contradicted one of his most explicit promises from the presidential campaign. “I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump unequivocally promised back in 2015.

Trump’s 2018 budget, if approved by Congress, would do just that. It calls for more than $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid—the federal program that provides health insurance to low-income Americans—spread out over the next decade. Rather than simply adopting the Medicaid cuts that House Republicans passed earlier this month as part of their bill repealing of Obamacare, the president’s budget actually goes even further.

It’s hard to overstate how dramatic these Medicaid cuts would be. The House bill not only rolls back Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, it also imposes a cap on how much money the federal government sends to state governments. The Congressional Budget Office expects that Medicaid spending would drop by $880 billion over the next 10 years under the GOP’s plan, compared with current law. The cuts compound over time. By 2026, yearly Medicaid spending would have dropped by 25 percent, with 14 million fewer people enrolled in the government insurance program.

But Trump’s budget doesn’t end there. It calls for an additional $610 billion drop in Medicaid funding over the next decade. How, exactly, it achieves that isn’t entirely spelled out, but the budget outline emphasizes spending caps and block grants that would lower the amount of Medicaid dollars that the federal government gives to states. If both the House’s Obamacare repeal and Trump’s budget were put into effect, in 2027 federal Medicaid spending would be nearly 50 percent lower than it would be under current law.

Trump’s embrace of Medicaid reductions could put a group of Republican senators in a tricky position. Before their colleagues in the House had even unveiled their plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, four senators wrote a letter to their House counterparts warning them against dramatic cuts to Medicaid funding. Those four senators—Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—have good reason to be wary. All four represent states that adopted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which offers insurance for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. So far 19 states have resisted taking federal funds for the program, but it’s popular with the public, and politicians might face a backlash if they suddenly take those benefits away from their constituents.

“I am seriously interested in reforms to Medicaid and better ways to make the money go further, but I’ve seen a lot of benefits to the Medicaid expansion in our state, particularly in the mental health and opioid and drug abuse areas,” Capito said earlier this month after the House bill passed.

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Donald Trump Just Released a Plan to Destroy Medicaid

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