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State Department Pulls Post Gushing About Mar-a-Lago

Mother Jones

After drawing sharp criticism on Monday, the State Department deleted a web article that showcased the President’s Mar-a-Lago estate and private club. The post, which had been available on the department’s ShareAmerica site since April 4, highlighted the compound’s “style and taste” while noting the central role the oceanside property has played in Trump’s presidency, having hosted state visits by Chinese president Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The post‘s tone was questioned after it gained wide notice on social media. “This reads almost as if it’s an advertisement for the private club,” says Jordan Libowitz, Communications Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “This makes you question whether there were ulterior motives in mind.”

ShareAmerica, a State Department public diplomacy project that creates social media friendly stories about US politics, culture, and places, characterizes itself as a “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.” The Mar-a-Lago article was shared by the U.S. Embassy in London’s website, and promoted by the Facebook page of the State Department’s Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs.

The post drew the ire of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon):

“It’s somewhat out of the ordinary for government websites to be talking about current businesses of the sitting president. That’s not a situation we’ve really seen before,” says Libowitz.

A State Department official provided Mother Jones a short statement after deleting the post late on Monday: “The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.”

Since his inauguration, Trump has spent 25 days at the club at a hefty cost to taxpayers and local residents. Mar-a-Lago’s initiation fee jumped to $200,000 around the same time that Trump entered office.

The ShareAmerica article included an outline of the estate’s history, noting that the original owner—the cereal titan Marjorie Merriweather Post—willed her Palm Beach, Florida compound to the US government, hoping it would be used as a presidential retreat. At the time, the 114-room mansion was rejected as being unsuitable. In 1985, Trump purchased the residence, refurbished it, and reopened it as a private club in 1995. The now-deleted ShareAmerica post frames Trump’s 2016 election victory as fulfilling the original owner’s plan: “Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016.”

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State Department Pulls Post Gushing About Mar-a-Lago

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Trump Invites Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent to the White House

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump hosted a trio of eyebrow-raising guests at the White House on Wednesday, reportedly dining with Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock.

It’s not clear why Palin and her musician pals, one of whom has praised the use of the word “nigger” and suggested Barack Obama “suck on” his machine gun, were invited to the Oval Office, but here we are:

The guests even managed to sneak in a photo posing in front of a portrait of Hillary Clinton—seen in this Facebook post by Nugent’s wife, the self-avowed “Healthy Lifestyle Ambassador” Shermane Nugent:

The photos were roundly mocked when they first began appearing on social media:

Perhaps this is just one more reason the Trump White House is opting to keep its visitor logs secret?

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Trump Invites Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent to the White House

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Getting Scientists out of the Lab and Into the Street Is Harder Than It Sounds

Mother Jones

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Caroline Weinberg, Valorie Aquino, and Jonathan Berman met online after Berman, a post-doc in physiology, created a Facebook group and web page to galvanize some of the protest energy among scientists after Trump’s inauguration. The three, who were in New York, New Mexico, and Texas, thought that scientists should organize a march to “call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.” Weinberg, a public health writer and researcher, and Aquino, who was finishing her Ph.D. in anthropology, volunteered to coordinate the planning. Almost overnight, the march became a viral social-media campaign.

The culmination of all their work will occur on Saturday, April 22, when the three volunteer co-chairs of the March for Science will witness the results of their first experiment in grassroots organizing—with anticipated crowds of hundreds of thousands of people in Washington, DC, and satellite marches in some 500 cities around the world, including in the Republican strongholds of Wyoming, Idaho, and Oklahoma.

The experience of pulling together this march, Aquino said, was tantamount to starting an NGO from scratch and immediately having “1 million members and running it with total strangers.” Weinberg told me over the phone in late February that the only reason she was able to get involved was because she “wasn’t working that day” and saw online chatter about the march. “We happened to be at the right place at the right time,” she said.

When they began to organize in January, they envisioned their march to be comparable to the Women’s March: a grassroots campaign that channeled the public’s anger into a productive movement for social change. President Donald Trump’s antipathy to science was clear before he took office, when he declared climate change was a hoax and appointed climate change deniers as his advisers. In just under 100 days as president, Trump has also alienated a much broader swath of the science and academic communities: He’s threatened to pull funding from the University of California-Berkley over anti-Trump protests; he aligned himself with anti-vaccine critics, proposed steep budget cuts to science agencies, wanted to eliminate or downsize science advisers’ role in the government, appointed Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and has sought to roll back agency work based on public health research.

Climate activists, who have organized similar marches since at least 2014, have planned their people’s climate march in DC and in 200 cities around the country one week later. Although the two marches have overlapping constituencies and purpose, those involved in the climate march focus on specific policy demands—fighting climate change—while the science march is vague, championing more public engagement, evidence-based policies, and science research. But during the evolution of the science march, the organizers have been forced to face some unexpected realities about the community it’s engaging. Weinberg noted the “origin story” of the march is the narrative of “unbelievable sprawling grassroots nature.”

Aquino and Weinberg had more flexible schedules (Berman worked nine-hour shifts in his post-doc) to fit into their suddenly packed days and were able to put their other priorities on hold. Aquino postponed finishing her Ph.D. a few months ahead of schedule, and Weinberg stopped her freelance income in order to dive into planning the big picture and wrestling with the many logistics of permits, volunteer coordination, and march routes. Less than a month after Berman started the March for Science Facebook group, the three organizers, with the help of about 40 volunteers, had cobbled together a hasty, decentralized infrastructure for the online platforms and hundreds of satellite marches that popped up. They added more experienced organizers who created a database—what Weinberg calls “some kind of magic program”—to locate volunteers with the skills to address inevitable fires and the daily tasks, such as doing outreach to high schools and colleges.

The organizers were not just planning a single march. Their goal was to build a movement of scientists and science-enthusiasts who take a stand when objectivity is under attack. In the process, they have struggled with growing pains, some predating the Trump administration. One is philosophical: What duty do scientists have to participate in a debate that politicizes and misrepresents scientific study? What responsibilities do scientists have as citizens?

For years, Republicans (and occasionally Democrats) have threatened to defund federal research and have resorted to cherry-picking scientific studies that support their conclusions. House Science Chair Lamar Smith has perfected this rejection of inconvenient scientific findings by popularizing the myth of a so-called pause in global warming. But organizers say the debate feels more urgent given this uniquely anti-fact White House and appointed climate change deniers.

“We’re all very nervous about entering into a territory where science is seen as being explicitly political,” Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor, tells Mother Jones, explaining an essay he wrote about the march that was published on NPR. Frank thinks scientists do need to protest but worries that overt politicization is “the worst thing that could happen to science. Last thing we want is science being aligned with one or another political perspective.” He sees that we’ve passed a tipping point of attacks “where scientists don’t know what else to do.”

In January after the inauguration, Robert Young, a coastal geologist, wrote in the New York Times that “trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends.”

The organizers of the science march believe it’s their responsibility to wade into politics, but they have tried to balance on the nonpartisan tightrope. “I would actually argue that science is political,” Aquino said. “Scientific integrity goes beyond one person eroding it. It hits across both sides of the aisle and people who aren’t necessarily affiliated with a political party at all.”

Weinberg noted, “If you believe in scientific research and evidence-based policy. You take a stand for that and take a stand for what you believe in.”

Then there is the problem of diversity within the scientific profession. Many of the public figures discussing the march are white men. In some respects, the science march has become a microcosm of the criticism STEM initiatives and academia have received for being far too white and male.

BuzzFeed reported on the time the organizers’ attempted to address concerns about diversity by forming a committee and issuing a diversity mission statement. Conservative outlets, such as the National Review, have seized on these statements to claim the march is much more about the left co-opting science for political gain. Steven Pinker, a best-selling author and Harvard University professor of psychology, gave this faction a boost, tweeting in January that the march “compromises its goals with anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric.”

But the criticism comes from both sides. At least one early collaborator has distanced herself from the march, claiming that disorganization, clashes of vision, and micromanagement left the march doing too little to include diverse voices:

Gill did not return a request to explain further. Aquino had alluded to some infighting in an earlier interview back in February, noting that some of her 18-hour days were as much about handling “some kind of meltdown and crisis” as they were about organizing the big picture. Since then, organizers have brought on more than 200 partners. They range from science celebrities—Bill Nye the Science Guy, for instance—to nonpartisan academic institutions, like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as more overtly political groups, like Tom Steyer’s climate advocacy arm, NextGen Climate. Beyond the dozens of partner organizations, they have put forward a set of basic principles supporting science. They have also managed to raise $1 million for the day’s costs and beyond, by selling merchandise and through sponsorships.

They have all tried to plan the next steps for their newly recruited activists after the march is done. “I’ve never really gotten to step back and really consider all this from a 30,000-foot view,” Aquino said. She hardly expects any overnight change in politics or among scientists, but added, “I’ve never seen such a united front in the science community and science supporters.”

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Getting Scientists out of the Lab and Into the Street Is Harder Than It Sounds

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United Airlines Lost a Billion Dollars This Morning

Mother Jones

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The most important story of the past 24 hours—by a mile—is the guy who was dragged off an overbooked United flight yesterday by a security team. The details are still a little sketchy, but the YouTube video is awesome and the guy has an actual scratch on his face. The Chicago PD officer who dragged off the passenger has been suspended, and United’s president has apologized. Luckily for social media, he apologized in kind of a ham-handed way that gave the incident a whole new cycle of snark on Twitter. So far President Trump hasn’t weighed in, but give him time. He might get bored and decide later today to nationalize UAL.

In the meantime, Felix Salmon wants us to believe that this hasn’t hurt United’s stock price. Hah! What a corporate shill he is. Behold the chart below:

That’s about $1 billion in market cap right there. This is the power of Twitter and Facebook, my friends.

On the bright side for UAL, this will probably last only a day or so, sort of like Donald Trump’s random taunts at companies he doesn’t like. Tomorrow some other airline will do something outrageous and we’ll all vow never to fly them ever again. I’m pretty sure most of us have vowed never to fly every airline at some point or another, but since they all suck we don’t have much choice, do we? And they all overbook. And they all ferry their crews around on their own planes. And they all call security if a passenger won’t follow crew orders. This particular passenger just fought back a little more intensely than most. And people with cell phones were around.

Bad luck for United. Really, it could have happened to any of the fine holding companies that control the surly skies of America these days.

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United Airlines Lost a Billion Dollars This Morning

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Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?

Mother Jones

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For half a century, Tim Hemphill grew corn and soybeans on his 720-acre farm in northern Iowa. Then five years ago, as he readied his son to take over the business so he could retire, catastrophe struck: Local corn prices plummeted. “It was about the worst thing that ever happened to farmers,” he says. And it’s happening all over the country: Slumps in commodity prices, paired with rising costs of pesticides and seeds, have driven many small farms out of business, and caught on throughout Iowa, not only bringing a much-needed boost to farmers, but also generating county tax revenue to fund school and road improvements and adding new jobs. Iowa now gets 36 percent of its electricity from wind, a higher percentage than any other state, even California. While coal is still Iowa’s main source of electricity, one of the state’s largest utilities, MidAmerican Energy, has set ambitious reap at least $10 million a year leasing their land to turbines. Nationwide, they may earn as much as $900 million a year by 2030, according to analyst Alex Morgan of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Farmers cannot farm anything legally on that small amount of land and get that kind of return,” says Chris Kunkle, a Western policy manager at industry advocacy group Wind on the Wires. Iowa’s Gov. Terry Branstad credits wind energy with drawing $12 billion worth of investments to his state. It also added 11 manufacturing facilities and thousands of jobs, including for wind turbine technicians, the country’s fastest-growing profession. In 2016, some 9,000 Iowans worked in the wind industry, about a fifth of the number operating farms. Both Facebook and Google have set up data centers in the Hawkeye State, taking advantage of how clean energy can help them meet their goals for renewables. And more than two-thirds of Iowa’s installed wind power is in poor communities: Kunkle says he’s visited small rural counties that get about a tenth of their total budget from wind farms.

Iowa isn’t the only state benefiting from the breeze. Wind farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest, where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished. (Despite what President Donald Trump will tell you, coal jobs started to disappear back in the 1980s, when the steel industry began to sink and utilities stopped building new coal-fired power plants.) In the “wind belt” between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association. A federal tax credit—which gives producers 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity for 10 years—is set to expire at the end of 2019, but analysts with financial firm Lazard say that even without federal subsidies, the price of wind energy is finally on par with that of traditional energy sources.

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Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios. According to Michael Webber, deputy director of the University of Texas’ Energy Institute, the next few years will see a showdown between “rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost wind offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don’t like renewables because they like fossil fuels”—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.

So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind, which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, “offers the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation.” In his energy plan, Trump speaks of reviving the country’s “hurting” coal industry and argues that “sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.” We do—and those reserves could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, and very few carbon emissions. And if Trump weren’t so fixated on the sputtering coal industry, he might actually see them.

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Why Is Trump Ignoring These Good Heartland Jobs?

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