Tag Archives: island

Congress is not happy about Trump’s budget taking away environmental protections.

A lot of climate hawks spent late 2016 and early 2017 in reassessment or mourning. Meanwhile, Anthony Torres was busy channeling his fellow engaged millennials into direct action, including coordinated sit-ins at the offices of New York’s Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader, and Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. The message: Do not play ball with the polluter-in-chief.

The son of a Nicaraguan immigrant father and a working-class New Yorker mother, Torres grew up with sea-level rise on his Long Island doorstep, and he understands how poverty, climate, and other social challenges are all knitted together. He’s proven especially adept at rallying peers to his side, both in an official capacity at the Sierra Club (where he helped coordinate communications and direct actions that aided in a defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and in extracurricular work with groups like #AllOfUs, a progressive collective aimed at organizing young people around threatened communities.

His advice on connecting different constituencies: “Activists need to create a story that is accessible to people who are not necessarily in our movements but who are in need of a bold and inspiring vision,” Torres says. “To me, it’s telling a story of America that intersects with race, gender, and class” and turning what might seem like differences into “a weapon in our arsenal that creates an America that never has happened before — a country for all of us.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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Congress is not happy about Trump’s budget taking away environmental protections.

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Puerto Rico Files for Bankruptcy the Day After Trump Admin Brags About Blocking Funds

Mother Jones

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After a day of sometimes violent demonstrations in San Juan protesting austerity measures and government handling of the debt crisis, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló, announced Wednesday morning that he would move the island’s crushing debts into the bankruptcy-like process created under federal legislation to deal with the crisis. Unlike public entities and cities in the states, Puerto Rico, essentially a colony of the US, is prohibited from filing for bankruptcy under federal law. This legislation created a different option that allows a federal court to restructure more than $70 billion—the largest such restructuring in the history of the US municipal bond market.

The announcement comes after a flurry of lawsuits filed against the island’s government by creditors Tuesday morning, the first to land after local officials’ proposal for partial repayment of the debt was rejected by lenders last weekend. Under legislation passed last summer, known as the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the island had until May 1 to negotiate a plan to address the debts while also providing basic services for the island’s 3.5 million residents. The deal from the local government last Friday offered as much as 77 cents on the dollar to some lenders while offering 58 cents on the dollar to others, according to Bloomberg, but the lenders called the deal unworkable. Hedge funds such as Aurelius Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Captial, and Ambac Financial Group, Inc., an insurer that owned Puerto Rican bonds, had been prevented from filing suit until May 1 under PROMESA.

The suits came a day after thousands took the streets in a national strike throughout Puerto Rico protesting cuts proposed by the board that was created under PROMESA, which increased water rates, while cutting funds to schools, public-sector jobs and pensions, health care spending, and the island’s university system totaling roughly $450 million over three years. After a day of largely peaceful protests, police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse some protesters, according to local reports, and at least 17 people were arrested. Students and other protesters have demanded an independent audit of the debt, among other things, as the island grapples with the issue.

“As time goes by and austerity measures start to strike on more and more people, people are going to stand up and respond to what is the government violence against the people who are left in very difficult conditions,” Mariana Nogales Molinelli, an attorney in Puerto Rico and former candidate for the island’s non-voting representative to the US Congress, tells Mother Jones.

Nogales Molinelli says that the cuts by both the government and the control board to public sector workers and collective bargaining rights have made a lot of people angry—and not just university students. On April 18, the Puerto Rican Senate approved a bill that eliminated the publicly-funded audit commission responsible for insuring the debts were issued lawfully and were not in violation of island’s constitution. Some of the protesters at the capital were retired police, according to Joel Cintrón Arbasetti, a journalist with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Puerto Rico. Nogales thinks more police will join the protests.

“My guess is that part of the police force will be joining the people because they are going to be affected also,” Nogales Molinelli says. “Their kids’ schools will be closed, and they will not have enough medical insurance. The situation could explode because of all the austerity measures and they are going to have to work under much more pressure and in conditions that are going to be very difficult for them.”

Nogales says there have also been reports of some violent responses by police towards protesters and those perceived to be organizing protests. During a protest at the capital, she saw a police officer take a protester’s sign and hit her over the head with it. The Puerto Rico Police Department is currently under a consent decree with the US Department of Justice in an effort to become more professional and accountable after years of documented corruption and violence against the population.

Back on the mainland, Puerto Rico has been a political football for Trump and Congress during negotiations for a federal spending bill, with the president implying that Puerto Ricans, who have been US citizens for 100 years, were not.

When the budget deal was announced Monday morning, Democrats managed to get “an emergency injection of $295 million” to help shore up the island’s Medicaid program through the end of the year, according to Reuters. On Tuesday, Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney bragged during a White House Press briefing that Republicans and the president had actually prevented any money from going to Puerto Rico, and that the $295 million had come from funds not previously allocated.

“You had the Democrats crying out that they got $295 million for Puerto Rico,” Mulvaney told reporters, “Did not cost the taxpayer a penny. They wanted new money, they wanted a bailout. We wouldn’t give it to them.”

It’s unclear how the restructuring will proceed as the provision in PROMESA has never been used, but the New York Times reports that Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court will now appoint a bankruptcy judge to handle the case.

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Puerto Rico Files for Bankruptcy the Day After Trump Admin Brags About Blocking Funds

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Man, this sea ice situation has really looked better.

One of the five newly installed turbines off the shore of Block Island, Rhode Island, will be late getting spinning because someone at the General Electric factory in Saint-Nazaire, France, left a six-inch drill bit inside it, which damaged critical magnets.

Fortunately, the turbine is still under warranty, so it’s GE’s responsibility to pay for floating new 60-pound magnets out to the broken turbine, hoisting them 330 feet into the air, and repairing the turbine’s generator.

The Block Island Wind Farm is noteworthy not because offshore wind is new (Europeans have been doing it since the ’90s), but because, as the first such installation in the U.S., it could herald a whole lot of offshore wind development along the Atlantic coast. The region is a significant user of coal, oil, and natural gas, but it’s geologically well-suited for offshore wind and many of its residents and leaders are motivated to switch to clean energy by the already-visible effects of sea-level rise.

Block Island has been getting its electricity from diesel generators, but now it will be able to ditch them (except for one it’ll keep for backup). Three other offshore wind projects in the region are already in the works.

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Man, this sea ice situation has really looked better.

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We Have Effective Treatment for Hepatitis C. So Why Don’t States Give It to 100,000 Inmates?

Mother Jones

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Less than 1 percent of inmates with hepatitis C are receiving treatment in state prisons, according to a new study by prison officials, doctors, and researchers. It’s largely because prisons can’t afford the drugs they need to fight the dangerous liver disease that spreads through blood and bodily fluids.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease, including HIV and tuberculosis; about 17 percent of the prison population in America is suffering from it, compared with 1 percent of the general population. New treatments have been developed but are extremely expensive, so over the last two years, inmates in Tennessee, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania have sued for access to the drugs.

The study, published in Health Affairs, comes on the heels of those lawsuits. It was conducted by researchers at Yale University in collaboration with the Association of State Correctional Administrators, which includes the heads of corrections agencies in every state as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Researchers collected data from 41 states about hepatitis C infections and treatment in prisons. They found that more than 106,000 inmates in state prisons had the disease as of January 2015, and of those, only about 950, or less than 0.9 percent were being treated.

Prison officials who helped conduct the study have blamed the high cost of treatment. In 2013, new drugs were released that have proved very effective, curing the infection in 90 percent of cases in a few months. (Previous treatment options cured roughly half of cases, took much longer, and resulted in debilitating side effects.) But the cost of the new drugs can be prohibitive: A 12-week course of medication can range from $54,600 to $94,500, depending on the particular drug.

Some government agencies can get discounts. The federal prison system receives 24 percent off, while the Department of Veterans Affairs may have a discount of 50 percent, the researchers found. But state prisons aren’t so lucky. Many of them get a discount of less than 10 percent, and one state gets no discount at all. As a result, state prison officials say they must make tough choices about whom to treat.

Treating hepatitis C patients “requires resources and discounts we don’t have,” A.T. Wall, director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “What we desperately need are less costly drugs and more funding.”

Corrections departments in 16 states reported spending at least 10 percent of their total budget for drugs on hepatitis C medication. But states could actually save money in the long run if they invest in treatment right away, the researchers noted. When left untreated, patients with hepatitis C may need a liver transplant, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they can spread the infection to others. To get the drugs for less money, the researchers encouraged state prisons to partner with qualified health centers that can receive discounts through a federal program.

Thomas Castelli, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing inmates in Tennessee, said in a statement, “Incarcerating people under conditions that erode their health, safety and human dignity amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which not only has devastating long-term effects for those individuals, but which undermines the purported purpose of a rehabilitative criminal justice system.”

Health Affairs

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We Have Effective Treatment for Hepatitis C. So Why Don’t States Give It to 100,000 Inmates?

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Trump shows us what happens to a climate denier in denial

If Donald Trump is trying to run away from his well-known position as a climate change denier, he’s doing a terrible job at it.

Less than 12 hours after a debate against Hillary Clinton in which he personally denied calling climate change a hoax, Trump’s campaign manager and running mate offered different versions of what the candidate supposedly believes: He thinks it exists but isn’t human-made, or he thinks it is human-made but doesn’t want to do anything about it.

Regardless of what his surrogates are saying on TV this morning, there’s a long Twitter record of Trump’s unscientific statements about climate to fall back on. His position is clear: It’s a hoax. What’s less clear is what he hopes to gain by changing that position now. Could it be that even the Trump campaign recognizes that climate denial in the face of clear evidence is a losing position in a general election?

Certainly Clinton seems to think it’s a strong avenue of attack: Unprompted by moderator Lester Holt during the debate last night on Long Island, Clinton said: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.”

Because he couldn’t help himself, Trump only managed to emphasize her point by interjecting, “I did not,” sending all the fact checkers to Twitter, where his four-year-old tweet saying exactly that became the top retweeted tweet during the debate:

Oops?

The lying doesn’t stop there, though. Tuesday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked on CNN if her candidate thinks global warming is a hoax. Conway insisted, no, he doesn’t believe it’s a hoax, but he does believe “that climate change is naturally occurring, that there are shifts naturally occurring.”

Then, on the very same show, Trump’s vice presidential pick took an abruptly different tone on climate change. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who himself once called global warming “a myth,” suggested that greenhouse gases have “some impact” on the climate.

“There’s no question that — that — that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate,” Pence said. “But Donald Trump and I say: Let’s follow the science, but for heaven’s sakes, let’s not go rushing into the kind of restrictions on our economy that are putting Americans out of work.”

When it isn’t Trump himself talking, his campaign has sometimes tried to soften his position on the climate issue. “Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels,” Trump (or his campaign) wrote to ScienceDebate earlier this month.

It’s clear why Clinton wants to emphasize Trump’s inconsistent and unscientific climate positions. In light of recent polls, her campaign has zeroed in on more millennial-friendly messaging, in hopes of winning over young voters looking to third-party candidates like Green Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Clinton largely sidelined climate change in her speeches after Bernie Sanders conceded in the primary contest, but she’s now turning to the issue again as part of a strong messaging strategy. The differences between her and Trump are more stark on climate change than on nearly any other issue — one accepts scientific consensus, the other doesn’t.

So while Clinton’s plan was clear, what the hell was Trump doing?

Clearly, calling a respected field of science a “hoax” on the national stage is not the image his campaign wants to put forward. Trump’s position on climate and energy isn’t that different from the rest of the GOP, but in a normal presidential year, he might have at this point recast his climate denial as mere reluctance to act, to make the position more palatable to the general election voter.

Yet Trump’s not running a normal campaign in any sense, so climate change gets the same brash treatment as every other issue the candidate touches on.

There were plenty of other positions that the candidates skirmished over last night, and Clinton implored the “factcheckers, get to work” a few times. Trump once again said he never supported the Iraq war, which was a lie; he did.

Conway, Trump’s spokesperson, in fact tried to pivot to the Iraq war this morning on CNN when asked about Trump’s climate answer. The Trump campaign clearly isn’t eager to answer questions on the subject.

But in denying his denial, what’s the logic? He’s been fine with it for years. His 2012 China tweet wasn’t just a poorly considered slip, but one of many:

As recently as late 2015, Trump still was fine saying: “a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay?”

Then in January, as Politifact points out, Trump tried to play off the tweet about China as a joke: “I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change.”

Was Trump joking all those times he called it a hoax?

Hard to believe. And his voters sure don’t.

Other than Trump’s unexpected backtrack (or not) on climate, we didn’t learn anything new about either candidate’s energy positions in this debate. The themes of “prosperity” and “securing America” might have lended themselves to discussing both climate, which the military calls a significant threat, and clean energy, which has overtaken the fossil fuel industry as a job creator. But as is usual in presidential debates, the moderator didn’t see fit to steer the candidates in those directions.

Clinton, however, did cite two of her climate and energy proposals: deploying a half-billion solar panels and rebuilding the electric grid. Trump never once mentioned his energy proposals, even forgetting his promises to wave a wand and restore coal country, despite the debate’s focus on American industry in the first 15 minutes.

In the end, though, Clinton didn’t need to go on at length about her climate solutions, because it’s enough for her to draw out the contrast with Trump. He has no position on climate, except for his plan to appoint a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition.

Clinton for now is content to use Trump’s words against him and let his position speak for itself. Their little exchange on Trump’s tweet did more to help put climate change on the map for future debates than any of Clinton’s policy positions.

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Trump shows us what happens to a climate denier in denial

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