Tag Archives: major

4 in 10 Americans Live in Places Where It Is Unhealthy for Them to Breathe

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

In his America First Energy Plan, President Donald Trump boasts that “protecting clean air” will “remain a high priority” during his presidency. But just a few months into his term, Trump proposed cutting funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and signed an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation central to the enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Bad timing. According to a new report published today by the American Lung Association, nearly 4 in 10 Americans live in places where it is unhealthy for them to breathe.

The ALA’s “State of the Air 2017” report analyzed air pollution data collected by the EPA from 2013 to 2015 and found that 125 million people live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone (smog) or particle pollution. Though this represents a “major improvement” from the 2016 report, which placed the number at 166 million, or more than half of all Americans, the ALA is concerned that the recent progress could reverse. “Implementing and enforcing the Clean Air Act is responsible for the progress that we’ve seen so far, and it’s the tool to continue progress,” says Paul Billings, ALA’s national senior vice president.

The installation of modern pollution controls on power plants and retirement of old plants, the increasing reliance on renewable energy sources and natural gas over coal, and the creation of more stringent fuel emission standards have all contributed to the pollution declines, he says. Trump’s proposed cuts “would not only eviscerate programs at the EPA and at regional offices, but also dramatically cut the grants that pass through EPA to state and local environmental agencies”—a big chunk of which is used for air pollution control work.

The report also found an increase in dangerous short-term spikes in particle pollution, or the tiny solid and liquid particles mixed into the air we breathe. Breathing in smog and particle pollution can cause serious health problems, increasing the risk of asthma and infections and cancers of the lungs, and also possibly contributing to heart disease, obesity, and more terrifyingly, degenerative brain diseases.

Many of the cities that reported the worst number of unhealthy days are concentrated in the Western states, including California, Oregon, and Nevada, and experienced wildfire smoke. Given the strong link between climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires, the report concluded that the data “adds to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health.”

Air pollution control is “a multifaceted problem, and it requires a comprehensive solution with many different strategies,” says Billings. “So we need to make sure things like the Clean Power Plan are implemented. If you don’t have strict enforcement, companies cheat and the consequences are dire.”

Look up the air quality of your city and county here.

Read this article:  

4 in 10 Americans Live in Places Where It Is Unhealthy for Them to Breathe

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The White House Plans to Keep Visitor Logs Secret

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

The Trump administration will keep its list of visitors to the White House secret, the White House announced Friday. This move—a major retreat from transparency—breaks from the Obama policy, which regularly released a log of White House visitors, with some exceptions.

The Obama administration was the first to voluntarily disclose its visitor logs. Though the data was incomplete—the White House reserved the right to withhold names it deemed sensitive—this public data was important information regarding how the White House did business. The logs were a much-used resource for media outlets. These records may well be more significant in the Trump administration, which is already mired in conflicts of interest due to the vast financial entanglements of the president (and his daughter, son-in-law, and other key advisers).

White House Communications Director Michael Dubke defended the decision to Time, saying the reversal was due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” Administration officials also noted that the decision was necessary to allow the president to seek advice from whomever he wants. The logs will be kept secret for at least five years after Trump leaves office.

Earlier this week, a trio of open-government groups sued the Trump administration, arguing that its refusal so far to release the visitor logs violated the Freedom of Information Act. “Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, one of the groups that filed suit. Last month, eight Democratic senators urged the president to continue the Obama administration’s policy. “We see no reason why you would be unable to continue policies of your predecessor,” they asserted. “And we urge you to extend those policies to address your decision to regularly conduct official business at private properties that also provide access to certain members of the public.”

Trump’s decision to roll back transparency at the White House clashes with his previous criticism of Obama.

See more here:

The White House Plans to Keep Visitor Logs Secret

Posted in Citizen, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Policymakers reacted swiftly this week to the outrageous viral video of police officers forcibly removing an innocent passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight. A new passenger bill of rights, including regulations on bumping people from flights, was announced on Tuesday—by Canada’s transportation ministry.

Here in the United States, at least one party has a long history of siding with the airlines at the expense of their passengers. “It’s an ongoing frustration that we haven’t had good cooperation on the Republican side,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “Their constituents are being mistreated, just like Democratic constituents. I’m disappointed and frustrated.”

In 2016 alone, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced 22 different consumer-protection riders to a funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. Among other things, the proposals would have placed a moratorium on seat-size shrinkage, required more transparency about ticket fees and passenger complaints, promoted competition between airlines, and ensured that passengers had the right to sue airlines instead of being forced into arbitration. (See the complete list below.) None of the proposals made it through the GOP-controlled Senate.

“The degrading treatment of this United passenger is the latest example of a major US airline disrespecting passengers and denying them their basic rights,” Blumenthal wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Tuesday. “Your agency must conduct a swift, sweeping investigation into United Airlines and the industry practices that led to this incident.”

Congressional Republicans delayed for years the passage of the handful of consumer protections that exist for airline passengers. During the George W. Bush administration, GOP senators killed a passengers bill of rights that, among other things, would have restricted how long people could be confined to a grounded airplane without food and drinks. In 2011, the Obama administration enacted a stricter version of the rule administratively, adding requirements that airlines reimburse passengers for lost bags, disclose extra ticket fees on their websites, and compensate bumped passengers financially.

“The Republicans can be viewed as the party of big business, whereas Democrats are more for personal rights and equality,” says Rainer Jenss, director of the Family Travel Association. One provision his group backed that requires airlines to let families with children sit together on flights free of charge became law last year—but only after it attracted support from a Republican congressman who’d had a family member get separated from his kids during a flight, Jenss says.

Not all Republicans, after all, are airline industry lapdogs. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked the TSA’s Chao to suspend the federal regulation permitting airlines to overbook flights and remove passengers as a result. “This conduct is abusive and outrageous,” Christie said in a press release. “The ridiculous statements, now in their third version, of the CEO of United Airlines displays their callousness toward the traveling public with the permission of the federal government.”

The airline industry, however, favors Republicans. In the most recent election cycle, United Continental Holdings gave them $547,000, versus $497,000 for Democrats—a split that roughly mirrors the industry’s spending patterns. The main airline lobbying group, Airlines for America, leans far more toward Republicans: It donated about $85,000 to Democrats in the latest cycle. It gave nearly six times that much (about $478,500) to Republicans and conservative groups, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2015, Politico reported that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) was actually dating Shelly Rubino, an Airlines for America executive. Republicans “are literally in bed with the industry!” says the National Consumers League’s Greenberg.

She hopes the United scandal will convince Republicans to end their love affair with Big Air: “I think Congress is going to be under a lot of pressure to take some decisive action because of what people saw in that video.”
______

Here’s what Sen. Richard Blumenthal proposed last year to keep airlines in check.
But not one of his amendments made it past Mitch McConnell et al.

A commission on airline competition
A Government Accountability Office study of international airline alliances and their immunity from antitrust laws
A moratorium on seat size shrinkage
A review of aircraft evacuation procedures
Establishing a private right of action under federal consumer protection law
Establishing a private right of action under state consumer protection law
Requiring research on ways to avoid toxic air on planes
Banning the use of e-cigarettes on commercial aircraft
Requiring air carriers to disclose ancillary fees to consumers
Requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider additional protections against canceled or changed reservations
Extending the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection through September 2022
Requiring an airline to forward all complaints to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Improving access to aviation consumer protection information
Modifying requirements for a study on air carrier fees
Modifying requirements for passenger seat assignment
Modifying requirements for the review of flight delays and cancelations
Permitting the DOT to investigate and take action on unfair and deceptive practices relating to travel insurance contracts
Authorizing state regulation and claims relating to reward program contracts and frequent flyer contracts
Providing refund of baggage fees when baggage is damaged during transit
Increasing the civil penalty amount for violations of aviation laws
Invalidating mandatory pre-dispute arbitration and class-action waivers in certain air travel contracts
Prohibiting carriers from limiting consumer access to carriers’ flight data

Original source:

Airlines Treat People Like Dirt Because the Republicans in Congress Let Them

Posted in alo, ATTRA, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Safer, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race

Mother Jones

How much was race a factor in the 2016 election? It’s pretty obvious that Donald Trump explicitly appealed to racial sentiment more than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory, but did it work? Did he pick up more votes from resentful, disaffected whites than any other GOP nominee would have?

At first blush, the answer seems to be no. Compared to Mitt Romney, Trump got a smaller share of the white vote and a bigger share of the black and Hispanic vote. That doesn’t support the idea that 2016 represented some kind of huge white backlash.

But there are other ways of looking at this. Here’s one from Phil Klinkner, a political science professor at Hamilton University. It’s taken from the latest release of the American National Election Survey:

This chart is pretty simple: it shows how much correlation there is between a person’s level of racial resentment and who they supported for president. In 2000, racial resentment was a weak predictor of who you voted for. In 2016 it was a strong predictor.

But this just adds to the haze. There are two reasonable ways of looking at this:

  1. Racial resentment has been a steadily better predictor of voting behavior for 16 years, with only a slight blip away from the trendline in 2012. Trump just happened to be the nominee in 2016, when it was bound to go up to its present level regardless.
  2. The trendline does inflect modestly upward in 2016. This might be because Obama bent it down a bit in 2012, or it might be because Trump bent it up in 2016.

Klinkner thinks race played a big role in the election. There’s no question this is true, but did it play a bigger than expected role? The two major parties have been splitting further apart by race for years, with Republicans becoming the party of whites and Democrats the party of non-whites. This means that to survive with an ever growing white base, Republicans have to cater to white resentment more and more. Likewise, Democrats have to cater to black and Hispanic interests more and more. This is a cycle with positive feedback, so it’s only likely to get worse.

Racial attitudes certainly played a bigger role in the election than in the past. But did Trump himself accelerate this partisan trend, or was he merely the beneficiary of it? That still seems like an open question to me.

Originally posted here:

We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans Just Went Nuclear. Neil Gorsuch Is Heading to the Supreme Court.

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Senate Republicans on Thursday voted to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, invoking the so-called “nuclear option” so that a minority party will no longer have the ability to block a vote for nominees to the nation’s highest court. The rule change cleared the way for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the empty seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is expected to be officially confirmed Friday.

Over the past two weeks, Democrats coalesced around a strategy of filibustering Gorsuch when all but three Democratic senators announced they would oppose him—even though it was widely believed that Republicans would respond by changing the rules to prohibit filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. The decision was risky because it means Democrats will now have even less leverage if one of the more liberal justices leaves the court while Trump is in the White House.

Democrats’ actions were in part a result of the party’s activist and donor base, which has been pushing lawmakers to resist Trump and his nominee to the fullest extent possible. Democrats want to keep their base energized, not demoralized. But Democrats had other reasons for filibustering, as well. There was the issue of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court last year, whom Republicans in the Senate refused to even consider. The Garland episode helped persuade Democrats that temporarily preserving the ability to filibuster would be of little use, since Republicans were already prepared to do whatever it takes to put conservative justices on the court. As a progressive activist explained to Mother Jones, “Any vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans take is really just the icing on the cake—this thing has been cooked since Senate Republicans defied any sense of decorum in their treatment of Barack Obama.”

Democrats were also motivated by deep concerns about Gorsuch’s jurisprudence and his performance during his confirmation process. In his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was so disinclined to reveal anything about his judicial philosophy that it took considerable cajoling to get him to express an opinion on Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that struck down segregation in public education.

What Democrats could ascertain from Gorsuch’s record suggested that he was an ultra-conservative jurist who would go out of his way to issue broad rulings rather than taking a narrow approach to decisions, including in a case that limited aid for special education children in public schools. In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested that Gorsuch could become the most conservative member of the Supreme Court.

Finally, Democrats were put off by how Gorsuch conducted himself in the meetings he held with senators. Three senators, all women of color, claimed Gorsuch had failed to meet with them after their offices had tried to schedule a meeting.

As Ian Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, explained to the Washington Post, Gorsuch hurt his chances with Democrats throughout the process: “He mansplained fairly basic concepts to women senators. He pushed way too hard on the ‘I’m not going to express a view about anything, ever’ fallback—much harder than previous nominees. And then, after the Supreme Court unanimously overturned one of his opinions, he defended himself by misrepresenting his own opinion.” On the third day of Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous opinion overturning Gorsuch’s approach to enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a piece of Gorsuch’s record that had particularly irked Democrats.

Gorsuch will soon be a Supreme Court justice, but his confirmation will go down as a major moment in the continued breakdown of the US Senate.

Read More:

Republicans Just Went Nuclear. Neil Gorsuch Is Heading to the Supreme Court.

Posted in FF, GE, LAI, Landmark, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment