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La Niña is here, so 2017 won’t be the warmest year on record.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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La Niña is here, so 2017 won’t be the warmest year on record.

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Climate science foe Lamar Smith says geoengineering is ‘worth exploring.’

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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Climate science foe Lamar Smith says geoengineering is ‘worth exploring.’

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The Demon in the Freezer – Richard Preston

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The Demon in the Freezer
A True Story
Richard Preston

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 8, 2002

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


“The bard of biological weapons captures the drama of the front lines.” -Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer , his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone , a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense. Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines. Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill. Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

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The Demon in the Freezer – Richard Preston

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Trump’s Lawyers Want the Courts to Ignore His Muslim Ban Comments

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump’s statements about banning Muslims during the presidential campaign are now at the heart of the court battle over his travel ban.

On Monday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments on the president’s executive order banning people from six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States for 90 days. In reviewing the decision of a federal district judge in Maryland, who blocked the ban from going into effect, the judges of the 4th Circuit focused almost exclusively on the question of whether Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims should be taken into consideration when weighing the constitutionality of the travel ban.

In December 2015, then-candidate Trump called for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump repeated and stuck by his policy throughout the campaign. His original statement remained on his campaign’s website until sometime Monday, when it disappeared around the time a reporter asked about its continued presence online during the daily White House press briefing.

After his election, Trump swiftly signed an executive order banning individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the country for 90 days. Federal courts blocked the order, and the administration withdrew it and released a second, modified travel ban. This second order applied to six countries—Iraq was taken off the list—and included exceptions for permanent legal residents and current visa-holders. Still, a federal judge in Maryland blocked part of it and another federal judge in Hawaii placed a nationwide injunction on the whole order.

In considering the Maryland judge’s decision, the 4th Circuit zeroed in on the issue of Trump’s statements about banning Muslims. During the first hour of the hearing, Trump’s acting solicitor general, Jeffrey Wall, repeatedly argued that the Maryland judge had relied too heavily on Trump’s campaign statements. He described the ban as merely a handful of statements by the candidate, rather than a central piece of Trump’s campaign, and said the Maryland judge had mistakenly conducted a “psychoanalysis” of the president based on these campaign comments.

Opponents of the ban argue that Trump’s campaign statements are key to understanding the true purpose of the order. Arguing against the travel ban, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Omar Jadwat struggled when the judges pressed him to explain his opposition to the travel ban based just on the text—without taking Trump’s campaign statements into consideration. Some of the judges repeatedly queried Jadwat on whether the ban would still be constitutional if Trump’s comments were not part of the calculation. Jadwat said it would be because it violates the First Amendment by targeting people of a specific religion. In order to fulfill its stated purpose on national security, he argued, it would have applied to a different set of countries than those targeted by the order. “If this order were legitimate and actually doing what it said it was doing, it would do something different,” he said.

But without Trump’s campaign statements targeting Muslims, at least some of the judges did not appear to buy his argument. That’s why he continued to emphasize the thinking behind the travel ban. “The question is, what is the purpose of this policy?” Jadwat asked. He noted that when Trump signed the order, he read aloud its title referring to “foreign terrorist entry” and then added, “We all know what that means.” Jadwat further pointed to the fact that 2015 press release still on Trump’s campaign website—not realizing it had been taken down just hours earlier.

Perhaps the most compelling argument against the ban on Monday came not from the ACLU’s lawyer but from Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general whom Trump fired in January when she refused to have Justice Department lawyers defend the first travel ban in court. Questioned about that decision during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Monday, Yates explained why she believed the ban was unconstitutional—and why the president’s campaign remarks were a key ingredient in that calculation.

“I believed that any argument that we would have to make in its defense would not be grounded in the truth,” she explained, “because to make an argument in its defense we would have to argue that the executive order had nothing to do with religion, that it was not done with an intent to discriminate against Muslims.” But Yates could not ignore the role of religion, she explained, because of what Trump had said about Muslims. “Particularly where we were talking about a fundamental issue of religious freedom—not the interpretation of some arcane statute, but religious freedom—it was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president’s actions,” she said. “And the intent is laid out in his statements.”

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Trump’s Lawyers Want the Courts to Ignore His Muslim Ban Comments

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A West Virginia Miracle? I’m Not Feeling It.

Mother Jones

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Tyler Cowen shocks us all today by suggesting that West Virginia has been the site of a productivity miracle lately. He admits he’s mainly trying to provoke us, since West Virginia is unquestionably one of the poorest states in the nation. But it made me curious. How much has the West Virginia economy grown compared to neighboring states and to the US as a whole? I chose Maryland since it’s next door and no one considers it especially poor. Here’s what things look like:

In terms of growth, West Virginia has done OK since the start of the century. It was affected less by the Great Recession than the US as a whole—no surprise since West Virginia didn’t suffer from the housing boom and bust—but its growth rate since then has been a little below average. Ditto for median household income, which has been flat since the end of the recession.

As for cost of living, this site says West Virginia is 3 percent lower than the US. It’s a little cheaper on average to live in West Virginia compared to the rest of the country, but not by enough to matter.

So the bottom line is that West Virginia is poor; its growth rate since 2000 is above average thanks to insulation from the housing bust but below average since the end of the recession; and its cost of living is about average. That’s not terrible, but I guess I’m not feeling the miracle.

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A West Virginia Miracle? I’m Not Feeling It.

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Trump’s Immigration Order Is Now Effectively Dead

Mother Jones

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The Hawaii judge who halted enforcement of President Trump’s executive order on immigration has now gone a step further, turning his temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction. Dara Lind explains:

A temporary restraining order is only supposed to last a couple of weeks. It’s supposed to grant enough time for the judge to do another round of briefs and hearings, and then issue a more considered decision about whether to keep the provision on hold indefinitely while the case works its way through the courts. That indefinite hold is called a preliminary injunction, and a judge in the Western District of Maryland (part of the Fourth Circuit) has already issued one against part of the executive order.

With two separate courts ruling against the travel ban, the administration’s only hope to get the ban back into effect without Supreme Court intervention was for both of those rulings to be overturned — or for the Maryland injunction to be overturned and Judge Watson to decide not to extend his temporary order into a preliminary injunction.

The first option wasn’t likely. The Ninth Circuit is famously liberal, and it’s the same court that put the first version of the travel ban on hold. So the administration’s last hope was Watson.

On Wednesday night, Watson did exactly what the administration hoped he wouldn’t. He issued a preliminary injunction covering both the section of the travel ban temporarily banning people from particular countries and the part temporarily banning refugees.

This may seem like it’s not too big a deal. The immigration order has been on hold for weeks, and now it’s going to stay on hold. But it’s actually a huge deal. For all practical purposes, it means Trump might as well give up.

As you’ll recall, the original immigration order was temporary: it would last about three months, which would give the Trump administration time to put “extreme vetting” procedures into place. That three months is up at the end of May. Presumably, DHS has been working diligently on the new procedures all along, so they should be ready to put them into effect by then.

At some point in May or June, the case becomes legally moot. But that doesn’t really matter. More practically, by the end of May it means that the extreme vetting procedures should be in place and Trump no longer needs the travel ban. After all, its only purpose was to provide time to work out the new procedures.

This is only about six weeks away. Maybe eight if they’ve run into snags. There’s no realistic chance that this case is going to get through two levels of lower courts and the Supreme Court in that time. Trump may keep fighting in order to save face, but it’s pointless. This case is now dead.

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Trump’s Immigration Order Is Now Effectively Dead

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Climate hawks unite! Meet the newest members of Congress who will fight climate change.

Last week was an awful one for anyone who cares about the environment.

The new Congress and president-elect have a broad, aggressive, anti-environment agenda. Donald Trump has promised to scrap the Paris agreement, repeal all climate regulations, and approve every oil pipeline he can find. Congressional Republicans have spent years practicing for this moment by passing bills that eviscerate the government’s power to regulate pollution. And it’s sure to get worse as Trump fills his cabinet with fossil fuel magnates and climate science deniers.

But amid all the depressing news, there were a handful of election results that offer a glimmer of hope. At least five candidates with strong climate credentials won offices in Congress, and they have an impressive range of personal and political backgrounds. Here’s a quick overview of the newest congressional climate hawks.

Chris Van Hollen: Van Hollen is a progressive from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., who just won election to the Senate. He served for the last 13 years in the House of Representatives, where he co-chaired the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. When he served in Maryland’s legislature, he helped pass a comprehensive package of tax incentives to support clean energy.

Last year, Van Hollen introduced the “Healthy Climate and Family Security Act.” The bill would cap and gradually reduce carbon pollution, set up an auction for carbon pollution permits, and hand over proceeds to Americans in the form of an annual dividend. The League of Conservation Voters gives him a near-perfect 98 percent lifetime voting score.

Ever the optimist, Van Hollen told Grist that he thinks there are some issues around energy policy in which he hopes to work with Republicans, especially in light of president-elect Donald Trump’s pitch for new infrastructure investment.

“I do think there are possible opportunities,” Van Hollen says. “One is in the focus on modernizing our infrastructure, which we should look at in an expansive way to include everything from broadband to clean energy.”

Van Hollen also thinks a “green bank,” which would lend capital to businesses, non-profits, and local governments for energy efficiency and clean energy projects, could be incorporated into a Trump administration’s infrastructure bill.

Of course, Republicans have largely resisted such proposals. (Van Hollen introduced a bill to create a green bank in 2014 that went nowhere.) But Van Hollen thinks that could change if Democrats stress the high cost of inaction.

“We need to continue to emphasize the costs of doing nothing and the opportunities for economic growth,” Van Hollen says. “We need to highlight that the United States better not fall behind our competitors.”

Kamala Harris: Sen. Barbara Boxer, the longtime climate leader from California, is retiring. Her replacement is Harris, the Golden State’s attorney general and a charismatic African-American woman. Harris excited the state’s climate activists earlier this year when she launched an investigation into whether ExxonMobil lied about climate science. Her environmental platform included calling for carbon pricing and a raft of proposals to address California’s water shortage.

“She fully understands that the drought is going to have a profound effect on California’s future and that the drought is caused in part by climate change,” says R.L. Miller, the California-based founder of Climate Hawks Vote, a political action committee that supported Harris and other pro-climate candidates.

Miller says she was underwhelmed by the details of Harris’s campaign climate policy and disappointed that the investigation of ExxonMobil hasn’t produced any results. Still, she is inclined to trust Harris’s instincts. “She has a thin record,” Miller says, “but it’s very promising.”

Nanette Barragán: Barragán ran a pro-climate congressional campaign in California’s 44th district. Barragán, a Latina lawyer and former member of the Hermosa Beach City Council, helped lead a successful campaign to stop new oil drilling in the city. She also helped pass a ban on plastic bags and backed the city’s goal of getting carbon neutral by 2020.

In an interview with Grist during the campaign, Barragán emphasized her commitment to environmental justice for her largely low-income, overwhelmingly non-white district in the Los Angeles area. Her opponent in the general election — California has nonpartisan primaries — was state senator Isadore Hall, one of California’s top recipients of fossil-fuel donations. Hall moved left on environment and energy policy in the campaign and was the state party establishment’s favorite. But Barragán appears to have pulled off a narrow upset win. (Ballots are still being counted, but she is ahead by several thousand votes.)

Salud Carbajal: Another Latino climate leader from California, Carbajal is a supervisor in Santa Barbara County. Climate Hawks Vote backed Carbajal because he stood up against fracking, fighting for a ballot measure to ban it in 2014, even as it went down to defeat.

“He showed the political courage we expect,” says Miller of Climate Hawks Vote. “He stood by it even when he knew it was going down in flames.”

Miller recounts a story from late October to illustrate Carbajal’s commitment. Santa Barbara’s County Council was closely divided on a proposal to approve 96 new oil wells in the area. Kamala Harris, whose election to the Senate looked certain, was campaigning for down-ballot Democrats in tight races. She went to Santa Barbara County, because Carbajal was in a very close race. But he missed the event with Harris to attend the county council vote over the wells. In the end, Carbajal cast the decisive vote rejecting them.

“He was willing to forgo being there with one of California’s most popular politicians,” Miller says. “He did the right thing: took the vote instead of standing up on the stage. That’s the kind of dedicated public servant that we’re looking for.”

Brad Schneider: While congressional climate hawks tend to cluster on the coasts, you can find some in the Midwest. One is Illinois congressman Brad Schneider, who lost his House seat in 2014 but just reclaimed it last week. During his previous two-year term, Schneider racked up an impressive LCV score of 90 percent.

Schneider had the backing of a number of green groups in this election. He earned the endorsement of Vote Climate USA PAC, a pro-climate political action committee, after he declared his support for a nationwide carbon tax or a similar scheme to put prices on emissions.

The Sierra Club praised him for fighting for the Great Lakes Restoration Fund and for defending “environmental safeguards against Republican efforts to dismantle them.”

That last part refers to congressional Republicans constant assault on regulations of carbon and conventional pollutants, an attack sure to resume next year.

Any action to combat climate change under a Trump administration will require boundless stamina, local organizing, and dedicated climate leaders who push the boundaries of what is politically possible. And, despite all the negative news, there will be a fresh crop of such leaders coming to Washington.

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Climate hawks unite! Meet the newest members of Congress who will fight climate change.

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Fracking and immigration activists unite 60 feet above the RNC

moral highground

Fracking and immigration activists unite 60 feet above the RNC

By on Jul 19, 2016Share

Four anti-fracking, pro-immigrant activists scaled 60-foot flagpoles a few blocks from the Republic National Convention on Tuesday morning, then unfurled a massive banner that read “Don’t Trump our communities.”

What are these two groups of activists doing together? Their issues overlap. In many places around the country, immigrants live in areas where oil companies use hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas and oil. Most of the fracking in California, for instance, happens in the Central Valley, near fields where undocumented workers harvest crops to feed the rest of the country. Fracking sites are more likely to be in neighborhoods of color and poverty.

Emmelia Talarico, an activist who traveled to Cleveland, Ohio from Maryland for the protest, said that “communities directly impacted by oil and gas extraction have come together with immigrant communities being torn apart by deportations to take a stand against an unjust system that targets us all.”

Three of the four activists were arrested and are now raising money for bail.

Election Guide ★ 2016Making America Green AgainOur experts weigh in on the real issues at stake in this electionGet Grist in your inbox

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Fracking and immigration activists unite 60 feet above the RNC

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Climate change is a multitrillion-dollar business opportunity, according to John Kerry

Climate change is a multitrillion-dollar business opportunity, according to John Kerry

By on 5 Apr 2016commentsShare

These days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is downright cheery about the economic prospects of addressing climate change. In a speech to a business-minded room at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit on Tuesday, Kerry insisted climate change presents an opportunity that could far surpass the tech boom of the 1990s: “This is a multitrillion-dollar market with billions of users worldwide.”

Acting on climate change isn’t just about preserving the planet for future generations, Kerry explained, but also recognizing “that clean energy is one of the greatest economic opportunities the world has ever seen.” We just need the right policies and governance to lead the way, according to Kerry. “There are opportunities literally everywhere you look.”

Kerry isn’t alone among Democrats who have increasingly framed climate change as a business opportunity. “This is the biggest new business opportunity in the history of the world,” former Vice President Al Gore said earlier this year. Ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley liked to argue the same on the campaign trail during his brief run for president.

The positive messaging has less to do with the morals of climate change than it does with cold-hard cash to be made in transition to clean energy. But if it works to convince a few businesses to take the leap, then that’ll be progress.

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Climate change is a multitrillion-dollar business opportunity, according to John Kerry

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Turkish President’s Arrival Brings Chaos to Downtown Washington

Mother Jones

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Skirmishes between protesters, police, and Turkish security personnel broke out in the streets of downtown Washington, DC, shortly before Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ&#159;an was set to give a speech at the Brookings Institution.

ErdoÄ&#159;an traveled to the Washington metro area to open a cultural center in Lanham, Maryland, attend the Nuclear Security Summit, and to meet with Vice President Joe Biden. His speech on Thursday, however, was overshadowed by what happened in the streets beforehand.

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Turkish President’s Arrival Brings Chaos to Downtown Washington

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