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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days Have Been an Incredible Success…For Climate Change Deniers

Mother Jones

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Environmentalists were braced for President Donald Trump’s first 100 days. They expected the executive orders. They expected Congress to pass a flurry of bills rolling back agency regulations. But even the most seasoned veterans of green wars didn’t quite anticipate the scale and scope of Trump’s all-out attack on the environment.

Now, activists like Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth president with 20 years of experience in the environmental movement, use the word “unprecedented,” a lot.

Yet the sheer sweep and effectiveness of Trump’s achievements in undermining decades of progress in this issue has sometimes been obscured by the frenzied news cycles of the last 100 days, with a failed Affordable Care Act repeal, a confirmed Supreme Court nominee, the thwarted Muslim travel ban, his Russia scandal, and more.

“He’s done so many things simultaneously that I don’t think the environmental story has been adequately told,” Pica says. “I don’t think there’s been that one moment yet where a lot of people were impacted at one time.” But “collectively, he’s in the process of perpetuating one of the most devastating attacks on our environmental laws.”

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to ax any and all environmental regulation. “These ridiculous rules and regulations that make it impossible for you to compete,” he said to a crowd of coal miners in 2016, “so we’re going to take all that off the table, folks.”

Coal miners aren’t getting their jobs back, and Trump can’t change the types of fuels we rely on, which are driven by more complex economics than what the president controls. Even the things he could conceivably get done, like weakening climate change regulation, will take years of agency work, not to mention potentially protracted litigation.

Given his strident anti-environmental agenda, this has been the real so-called success story of Trump’s first 100 days: He’s still managed to deliver on his pledge to remake federal environmental policy and, in the process, will inflict long-term damage.

First and most obviously, there is his cabinet, which includes the former CEO of ExxonMobil as the Secretary of State, a pro-oil Texan in charge of the Department of Energy, and the anti-EPA lawyer now in charge of the agency he frequently sued. Trump has been slow to put forward any names for candidates to fill the many empty slots at these agencies. Many of the new appointments have already clashed with agency career staff, but nowhere has the animosity been more apparent than at the EPA, where the staff have described an atmosphere of confusion, secrecy, and distrust of administrator Scott Pruitt, which has stifled their work.

“I have worked under six Administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties,” a Seattle EPA worker Michael Cox wrote in his resignation letter addressed to Pruitt. “This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an Administration and by extension you, the individual selected to implement the policies. The message we are hearing is that this Administration is working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible.”

Retirements, buyouts, and the loss of prospective talent are not changes that can be easily undone by future administrations.

Mustafa Ali, the longtime head of the EPA’s Environmental Justice office, left the agency in March because Pruitt’s priorities did not include promoting environmental protection through the lens of combating racism and discrimination. In Trump’s budget, there is no funding for an Environmental Justice office. Even with Trump’s budget likely dead on arrival in Congress, the EPA can shift resources or stifle work in offices such as this one, along with climate adaptation efforts all across the government. Pruitt already has closed the EPA’s climate adaptation office.

Add to this the damage from legislation. Through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn regulations by a simple majority, Republicans have rolled back a series of Obama-era regulations. Once overturned, the law stipulates that the replacement regulation cannot be substantially similar, which means the agency is permanently handicapped in how it approaches future rulemaking. Trump signed one bill that overturned a rule limiting coal debris in streams, and another that forced oil companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. One of the obscure CRA bills that received little attention prevents the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management from updating its rule that outlines how the department collects input from the community on uses for federal lands. Efforts to overturn Interior’s rule limiting methane on public lands have fallen short of votes in the Senate and have stalled, but public lands remain vulnerable.

Then there are the executive orders, which range from wishful proclamations that are being challenged in court (such as Trump’s attempt to roll back two regulations for every one regulation put forward) to wide-ranging attempts to reshape the government’s mission. He’s directed agencies to draw up a list of climate regulations he could repeal across the government, for instance, and declare that climate change is no longer a national security threat despite statements to the contrary by his Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Trump’s executive orders sends a clear message that resonates in policy: Climate change has no place in this administration. Nada Culver, BLM action director of The Wilderness Society, says, “What we could see in a year is that some of this filters down to concrete guidance” on using public lands to prioritize fossil fuels in its leasing decisions and planning.

The GOP’s attacks on science are just getting started, with bills moving through Congress to hamper the types of research the EPA can use to justify its rulemaking. Internally, Trump can cut off the public’s access to scientists and their research by changing communications policies, as was done during the Bush administration.

This is just a glimpse of Trump’s deeds in his first 100 days. The EPA has seen the most dramatic shift in a short period of time, but his directives have already put pressure on the State Department, Interior, Energy, and even the Pentagon to ignore the risks of climate change, even though his cabinet isn’t in lockstep on the issue. On the world stage, Trump is ensuring confusion and chaos for the recent Paris climate change agreement, even if he caves on his promise to officially pull the U.S. out, a decision that keeps getting punted past Trump’s promised deadline on the campaign trail.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that is officially promoting a policy of climate change denial, and this is just what we’ve seen in his first few months. If the first 100 days are any sign, Trump is just getting started.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days Have Been an Incredible Success…For Climate Change Deniers

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Arkansas Just Executed Its 4th Man in 8 Days—His Lawyers Said His Death Was “Horrifying”

Mother Jones

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Last night, Arkansas conducted the last of a series of executions in its rushed attempt to execute eight men in 11 days before its supply of midazolam, a controversial sedative that’s been behind several botched executions, expires at the end of the month. Kenneth Williams, a convicted murderer, was reportedly convulsing, jerking, lurching, and coughing for about 10 to 20 seconds after the officials administered the midazolam.

Kelly Kissel, a media witness, said he could hear Williams in the next room even after the microphone was turned off. J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, denied that the inmate had suffered and claimed that his movements were due to “involuntary muscular reaction.”

“There was no testimony that he was in pain,” he added. Davis was not in the execution chamber. Williams’ lawyers, however, are demanding an investigation; they described the execution as “horrifying.”

A series of legal setbacks halted four of the planned executions, but in the midst of public outcry, the state put four men to death in the span of eight days—three others have received stays, and one inmate received a stay after the parole board recommended clemency. Many of the men suffered from mental illnesses, were physically abused, and received substandard lawyering during their trials. Williams, who suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father was intellectually disabled and had an IQ of 70. At some point, doctors said he may have suffered brain damage. One expert noted, “His brain is not working the way it should.”

Williams escaped from prison in 1998, where he was serving time for the murder of Dominique Hurd. He first killed Cecil Boren and, during a police chase, he killed Michael Greenwood in a car crash. The family of Michael Greenwood, asked Gov. Hutchinson to spare his life. “I believe justice has already been served,” said Greenwood’s wife, Stacey Yaw. “He hasn’t been able to kill anyone else. Executing him is more of revenge.”

For his last meal, Williams asked to be served Holy Communion, and in his final statement, he apologized to the families of his victims he “senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones.”

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Arkansas Just Executed Its 4th Man in 8 Days—His Lawyers Said His Death Was “Horrifying”

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This Report Card for Betsy DeVos’ Favorite Education Policy Is Pretty Bad

Mother Jones

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Students in Washington, DC’s federally funded voucher program performed worse academically, particularly on math test scores, after a year of private school, according to a new federal analysis released Thursday.

The study, conducted by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, found that students who left public schools as part of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program performed significantly lower on math scores than those who did not. (They also scored lower in reading, but researchers noted that those results were not statistically significant.) In 2010, when the DOE’s research division previously evaluated the voucher program, it found that it had no significant impact on reading and math scores but a significant increase in high school graduation. Notably, Thursday’s study found that parents in the voucher program were more likely to feel like their child’s school was safe.

US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences

The analysis comes as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to promote the expansion of school choice at the national level. The administration has proposed a $1.4 billion investment toward school choice programs for the coming fiscal year, including $168 million in spending for charter schools and $250 million in school vouchers for families.

While decades of research has shown voucher programs have had little to no effect on student achievement, studies of newer programs in the last two years have mostly revealed worse academic outcomes for participating students:

A November 2015 study of Indiana’s voucher program determined that students who attended private school through the program scored lower on math and reading tests than kids in public school.
In Louisiana, students who attend private schools through the voucher program showed significant drops in both math and reading in the first two years of the program’s operation, according to a February 2016 study by researchers at the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans. The program had no impact on students’ non-academic skills.
Researchers at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, concluded in a July 2016 study of Ohio’s voucher program that students who took part in the voucher program fared worse academically than those who attended public schools.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program, created by Congress in 2004, provides tuition vouchers for 1,100 low-income students who transfer from public schools to private ones in the nation’s capital. Earlier this year, House Republicans filed legislation to renew the DC voucher program, even as a majority of city council members submitted a letter in March expressing “serious concerns” about the use of public funds to send kids to private school. Mayor Muriel Bowser split from the council, saying at the time she supported the program’s extension. Last year, Sen. Ted Cruz filed a bill that would expand the voucher program to cover the entire school district.

In response to the study, DeVos said in a statement that people should look beyond its one-year assessment, arguing that voucher programs didn’t hurt public schools. “When school choice policies are fully implemented,” she said, “there should be no differences in achievement among the various types of schools.” But Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, slammed the DC voucher program in a statement to the Associated Press. “We know that these failed programs drain public schools of limited resources,” he said, “only to deliver broken promises of academic success to parents and students.”

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This Report Card for Betsy DeVos’ Favorite Education Policy Is Pretty Bad

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The Department of Defense Is Investigating Michael Flynn

Mother Jones

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The Defense Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation to determine whether Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, accepted payments from a foreign government without permission, according to documents released Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, said in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.” Earlier this week, Cummings blasted the White House for refusing to provide his committee with documents related to whether Flynn disclosed his foreign payments when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.

Prior to working for Trump, Flynn had led the Defense Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama. Flynn was pushed out of that job in 2014 and the DIA explicitly told Flynn that he could not to accept any compensation from a foreign state without prior permission from the federal government. Flynn, however, took $45,000 in speaking fees from television network RT (formerly know as Russia today), which U.S. intelligence officials describe as a Russian propaganda outlet.

Flynn claims the DIA was briefed on the payment, but the information released by Cummings shows that the agency cannot find any documentation “referring or relating” to his “receipt of money from a foreign source.” There’s also another relationship that Cumming says is alarming and may not have been properly disclosed: Flynn’s company received $530,000 from a firm owned by a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government. Flynn’s lawyer wrote that the business relationship “could be construed to have principally benefited the republic of Turkey,” and Flynn filed belated paperwork identifying his work as a foreign agent after losing his post in the Trump administration.

During Thursday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer blamed the Obama administration when he was asked about the thoroughness of Flynn’s vetting by Trump’s transition team. “There’s an issue…that the Department of Defense Inspector General is looking into,” Spicer said. “We welcome that, but all of that clearance was made by the Obama administration and apparently with knowledge of the trip that he took.”

Earlier this week, Cummings and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held a joint press conference, during which they revealed that Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing the payment from RT when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.

But Republicans on the oversight committee are furious about Cummings’ decision to make the documents public. “Though we’ve walked hand-in-hand with the Democrats during this investigation, this morning they broke with long-standing protocol and decided to release these documents without consulting us,” a spokeswoman for Chaffetz said on CNN.

Democrats say they’ve been working with the Pentagon to release unclassified versions of the documents to the public. A spokeswoman for Cummings said Republicans on the committee were informed the documents would be released this morning. “I honestly don’t understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said at a press conference today following the release of the documents. “There is a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow it.”

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The Department of Defense Is Investigating Michael Flynn

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A Federal Judge Just Blocked Trump’s Executive Order Targeting Sanctuary Cities

Mother Jones

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A federal judge in San Francisco blocked a January executive order that the Trump administration was using to threaten to withhold funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions refusing full cooperation with federal enforcement of immigration laws.

In issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction Tuesday, US District Judge William Orrick cited public comments by President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other administration officials that warned cities that they would lose public safety funds if they did not comply with federal immigration agents’ attempts to locate and detain undocumented immigrants. “If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

But it wasn’t just these public comments that influenced Orrick’s ruling. He also found serious constitutional problems with the executive action. The judge’s decision states the executive order goes beyond the president’s authority under the 10th Amendment, which limits the federal government’s authority over local governments. “The Executive Order uses coercive means in an attempt to force states and local jurisdictions to honor civil detainer requests, which are voluntary ‘requests’ precisely because the federal government cannot command states to comply with them under the Tenth Amendment,” it reads.

The injunction comes out of a lawsuit brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara counties over Trump’s directive, with similar suits pending in other courts. Orrick’s order, which is based on the counties’ likelihood of success in their case, comes just a few days shy of Trump’s 100th day in office, when his administration is attempting to tout his accomplishments despite setbacks in Congress and in the courts.

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A Federal Judge Just Blocked Trump’s Executive Order Targeting Sanctuary Cities

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