Tag Archives: service

Secret Service Agents Under Investigation for Taking Photos of Donald Trump’s Sleeping Grandson

Mother Jones

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A source with knowledge of the information tells Mother Jones that two Secret Service agents who were assigned to protect Donald Trump III, President Donald Trump’s grandson, took selfies with the eight year old while he was sleeping. The incident is now under investigation.

The source was clear that the agents were not under investigation for criminal behavior; rather, this investigation is about the agents abandoning their post while charged with protecting the grandson of the President of the United States.

The incident took place last weekend when the two agents, who were assigned to protect Trump III, were driving him from Westchester County, New York, where the Trump family has an estate, to Manhattan. Trump III was sleeping in the car when the agents began to take selfies with him while he was still asleep. Trump III woke up and, as the source framed it, “freaked out.” Upon return to Manhattan, he shared the experience with his mother, Vanessa Trump, who relayed her concerns to his father, Donald Trump, Jr. The issue was quickly escalated to top management of the Secret Service. The two agents were ordered to report to the Secret Service Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington, DC.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Secret Service confirmed that an investigation was underway.

“The US Secret Service is aware of a matter involving two of our agents and one of our protectees. Our Office of Professional Responsibility will always thoroughly review a matter to determine the facts and to ensure proper, long-standing protocols and procedures are followed. The Secret Service would caution individuals to not jump to conclusions that may grossly mischaracterize the matter.”

This revelation comes at a time when the Secret Service is doing damage control after an intruder was able to penetrate the outer perimeter of the White House grounds and was able to get close to the entrance of the north portico of the White House. According to two sources, President Trump has had a good relationship with his detail, and this is seen as an isolated incident that is not symptomatic of issues with his or his families protective detail.

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Secret Service Agents Under Investigation for Taking Photos of Donald Trump’s Sleeping Grandson

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No, big snowstorms like this aren’t normal

The calendar might say March, but winter isn’t done yet on the East Coast. And in a year where traditional signs of spring have arrived nearly a month early, it’s looking like this year’s winter season will be compressed into a single day, with an impending blizzard on par with historical greats.

Snowstorms and cold weather traditionally bring out the science deniers (we’ll never forget you, Senator Snowball), but in an atmosphere that is being fundamentally changed by human activity, every weather event is influenced in some way by climate change, and this week’s storm is no exception.

If you live on the East Coast, you might have become complacent about epic snowstorms like this one. Twenty inches or so doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you’ve lived through similar storms. But looking at the data, you’ll see that 20-inch snowstorms are a relatively new phenomenon in places like New York City.

For the first 100 years that meteorologists kept weather records at Central Park, from 1869 through 1996, they recorded just two snowstorms that dumped 20 inches or more. But since 1996, counting this week’s storm, there have been six. (You’ll find similar stats for other major East Coast cities.)

Basically, we’ve become accustomed to something that used to be very rare.

There are a few reasons why this is happening. Just like on land, ocean temperatures are getting warmer. This matters because the ocean is where nor’easters — the particular brand of coastal storm that brings the biggest snow potential — derive most of their moisture. Warmer ocean waters provide more energy to growing coastal storms, and the Gulf Stream current, which carries subtropical waters northward just off the East Coast, is experiencing record warmth right now.

Last year, two studies were published that provided evidence that basic weather patterns over the East Coast are getting more extreme, too, as Arctic sea ice melts and modifies the behavior of the jet stream. At times, the weather pattern can get stuck in a manner that provides extra cold air from the north and extra moisture from off the ocean — which is what is happening more often now.

That sets the stage for epic snowfalls. This week, high-resolution weather models are insistent that an intense band of very heavy snow will form, bringing snowfall rates of up to five inches per hour to New York City and New England. That’s nearing the upper limit of what is physically possible in our current climate.

With just hours to go before the flakes start flying, meteorologists are running out of words to describe the impending blizzard, which is on track to dump one to two feet of snow across a wide swath of the Northeast and bring winds of tropical storm force to prematurely flowering trees in parts of the mid-Atlantic.

The National Weather Service is ringing all available alarm bells — an experimental winter storm severity index is maxed out over New York City — and warning of widespread power outages and the impossibility of travel during the height of the storm. But even they don’t have much experience with a storm of this scale happening so late in the season — it just doesn’t happen very often. So it’s hard to tell what to expect.

Perhaps the most consequential circumstance for this particular storm is that, according to the plants and trees, spring is already here. The combination of flowering tree branches with tropical storm force winds and heavy, wet snow isn’t a good one — power outages could be widespread. And this year’s crop of some economically important flowering trees, like the apple and cherry orchards on Long Island, could see significant damage.

I mean, seriously, the Washington Cherry Blossom Festival starts Wednesday! It’s crazy. We now live in a world where one of D.C.’s biggest March snowstorms and one of its earliest Cherry Blossom Festivals are happening in the same week.

We’re not just getting freak weather anymore. We’re getting freak seasons.

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No, big snowstorms like this aren’t normal

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The dam truth: Climate change means more Lake Orovilles

Just two years ago, Lake Oroville was so dry that submerged archaeological artifacts were starting to resurface. That was in the middle of California’s epic drought — the worst in more than a millennium.

And then the rains came. This winter is on track to become Northern California’s soggiest on record. A key precipitation index is running more than a month ahead of the previous record pace, set in the winter of 1982–1983 (records go back to 1895). Lake Oroville is so full that it spilled over for the first time, spurring evacuations downstream.

California’s climate has always been extreme (even before humans got seriously involved), but what’s happening right now is just ridiculous. We are witnessing the effects of climate change play out, in real time.

California Department of Water Resources

Lake Oroville is as full as it has ever been, and remains vulnerable: We’re still in the peak of the rainy season, and more rain is on the way. On Tuesday and Wednesday, crews at the beleaguered dam worked around the clock to stabilize and reinforce the emergency spillway in anticipation of a fresh torrent of rainfall. But the scale of action — truck after truck of giant boulders dumping 1,200 tons of rock per hour — was small in comparison to the immense scale of erosion that has already taken place. There’s a real risk that the lake could spill over the top a second time.

And it’s not just Oroville. Major reservoirs ring the Central Valley, and nearly every one is full, or nearly so, as the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this week. Several levees statewide are seeping, and workers intentionally breached one along the Mokelumne River in Northern California over the weekend to relieve pressure. The levee system was simply not designed to be this stressed for extended periods of time.

Five successive waves of storms in the coming week could bring another foot of rainfall. The graphic below shows the amount of rain (and liquid-equivalent snow) on the way over the next seven days — enough to prompt renewed warnings from the National Weather Service.

NOAA/GFS model/Tropicaltidbits.com

Climate science and basic physics suggest we are already seeing a shift in the delicate rainfall patterns of the West Coast. A key to understanding how California’s rainy season is changing lies in understanding what meteorologists call “atmospheric rivers,” thin, intense ribbons of moisture that stream northeastward from the tropical Pacific Ocean and provide California with up to half of its annual rainfall. Exactly how atmospheric rivers will change depends on greenhouse gas emissions and science that’s still being worked out.

Atmospheric rivers are already responsible for roughly 80 percent of California’s flooding events — including the one at Lake Oroville — and there’s reason to believe they are changing in character. Since warmer air can hold more water vapor, atmospheric rivers in a warming climate are expected to become more intense, bringing perhaps a doubling or tripling in frequency of heavy downpours. What’s more, as temperatures increase, more moisture will fall as rain instead of snow, increasing the pressure on dams and waterways during the peak of the rainy season. There’s even new evidence that especially warm atmospheric rivers can erode away existing snowpack.

Peter Gleick, chief scientist of the Pacific Institute and frequent visitor to the Oroville area, is clear about what the drama at Oroville represents. “We’re seeing evidence of more extremes,” he says. “To ignore that would be a mistake.”

We’ve built dams based on old weather patterns, not for the extremes we’re now seeing. A clear problem emerges when we manage society for how things were, not how things are. In many ways, we are planning for the future with the expectation that the weather will be more or less the same as in the past. It won’t be.

The acting director of the California Department of Water Resources, Bill Croyle, made a telling statement earlier this week when asked why the infrastructure at Oroville seemed so fragile. “I’m not sure anything went wrong,” Croyle said. “This was a new, never-happened-before event.”

If we don’t start imagining and preparing for more “new, never-happened-before events,” more people will be put in danger — like they are right now in Oroville.

The near-disaster at Oroville has prompted another broad discussion about our country’s decrepit infrastructure, which arrives in the context of the Trump Administration’s plans to boost infrastructure spending.

But this is about more than just spending money to fix up our aging dams. The entirety of our country’s infrastructure needs to be reevaluated with the understanding that we have a unique opportunity to reimagine our shared future. If things are rapidly changing anyway, we might as well build a future consistent with our new weather reality.

At a place like Lake Oroville, that might mean leaving more space in the reservoir for flooding than has been done in the past. That wouldn’t be popular, because it would reduce the reservoir’s capacity, even as rising temperatures spur demand for more water. It may also mean increased resources for counseling services in coastal and riverine communities, as flooding events become more frequent and families consider whether to relocate. The state is already on a good start: Earlier this week, the California Department of Water Resources released a draft resolution for a comprehensive response to climate change, including dam operation.

After the current storms pass, California will still have two months left in its rainy season. It seems likely that 2016–2017 will become the wettest rainy season in state history. That means the danger at Lake Oroville won’t completely pass until this summer.

“They’re going to have to run the main spillway all spring in order to prevent additional flooding,” Gleick said. “I think people are going to be a little nervous for the next few months.”

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The dam truth: Climate change means more Lake Orovilles

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Donald Trump Is Turning His Mar-a-Lago Estate Into a National Security Nightmare

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump was reportedly alerted to the news of North Korea’s missile firing on Saturday, while dining with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, the exclusive club owned by Trump that the administration has dubbed the “Winter White House.”

As the two leaders learned of the unfolding international crisis, so, too, did the private citizens and resort members who happened to be dining alongside them. Quick to realize he was witnessing something unusual and highly shareable, club member Richard DeAgazio swiftly took out his camera phone to capture the incident and post the resulting photos to Facebook:

Hours before, DeAgazio also posted photos of himself posing with a man he described as carrying the “nuclear football” that enables the president to launch a nuclear attack from afar. He has since deactivated his Facebook account.

But DeAgazio isn’t alone in turning Mar-a-Lago’s social-media tag into a bizarre window into the American presidency. Here are some other snapshots from this past weekend alone, including one of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn jogging with some Secret Service agents.

The social-media postings have sparked widespread alarm over the extraordinary security risks Trump poses by governing from his Palm Beach estate, where hundreds of members and staff who lack proper security clearances are free to roam while high-level meetings and even international crises take place.

“There’s no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members like dinner theater,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired off in a tweet on Monday.

With Trump scheduled to ditch the White House for Florida for the third time since his inauguration this coming weekend, there are likely to be future photos offering regular Americans, who can’t shell out the recently doubled $200,000 membership fee, more glimpses of the luxe and occasionally top-secret life at Mar-a-Lago.

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Donald Trump Is Turning His Mar-a-Lago Estate Into a National Security Nightmare

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Here’s the Hell Trump’s Order Created for Refugees Overseas

Mother Jones

For thousands of US-bound refugees worldwide, President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” has thrown their future into question. Now that refugees are not allowed to come to the United States for 120 days—and Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely—resettlement workers are scrambling to figure out what will happen to these people fleeing war, persecution, and disaster in their home countries.

Trump’s executive order affects both refugees in the middle of the screening process and those already approved for resettlement in the United States, according to Sarah Krause, senior director of immigration and refugee programs for Church World Service, which operates one of the nine global resettlement support centers for US-bound refugees. “For someone to get referral to the US refugee admissions program is a feat,” says Krause, whose organization helped with the resettlement of more than 14,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States last year. “For them to have made it through the process and been approved is even more incredible. That they have gone through all of that and we are now shutting the door on them is unconscionable.”

In addition to its temporary freeze on resettlement, the order caps total incoming refugees for the 2017 fiscal year at 50,000 people—less than half of what the Obama administration had planned. Nearly 26,000 have already been resettled. For the 872 refugees already set to travel to the United States this week—not including those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen—the government has granted a temporary grace period. Those refugees will be allowed to enter the country until Friday. For those scheduled to enter the United States after Friday, their flights have been canceled.

Here’s what Krause sees as the most pressing issues facing the refugees left behind by Trump’s order:

People have been left without housing or their possessions. “These are individuals who, in many cases, have already sold their belongings in order to have some money upon entering to the United States,” Krause says. “Many of them knew their final destination—the cities to which they would be resettled. In Kenya, refugees coming from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps are brought into Nairobi prior to their departure for the United States. There they stay at the International Organization for Migration transfer center, where they receive predeparture medical screenings as well as cultural orientation, where they learn about life in the United States. Currently, there are over 120 refugees in the IOM transfer center who were expecting to board flights this week and who are now being told they will be sent back to the camp. For those refugees, they have already given up their shelters to new refugee arrivals, and sold their belongings. Their future is very uncertain.”

Refugees already approved for US entry may need to restart parts of the resettlement process—a delay of months or years. “Their cases remain in processing,” she says. “Some of their clearances will expire during this 120-day period and will need to be re-requested. There are checks that are requested by the resettlement support centers: security opinions, interagency checks, as well as fingerprints. It is a challenge to line all those clearances up, which means the window for departure is very small. Once that window closes, it’s difficult to open again.”

Refugees from the seven banned countries were left stranded. “For those that had already been booked for travel, their flights have been canceled,” Krause says. “Processing has essentially halted. They are not in their home country, they’re in countries of asylum, and the conditions in those countries are often very difficult. Some refugees make it to urban centers but live on very little and are not permitted by the countries in which they’re residing to work. Others are living in camps with hundreds of thousands of other people. Our Somali refugees—most of them have been in exile since 1990. You have generations of Somalis that have never been to Somalia.”

Officials are trying to prioritize refugees in particularly dangerous circumstances. The executive order allows for some refugees to be admitted on a case-by-case basis, Krause says. “We’re working with the Department of State to compile a list of the most vulnerable cases, although at this point the process for seeking exemptions is not yet clear. This is a life-saving program, and a delay of even a day for some cases could mean death in a case of extreme medical need or protection issues. There are some who are being moved from safe house to safe house by UNHCR because they are being hunted by their persecutors. I know of a gay Somali man who is currently in a safe house and who has been attacked. He is one of those cases in our pipeline.”

But for others, there’s little hope of finding another home now that the United States has shut its doors. “For those for whom we don’t believe exemptions can be sought, or it may take too long, we will look at pulling those cases out and giving them back to UNHCR for referral to another resettlement country. While the US accepts less than 1 percent of the world’s refugee population, we take more than any other. So it is unlikely that any other countries will have the capacity to take those that we cannot. And other countries have their own processes. That will take time.”

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Here’s the Hell Trump’s Order Created for Refugees Overseas

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