Tag Archives: thursday

The Bay Area samples what life is like in Asian megacities — and for some of its own residents

As you might have heard, those of us who live in the Bay Area are breathing air this week that rivals Beijing’s, thanks to the fires raging across Northern California. West Oakland deals with bad air quality all the time, so I reached out to some folks there seeking perspective.

Margaret Gordon, a local grassroots activist, suggested I talk to Eryk Maundu. He’s a techie-turned-urban farmer who takes a data-driven approach to agriculture, and he had an inkling before most of us that something very bad was happening to the Bay Area’s air.

Just last week, he put up some new air quality sensors around his food plots. They registered a huge spike in contamination levels on Sunday night — three times worse than when he had tested the sensors around some friends who smoke. “I never thought I’d see it go higher than that,” he told me.

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Maundu thought he might have to throw the sensors out, until news broke Monday morning of wildfires tearing through Napa and Sonoma counties, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Within the next few days, all of us in the Bay Area could see the same thing Maundu’s sensors were telling him: Our air was unhealthy to breath.

“The numbers are off the charts,” says Walter Wallace with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The big health concern: Particulate matter carried by the smoke sticks to our lungs and can cause breathing and other health problems. “It’s so small that our bodies can’t defend against it.”

Suddenly, everyone in the region is getting double dose of what the air is like in parts of West Oakland, where one of the country’s busiest ports brings in a steady stream of truck traffic, nearby highways ferry tens of thousands of cars every day, and asthma rates are some of the highest in the state. On Thursday, the air quality throughout Oakland was second-worst in the nation behind Napa, where fires raged.

NASA Earth Observatory

More than 20 blazes consumed more than 200,000 acres of land statewide, largely north of the Bay Area, where at last count 31 people have died, close to 500 are missing, and 90,000 have been displaced. The largest of the fires, the so-called Tubbs fire, which is primarily raging in Sonoma County, was just 25-percent contained as of Friday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fires have destroyed homes and businesses in the region north of San Francisco often called “wine country.” In the Bay Area — which includes Oakland, where I live — we have been told to stay indoors. It’s a tall order in a part of the country where the predictable weather and the natural beauty begs residents to be outside. And our current predicament may continue through this weekend.

Anthony LeRoy Westerling, an environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Merced, says that wildfires are bigger, more frequent, and burn for longer now than they did in the 1980s. You’ll never guess what Westerling concludes is behind this phenomenon: A warmer climate that dries out forests. And more fires means more destruction where they burn and more intolerable air downwind.

The smoke blowing into the Bay Area has prompted a run on 3M N95 Particulate Respirator masks and air purifiers. Many who have the means have taken spontaneous road trips south or east to flee the particulate matter readings hovering around five times normal. Others are reporting headaches and respiratory problems. I suffered from childhood asthma, and spending about 10 minutes outside without a mask, breathing in air that smells like a campfire, made my lungs feel heavy.

All of this sent me to the Ace Hardware on 3rd St and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in West Oakland, where I joined a flow of customers buying N95 masks that sold for $2 a piece (I bought 12). The store has sold tens of thousands of masks in the past few days, struggling to try to keep up with demand.

“Yesterday morning was the big push, and then today has been even bigger,” the store’s general manager, Brian Altwarg, told me on Thursday. “And from what I see on the news, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Florine Mims has lived in the area for nearly 60 years, and she arrived at the Ace around 2 pm on Thursday, riding and then pushing her electric wheelchair after its battery lost its charge. She has a number of health problems, including asthma, and hoped getting a mask would bring her some relief.

“They gave me two,” she says about the N95 masks she carried out of the store. “I’m hoping they’ll help me breathe better.”

Mims, and a significant percentage of West Oakland residents, are the group most at risk over the remaining days if fire containment, a change in wind direction, or rainfall doesn’t help clear out the noxious air, says John Balmes, a medical doctor and environmental health scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“A week of exposure to this level, it’s going to affect people with preexisting asthma, but it won’t cause their asthma to stay bad,” Balmes says. “They have bad pollution all the time in a lot of the megacities in Asia.”

While the regular air quality readings in West Oakland don’t quite rival those in places like Beijing or New Delhi, its residents are used to living with pollution. The community recently filed a federal civil rights complaint against the port of Oakland and the city for discriminating against the largely black part of town by allowing more development to creep into the area and ignoring pleas to monitor air quality.

For now, though, the experience of breathing in dirty air is a shared burden for people in the Bay Area. And that’s an irony that isn’t lost on those living in West Oakland, like Margaret Gordon.

“This whole thing with the fire was a real equalizer for everybody,” she says.

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The Bay Area samples what life is like in Asian megacities — and for some of its own residents

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The first ‘negative emissions’ carbon-capture plant is up and running.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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The first ‘negative emissions’ carbon-capture plant is up and running.

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Despite Trump, states keep getting more energy-efficient.

On Thursday, President Trump announced — after much feeble deliberation — that he would waive the Jones Act, a century-old law that requires all shipping to U.S. territories to be made through American ships and companies. This massively expensive policy, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello noted, created an unnecessary obstacle to getting crucial supplies to a devastated island.

Good! One obstacle down, a billion and three to go — including the fact that trucks, drivers, and gasoline to distribute supplies around the island are currently few and far between.

CNN reports that only 4 percent of 3,000 containers of supplies that recently arrived at the Port of San Juan have made it to communities in need. There are currently upwards of 10,000 containers of supplies waiting to be circulated. Only 20 percent of truck drivers have returned to work, and many are hard to contact due to downed cell towers.

Remember that Puerto Rico’s current financial insecurity and infrastructure failings are largely a product of predatory hedge fund lending and lack of access to states’ resources — like, for example, a congressional representative.

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Despite Trump, states keep getting more energy-efficient.

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A leaked memo sketches out the Trump team’s PR plan for Puerto Rico.

On Thursday, President Trump announced — after much feeble deliberation — that he would waive the Jones Act, a century-old law that requires all shipping to U.S. territories to be made through American ships and companies. This massively expensive policy, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello noted, created an unnecessary obstacle to getting crucial supplies to a devastated island.

Good! One obstacle down, a billion and three to go — including the fact that trucks, drivers, and gasoline to distribute supplies around the island are currently few and far between.

CNN reports that only 4 percent of 3,000 containers of supplies that recently arrived at the Port of San Juan have made it to communities in need. There are currently upwards of 10,000 containers of supplies waiting to be circulated. Only 20 percent of truck drivers have returned to work, and many are hard to contact due to downed cell towers.

Remember that Puerto Rico’s current financial insecurity and infrastructure failings are largely a product of predatory hedge fund lending and lack of access to states’ resources — like, for example, a congressional representative.

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A leaked memo sketches out the Trump team’s PR plan for Puerto Rico.

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Glacier National Park is overcrowded. Thanks, climate change.

During a Thursday interview on a Texas radio show the EPA administrator said his agency wants objective science to buttress its mission. Sounds like something Pruitt and scientists can agree on, right?

Not exactly. Right after endorsing peer-reviewed science Pruitt dropped this: “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Experts at NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and Pruitt’s own agency have said they think science is exactly what policy should be based on.

On air, Pruitt touched on his usual topics: Superfund, how the Paris Agreement is a bad deal for the U.S., and, of course, CO2. The radio station’s meteorologist asked Pruitt why the country has such a preoccupation with the greenhouse gas. “It serves political ends,” Pruitt said. “The past administration used it as a wedge issue.”

Besides the conflicting statements on science, it was a pretty classic Pruitt interview. But we can finally put one burning question to rest about our newish EPA administrator: Does he separate his trash into the proper bins? “I have,” Pruitt said coyly. “I have recycled.”

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Glacier National Park is overcrowded. Thanks, climate change.

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Some Actual Good News After Trump’s Paris Agreement Fiasco

Mother Jones

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Just hours after President Donald Trump announced that he intends to withdraw the United States from Paris Climate Agreement, three state governors announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a union that will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even as national leadership on climate change falters.

For now, the alliance includes California, New York and Washington State. The governors of those states, Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, and Jay Inslee, respectively, released a statement on Thursday describing how the new alliance will build state-level partnerships to continue aggressive American action on climate change and uphold the goals and standards of the Paris Agreement.

“The president has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown in the statement. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy—not for America, not for anybody. If the president is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

Governor Cuomo echoed that sentiment. Trump’s “reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet,” he said. “This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change.”

California, New York, and Washington combined are home nearly 70 million people, about 20 percent of the US population. And their governments have already begun to take action. For example, the California State Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that mandates California to develop 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2045.

So far, no other states have signed on to the alliance, though 61 American mayors also pledged on Thursday that their cities will uphold the tenets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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Some Actual Good News After Trump’s Paris Agreement Fiasco

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Fox News Flees Interview After Hearing a Critical Take on Comey Firing

Mother Jones

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While Washington reels over the fallout from FBI Director James Comey’s abrupt dismissal this week, Fox & Friends’ Griff Jenkins set out on Thursday to check the pulse of the average Joe in real America.

“What do you make of the firing?” Jenkins asked a random patron inside the Tastee Diner in Bethesda, Maryland.

“I think it should have been done much earlier,” he answered. “Not to be too Machiavellian about it—why does it take such a long time for these guys to arrive at this conclusion? Is it because we’re getting too tight, finding out too much information about Putin?”

That response proved too much for Jenkins. Watch him swiftly shut down the interview and move on to another man posted up at the bar:

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Fox News Flees Interview After Hearing a Critical Take on Comey Firing

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Progressive Groups Are Basically Printing Money After the Health Care Vote

Mother Jones

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Progressives got a hard lesson in math on Thursday when the Obamacare repeal bill narrowly passed the House with 217 votes despite uniform Democratic opposition. But while the bill’s effect will be far-reaching if it eventually becomes law, in the short term it has become an almost unprecedented fundraising magnet for left-leaning grassroots groups.

In the 24 hours since the House vote, Daily Kos, the 15-year-old Netroots stalwart that has experienced a renaissance in the Trump era, raised $800,000 from 17,200 readers. That money will be split evenly among 24 Democratic candidates. (Daily Kos is specifically targeting the 24 Republican congressmen who voted for the bill but represent districts where President Donald Trump received less than 50 percent of the vote.) The group’s political director, David Nir, says the group previously raised $400,000 in one day for Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, and the same amount for Elizabeth Warren over the course of a year. But he couldn’t recall a $1 million haul.

Swing Left, which grew out of the postelection “resistance,” has only been around for a few months and has a much shorter track record of big fundraising hauls. But it has raised $850,000 from more than 20,000 donations since the vote, for the purposes of boosting candidates challenging its target list of 35 Republicans who voted for the bill (there is some overlap between the two lists). Swing Left got a signal boost from Crooked Media, the podcast empire launched by a group of Obama White House veterans, which partnered with the group to raise money.

Notably, the money raised going to candidates Thursday and Friday won’t end up in the hands of a candidate for a long time. It’ll be held in escrow for the winners of Democratic contests in those House districts next spring and summer. Think of it as a small pot of gold at the end of the primary.

Update: Per a Swing Left spokesperson, the organization had raised $200,000 for those 35 districts since they launched the fundraising page April 13—so to put the haul in perspective, in one day the group raised more than four times what it had raised in the previous 20.

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Progressive Groups Are Basically Printing Money After the Health Care Vote

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Trump Still Wants to Keep Syria’s "Beautiful Babies" Out of the US

Mother Jones

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The graphic images of the youngest victims of the recent sarin attack on Khan Sheikoun, Syria, apparently prompted President Donald Trump to have a change of heart about the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me—big impact,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” In a statement last night, after he gave orders to strike the Syrian air base from which the chemical weapon attack originated, Trump said, “Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Yet the Trump who fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria out of professed humanitarian concerns is the same one who not so long ago insisted he could look Syrian children “in the face and say, ‘You can’t come here.'” A week into his presidency, he signed an executive order that would indefinitely ban Syrians, even beautiful babies, from seeking refuge in the United States.

The irony of Trump’s sudden flare-up of compassion is not lost on the human rights advocates who have been pushing back against Trump’s attempt to shut out Syrians. “This would be a great opportunity for the president to reconsider his previous statements and to think about the fact that these refugees are fleeing precisely the type of violence we are seeing this week in Syria,” says Jennifer Sime, a senior vice president of the International Rescue Committee‘s United States programs. Trump’s newfound humanitarian concerns, Sime says, provides an opportunity “to reconsider the travel ban, to reconsider the cap on the total number of refugees who can enter this country, to reconsider the suspension on refugee resettlement in the United States, and to make our country again a welcoming country for refugees.”

A statement from the International Refugee Assistance Project following the missile strikes took a similar tone. “Rather than pay lip service to the plight of innocent Syrian children, President Trump should provide actual solutions for the children who have been languishing in refugee camps for years,” it reads. “Many refugee children have been left in life or death situations following the President’s executive order, which suspends and severely curtails the U.S. resettlement program.”

Trump has repeatedly called for the “extreme vetting” of refugees and has suggested that some, including a Syrian family with young children, might be ISIS sleepers. Kirk W. Johnson, a former United States Agency for International Development worker who has led an effort to resettle Iraqis in the United States, told Mother Jones in January that Trump’s refugee ban “reads as though 9/11 happened yesterday, and that 9/11 was carried out by refugees, which it wasn’t, and it creates a series of policy prescriptions to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, as if the stringent measures that have been put in place over the past 15 years to screen refugees don’t exist.”

After the 2013 attack in eastern Ghouta, in which the Syrian government killed more than 1,000 people with chemical weapons, Trump penned dozens of tweets imploring President Barack Obama to do nothing. “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside,” read one. “Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!” Despite the fact that the Assad government has been responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in the Syrian civil war, Trump previously excused its brutality by arguing that while it was bad, it was also “killing ISIS.”

If Trump’s strike on Syria was intended to curtail Assad’s ability to launch more attacks on civilians, it does not seem to have worked. An American official told ABC News that 20 Syrian aircraft were destroyed in Thursday’s strike on the Shaayrat airbase, but the runway was left untouched. Syrian warplanes have already resumed using the base to launch air strikes on rebel-held areas.

More than six years since the conflict in Syria began, nearly a half million people are dead, 6.3 million are displaced inside the country, and 4.8 million refugees have sought safety in neighboring countries. “These people didn’t flee because they wanted a change in scenery,” says Sime. “They fled because of the extreme violence, and the United States, along with other countries in the international community, should open their doors to provide refuge to these people who have been through these terrible circumstances.”

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Trump Still Wants to Keep Syria’s "Beautiful Babies" Out of the US

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Republicans Pull Bill to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

Mother Jones

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In a stunning defeat to House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump, Republicans on Friday pulled from the House floor their bill to repeal and replace the Obamacare, abruptly cancelling a vote that was scheduled for Friday afternoon.

The GOP plan was originally scheduled for a vote on Thursday but was postponed amid doubts about whether it could pass. The vote was rescheduled for Friday, but apparently Republicans were still unable to cobble together enough support. Trump reportedly warned House Republicans that if they failed to pass the health care legislation, he was prepared to move on and keep Obamacare in place.

This is a breaking news post. We will update when more information becomes available.

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Republicans Pull Bill to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

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