Emails show extent of EPA head Scott Pruitt’s ties to industries he’s supposed to regulate: report

A disturbing report indicates that Scott Pruitt’s fossil fuel connections are taking advantage of the EPA head

A new report sheds light on how the man who President Donald Trump appointed to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency — and who shares the president’s unscientific views on man-made climate change — has a lot of connections to industries that have a vested interest in denying global warming.

More than 4,000 pages of emails from Pruitt’s days as Oklahoma’s attorney general reveal that the EPA administrator and his staff had dozens of meetings with coal, oil and gas executives and lobbyists, according to a report by the Associated Press.

One email from Pete Regan, executive director of the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, urges Pruitt to meet an oil and gas lobbyist who he describes as “a gem of a dude. He serves on DEPA executive Comm w Harold Hamm. AG Pruitt was on multiple exec calls on 2015 giving updates re ‘sue and settle’, endangered species cases, etc. . . . Greg worked closely with Sen. Bob Dole and has great stories.”

Many of the items on Pruitt’s schedule were blacked out, which makes it more difficult for watchdog groups to ascertain the extent of his connections with the coal, oil and gas industries.

The emails were withheld from the public by Pruitt until a lawsuit by the liberal advocacy group Center for Media and Democracy convinced a judge to order their release.

Pruitt’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA have been so drastic that even many of his fellow Republicans have criticized them. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey told Pruitt during a congressional hearing on Thursday that “we are home to a historical background that shows us to have more Superfund sites than any other in the nation. I know there has been a proposal here to reduce substantial funding for this program.”

Similarly, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio asked, if Pruitt’s proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative go through, “How will these functions be maintained if the GLRI is eliminated?”

Rep. Michael Simpson of Idaho pointed out that, because farmers in his state are dealing with new pests due to global warming, cutting EPA funding “leads to less timely reviews. The president’s budget will cut well below the minimum. The potato industry will not have access to the proper crop production tools.”

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and his work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

Theater professionals address the Flint water disaster

Public Enemy: Flint, an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play: A remarkable artistic event

By Joanne Laurier
15 June 2017

Written, directed and produced by Purni Morell, based on An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen

A remarkable cultural event took place last week in the devastated city of Flint, Michigan, whose 100,000 inhabitants have been systematically poisoned with dangerous amounts of lead and other deadly contaminants.

Actors from across the US, assisted by a British writer-director, performed Public Enemy: Flint, an adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play, An Enemy of the People, on June 8, 9, and 10 in the gymnasium of a former school.

Ibsen’s famed work concerns a doctor, Thomas Stockmann, who tries to warn the local authorities—including his brother, the mayor—about water contamination problems and is persecuted for his discoveries. Parallels to the present catastrophe in Flint are striking, and hundreds of residents from the city and surrounding area responded enthusiastically to the performances.

Purni Morell

British theater directors Purni Morell and Christian Roe learned about the Flint water crisis in January 2016, while touring the US. In an interview, Morell explained to a reporter: “It’s not about doing a play about a water crisis in a city experiencing a water crisis—it’s about the underlying issues, like what made the water crisis possible in the first place. In the play, as in Flint, the water is a symptom of a bigger problem, and I think that needs to be investigated because it affects all of us, not just the city of Flint.”

Morell’s version follows the general outline of Ibsen’s play. Dr. Heather Stockman has ascertained through laboratory tests that the water in the town’s economic “salvation,” its Wellness Resort, owned by Mineralcorp, is contaminated with lethal chemicals and carcinogens.

Stockman tells the newspaper editor Oscar Hofford: “I mean contaminated, Hofford. Polluted. Impure. Mercury, in high proportions, chloroform off the scale—that means legionella; copper levels way too high…I’m saying the Wellness Resort is a danger to public health. Anyone who uses the water is endangering himself.” It turns out, she explains, that an industrial plant upriver is “seeping chemicals into the groundwater. And that groundwater is the same groundwater that feeds the pipes into the pump room.”

Hofford, at this point supportive of Stockman’s exposé, thinks the contamination speaks to broader issues: “What if the water isn’t the problem, but only a symptom of the problem?… I think this is the perfect opportunity to talk about what’s really going on. The vested interests, the—well, maybe not corruption exactly, but the system, Heather—the system that means these people can do whatever they like without any comeback.”

Audience members in Flint

The newspaper’s publisher, Stephanie Anderson (Ibsen’s Aslaksen), representing the city’s small business concerns, makes an appearance. The embodiment of petty bourgeois philistinism, Anderson’s watchword is “moderation” in all things. As a founding member of the Homeowners’ Association and the Temperance Club, she informs Stockman that the “resort is the backbone of our enterprise…Especially for the property owners.”

Anderson too is initially supportive of Stockman’s revelations, even suggesting that the doctor be recognized for her “contribution to the city’s welfare.”

Everything changes when Stockman’s brother Peter, the mayor, outraged by word of the doctor’s findings, bursts in and demands that the truth be suppressed to protect Mineralcorp’s interests. He claims that re-laying the pipes, to avoid the contaminated water, will cost $7 million and mean closing the resort for at least two years. “Do you have any idea, any idea at all, what this means? … This would finish us. We close the resort, everyone else capitalises on our idea, and in three years’ time, when, if, we reopen it again, this city will face ruin. And it’ll be your fault.”

In Ibsen’s play, Act IV is entirely taken up by a public meeting at which Stockmann denounces town officials and imparts “a discovery of a far wider scope than the trifling matter that our water supply is poisoned … the discovery that all the sources of our moral life are poisoned and that the whole fabric of our civic community is founded on the pestiferous soil of falsehood.” He passes on from that insight to a misguided conception, the defense of “isolated, intellectually superior personalities” and the notion that the “majority never has right on its side.”

In the Morell-Flint adaptation, the director and actors have decided to turn over this portion of the play to a genuine public meeting.

Tyee Tilghman (Horster)

Tyee Tilghman, the actor playing Jim Horster, a soldier who faces deployment to Mosul in Iraq, addresses the audience directly: “What we’re going to do now is change things up a little bit because in the next scene in the play, there’s a town meeting and what normally happens in it is that Stockman tells the people in the town about the water problem, and they call him an enemy of the people because they don’t want to hear about it—but we thought it would be more interesting to do this a different way, since we’re here and you’re here, and so we thought we’d set up a little town hall of our own.”

This prompted audience members of all ages, children, teenagers and adults, to discuss their appalling and inhuman conditions. One man described having to lug endless cases of water up flights of stairs. Some audience members reported owning houses that were literally crumbling. Others bitterly denounced the bullying of the authorities, who threaten to take their homes and even their children. Still others recounted how they had received water bills higher than their mortgages, and how the homes of protesters had been broken into by police who confiscated computers. Angry residents explained how they contracted health problems and even debilitating diseases from the poisoned water.

All of this was reinforced by the fact that signs in the restrooms alerted users not to wash their hands with water from the taps! Cases of canned water were stacked against the wall.

Sign in the restroom warns against using tap water to wash hands

When Public Enemy: Flint resumes, Dr. Stockman and her daughter, Petra, a teacher, both lose their jobs. Moreover, Stockman’s mother-in-law, Eleanor, the owner of the polluting plant, threatens the doctor and her daughter with financial disenfranchisement and destitution. Stockman lashes back at “hypocrites” like Anderson, with her “cheap, small-town flimflam,” and the townspeople themselves.

Petra has the final word: “This town is fine—it’s no better or worse than anywhere else. OK, there are things you can’t fix—you can’t fix that people with money can buy their way out of problems, and you can’t fix that some people care more about their position than what’s right—maybe you can’t even fix the water.

“I think you’re wrong about people, Mom. You said people get the government they deserve but I think people get the government government can get away with. And the government gets away with a lot, not because people are poor or because people are stupid—but because for years, for decades, we’ve eroded our schools, we’ve failed to educate our youth, we’ve failed to invest in ourselves as people.”

And she mentions that like her counterpart in Ibsen’s play, a work now 130 years old, she will start a school.

Public Enemy: Flint is a highly unusual confluence of a classic play, committed, talented actors and a motivated and engaged audience. It is proof, if proof be needed, that art is not something detached from social life. Important, enduring art by definition is work that does not remain indifferent to the crises and convulsions of its time. From that point of view, this modest three-day presentation, staged in a gym, was one of the most significant theatrical efforts in the US in recent years. The participants in the production, which was serious and thoroughly professional throughout, deserve the strongest congratulations and thanks.

The central role of Dr. Stockman was exceptionally performed by Los Angeles-based actress Michole Briana White. She was supported by an outstanding cast that included Charles Shaw Robinson from Berkeley, California as Peter Stockman, Madelyn Porter from Detroit as Stephanie Anderson, Briana Carlson Goodman from New York as Petra, Tilghman from Los Angeles as Horster, Meg Thalken from Chicago as Eleanor and Chris Young from Flint as Billing.

Public Enemy: Flint was the creation of British theater company fieldwork, in collaboration with Detroit Public Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, the Goodman Theatre (Chicago), Chautauqua Theater Company (New York), Berkeley Repertory Theater, People’s Light (Philadelphia), UM-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance, M.A.D.E. Institute, & the New McCree Theater, Flint.

Morell’s adaptation honored Ibsen’s play while eliminating its more elitist tendencies. The latter had a great deal to do with the situation in Norway in the 1880s, where, as Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov once explained, “a working class, in the present sense of the term, had not yet developed … and was, therefore, nowhere evident in public life.”

Plekhanov pays strong tribute to Ibsen’s social insight and instincts, in particular the dramatist’s abhorrence of the crude, grasping petty bourgeoisie. The Norwegian writer, observes Plekhanov, despises the “moral rottenness and hypocrisy of small town society and politics” and “the boundless tyranny of petty bourgeois public opinion.” He notes that “Ibsen hates opportunism with all his soul; he describes it brilliantly in his plays. Recall the printer Aslaksen [Anderson, in Morell’s play], with his incessant preaching of ‘moderation,’ which, in his own words, ‘is the greatest virtue in a citizen—at least, I think so.’ Aslaksen is the epitome of the petty bourgeois politician.”

The play’s passion and outrage continue to speak to present-day audiences, not least of all in Flint, whose working-class residents are the victims of corporate predation and government indifference or worse. In fact, when the mayor in Public Enemy: Flint proclaims that “the public doesn’t need new ideas; what the public needs is good, strong, time-tested method, not hare-brained theories that turn the world upside down,” one is tempted to shout out that the world, above all, needs to be turned upside down.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/15/ibse-j15.html

America’s Real Red Scare

We’re witnessing the slow-motion collapse of the American empire.

America’s Real Red Scare

US and Russian flags wave in the wind upon US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s arrival in Moscow on April 11, 2017. (Photo by Gleb Schelkunov/Kommersant via Getty Images)

This post originally appeared at TomDispatch.

Jump into your time machine and let me transport you back to another age.

It’s May 2001 and The Atlantic has just arrived in the mail. I’m tantalized by the cover article. “Russia is finished,” the magazine announces. The subtitle minces no words: “The unstoppable descent into social catastrophe and strategic irrelevance.” Could it be that the country I had worried most about as a military officer during all those grim years of the Cold War, the famed “Evil Empire” that had threatened us with annihilation, was truly kaput, even in its Russian rather than Soviet guise?

Sixteen years later, the article’s message seems just a tad premature. Today’s Russia surely has its problems — from poverty to pollution to prostitution to a rickety petro-economy — but on the geopolitical world stage it is “finished” no longer. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has recently been enjoying heightened influence, largely at the expense of a divided and disputatious superpower that now itself seems to be on an “unstoppable descent.”

More than a generation after defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the United States of 2017 seems to be doing its level best to emulate some of the worst aspects of its former foe and once rival superpower.

Sixteen years after Russia was declared irrelevant, a catastrophe, finito, it is once again a colossus — at least on the American political scene, if nowhere else. And that should disturb you far less than this: more than a generation after defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the United States of 2017 seems to be doing its level best to emulate some of the worst aspects of its former foe and once rival superpower.

Yes, the US has a Soviet problem, and I’m not referring to the allegations of the moment in Washington: that the Trump campaign and Russian officials colluded, that money may have flowed into that campaign via Russian oligarchs tied to Putin, that the Russians hacked the US election to aid Donald Trump, that those close to the president-elect dreamed of setting up a secret back channel to Moscow and suggested to the Russian ambassador that it be done through the Russian embassy or even that Putin has a genuine hold of some sort on Donald Trump. All of this is, of course, generating attention galore, as well as outrage, in the mainstream media and among the chattering classes, leading some to talk of a new “red scare” in America. All of it is also being investigated, whether by congressional intelligence committees or by former FBI director — now special counsel — Robert Mueller.

When it comes to what I’m talking about, though, you don’t need a committee or a counsel or a back channel or a leaker from some intelligence agency to ferret it out. Whatever Trump campaign officials, Russian oligarchs or Vladimir Putin himself did or didn’t do, America’s Soviet problem is all around us: a creeping (and creepy) version of authoritarianism that anyone who lived through the Cold War years should recognize. It involves an erosion of democratic values; the ever-expanding powers exercised by a national security state operating as a shadow government and defined by militarism, surveillance, secrecy, prisons and other structures of dominance and control; ever-widening gaps between the richest few and the impoverished many; and, of course, ever more weapons, along with ever more wars.

That’s a real red scare, America, and it’s right here in the homeland.

In February, if you remember — and given the deluge of news, half news, rumor and innuendo, who can remember anything these days? — Donald Trump memorably compared the US to Russia. When Bill O’Reilly called Vladimir Putin “a killer” in an interview with the new president, he responded that there was little difference between us and them, for — as he put it — we had our killers, too, and weren’t exactly innocents abroad when it came to world affairs. (“There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”) The president has said a lot of outlandish things in his first months in office, but here he was on to something.

My Secret Briefing on the Soviet Union

When I was a young lieutenant in the Air Force, in 1986 if memory serves, I attended a secret briefing on the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan was president, and we had no clue that we were living through the waning years of the Cold War. Back then, believing that I should know my enemy, I was reading a lot about the Soviets in “open sources”; you know, books, magazines and newspapers. The “secret” briefing I attended revealed little that was new to me. (Classified information is often overhyped.) I certainly heard no audacious predictions of a Soviet collapse in five years (though the Soviet Union would indeed implode in 1991). Like nearly everyone at the time, the briefers assumed the USSR would be our archenemy for decades to come and it went without saying that the Berlin Wall was a permanent fixture in a divided Europe, a forever symbol of ruthless Communist oppression.

Little did we know that, three years later, the Soviet military would stand aside as East Germans tore down that wall. And who then would have believed that a man might be elected president of the United States a generation later on the promise of building a “big, fat, beautiful wall” on our shared border with Mexico?

I wasn’t allowed to take notes during that briefing, but I remember the impression I was left with: that the USSR was deeply authoritarian, a grim surveillance state with an economy dependent on global weapons sales; that it was intent on nuclear domination; that it was imperialist and expansionist; that it persecuted its critics and dissidents; and that it had serious internal problems carefully suppressed in the cause of world mastery, including rampant alcohol and drug abuse, bad health care and declining longevity (notably for men), a poisoned environment and an extensive prison system featuring gulags. All of this was exacerbated by festering sores overseas, especially a costly and stalemated war in Afghanistan and client-states that absorbed its resources (think: Cuba) while offering little in return.

This list of Soviet problems, vintage 1986, should have a familiar ring to it, since it sounds uncannily like a description of what’s wrong with the United States today.

This list of Soviet problems, vintage 1986, should have a familiar ring to it, since it sounds uncannily like a description of what’s wrong with the United States today.

In case you think that’s an over-the-top statement, let’s take that list from the briefing — eight points in all — one item at a time.

1. An authoritarian, surveillance state: The last time the US Congress formally declared war was in 1941. Since then, American presidents have embarked on foreign wars and interventions ever more often with ever less oversight from Congress. Power continues to grow and coalesce in the executive branch, strengthening an imperial presidency enhanced by staggering technologies of surveillance, greatly expanded in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Indeed, America now has 17 intelligence agencies with a combined yearly budget of $80 billion. Unsurprisingly, Americans are surveilled more than ever, allegedly for our safety even if such a system breeds meekness and stifles dissent.

2. An economy dependent on global weapons sales: The US continues to dominate the global arms trade in a striking fashion. It was no mistake that a centerpiece of President Trump’s recent trip was a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. On the same trip, he told the Emir of Qatar that he was in the Middle East to facilitate “the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment.” Now more than ever, beautiful weaponry made in the USA is a significant driver of domestic economic growth as well as of the country’s foreign policy.

3. Bent on nuclear domination: Continuing the policies of President Obama, the Trump administration envisions a massive modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, to the tune of at least a trillion dollars over the next generation. Much like an old-guard Soviet premier, Trump has boasted that America will always remain at “the top of the pack” when it comes to nuclear weapons.

4. Imperialist and expansionist: Historians speak of America’s “informal” empire, by which they mean the US is less hands-on than past imperial powers like the Romans and the British. But there’s nothing informal or hands-off about America’s 800 overseas military bases or the fact that its Special Operations forces are being deployed in 130 or more countries yearly. When the US military speaks of global reach, global power and full-spectrum dominance, this is traditional imperialism cloaked in banal catchphrases. Put differently, Soviet imperialism, which American leaders always professed to fear, never had a reach of this sort.

5. Persecutes critics and dissidents: Whether it’s been the use of the Patriot Act under George W. Bush’s presidency, the persecution of whistleblowers using the World War I-era Espionage Act under the Obama administration or the vilification of the media by the new Trump administration, the US is far less tolerant of dissent today than it was prior to the Soviet collapse. As Homeland Security Secretary and retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly recently put it, speaking of news stories about the Trump administration based on anonymous intelligence sources, such leaks are “darn close to treason.” Add to such an atmosphere Trump’s attacks on the media as the “enemy” of the people and on critical news stories as “fake” and you have an environment ripe for the future suppression of dissent.

In the Soviet Union, political opponents were often threatened with jail or worse, and those threats were regularly enforced by men wearing military or secret police uniforms. In that context, let’s not forget the “Lock her up!” chants led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the Republican National Convention and aimed at Donald Trump’s political opponent of that moment, Hillary Clinton.

6. Internal problems like drug abuse, inadequate health care and a poisoned environment: Alcoholism is still rife in Russia and environmental damage widespread, but consider the US today. An opioid crisis is killing more than 30,000 people a year. Lead poisoning in places like Flint, Michigan, and New Orleans is causing irreparable harm to the young. The disposal of wastewater from fracking operations is generating earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma. Even as environmental hazards proliferate, the Trump administration is gutting the Environmental Protection Agency. As health crises grow more serious, the Trump administration, abetted by a Republican-led Congress, is attempting to cut health-care coverage and benefits, as well as the funding that might protect Americans from deadly pathogens. Disturbingly, as with the Soviet Union in the era of its collapse, life expectancy among white men is declining, mainly due to drug abuse, suicide and other despair-driven problems.

7. Extensive prison systems: As a percentage of its population, no countryimprisons more of its own people than the United States. While more than two million of their fellow citizens languish in prisons, Americans continue to see their nation as a beacon of freedom, ignoring Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, the country now has a president who believes in torture, who has called for the murder of terrorists’ families, and who wants to refill Guantánamo with prisoners. It also has an attorney general who wants to make prison terms for low-level drug offenders ever more draconian.

8. Stalemated wars: You have to hand it to the Soviets. They did at least exhibit a learning curve in their disastrous war in Afghanistan and so the Red Army finally left that country in 1989 after a decade of high casualties and frustration (even if its troops returned to a land on the verge of implosion). US forces, on the other hand, have been in Afghanistan for 16 years, with the Taliban growing ever stronger, yet its military’s response has once again been to call for investing more money and sending in more troops to reverse the “stalemate” there. Meanwhile, after 14 years, Iraq War 3.0 festers, bringing devastation to places like Mosul, even as its destabilizing results continue to manifest themselves in Syria and indeed throughout the greater Middle East. Despite or rather because of these disastrous results, US leaders continue to over-deploy US Special Operations forces, contributing to exhaustion and higher suicide rates in the ranks.

In light of these eight points, that lighthearted Beatles tune and relic of the Cold War, “Back in the USSR,” takes on a new, and far harsher, meaning.

What Is to Be Done?

Slowly, seemingly inexorably, the US is becoming more like the former Soviet Union.

Slowly, seemingly inexorably, the US is becoming more like the former Soviet Union. Just to begin the list of similarities: too many resources are being devoted to the military and the national security state; too many over-decorated generals are being given too much authority in government; bleeding-ulcer wars continue unstanched in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere; infrastructure (roads, bridges, pipelines, dams and so on) continues to crumble; restless “republics” grumble about separating from the union (Calexit!); rampant drug abuse and declining life expectancy are now American facts of life. Meanwhile, the latest US president is, in temperament, authoritarian, even as government “services” take on an increasingly nepotistic flavor at the top.

I’m worried, comrade! Echoing the cry of the great Lenin, what is to be done? Given the list of symptoms, here’s one obvious 10-step approach to the de-sovietization of America:

1. Decrease “defense” spending by 10 percent annually for the next five years. In the Soviet spirit, think of it as a five-year plan to restore our revolution (as in the American Revolution), which was, after all, directed against imperial policies exercised by a “bigly” king.

2. Cut the number of generals and admirals in the military by half, and get rid of all the meaningless ribbons, badges and medals they wear. In other words, don’t just cut down on the high command but on their tendency to look (and increasingly to act) like Soviet generals of old. And don’t allow them to serve in high governmental positions until they’ve been retired for at least 10 years.

3. Get our military out of Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn countries in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Reduce that imperial footprint overseas by closing costly military bases.

4. Work to eliminate nuclear weapons globally by, as a first step, cutting the vast US arsenal in half and forgetting about that trillion-dollar “modernization” program. Eliminate land-based ICBMs first; they are no longer needed for any meaningful deterrent purposes.

5. Take the money saved on “modernizing” nukes and invest it in updating America’s infrastructure.

6. Curtail state surveillance. Freedom needs privacy to flourish. As a nation, we need to remember that security is not the bedrock of democracy — the US Constitution is.

7. Work to curb drug abuse by cutting back on criminalization. Leave the war mentality behind, including the “war on drugs,” and focus instead on providing better treatment programs for addicts. Set a goal of cutting America’s prison population in half over the next decade.

8. Life expectancy will increase with better health care. Provide health care coverage for all using a single-payer system. Every American should have the same coverage as a member of Congress. People shouldn’t be suffering and dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor or pay for their prescriptions.

9. Nothing is more fundamental to “national security” than clean air and water. It’s folly to risk poisoning the environment in the name of either economic productivity or building up the military. If you doubt this, ask citizens of Russia and the former Soviet Republics, who still struggle with the fallout from the poisonous environmental policies of Soviet days.

10. Congress needs to assert its constitutional authority over war and the budget, and begin to act like the “check and balance” it’s supposed to be when it comes to executive power.

There you have it. These 10 steps should go some way toward solving America’s real Russian problem — the Soviet one. Won’t you join me, comrade?

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a regular contributor to TomDispatch. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

http://billmoyers.com/story/americas-real-red-scare/

1,000-FOOT-WIDE ASTEROIDS THAT COULD HIT EARTH DISCOVERED BY ASTRONOMERS

Scientists have discovered a new branch of the Taurids meteor stream that could pose a major risk to Earth, with asteroids up to 1,000 feet wide flying past us every few years.

The Taurids meteor shower peaks every October and November, producing a relatively small display of shooting stars as the planet passes through its stream.

Meteor shower displays happen when tiny bits of cosmic debris enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in the sky. Because the Taurids are made up of branches and a core, activity levels increase and decrease depending on how much debris Earth passes through.

Mostly, the meteoroids are about the size of a grain of sand and pose no risk at all. However, if a large enough asteroid entered the atmosphere, instead of disintegrating it would pass through and hit the Earth’s surface.

A stark reminder of the risk posed by asteroids and meteors came in 2013, when the 66-foot-wide Chelyabinsk meteor fell over Russia’s southern Ural region.

A team of researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic has now found evidence to suggest Earth is at greater risk of being hit by an asteroid than we previously thought.

In their study, which is to be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the team analyzed data on 144 Taurid fireballs that had been filmed with new digital cameras over the 2015 shower—a year of enhanced activity. They were able to work out the orbits of these fireballs, and found 113 of them show “common characteristics and form together a well-defined orbital structure, which we call new branch.”

This branch was found to contain at least two asteroids with diameters of between 650 and 980 feet. An impact from an asteroid of this size would cause a huge amount of damage if it hit a populated area of the planet.

As well as the two large asteroids, the team also found the branch likely contains “numerous” undiscovered objects that are at least 30 feet wide. “Since asteroids of sizes of tens to hundreds of meters pose a threat to the ground, even if they are intrinsically weak, impact hazard increases significantly when the Earth encounters the Taurids new branch every few years,” the scientists wrote.

The branch is not new. It has been passing by Earth every few years, ever since it formed around 1,000 years ago. However, now that we know it exists, the researchers say we need to carry out further studies to better understand “this real source of potentially hazardous objects.”

In an email interview with Newsweek, study author Jiří Borovička says that at present they do not have enough data to quantify the risk the branch poses to Earth. “A systematic search for asteroids within the newly identified branch will be needed to find the size-frequency distribution of large bodies within the branch,” she says. “The impact risk increases during the encounters of the Earth with the branch.”

She describes the risk of Earth being hit by a large asteroid during one of these encounters as a “lottery”—or “to be hit by a bullet or not.”

Their findings come just weeks ahead of Asteroid Day, on June 30. This event, first held in 2015, is a global awareness campaign to highlight the risk asteroids pose to Earth. Scientists estimate we have only detected around one percent of the one million asteroids that have the potential to impact Earth. Launching the event in 2014, astrophysicist Brian May said, “The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time.”

Borovička says the latest findings should serve as a reminder of the importance of identifying asteroids that could impact, adding she hopes scientists will turn their attention to the Taurids meteor stream in the future.

“So far, the search for hazardous asteroids has been done over all the sky,” she says. “We have pointed out a well-defined region in the solar system with a larger concentration of meteoroids and asteroids, which periodically come close to Earth’s orbit. We hope that people with access to large telescopes will explore this region in detail.”

She also says their findings reinforce the hypothesis that the Taurids stream is a remnant of a giant comet that disintegrated. Some of the debris from this event is thought to have struck the Earth, and has been connected with at least one catastrophic event in Earth’s history.

“Our observation gives some weight to that hypothesis,” Borovička says. “Perhaps there was a series of comet/asteroid disruptions and one of the recent ones created the new branch. We believe that our detailed description of the new branch will enable other people to explore this hypothesis in more detail than was possible before.”

 

http://www.newsweek.com/huge-asteroids-taurid-meteor-shower-earth-risk-623115

Noam Chomsky: Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy

How elites on both sides of the political spectrum have undermined our social, political, and environmental commons. 

For 50 years, Noam Chomsky, has been America’s Socrates, our public pest with questions that sting. He speaks not to the city square of Athens but a vast global village in pain and now, it seems, in danger.

The world in trouble today still beats a path to Noam Chomsky’s door, if only because he’s been forthright for so long about a whirlwind coming. Not that the world quite knows what do with Noam Chomsky’s warnings of disaster in the making. Remember the famous faltering of the patrician TV host William F. Buckley Jr., meeting Chomsky’s icy anger about the war in Vietnam, in 1969.

It’s a strange thing about Noam Chomsky: The New York Times calls him “arguably” the most important public thinker alive, though the paper seldom quotes him, or argues with him, and giant pop-media stars on network television almost never do. And yet the man is universally famous and revered in his 89th year: He’s the scientist who taught us to think of human language as something embedded in our biology, not a social acquisition; he’s the humanist who railed against the Vietnam War and other projections of American power, on moral grounds first, ahead of practical considerations. He remains a rock star on college campuses, here and abroad, and he’s become a sort of North Star for the post-Occupy generation that today refuses to feel the Bern-out.

He remains, unfortunately, a figure alien in the places where policy gets made. But on his home ground at MIT, he is a notably accessible old professor who answers his e-mail and receives visitors like us with a twinkle.

Last week, we visited Chomsky with an open-ended mission in mind: We were looking for a nonstandard account of our recent history from a man known for telling the truth. We’d written him that we wanted to hear not what he thinks but how. He’d written back that hard work and an open mind have a lot to do with it, also, in his words, a “Socratic-style willingness to ask whether conventional doctrines are justified.”

Christopher Lydon: All we want you to do is to explain where in the world we are at a time—

Noam Chomsky: That’s easy.

CL: [Laughs]—When so many people were on the edge of something, something historic. Is there a Chomsky summary?

NC: Brief summary?

CL: Yeah.

NC: Well, a brief summary I think is if you take a look at recent history since the Second World War, something really remarkable has happened. First, human intelligence created two huge sledgehammers capable of terminating our existence—or at least organized existence—both from the Second World War. One of them is familiar. In fact, both are by now familiar. The Second World War ended with the use of nuclear weapons. It was immediately obvious on August 6, 1945, a day that I remember very well. It was obvious that soon technology would develop to the point where it would lead to terminal disaster. Scientists certainly understood this.

 

CONTINUED:

https://www.thenation.com/article/noam-chomsky-neoliberalism-destroying-democracy/

Will the Democrats ever stand for something?

If Democratic Party leaders want to be an alternative to the Republicans, they sure have a funny way of showing it, writes Elizabeth Schulte.

Clockwise from top left: Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer

Clockwise from top left: Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer

HILLARY CLINTON resurfaced last month from her long post-election hibernation with a message: “I’m back to being an active citizen–and part of the resistance.”

And just so everybody knows, if it hadn’t been for Russian hackers and FBI Director James Comey bringing up her e-mails, “I’d be your president,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Considering the crisis of the Trump administration right now, the Democrats’ claims about Russian meddling in the election look more believable than before. But as for this losing the election for Clinton, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

And as for Hillary Clinton being part of a “resistance,” well…come on now.

All the Russian meddling in the world wouldn’t change the fact that core supporters of the Democratic Party didn’t turn out for Clinton because she represented everything they didn’t like about Washington politics–a devoted servant of Corporate America and the political establishment’s status quo.

So even though she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, Clinton let Donald Trump, the anti-immigrant, misogynist, Islamophobic billionaire, get close enough to steal an Electoral College victory because the Democrats offered so little for voters to turn out for.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

DESPITE THIS, the Democratic Party–which ought to be in a good position to challenge a politician as unpopular as Trump–is still debating what it should do next. Some party leaders are concluding this isn’t time to lead, but time to start compromising on key issues.

Issues like abortion.

In April, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) threw its support behind Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a self-described “pro-life” Democrat.

After a storm of criticism from pro-choice forces, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, DNC Chair Tom Perez–who appeared on a stage with Mello alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders–was forced to publicly reaffirm the party’s support for women’s right to choose.

But some Democrats didn’t get the memo.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made sure instead to emphasize that, yes, the party welcomes anti-choice Democrats. “It’s kind of fading as an issue,” Pelosi told the Washington Post. “It really is.” Pelosi advised Democrats to concentrate more on the issues that affect “working families.”

Of course, abortion isn’t a fading issue–the Republicans have made sure of that by successfully restricting women’s access to abortion services in dozens of states.

Furthermore, characterizing reproductive rights as an issue that “working families” don’t care about–in a country where one in three women have an abortion, many likely in “working families”–is out of step with reality.

Support for abortion rights is one of the main issues that at least rhetorically distinguished the Democrats from the Republicans, and now at a time when it’s so important to take a side, party leaders are discussing whether it might alienate voters they want to attract.

“You know what?” Pelosi said to the Post. “That’s why Donald Trump is president of the United States–the evangelicals and the Catholics, anti-marriage equality, anti-choice. That’s how he got to be president. Everything was trumped, literally and figuratively, by that.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

SO UNDERLYING this dispute about whether abortion is a Democratic issue is another discussion about what the party has to do to win over the audience of people who were attracted by Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric in 2016. Leading party figures are opting to downplay so-called “social” issues, like abortion, racism or LGBTQ rights, in favor of “economic” issues.

This warped view of who workers are–the workforce is disproportionately female, people of color and LGBTQ people–and what their concerns include reveals how out-of-touch Democrats are with the people who vote for them. It’s also the case that even by these wrongheaded standards, the Democrats’ populist economic rhetoric is no better in practice for working people than Trump’s.

The fight over health care is an excellent example. In May, House Republicans went after the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), voting for a plan that would eliminate some of the few positive aspects of Obamacare, such as the expansion of Medicaid and a guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

And what was the reaction from Democrats? Something close to rapture. The party that claims to stand for working people stood by and watched as Republicans shredded the ACA in the hopes that this would fatally damage the Republicans with voters.

While most human beings reacted with shock and outrage, Democratic leaders celebrated the fact that the Republicans’ nightmare might help them win a victory in 2018 congressional elections. Democratic strategist Caitlin Legacki summed up the strategy to the New York Times: “Our best shot at stopping the Republicans has always been to let them cannibalize themselves, and this proved that.”

Meanwhile, as Democrats cheered on the Republicans’ passage of Trumpcare, real people with real health care needs face the daily threat of not being able to afford to get well.

Trumpcare is highly unpopular–only 17 percent of the population said it supports repealing and replacing Obamacare with the Republican plan, according to a Quinnipiac Poll. But there is growing frustration with Obamacare, too.

Obama’s health care plan may have included some important reforms, but it also kept in place the worst aspects of for-profit health care, and the result was that insurance became even more expensive for workers.

When Trump and the Republicans threatened to make health care even more inaccessible, they gave Obamacare and the Democrats a lifeline, at least as far as public opinion is concerned. In this context, many people felt they had no choice but to defend the lesser-poison status quo of Obamacare.

Democratic politicians are making similar political calculations when it comes to protecting immigrants under attack from Trump’s new amped-up deportation regime.

In April, as state lawmakers debated making California a “sanctuary state” to stand up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to cut off federal funding to states that didn’t cooperate with ICE and immigration enforcement, some Democrats were cautioning against going too far.

“It may feel good to take certain actions, but that could result in real hurt on the ground,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the New York Times. “My responsibility is to make sure that I bring resources back to my city that come from tax dollars we send to Washington.”

“The civil rights movement was not won by calling Bull Connor a racist,” Garcetti said. “He was a racist. But it was won by saying we should be at that lunch counter.”

Garcetti is forgetting the most important thing that happened at those lunch counters: protest.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IF GARCETTI’S strategy of concede and retreat sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The Democrats used the same strategy during Election 2016–when they nominated Hillary Clinton, the status quo candidate with a history of serving wealth and power, as the candidate they were sure would win easily against Trump.

The party behind Clinton’s “campaign of militant complacency,” as author Thomas Frank put it, never even considered that the people who actually vote might be dissatisfied with the status quo she embraced.

In other words, at a time when many people are looking for more radical solutions, the mainstream Democrats are offering something that’s even further to the right of what already exists. And since they won’t actually stand for something, they continue to fall back on the fact that Trump and the Republicans are just worse.

This reality will lead even the best activists–people who care about changing the world a thousand times more than Nancy Pelosi–to conclude that the most important thing we have to do in the next year is get more Democrats into office, no matter what the compromise.

Thus, Bernie Sanders, who himself is staunchly pro-choice, reached the same conclusion as Pelosi that not every Democrat has to be pro-choice to get his support.

The Democratic Socialists of America unfortunately succumbed to this pressure too when it issued a statement in response to Sanders’ support for Heath Mello in Omaha that refused to take a stand and instead advised its members to “trust our grassroots.”

But trusting the grassroots means taking a stand for its political concerns.

It goes without saying that Hillary Clinton isn’t part of any “resistance.” There is, however, a resistance being built. It had its beginnings before the 2016 election, but having Donald Trump in the White House has led more people to think about that we need to get ourselves organized.

Many people will look to the Democratic Party to take the lead in the anti-Trump opposition, but the Democrats haven’t yet, and show no signs at all of doing so. We have to take part in grassroots organizing that stands up to the attacks of both Republicans and Democrats–and that offers an alternative to the status quo Washington politics we’re expected to accept.

 

https://socialistworker.org/2017/06/01/will-the-democrats-ever-stand-for-something

The media neglected to cover climate change last year — when it was most important

As President Trump decides whether or not to pull out of the Paris deal, the impacts haven’t been discussed

The media neglected to cover climate change last year — when it was most important
(Credit: AP/Ian Joughin)
This article originally appeared on Media Matters.

In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday,” collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial — the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.

Total Climate coverage on broadcast networks cratered in 2016

Combined climate coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and “Fox News Sunday” decreased significantly from 2015 to 2016, despite ample opportunity to cover climate change

In 2016, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Fox News Sunday”* aired a combined 50 minutes of climate coverage on their evening and Sunday news programs, which was 96 minutes less than in 2015 — a drop of about 66 percent.*Fox Broadcast Co. does not air a nightly news program

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As was the case in 2015, ABC aired the least amount of climate coverage in 2016, covering the topic for just six minutes, about seven minutes less than in 2015. All the other major networks also significantly reduced their coverage from the previous year, with NBC showing the biggest decrease (from 50 minutes in 2015 to 10 minutes in 2016), followed by Fox (39 minutes in 2015 to seven minutes in 2016) and CBS (from 45 minutes in 2015 to 27 minutes in 2016).

climate 2

Networks had ample opportunity to cover climate change in 2016

Despite the pronounced decline in climate coverage, the networks had ample opportunity to cover climate change in 2016. As The New York Times reported, in 2016, climate change took on “a prominence it has never before had in a presidential general election” given the stark contrast between the candidates’ views. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had a long track record of climate denial and differed with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on a range of important climate issues, including the Paris climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan, and the continued use of coal as an energy source, with Trump pledging that he would put coal miners “back to work” and Clinton proposing a plan that would help coal communities transition to clean energy. Additionally, there were also a host of non-election climate stories worthy of coverage in 2016, including extreme weather events tied to climate change, like Hurricane Matthew and the record-breaking rainfall and flooding in Louisiana (which the American Red Cross described as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy”); the signing of the Paris climate agreement and the U.N. climate summit in Morocco; the official announcement from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 2015 was the hottest year on record by far; and investigations by state attorneys general into whether ExxonMobil committed fraud by misleading the public on climate change. [The New York Times, 8/1/16; Media Matters, 5/26/16; The Huffington Post, 9/8/16; DonaldJTrump.com, 9/15/16; Media Matters, 3/15/16, 10/7/168/17/16; The Huffington Post, 4/22/16; The Guardian, 4/22/16; InsideClimate News, 11/3/16; The New York Times, 1/20/16; InsideClimate News, 12/28/16]

ABC, CBS, NBC, And Fox failed to discuss climate-related ramifications of a Clinton or Trump presidency until after the election

ABC, CBS, NBC, and “Fox News Sunday” did not air a single segment informing viewers of what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies or issues under a Trump or Clinton administration. While these outlets did devote a significant amount of coverage to Trump’s presidency, airing 25 segments informing viewers about the ramifications or actions of a Trump administration as they relate to climate change, all of these segments aired after the election. Examples of post-election coverage include a “PBS NewsHour” segment about Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pruitt’s history of climate denial and ties to the fossil fuel industry; a “CBS Evening News” segment about Trump appointing climate denier Myron Ebell to his EPA transition team; and an “NBC Nightly News” report on Trump’s promise to roll back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on climate change. [PBS NewsHour, 12/7/16; CBS Evening News, 11/15/16; NBC Nightly News, 11/9/16**]

**We included citations of specific shows when we described the content of a segment. We did not include show citations for general tallies. We linked to episodes that were available online but listed only the date for those that were not.

“PBS NewsHour” was the only show to discuss climate ramifications of a Clinton or Trump presidency prior to the election

“PBS NewsHour”*** was the only show in our study that examined what impact a Trump or a Clinton presidency would have on climate-related issues and policies before the election. On the September 7 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham discussed “what a Clinton or Trump administration might mean with regards to climate change” with The New York Times’ Coral Davenport and The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney. And a September 22 segment explored “what the early days of a Trump presidency might look like” and featured Judy Woodruff interviewing Evan Osnos of The New Yorker about whether Trump would renounce the Paris climate agreement. [PBS NewsHour, 9/22/169/7/16]

***Unlike the nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC that air for a half hour seven days a week, “PBS NewsHour” airs five days a week and is a half hour longer.

Tyndall report found no discussion of climate change in issues coverage during campaign

The Tyndall Report, which tracks the broadcast networks’ weeknight newscasts, analyzed election-related issues coverage on the major networks’ weeknight newscasts and found no issues coverage devoted to climate change in 2016 up through October 25. The Tyndall Report defines election-related issues coverage as that which “takes a public policy, outlines the societal problem that needs to be addressed, describes the candidates’ platform positions and proposed solutions, and evaluates their efficacy.” [The Intercept, 2/24/17; Media Matters, 10/26/16; Tyndall Report, 10/25/16]

Networks aired a disproportionate amount of climate coverage after Election Day

In the roughly 45 weeks before the November 8 election, the networks aired a total of 55 segments about climate change — roughly one per week. After the election, the networks aired 32 climate-related segments over approximately seven weeks till the end of the year — about five stories per week.

Networks ignored links between climate change and national security and rarely addressed economic and public health impacts, but some detailed impacts on extreme weather and plants and wildlife

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Networks did not air a single segment on link to national security

Numerous military and intelligence organizations have sounded the alarm on climate change’s connection to national security. A September 2016 report prepared by the National Intelligence Council and coordinated with the U.S. intelligence community stated, “Climate change and its resulting effects are likely to pose wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years.” And following Trump’s election victory, “a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security,” E&E News reported. Yet the national security implications of climate change never came up in any of the networks’ climate coverage for 2016. [Media Matters, 1/13/17; Scientific American, 11/15/16]

PBS was the only network to address economic impacts of climate change

PBS was the only network to report on the economic impacts of climate change. Two segments about Washington state’s carbon tax ballot initiative that aired on the April 21 and October 20 editions of “PBS NewsHour” featured the president of the Washington State Labor Council explaining that Washington’s shellfish industry “has left the state and gone to Hawaii because the acid levels in the ocean has risen so much.” And on the November 17 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham reported that 365 American companies “have written to the president-elect imploring him to uphold the Paris accords and warning — quote — ‘Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.’” [PBS NewsHour, 4/21/16, 10/20/16, 11/17/16]

Networks rarely addressed how climate change impacts public health

The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Climate Assessment have all concluded that climate change has a significant influence on human health and disease. And as 2016 saw the first local spread of the Zika virus in the continental United States, Climate Signals found that “climate change creates new risks for human exposure to vector-borne diseases such as Zika, particularly in the United States where rising heat and humidity are increasing the number of days annually in which disease vectors thrive.” However, only two segments on “NBC Nightly News” dealt with the link between climate change and public health — no other network covered the issue. In a January 18 report about the spread of Zika, correspondent Tom Costello noted, “Researchers are also studying whether climate change and El Nino are causing certain mosquitoes populations to grow.” And a July 4 report about a massive algae bloom creating a toxic emergency in Florida featured correspondent Gabe Gutierrez explaining, “The debate is raging over what`s to blame for this latest growth, but scientists say there are many factors including population growth and climate change.” [World Health Organization, accessed 3/21/17; CDC.gov, accessed 3/21/17; National Climate Assessment, accessed 3/21/17; Climate Signals, 8/23/16; NBC Nightly News, 1/18/16, 7/4/16]

CBS and ABC rarely covered climate link to extreme weather, while NBC and Fox ignored it completely

2016 saw no shortages of extreme weather events influenced by climate change, with Hurricane Matthew making landfall on the East Coast; wildfires — which have become a consistent threat thanks, in part, to climate change — charring more than 100,000 acres in seven states in the Southeast; and record rainfall and flooding in Louisiana causing what the American Red Cross called “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy.” Yet NBC and Fox never addressed the link between climate change and extreme weather, while CBS did so in four segments and ABC did so in just one segment. By contrast, “PBS NewsHour” aired eight segments dealing with the link between climate change and extreme weather. [The Weather Channel, 10/9/16; Media Matters, 10/6/16; The New York Times, 11/29/16; Climate Central, 11/23/16; Media Matters, 8/17/16]

PBS led the networks in stories detailing climate impacts on plants and wildlife

PBS provided the most coverage of climate impacts on plants and wildlife (six segments), followed by CBS and NBC (three segments each), and ABC (one segment). Examples of this reporting included a “Climate Diaries” segment on “CBS Evening News” about how climate change is “taking a toll on endangered mountain gorillas” in Central Africa by making their food supply less predictable and forcing human populations searching for water into their territory and an “NBC Nightly News” segment about how Yellowstone grizzlies are threatened because one of their food sources — seeds from whitebark pine trees — has been decimated by climate change. Another example was a “PBS NewsHour” segment reporting that “two-fifths of bees, butterflies, and related pollinating species are heading toward extinction” thanks to “a range of factors, ranging from pesticide use to climate change to habitat loss.” [CBS Evening News, 11/17/16; NBC Nightly News, 5/22/16; PBS NewsHour, 2/26/16]

Specific climate-related policies received sparse coverage outside of PBS

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The Clean Power Plan was almost completely ignored on Sunday shows and received sparse coverage on Nightly News shows

The broadcast networks provided scant coverage of the Clean Power Plan even though Trump had promised during the campaign to eliminate the policy. The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and serves as the linchpin of President Obama’s program to meet the nation’s emissions reduction obligation under the Paris agreement. “Fox News Sunday” was the only Sunday show to feature a climate-related segment on the Clean Power Plan, in which Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane claimed that the Democrats’ focus on the plan is an example of how “environmentalism in a crucial way worked against the Democratic Party this year,” because Trump carried coal-dependent states in the election. But contrary to Lane’s claim, numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it. On nightly news shows, ABC was the only network that did not air a climate-related segment on the plan, while PBS NewsHour covered the Clean Power Plan the most (seven segments), followed by CBS Evening News (three segments) and “NBC Nightly News” (two segments). [DonaldJTrump.com, 9/15/16; The White House, 8/3/15; The New York Times, 3/2/16; Fox News Sunday, 11/13/16; Media Matters, 11/29/16]

PBS far outpaced networks in coverage of U.N. climate agreement and summits

In 2016, world leaders met on Earth Day for the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement reached by 195 nations and later again in Morocco for talks about implementing the climate accord. In Trump’s first major speech on energy policy, in May, he vowed that he would “cancel” the Paris climate agreement. But after the election he told The New York Times, “I have an open mind to it.” Despite these developments, PBS was the only network to devote significant coverage to the U.N. climate agreement and U.N. climate-related summits, doing so in 21 segments, while CBS aired five segments, NBC and ABC aired just three, and Fox aired just two. [USA Today, 4/22/16; The New York Times, 12/12/15; InsideClimate News, 11/3/16; BBC.com, 5/27/16; DonaldJTrump.com, 5/26/16; The New York Times, 11/23/16]

CBS, NBC and Fox addressed the climate impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline only once, while ABC and PBS failed to do so at all

During the campaign, Clinton and Trump staked out opposing positions on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil that is 17 percent dirtier than average and would “increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming” from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Yet there was a dearth of coverage on Keystone XL’s link to climate change, with CBS, NBC, and Fox each airing just one segment that connected Keystone XL to climate change and ABC and PBS ignoring the topic completely. The networks also ignored Keystone XL more broadly — airing just four additional non-climate-related segments on the pipeline. [Business Insider, 9/25/16; Media Matters, 1/15/15]

Fox was the only network to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline in a climate context

The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes, as well as environmental activists, protested against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016, citing, among other concerns, the impact a continued buildup of oil infrastructure would have on climate change. Yet Fox was the sole network to cover the Dakota Access pipeline in a climate context. On the December 11 edition of “Fox News Sunday”, host Chris Wallace previewed his upcoming interview with Trump by saying that he would “ask [Trump] to clear up exactly where he stands on climate change.” After returning from a commercial break, Wallace said to the Trump, “Let me ask you a couple specific questions. Will you still pull out of the Paris climate agreement, which has been signed by more than 100 countries to reduce carbon emissions? Will you restart the Dakota Access pipeline, which the Army just stopped?” To which Trump replied that he was “studying” the Paris climate agreement and would “have [Dakota Access] solved very quickly” when he takes office. ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS did air multiple segments on the Dakota Access pipeline (airing eight, 10, four, and 10 segments, respectively), but none of these segments linked it to climate change. [MPR News, 12/7/16; Time, 12/1/16, 10/28/16; Fox News Sunday, 12/11/16]

Major networks completely ignored the “Exxon Knew” story

Reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon’s own scientists had confirmed by the early 1980s that fossil fuel pollution was causing climate change, yet Exxon-funded organizations helped manufacture doubt about the causes of climate change for decades afterward in what became known as the “Exxon knew” scandal. The reports prompted the attorneys general in New York, California, and Massachusetts to each launch investigations of Exxon, as well as countersuits from Exxon and subpoenas from members of Congress in defense of Exxon. Yet none of the networks covered any of these developments over the course of 2016. [Media Matters, 9/1/16; InsideClimate News, 12/28/16]

CBS, Fox and PBS uncritically aired climate science denial in 2016 — all of which came from Trump or Trump officials

CBS, Fox and PBS aired a combined five segments that included unrebutted climate science denial in 2016 — all from Trump or Trump officials

In 2016, “CBS Evening News”, “PBS NewsHour”, and “Fox News Sunday” aired a combined five segments that misled audiences by featuring climate science denial. Half of “Fox News Sunday”’s climate-related segments included climate denial. In every instance, it was Trump or Trump officials promoting denial.

  • On the September 27 edition of “CBS Evening News”, correspondent Julianna Goldman fact-checked a portion of the September 26 presidential debate in which Clinton stated, “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real,” and Trump interjected, “I did not. I did not. . . . I do not say that.” Goldman noted that Trump had in fact tweeted that climate change is a hoax, but she did not fact-check the veracity of Trump’s statement that climate change was a hoax. [CBS Evening News, 9/27/16; Media Matters, 5/26/16]
  • On the November 9 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, during a segment on world leaders’ reactions to Trump’s election victory, correspondent Margaret Warner reported, “Also in question is America’s participation in the Paris climate accord. Trump has called climate change a hoax, and while it would take four years to formally pull out of the agreement, there are no sanctions in place for ignoring it.” And in a report on the ways in which Trump would dismantle environmental policy on the November 17 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham stated, “Trump has repeatedly expressed his own skepticism about climate change, like in this 2012 tweet, when he said: ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.’ Two years later, he wrote: ‘Global warming is an expensive hoax.’” In neither instance did the correspondent note that Trump’s statements are at odds with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused. [PBS NewsHour, 11/9/16, 11/17/16]
  • Shortly after Trump’s interview with The New York Times in which he stated that he had an “open mind” on climate change and the Paris climate agreement, “Fox News Sunday”’s Chris Wallace asked Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how flexible Trump would be on his campaign promises. Priebus answered that as “far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which [is that] most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.” Priebus then moved on to discuss the potential nomination of Jim Mattis as defense secretary before Wallace concluded the interview. And during Wallace’s interview with Trump on the December 11 edition of “Fox News Sunday”, Trump declared that “nobody really knows” whether human-induced climate change is happening. Wallace didn’t challenge Trump’s claim that blatantly misrepresents the consensus of the world’s leading scientific institutions that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming. [The New York Times, 11/23/16; Fox News Sunday, 11/27/16, 12/11/16; NASA.gov, accessed 3/21/17]

Other nightly news segments on PBS, CBS and NBC also included climate science denial, but reporters pushed back on those claims, noting that they conflicted with established climate science

Segments on PBS, CBS, and NBC nightly news shows also included climate denial, but reporters noted that that these statements were at odds with established climate science.

  • In a segment about Trump selecting Scott Pruitt as his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency on the December 8 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, anchor Judy Woodruff reported, “Pruitt is in sync with President-elect Trump on a range of issues, including his skepticism about man-made global warming. Writing in the National Review this year, he said: ‘That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming.’ In fact, the vast majority of scientists agree that human activity contributes to global warming, all of which underscores questions about whether a Trump administration will refuse to abide by the Paris accords on greenhouse gas emissions.” And on the December 14 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, Woodruff asked Sean Spicer, who was then communications director for the Republican National Committee, “Does the president-elect still believe, as he said on the campaign trail, that the science behind climate change is still not settled, in other words, something that most climate scientists say is absolutely correct?” Spicer replied by denying the consensus on human-caused climate change, stating that Trump “understands that there’s elements of man, mankind, that affect climate, but the exact impact of it and what has to be done to change that is something there is some dispute about within the community, not just science, but within the industry.” [PBS NewsHour, 12/8/16, 12/14/16]
  • A November 15 CBS Evening News segment on the appointment of climate denier Myron Ebell to Trump’s EPA transition team featured footage of Trump calling climate change a “hoax,” followed by correspondent Chip Reid stating, “President-elect Donald Trump has left little doubt where he stands on the issue of climate change. He wants a dramatic increase in the production of coal and oil, which he says will create jobs. And his EPA transition team is being led by Myron Ebell, a leading climate change skeptic. Ebell, who is not a scientist, disagrees with the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who say the driving force behind the warming planet is the burning of fossil fuels.” [CBS Evening News, 11/15/16]
  • The December 14 edition of ABC’s “World News Tonight” featured footage of Trump transition official Anthony Scaramucci denying climate change by arguing, “There was overwhelming science that the Earth was flat. … We get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community.” Correspondent Brian Ross introduced Scaramucci’s comments as “a Trump transition official continu[ing] the public assault on established science.” [ABC’s World News Tonight, 11/14/16]

Because hosts or correspondents on these programs noted that the statements in question contradicted mainstream climate science, they were not counted as denial in our study.

Climate scientists were completely absent from ABC’s “World News Tonight” . . . again

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For the second consecutive year, ABC’s “World News Tonight” did not feature a single scientist in its climate coverage

ABC’s “World News Tonight” did not feature a single scientist in its climate coverage for the second year in a row. By contrast, “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” featured five and six scientists, respectively, and PBS NewsHour featured 18.

Sunday shows did not feature a single scientist in climate-related coverage

After featuring just two scientists over a five-year period from 2009 to 2013, the Sunday shows featured seven scientists in 2014 alone, and then backslid in 2015, quoting or interviewing just two scientists (4 percent of all Sunday show guests). In 2016, that backslide continued, with the Sunday shows featuring no scientists in their climate-related coverage.

PBS and CBS frequently aired coverage related to climate-related scientific research, while NBC and ABC did so less often

PBS and CBS far outpaced their counterparts in the number of segments focusing on climate-related scientific research that they aired on nightly news shows. “PBS NewsHour” aired 10 segments on climate-related scientific research, including a segment that featured scientists explaining climate change’s influence on wildfires in Southern California and flooding in Louisiana; “CBS Evening News” aired seven segments on climate-related research, including a segment featuring interviews with scientists who discovered unprecedented rates of sea ice melt in the Arctic Circle. Conversely, “NBC Nightly News” aired just three segments on climate-related research, and ABC’s World News Tonight aired just two. None of the Sunday shows featured any segments on climate-related scientific research. [PBS NewsHour, 8/17/16; CBS Evening News, 3/4/16]

Sunday shows’ climate coverage dropped by 85 percent

Every network’s Sunday show significantly decreased its climate coverage

After dropping slightly from a high of 81 minutes of coverage in 2014 to 73 minutes in 2015, the Sunday shows’ climate coverage dropped 85 percent to just 11 minutes of coverage in 2016 — the third-lowest amount in the eight-year time frame Media Matters has examined. Every network saw significant declines in Sunday show coverage, with Fox leading the way (down 32 minutes from the previous year), followed by NBC (down 17 minutes), CBS (down 10 minutes), and ABC (down four minutes).

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Bernie Sanders brought up climate change four times as much as hosts did on ABC, CBS and NBC Sunday shows

On every Sunday show except “Fox News Sunday”, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., brought up climate change significantly more often than the hosts themselves did. ABC’s This Week, CBS’ “Face the Nation”, and NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a combined five segments in which the hosts brought up climate change, while Bernie Sanders brought up climate change 21 times during his appearances on those shows. Because our study counted only those segments where a media figure brought up or discussed climate change, those 21 segments were not counted in this study’s overall network tallies.

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Nightly news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC aired roughly half as much climate coverage as they did in 2015

“NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” significantly decreased climate coverage, and ABC once again lagged behind network counterparts

The nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC collectively decreased their climate coverage from approximately 73 minutes in 2015 to just over 39 minutes in 2016 — a drop of 46 percent. “NBC Nightly News” had the biggest drop in climate coverage, decreasing by about 22 minutes, followed by “CBS Evening News”, which had a drop of approximately nine minutes. ABC’s “World News Tonight”, which aired significantly less climate coverage than its competitors in 2014 and 2015, once again continued its downward trend, dropping even further from roughly seven minutes of climate coverage in 2015 to just four minutes in 2016.

For second year in a row, PBS aired more climate coverage than all other nightly news programs combined

For the second consecutive year, “PBS NewsHour” aired more segments addressing climate change than the other nightly news shows combined. “PBS NewsHour” aired 46 climate-related segments, while ABC (five), CBS (19), and NBC (12) aired a combined 36 climate-related nightly news segments. However, PBS NewsHour’s climate coverage decreased from 2015, when the network aired 58 climate-related segments.

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CBS and NBC nightly news shows have stepped up climate coverage in early months of 2017

In 2017 so far, “CBS Evening News” has already aired more than half the amount of climate coverage it did in all of 2016

In the first few months of 2017, “CBS Evening News” has already aired about 17 minutes of climate-related coverage, just eight minutes less than the show aired for all of 2016. In fact, “CBS Evening News” aired nearly half as much climate coverage as it did in all of 2016 in just one week of 2017; this coverage was during a series of climate-related reports from Antarctica for its “Climate Diaries” series. [Media Matters, 2/13/17]

In early months of 2017, “NBC Nightly News” has already aired nearly half as much climate coverage as it did in all of 2016

In just over two months, “NBC Nightly News” has already aired about five minutes of climate-related coverage, roughly half as much as the show aired for all of 2016.

Methodology

This report analyzes coverage of “climate change” or “global warming” between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016, on four Sunday news shows (ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday) and four nightly news programs (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS NewsHour) based on Nexis transcripts. Fox Broadcasting Co. airs Fox News Sunday but does not air a nightly news equivalent; Fox News is a separate cable channel. PBS NewsHour is a half-hour longer than its network nightly news counterparts, but it airs five days a week, compared to seven days a week for the other nightly news shows (PBS NewsHour Weekend was not included in this analysis). In one instance, Nexis categorized a segment that did not mention “climate change” or “global warming” as being about climate change; because the segment provided other clear indications that it was indeed about climate change, it was included. To identify the number of segments networks aired on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, we used the search terms Keystone w/20 pipe! And Dakota w/20 pipe!.

Our analysis includes any segment devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention (more than one paragraph of a news transcript or a definitive statement by a media figure) about climate change impacts or actions. The study did not include instances in which a non-media figure brought up climate change without being prompted to do so by a media figure unless the media figure subsequently addressed climate change. We defined media figures as hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists. The study also does not include teasers if they were for segments that aired later on the same program. We acquired time stamps from iQ media and applied them generously for nightly news segments when the overall topic was related to climate change. For instance, if a nightly news segment about an extreme weather event mentioned climate change briefly, the entire segment was counted as climate coverage. However, if a significant portion of the segment was not related to climate change, such as a report on the pope giving a speech about climate change, immigration, religious freedom, and outreach to Cuba, only the portions of the segment that discussed climate change were counted. For the Sunday shows, which often feature wide-ranging discussions on multiple topics, we used only the relevant portion of such conversations. All coverage figures have been rounded to the nearest minute. Because PBS NewsHour is an hour-long show and the other networks’ nightly news programs are half-hour shows, our analysis compared PBS NewsHour’s climate coverage to other nightly news programs’ coverage in terms of topics covered and number of segments, but not in terms of number of minutes.

Research intern Katherine Hess and Sarah Wasko contributed to this study.

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/31/how-broadcast-networks-covered-climate-change-in-2016_partner/?source=newsletter