March 17, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Sharp drop in US emissions keeps global levels flat (Pilita Clark, 3/17/17, Financial Times)

A striking drop in carbon pollution in the US, where emissions fell back to what they were in 1992, helped to keep global CO2 levels in 2016 virtually unchanged from the two previous years, the International Energy Agency said.

"This is a very welcome development," said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director. "It appears we now have the first signs of an established trend of flat emissions as a result of natural gas replacing coal in major markets and renewables becoming more and more affordable."

Mr Birol said it was especially significant that emissions stayed flat during a period of sustained global economic growth, currently about 3 per cent per annum.

Carbon pollution from burning coal, gas and oil has typically levelled out only during economic downturns and then ticked up again as recoveries take hold. The ability to cut emissions without putting economic growth at risk has been the holy grail for governments and climate change campaigners alike, especially in emerging markets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Said to Have Been Investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price (Robert Faturechi, 3/17/17, ProPublica)

The investigation of Price's trades by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which hasn't been previously disclosed, was underway at the time of Bharara's dismissal, said the person.

Bharara was one of 46 U.S. attorneys asked to resign after Trump took office. It is standard for new presidents to replace those officials with their own appointees. But Bharara's firing came as a surprise because the president had met with him at Trump Tower soon after the election. As he left that meeting, Bharara told reporters Trump asked if he would be prepared to remain in his post, and said that he had agreed to stay on.

When the Trump administration instead asked for Bharara's resignation, the prosecutor refused, and he said he was then fired. 

Donald is going to have to fire a lot more guys from Justice.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


In awkward exchange, Trump seems to ignore Merkel's handshake request (MADELINE CONWAY, 03/17/17, Politico)

In an exchange caught on video, photographers gathered around Trump and Merkel in the Oval Office early Friday afternoon and suggested that the two leaders shake hands for the camera.

Merkel, a U.S. ally regarded highly by former President Barack Obama, turned toward Trump and asked, "Do you want to have a handshake?"

Trump, who seemed to be grimacing as he sat alongside Merkel, did not respond. He continued looking forward as the cameras rolled.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


White nationalist gets his money from cotton fields - and the government (Lance Williams / March 17, 2017, Mother Jones)

Spencer, along with his mother and sister, are absentee landlords of 5,200 acres of cotton and corn fields in an impoverished, largely African American region of Louisiana, according to records examined by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The farms, controlled by multiple family-owned businesses, are worth millions: A 1,600-acre parcel sold for $4.3 million in 2012.

The Spencer family's farms also are subsidized heavily by the federal government. From 2008 through 2015, the Spencers received $2 million in U.S. farm subsidy payments, according to federal data.

Posted by orrinj at 10:19 AM


Why Trump's Travel and Refugee Ban is Doomed (Daphne Eviatar, Mar. 17th, 2017, Just Law)

[N]o matter how much Trump rails against the courts, the executive order's fundamental flaws will keep tripping him up. And although the Maryland court appears to have ruled more narrowly, the logic of that ruling is exactly the same, and seems likely to eventually support a complete injunction on the second executive order.

The district court in Hawaii painstakingly laid out the facts and the law. After reviewing voluminous evidence of Trump and his advisors' intent to institute a ban on Muslims entering the United States, Judge Derrick K. Watson explained in his 43-page order that the record "includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order and its related predecessor" and a "dearth of evidence indicating a national security purpose." 

"Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, 'secondary to a religious objective' of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims," he wrote, citing the 2005 Supreme Court case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky.

Despite the changes made to the second order, which removed explicit references to religion, for example, "the Court cannot find the actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be 'genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions,' " he said, again citing McCreary.

The Hawaii court accordingly halted sections 2 and 6 of the order, which suspend for 90 days entry of nationals of six specified Muslim-majority countries, and suspend for 120 days the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program, and reduce by more than half the total number of refugees admissible in fiscal year 2017- from 110,000 to 50,000.

Shortly thereafter, at a rally in Tennessee, Trump reinforced the court's central point: that the second ban had the same intent as the first one. He did this by publicly criticizing the Hawaii ruling and insisting he'd wanted to stick with his initial order all along. "My lawyers told me this is a watered-down version of the first one...I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place."

There is no constitutional way to do that which is unconstitutional.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


CNN/ORC poll: Americans break with Trump on immigration policy (Tal Kopan and Jennifer Agiesta, 3/17/17, CNN)

[A] CNN/ORC poll released Friday finds that the public is actually moving in the opposite direction since Trump has won election.

Americans are more likely to say that the nation's top immigration priority should be to allow those in the US illegally to gain legal status -- and six in 10 say they are more concerned that deportation efforts will be overzealous than they are that dangerous criminals will be overlooked.

All told, 60% say the government's top priority in dealing with illegal immigration should be developing a plan to allow those in the US illegally who have jobs to become legal residents.

In contrast, 26% say developing a plan to stop illegal border crossings should be the top priority and 13% say deportation of those in the US illegally should be the first priority. [...]

Offering citizenship to those immigrants who are living in the US illegally but hold a job, speak English and are willing to pay back taxes is immensely popular, with 90% behind such a plan. That's consistent across party lines, with 96% of Democrats, 89% of independents and 87% of Republicans behind it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


TrumpBeat: Return Of The Facts (Ben Casselman, Harry Enten, Kathryn Casteel and Maggie Koerth-Baker, 3/17/17, 538)

This week, however, facts struck back. The CBO on Monday released its report on the Republican health care plan. As expected, the report predicted that the plan would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. Less expected was what happened next: People listened. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said she would oppose the bill because it would leave too many of her constituents uninsured. Her New Jersey colleague Leonard Lance said the CBO report had "modified the dynamics" and that he wouldn't support a bill that was likely doomed in the Senate in any case. By the middle of the week, the consensus in Washington was that the CBO had seriously weakened the bill's chances of passage.

Then on Wednesday evening, a federal judge in Hawaii issued an order temporarily blocking Trump's revised ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. Judge Derrick Watson's blistering ruling ("The illogic of the government's contentions is palpable," read one line) argued that, essentially, Trump couldn't tell the courts that the ban had nothing to do with religion while his advisers were going around saying the opposite on television. Or, even more succinctly: Facts matter.

Watson's ruling (and a similar one from a judge in Maryland on Thursday) will no doubt be appealed, and the GOP health care plan is likewise far from dead. But this week suggested that if Trump wants to enact his agenda, he will need facts as well as rhetoric on his side.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Britain's GCHQ dismisses as ridiculous claims it helped spy on Trump (Reuters, 3/17/17)

Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency dismissed claims made on a U.S. television station that it helped former President Barack Obama eavesdrop on Donald Trump after last year's U.S. presidential election.

In a rare public statement, Britain's eavesdropping agency said the charge - made on Tuesday by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano - was "utterly ridiculous".

Such asinine allegations and their repetitions do at least have the advantage of separating the serious people from the lick-spittles.

US makes formal apology to Britain after White House accuses GCHQ of wiretapping Trump Tower (Steven Swinford, 17 MARCH 2017, The Telegraph)

Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. "The apology came direct from them," a source said. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Net US Immigration Rate Well within Historical Norm (Daniel Griswold, 3/17/17, Mercatus Center)

The chart shows the net annual immigration rate to the United States per 1,000 population by decade since the federal government began keeping official records in 1820. Expressed as a share of the population, the current rate of immigration to the United States is actually well within the norm of our historical experience.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Founders Might Well Have Approved of the 'Deep State' (David Spence, 3/16/17 The Washington Post)

The crucial point is this: In our democracy, public preferences get translated into policy through lawmaking, not simply through elections. The election of any president does not necessarily signify a public desire to change an agency's mission or repeal any particular law.

Meanwhile, executive-branch agencies remain obliged to implement the securities laws, food and drug laws, environmental laws and the various other statutes that define the modern administrative state. This is part of what we mean by "the rule of law," and it is entirely consistent with the Framers' desire for government to produce policy decisions that resist the kind of temporary passions that loom so large in today's polarized politics, and instead reflect the "permanent and aggregate interests of the community," as James Madison framed it in Federalist No. 10.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


Artificial intelligence will delete nationalism (Nabil Al-Khowaiter, 3/17/17, Al Jazeera)

This barely acknowledged revolution, which is likely to change the entire course of human history in a few short decades, is the rise of Artificial Intelligence-enabled, fully fluent live audio translation of conversations between humans of all ethnicities.

We are not just talking about the literal translation of English or French into Russian or Chinese, but the translation of the subtle meanings wrapped in cultural allegories that even fluent but non-native speakers of a language often miss.

This means that armed with nothing more than an Artificial Intelligence, or AI, audio translation app on a mobile phone, an American tourist could enter a farmer's market in Turkey or Germany and, not only haggle over prices, but laugh and joke with a local fruit seller as if he was Turkish or German. Wait another decade and he will be able to do the same thing in China. 

Suddenly, everything we consider today a barrier to mutual understanding between peoples will fall away as millennia of linguistically based cultural and religious isolation in discrete societal units between billions of human beings to dissolve within a few decades.

What will this mean for the modern bureaucratic nation state, which evolved over the last 300 years in an environment that allowed for the voluntary and/or enforced organisation of millions of individuals into separate political units on the basis of linguistic and cultural differences?

What will it mean for ethnic and religious identities when a complete foreigner's deepest worries, anxieties and hopes become intelligible? 

Will it still be possible to create a national state bureaucracy by training and imbuing a group of individuals with a sense of duty and commitment to a single language or cultural group? More urgently, what will it mean for human migrations around the world?

Governments around the world need to begin preparing for the wrenching changes to identity politics when the incentive for people to cooperate more with people who speak their own language is no longer an overriding factor in the political empowerment of individuals.
If an Albanian is able to understand the most obscure German phrase and reply to it in perfect German, what power on earth will stop him from leaving a job paying an average wage of less than $3,200 a year, when he can travel to Germany and potentially qualify for a job with an average wage of $32,000 a year?

Furthermore, will Africans, Asians and South Americans, whose standard of living is a fraction of that in industrialised countries choose to remain in relative poverty because they will feel like aliens outside their country's borders, or will they pick up and leave to find work on another continent with no language barriers to deal with?

It stands to reason that the elimination of language and cultural barriers around the world by AI will lead to massive migrations of people seeking a better standard of living across and between continents. 

Just turn on the Travel Channel with the sound off and try to figure out what city they're in.  They are all the same after globalization.
Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


Syrian army says it shot down Israeli jet (Reuters, 3/17/17)

Syria's army high command said in a statement on Friday Israeli jets breached Syrian air space early in the morning and attacked a military target near Palmyra in what it described as an act of aggression that aided Islamic State.