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Donald Trump Blasts GOP Rivals at Koch Summit as ‘Puppets’

Politics

Loud-mouthed Donald Trump is more of a walking punchline than a viable presidential candidate, so it comes as a surprise to find myself actually agreeing with the current Republican front-runner:

Five GOP presidential candidates—former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—flocked to Charles and David Koch's donor conference, Aug. 1-3, in Dana Point, California, a gathering of 450 top Republican party donors.

This network of conservative mega-donors, or the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, aims to spend a jaw-dropping $889 million for the presidential election, according to the Washington Post.

Seven sitting governors, six incumbent senators and two House members from the Republican party (including the aforementioned White House candidates) were extended an invite to the conference. Trump was not.

As EcoWatch previously pointed out, while the climate-denying mogul would be a perfect candidate for the Kochs, the deep-pocketed brothers have denied the Donald "access to their state-of-the-art data and refusing to let him speak to their gatherings of grassroots activists or major donors," Politico reported.

While many candidates in the crowded Republican field have taken this climate-denying mantle, on Sunday at the Freedom Partners forum, Sen. Cruz repeated his belief that “the data and facts don’t support” that global warming is occurring, the Guardian reported.

Cruz also criticized the Obama administration's latest clean power plan and also described how liberals use global warming to impose “massive government control” on the economy.

Bush also had harsh words for President Obama's new power plant regulations (surely in an effort to please the fossil fuel barons in the audience).

“I think it’s a disaster. It’s typical of the Obama administration, taking the power he doesn’t have,” Bush said, adding that the regulations were both “unconstitutional” and “a job killer.”

It appears that the candidates were well-received by the affluent attendees. "The Texas senator and the former Florida governor drew the most applause among the five Republicans who took the stage," Bloomberg reported from the event.

(No) thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that approved unrestricted campaign spending by corporations, a crop of billionaires and their super PACs have held unwieldy influence on the state of U.S. politics. Politico reported: “The 67 biggest donors, each of whom gave $1 million or more, donated more than three times as much as the 508,000 smallest donors combined."

Meanwhile at a town hall meeting in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called the current campaign finance system a “sad state of affairs” and announced a new bill to "cripple the Kochs and right-wing billionaires by providing public funding for elections," PoliticsUSA reported.

“We’re going to introduce legislation which will allow people to run for office without having to beg money from the wealthy and the powerful,” the Vermont senator said.

Sanders has pledged not to accept super PAC money and is running his momentum-gathering campaign on small donations. “We must overturn [Citizens United] before it’s too late,” he added. “We are increasingly living in an oligarchy where big money is buying politicians.”

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.