7 Ways Trump’s First Week in the White House Was a Complete Disaster
By Brian Palmer
1. A Mission Long Since Accomplished
One of Donald Trump's first acts as president will be to solve problems we don't have. His America First Energy Plan promises to free us from "burdensome regulations" and end our "dependence on foreign oil."
Dependence on foreign energy was a legitimate concern in the 1970s, a decade when oil imports increased fivefold. This is not an issue anymore. During the Obama administration, oil imports dropped 25 percent. Bemoaning our dependence on imported oil in 2016 is to pretend the past eight years never happened. Take a look.
Trump taking credit for American energy independence is the equivalent of storming into the middle of a touchdown celebration, ripping the ball out of the scorer's hands and spiking it.
2. Which America?
When President Trump promises to put "America First," he means the part of America that voted for him. (Not to belabor the point, but that's substantially less than half the U.S. voting population.) The other America, it seems, can take a hike.
For instance, Trump's America First Energy Plan contains no mention of renewable energy. Solar ("very, very expensive," claims Trump, wrongly) now employs more Americans than oil, gas, or coal. Wind (a "very, very poor form of energy," in Trump's estimation) now generates more than 20 percent of the electricity in three states. Nearly two million Americans work full- or part-time jobs in energy efficiency, an industry that Trump undermined on his first day in office.
Of course, those jobs are in states with foreign-sounding names like "California" and "Hawaii." Mr. President, are these places not the America you were talking about?
3. Welcome to America, Censorship!
Speaking of real things that Trump doesn't believe in, the White House website now has virtually zero mentions of climate change. According to reports, the Trump administration has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a similar information purge. Trump has also banned press releases and social media posts at most agencies with any relationship to science—the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, etc. Shut up, science!
Fortunately, universities around the world have been toiling to preserve existing U.S. government data by copying it onto websites beyond Trump's reach. Meanwhile, someone has set up an uncensored alternative Twitter account for the National Park Service and the EPA (among others), and media outlets are offering how-to pages for aspiring government whistleblowers and document leakers.
Enraged scientists are considering a march on Washington (working title: "the Nerd Pride Parade"). There are more than six million scientists in the United States. If just 10 percent of them attend the march, they will outdraw the Trump inauguration. Do it, nerds!
The whole incident is a classic example of censorship backfire. Trump's attempt to stop people from talking about climate change has only multiplied the chatter. Experts refer to this as "the Streisand Effect."
4. The Trump-ian Inquisition
To further its war on scientific integrity, the Trump administration has ordered the EPA to submit all studies and data to political review before public release.
Extremism has a certain internal logic that you have to respect. Myron Ebell, the professional climate change denier who's leading the EPA transition, believes that "science is having a corrupting influence on politics." That idea is obviously backward. It's the scientists who identify facts and the politicians who take those facts and do unspeakable things to them.
However, in the context of Ebell's bizarre worldview, subjecting scientific studies to political review makes perfect sense. Ebell is the sort of man who looks at the Galileo affair and thinks, "Life at the center of the universe was so much better. They were too easy on him."
5. Participation Trophies?
Moving from censorship to outright lies, a major newspaper finally fact-checked Donald Trump's repeated boast that he has "received many, many environmental awards." The results are in. I hope you're sitting down for this—there is no evidence that Trump has ever won an award for environmental stewardship. The Washington Post gave him four Pinocchios for the whopper.
"I've actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that," Trump once said.
I can believe that, because the person doing the calling was Trump himself, and the audience laughed so hard when he said it that the hearing room had to be called back to order.
6. Pipelines: They're Baaack
President Trump signed an order on Tuesday expediting the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was under environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers. He also formally requested that TransCanada reapply to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, an abrupt about-face from the Obama administration's KXL position, which could be summarized in two letters.
Trump, being Trump, had to toss out a falsehood while signing the order, muttering "lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs" in a supervillain voice that almost made it sound like he intended to keep all the jobs for himself. In fact, the KXL project would create a maximum of 4,650 jobs for only two years. Over the long-term, the pipeline would create just a few dozen permanent jobs.
7. It's Getting Chilly
In one of his first acts, President Trump froze all regulations made under the Obama administration that have not yet been finalized. Caught up in the freeze were 30 EPA rules, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and a formaldehyde-emission limit for wood products. Imagine the damage to U.S. businesses if the EPA had been allowed to limit the amount of formaldehyde—a skin irritant and known carcinogen—in the wooden floorboards our babies crawl on. Oh, the humanity. Trump also ordered a hiring and contracts freeze at the EPA, lest the agency try to save us from other dangers.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
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