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One-Third of the Trump Team Has Ties to the Koch Brothers
A Grim Future for the Environment
Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who recently sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is, incredibly, Trump's pick to head that very agency. Pruitt has called the climate change debate "far from settled."
Texas oil and gas investor Doug Deason, who, along with his billionaire father, Darwin, is a Republican political mega-donor and key figure in the Koch political network, pushed for his friend Pruitt to head the EPA. (Doug and his wife Holly wrote a tribute to the Koch brothers last year, supported by Freedom Partners.)
It's hard to imagine anyone whose anti-environmental policies would benefit Koch Industries' profits more than Pruitt, who is bound to deregulate the environment and encourage fossil fuel production as much as possible, benefiting large fossil fuel corporations like Koch Industries, which operates oil refineries and gas pipelines, sells natural gas and owns tar sands land in Canada. As Oklahoma attorney general, he established a "federalism unit to combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government." As the Chicago Tribute reported, Pruitt defended Exxon against allegations that it knew about climate change for decades and misled the public; fought to restrict clean water protections; and submitted a letter to the EPA that was actually written by Devon Energy, whose corporate PAC donated to his attorney general campaigns.
Sure enough, Koch Industries PAC also contributed $10,000 to Pruitt's attorney general campaigns in 2010 and 2014. Other top contributors include Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and ExxonMobil. What's more, the independent Republican State Leadership Committee, to which Koch Industries has given nearly $1.3 million in the last decade, spent $150,000 supporting Pruitt in the 2010 race. In 2014, Freedom Partners even gave $175,000 the political nonprofit Pruitt directed.
Rick Perry is also in a curious position: He's nominated to lead the Department of Energy, a department that he said he wanted to eliminate during the 2012 presidential campaign (and couldn't name in his famous "whoops" moment at a debate). Perry may not have been a Koch favorite for president, but Koch Industries has directly given $111,000 to his campaigns over the years, and David Koch has contributed $75,000. But perhaps Perry's biggest fan is Darwin Deason, who gave $5 million last election cycle to a super PAC supporting Perry.
As governor of Texas, Perry allowed the expansion of wind energy, but he supported new coal plants and has close ties to the oil and gas industry. The Department of Energy has a big focus on nuclear energy but also regulates the oil and gas industry and leads the government's fossil fuel development.
The Center for Media and Democracy got a sneak peak at Trump's likely energy policy by obtaining a memo sent by the head of his energy transition team, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries named Thomas Pyle. Included in Pyle's account of Trump's energy plan is a withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, increasing federal oil and gas leasing and green-lighting pipelines such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
A Koch favorite has been tapped to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. Mike Pompeo, a U.S. representative from the Kochs' home state of Kansas, was involved with the brothers long before his days as a politician; his private aerospace company used seed money from Koch Venture Capital and Pompeo was president of a company that worked with Koch Industries' Brazilian distributor.
When he ran to represent the district that's home to the Koch Industries headquarters in 2010, Pompeo received more Koch-linked donations than any other candidate that cycle, and after winning, he hired a Koch Industries lawyer to be his chief of staff. In 2014, the Kochs funded his campaign again. The Koch Industries PAC is the single largest donor to Pompeo's campaigns, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Pompeo is a "vigorous supporter" of the NSA's surveillance program, wants whistleblower Edward Snowden executed and opposes the U.S.' deal with Iran. As CIA chief, it's unclear how the Kochs' influence will affect his decisions, but in the House he advocated for their causes, pushing the Americans for Prosperity-backed "No Climate Tax Pledge" and introducing a bill to quicken the natural gas pipeline approval process. If the Koch brothers want to weigh in, they'll have the ear of one of their closest political allies.
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and recent chair of the pro-"school choice" and politically active American Federation for Children, is Trump's pick to lead the Department of Education. Aside from donating $265,000 to sitting senators who will vote on her confirmation, her foundation has contributed millions to Americans for Prosperity and to other conservative political groups backed by the Kochs. DeVos has devoted her life to pushing for charter school expansion and private school vouchers, which use public funds to pay for kids to attend religious and other schools. There is no doubt that she will do all she can as secretary to divert traditional public school funding into under-regulated charters and private schools. Both Charles and David Koch have favored privatizing schools for decades, and many Koch-funded organizations team up on school-choice projects.
Corrupt Counsel to Defend Corrupt President
Donald McGahn, a lawyer who has worked for Freedom Partners and its affiliated super PAC, will be chief White House counsel. As a member of the Federal Election Commission from 2009 to 2013, he was known for hobbling the enforcement of campaign finance laws in favor of letting big money flood politics and transforming the commission into the ineffective, gridlocked body that it is today. McGahn, who defended Rep. Tom DeLay in a money laundering scandal and in a Russian pay-to-play scandal, will have to defend probably the most conflicts-of-interest-ridden president in history. In other words, McGahn is about the last person who will help Trump dissolve his conflicts of interest or critique a president set to make private profits all around the world while in office.
Trump's transition team has even reached outside of the team itself for additional advice from people deeply embedded in the Koch political operation. One of the Department of Veterans Affairs' harshest critics, Florida GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, may become head of that department. Trump is considering Miller for the job and members of a closely Koch-linked "social welfare" nonprofit are advising his transition team on the matter; one employee of the group is actually on the transition team. Concerned Veterans for America, which spends millions every year, often on ads criticizing Democrats or praising Republicans, wants to privatize veterans' health care and make firing workers easier. Trump hasn't yet named his selection for Veterans Affairs, but Pete Hegseth, president of Concerned Veterans for America, is also on the shortlist.
And it's not just the transition team that's looking for help from Koch minions—it's Trump himself. As Steve Horn reported in DeSmog, the only person Trump spoke to on the record about a big anti-regulatory act that's been on the Kochs' agenda for years was Phil Kerpen, former vice president of policy for Americans for Prosperity. The REINS Act just passed the House on Jan. 5.
Another Koch ally, Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Bill Shuster, is hoping to privatize air traffic control under a corporate president who, despite winning several states with the help of union voters, is no fan of unions. Shuster has already met with Trump and the Transportation nominee, Elaine Chao, and indicated that Trump is open to privatization. The congressman, who's received $30,000 from the Koch Industries PAC since 2012, fought a federal wind energy tax credit, in line with the Kochs' campaign targeting the program. In 2016, a Koch-funded outside political spending group, American Action Network, put $208,000 toward ads benefiting Shuster.
Shuster's 2016 campaign manager was Andy Post, who previously worked in media relations for the Charles Koch Institute and was grassroots coordinator for Americans for Prosperity during the 2012 election cycle. He's now communications coordinator with the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
This article merely scratches the surface of the Koch brothers' influence on the incoming administration. With one-third of Trump's transition team reportedly linked to the Kochs, more unfilled positions will go to Koch-linked individuals. From environmental regulation to veterans' health care, the Koch agenda will be well represented in the White House.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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