One-Third of the Trump Team Has Ties to the Koch Brothers
By Alex Kotch
The Trump White House is going to be very, very Koch-y.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, billionaire industrialists and Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch made headlines by refusing to endorse a candidate. But ads in U.S. Senate races paid for by Koch-linked independent political groups hurt the image of Donald Trump's foe, Hillary Clinton, whom they criticized while associating Democratic Senate candidates with her. And the massive ground game of the Kochs' well-known political group, Americans for Prosperity, helped turn out thousands of Trump voters in battleground states.
From the time Trump picked his vice presidential running mate, Koch favorite Mike Pence, the brothers' influence on Trump World has grown ever stronger.
From transition team staffers to his cabinet, Trump has brought numerous Koch lieutenants and allies into his inner circle. His taunting of Marco Rubio for being a "puppet" of the Koch brothers is long gone. It's very likely that Trump is eager to work with Charles and David Koch, who represent exactly what Trump values most—wealth and power—which is also reflected in his potential Cabinet of billionaire executives. And though the Kochs may object to Trump's Islamophobia or other select viewpoints, they stand to add to their combined $88 billion through Trump's planned environmental deregulation, privatization, corporate tax cuts and other policies favoring the wealthy to be carried out by his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pick, who recently sued that agency; his secretary of state choice, the CEO of Exxon; his labor pick, a fast-food CEO who doesn't believe in the minimum wage; and others.
Here’s What You Need to Know on Six of Trump’s Cabinet Nominations https://t.co/fjKLBIfatV @Green_Europe @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483785016.0
David Koch attended Trump's election night victory party. Then on Dec. 21, Trump had an informal chat with Koch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida (where Koch is a member) about "preparations for his administration."
The Kochs' allies have been helping shape the Trump administration for some time. The liberal Center for American Progress's political arm found that one-third of Trump's transition team, which recommends Cabinet nominees, ambassadors and advisers to the president-elect, has ties to the Koch brothers. These transition team members include Trump mega-donors who are also part of the Koch political network, such as Rebekah Mercer, and employees of Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research.
Here's a look at some of the top Koch allies who'll be running the government very soon and what kinds of Koch-backed policies we can expect them to champion.
The Koch Brothers' Darling
The Kochs must have popped champagne when Trump announced that Mike Pence, the conservative governor of Indiana, would be his running mate. Pence is adored by the Kochs and their vast political donor network; Ken Vogel and Maggie Haberman described him in Politico as "among the best … messengers for this new Koch brand in a field of prospective [presidential] candidates who fit some portions of the brothers' political bent but not others." Pence has addressed a gathering of Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs' most well-known political group that spends millions on elections each cycle opposing liberal policies and helping elect conservative Republicans. This year he planned to speak at one of the Kochs' donor seminars, where the brothers meet with uber-wealthy allies and pool their hundreds of millions of dollars for joint political spending, but canceled two weeks beforehand.
David Koch gave Pence's two gubernatorial campaigns $300,000. Americans for Prosperity ran ads supporting Pence, and the Republican Governors Association, to which Koch and Koch Industries have donated a combined $10.8 million since 2003, spent $4.2 million in 2012 and 2016 backing Pence.
Pence, who may be an even more powerful vice president than Dick Cheney, will be in prime position to advocate for the issues about which the Kochs care most, including corporate tax cuts, which he instituted in Indiana, and opposition to bailouts and market regulation. According to Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., Pence will be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. And he'll preside over the U.S. Senate, over which Republicans have a narrow majority.
"Indiana is one big free market, [and] much like Koch Industries, Mike Pence … picks the right fights," said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster whose company has worked for Pence and for Americans for Prosperity. Conway became Trump's campaign manager last August and was recently named a "counselor to the president" who will help "effectively message and execute the Administration's legislative priorities and actions." Conway is also a board member of the Koch-aligned and Koch-funded Independent Women's Forum, which, The Nation reports, has pushed the Koch agenda.
Several of Pence's former staffers have gone on to work in the Koch political network, including Marc Short, who went from being Pence's chief of staff when Pence was a congressman to president of Freedom Partners, the Koch political operation's "central bank," which gives out enormous amounts of money to right-wing political spending groups. Short returned to advising Pence this summer when the governor joined Trump's campaign and will soon take a job in the West Wing, likely heading legislative affairs, according to the Washington Post.
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The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.
On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.
France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.
The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.
"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."
Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.
By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.
The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.
"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.
While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.
"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.
Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.
Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun
After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.
<div id="bb0a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e5aefc0fff61ab1aea2f4b03c5399864"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291765757013983238" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to… https://t.co/UWFkZFdjdi</div> — Fabiola Monty (@Fabiola Monty)<a href="https://twitter.com/LFabiolaMonty/statuses/1291765757013983238">1596815930.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Booms are made of nylon mesh filled with #sugarcane straws all hand-stitched by Mauritian volunteers, empty plastic bottles used as buoys," described Mauritian journalist Zeenat Hansrod in a tweet. </p>
How to Tackle Oil Spills<p>The method for tackling oil spills depends on several factors, including the type and amount of oil in question, location and weather conditions.</p><p>"Once the oil comes to shore, the more intensive the cleaning technique. You can risk causing further damage," said Nicky Cariglia, an independent consultant at Marittima, who specializes in marine pollution. </p><p>"If you wanted to remove all traces of oil, the techniques available become increasingly aggressive the less oil that remains. In mangroves, you would have the added risk of causing damage by trampling," Cariglia told DW. Highly sensitive mangrove ecosystems line the Mauritius east coast that is threatened by the current spill.</p><p>Because oil normally has a lower density than water, it floats on the surface of the ocean. This means that for clean-up action to be most effective, it should happen very quickly after a spill, before the oil disperses. </p>
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