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Ten Democratic primary candidates participated in the fifth Democratic debate in Atlanta Wednesday night. Alex Wong / Getty Images

The moderators of the fifth Democratic primary debate in Atlanta Wednesday night only asked one question about the climate crisis, Grist reported Thursday.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2019 State of the State address on Jan. 15. Governor Jay and First Lady Trudi Inslee / Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made solving the climate crisis the center of his presidential campaign, is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary race.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Greenpeace rally to call for a presidential climate debate, in front of the DNC headquarters in Washington, DC on June 12. Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

Confronting the climate crisis is the No. 1 issue for 96 percent of Democratic voters, but it clocked only around seven minutes of airtime at the first Democratic Presidential debate Wednesday, Vox reported.

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An army helicopter delivers FEMA supplies to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last year. Mario Tama / Getty Images

As Hurricane Florence threatens the East Coast, a newly released document shows that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show reported Tuesday night.

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Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel / Facebook

Climate change could be causing storms to become "bigger, larger, more violent," underlining the need to have a robust military response to disasters across the country, the top officer of the National Guard Bureau said Tuesday.

"I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe," Gen. Joseph Lengyel told reporters, noting the number of severe storms that have hit the U.S. in the past month. The general might want to take U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt aside for a chat on climate change and disasters: Pruitt sat down for two friendly interviews on Fox yesterday to tout his idea for a red team/blue team "debate" on climate.

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350.org

By Julia Conley

Using social media on Wednesday, advocates for climate action spoke out forcefully—and in huge numbers—against major media outlets that enable those who deny the connection between global warming and extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

Using the hashtag #ClimateSilence, 350.org initiated a campaign aimed at calling out corporate media companies that have failed to include the issue of climate change—and humans' role in accelerating global warning—in most of their coverage of the recent hurricanes that have devastated Houston, the Caribbean and South Florida.

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Sponsored
The Prirazlomnaya platform is the first Russian project for developing the Arctic shelf. Credit: Gazprom

By Nika Knight

Exxon is applying for a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to bypass U.S. sanctions against Russia and resume offshore drilling in the Black Sea with the Russian oil company Rosneft, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

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Flooding across North Carolina continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and Gov. McCrory said some rivers are still rising. McCrory also warned that conditions in central and eastern parts of the state remain "extremely dangerous."

After surveying the damage, environmentalists are expressing concerns after they found flooding at factory farms and coal ash sites fearing toxins could spread through miles of waterways.

The Washington Post reports "at least tens of thousands of chickens, hogs and other livestock are feared dead in floodwaters that washed over factory farms and towns in eastern North Carolina following the storm."

Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

According to Donna Lisenby of Waterkeeper Alliance, who is documenting the record-setting environmental impacts in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, "There are tens of thousands of dead animals who remained locked in buildings while operators ignored dire flood warnings and left them to die."

Environmental organizations and government agencies surveying areas in Cumberland and Robinson counties found at least a half-dozen poultry houses completely flooded.

Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

In a briefing Tuesday morning, McCrory said "a lot of poultry and animals—a lot, thousands" already had drowned, the Washington Post reported.

Following a helicopter tour late Tuesday afternoon, Rick Dove of Waterkeeper Alliance told The Washington Post he estimated the number of dead chickens "is probably in the millions" and that he saw thousands of floating carcasses.

In addition to concerns over the potential devastating impacts flooded factory farms could have on the environment and public health, Waterkeeper Alliance is worried that rising water at the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers will continue to breach the coal ash pond dams at the state's power plants and spread toxins throughout the region. These two rivers have the highest concentration of massive industrial sites with waste ponds larger than football stadiums.

Lee coal ash pond on Neuse RiverRick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Pete Harrison and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matt Starr posted a video Tuesday of their inspection of the rising floodwaters. They found that the flooded waters already reached two Duke Energy coal ash ponds and were impinging on a third.

"As flood waters continue to rise in some areas of North Carolina we expect this disaster to continue for several more days and may get worse," Lisenby said. "We have 11 members of our rapid response team in the air and on the water and will continue provide information."

Rachel Maddow reported on these issues on her MSNBC show, The Rachel Maddow Show, Tuesday. Duke Energy told Maddow they are continuing to inspect the dams at their active coal ash ponds and that they don't see flooding as an imminent threat.

Waterkeeper Alliance and the Riverkeeper organizations said they will continue to keep a close eye on this issue.

President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump's tweet read, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

Trump's tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Trump told her today, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

We speak to Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

Here's the transcript of the interview:

Juan González: President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter that he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump's tweet read, quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump's tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to, quote, "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, about 93 percent of all nuclear warheads are already owned by Russia and the United States, which together have about 14,000 warheads stockpiled.

Amy Goodman: This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said she spoke briefly to the president-elect on the phone during a commercial break and asked him about his nuclear weapons comments. Brzezinski recounted Trump's response during a conversation with her co-host, Joe Scarborough.

Joe Scarborough: Mika asked the president-elect, while we had the opportunity, what his position was on—trying to clarify the tweet yesterday regarding the nuclear arsenal. And the president-elect told you what?

Mika BrzezinskiI: Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.

Joe Scarborough: And outlast them all.

Mika Brzezinski: And outlast them all.

Amy Goodman: And, yes, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were sitting in their pajamas in front of a fire as they spoke. They had just spoken with Sean Spicer, Trump's spokesperson. And when Trump called him on the phone at break, that's when he spoke to Mika Brzezinski on the phone. And she relayed that conversation after.

Joining us now is Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. A new nuclear arms race, Annie? Can you talk about the significance of this?

Annie Leonard: You know, Amy, it is absolutely frightening. Every day, Trump says something that makes us worried, but this may be the most terrifying yet. A nuclear arms race is the last thing that the world needs. I think about climate change. I think about economic inequality. I think about all of these major threats that we're facing as a country and as a world. Why would we add on top of that a totally manufactured, unnecessary threat? We already have so many nuclear weapons. We have over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the United States. We're the biggest military spender in the world. A new nuclear arms race is the last thing the world needs. It's the last thing our country needs.

And it also demonstrates to me both a complete irresponsibility on Trump's part and that he seems to be forgetting his campaign promises. During his campaign, he talked about bringing back jobs. He talked about economic security. The way that you bring back jobs and promote economic security is investing the trillions and trillions of dollars now being wasted on nuclear energy into a clean energy economy. That is how you get real security, not by wasting trillions of dollars on more nuclear weapons, that is just going to increase insecurity and fear in our country and globally.

Juan González: And, Annie Leonard, this situation, where both the president-elect of the United States and the president of Russia, on the same—basically, within the same 24-hour period, are remarking about their nuclear arsenals?

Annie Leonard: You know, it is absolutely terrifying. I mean, this is not a reality game show. This is really a life-or-death situation. When Trump talks about making things great again or he wants to bring back the old-fashioned days, I think about when I was a kid in high school, and I would lie in bed at night absolutely terrified about the nuclear arms race. It was just something that we were all—it was drilled into our heads, this imminent threat. And I look at my high school kid. She lies in bed at night scared about climate change, scared about the state of the economy. Am I going to rewind things and then add the nuclear arms race onto the young people's list of concerns today? I mean, it's so frightening, it's just surreal.

Amy Goodman: I wanted to go back to something we played in the headlines, which is the issue of the continuum from President Obama to President Trump. Despite Obama's call for an end to nuclear weapons, his administration has been quietly upgrading the nuclear arsenal as part of a massive effort that will cost up to one, I believe, trillion dollars over three decades. And this is something that Kellyanne Conway raised on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday, the former campaign manager who has just been named as part of the communications team [sic] of President Trump. Let's go to that comment of Kellyanne Conway pointing to President Obama's nuclear plans.

Kellyanne Conway: I don't think the tweet was groundbreaking in this regard. It seems that President Obama himself has invested––has called for an upgrade in our capabilities. I've read in one or two articles, up to $1 trillion is the price tag. So, we all—you know, President Obama, President-elect Trump—everyone shares the same, I think, core value, and their first duty is to try to keep us all safe. And we know it's a dangerous world, and that includes nuclear weapons.

Amy Goodman: So, there you have Kellyanne Conway defending Trump, saying he's not changing things that much. We have done many shows on Obama's trillion-dollar nuclear plan. What about this, Annie Leonard?

Annie Leonard: Well, just because one president made a mistake certainly doesn't give license to another president to make this mistake. Greenpeace and many of our allies, we fought against President Obama's military spending, and we will fight against President Trump's military spending.

Amy Goodman: And I just want to correct: Kellyanne Conway has been named counselor to the president.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.

There's something the farm lobby doesn't want you to know: how much their use of antibiotics in livestock poses a risk to you and your children.

Drug resistant infections are on the rise, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, "with numbers suggesting that up to 50,000 lives are lost each year to antibiotic-resistant infections in Europe and the U.S. alone. Globally, at least 700,000 die each year of drug resistance in illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/Aids or tuberculosis."

In the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people are sickened by antibiotic-resistant infections every year and at least 23,000 die.

"Livestock use of antibiotics is contributing to a public health crisis of antibiotic resistance," said Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior health officer and physician David Wallinga, MD. "It's you, me and the people we love who will suffer the consequences when the medications we rely on to treat common illnesses no longer work."

Sales of antibiotics for use in food animal production account for 70 percent of total medically important antibiotic sales. That's an increase of 23 percent just since 2009. In 2012, more than 32.2 million pounds of antibiotics were given to farm animals. And while a doctor's prescription is needed for you to get an antibiotic, farmers give virtually all antibiotics to live turkeys, chicken, cattle and hogs without a veterinarian's supervision.

Ohio State University researchers conducted a meta-analysis of medical and scientific studies on antibiotic use in food animals and concluded that "in existing studies, neither the risks to human health nor the benefits to animal production have been well studied."

But, Scientific American said, the farm industry itself is stifling needed research in this area.

Researchers are rarely given access to study livestock in farming operations. Farmers are required by contracts that they have to sign with their customers—big food producers such as Tyson Foods or Perdue Farms—to limit "non-essential people" on their farms. And if the farmer violates the contract, they can be punished monetarily or even lose their contract.

Antibiotics have been used in food production since the 1950s. Some are for therapeutic applications, when an animal is truly sick. Often, they are used to prevent or limit transmission of disease among animals which are confined in close quarters. Many are used simply to make animals grow faster.

But these drugs don't stay confined to the animal receiving them.

A recent study found that 70 percent of pigs on Iowa farms tested positive for MRSA—an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. And the same study found 64 percent of the workers on one farm harbored the superbug. When researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine drove behind poultry trucks, antibiotic-resistant enterococci was sucked into their car through open windows.

"If regulators wait for this problem to get any worse, controlling it may no longer be possible," said Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Food and Agriculture Program at NRDC. "Future generations are going to wonder why FDA didn't take real action as these life-saving drugs slipped away from us."

Previous U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations have proven worthless. That's why, in September a coalition of organizations, including the NRDC, petitioned the FDA to withdraw seven medically-important antibiotics from agricultural use.

NRDC Senior Attorney Avinash Kar told EcoWatch, "Experts, the Animal Health Institute and FDA all agree that the FDA's voluntary guidance is likely to have little impact in reducing livestock use of antibiotics—because it addresses only a small portion of use. That's why NRDC is calling on FDA to put an end to the routine use of medically important antibiotics on animals that are not sick, whether it is used for speeding up animal growth or for disease prevention."

But, industry lobbying can hog-tie the FDA's ability to deal with this issue.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "Major agribusiness and pharmaceutical interests have spent serious money on lobbying." The American Farm Bureau Federation doled out $5,697,492 for lobbying efforts from 2015 to 2016, and five of their 18 lobbyists previously held government jobs.

The lobbying is working. The FDA requested $7.1 million for fiscal year 2016 to study drug resistance in animals, and got nothing from Congress. Not a dime.

"It's time for the FDA to also act in order to keep antibiotics working, and the time is now," said Steve Blackledge, public health program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which joined the petition to the FDA.Looking ahead, things could get much worse for your health. The 2016 Republican Party platform states:

"We oppose the policies pushed by special interest groups seeking to stop or make more expensive our current system of safe, efficient, and humane production of meat."

The party is now led by Donald Trump, who campaigned against the "FDA food police" and opposes GMO food labeling.

But the problem isn't going away.

Watch here as Dr. Lance Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, talks about factory farms, antibiotics and superbugs at TEDxManhattan:

"Use of antibiotics on the farm most definitely poses a risk to human health," Consumers Union said. The World Health Organization agrees. It noted that 480,000 people develop multi-drug resistant tuberculosis each year and drug resistance is already complicating treatment for HIV and malaria.

Peter Lehner of Earthjustice, stated, "It seems crazy to risk losing the effectiveness of one of our most important inventions—antibiotics—simply because we don't want to make animal factories clean up."

Illustration by Dayanita Ramesh

In 2016, major environmental crises that disproportionately affect people of color—such as the Flint water crisis and the fight over the location of the Dakota Access Pipeline—were under-covered by the national media for long periods, despite being reported by local and state media early on. The national media's failure to spotlight these environmental issues as they arise effectively shuts the people in danger out of the national conversation, resulting in delayed political action and worsening conditions.

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Sponsored

By Steve Horn

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson—who has close personal and company ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin—is President-elect Donald Trump's top pick to become the next secretary of state, with the decision likely coming next week according to NBC News.

The news comes amid reports that Congressional members and senior U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials say they have intelligence showing Russia attempted to tip the balance of the November U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump by hacking into email systems and giving those emails to Wikileaks. And President Barack Obama has called for a complete investigation on the matter before he leaves the White House on Jan. 20.

Though the evidence presented to the U.S. public so far lacks smoking gun documentation, many are alarmed that a geopolitical adversary may have interfered with the U.S. electoral process. Trump, though—who has signaled a potential sea change in the U.S.-Russia geopolitical relationship—is not among them, as indicated in his choice of Tillerson for top U.S. diplomat.

"If the goal is to drain the swamp in DC, Tillerson might not be your man; Exxon's business plan continues to require raising the level of the ocean to the point where Foggy Bottom will be well underwater," said 350.org founder Bill McKibben in a press release. "But this is certainly a good way to make clear exactly who'll be running the government in a Trump administration—just cut out the middleman and hand it directly to the fossil fuel industry."

Exxon Says It's "Not a U.S. Company"

Exxon, the top U.S. producer of oil and gas and a well-documented funder of climate science denial, actually leases more land in Russia than it does in the U.S.

"Exxon boosted its Russian holdings to 63.7 million acres in 2014 from 11.4 million at the end of 2013, according to data from U.S. regulatory filings," reported Bloomberg in March 2014. "That dwarfs the 14.6 million acres of rights Exxon holds in the U.S., which until last year was its largest exploration prospect."

Exxon, though headquartered in Irving, Texas near Dallas, is a sprawling "private empire" with assets spread across the globe. When asked about building more U.S. refineries to protect the U.S. economy and consumers from fuel shortages, former CEO and chairman Lee Raymond put Exxon's view of itself and its loyalty to the U.S. bluntly.

"I'm not a U.S. company, and I don't make decisions based on what's good for the U.S," Raymond is quoted as saying in the 2012 book Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll.

In June, Tillerson attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum after taking a two-year hiatus from attending the event, which is the top business meeting held annually in Russia. Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian state oil company Rosneft and currently the subject of U.S. sanctions, served as the keynote speaker.

Offshore Drilling, Fracking, LNG

Exxon and Rosneft have maintained close business relations, so much so that Putin gave the Order of Friendship Award to Tillerson in 2013. In terms of business ties, what has that "friendship" entailed?

The two oil companies had intended to tap into Russia's bounty of over 191 billion acres of offshore Arctic oil as part of their joint venture. (However, that was before the U.S. sanctioned Russia for its incursion in Crimea, which has temporarily halted the drilling plans.) The two companies also co-run the Arctic Research and Design Center for Continental Shelf Development in Russia, in which Exxon maintains a 33.33 percent stake.

Since 1996, Exxon has also taken part in the Sakhalin Consortium, which centers around pumping oil offshore from Russia's Sakhalin Island. Exxon and Rosneft also co-own acreage in Texas' Permian Basin shale patch, and until recently dropping the joint venture, they co-owned 20 offshore drilling plots in the Gulf of Mexico.

Beyond the Gulf, Exxon maintains a joint venture with Rosneft to do offshore drilling in Alaska's Point Thompson in the state's North Slope territory.

In Russia, Exxon also co-owns a stake in the proposed Sakhalin liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Sakhalin, which would see that gas exported to the global market. However, the plant opening was delayed when sanctions hit, pushing it back at least two years according to an April 2015 announcement.

Exxon also has a joint venture with Rosneft in the Bazhenov Shale basin in Siberia, into which Exxon poured $300 million. Exxon owns a 49 percent stake and Rosneft 51 percent in that venture, which is to explore hydraulic fracturing or fracking possibilities in the field. If exploration bears fruit, Rosneft would hold a 66.67 percent interest in drilling the field while ExxonMobil would maintain a 33.33 percent stake.

"This agreement combines the strengths of our two companies," Tillerson said when the two companies announced the deal in June 2012. "ExxonMobil has technology leadership in tight oil and unconventional reserves development and Rosneft brings direct knowledge and experience of Western Siberia's geology and conventional production."

If drilling proves technologically feasible, Bazhenov could become the most prolific shale field in the world.

Lobbying Against Russian Sanctions

As soon as sanctions are lifted in Russia, which Trump has said he would do, Exxon has said it will return to the Russian Arctic.

BuzzFeed has reported that a bill is now making its way through Congress which would make it much more difficult for the next president to reverse those sanctions, which were put in place through a series of executive orders. Exxon is very interested in the fate of that bill.

As Buzzfeed reported:

"We have not lobbied on the bill," Alan Jeffers, spokesperson for ExxonMobil, told BuzzFeed News. "Our activities on the bill constitute monitoring of congressional activities."

That was this summer before Congress was again in session. Yet the bill's language has already been changed in a way that would make Exxon's dealings in Russia much easier, as it essentially exempts the exective order sanctioning Rosneft and other Russian energy companies.

With Tillerson heading the State Department, this kind of international energy policy may become much more common.