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As Hurricane Florence Approaches, Document Shows Trump Admin Funneled Nearly $10 Million From FEMA to ICE
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
"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."
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."
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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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 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.
Many of you have contacted me wanting to know how you can help the people of Flint with the two-year long tragedy of drinking water contaminated by the radical decisions made by the Governor of Michigan. The offer is much appreciated by those who are suffering through this and who have not drank a glass of unpoisoned water since April of 2014.
Unfortunately, the honest answer to your offer of help is, sadly, you can't.
You can't help.
The reason you can't help is that you cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint. The damage is permanent. There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents). They are ruined for life and someone needs to tell you the truth about that. They will, forever, suffer from various neurological impediments, their IQs will be lowered by at least 20 points, they will not do as well in school and, by the time they reach adolescence, they will exhibit various behavioral problems that will land a number of them in trouble and some of them in jail.
That is what we know about the history of lead poisoning when you inflict it upon a child. It is a life sentence. In Flint, they've already ingested it for these two years and the toll has already been taken on their developing brains. No check you write, no truckloads of Fiji Water or Poland Spring, will bring their innocence or their health back to normal.
It's done. And it was done knowingly, enacted by a political decision from a governor and a political party charged by the majority of Michigan's citizens who elected them to cut taxes for the rich, take over majority-black cities by replacing the elected mayors and city councils, cut costs, cut services, cut more taxes for the rich, increase taxes on retired teachers and public employees and, ultimately, try to decimate their one line of defense against all this, this thing we used to call a union.
The amount of generosity since the national media finally started to cover this story has been tremendous. Pearl Jam sent 100,000 bottles of water. The next day the Detroit Lions showed up with a truck and 100,000 bottles of water. Yesterday, Puff Daddy and Mark Wahlberg donated 1,000,000 bottles of water! Unbelievably amazing. They acknowledged it's a very short-term fix and that it is.
Flint has 102,000 residents, each in need of an average of 50 gallons of water a day for cooking, bathing, washing clothes, doing the dishes and drinking (I'm not counting toilet flushes, watering plants or washing the car). But 100,000 bottles of water is enough for just one bottle per person—in other words, just enough to cover brushing one's teeth for one day.
You would have to send 200 bottles a day, per person, to cover what the average American (we are Americans in Flint) needs each day. That's 102,000 citizens times 200 bottles of water—which equals 20.4 million 16oz. bottles of water per day, every day, for the next year or two until this problem is fixed (oh and we'll need to find a landfill in Flint big enough for all those hundreds of millions of plastic water bottles, thus degrading the local environment even further). Anybody want to pony up for that? Because that is the reality.
This is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. There is not a terrorist organization on Earth that has yet to figure out how to poison 100,000 people every day for two years—and get away with it. That took a governor who subscribes to an American political ideology hell-bent on widening the income inequality gap and conducting various versions of voter and electoral suppression against people of color and the poor. It was those actions that led Michigan's Republican governor to try out his economic and racial experiment in Flint (and please don't tell me this has nothing to do with race or class; he has removed the mayors of a number of black cities.
This and the water crisis in Flint, never would have been visited upon the residents of Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe—and everyone here knows that). We have now seen the ultimate disastrous consequences of late-20th century, neo-conservative, trickle down public policy. That word "trickle," a water-based metaphor, was used to justify this economic theory—well, it's no longer a metaphor, is it? Because now we're talking about how actual water has been used to institute these twisted economic beliefs in destroying the lives of the black and the poor in Flint, Michigan.
So, do you still want to help? Really help? Because what we need in Flint—and across the country—right now, tonight, is a nonviolent army of people who are willing to stand up for this nation and go to bat for the forgotten of Flint.
Here's what you and I need to do:
1. Demand the removal and arrest of Rick Snyder, the Governor of Michigan.
When the police have an "active shooter" situation in a building, they must first stop the shooter before they can bring aid to the victims. The perp who allowed the poisoning to continue once he knew something was wrong—and his minions who cooked the evidence so the public and the feds wouldn't find out—must be removed from office ASAP. Whether it's via resignation, recall or prosecution, this must happen now because he is still refusing to take the aggressive and immediate action needed. His office, as recently as this past Thursday, was claiming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had no legal authority to tell him what to do. You know the EPA—that federal agency every Republican politician wants eliminated? Governor Snyder is not going to obey the law. He has covered up the crime and I submit he has committed an act of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Last month I posted a meme of me holding a pair of handcuffs with the hashtag #ArrestGovSnyder:
It went viral, so I posted a petition (link) to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to arrest the governor—and asking President Obama to send help to Flint immediately. As each day brought a new revelation of the Governor's corruption or incompetence and with Rachel Maddow on a nightly tear, the momentum built. MoveOn.org and Democracy For America joined me in circulating our petition. We are now on our way to having a half-million signatures! Then Bernie Sanders became the first candidate to call for the Governor's removal. That same day, President Obama issued his first emergency order for Flint. The next night, Hillary Clinton fiercely called out the racist actions of the Governor.
You want to help? Sign the petition—and get everyone you know to sign it. Now. Another half-million signatures could become the tipping point we need. All eyes are on Flint.
2. Make the State of Michigan pay for the disaster that the State of Michigan created.
The governor wants the president to declare Flint a federal disaster zone and have him send federal money to fix the problem. Not so fast. All relief aid for Flint currently coming from the federal government to Michigan is going through the Governor's office to disburse. That is literally paying the fox to fix the chicken coop he destroyed.
As a Michigan resident and voter, I think that the people who elected Gov. Snyder must show some of that personal responsibility they're always lecturing about to the poor. The majority of my fellow Michiganders wanted this kind of government (they elected him twice), so now they should have to pay for it. This year the state treasury posted nearly a $600 million surplus. There is also another $600 million in the state's "rainy day fund." That's $1.2 billion—just about what Flint's congressman, Dan Kildee, estimates it will cost to replace the water infrastructure and care for the thousands of poisoned children throughout their growing years.
And before there is any talk of federal tax dollars being used (and, yes, they will be needed), the state legislature must remove the billion-dollars' worth of tax cuts the Snyder administration gave the wealthy when he took office. That will go a long way to helping not just Flint but Michigan's other destitute cities and school districts.
3. The federal government must then be placed in charge.
The state government cannot be trusted to get this right. So, instead of declaring a federal disaster zone, President Obama must declare the same version of martial law that Gov. Snyder declared over the cities of Flint and Detroit. He must step in and appoint a federal emergency manager in the state capitol to direct the resources of both the state and federal government in saving Flint.
This means immediately sending in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in full force. It means sending in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to determine the true extent of not just the lead poisoning in the water, but also the latest outbreak that has been discovered in Flint—a tenfold increase in the number of Flint people who've contracted Legionnaires Disease. There have now been 87 cases since the switch to the Flint River water and ten people have died. The local hospital has also noted sharp increases in a half-dozen other toxins found in people's bodies.
We need the CDC. The EPA must take over the testing of the water and the Army Corps of Engineers must be sent in to begin replacing the underground pipes. Like the levees in New Orleans, this will be a massive undertaking. If it is turned over to for-profit businesses, it will take a decade and cost billions. This needs to happen right now and Obama must be in charge.
4. Evacuate any and all Flint residents who want to leave now.
They've suffered long enough and, until the water is truly safe, no one should have to stay there who doesn't want to. The state and FEMA should move people into nearby white townships that are still hooked up to Lake Huron water.
5. For those who choose to stay in Flint, FEMA must create a temporary water system in each home.
One idea that has been suggested is to deliver two 55-gallon drums to every home in Flint. Each day water trucks will arrive to fill them with fresh clean glacial water from Lake Huron. The drums will have taps attached to them. People can't be expected to carry jugs of water from buildings that are miles away.
In the end, we will need to create a new economy and bring new employment to this town that created the middle class, that elected the first black mayor and that believed in and created the American Dream. They deserved more than to be poisoned by their own Governor—a Governor who thought that, because the people in the town were politically weak, he could get away with this unnoticed and without a fight. He figured wrong.
A crime against humanity has been committed against the people of Flint, making them refugees in their own homes. Tell me honestly: if you were living in Flint right now and you learned that your children had been drinking lead-filled water for two years and then you discovered that the Governor knew this and the state lied about it—tell me, just how fast would your head be spinning? With your children now poisoned and with the poisoning continuing ... is the word "nonviolence" dominating your thoughts right now? Are you absolutely, stunningly amazed how peaceful the people in Flint have remained? Are you curious how much longer that can last? I hope it does.
If you want to help Flint, sign the petition, demand that the federal government take action and then get involved yourself, wherever you live, so that this doesn't happen to you—and so that the people we elect know they can no longer break the law as they rule by fiat or indifference. We deserve much better than this.
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Tom Colicchio is a busy guy, what with all the time he spends hosting his TV show Best New Restaurant, to wearing the MSNBC food correspondent hat while talking the politics of food with the likes of Rachel Maddow, plus being the straight-shooting head judge on Bravo's hit show Top Chef. And yet despite also expanding a successful group of restaurants while serving on the board of Food Policy Action, an advocacy organization that he cofounded in 2012, he still makes time to fish every year.
The overlap between his fine food expertise and desire to see the world eat better while leaving the planet in better shape makes for an interesting perspective on menus and angling ethics. Here's what he had to say, when I had the chance to interview him:
Q. You're an avid fisherman, so sustainability of the oceans must be on your radar. Are there species you won't fish for because their stocks are depleted?
A. Bluefin tuna. I will fish for them, but I will not kill them. I don't kill many fish except the occasional bluefish or mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna, which are plentiful right now. A lot of these stocks bounce back if we allow them—I'm not against fishing the ocean, I think it's a great food source—but we've got to change the way we do it.
Look at swordfish, they were nearly endangered and then a nursery was found off of Florida, so we got the long-line fishermen out of there, and the stocks came back. They were catching swordfish during the day in Florida. What'd we do then? We allowed long-liners back in for "exploratory purposes," when we already knew the program worked!
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio (left) is also an avid fisherman.
Q. What kinds of marine fisheries policy do you support?
A. We need policies that protect fishermen but also the resource. Striped bass for instance came back in a big way because one of their main spawning grounds in the Hudson was heavily polluted with PCBs, and people were told not to eat them, so the fishery was commercially unviable. Then we cleaned up the Hudson, the fish bounced back and were safe to eat, but now we're back where the population is on the decline. We could have protected that industry by creating slot limits, instead we allow the catching of all the big ones, the best breeders with the best genetics.
Q. What species do your restaurants avoid serving?
A. Bluefin tuna, I will not serve it. Haven't even seen Orange Roughy in ages, and I've never served Chilean sea bass.
Q. How about farmed salmon? Ocean advocates and researchers say that open net salmon pens harm ecosystems.
A. They do, the density on those farms needs to be looked at. We have served it, but don't sell a lot of it. We typically serve wild salmon when they're running.
Q. Beside the impacts, the farmed kind doesn't taste as good. I find it really fatty.
A. It doesn't, and it's not because it's fatty, it's just a different kind of fat that's not marbled through the meat, but rather on the outside edge toward the skin. It's because they don't move enough, so the fat's distributed differently and doesn't taste near like a wild salmon. There's no comparison.
Q. What's your approach to serving wild fish in your restaurants?
A. I try to serve wild fish, but it's often a tough call. One of the best choices is small white albacore on the West Coast, that's a great fishery, it's managed well and there's very little mercury in those fish.
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Three million gallons of brine, a salty, toxic byproduct of oil and natural gas production—also known as fracking wastewater—spilled from a leaking pipe in western North Dakota. State officials say it's the worst spill of its kind since the fracking boom began in the state.
The spill was reported 17 days ago when Operator Summit Midstream Partners found a toxic leak of salty drilling waste from a pipeline in the heart of the Bakken oil boom.
Officials say there's no immediate threat to human health but as Marketplace's Scott Tong reports yesterday, there could be trouble ahead. He interviews Duke geochemist Avner Vengosh who has sampled frack wastewater and has found that "North Dakota's is 10 times saltier than the ocean, that endangers aquatic life and trees, and it has ammonium and radioactive elements."
Tong also interviewed Hannah Wiseman, law professor at Florida State, who says the disposal of fracking wastewater is underregulated.
"A typical well can spit about 1,000 gallons a day," says Tong. "Some of the water is recycled back into fracking, stored in pits or used to de-ice roads. It's also injected deep underground, which has been known to cause earthquakes."
And, for the latest update on the spill, watch last night's MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Two days ago, six activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza climbed aboard an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.
The six volunteers set up camp on the underside of the Polar Pioneer’s main deck because last week the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Shell’s drilling lease in the Alaskan Arctic.
"We're here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil," said 32-year-old Johno Smith, one of the six to board Shell's Blue Marlin ship.
"Shell's actions are exploiting the melting ice to increase a man-made disaster. Climate change is real," Smith added.
Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell filed a complaint in federal court in Alaska seeking an order to remove the Greenpeace activists.
The six Greenpeace climbers are equipped with technology which allows them to communication with supporters around the world in real-time, despite being hundreds of miles from land.
Read these tweets to get a sense of what it would be like to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard an oil rig. For more tweets follow #TheCrossing.
"Shell seeks to remove Greenpeace activists from oil rig" http://t.co/rMvoIFrSPJ via @MailOnline #thecrossing pic.twitter.com/3NzdrYBW5i
— Greenpeace NZ (@GreenpeaceNZ) April 8, 2015
Just received a resupply from @gp_espy. Extra safety equipment, food & water for #TheCrossing https://t.co/OY83Nb3CZt pic.twitter.com/CJSrtt4zQX — Jens (@jens4762) April 7, 2015
It feels like there are a whole lot more of us than the people hanging off this rig #TheCrossing pic.twitter.com/CQjQhpqWd6 — Aliyah Field (@aliyahfield) April 6, 2015
And, watch this segment from the Rachel Maddow show:
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Hear the latest on the 73 Olympic-size swimming pools worth of toxic sludge that Duke Energy dumped into North Carolina waterways starting Super Bowl Sunday in this Rachel Maddow interview with Michael Gerrard, professor of environmental law at Columbia University. Gerrard talks about a North Carolina federal investigation into this coal ash leak disaster.
The oil giant Chevron is being accused of attempting to buy the city government of Richmond, California. The company has spent more than $3 million to back a slate of pro-Chevron candidates for mayor and city council ahead of Tuesday’s election.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Chevron has paid for TV attack ads, purchased space on virtually every billboard in town, funded a flood of mailers and financed a fake “news” website run by a Chevron employee. The move comes two years after a massive fire at Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond sent 15,000 residents to the hospital. It was the third refinery fire since 1989 in the city.
The city of Richmond responded to the latest fire by suing Chevron, accusing officials of placing profits and executive pay over public safety. We speak to one of the politicians being targeted, outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. She was elected mayor of Richmond in 2006, becoming the first Green Party official to represent a city of more than 100,000. Due to mayoral term limits, McLaughlin is now running for Richmond City Council.
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Since the TVA Kingston, Tennessee, coal ash dam burst in 2008 spilling more than one billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres, it seems there’s been an unfortunate—and avoidable—string of coal ash spills polluting U.S. waters, including Duke Energy’s spill into the Dan River in North Carolina this February.
More than 200 sites nationwide have experienced coal ash polluting nearby lakes, streams and rivers. From contaminated drinking water sources to illegal dumping caught on hidden cameras, it’s clear: our waterways have been taking a beating from coal ash.
But what about the air we breathe?
“Coal ash contaminating water supplies is well known,” said Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel at Earthjustice. “Our report details another danger of unregulated coal ash waste. Breathing dust can cause disease and drastically decrease the quality of life for communities along the fenceline of coal ash dumpsites. We know coal ash is poisoning our water, and now we also know that it’s poisoning our air as well.”
This danger of unregulated and unmonitored coal ash dumping is highlighted in a new report, Ash in Lungs: How Breathing Coal Ash is Hazardous to Your Health, released today by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Earthjustice.
Dust from coal ash contains small particle pollution, which increases health risks from inhalation and can trigger immunological reactions and inflammation. Pollutants could include radioactive materials, mercury, hydrogen sulfide and silica, which can lead to silicosis. Workers at dumpsites and power plants are exposed to these dangerous pollutants, as are unwitting communities through which uncovered trucks carrying coal ash travel or that are in proximity to coal ash landfills.
that’s what it’s doing to my truck, imagine what it’s doing to me,” said Gibbs. Photo credit: Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
“Breathing toxic coal ash dust can lead to disease and even death,” said Dr. Alan Lockwood, emeritus professor of neurology at the University of Buffalo and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “This is a dangerous pollutant that not only damages the respiratory system, but even increases the rate of heart attacks and strokes.”
Despite obvious health risks, no federal requirements exist to control fugitive dust or the storage and disposal of this toxic waste. Only one state, Pennsylvania, requires dust controls at coal ash ponds. The report takes a look at six communities poisoned by coal ash dust.
Earthjustice, on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environmental Integrity Project, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Montana Environmental Information Center, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Western North Carolina Alliance, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to follow the law and to finalize coal ash regulations that the Agency first proposed in 2010. As a result, EPA will finalize the nation’s first federal coal ash regulations by Dec. 19.
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