'Disaster Capitalism Disguised as Progress': Critics Rip Trump Infrastructure Plan
By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump has repeatedly declared that "Americans deserve the best infrastructure in the world," but—judging by policy blueprints that have emerged from the White House in recent days—critics argue that Trump is actually planning to deliver a heavy dose of "disaster capitalism" that will hand construction projects to corporate America while running roughshod over people and the environment.
In a statement following Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday—during which he vaguely called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan—Food and Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter denounced the president's misleading rhetoric and argued that his infrastructure proposals amount to little more than "a giveaway to cronies and financiers" that will force states to cover the costs.
Highlighting a newly leaked White House infrastructure memo that calls for a drastic rollback of environmental rules to expedite oil pipeline construction and other projects, Hauter argued that Trump's "plan is to deregulate and privatize—it's disaster capitalism cloaked as progress."
"It's fitting that his address took place one day before FEMA pulls out of Puerto Rico, where people are still lacking clean water infrastructure and access to energy," Hauter added. "There will be many more Americans suffering the same fate if our federal government leaders continue to prioritize private profits over the public good."
Hauter is hardly alone in concluding that Trump's proposals—many of which were obtained by Axios last week—will benefit big business at the expense of Americans and the environment.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who boycotted Trump's State of the Union address, weighed in on the infrastructure plan on Twitter:
Trump's infrastructure “plan” is a giant hand-out to billionaires. Instead of making inclusive & green investments… https://t.co/mdwgceJZ7T— Rep. Barbara Lee (@Rep. Barbara Lee)1517366650.0
And as part of a new initiative aimed at tracking Trump's infrastructure plan and holding the administration accountable "for illegally developing infrastructure policy in violation of federal transparency laws," the advocacy group Democracy Forward argued in a report released on Monday that the White House's proposals are a "blueprint for cronyism."
Characterizing what is currently known about the president's infrastructure strategy as the "capstone" of his conflicts of interest and anti-environment agenda, Democracy Forward observes that Trump's proposals would allow the White House to:
- "Award new infrastructure grants directly to private companies";
- "Empower companies to charge tolls and fees on America's roads and bridges";
- "Cut career officials and agency experts out of project and permitting decisions"; and
- "Eliminate regulatory and legal safeguards that protect against corruption."
When Trump's full infrastructure plan is finally released, "what the American people will see is an infrastructure plan designed in secret by a council endowed with more power than Dick Cheney's infamous and self-enriching Energy Task Force," predicted Corey Ciorciari, Democracy Forward's policy and strategy director. "This is a plan for maximum cronyism."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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