Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus Crisis Intensifies
By Jon Queally
Climate action groups and progressive critics expressed disappointment and outrage on Friday afternoon after President Donald Trump — despite a continued failure to offer far-reaching support to the U.S. public — moved to bolster the bottom lines of oil and gas companies by announcing a massive federal purchase for the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
"Based on the price of oil, I've also instructed the Secretary of Energy to purchase at a very good price large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. strategic reserve," Trump announced during a White House press conference — surrounded by CEOs from major corporations, including Walmart, CVS, and Target — in which he also declared an official national emergency in order to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus.
"We're going to fill it right up to the top," said of the SPR, but critics were quick to point out that move has everything to do with helping his wealthy friends and cronies in the fossil fuel industry, and nothing to do with helping average people now under threat from the spreading pandemic.
"Trump has once again put the interests of oil and gas executives ahead of the interests of people and communities," said Alex Doukas of Oil Change International. "With this move, Trump has rolled out a plan to prop up U.S. oil companies before he has even bothered to guarantee paid sick leave for US workers who are going to be on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis for weeks to come."
The news came Friday as additional school closures were announced for states nationwide, grocery store shelves were wiped clean, and worry continues to spread about just how extensive the outbreak will become.
Greenpeace warned that the total cost of the oil purchase "could exceed $2.6 billion in public funds," a stark comparison when put next to the proposal put forth by House Democrats just hours earlier. Introducing the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act" which calls for an estimated $1.7 billion aimed at helping working families and children to weather the public health crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "The American people expect and deserve a coordinated, science-based and whole-of-government response to keep them and their loved ones safe: a response that puts families first to stimulate the economy."
By putting his administration's emphasis on bailing out the oil industry, John Noël, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said the president is doing the opposite of putting people first.
"Trump's response to a global pandemic is to put billionaires and corporate polluters ahead of American families. There's no evidence that this handout would protect jobs, pensions, benefits, or ease the hardships facing fossil fuel workers or communities confronting the COVID-19 outbreak right now. It's nothing more than a gift to the industry that created the climate crisis."
Doukas agreed, calling it "wildly inappropriate" for Trump "to abuse the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a tool to prop up the oil and gas industry at a time when the White House should be focusing on how to help everyday people in the US."
"Where is the relief for workers grappling with caring for their families, retail workers risking exposure every day, families grappling with debt and mounting bills while their livelihoods are put at risk?" he asked. "No, today President Trump focused on propping up polluting industries and trotting out CEOs to sell their wares."
As CNBC reported, following Trump's late-day announcement, "crude futures jumped 5%" in the last hour of market trading.
Reposted with permission from 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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