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Zinke Caught Raising Political Funds During Taxpayer-Funded Trips
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who is being investigated for his use of private planes on the taxpayer dime, is under fresh scrutiny for "mixing political gatherings ... during official business."
According to Interior travel records and other documents seen by POLITICO, the secretary has met with GOP donors and political groups more than a half-dozen times while on taxpayer-funded department trips, including a local Republican Party fundraiser in the U.S. Virgin Islands where donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photo-op with Zinke.
"Ethics watchdogs say Zinke is combining politics with his Interior duties so frequently that he risks tripping over the prohibitions against using government resources for partisan activity," POLITCO reports.
Zinke's trips do not appear to break the law. For instance, his visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands from March 30 to April 1 was an official trip related to the Interior Dept.'s role overseeing the U.S. territory.
But House Democrats criticized the secretary in a letter sent Tuesday that stated that Zinke's travels "give the appearance that you are mixing political gatherings and personal destinations with official business."
Zinke has spent about $20,000 on three charter flights since taking office in March but has dismissed the criticisms as "a little B.S."
Meanwhile, the former Montana Congressman has also been on blast by whistleblower Joel Clement, a senior official at the Interior Dept. The climate change expert, who was reassigned by Zinke to a completely unrelated office that oversees fees and royalty checks from oil and gas companies, has resigned from his position.
"Retaliating against civil servants for raising health and safety concerns is unlawful, but there are many items to add to your resume of failure," Clement wrote to Zinke.
Those failures include "muzzling scientists and policy experts," an "arbitrary and sloppy review of our treasured National Monuments," targeting an Obama-era conservation plan for the greater sage grouse, and compromising tribal sovereignty.
"Secretary Zinke, your agenda profoundly undermines the [Interior Department's] mission and betrays the American people," he wrote.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.