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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This past Thursday I went to the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, for their look at “Borders and Sovereignty” studies that this past week were dealing with “CLIMATE CROSSES BORDERS” that also results in REFUGEES CROSS BORDERS.

After the introduction of Prof. Shai Lavi, the director of the Van Leer Institute, a professor in the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv, a technical panel took over.

It included: Mr. Nir Staiv, the director of te Israeli Meteorological ervice (IMS);
Prof. Uriel Safriel, Climate, Deserts, Desertification in the Mediterranean Basin, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and lawyer Tami Ganot of the Man, Nature, and Law” NGO.
They made clear the point how integrated the climate issues are and the fact that what happens is understandable even though sometimes not predictable. CLIMATE KNOWS NO BORDERS.

From there I went to the Paul Winter event and it was about the fact that migrating birds do not fly along man-prescribed routes – neither do they recognize man designed Nations or any borders.

But then the following day I went to an event organized by “IIESH GVUL” that means “there is a limit” – it dealt with the fact that there are rules of war and te Israeli military has to behave according to lines of self restraint. Issues of submitting ourselves to imperatives of humanity. So the limits or borders are those we submit ourselves to.

Above approach also appeared in the weekly column of Uri Avnery which I had the opportunity to bring up before him at dinner time.

Let us thus remember, and remind also our politicians, that limits do indeed exist and frontiers are put on maps by humans and are justified only if drawn with a human rights in mind.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 17th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


UNITED NATIONS, UNICEF AND SMURFS TEAM UP TO CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS.

Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign inspires support for Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNF, New York, March 18 – Voice actors from the upcoming animated movie Smurfs: The Lost Village today joined officials from the United Nations, UNICEF and United Nations Foundation at the world body’s headquarters in New York to celebrate International Day of Happiness with a campaign promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign is designed to encourage young people everywhere to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 to help make the world more peaceful, equitable and healthy.
As part of the celebrations, Team Smurfs recognized three young advocates — Karan Jerath (20), Sarina Divan (17), and Noor Samee (17) — for their actions to promote the Goals.

Jerath, a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, invented a containment device that could prevent offshore oil spills and ensure the protection of marine life. Divan expanded a UN Foundation girl empowerment initiative at her high school and beyond, and Samee is a UNICEF blogger and advocate on social justice issues and raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The movie’s U.S. stars — Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello and Mandy Patinkin — presented the three young students with a symbolic key to the Smurfs Village in recognition of their work.

“This inspirational campaign highlights the fact that each and every one of us, no matter how young or old, small or big, can make our world a better and happier place,” said Cristina Gallach, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. “We are grateful to creative partners like Sony Pictures Animation and Team Smurfs for their spirit of collaboration in helping the UN reach diverse audiences.”

The Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign culminates on the International Day of Happiness on 20 March, which emphasizes the importance of personal happiness and well-being. The idea is closely linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include decent work for all, access to nutritious food, quality education and health services, and freedom from discrimination.

“Today we have seen how the Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign is giving children and young people a platform to speak out about issues they are passionate about. As we celebrate International Day of Happiness, we hope many more young people are empowered to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals and help achieve a world free from poverty, inequality and injustice,” said Caryl M. Stern, UNICEF US Fund President and CEO.

The actors and UN officials addressed some 1,500 students attending an international Model UN conference in the iconic General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, where they encouraged all participants and the public to join “Team Smurfs”.

The campaign invites the general public to visit SmallSmurfsBigGoals.com to find out how to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and share information, ideas and images on social media.

The actors also premiered a new public service announcement video starring cast members of the film that inspires viewers to join the campaign and champion the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We hope the campaign will help us all think about how our actions impact the planet,” said Demi Lovato, who voices Smurfette in the movie. “Every one of us, even a Small Smurf, can accomplish Big Goals!”

The United Nations Postal Administration closed out the blue carpet event by unveiling a special edition stamp sheet featuring the Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign. The film cast along with the Belgian Ambassador to the United Nations, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Management, Stephen Cutts, presented the Small Smurfs Big Goals UN stamps to the press.

Along with the event at the United Nations, other celebrations took place in 18 countries around the world including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Russia and the UK, to name a few, to help raise awareness for the “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign and the Goals.

“Since 1958, the Smurfs have embodied around the world the universal values of camaraderie, helping one another, tolerance, optimism, and respecting Mother Nature,” said Véronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo, who created the Smurfs. “It’s been an honor and privilege for The Smurfs to support the United Nations and to continue our longstanding relationship with UNICEF with this campaign focused on raising awareness for the Sustainable Development Goals.”

On March 20, festivities for the International Day of Happiness will culminate in a special ceremony with the film cast along with United Nations, UNICEF and United Nations Foundation officials where they will help turn the Empire State Building blue to commemorate the occasion.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

FOREIGN POLICY AND SECURITY

5 Ways to Better Manage U.S. Defense Spending

By Lawrence J. Korb and Meredith Leal Posted on March 14, 2017, 3:36 pm

The USS Gerald R. Ford is stationed at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia on April 27, 2016. The construction of this $12.9 billion warship faced cost overruns and a construction delay of more than one year.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is stationed at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia on April 27, 2016. The construction of this $12.9 billion warship faced cost overruns and a construction delay of more than one year.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, announced in his address to a joint session of Congress and on a subsequent visit to the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier, calls for increasing defense spending for fiscal year 2018 by $54 billion above the Budget Control Act, or BCA, caps. He plans to pay for this by making large cuts in the budgets of other agencies, such as the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and the U.S. Coast Guard.


This plan will not happen because military leaders are opposed to making reductions in spending for State Department and the USAID; additionally, many members of Congress are opposed to cutting the EPA and Coast Guard budgets to pay for an increase in defense. As Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said, that the proposal was “dead on arrival.”

However, supporters of a strong national defense—many of whom are concerned with what they mistakenly perceive as shortages in the Pentagon’s readiness and modernization accounts in the current budget—should recognize that the BCA caps have not constrained defense spending as much as they assume. Congress has provided about $100 billion in relief from the spending levies of the BCA since FY 2013, and President Trump’s proposed budget for FY 2018 would give the U.S. Department of Defense, or DOD, another $37 billion in relief. Moreover, during that same period, at least half the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, account, which is not subject to the BCA caps, has been used for enduring programs that have nothing to do with the wars in the Middle East or Afghanistan. In other words, while some OCO spending has been used for urgent DOD, State Department, and foreign assistance requirements, about half of the total OCO account is effectively a slush fund that has allowed the Pentagon to get around the BCA limitations on things that are not contingencies and should be funded through a regular process.
Before the administration and Congress add significant defense funds to the FY 2018 budget, they should take a close look at how the Pentagon is currently spending the large amount of funding it currently receives, especially in the following five areas.

First, as noted in a recent report by the Defense Business Board, the Pentagon could save $125 billion over five years, or about half of what the nation is planning to spend on the State Department, by cutting the size of its headquarters or administrative staff, which has grown 38 percent since 2001. However, when this report—which was commissioned by the former administration—came out, Pentagon leaders tried to bury rather than endorse it, partly because they believed it would never get support from Congress. Congress should be leading on finding savings, not needlessly adding dollars to the defense budget.

Second, the Pentagon needs to curb the cost overruns on its major acquisition programs. In 2015, according to a report by Deloitte, the combined costs overruns for the major acquisition programs totaled $468 billion—something Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has been pointing out for years. The USS Gerald Ford, which the president used as a platform to push his defense increase, is a perfect example of DOD’s mismanagement. It came 50 percent over budget and two years late. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has correctly called these overruns “absolutely outrageous.” Congress and the new administration should take advantage of their unified political control of the government to get an actual audit of the Pentagon and begin a clear process of reform to improve acquisitions.
Third, the administration should adopt some of the recommendations made by Sen. McCain in his excellent report “Restoring American Power.” Specifically, the Pentagon should:
Develop a high-low mix of aircraft carriers by building smaller conventionally powered carriers rather than simply continuing to build only $15 billion nuclear-powered Ford-class supercarriers
.
Cut the total number of Air Force F-35s from 1,732, a number that Chairman McCain correctly points out is unrealistic.

Stop production of the Navy’s poorly conceived and managed littoral combat ship, or LCS, at two—as opposed to the Navy’s goal of 52 ships—and buy more of the less-expensive F/A-18 Super Hornets and fewer F-35s

Fourth, the Pentagon and Congress should adopt the proposals put forward by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright to cancel the new land-based missile and air-launched cruise missile portions of the multibillion-dollar nuclear modernization the Pentagon is currently undertaking. The Center for American Progress endorsed this action in the report “Setting Priorities for Nuclear Modernization.”

Fifth, the Trump administration and Congress need to authorize another round of base closings through a Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, commission. Because Congress has not authorized a BRAC process since 2005, the Pentagon now has 30 percent excess base capacity, wasting tens of billions of dollars each year.

These steps would be a good start toward improving the management and stewardship of U.S. defense dollars and should be implemented before Congress approves major spending increases.

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Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Meredith Leal is the Special Assistant on the National Security and International Policy team at American Progress.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Scott Pruitt denies basic climate science. But most of the outrage is missing the point.

It’s not about Pruitt and it’s not about facts.

Updated by David  Roberts at drvoxdavid@vox.com Mar 11, 2017, 9:10am EST

Scott Pruitt, the newly confirmed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, got himself in hot water this week when he questioned whether human beings are behind climate change.

On Thursday, when asked on the CNBC show Squawk Box whether human carbon emissions are driving global warming, Pruitt responded: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

(Just to get it out of the way quickly: This is false. Scientists are extremely confident that human CO2 emissions are the primary driver of recent warming. For all intents and purposes, we are certain of it — as certain as scientists get about anything. If you’re interested the details, start here and follow the links.)

Pruitt’s remarks sparked a news cycle that is, to this 10-year veteran of the climate beat, extremely and tediously familiar. I could have scripted the whole thing in advance. As always, it seems to me that people are missing the point in two key ways.

It’s not about Pruitt, it’s about the Republican Party
My inbox is groaning with statements from previous EPA administrators, scientists, nonprofits, members of Congress, and assorted others, condemning Pruitt’s ignorance in florid terms.

But they are all about what Pruitt believes. And in the end, who cares what he believes? He is a functionary, chosen in part to dismantle EPA regulations on greenhouse gases. If it weren’t him, it would be some other functionary.

The GOP’s goal is to block or reverse any policy that would negatively affect its donors and supporters, who are drawn disproportionately from carbon-intensive industries and regions. That is the North Star — to protect those constituencies. That means, effectively, blocking any efficacious climate policy (which, almost by definition, will diminish fossil fuels).

They can’t just say that, though, so they have to retrofit a set of beliefs that justify inaction on climate change. Those beliefs shift around depending on context and can be maddeningly difficult to pin down. Among friendly audiences, Republicans are prone to dismiss climate change as a hoax. In public settings like Congressional hearings, they are more likely to adopt “lukewarmism,” accepting that climate change is happening (thus dodging the awkward “denier” label), waving their hands vaguely in the direction of action, but always emphasizing the uncertainties in the science and the grave economic dangers of any proposed policy solution.

That’s the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson adopted in his confirmation hearing. And it’s the same strategy Pruitt adopted. He told Sen. Bernie Sanders, “I believe that the [EPA] administrator has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2.” He told Sen. Jeff Merkley that the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon dioxide — its official determination that CO2 is a threat to human health — is “the law of the land” and emphasized that “there is nothing that I know that will cause a review at this point.”

These statements were carefully calibrated to give the impression that Pruitt accepts the role of CO2 in climate change and the need to regulate it. What he said on CNBC sounded very different. Thus the outrage.

But the reason GOP beliefs on climate are so difficult to pin down is that the beliefs are not the point. The party’s institutional opposition to action is the point. The beliefs are retrofit, on an opportunistic and sometimes case-by-case basis, to support the conclusion, which is: do nothing.

Pruitt is an avowed opponent of EPA who has spent his professional life suing it to stop it from regulating greenhouse gases. He was chosen to stop action on climate change. What he believes, or claims to believe, while doing so is ultimately not that important.

Alone among major parties in the developed world, the GOP rejects the need to act on climate change. That’s the outrage. Pruitt is an epiphenomenon.

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What Scott Pruitt’s confirmation means for the EPA

It’s not about facts, it’s about institutions
Predictably, Pruitt’s comments were met with an outpouring of sciencesplaining. Article after article after article patiently walked through the evidence that, #actually, climate change is real and caused by human beings.

I suppose there might be some readers out there who have never been exposed to that evidence, though it has been available for decades and is always an easy Google search away. But there is zero chance Pruitt hasn’t been exposed to it. Clearly the facts have not swayed him.

Indeed, the climate fight has long since moved past the stage when it was about the facts.

Allow me an analogy. Imagine you’re playing a basketball game. A member of the other team travels. The referee calls the travel, but the opposing player just shrugs and says, “I don’t care.” He refuses to surrender the ball and just keeps going. Then his team starts putting extra players on the court, fouling at will, and pelting your team with refuse. The referee continues calling violations, but the other team simply disregards him. They start appealing to their own referees, friends of theirs in the stands. “Bob says there was no foul.”

At that point, the dispute is no longer about what happened in this play or that play. The facts are not at issue. The dispute is over the authority of the referee. The question is whether both teams will honor the referee’s calls, and if not, how the game can be played at all and what “winning” means under the circumstances.

If it’s not obvious, the referee in this analogy is science.

When we say we “know” human beings are causing climate change, virtually none of us mean we know that in any direct way. Most of us don’t possess the skills to analyze primary data or construct climate models. What we mean is, “that’s what the scientists say.” We are implicitly appealing to the authority of scientists — of science itself.

We naive types like to think that this is how a modern society runs. We set up scientific institutions, governed by certain guild rules and norms regarding objectivity, reproducibility of results, peer review, etc. Those institutions gather and analyze knowledge and we collectively agree to grant them authority, to accept their results.

That is how we establish a common foundation of facts and understanding, without which it is virtually impossible to have coherent political debates.

Such knowledge-producing institutions — not only science, but also academia and journalism — are not immune to criticism, of course. And they are never entirely free of biases or error. Their procedures and results are always open to democratic dispute.

But absent some compelling reason to believe that those institutions have been corrupted or systematically distorted, we accept their results. Otherwise, epistemological chaos ensues, persuasion becomes impossible, and politics devolves into a raw contest of power.

Conservatives have never established any serious corruption or wrongdoing in the institutions and norms of climate science. All they have are wild conspiracy theories about hoaxes and grant money. All they have are appeals to counter-authorities, members of the conservative establishment largely operating outside mainstream scientific institutions. Like the basketball team ignoring the referee, they have simply chosen not to accept the results of climate science.

Restating, underscoring, or even strengthening those scientific results won’t solve that problem. The results already come from multiple fields, are reinforced by multiple lines of evidence, and have been vetted (extremely vetted, you might say) by several extended, multi-layered review processes. Collectively, we don’t know how to “know” anything more confidently than we know this stuff.

If someone chooses to simply reject those scientific institutions, procedures, and results, then piling on more facts is beside the point. It’s not about facts any more, it’s about the authority of the institutions.

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Climate denialism is the least of it

Climate denial has had, and will continue to have, dire results, producing real suffering for real people.

But in a sense, climate denial is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.

I have a longer post on that subject in the works (get excited). But for now, it’s enough to simply note that Pruitt’s comments point to something deeper and more corrosive than mere misinformation or misunderstanding. Explaining the basic facts of climate science (again) is utterly futile if the intended audience rejects the authority of climate scientists and scientific institutions.

We’re eventually going to have to grapple with this crisis of authority. Until then, more facts and periodic outbursts of outrage are futile.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Media Matters for America

US attorney investigating Fox News suddenly fired, a plagiarist returns to Fox News, NBC’s historic Trump catastrophe, and more …

Pincas, Beyond the notable Media Matters work below, here are some other things I’ve read this week: Michael Calderone on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not bringing reporters on his Asia trip, Megan Garber on coverage of Amal Clooney, Luis Prada on Roger Stone, and Jina Moore on the familiar story of how politicians in Poland are trying to take away women’s rights.

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John Whitehouse
@existentialfish

Preet Bharara
US Attorney investigating Fox News fired by Trump

Donald Trump fired US attorney Preet Bharara. Bharara was investigating Fox News over its alleged failure to inform stockholders about multiple settlements for sexual harassment and assault by its executives. The reported replacement for Bharara may be a former attorney of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

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Monica Crowley: Sean Hannity “actively opposes real journalism”
Right-wing pundit Monica Crowley was set to take a job with the Trump administration, but backed out after reporters uncovered multiple examples of plagiarism. Sean Hannity welcomed her back to Fox News this week, and Crowley immediately blamed the accusations on a “political hit job” and falsely claimed she was vindicated. CNN’s Brian Stelter responded to the segment by blasting Hannity for not even caring about what the reporting said: “Hannity does not recognize real journalism. He actively opposes real journalism.”

NBC
Massive Ethical nightmare ends the only way it could

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It’s now official: the Arnold Schwarzenegger season of The Apprentice was not just a flop, but a historic catastrophe. And the parties involved are just starting to realize that Trump’s toxic brand was the reason why. I took a long look at how NBC debased itself by getting into bed with Trump — and got nothing for it.

Donald Trump
Emoluments: A big deal

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From the moment that he was sworn in, Donald Trump has been violating the Constitution. And it’s actively been getting worse. And yet, mainstream outlets have mostly ignored what amounts to an impeach=level offense.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


10th – 11th August 2017: North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management, Montreal, Canada


Climate change is known to impact coastal areas in a variety of ways. According to the 5th Assessment Report produced by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), coastal zones are highly vulnerable to climate change and climate-driven impacts may be further exacerbated by other human-induced pressures.

In North America, multiple pressures – including urbanization and coastal development, habitat loss and degradation, pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks and natural hazards- affect the coastal ecosystems, hence exacerbating the impacts of climate change in coastal zones. In particular, sea level rise changes the shape of coastlines, contributes to coastal erosion and leads to flooding and salt-water intrusion in aquifers.

Climate change is also associated with other negative impacts to the natural environment and biodiversity, which include damages to important wetlands, and to the habitats that safeguard the overall ecological balance, and consequently the provision of ecosystem services and goods on which the livelihoods of millions of people depend. These impacts are particularly acute in North America, which endeavors to become more resilient to damages caused by hurricanes, floods and other extreme events.

The above state of affairs illustrates the need for a better understanding of how climate change affects coastal areas and communities in North America, and for the identification of processes, methods and tools which may help the communities in coastal zones to adapt and become more resilient. There is also a perceived need to showcase successful examples of how to cope with the social, economic and political problems posed by climate change in coastal regions in North America.

It is against this background that the North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management is being organized by the Research and Transfer Centre “Applications of Life Sciences” of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP) and the Université du Québec à Montréal. The Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, mobilizing scholars, social movements, practitioners and members of governmental agencies, undertaking research and/or executing climate change projects in coastal areas and working with coastal communities in North America.

The North American Symposium on Climate Change and Coastal Zone Management will focus on “ensuring the resilience of coastal zones” meaning that it will serve the purpose of showcasing experiences from research, field projects and best practice to foster climate change adaptation in coastal zones and communities, which may be useful or implemented elsewhere.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Irith Jawetz report on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square at CNN International show
of March 12, 2017.


First, Fareed spoke with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Was there any collaboration or serious communication between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s campaign last year? What does Russia think of claims that Moscow tried to alter the outcome of the U.S. presidential election? What does Vladimir Putin make of the first several weeks of the Trump administration? Fareed poses these questions and more to the longtime Kremlin aide.

Peskov denied any interfering in the US elections and any collaboration. Russia is being demonized, Russia has become a nightmare for the U.S. and the US is humiliating itself in the world.

It is impossible for a foreign country to interfere in an election process and Russia would not do it to any country, as it would not accept any country interfering in Russian elections.

What did all Trump’s people talk to the Russian Ambassador? It’s very common for an Ambassador to meet with the Administration people of the country they serve in to get a better understanding. They spoke about bilateral relations, trade, but definitely not about the election process.

President Putin always said he will respect whoever the American chose for President. Yes, he did like Trump’s approach better than Hillary Clinton’s since she had a very negative view of Russia and Trump said that although we have differences we have to talk to each other. However Putin would never interfere with the elections.

When will they meet? Not sure yet, if it does not happen before the Summer, then they will definitely meet at the next G20 meeting in Hamburg beginning of July.

What does President Putin think of President Trump: Too early to tell, but what he saw until now he thinks he is very pragmatic. We have to work together since there are so many problems in the world.

Will President Putin raise the question of the sanctions? No, since the US imposed those sanctions, Russia will not be the first to open discussions, it is up to the US to start.

What kind of a person is Putin? Putin is different than most politicians. He means what he says, he will never say more than he will be able to do. That’s why he is trustworthy, and has been in power for 17 years.

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Then, Fareed spoke with Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the White House’s business advisory council and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone. Fareed asks how Schwarzman got chosen for his role, whether he believes President Trump is open to criticism, whether there could be a U.S.-China trade war, and what could happen to GDP growth under a Trump administration.

He knows Trump for many years and when asked him to join his Administration he said no, but agreed to be his economic advisor. Trump asked him to form a group of businessmen whom he trusts and to lead that group and they have been advising Trump.

He said that 60% of Americans have not seen increase in disposable income for many years and are frustrated. The GDP will grow, the stock market has already been up 12-13% which is a good sign..

China: on Trade – US wants equivalence – fair trade – and China is accountable for half of the US Trade deficit. However, China wants a long term relationship with the U.S. but it has to be fair. As for Trump’s relations with China: “Some of Trump’s hyperbole on China will be dialed back” ( in his words). All in all Mr. Schwazmamn seemed very optimistic.

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The last segment was a question: Which countries are the only ones that have a favorable view of President Trump?
1) Russia with 83% and
2) China with 54%.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

DECEMBER 7, 2016

We can’t wait 4 years: 800 climate scientists have united for immediate action.
The scientific community is in agreement: Climate change is real.

PARKER MOLLOY

from:  www.upworthy.com/we-cant-wait-4-y…

President-elect Donald Trump has a very complicated history with climate change.

He’s referred to the issue as a “hoax,” one of his advisers claims the president-elect plans to scrap NASA’s climate research, and Trump has even gone on record against the historic Paris climate agreement. At the same time, he’s acknowledged that climate change poses a threat to his golf courses, he met earlier this week to discuss the issue with Al Gore, and in an interview last month, he told the New York Times that he’s going into his presidency with an open mind on the topic.

In the hopes of convincing the president-elect to take the actions needed to save the planet, 800 scientists joined forces to send him an open letter.


Published in full at Scientific American, the letter outlines six clear steps these members of the scientific community hope to see from a Trump administration.

What Trump chooses to do, the authors of the letter warn, will determine whether his presidency will be “defined by denial and disaster, or acceptance and action.”

The group also launched a public petition urging Trump to take action on climate.


Misinformation and disbelief have the potential to lead to irreversible disaster. That’s why these scientists are urging action now. This can’t wait four years.


Dr. Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University and MIT working on energy system planning, and Ploy Achakulwisut, a doctoral candidate in atmospheric science at Harvard, helped organize the effort behind the letter. For them, the message extends beyond Trump’s beliefs to the larger issue of climate change denial facing the country.

“As scientists and as citizens, Donald Trump’s anti-science climate denial scares us to the point that sitting on the sidelines is not an option,” Supran and Achakulwisut explain in a joint e-mail to Upworthy.

The letter comes less than a week after the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweeted out a link to a factually dubious article from a right-wing media outlet.

Citing Breitbart.com, the Congressional committee’s tweet refers to the roughly 97% of climate scientists who believe that climate change is real and manmade as “climate alarmists,” a term the site has used on other occasions and one that does not sit well with Supran and Achakulwisut.

Follow: Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte ? @HouseScience @BreitbartNews: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists bit.ly/2gINZNf
9:12 PM – 1 Dec 2016

Photo published for Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists
Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists

Land temperatures have plummeted by 1 degree – the biggest and steepest fall on record. But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence.  breitbart.com

858 858 Retweets 1,144 1,144 likes< Seeing a Twitter account representing members of Congress responsible for crafting science policy promote false, anti-science views made Supran and Achakulwisut feel “angry, terrified, and more determined than ever to hold our leaders accountable,” calling the committee’s decision to share the article “a reckless abuse of power.”

Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and director of the Earth System Science Center, shares a similar opinion about what it means that Congress would share such a reckless article.

“As a climate expert, I’m horrified at the ignorance and antipathy toward science that now pervades our highest levels of our government,” Mann, who also signed onto the letter, writes in an e-mail. His recent book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy,” tackles this very challenge.

Atmospheric scientist Kait Parker of The Weather Channel even stepped in to ask both Breitbart and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to stop using a video of her to promote misleading information.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

POLITICS

E.P.A. Head, Scott Pruitt, Stacks Agency With Climate Change Skeptics

By CORAL DAVENPORTMARCH 7, 2017

WASHINGTON — Days after the Senate confirmed him as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference and was asked about addressing a group that probably wanted to eliminate his agency.

“I think it’s justified,” he responded, to cheers. “I think people across the country look at the E.P.A. the way they look at the I.R.S.”

In the days since, Mr. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the agency he now leads, has moved to stock the top offices of the agency with like-minded conservatives — many of them skeptics of climate change and all of them intent on rolling back environmental regulations that they see as overly intrusive and harmful to business.

Mr. Pruitt has drawn heavily from the staff of his friend and fellow Oklahoma Republican, Senator James Inhofe, long known as Congress’s most prominent skeptic of climate science. A former Inhofe chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, will be Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff. Another former Inhofe staff member, Byron Brown, will serve as Mr. Jackson’s deputy. Andrew Wheeler, a fossil fuel lobbyist and a former Inhofe chief of staff, is a finalist to be Mr. Pruitt’s deputy, although he requires confirmation to the position by the Senate.

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Incoming Emails say: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry FEB. 22, 2017
RECENT COMMENTS
March 9, 2017

And what people are these Scott Pruitt, the ones who also think the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves around it?
bb March 9, 2017

Scott Pruitt and his buddies are in bed with all those that are ruining the environment and the world. Money again trumps reality and…
SJM March 9, 2017

These are the Genuine Enemies of the American People and Humanity. To call themselves Christian is heresy. To call themselves leaders is…

To friends and critics, Mr. Pruitt seems intent on building an E.P.A. leadership that is fundamentally at odds with the career officials, scientists and employees who carry out the agency’s missions. That might be a recipe for strife and gridlock at the federal agency tasked to keep safe the nation’s clean air and water while safeguarding the planet’s future.

“He’s the most different kind of E.P.A. administrator that’s ever been,” said Steve J. Milloy, a member of the E.P.A. transition team who runs the website JunkScience.com, which aims to debunk climate change. “He’s not coming in thinking E.P.A. is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Quite the opposite.”

Gina McCarthy, who headed the E.P.A. under former President Barack Obama, said she too saw Mr. Pruitt as unique. “It’s fine to have differing opinions on how to meet the mission of the agency. Many Republican administrators have had that,” she said. “But here, for the first time, I see someone who has no commitment to the mission of the agency.”

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A pair of Trump campaigners from Washington State are also heading into senior positions at the E.P.A. Don Benton, a former Washington state senator who headed President Trump’s state campaign, will be the agency’s senior liaison with the White House. Douglas Ericksen, a current Washington state senator, is being considered as the regional administrator of the E.P.A.’s Pacific Northwest office.

As a state senator, Mr. Ericksen has been active in opposing efforts to pass a state-level climate change law taxing carbon pollution. Last month, he invited Tony Heller, a climate denialist who blogs under the pseudonym Steven Goddard, to address a Washington State Senate committee on the costs of climate change policy. Mr. Heller’s blog says “global warming is the biggest fraud in science history.”

“I think the reason both of these guys are being considered for this stuff is they were the only prominent elected officials in the state of Washington that were early supporters and organizers for Trump,” said Todd Donovan, a political scientist at Western Washington University. “No other state legislators were putting their necks out for Trump.”

Another transition official under consideration by Mr. Pruitt for a permanent position is David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow in energy economics and climate change at the conservative Heritage Foundation who has publicly praised the benefits of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That view stands in opposition to the broad scientific consensus that increased carbon dioxide traps heat and contributes to the dangerous warming of the planet.

The agency’s policy agenda is snapping into focus: Last week, Mr. Trump signed an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to begin the legal process of dismantling a major Obama-era regulation aimed at increasing the federal government’s authority over rivers, streams and wetlands in order to prevent water pollution. Also last week, Mr. Pruitt ordered the agency to walk back a program on collecting data on methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells.

This week, Mr. Trump is expected to sign an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to begin the legal process of unwinding Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, and Mr. Pruitt is expected to announce plans to begin to weaken an Obama-era rule mandating higher fuel economy standards.

A draft White House budget blueprint proposes to slash the E.P.A. budget by about 24 percent, or $2 billion from its current level of $8.1 billion, and cut employee numbers by about 20 percent from its current staff of about 15,000.

Agency employees say morale has already been damaged. After working for years to draft climate change regulations under the Obama administration, many of those same career scientists and lawyers will be ordered to go back and undo them.

Ms. McCarthy, who oversaw the writing and execution of those major water and climate change regulations, said it would be difficult and time-consuming to reverse them, especially if Mr. Trump succeeds in greatly downsizing the agency.

“If you want to do these executive orders that require a whole rewrite of the rule, you have to get that right, legally,” she said. “It took years to do those rules. To now ask for those things to be undone with less staff and low morale — how are they going to do it?”

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There is one area in which Mr. Pruitt has vowed to continue the traditional work of the E.P.A.: a longstanding program for sending funds to states to clean up “brownfields” — former industrial sites that have been contaminated by pollution. Although Mr. Trump’s budget blueprint would slash funds for that program, Mr. Pruitt pledged to a gathering of mayors in Washington last week that he would fight to save the program.

“With the White House and Congress I am communicating a message about brownfields,” he told mayors. “I want to hear from you about successes and communicate them.”

J. Christian Bollwage, the Democratic mayor of Elizabeth, N.J., a city that has been plagued with industrial pollution, said he was heartened to hear the pledge.

“I’ve never heard such a vociferous defense of providing brownfields grants,” he said. “He was explicit. He said he was going to take the defense of brownfields to the White House. I was impressed and hopeful.”

But, Mr. Bollwage added, “Coming from New Jersey, climate change is also a big issue. And I’m still worried about an administration that seems to think climate change is a hoax.”

Concern over Mr. Pruitt’s stewardship may not be long-lived. There is speculation that the E.P.A. chief already has his eyes on a different office.

Mr. Inhofe, 82, will complete his current Senate term in 2020. While he declined to speak of his retirement plans, Mr. Inhofe said of Mr. Pruitt, “I think he’d make a great senator.”

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The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

A Lesson Trump and the E.P.A. Should Heed
By WILLIAM D. RUCKELSHAUS, former EPA Head, NYT MARCH, 7, 2017

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Early Lead The Washington Post, March 11, 2017

Muhammad Ali’s son held up at D.C. airport after testifying about first detainment

By Marissa Payne March 10 at 7:44 PM

Muhammad Ali Jr. spoke to House Democrats at a congressional forum on immigration March 9, describing his detention by Customs and Border Patrol at a Florida airport last month and how he was questioned about his religion.
(Reuters)

A month after Muhammad Ali’s son and his mother, Ali’s second wife Khalilah Camacho-Ali, were detained in a Florida airport allegedly for their “Arabic-sounding names,” he says he was held up again, this time at Reagan National Airport on Friday March 11, 2017. He and his mother had come to Washington to lobby to end racial profiling, and he was trying to board a flight back to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A lawyer for Ali, Chris Mancini, said that as the son of the former heavyweight champion was trying to board a Jet Blue flight, he was detained by Department of Homeland Security officials for about 20 to 25 minutes. According to comments Mancini made to the New York Daily News, they rejected his identification and repeatedly asked where he was from, before allowing the 44-year-old to board after he produced his U.S. passport.

“None of this was happening Wednesday,” Mancini said of the Alis’ trip to D.C. in remarks to the Associated Press. “Going to Washington obviously opened up a can of worms at DHS.”

The lawyer told the Daily News that “quite obviously” his client has “now been put on a different status,” possibly a watch list, that affects his ability to travel without being questioned.

“Upon arriving at the airline check-in counter, a call was made to confirm Mr. Ali’s identity with TSA officials. When Mr. Ali arrived at the checkpoint, his large jewelry alarmed the checkpoint scanner,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement Friday. “He received a targeted pat-down in the area of his jewelry to clear the alarm and was cleared to catch his flight.”

As it happened, Ali was sharing a flight with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), whose congressional district lies just south of Fort Lauderdale. She tweeted out a photo of the two of them and wrote, “Religiously profiling son of ‘The Greatest’ will not make us safe.”

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D Wasserman Schultz ? @DWStweets Writes:
On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN by @DHSgov. Religiously profiling son of ‘The Greatest’ will not make us safe
10:14 PM – 10 Mar 2017

3,370 Retweets 4,167 4,167 likes

—————-

Ali and his mother were in Washington to speak at a forum organized by Democratic lawmakers to discuss President Trump’s immigration policy, which many have criticized for introducing what’s been called a “Muslim ban.” In Trump’s latest executive order on the matter, signed on Monday, travelers from six Muslim-majority countries are prohibited from getting new visas to enter the United States. Although the measure is narrower than Trump’s previous executive order that banned even current visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries, this new order also has received pushback. On Tuesday, the state of Hawaii said it will ask a federal judge to block the new order.

[Trump wants to empower local police to enforce immigration law, raising fears of racial profiling]


“Somebody needs to turn this ‘humanity’ switch on because we’re not going to go back to Robert E. Lee,” Camacho-Ali told lawmakers on Thursday (via USA Today), referring to the Confederate Civil War general.

“I believe they were religiously and racially profiling me,” her son added. “It’s wrong and we’re here to start this law called ERPA, it’s Ending Racial Profiling Act.”

————–

The new legislation touted by Ali was introduced in the Senate last month under the modified name “End Racial and Religious Profiling Act” by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). If passed, the act would prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement officers, which would include Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at airports, from detaining or otherwise targeting anyone based on race, religion and several other personal characteristics.

“We must step into the ring and fight this thing and keep fighting it until it’s done because it will be done,” said Camacho-Ali, who was married to the legendary boxer from 1967 to 1977.

Customs and Border Protection denied detaining Ali and his mother at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport on Feb. 7 after the pair had flown in from Jamaica, where Camucho-Ali had delivered a speech for Black History Month.

“CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” the agency said in an email to The Post last month. “We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity. Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.”

CBP declined to give a reason Ali and his mother were detained for further screening, citing “privacy concerns.” Mancini, however, claimed the detention was directly related to Trump’s original executive order that was later replaced.

“[I]t’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini told the Courier-Journal in Louisville, where the senior Ali was born and was buried in June.

“I felt just like I felt at my father’s funeral,” the younger Ali said Thursday of his roughly two-hour detention, during which he was allegedly asked about his religion twice. “I didn’t know what to think. I was just dumbfounded.”

Ali said CBP officers first asked him about his name and how he got it.

“I said obviously my mother and my father named me,” he told the panel at the forum called “Ali v. Trump: The Fight for American Values.”

He added: “I told them I was Muhammad Ali’s son, and I think they still didn’t believe me, so they took me into a room and asked me the questions again.”

Ali, whose mother by then had been allowed through customs, said he didn’t immediately connect his elongated detention to Trump’s executive order, but did later after further reflection.

“The reason God made us so different is so we can find something in common about each other and come together,” Ali said. “We need to step into the ring and join the fight for righteousness.”

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Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, a.k.a. “mostly the fun stuff.” Follow @marissapayne

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Preet Bharara ? @PreetBharara
I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY (Southern Distriictbof New York State) will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
March 12, 2017 9:29 PM – 11 Mar 2017

Trump asked most attorney generals to resign – those that honor themselves did not and preferred to be fired outright. That will be obvious – a dictatorship is in the making.
Trump says now he has asked Bharara to stay on as interim.

Preet Bharara, is among 46 US attorneys asked to quit but who declined to submit a letter of resignation.

 www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


BARD COLLEGE – MBA in Sustainability program


Visiting Lecturer Positions – Fall 2017

Bard College’s low-residency MBA in Sustainability program, based in New York City, has openings for visiting lecturers to teach the following courses in the fall semester of 2017:

· Operations and Supply Chains
· Leading Change in Organizations

Please follow the link www.bard.edu/mba/program/courses/ to learn more about their content. Professors modify the existing syllabi for these courses to reflect their area of expertise.

Bard’s MBA program is one of a select group of programs globally that fully integrates sustainability into a business curriculum. Courses address core MBA material through a mission-driven lens, supporting students to master the business case for sustainability.
Faculty members teach during intensive weekend residencies held once a month in Manhattan. In addition, they teach an online evening session each week between the monthly residencies. The low-residency format allows flexibility in residential location.

MBA faculty members are expected to have earned a Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A., M.P.A., or equivalent degree. Successful candidates will have an established record of excellence in teaching.

For more information about Bard’s MBA program, visit the MBA website www.bard.edu/mba

To apply, send a cover letter, CV, and names and contact information for three references through Interfolio.com at: apply.interfolio.com/40456. Applications will be reviewed as received.

Bard College is an equal opportunity employer, and we welcome applications from those who contribute to our diversity.

Eban Goodstein
Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy &
Director, Bard MBA in Sustainability
 www.bard.edu — www.bard.edu
845-758-7067
 ebangood at bard.edu

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Exxon eyes Israel after Cyprus win

 www.globes.co.il/en/article-exxon…

9 Mar, 2017 14:09
Nati Yefet

After winning a Cypriot government tender, Exxon Mobile has expressed interest in bidding for Israeli natural gas tenders.

Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz met last week with senior executives from Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell during his visit to the US. The minister’s associates say that while Royal Dutch Shell will probably not take part in the new tender for oil and gas exploration licenses in Israeli waters, the Exxon Mobil executives came equipped with a great deal of relevant information, and expressed interest in the tender.

The reason is allegedly the announcement two days ago that Exxon had won a tender for oil and gas exploration in Block 10 in Cyprus as part of a consortium with Qatar Petroleum. A group composed of Italian company ENI and Total, and ENI by itself, won the concession for two other blocks in the tender.

In a fourth block already held by Total, the company asked the Cypriot government for permission to add ENI as a 50% partner in the license, because the block is located only six kilometers away from the Egyptian Zohr gas reservoir discovered by ENI. Total expects ENI’s extensive knowledge of the geology in the area to be of use in finding gas in Cyprus.

Steinitz’s associates say that since Exxon is starting to prepare for activity in a nearby area, the company believes that it is likely to prove worthwhile to develop parallel activity in Israel, and to use the same transportation infrastructure to export gas discovered in both countries to Europe.

Steinetz went to Europe early this week, and flew from there to New York and Houston for a week of meetings with energy concerns. In Rome, he met with his Italian counterpart, and held meetings in New York with the Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan investments banks, as well as with a group of private investors organized by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). In Houston, he took part in the CERAweek energy conference, and held meetings with energy companies.

Steinitz told “Globes,” I was surprised to see energy ministers and representatives of energy companies from all over the world congratulate us on the beginning of development in Leviathan, after years of delay. Almost everyone had assumed that Leviathan was a lost cause… especially given the global crisis in investments in oil and gas fields and the fact that some of the deep water projects of the Leviathan type have been canceled or postponed in various places around the world.


“In meetings with some of the world’s largest investment banks, they noted the change in Israel’s image in the energy market, from a place to be avoided into a responsible country attractive for energy investments in general, and private gas in particular. The plans we displayed for building an undersea pipeline to Turkey, and from Israel and Cyprus to Greece and Italy, aroused a surprising degree of interest.”

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Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News – www.globes-online.com – on March 9, 2017
and appears in many Israeli publications, i.e. The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2017

SustainabiliTank, sorry for the Trump Administration’s definitive efforts to undo the Obama Administration’s great successes in decreasing the place of oil in the global energy markets,
sees now a decreasing importance of the EPA, Energy Policy, Environment Policy and Global Climate Change avoidance. But also a planed subservience of The State Department to the US oil Interests – the revival of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in the Governing of the USA.
Geting the present Israel Government interested in the cooperation in developing sea resources could perhaps take off some of the pressure in the political arena, though clearly inctreasing
pressure against the potential of an Iranian sea base on Syrian soil. All of this within Israel and US State Department attention.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Columbia Law School Climate Law Blog has posted a new item, ‘A Blow in the Fight
Against Climate Change: EPA Withdraws Oil and Gas Information Request’

By Michael Burger and Romany Webb

Less than a month after being sworn in as Administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt has already begun dismantling years of
work to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In one of his first official actions,
last Thursday, Administrator Pruitt withdrew a request that oil and gas
companies provide certain information needed to develop new methane regulations
for the industry. The request, which was issued last November, included an
operator survey seeking information on the number and types of equipment used at
onshore oil and gas facilities and a more detailed facility survey which sought
data on methane emissions from equipment leaks and other sources. The operator
survey was to be completed by 15,000 companies, while the facility survey was
sent to a representative sample of 4,650. Most hadn’t yet responded and now,
thanks to the withdrawal, won’t have to. As a result, EPA will remain largely
unaware of the companies’ methane emissions, making appropriate regulation of
them all but impossible. That’s bad news for anyone concerned about climate
change.

—————–

Those interested in the Global Environment and Climate Change will have thus to resort
to indeoendent means during these Trump years. An announcement of such developments
comes to us from Columbia University, New York, as well:

Columbia Law School Climate Law Blog has posted a new item, ‘Sabin Center and
New York State – StateAG.Org Launch Database of Environmental Actions Undertaken by State Attorneys General’

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has partnered with StateAG.org to
develop a database of actions undertaken by state attorneys general as they seek
to advance environmental law and policy objectives within their jurisdictions.

The State AG Environmental Action Database is intended as an easy-to-use and
organized legal resource for state attorneys general as they […]

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This week I got an e-mail from the Sierra Club titled – CAN HIKING HEAL? This was in my mind when visiting with the SPNI headquarters in Tel Aviv.

We all now about the APPALACHIAN TRAIL that was completed in 1937 as a sponsored work during the Great Depression years – it took more than a decade of work,

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The A.T. is about 2,200 miles long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. More than 2 million people are said to do at least one day-hike on the trail each year.

SPNI is the “Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel” – the counterpart of the American Sierra Club and they helped create THE ISRAEL TRAIL. Can this become a healing tool in the local political conflict? Will Arabs and Jews use this trail in harmony?

Given a map of this I.T. I decided to list its course.

Actually it was inaugurated in 1995, named Israel National Trail (INT) and stretches 620 mile. It starts at the Ussishkin House in the Upper Galilee – Named for Menachem Ussishkin, a Zionist leader from Russia, the house is an SPNI museum and starting point for hikes.

From there the trail goes south close to Kefar Giladi, Kiriath Schmone, Baram, Miron,towards the the Kineret Sea. Passes Tveria and bends westwards avoiding the West Bank and aiming rather towards Nazareth and Shfaram with their Israeli Arab citizenry. From there through Yagur and Druze Ussefia towards the Nediterranean Sea Shore at Ein Hod, Zichron Yaakov, Binjamina, Caesarea, Hadera, Netania, towards North of Tel Aviv where it turns inland towards Petach Tikva. from there South-East inside the 1967 borders Schoresh and Beit Zait without reaching Jerusalem. Rounding back South West outside the Southern part of the West Bank.
The trail reaches Beit Gobrin and rounding towards Arad. From here it changes direction southwards through the Negev and ends at a border crossing to Egypt south of Eilat.
Hopefully some day it will link with an extension into the Sinai Peninsula and its mountainous areas – a complete culture and nature trail.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Iceland to Private Sector: You WILL Pay Women Fairly

March, 9, 2017

Iceland’s government is set to introduce legislation to parliament that will require all employers with more than 25 employees to obtain certification to prove they are offering equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality, the Associated Press reports.

“While other countries, and the U.S. state of Minnesota, have equal-salary certificate policies, Iceland is thought to be the first to make it mandatory for both private and public firms. The North Atlantic island nation, which has a population of about 330,000, wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022,” AP says.

— Rich country progress flatlining. The trend of improving conditions for working women has flatlined within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in recent years, The Economist reports.

“In 2005, 60% of women were in the labor force; ten years later, this ratio had edged up only slightly to 63% (it was 80% for men in both years),” The Economist writes. Meanwhile, the gender wage gap “still around 15%, meaning women as a group earn 85% of what men do.”

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In New York City, New York, USA, the police arrested women leaders of the International Womens’ Day.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ben Gurion died at 87 on December 1, 1973. Upon his final retirement he said that he will write his biography as a history of his time but he never finished that task. His wife Paula died four years before him and he said he felt like a half man.

Recently, in two separate places, were found the video and the audio tape of an interview by a British media person after his wife’s death. When the video and the audio were put together it became clear that excellent material was there for a documentary film on that amazing small but great man.

Ben Gurion was born October 16, 1886, as David Gruen in Plonsk – a basically small town in then Congress Poland that was part of the Tsarist Empire. The people there were dreaming about the Israel of old – in what was called Palestine. When Herzl came to town he was greeted as if the Messiah arrived.

David reached Palestine first time in 1915 and started out as an agricultural laborer. Jewish farmers came to check the muscles of the offerings.His personal development took time but eventually we see him sitting down with Adenauer, when against the will of many of his followers he accepted reparations for the Holocaust. Ben Gurion realized the young new State needs help and Germany provided training for 5,000 Israeli military personnel and scientists to start the nuclear sector.

Ben Gurion brought together philosopher-giants Hugo Bergman, Martin Buber and others, as the State he envisioned was not to be based on the military but on Judaism, humanism, and democracy. He said that the greatest Jew we had was Moshe (Moses)

Ben Gurion does not define himself as a Zionist and definitely not as a Socialist – he accepts plain Judaism as it appears in the Bible and promoted by the prophets.
It is just simple humanism that comes about from deep thinking or meditation.

He has studied Buddhism but finds greatness not in the thinking but in the doing -and realizing what one finds best in himself. The interviewer wanted to know about the “I” and if one has to rid himself of that “I?” Ben Gurion says to him that the “I” is not the question but the quality of the “I.” Is it an “I” of selfishness, or an “I” of humanity. Buddha was preaching 500 years before Christ and the Bible is not just about Jews.

The people that came to Palestine were looking for peace but to achieve this had to have the capability for wa,r and it was Hashomer active since 1870 that showed the way.

For Israel, with people from many different countries, the army was the best place to bring people together.

Asked if there are things he has done that he is sorry about. He said that you can never know you are not making mistakes – I did things I thought had to be done – so I was at peace with myself.

Asked that most countries that were created after WWII failed as democracies, can Israel continue to be democratic? He said that if the question is peace or territory – he is for peace. And here, though he has no doubt that old Israel gives his country the right for all the territory from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea – he was ready gladly to give up all those lands gained in the Six Days War in exchange for peace. He said then clearly – WE ARE PLEASED WITH THE 1967 BORDERS IN EXCHANGE FOR PEACE.

We want peace on the basis of the Status Quo pre-1967. And here the tape has a series of meetings Ben Gurion had with Musa Alami whom he knew for 40 years
when they represented the two main factions of the land. Now he received phone calls from Mussa Alami when on a trip in London. This part touched memories with me as well as in Buffalo, New York, at the State University I befriended an Alami from that family from the Old City in Jerusalem, and when I went to Jerusalem, but he could not go, after the end of the 1967 fighting, his parents and sister came to see me in the West Jerusalem to send with me some goodies for their son. No doubt, sane people can find ways to coexist

Asked what would he have done after 1967. Ben Gurion said, had he been asked he would have presented his views.

At 85 Ben Gurion was celebrated by the Knesset and the interviewer asked him if he was pleased with what he has done – to which he said it was not him – it was the Halutzim that had the vision. He knows only one person who has done everything by himself – that was Albert Einstein when he invented the theory of Relativity. Everybody else had to work with a group. I never guided Israel – The State does not exist yet!

Regarding his wife Paula, he said she was no zionist nor Socialist, she just followed him to Palestine. Later she said she was not the Prime-Minister’s wife – only the Wife of David Ben Gurion.

David said when the talk was about his age – I was reborn when I came to Israel from New York in 1919 followed by Paula – a new man – so, he was much younger.

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Musa Alami (May 3, 1897 – June 8, 1984) (Arabic: Müsa al-‘Al?mi) was a prominent Palestinian nationalist and politician. Due to Alami having represented Palestine at various Arab conferences, in the 1940s Alami was viewed by many as the leader of the Palestinian Arabs.

Alami was born in the Musrara district of Jerusalem, into a prominent family. His father was Mayor of Jerusalem Faidi al-Alami, his sister was married to Jamal al-Hussayni and he was the uncle of Serene Husseini Shahid.

He was first taught at the school of the American Colony and at the French Ecole des Freres in Jaffa. During World War I Alami worked at the censorship office in Damascus. Alami retained a positive view of the Ottoman empire; recalling that the Arabs regarded the Turks as partners rather than oppressors, and above all: Palestine was largely ruled by Palestinian officials. Alami claimed that “a greater degree of freedom and self-government existed in Palestine than in many Turkish provinces”.

Later he studied law at Cambridge University and was admitted to the Inner Temple and graduated with honors degree.

Upon his return to Jerusalem, Musa Alami worked for the legal department of the government of the British Mandate of Palestine and eventually became the private secretary of the High Commissioner General Arthur Grenfell Wauchope. In 1934, Alami participated in talks with the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. According to Ben-Gurion, he suggested that the Zionists could provide significant help developing the region, but according to Ben-Gurion, Alami replied that he would prefer waiting one hundred years and leaving the land backward, as long as the Palestinians could do the job themselves.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The week of Purim – Is Netanyahu now a link to Putin, is Trump just trying to help a friend in trouble or was it a warning call?

Netanyahu is being interrogated at his office in Jerusalem the fourth time on several counts of suspected corruption. These interrogations go on for 5 hours each time.

This Monday the phone rang during the questioning and it was a call from Trump. It was said to the public that Trump informs him that Iran or North Korea launched a new missile and Trump wants Israel’s help. Will be the Israeli Attorney General impressed?

In parallel, it was already known since Sunday that this Friday, Netanyahu will have lunch with Putin in Moscow. The topic of discussion will be the presence of Iranian units
on Syrian soil. Will Netanyahu and his wife stay in Moscow over the Sabbath? Then they could have the chance to read the Esther Megilla at the local Temple, as Ivanka Trump and her husband will probably be doing in Florida. May be even Trump.

But the New York Times has a different idea about what Trump had to say to Netanyahu.
Supposedly he wanted just to say cool it with that construction project on those hills.

Israel Cabinet Minister of Defense, who went to Washington sensing a hurt Netanyahu,
told Lebanon not to join the Iranian side and told the Cabinet that it would be a big mistake to take over another 2 million more Arabs as part of Israel’s citizenry, this just because it would cost billions to give them full rights. That neatly lines up with Trump.

We think rather – Trump might have given to Netanyahu some advice from Tillerson on gas pipelines and the gas market – something of interest to all involved

Have a nice flight and a good weekend!

————

Throughout the centuries, Purim – which celebrates the miraculous salvation of the Jews and the thwarting of Haman’s genocidal plot – has traditionally symbolized the victory of the Jewish people over antisemitic tyranny. As such, Purim is a happy, carnival-like holiday.


The Fast of Esther

The day before Purim is a fast day known as the Fast of Esther, commemorating (inter alia) the fact that Queen Esther – the heroine of the Book of Esther – and the entire Persian Jewish community fasted (4:16) in advance of Queen Esther’s appeal for King Ahasuerus not to implement Haman’s genocidal plot. The fast will extend from before sunrise in the morning until sunset. Special prayers and scriptural readings are inserted into the synagogue service.

The Megilla
The pergament on which all of this was recorded.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From FAREED ZAKARIA’S Daily Briefing for Tuesday March 7, 2017


“Eurodeterrent” is Going Mainstream

Some European officials are mulling something that until recently had seemed unthinkable – a European Union nuclear weapons program, writes Max Fisher in the New York Times.

“Analysts say that the talk, even if it never translates into action, demonstrates the growing sense in Europe that drastic steps may be necessary to protect the postwar order in the era of a Trump presidency, a resurgent Russia and the possibility of an alignment between the two,” Fisher writes. “Even proponents, who remain a minority, acknowledge enormous hurdles. But discussion of a so-called ‘Eurodeterrent’ has entered the mainstream…”

“Mist of Fear” in Turkey
Opposition voices in Turkey should be given the same kind of support that the West offered dissidents speaking up in the Soviet Union, suggests Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian.

“To travel to Turkey today is to journey into darkness: tens of thousands of state employees and thousands of academics dismissed, more journalists locked up than in any other country, and a chilly mist of fear.”


China Eyeing Up America’s Backyard?

China is poised to step into the void being left by the Trump administration in America’s own backyard, writes Kevin Gallagher in Foreign Policy.

Latin American nations “are understandably wary of negotiating anything with a government that has denigrated them and called their citizens ‘bad hombres’ and worse,” Gallagher writes. “Enter China, which just days after the election released a new white paper calling Latin America and the Caribbean a ‘land of vitality and hope.’ The plan promises to implement earlier pledges of trade and investment, but without the U.S.-strings attached in terms of deregulation and name-calling.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ten ways Donald Trump has already made America – and the world – great again.

He’s invigorated the left, revitalized journalism and sparked a great wave of local patriotism all across the world.

An Analysis by Chemi Shalev, an HAARETZ Correspondent.
The Haaretz, Israel, English edition – Monday, March 6, 2017

People complain that Donald Trump overstates his accomplishments. I beg to differ. Not everything is doom and gloom. In less than two months, Trump’s presidency has already sparked a profound and mostly positive revolution all across America, as well as the world. Here are the top 10 ways he’s done so.

1. He’s made people aware just how fragile and vulnerable America’s constitutional freedoms can be. Hitherto taken for granted, many Americans are increasingly appreciative of the Bill of Rights, Constitutional checks and balances, freedom of speech, protection of minorities etc. The more Trump seems blasé about such historical protections, the more people are galvanized to fight for their continued survival.

2. Trump has injected new life into the American left, recreating the kind of energy that helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. He’s resuscitated a resolve to resist and protest rarely seen since the days of the battle against the war in Vietnam.
Inspired by their disgust with Trump, millions of Americans have taken to the streets to voice their protests, thousands are flocking to town halls to spar with Republicans, and scores are choosing to volunteer, organize communities or contemplate a career in politics. After many years in which the right seemed to enjoy a monopoly on motivation and vitality, the tables seem to be turning.

3. Trump has shaken the Jewish community to its core, sparking an evolution that is too early to decipher. Feeling under threat, Jewish communities are coming together, while the Jewish establishment, with few exceptions, is under harsh scrutiny for what is perceived as its tepid response to what is also perceived as Trump’s complicity in the rising tide of anti-Semitism.
At the same time, Israel’s decision to align itself with Trump at a time when he is deeply unpopular with most Jews cannot but influence the future ties between the Jewish state and the largest Jewish diaspora. The jury is still out on where things will go, but the shake-up of the status quo was long overdue.

4. Trump is a catalyzer for solidarity and brotherhood. He has given many leftists, including this one, renewed respect and admiration for right-wing pundits and politicians who have bravely stayed true to their consciences and have continued to resist Trump, despite pressures to conform.
By the same token, Trump has brought together, at least momentarily, hitherto estranged Jewish groups from the right and the left, such as in their united response to the White House’s refusal to mention Jews in its Holocaust Day statement. And he’s definitely removed fences between Jewish and Muslim communities that share their fears and apprehensions and offer mutual support, as each becomes the target of attacks by haters. 

5. For the free press and for the journalistic profession, Trump has proven to be nothing less than a miracle worker. He’s given new glamor to investigative reporting just as it seemed to be losing its allure, as well as its funding. Trump has reawakened scores of hitherto lifeless and uninspired reporters who are now hungry for scoops and exposes and lusting for the one defining story that will bring Trump down and gain them immortality.
He’s recreated the great newspaper rivalries of yore, especially the New York Times and the Washington Post. And he’s certainly generated a great infusion of desperately needed financial relief to beleaguered news networks, whose ratings and advertising revenues have soared, as well as print and especially digital news organizations, which are collecting new subscriptions and benevolent monetary contributions like never before.

6. Trump has revitalized the careers of late night shows, hosts and comedians, including Saturday Night Live, Samantha Bee and The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, providing them with endless streams of solid material to bite into. 
Most satisfactorily, for this writer at least, Trump has saved Stephen Colbert from slowly suffocating in the previously unbearable nothingness of late night puff interviews. Millions of fans that have been mourning the demise of The Colbert Report have now been rewarded with a Lazarus-like comeback of Colbert’s biting humor and scathing sarcasm. Trump has restored their faith in humanity.

7. Trump has done wonders to generate new support for the much-maligned Affordable Care Act and renewed respect for its creator, Barack Obama. He’s definitely worked miracles in rehabilitating the image of past presidents, especially George W Bush. The 43rd president is now perceived, even by some of his strongest detractors, as a model of fairness, humility and judiciousness (compared to the present occupant of the White House, at least).
And while Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t done himself any favors by slobbering over the new U.S. president, Trump’s magic touch is so powerful that even though they essentially promote the same policies and values, Netanyahu still seems far more polished and restrained today than he did only a few months ago.

8. Trump has exposed the American right wing’s most significant feature: rank hypocrisy. Moralistic Evangelicals suddenly cheer a pussy-grapping Chief Executive; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks holding up Supreme Court picks is abominable; Republican lawmakers see positive points in ObamaCare that should be preserved; Fox News, it turns out, is far less enthusiastic about dealing with questionable military operations like the one carried out in Yemen in late January than it was in obsessively dissecting Benghazi, even when everything had been said about it four times over.
And the granddaddy of them all, of course, is Vladimir Putin, the once reviled dictator heading the Evil Empire who is now revered in some conservative circles as an improved role model that combines the best of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Andrew Jackson put together.

9. Trump has cured many people around the world of any inferiority complexes they may have had toward America by proving that the U.S. can be just as stupid, reactionary and retrograde as anyone else. In the future this could pave the way to healthier relations for the U.S., as people stop being jealous of American superiority and resentful of American exceptionalism.
Dictators and other supporters of repression will no longer be rankled by America’s presumptuous preaching on human rights and the rule of law. Under Trump, America no longer cares what other people do, as long as they don’t do it in or against America.

10. Finally, as a direct consequence, Trump has sparked a new wave of patriotism all across the globe as people come to appreciate what they have at home more than ever before. He’s enhanced the stature of politicians who were once considered average and increased respect for the hitherto undervalued boring and mediocre.
Trump has also done wonders to renew esteem for international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union, as well as concern for their future. In fact, for many people, Trump is now like a moral beacon, only in reverse. The new global rule of thumb, which Trump has succeeded in instilling in an amazingly short time, is simple: If Trump’s against something, you know it’s good, and if he’s for something, you know it must be bad

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ALSO:

AMERICA’S POLITICAL REVIVAL

by Timothy Egan,
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Monday March 6, 2017, The Opinion Page

My friend Sam laughed when I told him I was going to spend my Saturday at a “Search for Meaning” festival at a Jesuit college in the heart of seriously secular Seattle. He assumed, as I did, that a bare handful of the usual search-for-meaning suspects would be straining minutiae while still clinging to the meaninglessness of it all.

But nooooo — all the keynote events at Seattle University were completely sold out. In the winter of the American soul, people thronged to hear advice on how to “live a life of significance and impact” and to “find meaning in times of change, challenge and chaos.”

I credit President Trump. Not because he seems any more evolved than the first earthworms now appearing in the cold soil of my garden. But because the threats to truth, civility, rational thought and brotherly love coming from the White House have prompted a huge counterreaction.

It’s early, but we may be experiencing a great awakening for the humane values that are under siege by a dark-side presidency. People are going inward, to find something bigger than Trump, and outward, to limit the damage he inflicts on the country.


Trump has been good — indirectly — for a free press, an independent judiciary, high school civics, grass-roots political activity, cautionary tales in literature and theater, and spirituality. You don’t know what you’ve got, as the song says, till it’s gone — or nearly so.

Face it: We have become a lazy, aging, fairly ignorant democracy. Even in the most turbulent election in modern history, about 90 million eligible voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot — the basic task of citizenship. Trump took his 46 percent of those who did vote, many of whom believe fake-moon-landing-level lies, and has tried to act like the earth moved, as he said on Tuesday. It did, but not in the ways that he meant it.

It would be immodest, even overtly Trumpian, to boast about the huge circulation gains at the not-failing New York Times, or the robust support for our competitors, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. But let’s just say having a man who told an average of four false or misleading statements a day for the first month of his presidency has been good for those the president calls enemies of the people.

It’s the same story at NPR, where the number of listeners reached new heights during and after Trump’s election. “These increases confirm that there is a real appetite for factual reporting,” said Jarl Mohn, NPR’s president and C.E.O., in a release last fall. No kidding, Sherlock.

A collateral benefit has gone to comedy. Laughter is one of the best weapons in dangerous times. Trump told his lap dog, Fox News, that “Saturday Night Live” was “a failing show, it’s not funny, Alec Baldwin’s a disaster.” In fact, “S.N.L.” has had some of its best ratings in nearly a quarter century. More Trump than Trump, Baldwin is anything but a disaster. And Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” has also taken off, since he took off the gloves.

The hottest book of the Trump era, George Orwell’s “1984,” is headed for Broadway. “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” Orwell wrote, with chilling prescience. Also sailing out of bookstores: Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and my personal favorite, Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America.”

Trump fright has produced a deep dive into history. Millions now know that “enemy of the people” was a Soviet-era threat used by Stalinist thugs. And “America First,” Trump’s governing theme, was a slogan of Nazi sympathizers in the United States just before World War II.

Which brings us to civics. One of the great failures of late has been the diminishment of this vital owner’s manual for citizenship. Only 23 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficiency in civics in a survey last year. Almost two-thirds of adults cannot name all three branches of government.

But now students are clamoring to talk about government and politics. The kids are demanding that their teachers do something to prevent another generation of politically illiterate citizens from coming of age. They are also marching in the street, along with their parents, who have already pulled off one of the largest political demonstrations in American history.

As for the spiritual revival, the evidence is somewhat anecdotal. We know that Trump-induced stress has spiked. As a response, many people are looking for larger meaning in their lives — or at least a psychological shelter from the storm. In a way, this echoes the first of two earlier Great Awakenings.

In stepping on American values, Trump has prompted people to find out more about those values, and ultimately to defend them. The high to his low is an unexpected renaissance.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


FBI asked Justice Department to refute Trump’s wiretapping claim.

By Shimon Prokupecz and Jeremy Diamond, CNN, March 4, 2017

(CNN) The FBI asked the Justice Department on Saturday to refute President Donald Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump’s phones last year, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

The FBI made the request because such wiretapping would be illegal, since the President cannot just order the eavesdropping of a U.S. citizen’s phones, the sources said. A court would have to approve any request to wiretap.

The sources would not say who was involved in the conversations between the FBI and DOJ or what role FBI Director James Comey might have played.

One of the sources said instead of the FBI saying something publicly about the allegations, it was felt it would be more appropriate to ask the Justice Department since the bureau as a policy does not confirm or deny investigations.

The source said it was also felt it would be more appropriate politically to handle this through the Justice Department since Justice officials are freer to talk about such matters with the White House. Before any possible rebuke, it would be expected some conversations with the White House would need to take place.

So far, the Justice Department has not said anything in reaction to Trump’s tweets on Saturday, in which he made the wiretapping allegations.

Asked about the FBI request, a Justice Department spokesman said he had no comment. The FBI refused comment as well.

The New York Times first reported that the FBI asked the Justice Department to refute Trump’s wiretapping claim.

Trump’s aides asked Congress on Sunday to look into whether the Obama administration abused its investigative powers during the 2016 election. The move comes a day after Trump posted a series of tweets alleging, without presenting any evidence, that Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower in the weeks leading up to the November election.

“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement Sunday morning, which he also posted on Twitter. “President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.

“Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted,” Spicer added. He did not provide any further details on the President’s request to Congress.

While Spicer said “reports” prompted the call for a congressional investigation, the White House still has not provided any evidence to back up the President’s accusations. There are no publicly known credible reports to back up Trump’s claim that Obama ordered Trump’s phones be monitored.

Frustrated that the Russia stories have overshadowed a widely praised performance in his joint address to Congress on Tuesday, Trump angrily raised the wiretapping issue unprompted in conversations with friends and acquaintances at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, two people who have spoken with him at his Palm Beach resort said on Sunday. The President didn’t specify what information he was basing his accusations upon, but told them he expected an investigation to prove him right.

Multiple former senior US officials have dismissed Trump’s allegations, however, calling them “nonsense” and “false.” Obama, through a spokesman, also rejected the claim that he ordered Trump’s phones tapped.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a career intelligence official who had oversight of the US intelligence community in that role, said Sunday that Trump was not wiretapped by intelligence agencies nor did the FBI obtain a court order through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Trump’s phones.

“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign,” Clapper said Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Also:


White House calls for probe of Trump’s unproved claims as Obama spy official denies wiretapping

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer referred to “potentially politically motivated investigations” without providing evidence. Former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, outright denied allegations that wiretaps were authorized against Donald Trump or his campaign during the Obama administration.

THE WASHINGTON POST
By Abby Phillip and Ellen Nakashima

FBI Director James B. Comey asked the Justice Department this weekend to issue a statement refuting President Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump’s phones before the election, according to U.S. officials, but the department did not do so.

Comey made the request Saturday after Trump accused Obama on Twitter of having his “ ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.” The White House expanded on Trump’s comments Sunday with a call for a congressional probe of his allegations.

The revelation, first reported by the New York Times, underscores the fraught nature of the FBI’s high-profile investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A key question fueling that inquiry is whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials to help Trump win.

Neither Justice nor the FBI would comment Sunday.

The development came as Trump’s charge against Obama — leveled without any evidence — was being rebuffed both inside and outside of the executive branch. It drew a blunt, on-the-record denial by a top intelligence official who served in the Obama administration.

Speaking on NBC News on Sunday morning, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. denied that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap was authorized against Trump or the campaign during his tenure.

“There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign,” Clapper said on “Meet the Press,” adding that he would “absolutely” have been informed if the FBI had received a FISA warrant against either.

“I can deny it,” Clapper said emphatically.

In his claims early Saturday morning, the president tweeted that he “just found out” that Obama had “my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” before the election. Trump compared the alleged action to “McCarthyism.”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election?” Trump asked in another tweet. “Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

By Sunday morning, the White House doubled down on Trump’s explosive tweet storm and called for the congressional probe.

[Trump, citing no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower]

Current and former government officials said such surveillance would not have been approved by any senior Justice official in the Obama administration. And Trump’s allegation raised hackles in the FBI leadership, implying as it did that the bureau may have acted illegally to wiretap a presidential candidate without probable cause that he was an “agent of a foreign power,” as the foreign intelligence surveillance law requires.

“This is Nixon/Watergate,” Trump tweeted Saturday.

A spokesman for Obama countered several hours later that the former president never authorized a wiretap of Trump or any other American citizen. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” the spokesman said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Sunday cited “reports” of “potentially politically motivated investigations” during the 2016 campaign, calling them “troubling.” But none of the media reports cited by the White House provides evidence of a politically motivated surveillance effort against Trump.

“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” Spicer said. “Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted,” the statement added.

10 reactions to Trump’s wiretapping allegations against Obama Play Video2:38
Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. on March 5 denied that President Trump’s 2016 campaign was wiretapped while senators of both parties weighed in on the allegations. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
Congressional committees in both the House and the Senate are probing not just suspected Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election but any contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Comey’s request is sure to raise eyebrows in light of his actions last year in the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

In July he held a news conference — without telling the Justice Department what he would say — to announce that the bureau had concluded Clinton did not commit a prosecutable offense. Then, 11 days before the election, Comey wrote Congress despite warnings from senior Justice officials that doing so would violate department policy and said the FBI was examining new emails that had come to light. Nothing came of the bureau’s additional review, but Comey took heat for his actions, which Democrats say influenced the outcome of the election.

It is not clear why Comey, who is the senior-most law enforcement officer who has been overseeing the FBI investigation from its inception in the Obama administration, did not himself issue a statement to refute Trump’s claims. Nor is it clear to whom he made his request. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last week from all investigative matters related to the Trump campaign and any potential Russia links. The acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, a career federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia, is now overseeing the probe.

Trump’s tweets early Saturday may have been prompted by the comments of a conservative radio host, which were summarized in an article on the conservative website Breitbart. The Breitbart story circulated among Trump’s senior aides on Friday.

The White House’s escalation of Trump’s claims were kept at arm’s length by congressional Republicans appearing on Sunday morning news broadcasts.

When asked about Trump’s allegations, Senate Intelligence Committee member Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) declined to comment on the tweets but said he has “seen no evidence of the allegations.”

“Whether that’s a FISA court application or denial of that application or a re-submission of that application, that doesn’t mean that none of these things happened. It just means we haven’t seen that yet,” Cotton added, speaking on “Fox News Sunday.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he is not aware of evidence to back up the president’s claim. “I have no insight into exactly what he’s referring to,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “The president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer for exactly what he was referring to.”

Obama’s allies were more blunt, denying flatly that the former president had ordered a wiretap of Trump’s campaign.

“This may come as a surprise to the current occupant of the Oval Office, but the president of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of American citizens,” said former Obama White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told “Meet the Press” that Trump is “in trouble” and acting “beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

“The president’s in trouble if he falsely spread this kind of information,” Schumer said. “It shows this president doesn’t know how to conduct himself.”

Earnest added that Trump was attempting to distract from the controversy involving contacts between his campaign aides, including now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Russian officials.

“We know exactly why president Trump tweeted what he tweeted,” Earnest added. “Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook, and that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from a scandal. And the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”

[The one big question Jeff Sessions still hasn’t answered]

But appearing on ABCs “This Week,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly said that the president’s allegation was worth looking into.

“He’s asking that we get down to the bottom of this, let’s get the truth here, let’s find out,” Huckabee Sanders said. “I think the bigger story isn’t who reported it, but is it true. And I think the American people have a right to know if this happened, because if it did, again, this is the largest abuse of power that, I think, we have ever seen.”

Asked whether Trump truly believes Obama wiretapped him, Huckabee Sanders deflected.

“I would say that his tweet speaks for itself there,” she said.

Clapper’s comments referred only to whether Trump campaign officials had been wiretapped. But their conversations could also have been captured by routine surveillance of Russian diplomats or intelligence operatives.

U.S. monitoring of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, for example, caught his conversations with Trump adviser Michael Flynn during the campaign. Flynn went on to become Trump’s national security adviser, but he was forced to resign last month after admitting that he had misled other senior Trump officials about the nature of those conversations.

The FBI and the National Security Agency also have obtained intercepted communications among Russians officials in which they refer to conversations with members of the Trump team, current and former U.S. officials have said.

On the broader question of apparent Russian interference in the 2016 election, Clapper urged congressional investigators to attempt to settle the issue, which he said has become a “distraction” in the political sphere.

The intelligence community found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government — at least until the end of the Obama administration, he said Sunday.

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“We had no evidence of such collusion,” he said on “Meet the Press.” But Clapper added a caveat: “This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left government.”

Whether there was any collusion is a key question fueling a wide-ranging federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Jan. 6, the U.S. spy agencies collectively released a report concluding that Russia carried out cyberhacks and other “active measures” with an intent to help Trump and harm the campaign and potential presidency of Hillary Clinton. The report, Clapper pointed out, included “no evidence” of collusion with the Trump campaign.

But the investigation by the FBI, the NSA and the CIA continues. The Senate and House intelligence committees also are conducting investigations.

Aaron Blake, Greg Jaffe, Robert Costa, Sari Horwitz, Greg Miller and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

See what President Trump has been doing since taking office
The beginning of his term has featured controversial executive orders and frequent conflicts with the media.

Abby Phillip is a national political reporter covering the White House for The Washington Post. She can be reached at  abby.phillip at washpost.com. Follow @abbydphillip
Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She focuses on issues relating to intelligence, technology and civil liberties. Follow @nakashimae

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