ThinkProgress - Medium
Republican Congressional candidate allegedly body slams reporter
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

He was enraged after being asked a question about health care.

Republican Greg Gianforte, right, welcomes Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, onto the stage at a rally in East Helena, Mont., Thursday, May 11, 2017. Trump Jr. urged voters to support Gianforte in the May 25 special U.S. House election to fill the seat of Ryan Zinke, now President Donald Trump’s Interior secretary. CREDIT: AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan

A Republican Congressional candidate running for a special election in Montana allegedly body-slammed a reporter for asking him a question about health care.

Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said that candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed him, breaking his glasses. Audio of the incident released by the Guardian appears to substantiate Jacobs account.

On the audio recording, Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte if he supported Trumpcare in light of the latest CBO score. Gianforte initially demurs, saying he would talk about it later. When Jacobs presses for an answer, Gianforte becomes enraged. There is loud banging and Gianforte says, “I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy who came in here did the same thing!”

“You just body slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacob says. “Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte replies.

A BuzzFeed reporter witnessed some of the event from the room next door and backed up Jacobs’ account. She told her story to Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

Gianforte later released a statement painting Jacobs as the aggressor.

Police arrived on the scene and were taking witness statements. Jacobs was treated in an ambulance.

Election day in Montana is tomorrow.

Republican Congressional candidate allegedly body slams reporter was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

‘New’ health care bill spells disaster for sick, according to CBO report
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

Millions more uninsured and rising costs for the sick and elderly.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. takes questions from reporters at the Republican National Committee Headquarters in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

The CBO report on the House Republicans’ health care bill was released on Wednesday. If passed, the American Health Care Act would leave 23 million additional people uninsured and increase costs for the sickest and oldest Americans.

This version of the bill reduces the deficit even less than the last one, according to the CBO, with a net reduction of $119 billion in the deficit over that period—$32 million worse for the deficit.

Under this legislation, in 2026, the CBO estimates 51 million people under the age of 65 would be uninsured compared to 28 million under the ACA. The report found that even though the bill includes funding to help people with pre-existing conditions afford coverage, people who are less healthy would be unable to buy individual policies.

Under this bill, there would be wide latitude for states to make decisions about which features they would require health plans to offer. For states that decided to waive a requirement that plans have to provide “essential health benefits,” a signature feature of Obamacare, premiums would decline on average. But for many people, out-of-pocket spending on those essential benefits, including maternity care, mental health, and treatment for substance abuse or addiction, “could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year.”

Non-group insurance markets would “continue to be stable” in many parts of the country, according to the report, but uncertainty about implementation of the law could cause insurers to flee the markets. Still, many areas of the country — one-sixth of the population lives— would become unstable in 2020 because of market responses to states that waived the community ratings and essential health benefits provision.

Tax cuts disguised as health care

Jacob Leibenluft, senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the major takeaway from the CBO score is that Republicans’ talking points don’t hold up. AHCA supporters still claim that the waivers wouldn’t harm anyone who needed essential health benefits or anyone with preexisting conditions, but this bill doesn’t bear that out.

“What the changes of bills have effectively done is resulted in system where sicker and older people are even worse off in terms of how much they would pay and quality of insurance coverage they would get.” Leibenluft said. Those changes would do little to boost overall coverage numbers, either.

“I think what that points to is how deeply unfixable the basic structure is. The problem is they’re pursuing hundreds of billions in tax cuts in a bill that needs to reduce deficit and that requires deep cuts to health coverage. And it’s not possible to undo those cuts to coverage while maintaining that basic structure.”

Fundamentally, the bill’s failures come down to allowing states to waive essential protections the ACA put in place: No matter what approach states took to waivers, people’s health care coverage would adversely affected.

“It’s just a matter of how you distribute the pain,” Leibenluft said.

The last CBO score, released on March 13, found that 24 million more people would go uninsured by 2026 if Trumpcare became law. The report found that the largest reduction in outlays would come from changes to Medicaid — a reduction of $880 billion — and elimination of ACA subsidies for non-group health insurance. Premiums would climb in 2018 and 2019, then start to decrease in 2020. However, older people would still pay higher premiums.

Republicans have repeatedly downplayed the importance, and at times, accuracy, of the CBO score. After the CBO released its first analysis of the bill, Republicans added two amendments to the bill that would significantly change it by adding billions more in funding and gutting protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Nonetheless, House Speaker Paul Ryan decided not wait for a new CBO analysis before scheduling a vote last month. The bill barely squeaked through the House.

Ryan’s decision resulted in criticism from Democrats and nonpartisan policy experts. The former director of the CBO, Douglas Elmendorf, said it was a “terrible mistake” for House Republicans to vote on the bill without a CBO score because they had no idea what effects the legislation would have on people’s access to health care.

Republicans responded by saying that the CBO shouldn’t have to repeatedly score the bill, even after significant changes, and suggesting that people do the math themselves to find out what the results would be. On May 7, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on ABC’s This Week, “A three-page amendment is not going to dramatically alter that bill. It does a narrow change to the bill.”

On Wednesday afternoon, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, (R-LA) told the Washington Examiner that he doesn’t see any reason for the House to take a second vote. He also said he was ready to “debunk” the most recent CBO score.

But there were two amendments that weren’t scored: the Upton Amendment and MacArthur Amendment. The MacArthur Amendment allows states to opt out of community ratings — which help people with pre-existing conditions afford coverage — and the essential health benefits requirement, which ensures plans cover things like prescription drugs, maternity care, and substance use treatment. The Upton Amendment would provide $8 billion in funding over five years to help subsidize expensive insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. Some health care experts have said that $8 billion is not nearly enough to address the needs of people with pre-existing conditions.

Still, Republicans needed the right kind of CBO score before the bill can move forward, because they’re hoping it will pass the Senate through budget reconciliation, a parliamentary maneuver doesn’t allow Democrats the opportunity to filibuster. But in order to qualify for reconciliation, the bill needed to include at least $2 billion in savings as certified by the CBO.

The Upton amendment complicated things by adding billions in spending to the bill. The MacArthur Amendment could also have proven costly because it’s possible that after states waive regulations, people would sign up for cheaper health care plans with less coverage, and that the government would have to increase the amount it spends on tax credits to help people afford higher premiums.

‘New’ health care bill spells disaster for sick, according to CBO report was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

USA Today’s embarrassing, deceptive reporting on Trumpcare
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

How not to do journalism.

Wednesday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released an absolutely brutal report quantifying the consequences of the massive health care bill that recently passed by the House of Representatives. Among other things, the report concludes that “the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026.”

That’s right, 23 million people will lose health coverage under Trumpcare.

Here’s how USA Today decided to cover this news:

USA Today’s tweet, which also tracks a breaking news alert that appeared at the top of its website, is literally true. A previous CBO report found that an earlier version of Trumpcare would strip 24 million people of health insurance by 2026 — slightly more than the current version.

But USA Today’s take on the CBO report is also a case study in how media can mislead its audience without actually making any factually untrue statements.

Though this reality may sometimes be lost on reporters who are immersed in national political debates, most Americans don’t actually keep track of the latest twists and turns arising from the Congressional Budget Office. Outside of a small number of hyper-engaged individuals, very few voters will remember that, more than two months ago, CBO found that 24 million people will lose coverage under Trumpcare.

But many readers likely encountered CBO’s tweet and were left with the false impression that repealing Obamacare would increase the number of people with health coverage.

Moreover, while CBO did find that the latest version of Trumpcare will lead to slightly fewer Americans losing health coverage in total, it also explains that much of this burden is likely to be distributed to the most vulnerable Americans — and that these vulnerable Americans will carry this burden thanks to provisions added to the bill since the previous CBO report.

The latest version of Trumpcare allows states to seek waivers that will make it easier for insurers to deny coverage to many people with preexisting conditions. As a result of these waivers, “it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions)” in many states “to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”

Taken as a whole, in other words, the CBO’s latest report suggests that Trumpcare 2.0 will have harsher consequences than Trumpcare 1.0, because it will lead to more of the sickest individuals— the people who need insurance the most — losing health coverage.

But, hey, USA Today wants you to know that this bill is a step in the right direction!

USA Today’s embarrassing, deceptive reporting on Trumpcare was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump administration reveals global climate program cuts as president takes first foreign trip
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

European leaders are expected to urge Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord.

In December 2015, a climate activist holds a poster during a demonstration in Paris where world leaders reached a global climate accord. CREDIT: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

As President Donald Trump meets later this week with world leaders in Europe who favor strong action against climate change, his administration is drawing heat back home for its proposed budget, calling for the United States to stop funding global climate programs.

The administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, released Tuesday, zeroes out $1.6 billion in U.S. contributions to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund and the Global Climate Change Initiative, a State Department-run account that funded all climate diplomacy efforts during most of the Obama administration.

The State Department budget “reflects a shift in global foreign policy priorities” that “mirrors other department reductions in this area,” the Trump administration explains in its spending proposal.

America’s tragic fall from international climate leader to global embarrassment

Trump will gather with officials from major developed countries later this week at the G7 summit Italy, where climate finance and the Paris climate agreement are expected to be discussed. On Tuesday, Trump met with Pope Francis in Vatican City where Francis reportedly presented the president with copies of his writings, including a signed copy of “Laudato Si,” the pontiff’s 192-page encyclical on the environment.

Unlike Trump, who once claimed climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, Francis’ encyclical affirms that global warming has been confirmed by a “very consistent scientific consensus” and that humans are the cause.

Trump’s proposed budget also would eliminate spending for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the infrastructure for international climate negotiations like the Paris climate agreement.

“This budget’s severe cuts single out our clean air and water and our attempts to fight climate disruption,” Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, wrote in a blog post that included the international climate programs in a list of the 10 worst cuts in Trump’s budget proposal. “The targets of these budget cuts are actually wildly popular with Americans. … Seventy-two percent of U.S. voters say it’s a ‘bad idea’ to significantly cut funding for scientific research on the environment and climate change.”

In its proposed budget, the Trump administration also says the United States has fulfilled its $2 billion pledge to the Climate Investment Funds and does not intend to provide further contributions. The funds include the Clean Technology Fund and the Strategic Climate Fund. The technology fund promotes low-carbon technologies, while the climate fund helps vulnerable countries adapt their development programs to address the effects of climate change.

The Climate Investment Funds pre-dated the most recent international fund, the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund. In 2014, President Barack Obama pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. So far, the United States has contributed $1 billion to the fund.

In last days, Obama administration transfers $500 million to UN climate action fund

The administration also plans to eliminate funding for the Global Climate Finance Facility under the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and significantly reduce funding for the Global Environment Facility, a partnership of UN agencies, multilateral development banks, and national entities.

Forty Senate Democrats sent Trump a letter on Wednesday telling him not to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. “Backing out of the Paris Agreement now, after the years of painstaking negotiations and strong U.S. leadership it took to get the world to this point, would be a self-inflicted injury to America’s credibility and influence on the world stage,” they reportedly wrote in the letter.

Pulling out of the Paris agreement will destroy the Trump brand

At the G7 summit, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president, are expected to encourage Trump to keep the United States in the Paris agreement. In Britain, a petition by Greenpeace urging Prime Minister Theresa May to “use your influence to save the Paris climate deal,” has collected more than 155,000 signatures.

The White House has said Trump will wait until after the G7 summit to make a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Trump administration reveals global climate program cuts as president takes first foreign trip was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Minnesota Republican dodges question about tax havens by invoking Jesus
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

“There is actual joy to be found in Jesus Christ,” Abigail Whelan told Democrats.

CREDIT: Screengrab

Pressed about her lack of support for an amendment that would close loopholes for offshore tax havens, a Minnesota Republican dodged the question in favor of talking about her religious beliefs.

Minnesota Rep. Abigail Whelan, a second-term House legislator from suburban Ramsey, was responding to a question from Democratic Rep. Paul Thissen early Wednesday morning about whether she thinks “benefiting people who are hiding money in Liberia is worth raising taxes on your own constituents.”

Whelan ignored the question and instead sounded off about her religion.

“It might be because it’s late and I’m really tired, but I’m going to take this opportunity to share with the body something I have been grappling with over the past several months, and that is, the games that we play here,” she began, leaving the tax haven discussion in the dust. “I just want you to know, Representative Thissen and the [Democratic] caucus — I forgive you, it is okay, because I have an eternal perspective about this.”

Whelan went on to make a case that happiness is not to be found in good public policy, but rather in the eternal love of Jesus.

“I have an eternal perspective and I want to share that with you and the people listening at home that at the end of the day, when we try to reach an agreement with divided government we win some, we lose some, nobody is really happy, but you know what, happiness and circumstances — not what it’s about,” she continued. “There is actual joy to be found in Jesus Christ, Jesus loves you all. If you would like to get to know him, you’re listening at home, here in this room, please email, call me, would love to talk to you about Jesus, he is the hope of this state and this country.”

Even though she didn’t address the issue when Thissen posed the question to her, Whelan did take a stance on it. She later voted against the amendment to close offshore tax loopholes. Not a single Republican voted for it, and the amendment was defeated in a party-line vote.

Whelan’s faith has played a major role in her policy-making career.

In 2016, Whelan co-authored Minnesota’s version of an anti-trans bathroom bill that would have barred transgender people from using the bathroom matching their gender identity in public areas and their workplaces, according to The Column.

During a radio interview in April of last year, Whelan characterized society’s growing tolerance for LGBTQ people as “entering into an era where good is called evil and evil is called good.”

“When you go through life and you are transgender and you end up having an operation, those folks they are depressed,” she continued, oblivious to the role played by the type of social stigmatization she supports.

“The gender fluidity movement is one the biggest problems we are facing and it’s bringing about a lot of confusion,” she added. “I would also encourage folks to keep praying because we all know the battle is spiritual.”

Last year, Whelan also championed a bill to withhold $14 million from the University of Minnesota unless researchers stopped using fetal tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research. The measure didn’t become law, but it had a negative impact on the university nonetheless, as the Star Tribune reported. The discussion of the bill in the House led the university’s top choice to lead its medical discovery team to turn down the position, writing to the university that the legislative debate “reminded us of the many risks inherent in moving our family.”

Minnesota Republican dodges question about tax havens by invoking Jesus was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Departments of State and Homeland Security have very different views on Haiti
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

America’s double standard.

In this Aug. 17, 2012 photo, printers sit on a desk on the roof the earthquake damaged National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. CREDIT: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

The U.S. government apparently sees Haiti through two lenses. On the one hand, it’s a country where conditions are good enough for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to repatriate Haitian immigrants in six months, but on the other, conditions are also so dire that the U.S. Department of State has to issue a travel warning for American citizens to “consider the risks” before they visit.

On Monday, DHS Secretary John Kelly announced his agency would extend a deadline for temporary protection by six months until January 22, 2018 for the more than 58,000 Haitians living in the United States. After an earthquake leveled highly-populated areas of Haiti in 2010, the United States offered Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, a type of immigration benefit for people unable to return to their home countries because of war, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions.

DHS senior officials made clear on a press call that while the Trump administration has the discretion to extend TPS, it expects current Haitian TPS holders “to resolve their affairs, to obtain travel documentation” so that they could prepare to permanently move back to Haiti in six months.

But on the exact same day, the State Department issued an alarming travel warning cautioning U.S. citizens to consider the risks of traveling, “due to its current security environment and lack of adequate medical facilities and response, especially in the areas of Petionville and the storm-damaged southern peninsula departments of Grand Anse and Sud.”

The conflicting views between the two U.S. agencies were not lost on Jonathan Katz, the only full-time, on-the-ground journalist in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake and author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

“It is neither necessarily as bad as the travel warning suggests nor is it anywhere near as good as Kelly suggests when he’s defending the new policy,” Katz said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “What’s interesting to me is you can see in real-time how two different parts of the executive branch are cherry picking from two different sets of facts to come up with two completely different conclusions.”

“On the one hand, DHS thinks Haiti is in good condition for 58,000 people to move there today and restart their lives under incredibly difficult circumstances, whereas the State Department doesn’t even think its own personnel should go to restaurants at night in the neighborhoods they live in because it’s so horribly dangerous,” Katz added.

Rebuilding efforts from the 2010 earthquake and other disasters have been hampered by a variety of factors including cholera introduced by United Nations peacekeepers and continuous political turmoil. Yet DHS senior officials justified Kelly’s decision to extend TPS for only six months — and not the recommended 18 months from the Haitian ambassador to the U.S. — by pointing to the rebuilding of the presidential palace; withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops country as a sign of a “stable government that’s capable of governing its citizenry;” and the fact that 96 percent of internally displaced people have left camps set up in response to the earthquake.

“It’s a fantasy to think conditions in Haiti, as a whole, are better than they were seven years ago,” Katz said. “It’s not a question of the leftover damage from this one-time disaster that happened seven years ago. The problem is that the earthquake, and Hurricane Matthew, and all these other disasters we talk about in Haiti were as profoundly deadly and devastating as they were because the country is so vulnerable.”

Katz, who worked extensively in Haiti before coming back to the United States last year, pushed back against Kelly’s cheery outlook. Katz warned against sending people back to Haiti at a time when the population of 10 million are living on a “day-to-day basis” where the country “has that little” and “has that much degraded infrastructure.”

“It would be very, very, very difficult for anybody using actual facts to make an argument that life in Haiti has gotten better in this universal way — where all of a sudden the people living in Haiti at the moment are living better, more productive, safer, more stable lives than they were before,” Katz said. “But that you could also dump another 60,000 people in the country and they would automatically find jobs and have good living situations.”

Kelly’s comments about improving conditions hinge on a “superficial” outlook that “kind of make sense if you’ve only been paying attention to Haiti by watching occasional specials on CNN over the past seven years,” Katz said, poking holes in the official rationale.

“They make sense to Americans who have a very, very, very passing familiarity with what’s going on in Haiti over the last ten years,” Katz said. “But if you actually try to construct a picture of what is food security like in Haiti, what is infrastructure like in Haiti, what is governance like in Haiti in 2017, there’s no set of facts that you can string together that would suggest that the country is any more ready to support itself or handle the influx of tens of thousands more people than at any point in the recent past.”

Departments of State and Homeland Security have very different views on Haiti was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Following leak to Russia, Israel is shifting how it shares intelligence with U.S.
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

European and U.K. officials have also expressed concern over leaks.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman listens during a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel. CREDIT: Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP

Israel is altering how it shares intelligence with the United States after President Donald Trump shared classified information with Russia in the Oval Office two weeks ago.

Trump, who was meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, told both men about a believed threat from ISIS involving bombs buried inside of laptops. That information, the New York Times reported, came from Israel — something that was unconfirmed officially until Trump himself seemingly let it slip while speaking in Israel on Monday, ironically while attempting to defend himself on the issue to the media.

“I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’. Never mentioned during that conversation,” Trump said. “They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel.’”

But Israeli officials seem concerned less about being named as the intelligence source and more about the information leaking in general. Intelligence officials reportedly shouted at their U.S. counterparts over the leak, worried that a vital source might have been compromised to Russia — notably an ally of Israel’s regional foe, Iran. Now, the country is taking steps to ensure that the problem doesn’t happen in future.

Israeli defense chief Avigdor Liberman reportedly announced the changes to Army Radio on Wednesday, but declined to delve into the specifics. “I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Lieberman said.

Israel’s moves to restrict intelligence could be the shape of things to come in other corners of the globe. On the issue of intelligence-sharing, the Trump administration has proven erratic and unreliable — something that is increasingly alarming for U.S. allies.

Trump reportedly divulged classified information to Russian diplomats

For instance, following a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on Monday night, British police refrained from naming a suspect while an investigation was underway — but their U.S. counterparts showed no such restraint. Media reports citing U.S. officials quickly leaked the suspect’s name, sparking concern across the pond. BuzzFeed News reported that both U.K. officials and other European counterterrorism experts were alarmed by the leaks.

“[U.K.] officials will have other priorities at the moment, but when the dust settles they will be concerned by the way in which British information was leaked by US officials, sometimes hours ahead of its confirmation,” Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the security think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told Buzzfeed. “Police and intelligence officials would have had their reasons to hold back on key details, such as casualty figures and the method of attack, but this was impossible in a more international, free-wheeling media environment.”

A Belgian counterterrorism official who spoke with the publication noted that while allies of the United States are aware of the risk sharing information with the country poses, the Manchester leak was a particularly glaring red flag given recent spills by the Trump administration.

“You know you are trading the additional resources they bring for a chance of increased leaks,” the source said. “In this case, I suspect the Brits are livid — I know we would be — to have a suspect ID’d before they’re ready, and obviously the recent performance of the Trump administration on leaking sensitive information can’t be far from anyone’s mind if they examine [the situation].”

While experts have said the United Kingdom is unlikely to follow Israel’s lead in shifting how the country shares information with the United States, a pattern is quickly forming, one that could have long-term implications. Thomas Sanderson, the director of the transnational threats project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Guardian that both leaks could have serious ramifications for the future of U.S. intelligence.

“This is a leaky administration,” Sanderson said. “What does that mean for sharing information we need to going forward? The [United Kingdom] and Israel are probably our two biggest sources of intelligence. Now they’re thinking, ‘Is this going to cause us damage every time we share?’ Then you have to calculate every piece of information.”

If the transcript of a call last month between Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is any indicator, the administration’s loose lips could be a problem for some time. During the course of their conversation, Trump told Duterte about two U.S. nuclear submarines in Korean waters — comments that are adding even more fire to the debate over the president’s ability to handle sensitive information.

Following leak to Russia, Israel is shifting how it shares intelligence with U.S. was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Scientists just published a study calling out the head of the EPA by name
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

No, warming is not ‘leveling off.’

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to a group of miners during a visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A new study appeared in the journal Nature on Wednesday, directly refuting the idea that satellite data has shown global warming has leveled off, a claim made by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this year.

“Satellite temperature measurements do not support the recent claim of a “leveling off of warming” over the past two decades,” the study says.

The researchers were upfront about why they ran the study, calling out Pruitt by name. “Mr. Pruitt claimed that ‘over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.’ We test this claim here,” the researchers write. The study was authored by Benjamin Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and three Livermore colleagues, as well as three scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington in Seattle, and Remote Sensing Systems, a scientific research company.

“In my opinion, when incorrect science is elevated to the level of formal congressional testimony and makes its way into the official congressional record, climate scientists have some responsibility to test specific claims that were made, determine whether those claims are correct or not, and publish their results,” Santer told the Washington Post.

The study found — again — that “tropospheric warming trends over recent 20-year periods are always significantly larger (at the 10 percent level or better) than model estimates of 20-year trends arising from natural internal variability.” In other words, the lowest portion of the atmosphere, where we live, is warming and is doing so in a way that does not look normal. Wednesday’s paper comes on the heels of new, additional research that refuted earlier claims, popular among climate deniers, that there was a “hiatus” in global warming.

Pruitt has repeatedly come under fire from the media and the public for perpetuating claims that are not consistent with scientific findings. Earlier this year, he told CNBC that there was warming, but that carbon dioxide emissions are not the “primary cause” of the current, rapid change in temperatures.

Santer and his colleagues spent “considerable time and effort looking at that claim,” he told ThinkProgress. Santer pointed out that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had elevated the claim on late night TV shows, NPR, and in congressional hearings.

“It was incorrect,” Santer said.

In fact, scientists have found a causal relationship between human-generating carbon dioxide emissions, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, and global warming, another finding that Pruitt has denied.

“We are in a position to make informed scientific statements about the relative sizes of human and natural effects on climate,” Santer said.

“When folks, particularly powerful folks, make specific, testable claims… don’t dismiss those claims out of hand and say, ‘Trust me, I’m a scientist,” Santer said. “Do due diligence.”

“I’m proud of the fact that’s what we’ve done here.”

EPA head falsely claims carbon emissions aren’t the cause of global warming

In general, Pruitt has not exhibited a strong working knowledge of science. During the same Senate confirmation process that saw his “leveling off” claim, Pruitt said he didn’t know if there was a safe level of lead for children to ingest. (There is not.) The EPA is tasked with protecting the country’s air and water.

In the meantime, Pruitt has exhibited a close relationship with oil and gas companies, particularly from his home state of Oklahoma. Pruitt failed to release thousands of emails sought by Democratic senators during the confirmation process, and it was later determined that he lied in his testimony about not using a private email server.

Santer emphasized the importance of continuing scientific research into climate change. He told ThinkProgress that the budget that covers the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where his work is housed, has been proposed to be cut by more than 70 percent in the newly released White House budget.

“If we turn off our eyes, if we turn off our ability to measure, monitor, and understand, we all lose,” Santer said.

“There is a Star Trek movie titled, I think, Into Darkness,” he said. “I don’t want to see us go into darkness, scientifically speaking.”

UPDATE: This post has been updated with comments from Benjamin Santer to ThinkProgress.

Scientists just published a study calling out the head of the EPA by name was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mulvaney: We must lower the debt for unborn children by taking food from existing children
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

The OMB director conjures abstractions to justify Trump’s draconian budget.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testifies on Capitol Hill on May 24 before the House Budget Committee hearing on President Trump’s fiscal 2018 federal budget. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

During a hearing about the $3.6 trillion in cuts to domestic programs included in President Trump’s proposed budget, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made a case that the fiscal interests of the unborn should take precedence over the lives of present-day Americans — or at least those who rely on food stamps to eat or public schools to educate their children.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) grilled Mulvaney about the budget’s 25 percent cut to food assistance for the poorest Americans.

“Mr. Mulvaney, at least 20 percent of people eligible for SNAP don’t even receive SNAP because of stigma and other reasons,” she said. “So there are more people who need SNAP benefits… And you have a 13 percent cut in the Department of Education. The most vulnerable kids who need — ”

Mulvaney cut her off and made an impassioned case that people like Lee aren’t sufficiently concerned about his “unborn grandchildren.” He said:

What about the standard of living for my grandchildren who aren’t here yet? Who will end up inheriting $30 trillion in debt? Fifty trillion dollars in debt? A hundred trillion dollars? What about their standard — who’s going to pay the bill, Congressman? That’s what this is all about. That’s what this new perspective is. Who is going to pay for all the stuff you just mentioned? Us? Or somebody else? And I suggest to you if it’s important enough to pay, to have, then we need to be paying for it. Because right now, my unborn grandchildren are paying for it, and I think that is morally bankrupt.

Lee responded by saying, “I have grandchildren also, and I want to make sure that they have the opportunity to get a job, so they can help pay for our government, which is a government that should be enhancing the standard of living and making sure that everyone has a chance for the American dream.”

Mulvaney’s comments fall squarely in the deficit hawk tradition of caring more about the unborn than kids who are actually alive. He suggests the budget’s $191 billion cut to food assistance and $40 billion cut to public service loan forgiveness over the next decade are necessary sacrifices, but fails to mention that Trump’s budget includes a $5.5 trillion tax cut that will mainly benefit the wealthy.

Trump’s budget is ruthless to disabled and poor people

Besides, Trump’s budget — which includes a $52 billion increase in military spending next year alone — wouldn’t really bring down the national debt, despite what Mulvaney claims. As Politico details, Trump’s “first budget as president would increase the debt by more than $3 trillion — and that’s only through rosy assumptions about economic growth and double-counting of tax revenue.”

“The budget uses an optimistic assumption about economic growth, which few economists believe is realistic, and assumes the president’s tax plan is deficit-neutral, despite independent scores that the plan would reduce revenues by around $5 trillion,” Politico reports. “Worse, it double counts up to $2.1 trillion in revenue, a blatant accounting error.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, the unrealistic assumption embodied in Trump’s budget were criticized by Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who said, “This budget assumes a Goldilocks economy. And I think that’s a very difficult thing.” On Tuesday, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) criticized the budget’s impact on poor people, saying in a statement that “the proposed cuts to some federal programs are not mere shavings; they are rather deep and harmful to my district spanning Kentucky’s Appalachian region and other rural, impoverished parts of the country.”

Mulvaney, however, has signaled that the Trump administration is more concerned about reducing tax burdens than preserving services for those who rely on them. In an op-ed published yesterday, he wrote that the budget represents a reversal from prioritizing the interests of the poor to “putting taxpayers first.”

“Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft,” Mulvaney writes. “This budget makes it clear that we will reverse this larceny.”

Mulvaney’s professed concern about the well-being of future generations is belied by the budget’s drastic cuts to Environmental Protection Agency programs meant to ensure his “unborn grandchildren” will have a habitable planet to live on.

Mulvaney: We must lower the debt for unborn children by taking food from existing children was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Advertisers drop Hannity
May 24th, 2017, 07:15 PM

Companies are abandoning his show after Hannity relentlessly pushes a murder conspiracy theory about Seth Rich.

CREDIT: Screenshot

Four advertisers have pulled their ads from Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, following a week in which Hannity has stubbornly clung to a debunked conspiracy theory.

Through his Fox show and social media platforms, Hannity has pushed theory that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered last summer, was the source of the emails released by Wikileaks.

Hannity believes this theory would exonerate Russia and, therefore, Trump from interfering with the presidential campaign.

Hannity relied on the claims of a private investigator and a report published on The investigator has since recanted and retracted their story. announced their decision to pull their ads in response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News.

A few hours later, the exercise company Peloton announced it was following suit.

Soon after, a reader forwarded ThinkProgress a response he got from Leesa Sleep, an e-commerce mattress company, when he asked if they would reconsider advertising with Hannity. A company rep told their customer they would no longer air their ads during that show.

Later, Casper, another online mattress retailer, announced they would also pull their ads from Hannity.

Last night, Hannity announced that “out of respect for the family’s wishes for now, I am not discussing” the Seth Rich murder “at this time.” Hannity did not apologize for or retract his previous commentary.

Hannity asked his audience to “please do not interpret what I’m saying tonight to mean anything — don’t read into this,” promising he was “not going to stop trying to find the truth.”

Hannity had been hyping an appearance by notorious internet criminal Kim Dotcom, who supposedly had “proof” that Rich was in communication with Wikileaks. Seth Rich’s family later uncovered evidence that Dotcom had attempted to hack their late son’s email account in an apparent attempt to manufacture a connection.

Since announcing that he would not discuss the Seth Rich murder any further, Hannity has continued to discuss it.

BuzzFeed News reported that the man who financed the investigator that prompted the latest round of conspiracy theories on Seth Rich has a connections to Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

UPDATE (5:08PM): This post was updated to include the announcement from Peloton.

UPDATE (5:28PM): This post was updated to include the news that Leesa Sleep was dropping Hannity.

Advertisers drop Hannity was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.