Manchin: If you want to save the planet, elect more progressives in 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin said Thursday that securing sweeping climate legislation to safeguard the planet for future generations requires electing more progressives—unlike him—in 2022.

The corporate Democrat's assertion came as he announced to a crowd of reporters that his topline number for the broad reconciliation bill is $1.5 trillion—a fraction of the $3.5 trillion demanded by progressive lawmakers for the 10-year Build Back Better plan that includes investments to strengthen the safety net and tackle the climate emergency.

Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Senate's top recipient of fossil fuel industry cash, has pushed his party to water down the reconciliation bill, and he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have obstructed the package's passage.

The $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, favored by Manchin and criticized by climate campaigners, is facing a tentative vote in the House on Thursday. But progressives have continued to demand congressional passage of the broader reconcilation bill first, before the bipartisan bill faces a vote.

Although Manchin said that his aim is to "put our children at the front end" with the proposed legislation, he told reporters Thursday that, with regard to progressive priorties included in the reconcilation bill, "the other things they want to do maybe we can do at another time."

To progressives opposed to gutting parts of the reconciliation bill's social and climate investments, Manchin said, "Basically take whatever we aren't able to come to agreement with today and take that on the campaign trail next year and I'm sure that you'll get liberal, progressive Democrats with what they say they want."

"I've never been a liberal in any way," said Manchin, adding that "all we need to do I guess for them to get theirs... is elect more liberals."

Polling has shown the Build Back Better plan is popular nationwide—and both political commentators and progressive activists have warned that not passing the full package could negatively impact Democrats at the ballot box next year.

Activists with Center for Popular Democracy, CASA, and Greenpeace USA targeted Manchin this week over his obstruction of the reconciliation bill, bringing a "flotilla" of kayaks near the senator's yacht in Washington, D.C.

"Congress cannot fall for Big Oil's false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy planet. The truth is with fossil fuels we get neither," said John Noël, a senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA.

"Climate-fueled disasters cost the global economy $150 billion in 2019. Fossil fuels killed 8.7 million people globally in 2018," he added, calling the Build Back Better Act "a prime opportunity to kickstart a clean energy future and stop sending billions of our tax dollars to fossil fuel companies."

Baby poop has ten times more microplastic in it than adult poop: study

Infants have an average of 10 times the concentration of a type of microplastic in their poop than adults, a pilot study released Wednesday found.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, follows previous studies reflecting the ubiquity of microplastics—small fibers less than 5 mm in size originating from everyday objects like plastic bottles and polyester clothing and that end up in the planet's waterways and human guts.

"Human exposure to microplastics is a health concern," said lead author Kurunthachalam Kannan, a professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics.

Researchers focused on two types of common microplastics—polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC)—and measured feces from six infants and 10 adults. They also looked at three samples of newborns' first waste, which is known as meconium. All were from New York state, and they were all found to have at least one kind of microplastic.

PC levels, the researchers found, were similar between the infant and adult groups. PET concentrations, however, revealed a stark difference, with those in infants' feces found to have levels more than 10 times higher on average.

"Our study suggests that infants are exposed to higher levels of MPs than adults," the scientists wrote.

Researchers suggested the higher concentrations could be a result of products they commonly use like teethers and bottles but said larger studies should be done.

"We need to make efforts to reduce exposure in children," Kannan said. "Children's products should be made free of plastics."

Responding to the study, Natalie Bennett, a former Green Party leader in the U.K., tweeted, "The future is going to wonder what on earth we thought we were doing with plastic."

Ocasio-Cortez: nominaton of Rahm Emanuel for ambassador to Japan 'deeply shameful'

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez early Wednesday publicly condemned President Joe Biden for his nomination of Rahm Emanuel to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, calling the selection "deeply shameful" given the former Chicago mayor's record.

"I urge the Senate to vote NO on his confirmation." —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

"As mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald—a mere teenager when he was shot 16 times in the back by a Chicago Police Officer. This alone should be flatly disqualifying for any position of public trust, let alone representing the United States as an ambassador," the New York Democrat said in a statement.

McDonald was murdered by Chicago police in October of 2014, with the mayor's office withholding dash cam footage of the shooting—which showed the teenager shot in the back as he moved away from officers—until after Emanuel's reelection in 2015. The revelations sparked outrage, demands for his resignation or removal from office, and only added to the negative reputation of a politician who throughout his career, including serving as White House chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, as being hostile to progressive values and human rights.

"That the Biden administration seeks to reward Emanuel with an ambassadorship is an embarrassment and betrayal of the values we seek to uphold both within our nation and around the world," Ocasio-Cortez said in her Wednesday statement. "I urge the Senate to vote NO on his confirmation."

Earlier this year, an array of civil rights and progressive advocacy groups lobbied the Biden administration to end consideration of Emanuel for any diplomatic appointment.

"Top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity, and diplomatic skills," the groups said. "Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications."

'Not what ending a war looks like': Biden vows new strikes in retaliation for Kabul blast

Even as he planned to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by August 31, President Joe Biden said Saturday that the drone strike that was launched Friday night in retaliation for an attack claimed by ISIS-K "was not the last."

"We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay," the president said in a statement Saturday afternoon. "Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt."

The Pentagon said the drone strike killed two "planners and facilitators" of the explosion outside Kabul's airport, but according to The Guardian, in addition to targets related to the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an elder in Jalalabad reported that three civilians were killed and four were wounded in the U.S. strike.

The bombing on Thursday killed as many as 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members, and prompted calls from anti-war groups and lawmakers including Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) for the U.S. to refrain from taking further military action in Afghanistan as two decades of the U.S.-led war there comes to an end.

Following the U.S. retaliatory strike on Friday, Ariel Gold of CODEPINK pointed out that even if no civilians were killed as the Pentagon is reporting, "these drone strikes help ISIS recruit."

"This is not what ending a war looks like," said CODEPINK of the president's threats of even more military action in the coming days, as he warned that more attacks are expected near the airport in Kabul in the next 36 hours.

In addition to the U.S. drone strikes, BBC correspondent Secunder Kermani reported that according to eyewitnesses, many people who were killed in Thursday's attack were shot by U.S. troops.

The New York Times reported Saturday that investigators in Afghanistan are examining where the gunfire came from during Thursday's attack.

In latest Yes Men prank, 'Paul Wolfowitz' says Afghanistan war 'failure from day one'

Viewers of rightwing network Newsmax were told Saturday by "Paul Wolfowitz" that the war in Afghanistan was "a failure from day one" and that the over $2 trillion the U.S. poured into the war would have been better spent on "something useful like healthcare or education."

During the approximately 11-minute phone interview, host Tom Basile appears to be unaware that it's not the actual Wolfowitz—an Iraq War cheerleader who served as deputy defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration—but Andy Bichlbaum, one of the Yes Men pranksters. That's despite Basile referring to the two men as having met.

"A sitting president... unnecessarily ended a war—for no reason at all," lamented the fake Wolfowitz. "Because let's be honest, there just aren't a lot of things that ordinary Americans can be proud of these days."

"Americans know," he continued, "that other prosperous countries have it better in healthcare, infrastructure, education, elder care, food options, income."

"Americans can't be proud of that stuff," but "they can be proud of a war—even if it's unwinnable, even if it lasts 20 years, even if it's a failure from day one in my administration," he said.

Watch:

"Of course two trillion dollars could have been spent building stuff people want," said the fake Wolfowitz, "instead of going to big defense contractors and their shareholders."

In a post on their website explaining the Saturday action, the creative action group described the prank as "a drop in the bucket, and at dinky-ass Newsmax—but hey, it's not about individual actions anyhow. War can be over, if we all want it."

US public clear: War in Afghanistan wasn't worth it

As corporate media amplify pro-war voices to cover developing events in Afghanistan, two polls out Sunday showed the U.S. public has little appetite for continuing the 20-year war.

A new CBS News/YouGov survey, conducted August 18-20, found that 63% approve of President Joe Biden's decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, and just 37% disapprove. Just 47%, however, approve of the way Biden is handling the troop withdrawal.

Separate polling from NBC News, conducted August 14-17, asked if the war in Afghanistan was worth it. Sixty-one percent said it was not, compared to 29% who said it was. The last time the poll asked the question was in June of 2014 when similar percentages were found. At that time, 65% said the war wasn't worth it, compared to 27% who said it was.

Those findings mirror a poll out last week from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Conducted leading up to and after the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, the survey found 62% of U.S. adults believed the war in Afghanistan wasn't worth fighting.

The surveys were released amid still emerging and chaotic scenes of Afghan civilians trying to flee Taliban takeover of the country. The British military said Sunday that seven people were killed as a result of a crowd crush at the Kabul airport.

Rightwing media have responded to the scenes of those trying to flee with fearmongering about the possible influx of Afghan refugees into the U.S. Human rights advocates, meanwhile, are calling on the Biden administration to "urgently do more" to help evacuate those most at risk of harm, including those who worked with U.S. and NATO forces, journalists, and women's rights activists.

Specific actions that should be taken, the groups, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch, said in Friday letter (pdf) to Biden, are working with allies to ensure those fleeing get to the Kabul airport safely and increasing the administration's stated goal of evacuating 5,000-9,000 people per day.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN Sunday that in the last 24 hours, the U.S. helped secure the evacuation of nearly 8,000 civilians, with 3,900 people on U.S. military aircraft and another 3,900 on partners' aircraft.

There 'will never be' a US military solution in Afghanistan: Rep. Barbara Lee

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee—who cast the sole vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was used to justify the war in Afghanistan—reiterated on Sunday her assessment that "there is no military solution" to address the worsening chaos in that country.

Lee's (D-Calif.) remarks came in an interview on MSNBC's "American Voices with Alicia Menendez" as the Taliban effectively took control of the country and desperate Afghans tried to flee.

"Our focus now," said Lee, "has got to be... the safety and security of everyone at this moment, and I think it's a very dire situation."

"This is an example, though, that there is no military solution," she said. "We've been there 20 years, we have spent over a trillion dollars, and we have trained over 300,000 of the Afghan forces," Lee added, calling the current situation "a tragedy."

Citing Brown University's Costs of War Project's estimate that the war in Afghanistan cost U.S. taxpayers over $2 trillion, guest host Anand Giridharadas asked Lee about just where all the money ended up.

After acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and Afghan civilians who lost their lives as a result of the war, the California Democrat pointed to "many, many reports [showing] that there was an enormous amount of corruption" and graft.

"It was just an untenable situation," she said.

Asked if the U.S. would learn any lessons from current disaster, Lee said: "Listen, 20 years ago I said that there was no military solution in Afghanistan. Of course we have to deal with the terrorist threats, of course we have to deal with national security."

"But," she said, "we have to remember we have three stools of our foreign and military policy: diplomacy, development, and defense." And those three aspects have "been out of balance."

"We need to get back to rebalancing," said Lee, praising the Biden administration for what she said was "doing the right thing" by pulling out of Afghanistan.

Lee's 2001 vote against the AUMF was referenced on Sunday by MSNBC political analyst Mehdi Hasan in a Twitter thread in which he lamented that "those of us who warned against invading and occupying Afghanistan 20 years ago have been tragically, awfully, vindicated."

"I also wish everyone had listened to Rep. Barbara Lee back in September 2001," he wrote.

According to the Costs of War Project, over 5.3 million Afghans have been displaced since the U.S. occupation and invasion in 2001. The project further estimates that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war.

Five people reportedly killed amid mayhem at Kabul airport

At least five people were reportedly killed at Kabul's international airport on Monday as desperate Afghan civilians and foreign nationals gathered there in hopes of boarding a flight out of the country, with the Taliban quickly moving to retake power after two decades of disastrous U.S. occupation.

Disturbing video footage posted to social media shows three people on the ground just outside the airport terminal building, but there were conflicting reports on how they may have been wounded or killed. While the Wall Street Journal reported that three people at the airport were "killed by gunfire," Reuters cited witnesses who said it was not clear whether the people had been shot or "killed in a stampede."

The Journal, which did not assign responsibility for the purported deadly gunfire, noted that "U.S. Marines fired warning shots late Sunday when hundreds of Afghans who breached the perimeter rushed to board an idling C-17 transport aircraft."

"According to people trapped in the airport, American troops repeatedly shot in the air to disperse the crowds during the night," the Journal reported. "Hundreds of Afghan civilians were seen close to the runway and around parked planes Monday morning, with some hanging from boarding ramps as they scrambled to get into the aircraft... The U.S. military used two military helicopters flying low overhead to try to disperse the crowds, using smoke grenades and firing shots into the air, passengers said."

One video posted to Twitter shows dozens of people running next to a U.S. Air Force plane—with some attempting to cling to its sides—as it attempted to take off. Several people reportedly fell from the aircraft to their death after the plane took flight.

The Biden administration has authorized the deployment of around 6,000 U.S. troops to Kabul to help with the evacuation of American personnel and Afghans who assisted the U.S. mission in the country, which began with an invasion in 2001. According to Brown University's Costs of War project, 241,000 people were killed as a direct result of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, including more than 47,000 Afghan civilians.

"The Pentagon intends to have enough aircraft to fly out as many as 5,000 civilians a day, both Americans and the Afghan translators and others who worked with the U.S. during the war," the Associated Press reported Monday. "But tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked with U.S. and other NATO forces are seeking to flee with family members. And it was by no means clear how long Kabul's deteriorating security would allow any evacuations to continue."

Child pandemic hospitalizations hit all-time high: 'This is not last year's COVID'

The U.S. hit a troubling milestone Saturday as federal data showed the most children to date hospitalized due to COVID-19.

According to Reuters, which first reported the "record high" figure:

The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the U.S. population, has caused hospitalizations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of pediatric hospitalizations to 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Children currently make up about 2.4% of the nation's COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.

With schools opening for the fall semester and political fights taking place in numerous states over mask mandates for students and educational staff, the increase in hospitalizations among children is worrying to public health experts like Sally Goza, former president of the Academy of Pediatrics.

"This is not last year's COVID" Goza explained Saturday during an appearance on CNN. "This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most."

NPR reported earlier this week that recent state-level data analyzed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association showed that "children accounted for roughly 15% of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending on Aug. 5. Nearly 94,000 child cases of COVID-19 were recorded during that period, a 31% increase over the roughly 72,000 cases reported a week earlier. In the week before then, there were 39,000 new child cases."

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Stanford University, explained to NPR that because children under 12 years old still cannot receive a vaccination for COVID-19, it makes sense the number infections among children is rising even though overall children do not experience the same level of severe symptoms and rarely die from the disease.

"This virus is really tracking the unvaccinated," said Maldonado. "Because children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated, we're just seeing the same increase in infections in that group because [the delta variant] is so infectious."

On Thursday of this week, the National Educations Association (NEA), one of the largest teachers unions in the U.S., endorsed the call for vaccine and testing requirements for those working in the nation's public schools.

"As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates," said NEA president Becky Pringle in a statement, "it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies. Appropriate employee accommodations must be provided, and paid leave and readily available sites should be available for vaccinations. Employee input, including collective bargaining where applicable, is critical."

Pringle added that the union supported regular testing for COVID-19 "in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective."

And appearing Saturday on CNN, Pringle stated: "Our students under 12 can't get vaccinated. It's our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated."

Calls for removal of 'bandit' USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy gain steam

by Jon Queally

The removal of both U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Ron Bloom, chair of the Postal Service Board of Governors, were demanded Friday night after it was reported that DeJoy had purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of publicly-traded bonds from an investment firm for which Bloom is a managing partner—a transaction critics say is a gross breach of government ethics.

With Bloom and DeJoy—both appointed by former President Donald Trump—already under fire by defenders of the U.S. Postal Service for a scheme to slow mail service and undermine the nation's federal mailing system from within, the new reporting by the Washington Post revealed that DeJoy "purchased 11 bonds from Brookfield Asset Management each worth between $1,000 and $15,000, or $15,000 and $50,000" between October of 2020 and April of this year.

In total, the purchases totaled up to $305,000 during that period. In response to the reporting, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)—who chairs the House Subcommittee on Government Operations which has oversight of the Postal Service—ripped into both DeJoy and Bloom.

"This report is outrageous," Connolly tweeted Friday night. "DeJoy and Bloom are bandits, and their conflicts of interest do nothing but harm the Postal Service and the American people."

Both men, he added, "must be removed to restore the integrity of the USPS and #SaveThePostOffice."

According to the Post's Jacob Bogage and Douglas MacMillan:

Two ethics experts interviewed about the transaction disagreed over whether the bond purchases could cause conflict-of-interest issues in the agency's top ranks. One argued that the transactions raise questions about oversight and governance at the nation's mail service, which has taken on newfound prominence during the coronavirus pandemic and after the November election, in which nearly half of all voters cast their ballots through the mail. The other said financial connections between government officials could give off the appearance of conflicts without necessarily causing ethics problems.
Other elements of DeJoy's financial ties have drawn close examination from ethics watchdogs. DeJoy-controlled companies lease four office buildings to global shipping behemoth XPO Logistics, DeJoy's former company. XPO pays DeJoy more than $2 million annually in rent, The Washington Post previously reported. Brookfield also owns more than $500,000 in shares of XPO, according to its securities filings.

Bloom, who as chair of the USPS board ostensibly serves as DeJoy's boss, has expressed support for the controversial postmaster—a major GOP donor and Trump supporter—despite intense demands for his ouster ever since he was moved to slow down mail delivery ahead of last year's election when an increase of voting by mail was expected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I'm stuck on DeJoy's purchase of bonds from the company in which his quasi-boss is a managing partner," Kathleen Clark, a law professor who studies government ethics at Washington University, told the Post, "because I wonder whether it affects Bloom's ability to protect the public interest in his assessment of DeJoy's performance as postmaster general."

While an email from Bloom sent to the Post argued that "no basis of conflict" was created by the bond purchases and a USPS spokeperson said that DeJoy did not directly order the purchases that were made on his behalf by his financial advisers, Clark said that does not absolve the clear ethical concerns.

"He's claiming that his agent didn't act on his specific direction," Clark said of DeJoy's involvement. "That's not good enough for federal government ethics."

On Friday evening, Bogage announced via social media that a slight addition had been made to his and MacMillan's earlier story after learning of new information about ethics at the USPS under DeJoy.

"This is 100% true," Bogage wrote. "Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced today that next week would be 'Ethics Awareness Week' at USPS."

'Courage and leadership': Texas Dem praised for 15-hour filibuster to defend democracy

A Democratic Texas state senator on Thursday morning ended a 15-hour filibuster to oppose and delay what she called a "voter suppression" bill put forth by Republicans in the state.

State Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) began the filibuster just before 6:00 pm local time Wednesday and stopped talking just before 9:00 am Thursday. The measure then promptly passed in an 18-11 vote.

"Fifteen hours ago I stood to filibuster SB 1 and give a voice to the constituents who this bill attempts to silence," Alvarado tweeted minutes after ending her filibuster.

"I know voter suppression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere. Proud to shine a light on stories of everyday Texans and stand up for the promise of democracy," she added.

The legislation at issue, Senate Bill 1, was authored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and would, according to critics, curtail access to the polls.

The bill, according to the ACLU of Texas, would "unjustly target disabled Texans, communities of color, and older Texans." The measure was among the reasons why Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives fled the state earlier this summer as a way to prevent its passage by denying the GOP majority the quorum necessary to proceed. In turn, Republicans have issued arrest warrants in order to force the Democrats back to Austin.

The Texas Tribune reported earlier this week that SB 1 "is nearly identical to legislation considered in the first special session and still contains many of the provisions that have spawned a monthslong game of legislative brinkmanship." The outlet further explained:

Democratic lawmakers, civil rights groups and advocates for people with disabilities say the bill will in effect suppress voting by people of color and limit access for those with disabilities. Those provisions have prompted Democrats to repeatedly leave the House without enough members present to do business in an effort to block the GOP's proposals.
The legislation would ratchet up the state's election rules by outlawing local voting initiatives meant to widen access as well as further tightening the voting-by-mail process. It would also bolster partisan poll watchers' freedoms inside polling locations and establish new rules—and possible criminal penalties—for those who help voters, including those with disabilities, cast their ballots.

Alvarado's stand—the state Legislature's filibuster rules bar sitting, leaning, breaks, drinking, and eating—against SB 1 was welcomed by a number of advocacy groups such as the Texas AFL-CIO, who praised her for acting "to preserve democracy."

In a Wednesday night statement, Common Cause associate director Stephanie Gómez said "Alvarado is showing exactly the kind of courage and leadership Texas needs right now. While we face a dangerous surge in Covid-19 cases and our local hospitals reach maximum capacity, Gov. [Greg] Abbott and his partisan legislators continue to focus on stripping away our freedom to vote."

Gómez also put Alvarado's filibuster in the context of the latest efforts by Republicans at the federal to block the popular For the People Act, pro-democracy legislation that would, among other provisions, strengthen voting rights.

"While Sen. Alvarado is not afraid to take a stand for voting rights, Republicans in the U.S. Senate, including [Republican] Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, refuse to even allow debate on the For the People Act," she said, calling it "a transformative piece of legislation that will protect the very voting rights Gov. Abbott works to take away from us."

"Congress must put an end to the wave of anti-voter attacks," Gómez added, "and pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act without further delay."

Campaign disclosures show Senate Dems in ExxonMobil exposé got almost $333,000

A pair of reports published Tuesday in the wake of a damning exposé featuring secretly recorded ExxonMobil lobbyists further illuminated the fossil fuel giant's efforts to influence powerful centrists in Congress and beyond.

The New Republic's Kate Aronoff revealed that "centrist think tanks are raking in Exxon cash," citing a company report, while HuffPost's Alexander Kaufman reviewed an analysis by the advocacy group Oil Change U.S. of campaign contributions to six Democratic U.S. senators named in Unearthed's June exposé.

The videos from Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.'s investigative journalism arm, feature one current and one former ExxonMobil employee, Keith McCoy and Dan Easley, who thought they were discussing the company's lobbying efforts with a recruitment consultant.

While ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Darren Woods claimed that McCoy and Easley made "disturbing and inaccurate comments about our positions on a variety of issues, including climate change policy, and our interaction with elected officials," the reporting has increased scrutiny of the company's lobbying and finances over the past two weeks.

The Oil Change U.S. analysis focuses on campaign disclosures of six Democratic lawmakers McCoy mentioned: Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Asked on a May video call which lawmakers ExxonMobil targets, McCoy first named Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He continued:

Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week. He is the kingmaker on this because he's a Democrat from West Virginia, which is [a] very conservative state… and he's not shy about sort of staking his claim early and completely changing the debate. On the Democrat side we look for the moderates on these issues. So, it's the Manchins. It's the Sinemas. It's the Testers.
…Sen. Coons... has a very close relationship with [President Joe] Biden, so we've been working with his office—as a matter of fact our CEO is talking to him next Tuesday and having those conversations and just teeing it up, and then that way I can start working with his staff to let them know where we are on some of these issues.

The other Republicans McCoy named were Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Cornyn (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He noted that it is easier to have conversations with senators who are up for reelection in 2022—such as Rubio, Kelly, and Hassan—"because they're a captive audience, they know they need you and I need them."

Collin Rees, the senior campaigner at Oil Change U.S. who conducted the new analysis, found that over the past decade, the six Democrats collectively received nearly $333,000 from lobbyists, political action committees (PACs), and lobbying firms affiliated with ExxonMobil.

"This is a story about how lobbyists curry favor, and specifically about how Exxon's current lobbyists have spent decades currying the favor of these six Democrats to position themselves to do things like safeguard fossil fuel subsidies and pare down infrastructure packages," Rees told Kaufman. "Exxon has hired these firms and lobbyists because they've contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to these Democrats, both before and after they were hired by Exxon."

Tester—whose office didn't comment on the story—led the group with $99,783, followed by Sinema ($70,800), Coons ($68,650), Manchin ($64,864), Hassan ($26,699), and Kelly ($1,500).

Kelly, a newcomer to the Senate, doesn't accept corporate PAC money—which his spokesperson highlighted Tuesday, telling HuffPost that he "has not met with the individual in the original Exxon video, and hasn't spoken with anyone from this company in the Senate."

Hassan's spokesperson said "the video only says that Sen. Hassan is up for reelection... it isn't for her support of their policies but simply because she is up for reelection," while spokespeople for Sinema and Coons told Kaufman that the analysis' totals are "inaccurate" and "incredibly misleading."

"To the Exxon 11—here's your chance to show that you stand with the people who elected you, not Big Oil."
—Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the company "complies with all federal and state regulations and lobbying laws," and has "a responsibility to our customers, employees, communities, and shareholders to represent their interests in public policy discussions that impact our business."

Echoing Woods' statement earlier this month in response to the exposé, the spokesperson added that McCoy's recorded remarks "do not represent the company's position on a variety of issues, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials."

Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign director, said Tuesday in a statement responding to the analysis that the six Democratic senators "can say they aren't influenced by Big Oil, but those are empty words until they prove it."

"To gain back the public trust, the Exxon 11—and especially the six Democrats who accepted money from Exxon—must commit to no more meetings with fossil fuel companies while they craft the infrastructure and reconciliation bills," Redman continued.

"They must also stop taking $15 billion out of the pockets of hard working Americans and giving it to fossil fuel companies in the form of subsidies," she added. "To the Exxon 11—here's your chance to show that you stand with the people who elected you, not Big Oil."

Meanwhile, The New Republic report began by highlighting that Brookings Institution executive vice president Darrell M. West criticized Unearthed's exposé in a blog post. As Aronoff wrote:

West didn't mention that Brookings received $100,000 from ExxonMobil last year, according to the oil company's own disclosures. He also didn't mention that, in parts of the transcript Unearthed did not publish but which they subsequently provided to The New Republic, Brookings is mentioned explicitly by McCoy as one of two think tanks his company is "actively involved in."

Pointing to previous reviews by researcher Connor Gibson, Aronoff noted that Brookings got $250,000 from ExxonMobil in 2019, $250,000 in 2018, $240,000 in 2017, and $380,000 in 2016.

A Brookings spokesperson pointed to the institution's research independence guidelines and said that "Exxon has made no direct contributions to support specific scholars or specific research projects, and its funding is not directed toward Brookings's carbon tax or climate change related research."

The other think tank McCoy mentioned is the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which last year got $175,000 in general support funding and $500,000 for its Securing Our Future Capital Campaign.

A CSIS communications officer told Aronoff that no one there dealt with McCoy and that "we have not had any discussions with ExxonMobil concerning a carbon tax." However, the officer added that "we routinely invite Exxon, other oil and gas companies, and other companies more generally to our conferences and events. Exxon representatives attend these events. In that sense, we communicate with them."

Other recipients of money from ExxonMobil, according to the "Public Information and Policy Research" section of its 2020 Worldwide Giving Report (pdf), include the American Enterprise Institute ($100,000), Bipartisan Policy Center ($200,000), Council on Foreign Relations' Corporate Program ($100,000), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ($250,000).

An ExxonMobil spokesperson repeated Woods' claim that McCoy's comments don't reflect the company's positions, acknowledged that Woods is on CSIS's board of trustees, and said: "AEI, BPC, Brookings, and CSIS are known for their collaborative approach and assembling a diversity of views to develop and research domestic and global policies on a variety of issues. We support those efforts."

Aronoff wrote that "how you interpret this set of facts depends on how you think about financial incentives and corporate giving. ExxonMobil, at the end of the day, is a company; presumably, it is not pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into centrist think tanks for fun."

"The oil giant already maintains an impressive official lobbying operation, and donates generously to politicians," she noted. "But by funding the institutions that help define ideas about what constitutes a reasonable climate debate, the company may be exerting more influence over public discourse than the public realizes."

'Wake Up Call': Rapidly Thawing Permafrost Threatens Trans-Alaska Pipeline

Alaska's thawing permafrost is undermining the supports that hold up an elevated section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, putting in danger the structural integrity of one of the world's largest oil pipelines.

In a worst-case scenario, a rupture of the pipeline would result in an oil spill in a delicate and remote landscape where it would be extremely difficult to clean up.

"This is a wake-up call," said Carl Weimer, of Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit pipeline watchdog group based in Bellingham, Washington. "The implications of this speak to the pipeline's integrity and the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety in general."

A slope where an 810-foot long section of the pipeline is secured has started to slip due to the melting permafrost, in turn, causing the braces holding this section of the pipeline to twist and bend.

According to NBC News, the pipeline supports have been damaged by "slope creep" caused by thawing permafrost, records, and interviews with officials involved with managing the pipeline show.

To combat the problem, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has approved the use of about 100 thermosyphons — tubes that suck heat out of the permafrost – to keep the frozen slope in place and prevent further damage to the pipeline's support structure.

"The proposed project is integral to the protection of the pipeline," according to the department's November 2020 analysis.

There is some concern in using these cooling tubes – They have never been used as a defensive safeguard once a slope has begun to slide, and the permafrost is already thawing.

Feedback Loop

The Arctic and Alaska are heating twice as fast as the rest of the globe because of global warming. And global warming is driving the thawing of permafrost that the oil industry must keep frozen to maintain the infrastructure that allows it to extract more of the fossil fuels that cause the warming.

Permafrost is ground that has remained completely frozen for at least two years straight and is found beneath nearly 85 percent of Alaska. In the last few decades, permafrost temperatures there have warmed as much as 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The state's average temperature is projected to increase 2 to 4 degrees more by the middle of the century, and a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change projects that with every 2-degree increase in temperature, 1.5 million square miles of permafrost could be lost to thawing.

Common Dreams reported in 2019 that the melting of Alaska's permafrost is rapidly accelerating:

"The northernmost point on the planet is heating up more quickly than any other region in the world. The reason for this warming is ice–albedo feedback: as ice melts it opens up land and sea to the sun, which then absorb more heat that would have been bounced off by the ice, leading to more warming. It's a vicious circle of warmth that's changing the environment at the north pole.
"In Alaska, the crisis led this year to the warmest spring on record for the state; one city, Akiak, may turn into an island due to swelling riverbanks and erosion exacerbated by thawing permafrost and ice melt. Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Center scientist Susan Natali told The Guardian that what's happening in Akiak is just an indicator of the danger posed to Alaska by the climate crisis.
"The changes are really accelerating in Alaska," said Natali."

The Trans-Alaska system was completed in 1977. The 48-inch diameter steel pipeline runs for 800 miles, carrying "hot oil" from America's largest oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez. The pipeline is either buried underground or lifted above the surface in an attempt to prevent the permafrost from melting.

Assassins of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse reportedly posed as US agents

This is a breaking news story... Check back for possible updates...

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated early Wednesday morning after what initial news reports described as "a group of unidentified people" attacked his home on the outskirts of the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's First Lady, Martine Moïse, was reportedly hospitalized after suffering bullet wounds in the attack, which the Haitian Embassy in Canada confirmed on Twitter.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph "said he was now in charge of the country," France 24 reported.

In a statement, Joseph called the attack a "hateful, inhumane, and barbaric act."

"A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state," the prime minister said. "The country's security situation is under the control of the Haitian police and the armed forces of Haiti."

The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that "the assailants claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president's home."

The newspaper continued:

On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard saying in English over a megaphone, "DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down."
Sources said the assailants, one of whom spoke in English with an American accent, were not with the DEA.
"These were mercenaries," a high-ranking Haitian government official said.

In an appearance on Democracy Now! Wednesday morning, Haiti Liberté journalist Kim Ives said that while it is not yet clear who was behind the killing, "clearly this was a fairly sophisticated operation."

The assassination came amid widespread street protests against the Moïse government, which has faced accusations of corruption and rampant abuses of power. Moïse, who was backed by the United States, dissolved the Haitian parliament early last year and has been ruling by decree ever since.

"Even before the unrest, the president did not have a wide public mandate," the New York Times noted. "He won the 2016 election with just under 600,000 votes in a country of 11 million. Critics accused him of becoming more autocratic as he pressed ahead with an aggressive agenda that included rewriting the country's Constitution. Among the provisions he was pushing for was one that would grant Haiti's leader immunity for any actions while in office."

Study details how Trump unleashed 'outright slaughter' of wolves in Wisconsin

A new study published Monday estimates Wisconsin lost as much as a third of its gray wolf population after the Trump administration stripped federal protections for the animals and the state allowed for a public wolf hunt widely decried as being "divorced from science and ethical norms."

The February hunt, panned (pdf) by wildlife advocates as "an outright slaughter," killed 218 wolves—already far past the quota the state had set. But over 100 additional wolf deaths were the result of "cryptic poaching," University of Wisconsin–Madison environmental studies scientists found, referring to illegal killings in which hunters hide evidence of their activities.

The majority of those surplus deaths, the researchers estimate, occurred after the Trump administration announced on November 3, 2020 the lifting of endangered species protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states. That shift became effective in January 2021.

According to the study, published in the journal Peerj, between 98 and 105 wolves died since November 2020 "that would have been alive had delisting not occurred."

An optimistic scenario puts the state wolf numbers for April 2021 at between 695 and 751 wolves. That's down from at least 1,034 wolves last year, representing a decrease of 27–33% in one year.

That decline, the researchers said, is at clear odds with Wisconsin's stated goal of the hunt "to allow for a sustainable harvest that neither increases nor decreases the state's wolf population."

"Although the [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources] is aiming for a stable population, we estimate the population actually dropped significantly," said co-author Adrian Treves, a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and director of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW–Madison, in a statement.

Cancellation of the state's next hunt, set for November, could allow for the wolf population to rebound in one or two years. Standing in the way of that is Wisconsin's mandate for a wolf hunt in the absence of federal protections, and kill allowances set on shaky scientific ground, according to the researchers.

"Quite simply put, post-delisting, too many wolves are being killed and there is absolutely no justification for it."

Also troublesome is the fact that the state didn't mandate the collection of wolf carcasses for assessing data of wolf ages or detection of alpha females.

Co-author Francisco Santiago-Ávila said the results suggest the lifting of federal protections gave a subtle green light for more killings.

"During these periods, we see an effect on poaching, both reported and cryptic," he said. "Those wolves disappear and you never find them again."

"Additional deaths are caused simply by the policy signal," he said, "and the wolf hunt adds to that."

Citing "the importance of predators in restoring ecosystem health and function," the researchers offer recommendations including, at the federal level, a "protected non-game" classification for wolves. At the state level, authorities "should prove themselves capable of reducing poaching to a stringent minimum for a 5-year post-delisting monitoring period," the study said.

Wildlife advocates have already expressed concern that the wolf population hit seen in Wisconsin could be a harbinger of the fate of wolves in other states unless the Biden administration quickly restores federal protections for the iconic animals.

According to Samantha Bruegger, wildlife coexistence campaigner at WildEarth Guardians, "Quite simply put, post-delisting, too many wolves are being killed and there is absolutely no justification for it. No scientific justification. No ethical justification. No public safety justification. No economic justification."

WildEarth Guardians is among a handful of conservation organizations last month that released guides for laypeople as well as state agency wildlife policymakers to show how to best prioritize "wolf stewardship and a broader vision for conserving species in the face of global climate change and mass extinctions."

"New wolf plans informed by science and ethics are needed now more than ever, as the disastrous winter wolf hunt in Wisconsin showed," said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, expressing optimism the guides could be tools for "a more hopeful course in states' stewardship of these beloved animals."

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