A slowdown in ocean circulation seems to be happening, and it could signal a coming disaster

The Day After Tomorrow is an awful movie in almost every way. Not only is it filled with over-the-top acting and editing that values noise over story, the underlying narrative is based on climate change causing sudden horrific events around the world including bowling-ball sized hailstones and ice-tornadoes. Also, wolves. 

But behind the cheesy effects and impossible events, there’s an idea that was suggested over a decade ago and since worked out in detail by climate researchers. That idea remains one of the most serious possible outcomes of climate change. And, unfortunately, it seems that the awful idea … may be coming true.

Two years ago, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen and a number of colleagues laid out a dire scenario in which gigantic pulses of fresh water from melting glaciers could upend the circulation of the oceans, leading to a world of fast-rising seas and even superstorms. 

At the time, the predictions were based on computer simulations, and more than a few researchers doubted these events would play out in the real world, even if the scenario proved true. But just two years later …

The new research, based on ocean measurements off the coast of East Antarctica, shows that melting Antarctic glaciers are indeed freshening the ocean around them. And this, in turn, is blocking a process in which cold and salty ocean water sinks below the sea surface in winter, forming “the densest water on the Earth,” in the words of study lead author Alessandro Silvano, a researcher with the University of Tasmania in Hobart.

The result is that glaciers in at least two areas are melting faster than previously expected, because a layer of fresh water is staying on the surface, eroding the ice at an ever-increasing rate. This fresh water acts like a lake perched above the dense saline water, and the more ice that melts, the worse the situation becomes.

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper Demolishes the Idea that Trump Hires the ‘Best People’

"If the President hires only the best people, why aren't they still on the job?"

In the wake of a continuous stream of staffing controversies in President Donald Trump's administrations, CNN's Anderson Cooper opened his show Tuesday night be examining candidate Trump's repeated campaign promise that he would only hire the best people.

“If the president hires only the best people, why aren't they still on the job?” the host of “Anderson Cooper 360” asked. “Why have so many left the administration? Why are others serving under ethical clouds? Why are some facing so much difficulty getting confirmed?”

Cooper's questions come as Trump's pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs is facing allegations of creating a hostile work environment, drinking on the job, and inappropriately prescribing medications. Senators of both parties have questioned whether his experience as the lead White House physician qualifies him to run an organization as large as the VA.

But Cooper notes that the president's personnel crisis didn't start or end with Jackson.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and former staff secretary Rob Port all faced a range of ethical and legal scandals. Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former campaign staffer George Papadopoulos have each found themselves in the middle of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. 

“This is an administration that has seen all of the above, and, critics says, brought most of it on itself,” Cooper said.

Watch the clip below:


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LePage thwarting the will of Maine voters, still refusing to expand Medicaid

Last year, Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative, following Gov. Paul LePage’s multiple vetos of the legislature’s efforts to accept the Affordable Care Act’s expansion. LePage, however, won’t give up and is rejecting the will of 60 percent of Maine’s voters.

“That we have had to fight this battle time and again is discouraging,” said Andi Parkinson, an organizer with the nonprofit Kennebec Valley Organization. […]

LePage, now in his last year in office, has insisted he won’t green-light expansion, which is expected to cover 80,000 low-income Maine adults, unless state lawmakers meet his conditions for funding the program that he contends could otherwise bankrupt the state. As chances of a deal with LePage dwindle, the organizers of the Maine ballot initiative are now preparing for a legal showdown to enforce voters’ wishes.

“The law is clear,” said Robyn Merrill of Maine Equal Justice Partners, an advocacy group that spearheaded the Medicaid expansion referendum. “People will have a right [to coverage] and we will represent them in court.“

Individuals are supposed to become eligible for Medicaid coverage on July 2, according to the Maine ballot measure. The legislative stalemate leaves few options other than litigation to force LePage’s hand. Ultimately, the issue may not be resolved until after Maine elects its next governor in the fall.

LePage is ignoring the deadlines established for the state in the ballot initiative, already having missed the deadline for filing the paperwork with the Trump administration that it was going to expand. The legislature has finished business for the year, aside from this stand-off with LePage, so they have had to keep the session open. Maine’s House Republicans are in the minority in that body, but nonetheless are helping LePage, with House Minority Leader Ken Fredette—running to be the next LePage when he’s term limited out after this year—resisting efforts by the body’s Democrats to get a funding deal. The state’s Senate Republicans, however, are in favor of the expansion.

Given that just last fall, 60 percent of Maine voters told their leaders want this expansion, it seems like a losing proposition for a Republican candidate for governor to base his campaign on continuing LePage’s obstruction. But they’ve all got a primary to get through. Seems like lots of legislative seats—as well as the executive—will be ripe for a flip this fall.

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Study Shows Trump Voters Were Motivated by Fear of Losing Privileged Status—Not Economic Anxiety

This wasn't about the stagnant wages.

Much has been made about Trump’s support from the “forgotten men and women” who elected him to throw a “flash-bang grenade” at the elites in Washington. Usually, this framed as an issue concerning “economic anxiety,” and the fact that middle-class white Americans are less prosperous than they were in past generations.

But a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that this narrative is flawed. Trump supporters aren’t angry about off-shoring, they’re resentful about their possible loss of status.

“It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,” study author Diana C. Mutz from the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. “It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.”

Mutz’s research casts doubts on the economic anxiety explanation, which researchers call the “left behind” theory. People who lost jobs or came from cities where off-shoring ravaged the local economy weren’t more likely to support trump than people who didn’t.

“It wasn’t people in those areas that were switching, those folks were already voting Republican,” Mutz said.

The actual correlation she uncovered involved a “social dominance orientation,” which measures whether people see hierarchy as a good and natural way to organize society. White people who had that view gravitated towards Trump.

“It used to be a pretty good deal to be a white, Christian male in America, but things have changed and I think they do feel threatened,” Mutz said.

Read the study here or the Times story here.

 

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Australia braces for US steel tariffs exemption rollover as deadline looms

Australian Industry Group hopes temporary exemption will be extended for another 30 days from 1 May as permanent deal remains elusive
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Australia is hoping to secure a permanent exemption to US steel tariffs before they come into force on 1 May but if not will have to rely on another temporary reprieve, the Australian Industry Group says.

The 1 May deadline when US steel tariffs will apply to all countries including Australia is fast approaching and no permanent exemption has yet been put in place, according to the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

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GOP tax law serves up $17 billion break to millionaires this year

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Sorry, middle-class America—you were always just an afterthought in the Republicans’ trillion-dollar tax scheme. A new report from Joint Committee on Taxation shows the nation’s wealthiest stand to gain the most from the GOP’s tax deduction for “pass-through” businesses, Donald Trump included. Vox writes:

The committee estimates that the owners of pass-through entities — companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations that don’t pay corporate income taxes — will save $ 40.2 billion in 2018 thanks to the tax bill.

Of that total, $ 17.4 billion will go to individuals and households making more than $ 1 million per year. (Revenue estimators are based on tax returns, so a married couple filing jointly is one taxpayer, and a married couple filing separately are two.) (emphasis added)

By 2024, the committee estimates pass-throughs will save $ 60.3 billion on taxes via the new law. More than half of the benefit — $ 31.6 billion — will go to individuals and households earning more than $ 1 million.

The GOP’s tax scam continues to slide in the polls since getting a boost after an initial round of one-time bonuses issued in early 2018. In mid-April, Gallup found that a majority of Americans—52 percent—disapprove of the law while only 39 percent approve of it. That tracks almost perfectly with an NBC News/WSJ poll released the same day.

Just 39 percent foresee a positive impact from a stronger economy, more jobs and more money in their pockets; 53 percent foresee a negative impact from higher deficits and disproportionate benefits for the wealthy and big corporations.

Looks like 53 percent of Americans didn’t need a fancy report to know who was on the losing end of the GOP tax law. But guess who was on the winning end?

The vast majority of US businesses are pass-throughs, including those owned by President Donald Trump — his Trump Organization is structured as a collection of pass-through entities.

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Senator Claims Ronny Jackson Was Literally Drunk While Caring for Obama

Trump has picked Jackson to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but the nomination unleashed a wave of allegations.

Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump's doctor and his pick to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, was reportedly drunk on the job while he was responsible for the medical care of former President Barack Obama, according to Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

Tester revealed the allegations Tuesday on NPR's “All Things Considered” after Jackson's confirmation hearings were delayed. Reports about Jackson's alleged misconduct first emerged Monday night, and both Republican and Democratic senators have been reviewing the claims against the rear admiral.

“He is the physician for the president,” Tester said. “In the previous administration, we were told stories, he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That's not acceptable.”

NPR host Ari Shapiro reported that Jackson has privately denied ever having a drink while on duty.

Tester said that the senators didn't seek out these allegations. He said military service members came forward with their concerns about Jackson, and the senators have simply followed those leads.

Other allegations include that Jackson was verbally abusive toward staff, has an “explosive personality,” and gave out inappropriate prescriptions, particularly of sleep medications.

Tester said more than 20 current and former military personnel have come forward with these claims.

 

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US media fudge rebels’ Douma surrender date to imply alleged Assad chemical attack turned tide

Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have only just reached Douma, scene of an alleged chemical bombing attack on April 7, and have not yet had time to test samples they collected to see if banned poison chemicals were actually used, but already U.S. mainstream media reporting on the situation in the Damascus suburb where the alleged chemical attack occurred is starting to shift, so as to fall more comfortably in line with the U.S. government position that the attack, if it happened, was the work of the Syrian military, and that Assad’s “attack” caused rebels to surrender and agree to leave the embattled city.

The problem is, though, that back on April 1, a week before the alleged attack, the Associated Press was reporting that rebels in Douma were beginning to evacuate the area they had held for years, under a safe passage agreement negotiated with the Syrian government, according to which buses would be able to remove them to safety in the north of the country. That report made clear that the rebel resistance had already collapsed and that the rebel fighters were going to be evacuated in following days by chartered buses, which had already begun moving them out of the city well before April 7.

A French state television report on April 1 also reported that on that date:

Negotiators in the last rebel-held bastion in Syria’s eastern Ghouta reached a deal on Saturday with the Russian side to evacuate the wounded from Douma to rebel-held northern Syria, local sources familiar with the deal said.

The agreement was reached by the negotiating committee that comprises both civic leaders and representatives of Jaish al-Islam, the rebel faction in control of Douma, the sources said.

The committee has been negotiating a deal to spare the city a military assault by the Syrian army and its allies who encircle it. They have threatened to storm the city if rebels do not agree to surrender the last patch in the enclave in return for safe passage to insurgent-held territory in northwestern Syria.

Rebels fleeing Douma by bus caravan under a Russian-negotiated ‘safe passage’ agreement.

These accounts of course raise serious questions as to why Assad would opt to drop a few chemical bombs as he’s accused by the U.S. of doing, killing a few dozen local residents while predictably angering the world community and giving the U.S. an opening to bomb his forces. Why do that if Assad’s military forces had already won full control of the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s capital city region, with an agreement, already being implemented, to ship the rebels out of the city?

But three weeks later, AP was reporting that the same rebel militants “gave up the town days after the alleged attack.” As the article by AP reporter Philip Issa states, “Thousands of people – rebels and civilians – left Douma on buses to north Syria in the days after the suspected attack, believing they could not live under government authority after it retook the town.”

So what’s the story, AP? Were rebel fighters already giving up on April 1 and already starting to leave Douma under a “safe passage” agreement with the Syrian government, well before the alleged attack on that suburb or did they only start leaving after the alleged chemical bombing?

It’s hard to know based upon the reporting by the leading American wire service, though one would think any honest report on departures after the alleged attack would have mentioned that the evacuation effort, organized with Russian help and clearly indicating that the rebels had given up Douma and had already begun leaving a week earlier than the time of the alleged Assad chemical attack.

It remains to be seen what the OPCW investigators will find if anything (they are charged with llooking for evidence of banned chemical weapons, but are not expected to determine, if such evidence is found, who might have been responsible for their use). There is some question as to whether they will find anything definitive, given that they didn’t arrive on the scene of the alleged chemical bombing attack until 12 days after it is said to have happened. The delay was caused by the surprise U.S. cruise missile attack on April 13, a day before OPCW inspectors were scheduled to conduct their inspection, as well a by later concerns about security and investigators’ safety at the scene in Douma, though again in mentioning the delay, U.S. media tend to ignore the role of the U.S. missile attack, and to mention only security concerns.

The post US media fudge rebels’ Douma surrender date to imply alleged Assad chemical attack turned tide appeared first on NationofChange.

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Unfit for office? How the 25th amendment could remove Trump – video explainer

Political dramas Homeland and Designated Survivor have recently explored how a president could be removed from office using the 25th amendment to the US constitution. It can only be triggered if the president is deemed ‘unfit for office’. But how would it work in reality? Who would be needed to trigger it? And why has it never been used before? The Guardian’s US political reporter Sabrina Siddiqui explains

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US politics | The Guardian

Trump’s VA nominee improperly dispensed drugs, drank on the job, and horribly mismanaged his unit

This is the type of thing the White House would have discovered if they had vetted Donald Trump’s Veterans Affairs nominee before he hit a road block in the Senate: A 2012 watchdog report found Dr. Ronny Jackson was at least partially responsible for running what was described by one staffer as the “worst command ever.”

The toxic work environment at the White House Medical Unit in 2012 stemmed from a rivalry that developed between Jackson and another physician in the unit. The AP writes:

The report, reviewed Tuesday by The Associated Press, suggested the White House consider replacing Jackson or Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman — or both. Kuhlman was the physician to President Barack Obama at the time, and had previously held the role occupied by Jackson: director of the White House Medical Unit.

The six-page report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”

“There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells,’” the report found.

But the “unprofessional behavior” cited in the report appears to extend well beyond a workplace rivalry.

x

On @NPR, @SenatorTester says the allegations against Ronny Jackson fall into three areas:- improper dispensing of prescription drugs- repeatedly drunk while on duty while travelling- creating a toxic work environment.

— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) April 24, 2018

“Repeatedly drunk”—this is the person who was supposedly tasked with ensuring the well-being of the president of the United States. And also the person who has been nominated by Trump to head one of the biggest federal bureaucracies, including oversight of 170 VA Medical Centers and 1,061 outpatient sites serving more than 9 million veterans.

“Only the best!” #MAGA

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