U.S. refrains from signing new UN pact to cut down global plastic waste

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that hasn’t signed an amendment to the United Nations’ Basel Convention that aims to cut down on global plastic waste, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Plastic bags, bottles and other wastes are causing widespread harm to marine and coastal ecosystems. These wastes kill massive numbers of marine animals and degrade their environment while entering the food chain. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has estimated that the ocean “could have more plastic than fish by weight” by the middle of this century.

The bottom line: Signatory countries to the Basel Convention’s new framework about plastic waste will have to figure out their own methods for limiting the pollution, according to Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program. The new stipulations say signatory governments will aim to “make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.”

The other side: The UN can only enforce this pact against signatories, despite the Basel Convention being bound in international law, so the U.S. is unlikely to see any direct consequences from not signing the new framework.

[Axios]

Reality

Our plastic waste gets washed up on every beach, even the most remote islands are covered in it. And plastic won’t biodegrade for thousands of years.

Trump: We’re ‘looking into’ banning of right-wing commentators on social media

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that his administration is “looking into” the banning of right-wing media personalities from prominent social media platforms — following a purge by Facebook of accounts belonging to several controversial political figures.

The president lamented the apparent suspension of actor and Trump supporter James Woods’ Twitter account, as well as the shuttering of Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson’s Facebook profile this week.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump tweeted.

Infowars chief Alex Jones, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and activist Laura Loomer were among the other incendiary characters bootedThursday from Facebook and its 

Trump and Republican members of Congress have long railed against Silicon Valley for what they claim is a perceived bias at the world’s largest tech firms against conservative viewpoints.

“The wonderful Diamond and Silk have been treated so horribly by Facebook,” the president wrote online, referring to the pro-Trump video-bloggers who have repeatedly claimed that the company is unfairly silencing them.

“They work so hard and what has been done to them is very sad – and we’re looking into,” Trump tweeted of the sisters, whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson.

“It’s getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter and three of its users in March, alleging that he was defamed and that the social media juggernaut selectively enforces its terms of service to benefit opponents of the Republican Party.

Trump last Tuesday met with with Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, in the Oval Office — hours after the president complained online about his treatment on the platform.

“No wonder Congress wants to get involved – and they should. Must be more, and fairer, companies to get out the WORD!” Trump tweeted.

[Politico]

Trump claimed wind turbines cause cancer

President Donald Trump on Tuesday launched his latest wild attack on wind turbines, an energy source that has long attracted his ire.

“They say the noise causes cancer,” the president said of the turbines at the National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser in Washington, DC.

Trump linked the technology to his former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, saying she “wanted to put up wind.”

“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations your house just went down 75% in value. And they say the noise causes cancer, you tell me that one, OK?” Trump said, imitating the whirring noise made by the turbines.

He went on to express concern for the effect of turbines on wild-bird populations.

“The thing makes so much noise, and, of course, it’s like a graveyard for birds. If you loved birds, you’d never want to walk under a windmill again,” Trump said.

Scientists have long rejected the decades-old claims of those who say that wind turbines cause a variety of illnesses, including cancer.

Simon Chapman, a professor in public health at the University of Sydney in Australia, in a 2012 article reviewed stories of people who had illnesses they blamed on turbines.

He suggested that the illnesses — which were real — were not attributable to the turbines but instead were “psychogenic,” which means they were caused by anxiety and unrest.

It is true that many birds are killed by flying into wind turbines. However, far more are killed by flying into cellphone and radio towers, or by being mauled to death by cats.

In February, Trump lost a long-running legal battle with the Scottish government over a wind farm near one of his golf courses.

Before the 2016 US presidential election, he launched the battle over an offshore farm near his golf course in Aberdeenshire in northwest Scotland. He lost and had to pay legal bills for himself and the Scottish government.

Last week, Trump attacked wind power at a rally in Michigan, saying that if the wind doesn’t blow, televisions and other electronic devices will lose power.

In fact, turbines can store the energy to be used in times of calm.

[Business Insider]

Trump says wind power doesn’t work because ‘it only blows sometimes’

President Trump late Wednesday repeated his opposition to wind power, pushing a misleading claim that it would not work as an energy source because the wind “only blows sometimes.”

The president made the comments during a phone interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, as part of his remarks on how his presidency has been “tougher … on Russia” than any other past presidents.

“It’s what we have done with energy and oil and gas. That’s all competition from, for Russia,” Trump said. “You look at the Ukraine. You look at so many different levels. You look at our military.”

“You look at the fact that we would have been powered by wind, which wouldn’t have worked by the way because it only blows sometimes and lots of problems come about.”

The comment echoes Trump’s repeated past criticisms of wind power. Just one week earlier, he mocked the concept of wind power by mimicking a man telling his spouse: “Turn off the television darling, please. There’s no wind, please turn off the television quickly.”

The Department of Energy explains on its website that power grids are designed to accommodate variability from energy generation sources, such as wind and solar, without having to rely on “backup” energy sources.

Trump, who campaigned on restoring coal jobs to the U.S., has long opposed wind turbines based on a number of arguments, including saying that the “windmills” will decrease property values and that turbines are a “killing field” for birds.

The Energy Department also notes that bird deaths from wind turbines are rare and pale in comparison to bird deaths from collisions with buildings and declining habitats from infrastructure development.

According to a new study released this week by a nonpartisan think tank, solar and wind power are on track to phase out coal as cheaper energy alternatives within the next few years.

[The Hill]

Reality

President Trump pledges to get to ‘the bottom of’ alleged anti-conservative bias on social media

President Donald Trump doubled down on his words of support for conservatives on social media – a group he says has faced “big discrimination.”

“Things are happening, names are taken off, people aren’t getting through, you’ve heard the same complaints and it seems to be if they are conservative, if they’re Republicans, if they’re in a certain group there’s discrimination and big discrimination,” Trump said.

“I see it absolutely on Twitter and on Facebook which I have also and others,” Trump said during a joint press conference in the Rose Garden with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday.

“I get to see what’s going on first hand and it is not good, we use the word ‘collusion’ very loosely all the time and I will tell you there is collusion with respect to that because something has to be going on and when you get the back scene, back office statements made by executives of the various companies and you see the level of, in many cases, hatred they have for a certain group of people who happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election, you say that’s really unfair,” Trump continued. “So something’s happening with those groups of folks who are running Facebook and Google and Twitter and I do think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

Twitter says it enforces its rules “dispassionately and equally for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation.”

His comments come on the heels of a lawsuit by Rep. Devin Nunes, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is suing political strategist Liz Mair, Twitter and two twitter accounts for negligence, defamation, insulting words and civil conspiracy.

The lawsuit was first reported by Fox News.

[ABC News]

Trump CRITICIZES airplane technology after Boeing crash: ‘I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot’

Donald Trump has suggested that modern planes are too complex in the wake of two deadly crashes in the past five months.

The US president said that the additional “complexity creates danger” and hinders pilots from making “split second decisions” to ensure their passengers’ safety.

“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

He added: “Split second decisions are… needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”

His remarks come after several countries, including the UK, China and Australia, grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

The aircraft crashed in Indonesia last year and in Ethiopia on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. 

At least nine Britons and one Irish citizen were among the dead, as were scientists, doctors, aid workers and three members of a Slovakian MP’s family.

Mr Trump participated in a signing ceremony for a $15 billion (£11 billion) deal between US-based Boeing and the Vietnamese government during his trip to Hanoi for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month.

The lucrative deal includes Vietnam’s Bamboo airways agreeing to purchase ten 787-9 Dreamliners worth about $3 billion, while airline VietJet’s order is for 100 737 Max planes valued at $12.7 billion, Boeing said.

The 737 series is one of Boeing’s most popular planes but the Max 8 model has raised safety concerns for possibly hindering pilots’ ability to overpower automated functions. 

America’s Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said on Monday that it believes the Boeing 737 Max is airworthy. 

Boeing has also said no new safety guidance is planned for the moment. “The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance,” the company said in a statement.

However three senators have called for Mr Trump to take action as a precautionary measure. 

Republican senator Mitt Romney said on Tuesday: “Out of an abundance of caution for the flying public, the @FAANews should ground the 737 MAX 8 until we investigate the causes of recent crashes and ensure the plane’s airworthiness.”

Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal have also raised concerns.

Boeing also announced late on Monday night that it has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, developed in light of the Indonesian crash.

It will be put into effect in the coming weeks, to “make an already safe aircraft even safer”. It includes changes to “flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training”. 

The announcement came after the FAA said it would mandate “design changes” no later than April.

[The Telegraph]

Trump Parrots Fox & Friends Segment Claiming Climate Crisis is ‘Fake News,’ ‘Fake Science’

In his latest Fox & Friends live-tweeting session, President Donald Trumpapplauded former Greenpeace president Patrick Moore for saying the planet’s climate crisis is “fake news” and “fake science.” This comes after Trump echoed a segment of the show where one of his former campaign staffers called on Jews to abandon the Democratic Party.

Moore was invited onto Fox & Friends because he called Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-NY) a “pompous little twit” for her latest defense of the Green New Deal. Sure enough, he used his segment to call the proposal “completely ridiculous” and push his denial of climate change.

Moore went on to bash the majority of the scientific community for their concerns about climate change, saying Greenpeace has been “hijacked by the extreme left” to sell “sensationalism, misinformation, and fear.” He also suggested that global warming could be a good thing, saying that burning fossil fuels and releasing more greenhouse gases will “fertilize” the planet, resulting in a net positive for the environment.

As it were, Greenpeace has responded to Trump, saying that contrary to Moore’s claim, he did not co-found the organization, and they essentially renounced him ever since he started operating as a lobbyist and an advocate for polluters and corporate energy industries.

It’s worth noting the Trump Administration released a report from multiple federal agencies last year that determined global climate change could have extreme long-term consequences for the United States. Then again, Trump has made his skepticism of man-made climate change perfectly clear in the past, so his parroting Moore could just be confirmation bias on his part.

[Mediaite]

Federal judge halts Trump attempt to discharge service members deemed ‘unfit’ only because they are HIV-positive

A federal judge has issued a ruling from the bench halting the Trump administration’s attempts to discharge service members merely due to their HIV-positive status. The order goes into effect immediately for the U.S. Air Force after two airmen sued Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

“The two Airmen serving as plaintiffs, who filed pseudonymously, were given discharge orders at the end of last year after being found ‘unfit for continued military service’ despite compliance with medical treatment and physical fitness requirements,” Lambda Legal announced Friday.

The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with partner law firm Winston & Strawn.

“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma, as today’s ruling from the bench demonstrates,” Lambda Legal’s Scott Schoettes said, calling the judge’s decision, ” a major victory.”

Equality Cases Files published a copy of the ruling here.

[Raw Story]

Trump Mockingly Asks What Happened to ‘Global Waming’ After Record Cold in Midwest

President Donald Trump is wondering what happened to global warming since right now it is cold in the “beautiful Midwest.”

“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder,” Trump wrote on TwitterMonday night. “People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”


Despite Trump’s claims, 2018 was among the hottest on record across the globe and the planet is expected to get hotter according to experts.

United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned in 2018 that temperatures are predicted to rise up to 9 degrees by the end of the century.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases of from 5.4 to 9 degrees by the end of the century,” he said in a statement made approximately one week from Trump’s November tweet pondering where — given a few days of cold — global warming had gone.

[Mediaite]

EPA announces new plan to weaken Obama-era greenhouse gas rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday plans to roll back a 2015 rule that put strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions coming from coal plants — a tweak the agency is labeling closer to “reality.”

The change will significantly weaken the Obama-era rule in part as an effort to help jump-start new coal plant construction in the U.S.

The proposed revisions to the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) would no longer mandate that plants meet the strict emissions goals of achieving emissions equal to or less than what plants would have achieved with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Obama administration at the time saw CCS as a feasible future technology that was important to pulling carbon out of coal plant emissions at their source. Today the technology is not generally used commercially and is pricey.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler called the Obama administration’s focus on CCS “disingenuous.”

“Their determination was disingenuous. They knew the tech was not adequately demonstrated, which is what was required under the law. This rule sets high yet achievable standards rooted in reality,” Wheeler said at a press conference at EPA headquarters.

EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum called the old rule “wishful thinking.”

“Today’s actions reflect our approach of defining new, clean coal standards by data and the latest technological information, not wishful thinking,” he said in a statement. “U.S. coal-fired power will be a part of our energy future and our revised standards will ensure that the emissions profiles of new plants continue to improve.”

The new changes would limit coal plant emissions to 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour produced, a level they say can be met with modern technology including efficient boilers.

The original rule had set the limit at 1,400 pounds.

Despite the higher level of carbon being allowed into the air under EPA’s latest change, Wheeler told reporters that their study found it would “not result in significant [carbon dioxide] changes or costs.”

When asked whether the new rule means the EPA is ignoring the Trump administration’s latest report that declared that effects from climate change would result in unavoidable economic harm to the U.S, Wheeler pushed back.

“We’re not ignoring the government report. We’re still looking at the government report ourselves. We just got a briefing on it this morning from some of our career scientists,” he said.

The report was released two weeks ago.

The EPA chief said the new rule would actually be beneficial to human health because it would provide cheaper electricity to households.

“Having cheap electricity helps human health. If you have cheaper electricity, people are able to afford electricity for their house — that is one aspect of protecting human health,” he said, specifically referring to lower income populations.

[The Hill]

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