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Jon Stewart explains how to make GOP senators care about climate

Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 1.32.09 PM

There's no better evidence of how much the Republican Party has changed on the environment than this: The fact that Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all think global warming is real and we should do something about it.

On Wednesday, this quartet -- William Ruckelshaus, who served under both Nixon and Reagan; Lee Thomas, who served under Reagan; William Reilly, who served under George Bush Sr., and Christine Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush -- testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. But as the Huffington Post's Kate Sheppard reports, the Republican senators present "mostly ignored" their testimony.

The whole spectacle was enough to inspire a Jon Stewart rant, one that is truly priceless. Watch:


What you don't know can hurt you

Pennsylvania ordered its health workers to never discuss fracking

Pennsylvania won't discuss fracking

In the heavily fracked Keystone State, the economic interests of frackers trump the health concerns of residents.

That much is abundantly clear in the wake of an extraordinary story by StateImpact Pennsylvania, which interviewed two retired state health department workers. The former workers say they were ordered to not return the phone calls of residents who complained that nearby fracking was harming their health. Instead, they were told to pass messages on to their superiors, who apparently never returned the calls either. The health workers were also given a list of fracking-related "buzzwords" to watch out for:


say what?

NATO chief accuses fracking opponents of being Russian puppets

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Chatham House
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is suspicious of anti-fracking activists.

Russia doesn't want Europe fracking for natural gas because Russia wants to keep exporting natural gas there itself. And environmental groups don't want Europe fracking for natural gas because, well, because fracking is an environmentally heinous method of getting a climatically heinous fuel out of the ground. But Russia and environmentalists are not friends. Russia locked up green activists on trumped-up charges for criticizing the environmental impacts of the recent Winter Olympics. And Russia locked up members of Greenpeace for three months late last year after they attempted to scale an oil rig to protest Arctic drilling.

But if NATO's secretary general is to believed, opposition by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations to fracking is the result of infiltration or collusion involving Russian agents.

"I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engages actively with so-called non-governmental organizations, environmental organizations working against shale gas -- obviously to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas," said NATO's Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, during a talk at the Chatham House international affairs think tank in London on Thursday.

Well, obviously. But who are these allies? Has Russia sent undercover operatives to sneak into green groups? Or is there some sort of collaboration between the should-be foes?

Rasmussen didn't elaborate. “That’s my interpretation," he said.


Why are the Kochs giving $25 million to poor black college students?

Koch brothers
Jared Rodriguez / Truthout

Normally when we hear about Charles and David Koch making it rain from their multi-billion dollar empire, it’s to adorn Tea Party candidates during campaigns or to fund free-market advocacy organizations like Americans for Prosperity. But earlier this month, the Koch Bros., as they’re affectionately called, dropped $25 million on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), to aid scholarships for black students and to help historically black universities. It was the fifth largest donation UNCF has received in its seven decades of existence as the preeminent scholarship source for low-income African Americans.

This is probably not exactly what Ta-Nehisi Coates meant by reparations. Given that the Kochs are dead set against addressing problems that most Americans, including most African Americans, find important, like climate change, some view the Koch/UNCF transaction as something more diabolical. Perhaps it’s a PR ploy, part of the Kochs' $300 million plan to make opposition to regulating greenhouse gas emissions popular among voters. Consider the Kochs have been pay-pals to organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which not only campaigns against environmental regulations, but also promotes state laws that undermine African Americans’ voting rights.


Buzz feed

Bees and butterflies get a boost from the feds

Jack Wolf

After bailing out automakers and Wall Street bankers, the U.S. government  has now rolled out a pair of programs to assist a more sympathetic recipient: insects. There’s finally a bailout for the bee and butterfly bankruptcy!

U.S. farmers have gotten better and better at controlling weeds in their fields, and that’s been a disaster for monarch butterflies. Monarchs rely on one specific field plant: milkweed. They can’t survive without it. The population of both milkweed and monarchs have taken a tumble with the rise of effective weed control, via the herbicide glyphosate and GMO crops that tolerate glyphosate.

At the same time, honey bees have been dying off because of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, and many native bee populations are foundering.

Read more: Food, Politics


A rising tide of cash

Pesticide and GMO companies spend big to influence politics in Hawaii

money pile

Hawaii has become "ground zero" in the controversy over genetically modified crops and pesticides. With the seed crop industry (including conventional as well as GMO crops) reaping $146.3 million a year in sales resulting from its activities in Hawaii, the out-of-state pesticide and GMO firms SyngentaMonsantoDuPont PioneerDow ChemicalBASF, and Bayer CropScience have brought substantial sums of corporate cash into the state's relatively small political arena.

Chemical conglomerates retaliate against local democratic control

These “Big 6” pesticide and GMO firms are very active on the islands, making use of the three to four annual growing seasons to develop new GMO seeds more quickly. The development of new GMOs by these pesticide and seed conglomerates goes hand-in-hand with heavy pesticide use in some of the islands' experimental crop fields, new data show.

Kauai County -- consisting primarily of the island of Kauai, known as Hawaii's "Garden Isle" and home to Waimea Canyon State Park -- passed a law in November 2013 that will require disclosure of pesticide use and GMO crops sewn by growers and create buffer zones around schools, parks, medical facilities, and private residences. The law is set to go into effect in August 2014.

Hawaii County banned GMOs altogether in November 2013, and a Maui County initiative to ban GMOs recently obtained enough citizen signatures to be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

Since experiencing these setbacks, the ag giants have retaliated in a big way. And they and other Big Ag interests have poured money into lobbying against GMO restrictions and backing GMO-friendly candidates (details below).


Tell the EPA what you think of its climate rules

woman with megaphone

You know those proposed EPA power-plant rules that we've been going on and on and on about? Now you can go on and on and on about them yourself.

The Obama administration has opened up the official 120-day public comment period, after the proposal was published in the Federal Register. The EPA will accept feedback through Oct. 16, so now's the time to speak your mind.

Here's how to comment.


Turns out there are a few Republicans who want to do something about climate change


Here's a helpful reminder that not all Republicans oppose climate action. Former EPA administrators who served under Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush I and II spoke out on Wednesday in support of federal efforts to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants. They appeared at a Senate hearing organized by Democrats to discuss EPA's recently proposed power-plant rules. From USA Today:

"We have a scientific consensus around this issue. We also need a political consensus," said Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey Governor and first EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, who resigned her post after disagreeing with the White House's direction on pollution rules.

Whitman was joined by William Ruckelshaus, the nation's first EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon, William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, and Lee Thomas, who was administrator under Reagan. ...

[T]he four EPA administrators ... said the Obama administration had worked hard to make the proposal flexible and workable, using authority provided by Congress.

More from McClatchy:


Here’s what the battle over Iraqi oil means for America

A member from the oil police force stands guard at Zubair oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad June 18, 2014.
Reuters/ Essam Al-Sudani
A member from the oil police force stands guard at Zubair oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad June 18, 2014.

As deadly sectarian violence continues to sweep through Iraq, the country's oil industry is reeling from a brazen attack on one of its key domestic refineries. Here are five things you need to know about the role of oil in the current conflict, and what it means for the U.S. and the global economy.

1. Oil infrastructure is a major flashpoint in the Iraq crisis. After a week-long siege, Sunni extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, fought their way into Iraq's largest oil refinery in the northern city of Baiji on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are conflicting reports about how much of the facility was seized by the militants in the ensuing chaos, and whether Iraqi forces have in fact repelled the attack, as Iraqi military officials claim. Previously, repeated attacks shut down the major Turkey-bound Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline in the north.


Oil-train info does not need to be secret, feds say

oil train

Public release of details about oil-train routes and shipments does not pose a serious security risk, the federal government said yesterday.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how the Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring railroads to tell states about shipments within their borders of the more-explosive-than-usual Bakken crude, so that those states and relevant municipalities could prepare for the Lac-Mégantic-sized explosions that might be lying in store for them.

Railroads said, "Yeah, sure," and then turned around and drew up non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for every state they were routing oil through. By the conditions of the NDAs, the states could only use the crude shipment information for disaster planning and response. Any other disclosure and it was lawsuit time.