What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Department of Energy Climate Office Employees Told Not to Say “Climate Change”; What the Latest Proposal for NIH Cuts Means

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

DOE Climate Office Employees Told Not to Say "Climate Change"

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry at the inaugural parade in front of the White House on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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Leaps backward –> The House of Representatives voted yesterday to restrict the EPA’s use of science. But before it did so, climate scientist Michael Mann had the unenviable job of debating high-profile climate deniers before the House Science Committee. Rebecca Leber reports for Mother Jones.

Also yesterday, the EPA decided it would not outlaw a pesticide that it had been considering banning since 2015. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt cited the “need to provide regulatory certainty” for farmers that use the chemical. “The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt’s predecessors, but it apparently just wasn’t persuasive enough for an administrator who isn’t sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea,” Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that promotes public health, said in a statement.

Climate office –> A supervisor at The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy at the Department of Energy has ordered employees not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement”  in their written output. Employees suspect this may be a precursor to Trump eliminating the office entirely.

In the good news department –> Trump’s efforts to revive coal and unwind Obama’s climate change regulations could still hit stumbling blocks. Environmentalists are, in particular, watching one case being litigated in federal court in which 21 teens are suing Trump to force his administration to create policy based on climate science, arguing that not doing so infringes on young Americans’ and future generations’ constitutional rights. Trump is trying to get the case dismissed, Coco McPherson writes for Rolling Stone. And, at Earth Island Journal, Zoe Loftus-Farren interviews one one of the young plaintiffs, 16-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

The biggest challenge to Trump’s efforts to turn back the clock, however, is the plummeting cost of sustainable energy, Mart Hertsgaard writes for The Nation. “While Team Trump continues to insist that the world is flat, gravity is not real, and climate change is unproven, major government and corporate players around the world are leaving coal behind, hedging their bets on oil and gas, and racing to embrace clean energy sources — solar, wind, batteries, efficiency — that are plummeting in price, gobbling up market share, and widely regarded as the kingmaking technologies of the 21st-century economy.”

Failure to communicate –> Sam Biddle, who covers tech for The Intercept, spent a week trying to get spokespeople for the lobbying groups pushing Congress to gut internet privacy to explain why they were promoting the legislation as pro-privacy. They replied, but they didn’t answer. He posted his exchange in full.

The Verge, meanwhile, has posted a list of “the 265 members of Congress who sold you out to ISPs, and how much it cost to buy them.”

A closer look at NIH cuts –> The administration is proposing to cut $1.2 billion from the National Institutes of Health’s budget. It’s a reduction from the $6 billion cuts that the White House initially proposed, and that were met with fierce resistance from both parties. At Stat News, Dylan Scott digs into what these latest proposed cuts would mean — including wiping out “$50 million from funding for IDeA grants, which are intended to help spread biomedical research geographically across the United States. ”

Amazon founder becomes second-richest man –> With $75.6 billion, Jeff Bezos has taken the spot of second-richest man in the world, behind only Bill Gates. Seven of the top ten billionaires on the newly issued Bloomberg Billionaires Index live in the US — and two, Charles and David Koch, are members of the same family.

Report from Cairo –> Kirk Siegler reports for NPR from Cairo, a town in Illinois that has lost half its population over the last 40 years. Communities like this are visited by reporters during the election as pundits speculate how their residents might vote, but are largely forgotten afterward by both policymakers and the media. Siegler talks to people frustrated by the lack of solutions for Cairo. “Like in much of rural America, people’s identity is tightly wrapped in their town,” he writes. “And then there’s the sense that places like this have been forgotten.”

The information war –> Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat profiles scientist Kate Starbird, who started mapping traffic to and interactions with conspiracy and “alternative narrative” sites such as InfoWars and Breitbart. Starbird found that they are attracting an audience as large as established news sources like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.



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