Dirty money –> Mother Jones unveils Matt Isaacs’ five-year investigation of Sheldon Adelson, the gambling industry billionaire and conservative megadonor active in both American and Israeli politics. In Macau, a bastion of Chinese organized crime where Adelson owns casinos, he “not only tolerated, but sometimes even encouraged, illegal and unethical acts.” Isaacs asks: “Is dirty money spent by corrupt Chinese officials at Macau casinos flowing into our elections, at least indirectly?” Finding out may boil down to one former employee’s lawsuit.
Pushing forward –> Even though just before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death the Supreme Court put Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan on hold, the president will go ahead and sign the Paris climate pact, a vote of confidence that the plan will ultimately prevail. According to Reuters, Obama’s climate negotiator Todd Stern “also said that Obama’s successor, even if it is a Republican, would be unlikely to scrap the Paris deal as to do so would have negative diplomatic implications.”
AND: At Vox, David Roberts lays out the bleak possibilities if a future Supreme Court or US president permanently tosses out Obama’s Clean Power Plan: “If the foundation of Obama’s domestic climate plans is yanked away, it could strengthen the hand of skeptics and nationalists in China, India, and elsewhere, leading the whole superstructure to crumble. If the Paris agreement falls apart — and especially if a Republican is elected president of the US in 2016 — it is very difficult to see international agreement building itself back up from the wreckage anytime soon.”
MEANWHILE: At New Republic, Brian Beutler attempts to cut through the spin from both sides swirling around the choice of Justice Scalia’s successor.
More records fall –> “The calendar may have turned to 2016, but temperatures are picking up where 2015 left off. January was record warm, according to data released this week by NASA. You may recall that last year was the hottest on record for the globe. And by NASA’s accounting, it ended with a bang. This past December was the warmest December on record and the most abnormally warm month on record, too. That is until now,” Brian Kahn reports for Climate Central.
MEANWHILE: Rania El Gamal at Reuters reports that in an attempt to jumpstart oil prices, “>Dominant OPEC power Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia, the world’s top two producers and exporters, agreed on Tuesday to freeze production levels but said the deal was contingent on others joining in — a major sticking point with Iran absent from the talks and determined to raise production.” OPEC members are meeting with Iran today.
Plan B –> David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti at The New York Times: “In the early years of the Obama administration, the United States developed an elaborate plan for a cyberattack on Iran in case the diplomatic effort to limit its nuclear program failed and led to a military conflict, according to a coming documentary film and interviews with military and intelligence officials involved in the effort.” The documentary, Zero Days, directed by Alex Gibney, premieres today at the Berlin Film Festival.
Criminal rip off –> A new study by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch finds that Flint, Michigan, residents were paying exorbitant sums for their water, which we now know was contaminated with lead. Christopher Ingraham summarizes at The Washington Post: “The group surveyed the 500 largest public and private water providers in the country. They found that in January 2015, the Flint water system charged more for its services than any other of the 500 water utilities in their survey.” This, even though Flint was far poorer than many of the other areas surveyed.
When a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats –> At The New Yorker, James Surowiecki looks at Trump’s ascendency as a backlash against America’s embrace of globalization. He writes, “Trump and Sanders are popular not just because they’re expressing people’s anger but because they offer timely critiques of American capitalism. Trump’s economic populism… tends to be drowned out by his incendiary anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim positions. Nonetheless, it’s what distinguishes him most strongly from other hard-line conservatives, like Ted Cruz.”
AND: Thomas Piketty, the French inequality expert who authored Capital in the Twenty-First Century, predicts that regardless of who wins the elections, America is “witnessing the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the November 1980 elections.”
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