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Morning Reads: World Hotter than Ever; EPA-Designate Pruitt Still Confused on Climate Change

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

Morning Reads: World Hotter than Ever

Mean global temperature anomaly map. (NASA)

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We knew it was coming, but… –> A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms that 2016 was the hottest year on record, and that global warming is moving even faster than scientists predicted. “Disturbingly, this is now the fifth time that the temperature record has been shattered in the current century (along with 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015), and it’s the 40th consecutive year featuring an annual temperature above the 20th-century average,” George Dvorsky writes for Gizmodo. “All 16 years of the 21st century rank among the 17 warmest on record, with 1998 being the eighth warmest.”

Obama’s presidential presser –> The president held his last official news conference yesterday and pointedly supported the press corps’ continued presence in the White House; there have been rumors that Donald Trump wants to move reporters away from the executive mansion. “Having you in this building has made this place work better,” Obama said. “It keeps us honest. It makes us work harder.” He also subtly warned the president-elect, “You are enormously reliant on a team. If you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven’t created a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies or promises that you’ve made — that’s when you start making mistakes.”

At The New Yorker, John Cassidy writes, “This didn’t sound like the farewell of someone retiring permanently from the public sphere. And that, surely, is for the good. Obama is only 55, he won successive presidential elections (one of just two Democratic presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt to accomplish that feat) and he is leaving office with an approval rating in the high 50s. At the same time, however, his entire policy legacy is now under determined attack, and many of his supporters are despairing. Given the grave danger a Trump presidency presents to the liberal values Obama embodies, it will surely only be a matter of time before he deems it necessary, once again, to make his eloquent voice heard.”

Big-money power struggle –> As the devastated Democratic Party tries to figure out a path forward, Kenneth Vogel and Gabriel Debendetti report for Politico that the wealthy donors and professional consultants who have driven Democratic campaigns in recent years are fighting with one another. Hillary Clinton backer David Brock is planning to raise large sums from liberal millionaires and billionaires to fund efforts to oppose Donald Trump. But Politico reports that his plan “is seen in liberal finance circles as an implicit challenge to the Democracy Alliance, which was launched in 2005 by billionaire financier George Soros and other major donors.”

Nondisclosure –> Lee Fang at The Intercept reported last week that Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, retired Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, “did not disclose on his ethics form that he was listed as a vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, a defense contractor lobbying firm.” Now, Fang finds, “it appears that Kelly failed to list two other positions as well: board memberships with Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global, two defense contractors that do business with the US government.”

EPA chief hearing –> At his confirmation hearing yesterday, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt broke with his own past statements and admitted that climate change was happening and caused by humans, but also called for more “debate” on questions already answered within the scientific community. Pruitt “claimed during his Senate confirmation hearing that climate experts are still debating the extent to which human activity is driving up global temperatures,” Maria Galucci reports for Mashable. “In reality, most climate scientists debate the precise impacts human-caused climate change is having, as well as the rate and severity of global warming yet to come — but they don’t debate that human activity is the leading cause.”

Pruitt also avoided the fact that his job would mean charting America’s path forward on climate change and public health. “Pruitt repeatedly insisted that as head of the EPA, his job would simply be to carry out the intent of Congress and that his ‘personal opinion is immaterial’ when it comes to climate science,” Rebecca Leber reports for Mother Jones. “What he didn’t mention, however, is that the EPA administrator is mandated by Congress to evaluate the best-available science and implement regulations based on what is needed to protect public health.”

And: Pruitt also would not commit to recusing himself from a number of lawsuits he brought against the EPA as Oklahoma AG, saying instead that he would follow the guidance of the EPA’s ethics office. Caitlin MacNeal and Esme Cribb report for Talking Points Memo.

Oops –> “When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state,” Coral Daveport and David Sanger report for The New York Times. “In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.” Perry’s confirmation hearing begins today.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



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