John Konkus, a deputy public affairs chief and one of President Trump's political appointees, denies an EPA grant for studying climate change in an email dated 5 September 2017, writing, 'No to this one please...' Graphic: NRDC / EPA

18 June 2018 (Silencing Science Tracker) – On 18 June 2018, E&E News reported that a political appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had ordered the cancellation of several research grants. According to the report, “several grants that included climate change in their description or [were] linked to environmental organizations” were cancelled at the request of EPA’s Deputy Administration for Public Affairs John Konkus, a political appointee.

Deputy Administrator Konkus was responsible for reviewing grants between August 2017 and May 2018. He reportedly told EPA staff that, as part of his review, he would be looking for “the double C-word” (i.e., climate change). He ordered the cancellation of at least four grants for research on climate change and related topics.

EPA Research Grants Cancelled at Direction of Political Appointee


18 June 2018 (E&E News) – Recently disclosed records shed more light on EPA's review of agency grants, which number in the billions of dollars.

Internal EPA emails, released to the Natural Resources Defense Council under the Freedom of Information Act, offer more details on a grants review managed by John Konkus, a deputy public affairs chief and one of President Trump's political appointees. The documents show the review involved several appointees at times and often flagged EPA funds that were flowing to the Obama administration's allies and priorities, like combating climate change.

Career officials at EPA also pushed back on decisions to pull funding from certain organizations. They also tried to make the case that agency money could be worked into the agenda of President Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Steven Fine, acting chief information officer at EPA, even used one of Pruitt's buzzwords — "cooperative federalism" — when defending one grant that happened to mention the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era rule to curb power plants' carbon emissions that Pruitt has sought to roll back.

"The proposed work connects multiple types of information that are not related to CPP but are relevant to the interest of EPA and states," Fine said in one email.

"The work unrelated to CPP is the vast majority of the proposed work and would support Agency and Administration goals related to clean air, clean water reliable energy production, and Cooperative Federalism," Fine added.

Konkus was not convinced by Fine's argument.

"This is not going to be funded and we would kindly ask you to alert the organization in the morning that the award will not be granted," he replied.

But Konkus was later informed that the grant recipient in question had sent in a revised cover letter to better address its work. That sparked a softer response from him.

"FYI this is how most grant discussions end up, the program and grantee work on a solution together to make the grant work better reflect the priorities of the Administration," he said in an email.

The grants review attracted scrutiny after E&E News reported last August that Konkus, a political appointee, was overseeing the process, which had been typically managed by career officials (Greenwire, 17 August 2017). An EPA spokesman told E&E News that the Trump administration wanted to be "good stewards" of taxpayer money. […]

Konkus flagged several grants that included climate change in their descriptions or linked to environmental organizations. He even recommended some to be pulled back.

In one list, he noted a grant obligated to NRDC to perform energy efficiency work, saying he and Gunasekara would "need a briefing on this one." The green group has been a staunch critic of the Trump administration.

Konkus also said, "No to this please," on a grant for climate change research.

Other grants for an integrated assessment of greenhouse gases as well as a study on air pollution meteorology and particulate matter also received a "No to this one please" message from Konkus.

It's not clear from the email if their EPA funding was withdrawn in the end. At least one group has confirmed that its agency grant was rescinded.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership launched in 2010 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, aims to reduce indoor air pollution. Its EPA grant would have been spent on a project intended in part to develop "an integrated and robust communications and outreach program," accompanied by biogas promotion activities, according to an EPA summary.

"This grant should NOT move forward. Thank you," Konkus said in one email about the project. [more]

EPA Research Grants Cancelled at Direction of Political Appointee

A U.S. Geological Survey geologist collects samples of lava spatter for laboratory analysis on Hawaii on 6 May 2018. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey / Associated Press

By Rong-Gong Lin II
21 June 2018

(Los Angeles Times) – A new directive from the Trump administration instructs federal scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey to get approval from its parent agency before agreeing to most interview requests from reporters, according to employees and emails from officials with the Department of the Interior and USGS.

USGS employees who spoke with The Times on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to do so say the new protocol represents a dramatic change in decades of past media practices at the scientific agency and will interfere with scientists’ ability to quickly respond to reporters’ questions. They expected that taxpayers would see less of the USGS’ scientific expertise as reporters seek scientific comment elsewhere.

The new protocol also permits the Department of the Interior’s communications office to reject interview requests on scientific matters.

A deputy press secretary for the Department of the Interior, Faith Vander Voort, wrote in an email that “the characterization that there is any new policy or that it for some reason targets scientists is completely false.” She said the Department of the Interior’s communications office “simply asked” the USGS public affairs office to follow media guidelines published in 2012 during the Obama administration. Vander Voort did not answer a question as to what prompted the change in media protocol. […]

Current and former federal employees suggested the new protocols are an unwieldy attempt to control the voices of workers in the Department of the Interior, which employs some 70,000 people, including thousands of scientists at the top of their fields.

“This is really quite troubling. … In the 44 years I was with the agency, I was never required to go through anyone for authorization to speak with a reporter,” said William Ellsworth, former chief scientist of the USGS’ earthquake hazards team and now a professor of geophysics at Stanford University. “The USGS is a nonpolitical science agency. … These new roadblocks will not help them fulfill their mission.”

“You’re hamstringing the ability of the organization to listen to the needs of the public,” said Ross Stein, a USGS scientist emeritus and adjunct professor of geophysics at Stanford University.

Kate Kelly, a former director of communications at the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, said it’s a problem when political appointees are put in a position where they can require scientists to obtain approval before speaking to journalists.

“This policy, if it’s in fact being implemented as such, has a lot of concerning implications. It essentially gives political appointees veto power over science, scientists and information that the American people should have access to,” Kelly said. “That introduces questions about what scientists are able to say, and whether what they’re sharing is some mangled version of the truth.” [more]

Trump administration tightens rules for federal scientists talking to reporters


By Sarah Kaplan
14 June 2018

(The Washington Post) – Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey must now submit their presentation titles for review by the Interior Department to get approval to attend two major conferences, and they will have to identify how their research relates to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's priorities.

In guidelines posted on the agency's internal website this week and obtained by The Washington Post, the USGS's Office of Administration told employees they will have to provide a detailed “attendee justification” when applying for travel approval for the annual meetings of the American Geophysical Union in Washington and the Geological Society of America in Indianapolis later this year.

Interior spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said Thursday that budget limitations mean the department “can only afford to send people who have a meaningful role at the conference. … If taxpayer dollars are being spent to send someone to a conference, we'd like some degree of confidence that their attendance will advance the department’s priorities.”

Zinke has detailed 10 priorities since joining the Trump administration in March 2017, including “create a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt,” “sustainably develop our energy and natural resources,” “protect our people and the border” and “strike a regulatory balance.”

But Chip Groat, who served as USGS director under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, called the new protocol unusual and “inappropriate.”

“Someone from another part of Interior might not understand the fine points of why this science is important,” he said Wednesday. “They’re making some judgment about the type and quality of science the USGS is presenting.”

Bruce Babbitt, interior secretary during the Clinton administration, used stronger language: “It's a form of censorship.” [more]

Scientists at USGS face new scrutiny on research presentations

The UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 shows that for the first time in more than a decade, the number of people who are not getting enough to eat is trending upward, and there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world: rising from 777 million in 2015, to 815 million a year later. Graphic: United Nations

20 June 2018 (UN News) – Although more people are leading better lives than a decade ago, persistent poverty and hunger, as well as rapid urbanization, are challenging global efforts to create a more just and equitable world, according to a United Nations report launched on Wednesday.

The study provides a snapshot of progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders nearly three years ago.

“With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a forward to the report.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 reveals that conflict and climate change were major contributing factors to increased hunger and forced displacement, among other challenges.

For the first time in more than a decade, the number who are not getting enough to eat is trending upwards, and there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world: rising from 777 million in 2015, to 815 million a year later.

Meanwhile, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in nearly 20 countries.

The report also points out some good news, such as the significant decline in the number of people living on less than two dollars a day.

That number fell from 26.9 percent in 2000, to 9.2 percent in 2017.

The mortality rate for children under-five also has dropped, by almost 50 percent in the world’s least developed countries.

However, dark spots remain, such as the 2.3 billion people who still lack basic sanitation, while more than 890 million worldwide continue to practice open defecation: that is, using the bathroom outdoors.

And whereas there were 210 million cases of malaria in 2013, the number jumped to 216 million just three years later.

Francesca Perucci, Assistant Director of the UN’s Statistics Division, with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), also pointed to the importance of timely data collection and analysis to monitor progress.

“The report highlights the need for political leadership, adequate resources and commitment to further expand on tools available for data collection, production and dissemination, to ensure that all countries have rigorous evidence and comprehensive data to guide programmes and efforts towards 2030,” she said.

Conflict and climate change challenge sustainable development effort: UN report


Global land productivity, 1999–2013. The map shows five classes of persistent land productivity trajectories over the period 1999–2013. Land productivity is an essential variable for detecting and monitoring active land transformations typically associated with land degradation processes. It can be expressed as an equivalent of terrestrial net primary productivity per unit of area and time, and reflects the overall capacity of land to support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. Graphic: UNSD / UNDESA

20 June 2018 (UNDESA) – A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a UN report launched in New York today.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 found that conflict and climate change were major contributing factors leading to growing numbers of people facing hunger and forced displacement, as well as curtailing progress towards universal access to basic water and sanitation services.

For the first time in more than a decade, there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.  According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries. In 2017, the world experienced the costliest North Atlantic hurricane season on record, driving the global economic losses attributed to the disasters to over $300 billion.

At the same time, the Report found that more people are leading better lives than they were just a decade ago. The proportion of the world’s workers living with their families on less than 1.90 per person a day declined significantly over the past two decades, falling from 26.9 percent in 2000 to 9.2 percent in 2017.

The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50 percent and in the least developed countries, the proportion of population with access to electricity has more than doubled between 2000 and 2016. However, in 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria compared to 210 million cases in 2013 and close to 4 billion people were left without social protection in 2016.

The SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said “Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies also requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated.”As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.

Other findings of the SDG Report include:

  • Rates of child marriage have continued to decline around the world. In Southern Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has dropped by over 40 percent between 2000 and 2017.
  • Nine out of 10 people living in cities breathe polluted air.
  • In 2016, the absolute number of people living without electricity dropped below the symbolic threshold of one billion.
  • Land degradation threatens the livelihoods of over one billion people.

Desdemona’s picks:

  • In about 90 countries, women spend roughly three times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men.
  • Globally, almost 12 percent of the world’s population (over 800 million people) spent at least one tenth of their household budgets to pay for health services in 2010, up from 9.7 percent in 2000.
  • In 2016, 3 billion people (41 percent of the world’s population) were still cooking with polluting fuel and stove combinations.
  • The share of renewables in final energy consumption increased modestly, from 17.3 percent in 2014 to 17.5 percent in 2015. Yet only 55 percent of the renewable share was derived from modern forms of renewable energy.
  • Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, with the global youth unemployment rate at 13 per cent in 2017.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, the proportion of the global urban population living in slums dropped from 28.4 per cent to 22.8 per cent. However, the actual number of people living in slums increased from 807 million to 883 million.
  • From 1990 to 2013, almost 90 per cent of deaths attributed to internationally reported disasters occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Reported damage to housing attributed to disasters shows a statistically significant rise from 1990 onward.
  • The global share of marine fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels declined from 90 per cent in 1974 to 69 percent in 2013.
  • Global trends point to continued deterioration of coastal waters due to pollution and eutrophication. Without concerted efforts, coastal eutrophication is expected to increase in 20 per cent of large marine ecosystems by 2050.
  • The Earth’s forest areas continue to shrink, down from 4.1 billion hectares in 2000 (or 31.2 percent of total land area) to about 4 billion hectares (30.7 percent of total land area) in 2015. However, the rate of forest loss has been cut by 25 percent since 2000–2005.
  • About one fifth of the Earth’s land surface covered by vegetation showed persistent and declining trends in productivity from 1999 to 2013, threatening the livelihoods of over one billion people. Up to 24 million square kilometres of land were affected, including 19 percent of cropland, 16 percent of forest land, 19 percent of grassland, and 28 percent of rangeland.
  • Since 1993, the global Red List Index of threatened species has fallen from 0.82 to 0.74, indicating an alarming trend in the decline of mammals, birds, amphibians, corals, and cycads. The primary drivers of this assault on biodiversity are habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, unsustainable harvest and trade, and invasive alien species.
  • The proportion of prisoners held in detention without being sentenced for a crime remained almost constant in the last decade: from 32 percent in 2003–2005 to 31 percent in 2014–2016.
  • At least 1,019 human rights defenders, journalists, and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed every day while working to inform the public and build a world free from fear and want.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018

Global displacement and proportion displaced, 2007-2017. Globally, the forcibly displaced population increased in 2017 by 2.9 million. By the end of the year, 68.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. As a result, the world’s forcibly displaced population remained yet again at a record high Graphic: UNHCR

Number of people newly displaced per day, 2003-2017. Graphic: UNHCR

By Morgan Winsor
20 June 2018

(ABC News) – Record high numbers of men, women, and children were driven from their homes across the world last year due to war, violence, and persecution, according to a new report by the United Nations' refugee agency.

The UNHCR's annual Global Trends study found that a staggering 68.5 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced by the end of 2017.

Nearly a quarter of them were uprooted just last year, either for the first time or repeatedly. That's an average of one person displaced every two seconds of the day, the study says.

"Now, more than ever, taking care of refugees must be a global –- and shared –- responsibility," Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement Wednesday. "It’s time to do things differently."

"On World Refugee Day, it’s time to recognize their humanity in action -– and challenge ourselves, and others, to join them –- in receiving and supporting refugees in our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces," he continued. "This is where solidarity starts –- with all of us."

The report was published Tuesday ahead of World Refugee Day, amid global outrage over a "zero-tolerance" policy enacted by U.S. President Donald Trump that is forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the border with Mexico. Thousands of Central Americans are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries -- including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- and are risking their lives to reach the United States.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has described the immigration policy as "government-sanctioned child abuse" and urged the U.S. government to end the controversial practice.

"In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents," al-Hussein said in a statement Monday. "The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable."

According to the UNHCR report, the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the civil war in South Sudan and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into Bangladesh were the leading causes of forcible displacement last year.

The global displacement figure for 2017 includes 25.4 million refugees who fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution, the study says. That's 2.9 million more refugees than the year before -- the steepest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.  [more]

On World Refugee Day 2018, a record 68.5 million forcibly displaced last year


Number of returned refugees, 1992-2017. Graphic: UNHCR

19 June 2018 (UNHCR) – Citing ongoing, protracted violence around the globe and a lack of solutions to conflicts as reasons for the increase, Filippo Grandi said that “continuous pressure on civilians” caught up in fighting, had pushed them to leave their homes.

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide originated from only a handful of countries, the High Commissioner told journalists in Geneva.

Top of the list is Syria, where seven years of brutal fighting have forced more than 6 million people to seek shelter abroad, followed by Afghanistan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (2.4 million).

Responding to a question about ongoing concerns over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring host countries, including Lebanon, the High Commissioner stressed that “it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’” they will return to Syria — once conditions allow.

New disputes in 2017 were also significant contributors to global displacement.

These include the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh last year, the UNHCR chief said, adding that it is still not safe for them to return, as well as 1.5 million Venezuelans who had sought shelter in neighbouring countries in Latin America.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violence has spread to formerly peaceful areas of the vast country and caused displacement figures to double in 2017, to 4.4 million.

The report also found that 85 per cent of the 68.5 million displaced last year came from poor or middle-income countries.

This, Mr. Grandi added, “should be an element dispelling the notion” that the so-called crisis is only in the rich world, “which it is not”.

He added: “It continues to be a crisis mostly of the poor world — so, people from poor countries moving to poor countries, or staying within their country, as displaced.”

In addition, 70 per cent of the world’s displaced are nationals of just 10 countries, according to the UNHCR report.

This is also significant, Mr. Grandi said, because “it means, frankly, that if there were solutions to conflicts to these countries — or some of them at least — this number could start to come down. But we haven’t seen any significant progress in peacemaking or peacebuilding in any of these 10 countries.”

Despite the rise in displacement driven by persecution and violence and the lack of conflict resolution, the High Commissioner struck a positive note, saying that UNHCR is helping to find solutions to the pressures caused by mass displacement.

To date, 14 countries, including in Latin America and Africa, have implemented positive measures to cope with an influx of refugees, the UNHCR chief said, noting that his agency continues to coordinate international efforts to create a fairer protection system for people forced to flee their countries.

The upcoming Global Compact on Refugees follows the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, in which all 193 UN Member States agreed that the responsibility for helping all those in need of international protection must be borne more equitably and predictably.

UNHCR has been engaged in consultations with Governments and other stakeholders to develop a draft compact which Mr. Grandi will present to the General Assembly later this year.

Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

Monthly May ice extent for 1979 to 2018 shows a decline of 2.6 percent per decade. Graphic: National Snow and Ice Data Center

By Alister Doyle; editing by John Stonestreet
20 June 2018

OSLO (Reuters) – Global warming is on course to exceed the most stringent goal set in the Paris agreement by around 2040, threatening economic growth, according to a draft report that is the U.N.’s starkest warning yet of the risks of climate change.

Governments can still cap temperatures below the strict 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) ceiling agreed in 2015 only with “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The final government draft, obtained by Reuters and dated 4 June 2018, is due for publication in October in South Korea after revisions and approval by governments.

It will be the main scientific guide for combating climate change.

“If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040,” according to the report, which broadly reaffirms findings in an earlier draft in January but is more robust, after 25,000 comments from experts and a wider pool of scientific literature.

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2°C above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher 1.5° goal.

The deal has been weakened after U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to pull out and promote U.S. fossil fuels.

Temperatures are already up about 1°C (1.8°F) and are rising at a rate of about 0.2°C a decade, according to the draft, requested by world leaders as part of the Paris Agreement.

“Economic growth is projected to be lower at 2°C warming than at 1.5° for many developed and developing countries,” it said, drained by impacts such as floods or droughts that can undermine crop growth or an increase in human deaths from heatwaves.

In a plus-1.5°C world, for instance, sea level rise would be 10 centimeters (3.94 inches) less than with 2°C, exposing about 10 million fewer people in coastal areas to risks such as floods, storm surges, or salt spray damaging crops.

It says current government pledges in the Paris Agreement are too weak to limit warming to 1.5°C. [more]

Exclusive: Global warming set to exceed 1.5°C, slow growth - U.N. draft

20 June 2018 (UN News) – The appeal by Secretary-General António Guterres comes in a video message for World Refugee Day, observed this Wednesday, 20 June 2018.

In it, he reported that a person was displaced every two seconds during 2017.

“On World Refugee Day, we must all think about what more we can we do to help.”  The answer, he added, “begins with unity and solidarity.”

Mr. Guterres also expressed deep concern over the rise in the number of refugees who are not receiving the protection they are entitled to. He added that communities, or countries, that provide a safe haven for those fleeing war or persecution should be supported.

Later this year, a Global Compact on Refugees will be presented to the international community meeting at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Guterres said it offers “a way forward” while also recognizing the contributions that refugees make to the societies hosting them.

Screenshot from 'World Refugee Day - UN Secretary-General António Guterres (20 June 2018)'. Mr. Guterres said, 'As long as there are wars and persecution, there will be refugees. On World Refugee Day, I ask you to remember them.' Photo: UN

“As long as there are wars and persecution, there will be refugees. On World Refugee Day, I ask you to remember them,” his message continued.

“Their story is one of resilience, perseverance and courage.  Ours must be of solidarity, compassion and action.”

UN chief calls for ‘solidarity, compassion and action’ on World Refugee Day

An anti-transit flyer left by an Americans for Prosperity organizer in Nashville, Tennessee. The Koch-sponsored group made nearly 42,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 6,000 doors in Nashville. Photo: William DeShazer / The New York Times

By Hiroko Tabuchi
19 June 2018

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (The New York Times) – A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.

The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.

“Do you agree that raising the sales tax to the highest rate in the nation must be stopped?” Samuel Nienow, one of the organizers, asked a startled man who answered the door at his ranch-style home in March. “Can we count on you to vote ‘no’ on the transit plan?”

In cities and counties across the country — including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee — the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.

At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties.

In places like Nashville, Koch-financed activists are finding tremendous success.

Early polling here had suggested that the $5.4 billion transit plan would easily pass. It was backed by the city’s popular mayor and a coalition of businesses. Its supporters had outspent the opposition, and Nashville was choking on cars.

But the outcome of the May 1 ballot stunned the city: a landslide victory for the anti-transit camp, which attacked the plan as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.

“This is why grass roots works,” said Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity, which made almost 42,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 6,000 doors.

Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles. […]

Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.” […]

“Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry,” said Ashley Robbins, a researcher at Virginia Tech who follows transportation funding. “But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them.” [more]

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

Average added sugar calories per day in American adults and children, 1977-2012. Graphic: Vox

By Annabelle Timsit
11 June 2018

(Quartz) – We’ve long known that processed sugar is bad for kids. And yet new data presented this week (June 10) at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting show that American infants are consuming excessive amounts of added sugar in their diets, much more than the amounts currently recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) and other medical organizations.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at added sugar consumption—sugars in your diet that are not naturally occurring, like those found in fruit and milk, but rather added into foods during preparation or processing. Researchers used data collected from a nationally representative sample of more than 800 kids between six and 23 months old who participated in the 2011 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Parents were asked to record every item their child ate or drank during a 24-hour period, and the researchers calculated a mean sugar intake based on these testimonies.

The study found that toddlers 12 to 18 months consumed 5.5 teaspoons per day, and that toddlers 19 to 23 months consumed 7.1 teaspoons. This is close to, or more than, the amount of sugar recommended by AHA for adult women (six teaspoons) and men (nine teaspoons). Parents of more than 80% of kids aged six to 23 months reported their children consumed at least some added sugar on a given day.

This tracks (pdf) with an increase in US sugar intake broadly: In 1970, Americans ate 123 pounds of sugar per year, and today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar per year.

Sugar can affect our health at multiple stages in our development. Too much sugar during pregnancy adversely impacts child cognition, while excess sugar intake during adolescence has been associated with weight gain and cardiac risks, which include an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure. Recent studies have also shown that excess sugar depresses the body’s immunity, making kids more vulnerable to diseases and infections.

But the earlier sugar intake begins, the harder the habit becomes to kick later in life. [more]

American toddlers are eating more sugar than the maximum amount recommended for adults


ABSTRACT: Added sugar consumption is associated with detrimental health conditions, such as dental caries, asthma, obesity, altered lipid profiles, and elevated blood pressure in older children. The American Heart Association recommends that children under 2 years avoid added sugar consumption.

Objectives: To provide national estimates of added sugar consumption among infants 6-23 months.

Methods: Using a single 24 hour recall from NHANES 2011-2014, we estimated the prevalence and mean consumption of added sugars (tsp), by age, sex, poverty index ratio (PIR), and race and Hispanic origin, among infants and toddlers aged 6-23 months (n=806). We used SUDAAN to conduct all analyses and we evaluated differences between groups using a t statistic and tests of trend across ordinal variables using orthogonal contrast matrices.

Results: More than 8 in 10 infants and toddlers aged 6-23 months (85% (Standard Error (SE) 1.5) reported any consumption of added sugar on a given day. Among infants 6-11 months, 61% (SE 3.2) consumed added sugars, and nearly all toddlers 12-18 months (98% SE .65) and 19-23 months (99%, SE 1.0) consumed added sugars. Mean added sugar consumption was 4.2 tsp (SE 0.26) for those 6-23 months. Consumption increased significantly by quadratic trend by age, from 0.9 tsp (SE 0.12) among infants 6-11 months, 5.5 tsp (SE 0.36) among toddlers 12-18 months and 7.1 tsp (SE 0.55) among toddlers 19-23 months. Among all infants and toddlers (6-23 months), non-Hispanic whites consumed fewer teaspoons of added sugar, 3.8 tsp (SE 0.33), compared to non-Hispanic blacks, 5.4 tsp (SE 0.62).  We observed a similar pattern among toddlers 12-18 and 19-23 months, but not among infants 6-11 months. There were no significant differences by sex or PIR for any age group.

Conclusions: Added sugar consumption begins early in life and exceeds current recommendations.

OR12-08 - Consumption of added sugars among U.S. infants aged 6-23 months, 2011-2014

Imazon's SAD bulletin on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon for April 2018. In April 2018, deforestation increased 84 percent compared with April 2017, when deforestation totaled 97 square kilometers. Graphic: Imazon

By Stefania Costa
24 May 2018

(Imazon) – In April 2018, SAD detected 217 square kilometers of deforestation in the Amazon forest. In this bulletin, the fraction of deforestation between 1 and 10 hectares was 18% of the total detected (39 square kilometers). Considering only the alerts from 10 hectares, there was an increase of 84% compared to April 2017, when deforestation totaled 97 square kilometers. In April 2018, deforestation occurred in Mato Grosso (50%), Amazonas (23%), Pará (19%), Roraima (5%) and Rondônia (3%).

The degraded forests in the Legal Amazon totaled 8 square kilometers in April 2018, the same amount detected in April 2017. In April 2018, the degradation was detected only in Mato Grosso.

In April 2018, the majority (83%) of deforestation occurred in private areas or under various stages of ownership. The remaining deforestation was recorded in Conservation Units (9%), Land Reform Settlements (7%) and Indigenous Lands (1%). [Translation by Google.]

Boletim do desmatamento da Amazônia Legal (abril 2018) SAD

 

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