In Russia issue news, we have a few stories. "First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself" - we'll be lucky to get more than two or three, but one is better than none. In "I'm Not Crying You're Crying" news, "Trump wants a Russia investigation … directed at Clinton." No, really. But the real hope today is that the Senate might do something, in "Senate Intelligence Committee Leaders Vow Thorough Russian Investigation."
Also, reportedly, "FBI Director James Comey Tried To Reveal Russian Tampering Months Before Election." Erf.
Science, and How the Republicans Hate It: first, there was an action item earlier, but it didn't help; "House votes to restrict EPA’s use of science." This is a restriction so onerous and comprehensive that if taken at black text, the EPA won't ever be able to do much of anything new again. I consider that intentional, particularly given that Lamar Smith called the journal Science - you know, one of the most important and respected journals on the planet - basically fake news, during this hearing: "Climate Scientist Fires Back at House Science Committee During Hearing." And, of course, you can't have a good purge without language controls, so "Energy Department climate office bans use of phrase ‘climate change’." That's fun! And finally, "E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide."
Oh, did I mention that "Trump Proposes Slashing Medical Research This Year, Too"? Well, now I have.
"Seattle will sue Trump over sanctuary city threats." Good! We're doing pretty well so far, what with repeated victories in court against the Muslim travel bans. Another one came down yesterday, late, in fact - this time, Hawai'i gets the win. "We have just won in #HawaiivsTrump. Trump Admin lost everything it sought." They're describing it as a real smackdown of a decision, too. Relatedly, "Rep Gutierrez Tells CNN Sanctuary Cities Are Actually ‘Fourth Amendment Cities,’" which is good language from a rhetoric standpoint.
Still, "UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it." See above about the 1,000-ish Russian hackers setting up rightist fake news sites through the election. Maybe this should've been with the above.
Corruption update: "Ivanka Trump will have an official White House position." Are all the kids on the payroll now? Is this everybody?
"Puget Sound transit projects would lose big under Trump budget." This is older, but I don't think I posted it before.
And finally, WashingtonWontDiscriminate.org is reporting that the fundraising rate with the fundamentalist "bathroom bill" initiative is "neck-and-neck," and that's really bad - I-1552 is getting infusions of cash from somewhere (I don't know where offhand but I can make a fleet of guesses) and they're asking for more donations. I know it's easy to get caught up in the Federal issues, but as I've said many times: we have to keep the bulwark here. Now is a good time to donate.
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KOMO employees will take on Trump-friendly bosses
by David Kroman | Crosscut | Tuesday 28, March 2017
Fearing for their own reputations, local journalists are pushing back against their station’s corporate owners, arguing that higher-ups push far-right content that borders on propaganda.
Last week, KOMO-TV was forced to air a segment from its famously conservative parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, that decried “fake news.” In the segment, Sinclair Vice President of News Scott Livingston accused the national media of “using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.” He warned of “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”
While Livingston was never explicit in who or what he was referring to, it was clearly a veiled swipe at legitimate national news outlets — outlets that the president has labeled “fake,” but are far from it.
The Sinclair corporation, which owns 173 local news station across the country, has a history of running inflammatory stories about Democratic politicians, and allegedly collaborated with the Trump campaign. When the Livingston segment was forced to air, KOMO news staffers were livid. “Your blood would boil if you were still here,” one KOMO staffer told a former colleague, who asked not to be identified.
Now the union that represents KOMO’s video editors and photographers, IATSE 600, is launching a “committee on journalistic ethics,” a public campaign responding to what they see as “biased” management. Their complaints predate the Livingston spot, centered mostly around the alleged Trump connections and Sinclair propagation of the John Kerry “Swift Boat” scandal in 2004.
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Rep Gutierrez Tells CNN Sanctuary Cities Are Actually ‘Fourth Amendment Cities’
“If you supply a warrant to the city of Chicago, we will absolutely honor that warrant. But you’ve got to get a warrant.”
By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Wed, Mar 29th, 2017 at 1:11 pm | CNN via Politics USA
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told CNN’s Chris Cuomo this morning that so-called “Sanctuary Cities” are actually “Fourth Amendment Cities.”
“Here’s how I see it — yeah, they call them sanctuary cities. What I would say, Chris, is they’re Fourth Amendment cities.”
Watch courtesy of CNN: [Video at link]
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First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself
By Scott Wong - 03/28/17 - The Hill
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on Tuesday told The Hill that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) should "absolutely" recuse himself from his panel's investigation into Russia's meddling in last year’s election.
Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who frequently bucks leadership, is the first Republican in Congress to call on Nunes to step aside.
"How can you be chairman of a major committee and do all these things behind the scenes and keep your credibility? You can't keep your credibility," Jones said just off the House floor.
“If anything has shown that we need a commission, this has done it by the way he has acted. That's the only way you can bring integrity to the process. The integrity of the committee looking into this has been tainted."
Jones is the only Republican co-sponsor on a measure from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) that would establish an independent commission to probe Russian interference in the U.S. election.
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Seattle will sue Trump over sanctuary city threats
by David Kroman | Crosscut | Wednesday 29, March 2017
Days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold grant money from so-called sanctuary cities, Seattle is hitting back: Mayor Ed Murray and City Attorney Pete Holmes will announce a lawsuit at 2 p.m. today challenging the Trump administration’s threats against cities that refuse to aid in federal immigration crackdowns.
Trump has long threatened to punish cities that don’t help federal immigration agents track down or detain undocumented immigrants. If successful, this lawsuit could render that punishment illegal.
The case will make two arguments. One, that the federal government cannot order local police departments to do anything or coerce action by threatening to withhold dollars.
Second, the city will argue that they have not done anything illegal. Even if the city wanted to help, lawyers will argue, they cannot because the city doesn’t collect information on undocumented immigrants.
The city will spare no expense in its fight: High profile East Coast law firm Mayer Brown will head up the case, with attorney Andrew Pincus taking a major role. Pincus has argued more than two dozen cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He more recently took a frontline role in representing two Yemeni men detained at the Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. after President Trump signed his first ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim countries. He is vocally anti-Trump, recently penning an article for the Berkshire Eagle titled, “Music may soothe the savage president.”
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UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it
Danny Westneat | The Seattle Times | 29 March 2017
A UW professor started studying social networks to help people respond to disasters. But she got dragged down a rabbit hole of twitter-boosted conspiracy theories, and ended up mapping our political moment.
It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange.
Too strange for a university professor to take seriously.
“There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing,” Starbird told me the other day in her office. “It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it.”
Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by “crisis actors” for political purposes.
“After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity,” Starbird says. “It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it.
“That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it.”
Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these “strange clusters” of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.
It features sites such as Infowars.com, hosted by informal President Donald Trump adviser Alex Jones, which has pushed a range of conspiracies, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a staged fake.
There are dozens of other conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots.
Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”
I sat dumbfounded for a time as she spooled through tweets in her database: an archive of endless, baseless speculation that nevertheless is evidence of a political revolution. It should be unnecessary to say, but real humans died in these shootings. How disgustingly cruel it is to the survivors to have the stories of those deaths altered and twisted for commercial or ideological ends.
Starbird sighed. “I used to be a techno-utopian. Now I can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking to you about all this.”
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Puget Sound transit projects would lose big under Trump budget
By Mike Lindblom | The Seattle Times | Originally published March 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm
As many as seven transit lines in Washington state — including the light-rail corridor from Lynnwood to Northgate — are at risk of losing their anticipated federal funding under President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal released Thursday.
The cuts would apply to at least 54 capital projects around the country that are in the pipeline for proposed grants, and in some cases are already approved by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for final engineering.
Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint would halt FTA grants except for projects that already have signed grant agreements for construction money. Sound Transit is scheduled to sign such a contract for the Lynnwood light-rail extension in mid-2018.
“Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” the proposal says.
Thursday’s budget outline is the first of many steps before Congress approves a final transportation budget. How strictly Congress will follow the plan remains to be seen.
Trump’s proposal would eliminate a $1.17 billion federal contribution that Sound Transit counted on to cover half the light-rail line between Northgate and Lynnwood, which was approved by voters in 2008 and scheduled to open in 2023, the agency says.
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Trump Proposes Slashing Medical Research This Year, Too
by Maggie Fox | NBC News | 28 March 2017
President Donald Trump, who had just proposed slashing the National Institutes of Health's budget for next year by 20 percent, suggested an immediate $1.2 billion cut to the agency Tuesday.
There's still not a proper budget to run the country this year. Congress passed a kind of holding measure called a continuing resolution at the end of last year and left the real work for after Trump took office.
Trump laid out a vague plan for 2018 earlier this month, and on Tuesday the White House released ideas for this year's budget. Congress is responsible for spending bills, but whoever's president usually lays out a plan for the House and Senate to follow.
Congress, however, has in general been supportive of medical research spending.
"His focus is on cutting science programs," Charles Kieffer, Democratic staff director on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told a panel at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Tuesday.
"They are forcing these rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul decisions that will have consequences for a generation," Kieffer added.
The Trump proposals would slice $1.2 billion from a $31.6 billion NIH budget as it was laid out in the December continuing resolution. They also target health and science programs across other government agencies, including plans to:
[list at link]
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House votes to restrict EPA’s use of science
By Timothy Cama - 03/29/17 - The Hill
[The plain text of the bill that I saw is _much_ worse than this article would lead you to believe, as the devil is in the details, and believe me: _there are devils in this details_. If it gets through the Senate, the EPA won't be able to do much of anything at all.]
The House voted Wednesday to restrict the kind of scientific studies and data that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can use to justify new regulations.
The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, passed 228-194. It would prohibit the EPA from writing any regulation that uses science that is not publicly available.
It’s the latest push by House Republicans to clamp down on what they say has turned into an out-of-control administrative state that enforces expensive, unworkable regulations that are not scientifically sound.
But Democrats, environmentalists and health advocates say the HONEST Act is intended to handcuff the EPA. They say it would irresponsibly leave the EPA unable to write important regulatory protections, since the agency might not have the ability to release some parts of the scientific data underpinning them.
The HONEST Act is similar to the Secret Science Act, which leaders in the House Science Committee sponsored in previous congresses and got passed.
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Climate Scientist Fires Back at House Science Committee During Hearing
Things got a little bit heated at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
by Eric Roston | Bloomberg | March 29, 2017, 4:36 PM EDT
[Wherein the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lamar Smith, calls Science fake news. Or, "not known as an objective writer or magazine." One of the most prestigious and respected scientific journals in the world is what the GOP calls fake news.]
For sober, methodical evaluations of each other’s work, climate scientists have peer-reviewed journals. For catfights, they have Congress.
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on the scientific method and climate change on Wednesday, questioning four panelists who have each become ensnared in a political skirmish at some point in the past 15 years.
The hearing started out cordially enough but eventually devolved into an increasingly tense back-and-forth between Penn State atmospheric scientist Michael Mann, the three other scientists on the panel, and Republican climate science skeptics on the committee.
The most intense exchange occurred when Mann used an article from Science magazine to criticize the recent appearance of Chairman Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, at a conference hosted by the nonprofit Heartland Institute.
Mann stood by his statement and went on to quote from the article, which said that Smith considers the committee “a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community.”
“As a scientist, I find that deeply disturbing,” Mann said.
“That is not known as an objective writer or magazine,” Smith said.
Science magazine stands by the story. A spokeswoman for the publication noted that the phrase "climate denier" does not appear in the story.
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Trump wants a Russia investigation … directed at Clinton
By Steve Benen | MSNBC | 03/28/17 11:22 AM
As the Russia scandal involving Donald Trump and his team advances – we learned last week that the FBI is conducting an ongoing counter-espionage investigation into the Trump campaign – the president has a creative response to the allegations. Let’s call it the “Hey, look at Hillary Clinton” tack.
Last week, apparently unable to think of a compelling defense, Trump declared via Twitter, “What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?” In reality, of course, there’s no evidence of meaningful contact between Vladimir Putin’s government and the unsuccessful Democratic campaign, but Trump seemed to think it was important.
Last night, after going nearly the entire day without tweeting, Trump returned to the subject. The Washington Post reported:
"President Trump sought Monday to pressure the House committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, arguing that the panel should be probing Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged ties to the country instead of those of his own campaign advisers.
"In a pair of evening tweets, Trump wrote that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax” and listed a string of alleged financial and other connections the Clintons have had over the years with Russia. He asked why the House Intelligence Committee is not investigating the former president and former secretary of state."
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Energy Department climate office bans use of phrase ‘climate change’
The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words ‘climate’ in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies.
By Eric Wolff | Politico | 03/29/17 03:51 PM EDT
A supervisor at the Energy Department's international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction" or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.
Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama's climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration's direction on climate change.
The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words "climate" in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies. It plays a key role in U.S. participation in the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, two international efforts launched under Obama that were designed to advance clean energy technology.
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FBI Director James Comey Tried To Reveal Russian Tampering Months Before Election
By Josh Saul and Max Kutner On 3/29/17 | Newsweek
FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter tell Newsweek.
Well before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence accused the Russian government of tampering with the U.S. election in an October 7 statement, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July.
“He had a draft of it or an outline. He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?’” says a source with knowledge of the meeting, which included Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Department of Homeland Security’s director and the national security adviser.
The other national security leaders didn’t like the idea, and White House officials thought the announcement should be a coordinated message backed by multiple agencies, the source says. “An op-ed doesn’t have the same stature, it comes from one person.”
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Ivanka Trump will have an official White House position
By Olivia Beavers - 03/29/17 - The Hill
President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump will be an official government employee and serve in the White House as an unpaid senior adviser to her father, the New York Times first reported Wednesday.
Ivanka Trump, who currently has a West Wing office, initially said she’d work with in her father’s administration in an informal advising capacity.
But she appears to have changed her plans after critics pointed out that an informal role would allow her to avoid certain ethics rules and required disclosures that come with serving in the government.
Ivanka Trump will now be special assistant to the president.
Jared Kushner, her husband, similarly serves in the administration as a senior adviser to the president.
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Senate Intelligence Committee Leaders Vow Thorough Russian Investigation
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and EMMARIE HUETTEMAN | The New York Times | MARCH 29, 2017
WASHINGTON — Senators leading the investigation into Russian interference in the November election pledged on Wednesday to conduct an aggressive inquiry, including an examination of any ties to President Trump, as they sought to distance themselves from the flagging efforts in the House.
In a conspicuous show of bipartisanship during a fractious time at the Capitol, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee vowed to forge ahead by interviewing key players connected to Mr. Trump and pressing intelligence agencies to provide all relevant information.
But their display of collegiality seemed intended primarily as a contrast to the explosive and often bewildering statements in recent days from the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, whose perceived closeness with the Trump White House has raised doubts about his ability to conduct an impartial investigation.
The Senate investigation amounts to a credibility test for Republicans under the Trump administration — a chance to prove their willingness to ask uncomfortable questions of a Republican president, even if the answers might weaken his and the party’s standing.
Democrats are skeptical. But they are also mindful that the Senate most likely remains their best hope on Capitol Hill for gathering information, making them disinclined to abandon the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation. The F.B.I. is also investigating.
Mr. Warner drew attention to reports of perhaps 1,000 internet trolls in Russia generating fake news stories and targeting them at swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Russia’s goal, Vladimir Putin’s goal, is a weaker United States,” he said.
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We have just won in #HawaiivsTrump. Trump Admin lost everything it sought.
Complete injunction on Sections 2 and 6 of Executive Order.
Neal Katyal ( @neal_katyal ) on Twitter | 29 March 2017
We have just won in #HawaiivsTrump. Trump Admin lost everything it sought. Complete injunction on Sections 2 and 6 of Executive Order. 1/
"It is hereby ADJUDGED, ORDERED, and DECREED that:Defendants and all their respective officers,agents,servants, employees, and attorneys" 2/
and persons in active concert or participation with them, are hereby enjoined from enforcing or implementing Sections 2 and 6 3/
of the Executive Order across the Nation. Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States,at all United States 4/
borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this Court." 5/6
This is the 3d proceeding in #HawaiivsTrump. All 3 have been straight losses for Trump.Will post opinion here soon: [ https://www.hoganlovells.com/en/publications/documents-in-state-of-hawaii-et-al-v-trump-a-challenge-to-president-trumps-march-6-2017-travel-ban ]
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E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide
By ERIC LIPTON | The New York Times | MARCH 29, 2017
WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts who under the Obama administration recommended that one of the nation’s most widely used insecticides be permanently banned at farms nationwide because of the harm it potentially causes children and farm workers.
The ruling by Mr. Pruitt, in one of his first formal actions as the nation’s top environmental official, rejected a petition filed a decade ago by two environmental groups that had asked that the agency ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings, but still today is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.
Late last year, and based in part on research conducted at Columbia University, E.P.A. scientists concluded that exposure to the chemical that has been in use since 1965 was potentially causing significant health consequences. They included learning and memory declines, particularly among farm workers and young children who may be exposed through drinking water and other sources.
But Dow Chemical, which makes the product, along with farm groups that use it, had argued that the science demonstrating that chlorpyrifos caused such harm is inconclusive — especially when properly used to kill crop-spoiling insects.
An E.P.A. scientific review panel made up of academic experts last July also had raised questions about some of the conclusions the chemical safety staff had reached. That led the staff to revise the way it had justified its findings of harm, although the agency employees as of late last year still concluded that the chemical should be banned.