Saturday, October 23, 2021

COP26: A climate solution lies right under our feet but it may not be on the agenda

By Lauren Kent, CNN Photographs by Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou, CNN 18 hrs ago

Forests have long been celebrated as the natural heroes in the fight against the climate crisis. They are so good at absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, a consortium of environmental groups are calling on the world to plant one trillion trees over the next decade.
© Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou/CNN
 Ben Sweeney is working to restore species-rich grasslands at Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm nature reserve.

But while we are looking up at the treetops for climate solutions, some campaigners are urging the world to look down, where another answer lies -- right under our feet.

Forests, peatlands, deserts and tundra can all absorb and hold stocks of carbon-dioxide (CO2). Of all the carbon held in land-based ecosystems, around 34% can be found in grasslands, data from the World Resources Institute show. That's not much less than the 39% held in forests.

"Whether you look at the Serengeti, the Cerrado in Brazil, whether you look at what's left of the prairies in North America or the steppes of Mongolia -- every single one of our major, iconic grassland habitats is under threat at the moment," Ian Dunn, chief executive of the British conservation organization Plantlife, told CNN.

There's also plenty of it in the United Kingdom, which will host world leaders and climate negotiators in just over a week at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland. Among several items on the agenda is how to protect forests and plant more trees to help slash global emissions.

But Plantlife, among other groups, is campaigning for grasslands to be protected at an international level and part of any deal that emerges in Glasgow.

While leaders meet in the Scottish city, Plantlife is working to restore more than 100,000 hectares of meadows, including one on the other side of the United Kingdom, in the southern English county of Kent.

The Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve looks just like your typical patch of English countryside, with its soft rolling hills and grazing cattle. The grass here looks ordinary, browned in patches from the autumn weather. But come spring, the rare orchids, bellflowers and rock roses will bloom in a celebration of this grassland's biodiversity.

Restoring species-rich ecosystems like this takes time, said Ben Sweeney, Ranscombe Farm's manager, who has been working on this grassland since 2010.

"It will take a couple of decades," he said.

Ranscombe Farm protects not only grasslands but also woodlands, rough grazing pastures and crop fields for rare plants.

Sweeney explains that just like with an animal sanctuary, Ranscombe Farm nurtures rare plants in small sections of the reserve, where they are thriving, and can hopefully grow and spread out into bigger habitats soon.

© Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou/CNN 
Ben Sweeney walks through one of the carbon-storing grasslands Plantlife has been working to restore.

But even after years of careful management, rangers have not been able to reverse all the impacts that farming and land degradation have had on the site.

In the UK, these vital habitats have been slowly disappearing as a consequence of decades of intensive agriculture, housing development, and infrastructure build-up over the last century. The UK has lost more than 2 million acres of grasslands as urban and woodland areas expand, according to the UK Center of Ecology & Hydrology.

That concerns activists, because grasslands not only store carbon but also serve as a buffer for extreme weather and help prevent soil erosion. Their roots hold together light soil, and the ground cover prevents erosion from wind and water. These habitats help with natural flood management by holding water after extreme weather events, then releasing it gradually.
© Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou/CNN
 Cows grazing at Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm Reserve help stimulate plant growth.

The loss of grasslands also threatens the important species that rely on them, like bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

A recent study published by the University of Manchester revealed the UK's grasslands store more than 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon. That's the equivalent of storing the yearly emissions from about 400 million cars.

"But they are pretty much ignored or have been ignored in many sustainability policies," said soil expert and ecology professor Richard Bardgett, the study's lead researcher.

Another study, published in 2018 in IOP Science, concluded that grasslands in California could play a bigger role than forests as carbon sinks, as they are less vulnerable to fires and drought, which parts of the world will experience more of as the Earth continues to warm. That's because grasslands keep most of their carbon locked in their roots underground -- even during drought and fire -- unlike forests, in which carbon is spread up and throughout trees.

Your diet could be linked to grassland destruction

When managed poorly, grasslands can become a net source of emissions, rather than a sink to remove them. Rearing livestock on grassland, too, plays a major role in methane emissions, which is also contributing to the climate crisis.

A global increase in demand for meat and dairy products, as well as soy, is putting pressure on grasslands.

The world's most biodiverse savanna, the Cerrado in Brazil, has been reduced to around half its original size, mainly for the expansion of beef and soy production, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which says the Cerrado loses an area equivalent to the size of São Paulo every three months.

In China, vast expanses of grasslands are in a "state of ecological crisis," according to scientists, caused by overgrazing of the land. Meanwhile, in the United States, the expansion of farmland has led to the prairies of the Great Plains losing an average four football fields every minute, according to a WWF report published in 2020.

While grassland protection is a global concern, there are growing expectations for the UK to show climate leadership ahead of COP26.

Campaigners are disappointed with the omission of grasslands as a nature-based solution in the government's Net Zero Strategy, which is being seen as a potential blueprint for other nations' climate roadmaps.

"The importance of grasslands in carbon capture, improved biodiversity, sustainable food production, water management and societal wellbeing continues to be missed in this report and in government policy," Dunn said.

"We need to be working on a mosaic of habitats."

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said that the government's Net Zero Strategy had significant gaps and that its authors, from the government, "don't seem to have fully recognized the role that nature can play."

There's little new for nature in the strategy, he said.

"Instead, old policies are being recycled -- and it's not enough."

The land restoration policies will rely on a modest $880 million (£640 million) Nature for Climate fund, which had already been announced in the Conservative government's election manifesto, Bennett points out.

A Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson told CNN it was protecting grasslands at some reserve sites in England, launching a pilot scheme for more sustainable farming practices, and giving more than $55 million (£40 million) in grants for nature recovery projects.

"Biodiversity loss and climate change are global problems requiring global solutions," the spokesperson said.

But Defra did not comment when asked whether grasslands would be discussed at COP26 and sent quotes around the importance of ending illegal logging in forests as a nature-based climate solution.

A group of 38 British lawmakers are also calling for international recognition and protection for grasslands at COP26. In a motion, they want parliament's House of Commons to recognize the role of grasslands for its ability to reduce emissions, reduce flood risk and act as critical ecosystems for pollinators.

They urge "government ministers to use the opportunity of COP26 in Glasgow to seek international recognition and protections for species-rich grasslands, to lead by example in taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change and increase biodiversity and to ensure that those areas of natural beauty are preserved for future generations to enjoy."

 © Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou/CNN
The loss of grasslands threatens the region's biodiversity.
Climate change disrupting natural cycles at drier Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe Climate Change
Water flows have slowed to a trickle on the Truckee River flowing out of Lake Tahoe from Tahoe City, Calif. a few miles upstream from Truckee, Calif. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Drought fueled by climate change has dropped Lake Tahoe below its natural rim and halted flows into the Truckee River, an historically cyclical event that's occurring sooner and more often than it used to _ raising fears about what might be in store for the famed alpine lake. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).More

Fri, October 22, 2021

TAHOE CITY, Calif. (AP) — Drought fueled by climate change has dropped Lake Tahoe below its natural rim and halted flows into the Truckee River, an historically cyclical event that’s occurring sooner and more often than it used to — raising fears about what might be in store for the famed alpine lake.

Scientists are concerned that the growing frequency of low-water extremes may become the new normal.

They point to seasonal shifts in weather patterns causing precipitation that historically falls as snow to arrive in the form of rain atop the Sierra along the California-Nevada state line.

“Our summers are lasting longer. Springs are coming sooner,” said Gregory Schladow, a water resource and environmental engineering professor who is the founding director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

“The water level has always gone up and down,” he said this week. “It’s always occasionally gone below the rim. But the frequency of the changes is increasing.”

Over the past century, the amount of precipitation falling as snow has declined from 52% in 1910 to 33% in 2020 and is projected to drop below 20% by the end of the century, according to experts at the research center in Incline Village, Nevada.

Rain runs off the mountains instead of pilling up as snow on mountaintops for safe storage until it is most needed in late spring and summer — the high Sierra equivalent of somebody leaving the freezer door open at the top of the refrigerator.

Since summer, boat ramps have been closed. Docks sit precariously above the receding lake’s dry bottom. Boat and kayaking rentals have fallen, and river rafting operations on the Truckee River had to end early.

“Our season was short, and we fear there may not be one next summer,” said Toni Rudnick of the Truckee River Raft Company.

“It all depends on the snowpack,” she said. “In 2015, didn’t open at all when the Truckee River was a series of puddles ... In 2016, we had a 15-day season.”

The U.S. Forest Service canceled this month’s annual kokanee salmon festival at South Lake Tahoe because low water levels have all but cut off their migration route to spawn in Taylor Creek.

Deborah Grant Hanna is no scientist, but she’s witnessed decades of ups and downs in water levels during 42 years at the lake. She manages the Gatekeeper Museum/Gift Store next to the dam in Tahoe City where the dry lake bed now extends 200 yards (183 meters) off the normal shoreline.

“The water usually gets the lowest in mid-November. It was lower than now in 2015-16,” she said. “The problem with the rain now is it goes away from the mountain and causes flooding rather than storing snowpack. And as far as the local economy goes, the rain falls on the snow at the ski resorts.”

The lake dropped below the natural rim at an elevation of 6,223 feet (1,897 meters) twice in the 1920s after the dam was completed in 1913 and created the capacity to store up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) of water above the lake’s natural surface.

The level fell below the rim a half dozen times during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, but not again until 1961, followed by 1977 and 1988. Since then, it’s happened nine times — six since 2004.

Sarah Muskopf, a Forest Service aquatics biologist, said the drop in water occurs every year, but with varying degrees of intensity.

“Obviously, the changing climate is making this a more serious problem as aquatic habitat starts the season with less water, the system dries earlier, and water temperatures reach levels that do not support life cycle needs annually and earlier depending the water year,” she explained.

Tahoe’s water last reached its peak level in July 2019, but since then has generally fallen. The usual increase due to snowmelt in May and June was largely absent in 2021, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center said in a bulletin update this month.

Winter likely will arrive in the next few months and the lake will rise above the natural rim again, it said.

“But if the 2021-22 winter turns out to be below average” — as most models predict — “next year the lake will fall below the natural rim much sooner and likely stay there for most of 2022,” it said.

“This will impact recreation in 2022, as many docks and boat ramps will be further away for the shoreline. The growth and the washing up of filamentous algae on the very wide beaches will increase,” it said.

In the southwest corner of the lake, silt could build up across the mouth of the 12-foot (3-meter) deep Emerald Bay, cutting it off from the lake itself for the first time in recorded history, the center said. The same might happen at the mouths of many streams, "cutting off access to spawning kokanee salmon next fall."

Researchers at Lake Tahoe are better armed than most with scientific knowledge since then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore hosted an environmental summit at the lake in 1997. It paved the way for hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in new studies there over the next two decades.

Back then, the focus was on a decline in Tahoe’s famed clarity. Initial concerns centered on air emissions from increased traffic, use of fertilizers and shoreline development that fuels erosion and sends fine particles into the lake.

Schladow, the research center director, said that was followed by a better understanding of invasive species, like the Mysis shrimp, which were introduced into Tahoe in the 1960s as a food source for native trout but have been devouring the native zooplankton that historically helped keep the lake clear.

“And while all this was happening, the planet was changing,” Schladow said. “The dominant processes in the lake are very different than they were 25 years ago. It doesn’t mix as often. It starts out warm earlier. Temperatures are at higher levels.”

“It’s a very complex system — a great analogue for every other lake in the West.”

Less Than 50 Percent of Americans Back Climate Proposals to Substantially Cut Emissions

Jason Lemon 

As Democrats negotiate over climate change provisions intended to be included in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better reconciliation package, new polling shows that less than half of Americans support proposals that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions

© Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images 

Climate activists protest from the side of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after scaling the building on October 14 in Washington, D.C.

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has opposed significant climate change provisions included in the initially $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" package. The White House reportedly has been scrambling to address his concerns and find other ways to combat climate change. Meanwhile, less than 50 percent of Americans appear to support efforts to significantly address the crisis.

Polling conducted from October 19 to 21 by Yahoo News/YouGov found that only 48 percent of Americans favor cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (27 percent) are opposed to the idea.

Similarly, the survey results showed that just 48 percent back limiting greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered cars and coal-fired power plants. Nearly a third (30 percent) opposed the proposals altogether.

Even less—just 43 percent—support a proposal to decrease emissions by rewarding power utilities that switch to renewable energy while requiring utilities that continue to burn coal and oil to pay fines over time. Only 45
 percent approve of "a program that requires polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit" that also includes "a rebate for families making less than $400,000 per year" to counter possible price hikes on "gasoline, electricity or home heating fuel."

Only half (50 percent) of Americans surveyed view climate change as an "existential threat" despite the dire warnings from scientists for years. While a substantial majority of Democrats (78 percent) view the climate crisis as an "existential threat," just 45 percent of independents and less than a quarter (24 percent) of Republicans polled see it that way.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned for decades of the growing crisis caused by manmade pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Back in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that major reforms worldwide were necessary within just over a decade to prevent the worst impacts of the crisis.

More than 99 percent of scientific research on climate change confirms that the crisis is being caused by human activity, according to a review published this week. However, 45 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of independents and 4 percent of Democrats continue to deny the role humans play in causing climate change, according to the new polling data.

Meanwhile, the future of Biden's and Democrats' major climate change proposals remains uncertain due to Manchin's opposition. Progressive Democrats have slammed the moderate lawmaker for his stance on the issue, noting that he directly profits from the coal industry. Last year, Manchin garnered about $500,000 in earnings from a coal brokerage he founded, which is now managed by his son.

"Senator Joe Manchin has veto power over the country's transition to a clean energy economy. The tyranny of Joe Manchin is a tragedy for the rest of us," Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, tweeted last Friday.

"We have a moral obligation and a governing mandate to pass policy that addresses climate change," the official Twitter account of the Congressional Progressive Caucus posted on Saturday. "Inaction is not an option. Progressives in Congress are fighting for policies that address the scope of the crisis."

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Jury gets chance to hear Elizabeth Holmes’ bold promises

 In this Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, arrives at the federal courthouse for jury selection in her trial, in San Jose, Calif. A jury weighing the fate of fallen Silicon Valley star Holmes got its first chance Friday, Oct. 22, to listen to recordings of her boasting to investors about purported breakthroughs in a blood-testing technology. (AP Photo/Nic Coury, File)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A jury weighing the fate of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes got its first chance Friday to listen to recordings of her boasting to investors about purported breakthroughs in a blood-testing technology.

The technology heralded as a quantum leap in blood testing, however, later dissolved into a scandal that now threatens to send her to prison.

The drama unfolded in a San Jose, California, courtroom with federal prosecutors playing a series of recordings from a December 2013 conference call that Holmes held with investors in Theranos, the company she started in 2003 after dropping out of college at 19 in hopes of becoming a revered visionary in the mold of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

The audio clips of Holmes capped the sixth week of a high-profile trial revolving around allegations that Holmes duped sophisticated investors and major retailers with bogus promises about a Theranos device dubbed Edison. The company’s machine was supposed to be able to quickly scan for hundreds of potential health problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.

In the recordings, Holmes — speaking in a husky voice that some critics said she adopted to sound more authoritative — boasted about partnerships with big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer that evidence in the trial has revealed didn’t pan out. She also mentioned contracts that never materialized because Theranos couldn’t get the Edison to work properly. The device’s repeated failures disillusioned former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former Theranos board member ally who testified earlier in the trial.

“We could establish what has the opportunity to be the largest lab in the country,” Holmes told investors in one of the clips played Friday. She laid out that ambition just a few months after Theranos had struck a deal to set up blood-testing “wellness centers” in Walgreens stores across the country.

But Theranos wound up in only 40 Walgreens stores. After investing $140 million in Theranos, Walgreens wound up ending the Theranos alliance in 2016, not long after a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal and regulatory audits exposed chronic flaws in the blood-testing technology.

Before everything blew up, Holmes raised hundreds of millions of dollars from a list of investors that included billionaires such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family behind Walmart, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison. The clips played Friday were recorded by Bryan Tolbert, an adviser to Dallas real estate developer Carl Hall, who invested $7 million in Theranos.

The flurry of investments at one point valued privately held Theranos at $9 billion, including a $4.5 billion stake owned by Holmes. Now she is facing up to 20 years in prison if she is convicted in a trial that is scheduled to continue until late this year.

As she has done throughout the trial, Holmes on Friday sat stoically alongside her lawyers while her voice filled the courtroom. She has yet to have a reason to speak during the trial, though her attorneys have signaled she make eventually take the witness stand to defend her actions as Theranos’ CEO.

Holmes, 37, has denied any wrongdoing, and blamed any misconduct on her former boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Bulwani, who was Theranos’ chief operating officer. In court documents, Holmes’ lawyers have asserted she was manipulated by Bulwani, a charge his lawyer has vehemently denied. Bulwani faces a separate trial next year.

The jury that listened raptly to the recordings of Holmes was whittled down Friday when U.S. District Judge Edward Davila dismissed one member for an undisclosed reason. Originally composed of 17 people, including five alternates, the jury is now down to 10 men and four women.

Elizabeth Holmes trial Week 7 recap: a $1 billion IPO plan, and a former staffer testifies he was told to change numbers to make test results seem normal

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and her partner Billy Evans stand outside a courtroom with a crowd of people nearby
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and her partner Billy Evans leaves the Robert F. Peckham U.S. Courthouse after the delivery of opening arguments in her trial, in San Jose, California, U.S., September 8, 2021. Peter DaSilva/Reuters
  • The seventh week of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' fraud trial has come and gone.

  • It featured revelations on plans for a $1 billion IPO and ways staff tried to skirt testing issues.

  • Here's everything that happened in the trial in its seventh week.

How Theranos tried to make unusual test results seem normal

Daniel Edlin, a college friend of Elizabeth Holmes' brother, Christian, and Theranos' former senior product manager, was pressed on his previous testimony about measures taken when guests like investors or business partners wanted to see the devices in action.

He spoke of a "demo app" that hid Theranos machine errors from view during demonstrations, as well as "null protocol," which meant the machines didn't actually analyze the samples, according to The New York Times. Edlin testified that, from there, Theranos staff would tell the guests their samples needed further analysis, and the blood would be sent to a lab, as Insider's Adam Lashinsky reported.

Jurors also saw emails from 2013 between Edlin, Holmes, former Theranos vice president Daniel Young, and former Theranos COO and president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani.

In one email, Edlin pointed out a discrepancy in test results. Holmes replied, "The discrepancy will be a problem. We need to see if we can correct for it." Young asked Edlin to change the reference ranges on some of the results, which made results appear to fall within the normal range when they were actually abnormal.

Plans for a $1 billion IPO

Bryan Tolbert, the vice president of finance at investment firm Hall Group, which had invested $5 million in Theranos in 2013, testified that he had gathered from a meeting with Holmes that Theranos had raised $16 million in its first round, according to Law360 reporter Dorothy Atkins. His meeting notes also showed Theranos expected to raise $30 million in a second funding round with an eventual plan to go public in 2008 via an IPO valued at $1 billion.

Former Pfizer scientist unsure who approved Theranos' use of logo

Shane Weber, a former director of diagnostics at Pfizer, testified that he discouraged any deals with Theranos in a report about the now-defunct startup.

"Theranos unconvincingly argues the case for having accomplished tasks of interest to Pfizer," he wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal. Holmes' attorneys had repeatedly asked Judge Edward Davila to keep jurors from seeing the report, but Davila ultimately allowed prosecutors to present it.

Weber also wrote that Theranos was "non-informative, tangential, deflective or evasive" in its answers to due diligence questions.

Jurors also heard about Theranos' use of Pfizer's logo in a company report, implying that Pfizer had validated and supported Theranos' technology. The report boasted about Theranos machines' "superior performance," but Weber said he had never authorized the Pfizer logo use, and he didn't know of anyone at Pfizer who had, according to the East Bay Times. The report was later shared with Walgreens and other investors.

Theranos technology put to the test for possible use in the military

Some Theranos machines were sent to Africa to see if they could withstand high temperatures common in combat. Theranos had been having discussions with the Defense Department about possible uses of the company's machines in the military.

Theranos employees' emails, however, said the machines "did not have a way to cool down" and might run into performance issues if they operated outside of the range between 72 and 82 degrees, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A third juror departs

Yet another member of the 12-person jury has been dismissed. On Friday, a juror was excused and replaced with an alternate. This is the third juror to depart the trial; two of five alternates now remain with the case at roughly its halfway point. Judge Davila said there was "good cause" to excuse the juror but didn't provide a specific reason, according to CNBC. Each departure raises concerns about a possible mistrial.

You can catch up on Week 1 hereWeek 2 hereWeek 3 hereWeek 4 hereWeek 5 here, and Week 6 here. You can read how Holmes wound up on trial here and see the list of potential witnesses hereEverything else you need to know about the case is here.

Condoleezza Rice’s CRT stance proves she’s a foot solider for white supremacy

Fri, October 22, 2021

OPINION: Touré writes we are debating about whether we should teach our children real American history or if we should lie to them and protect their fragile white hearts.

Condoleezza Rice’s recent appearance on The View was offensive and disgusting for many reasons but she was who we thought she was: a soldier for white supremacy. Her thoughts on Critical Race Theory are completely white centric, as in, they revolve around the thoughts and needs of white people.

Her primary argument against Critical Race Theory is that history should not be taught in a way that makes white kids feel bad. What? We should whitewash U.S. history to protect the feelings of white children? Excuse me, I misspoke — we should whitewash U.S. history even more than we already do in order to protect the feelings of white children?

First of all, what about the feelings of Black children? What would their feelings be if they knew they were being taught a version of American history that was distorted to protect white kids? What message does that send to them? And what about the feelings they have when learning about the real American history?

Also this — white children and adults should absolutely feel bad about the past atrocities committed by white Americans. They should feel guilty. They should cringe at what their ancestors did. They should also understand that modern white power is directly related to those atrocities. White people gained economic and institutional advantages from slavery and segregation and the long-term subjugation of Black people that continue to help them to this day.

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

White people should know that American history is rated X and their relatives are the one who Black people had to fear. They didn’t arrive and have a nice dinner with the natives and buy Manhattan for a few trinkets.

The Europeans who settled early America made treaties with American Indians and then violated those treaties and slaughtered the natives as rapidly as possible. They didn’t merely own slaves and treat them kindly. They had a cruel and peculiar institution that kidnapped and human trafficked and then beat and raped and subjugated humans for generations.

Slavery was far more cruel and frightening than most people even know unless you read diaries written by former slaves. And the past is not done with us — slavery created the economy and the wealth that led to America becoming a global economic power. You didn’t have to own slaves in order to participate in that wealth-building but all of the wealth derived from it went to white people and was thus stolen from Black people.

In this Aug. 18, 2017, photo, a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest sits in a park in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz, File)

American history is a series of cycles where white people grow more powerful because of the legalized oppression of Black people. American history is a series of stories where white people knock us down and stand on our necks and then ask why we’re on the ground. If we don’t know history we don’t understand reality and how it was constructed. I really don’t care if learning this makes white kids feel bad — and if it doesn’t then they are too heartless.

Also this — yes the teaching of American history can sometimes make people feel bad. Terrible things happened and it’s traumatizing. We should not hide the truth from our kids; we should aim to teach them what happened and then, together, deal with how we feel about it. Because even if the history initially makes you feel bad, that’s not enough of a reason to not teach it.

I recall many days where I learned more about slavery or segregation or Jim Crow or lynchings, days in grade school or in college where I was a Black Studies major. I often walked out of a classroom in a rage, thinking about the indignities visited upon my ancestors. But when I calmed down I realized those lessons had filled me with a sense of purpose —knowing what my people had gone through from slavery to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements made me feel like I had to do something valuable with my life in order to honor the fights and the sacrifices they had made.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

I could feel the shoulders that I was standing upon to reach up for the life that I had and I owed it to them to use my life in a way that might honor them and make them proud.

On The View, Rice suggests that learning about America’s racial history could make Black children feel disempowered by race but it had the exact opposite impact on me. Just because the stories are hard to hear does not mean that it will damage the listeners.

Our classrooms should not be another example of white privilege, they should reflect the ugly reality of American history. But really the whole discussion is bizarre — we are debating about whether we should teach our children real American history or if we should lie to them and protect their fragile white hearts.

I cannot accept a country that contorts itself to avoid causing white pain. I’m not here to help comfort white people. And Lord knows I am never, ever going to center them.

Touré is the host of the podcasts Toure Show and Democracyish and the podcast docuseries Who Was Prince? He is also the author of six books.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Underwater volcanic activity reveals ghost ships from WWII in Japan

Naomi Ludlow, USA TODAY
Fri, October 22, 2021

Seismic activity of underwater volcano Fukutoku-Okanoba created a small island and revealed sunken warships from World War II about 808 miles from Tokyo, according to Vice Magazine.

The warships were from the Battle of Iwo Jima, an island roughly 760 miles from Japan's capital city, and considered the bloodiest battle in U.S. Marine's history, according to the National WWII Museum.

Although the ships are not a new discovery, the last time they were visible was 35 years ago because of seismic activity.

The ships were used byJapan to prepare for an invasion of U.S. troops. During the 1945 battle, the Marines seized the island and killed 20,000 Japanese soldiers.

Iwo Jima remains uninhabited except for members of the Japanese military.

According to the Japanese Coast Guard, the newly formed island is hardened lava and has already started to sink. It is made of pumice and volcanic ash that erodes easily by surrounding elements.

The islet was originally 0.62 miles and is now half its size.
Trump social network given 30 days to stop breaking software license

Nihal Krishan
Fri, October 22, 2021

Former President Donald Trump's new social media platform, TRUTH Social, has been given 30 days to comply with the software's terms of license before its access is terminated. If it fails to comply, the platform may face legal action or have to rebuild from scratch.

Trump Media and Technology Group, a new company started by the former president, announced Wednesday it would soon launch TRUTH Social, a new platform aiming to "stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech." The site is being built with the open-source software Mastodon.

The Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that provides support and legal services for open-source software, said Friday that while anyone can use Mastodon's code for free to build online platforms, they must comply with its license that requires offering the user's own source code, which TRUTH Social has not done.

TRUTH Social refers to its platform and software code as "proprietary." Unless it changes its approach and opens up its code for users to view within 30 days, the platform can no longer use the Mastodon software it has been built upon.

“The license purposefully treats everyone equally (even people we don’t like or agree with), but they must operate under the same rules of the copyleft licenses that apply to everyone else,” Bradley Kuhn, policy fellow and hacker-in-residence at Software Freedom Conservancy, wrote in a blog post. “Today, we saw the Trump Media and Technology Group ignoring those important rules — which were designed for the social good.”


Although TRUTH Social hasn't launched yet — it is requiring users to join a waitlist — users on Thursday managed to access a trial version of the platform to create prank accounts and fake announcements, including grotesque posts from a fake Donald Trump account.

If TRUTH Social does not open up its source code for users to access within the next 30 days and continues to use the Mastodon software, the conservancy would have grounds to sue the Trum
p Media and Technology Group for violating the terms of the software license.

“We will be following this issue very closely and demanding that Trump’s Group give the corresponding source to all who use the site,” Kuhn wrote.

Trump is banned from almost every major social media platform — including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit — because of his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. As a result, he has been eager to return to social media after struggling to get his message out to the public for the past few months.

"We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced. This is unacceptable," Trump said earlier this week. "I am excited to send out my first TRUTH on TRUTH Social very soon. TMTG was founded with a mission to give a voice to all."
Apaches ask appeals court to oppose transfer of Arizona land

This June 15, 2015, file photo shows in the distance, part of the Resolution Copper Mining land-swap project in Superior, Ariz. An attorney for members of the San Carlos Apache tribe on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to back a nonprofit group's efforts to halt a pending transfer to a copper mining company a piece of central Arizona land the Apaches consider sacred. 
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)


Fri, October 22, 2021

PHOENIX (AP) — An attorney for members of the San Carlos Apache tribe on Friday asked the the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to back a nonprofit group’s efforts to keep a copper mining company from gaining federal Arizona land the Apaches consider sacred.

“We are talking about the survival of the Apache people,” attorney Luke Goodrich told the panel, arguing that an end to religious activities on the land known as Oak Flat would help spell an end to the tribe.

Joan Pepin, an attorney for the U.S. government, argued the land transfer must go ahead because it was part of legislation approved by Congress. The land has been set to be transferred to Resolution Copper, as part of a provision in a must-pass 2014 defense bill, once the final environmental impact statement is published.

The three-member panel did not immediately release a ruling. The judges will now confer in private and write a decision that may not be issued for as long as three months.

Goodrich said the group could take the case to the Supreme Court if the appeals court sides with the U.S. Forest Service, the agency that has planned the land transfer.

Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit organization representing tribe members, sued the federal government in Phoenix federal court in January to block the pending transfer of the land near the community of Superior, which the Apache tribe says is important to its religion.

The group has hoped to stop publication of the final environmental review that would let the transfer proceed.

“Our work continues,” Apache Stronghold leader Wendsler Nosie, Sr. said after Friday's hearing, encouraging all tribal governments and tribal members to stand together. “We have heard loud and clear (the government's) position."

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan in February rejected a request from Apache Stronghold to keep the U.S. Forest Service from transferring the land to Resolution Copper, a joint venture of global mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto.

Attorneys for the Forest Service have argued in filings that the land legally belongs to the United States and that transferring its own property isn’t a substantial burden to the Apache group’s ability to practice its religion.

But Apache tribal members argue otherwise.

They call the mountainous area Chi’chil Bildagoteel. The land has ancient oak groves and traditional plants that tribal members say are essential to their religion and culture.

Resolution Copper has said it would not deny Apaches access to Oak Flat after it receives the land and for as long as it’s safe. But the project would eventually swallow the site in a deep hole, something that ultimately would make any visits impossible.

Resolution Copper has said the mine could have a $61 billion impact over the project’s expected 60 years and employ up to 1,500 people. It would be one of the largest copper mines in the United States.
EXPLAINER: California proposes limits on community drilling


California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks near oil fields by the Wilmington Boys & Girls Club Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Wilmington, Calif. California's oil and gas regulator on Thursday proposed that the state ban new oil drilling within 3,200 feet of schools, homes and hospitals to protect public health in what would be the nation's largest buffer zone between oil wells and communities 
(Hunter Lee/The Orange County Register via AP)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An ambitious plan by California regulators to block new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of schools and homes is drawing protests from the oil industry and plaudits from environmentalists, who still want the state to go further.

But the plan released Thursday is just a first step, and things are far from settled. Here’s a look at what’s in the proposal, how it came about and what’s next:


It adopted as written, the state would stop allowing new oil and gas wells to be drilled within 3,200 feet of K-12 schools and daycares, homes and dorms, health care centers such as hospitals or nursing homes, and public-facing businesses.

It wouldn’t stop existing drilling within those zones but would create more than a dozen new pollution control measures designed to limit the negative health effects for people who live nearby.


Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has made bold pronouncements about his desire to wean the state from oil and gas production and use, declaring that oil won’t be part of the state’s future. When he took office in 2019, he told the state’s oil and gas regulator to make health and safety part of its mission. This proposal flows from that.

It would create the largest buffer zone around oil drilling and community sites in the nation if adopted, something the governor and his administration have touted repeatedly.

A 15-member panel of experts, including scientists and public health leaders, concluded that living within 3,200 feet, or about 1 kilometer, of oil and gas drilling increased the risks for respiratory problems or birth complications, based on studies conducted in California and other oil-producing states like Texas and Pennsylvania

Some people who live near drilling sites say they experience nosebleeds, headaches, respiratory issues and other problems.


Wells that fall within the 3,200-foot zone wouldn’t have to close down. But they would have to meet new pollution controls. Administration officials say they hope those rules will prompt some well owners to shut them down.

One of those controls is a leak detection and response plan that would require operators to detect for chemicals such as methane or hydrogen sulfide with an alarm system. Operators would have to suspend use of the well or production facility until a leak is corrected and the state’s oil regulator gives the OK to resume. They must notify the community if the leak isn’t stopped with 48 hours.

Other controls include preventing and recovering the release of vapors, keeping sound and lighting low between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., and conducting water sampling.


Not for a while — and it could change. The proposal released Thursday will now go through a 60-day public comment period, followed by an economic analysis and another year of bureaucratic wrangling. The final rule won’t take effect until at least 2023, and oil drillers would have a year or two to comply with the strictest parts.


There are more than 18,000 active oil and gas wells in California within 3,200 feet of community sites, mostly in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley, particularly in oil-rich Kern County.

Low-income Californians and communities of color are the most likely to live in neighborhoods with oil drilling. In some places, people live right next door or across the street from drilling operations, exposing them to loud sounds, foul smells and, sometimes, emissions.

Oil development began in Los Angeles as early as the 1890s, said Bhavna Shamasunder, a professor of urban and environmental policy at Occidental College who focuses on environmental justice research. City planners allowed oil development to occur alongside residential and commercial buildings, with little to no environmental considerations, she said. Wealthier communities often had more power to fight development.


Environmental groups are pleased with the proposed rules, but they plan to push the Newsom administration to go even further. They want to the state to block any new permits to do work at existing wells in the buffer zone except to plug and abandon them. Under the administration’s proposal, a well could get a permit to re-drill or go deeper.

They are also concerned about the eventual enforcement of the rule. The Geologic Energy Management Division, the state oversight body, has often faced pushback from critics who say it doesn’t do enough to regulate the oil industry.

Dan Ress, staff attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, said the proposal needs to be clearer about what happens to oil companies that break the rules for new pollution controls.

“There’s just a lot of these issues with enforcement that don’t make us comfortable trusting CalGEM,” Ress said.


The oil industry and its allies in organized labor, particularly the State Building and Construction Trades Council, are against the proposal. They warn it will reduce California’s access to reliable energy and raise prices. But they aren’t being specific on what changes they will push.

Kevin Slagle, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said the oil industry lobbying arm would work toward regulations that consider “the unique needs of each community and region.” In other words, the group does not want a statewide rule. He said it was too early to know whether the petroleum association would file legal challenges.
Ethiopian airstrikes in Tigray force UN flight to turn back


 In this Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 file photo, smoke from fires billows at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Aid workers say Ethiopian military airstrikes have forced a United Nations humanitarian flight to abandon its landing in the capital of the country’s Tigray region. A government spokesman confirms that authorities had been aware of the inbound flight. The development appears to be a sharp escalation in the intimidation tactics that authorities have used against aid workers amid the intensifying, year-long Tigray war. (AP Photo, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopian military airstrikes on Friday forced a United Nations humanitarian flight to abandon its landing in the capital of the country’s Tigray region, and a government spokesman said authorities were aware of the inbound flight. It appeared to be a sharp escalation in intimidation tactics authorities have used against aid workers amid the intensifying, year-long Tigray war.

Further U.N. flights have been suspended to Mekele, the base of humanitarian operations in Tigray, the World Food Program told The Associated Press. It said the flight with 11 passengers had been cleared by federal authorities but “received instructions to abort landing by the Mekele airport control tower.” It safely returned to Addis Ababa.

The friction between the government and humanitarian groups is occurring amid the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, with close to a half-million people in Tigray said to be facing famine-like conditions. The government since June has imposed what the U.N. calls a “de facto humanitarian blockade” on the region of some 6 million people, and the AP has reported that people have begun to starve to death.

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu told the AP authorities were aware the U.N. flight was in the area but said the U.N. and military flights had a “different time and direction.” It wasn’t immediately clear how close the planes came to each other.

Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda in a tweet said “our air defense units knew the U.N. plane was scheduled to land and it was due in large measure to their restraint it was not caught in a crossfire.” He suggested that Ethiopian authorities were “setting up the U.N. plane to be hit by our guns.”

A military spokesman didn’t respond to questions.

Legesse said Friday’s airstrikes in Mekele targeted a former military training center being used as a “battle network hub” by rival Tigray forces. Residents said they hit a field near Mekele University. Tigray spokesman Kindeya Gebrehiwot told the AP about a dozen people were wounded.

Ethiopia’s government in recent months has accused some humanitarian groups of supporting the Tigray forces, and last month it took the extraordinary step of expelling seven U.N. officials while accusing them without evidence of falsely inflating the scale of the Tigray crisis. Authorities have subjected aid workers on U.N. flights to intrusive searches and removed medical cargo.

Meanwhile, the U.N. says just 1% of the targeted 5.2 million people in urgent need received food aid between Oct. 7 and 13. Now the airstrikes that began this week in Mekele have halted aid deliveries, humanitarian spokeswoman Gemma Connell told reporters, saying “not a single truck” has entered Tigray since Monday.

Thousands of people have been killed since November, when a political falling-out between the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government and the current administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed erupted in fighting.

Tigray forces in recent months have retaken the Tigray region and brought the fighting into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The U.N. says more than 2 million people are now displaced overall.

And yet “our operations will come to a grinding halt in the not so distant future” in Tigray if current conditions continue, Connell said.

The airstrikes in Mekele were the first in several months, killing three children and injuring more than a dozen people, despite repeated international calls for a cease-fire and the threat of further sanctions.

On Thursday, the government claimed a successful strike against another military base used by the Tigray forces near Mekele, but the Tigray forces spokesman asserted that air defenses prevented the plane from hitting targets.

An airstrike on Wednesday hit an industrial compound the government said was used by the Tigray forces to repair weapons. A Tigray spokesman denied that and said it was used to produce cars and tractors. Two other airstrikes hit the city on Monday.

Tigray remains under a communications blackout, making it difficult to verify claims, while areas of fighting in Amhara are largely unreachable as well.

The airstrikes come amid reports of renewed heavy fighting in Amhara. On Wednesday, the Tigray forces spokesman claimed advances had put the government-held towns of Dessie and Kombolcha “within artillery range,” prompting alarm.

Dessie hosts a large number of displaced people who have fled fighting further north. One resident told the AP he has seen many cars leaving the town with mattresses, cooking equipment and other household items strapped to their roofs in the last few days, but many displaced people are stuck because they can’t afford to leave.

He also reported plenty of vehicles carrying troops north to the front and the constant sound of shelling. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Amid air quality concerns, districts embrace electric buses


A diesel-powered school bus is reflected in a mirror at MAST Academy, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Miami. 
 (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

BOSTON (AP) — For several years, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools had toyed with replacing some of its 1,000 diesel buses with cleaner electric vehicles. But school leaders said the change would be too costly.

Then 12-year-old student Holly Thorpe showed up at a school board meeting to tout the benefits of going electric and returned to encourage the district to apply for a state grant.

Two years on, the school board on Wednesday approved a district plan to use state money to replace up to 50 diesel buses with electric models over the next several years.

Thorpe is overjoyed the district is making the switch. “It wasn’t imaginary any more,” she said. “It just wasn’t like an idea. It was coming to life.”

Holly Thorpe poses for a photo in front of a mural in the bus drop-off area at MAST Academy, that students painted with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) absorbing paint, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Miami. Thorpe, 14, urged the Miami-Dade County Public Schools to considering replacing foul-smelling diesel school buses with electric vehicles. The school board voted this week to use a state grant to purchase up to 50 electric buses. Miami-Dade is joining a growing number of school districts transitioning from diesel to more environmentally-friendly electric school buses.
 (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The transition is part of a small but growing movement led by parents, students and lawmakers to purchase electric school buses to improve the health of students and cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

Roughly 25 million children ride school buses every year. And though only about 1% of 480,000 U.S. school buses are electric, there are signs the push to abandon diesel buses is gaining momentum:

— Late last year, the World Resources Institute announced a $37.5 million Bezos Earth Fund grant to help electrify all school buses in the country by 2030. The nonprofit will work over the next five years on the project with school districts, communities, environmental justice groups, utilities, bus manufacturers and policymakers.

— This year, a suburban Maryland district became the country’s largest to commit to going completely electric. It plans to replace 1,442 diesel buses by 2035. The first 326 electric ones will be leased from Massachusetts-based Highland Electric Transportation.

— California, the country’s electric school bus leader, has funded the purchase of 1,167 and budgeted for another 1,000 over the next three fiscal years.

“This is an opportunity to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect kids health,” said California Energy Commission member Patty Monahan. “Some of these kids in parts of Los Angeles are on the bus for an hour, two hours a day. So we want to make sure that they are breathing clean air.”

At Twin Rivers Unified School District in Northern California, where diesel buses have been replaced by 40 electric buses and 34 that run on compressed natural gas, officials say clouds of dirty air have disappeared.

“One of the drivers said ‘I can’t believe the change I’m seeing in my lifetime,‘” said Tim Shannon, the district’s director of transportation services. “He said ‘I used to have to hold a handkerchief over my face to walk through the yard because of the thick diesel soot.’”

The electric buses are 60% cheaper to operate and will pay for themselves over time, Shannon said.

Some districts are planning to sell excess energy from batteries back to the grid, a move welcomed by utilities who themselves have launched programs to buy electric school buses. This summer, a school bus in a Massachusetts district delivered power back to the grid.

Efforts to replace diesel school buses are driven by the fact that children are more susceptible to health impacts of air pollution. Exposure to diesel exhaust, according to the EPA, can lead to asthma and respiratory illnesses and worsen heart and lung ailments, especially in children and the elderly.

A study of school buses in Washington state found using cleaner fuels or upgrading older diesel reduced children’s exposure to airborne particles by as much as 50% and improved their health. Their findings suggest a nationwide switch to cleaner school buses could result in around 14 million fewer absences each year. The researchers at the universities of Washington and Michigan did not examine electric buses, which produce less local pollution than those using fossil fuels.

Lead author Sara Adar, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said older diesel buses resulted in children in the Seattle area “getting higher levels of air pollution during their commute.”

“The pollutants those kids were experiencing also did seem to be linked to worse health,” she said. “We saw kids’ lungs weren’t quite as healthy.”

Diesel school bus engines are much cleaner, since the EPA implemented standards that required them to produce 90% less particulate matter. The EPA also has awarded $55 million to replace more than 2,700 old diesel school buses since 2012 and announced in October that $17 million more would be available.

With the improved standards, the diesel industry argues that switching to electric won’t significantly reduce emissions or address concerns about global warming — especially since electricity for buses still often comes from fossil fuels. They note that more than 54% of school buses are newer models with far fewer emissions.

“School districts should be able to choose the bus type and technology that works for them,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “Some may find electric buses a good fit while others will stick with diesel and utilize low-carbon renewable fuels to cut their carbon footprint and other emissions.”

Advocates point out that nearly half of diesel buses are older ones that produce dangerous pollutants and are much more expensive to maintain. But they acknowledge the challenge is getting districts with older buses funds to transition to electric ones, which often cost three times more.


An electric school bus, leased by Beverly Public Schools in Beverly, Mass., rests in a bus yard, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Beverly, Mass. The district is planning to convert half its 44-bus fleet to electric by 2025 and the rest by 2030. Their transition is part of a trend in districts across the country to shift from diesel to electric school buses to improve air quality and combat climate change.
 (AP Photo/Michael Casey)

Many districts are eyeing funding from several bills in Congress.

The nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $5 billion for electric and hybrid school buses. Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a former preschool teacher who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions, and other advocates want $5 billion more for electric school buses in President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan.

Several congressional bills would provide billions more for electric school buses.

Some states, including Florida and Virginia, are buying electric buses with billions of dollars from the Volkswagen settlement of its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district will use $11.6 million from the settlement to start buying electric buses, but said a full transition would be impossible without federal help.

“If we as a nation prioritize environmental protection, the reduction of greenhouse gases, the maximization of new technologies that reduce our dependency on carbon fuels, then the federal investment must incentivize these transitions with actual funding,” he said. “And that’s exactly what our country needs. That’s exactly what Miami needs.”