Arquivo da tag: Trump

The American way – How the world’s most powerful country is handling covid-19 (The Economist)

Contrary to what many Americans think, the death rate in America is about the same as in Europe

May 28th 2020 edition

Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our coronavirus hub

AMERICA HAS passed a grim milestone: 100,000 deaths from a novel coronavirus that began to spread half a year and half a world away. Many Americans think their president has handled the epidemic disastrously, that their country has been hit uniquely hard and that there is a simple causal relationship between the two. The 100,000, which does not include excess deaths mistakenly attributed to other causes, is higher than any other country’s. It has routinely been compared with the 60,000 American casualties in the Vietnam war. A Trump Death Clock in Times Square purports to show how many lives the president’s ineptitude has cost: as we went to press it stood at 60,262. Yet this widespread conviction that America has failed because of Donald Trump is not supported by the numbers. Or, at least, not yet.

The official death rate in America is about the same as in the European Union—which also has excess deaths, but has less erratic leaders and universal health care. Overall, America has fared a bit worse than Switzerland and a bit better than the Netherlands, neither of which is a failed state. New York has been hit about as hard as Lombardy in northern Italy; California acted early and is currently similar to Germany; so far, rural states have, like central Europe, been spared the worst. This reflects two things, both of which will matter now that America is reopening before it has the virus fully under control.

The first is that covid-19, when it first hit, displayed an indifference to presidents and their plans. Around the world it has killed in large, dense and connected cities like New York, London and Paris, and where people are crammed together, including care homes, slaughterhouses and prisons. In some countries, including America, testing was snarled up in red tape.

Having seen what was happening in China, Mr Trump could have acted sooner—as Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam did. He has failed to do things ordinarily expected of an American president in a crisis, such as giving clear government advice or co-ordinating a federal response. Instead, he has touted quack remedies and spent the days when America passed its sombre milestone spreading suspicion of the voting system and accusing a television host of committing a murder that never happened. All this is reprehensible and it may have been costly. Yet, tempting as it is to conclude that the president’s failures bear most of the blame for covid-19’s spread through America, the reality is more complicated (see Briefing).

That leads to the second feature of the country’s response to covid-19. The virus was always going to be hard on a population with high levels of poverty, obesity and diseases such as diabetes, especially among minorities (see Lexington). But, to a remarkable degree, other layers of government have adapted around the hole where the president should have been. The federal system has limited the damage, thanks to its decentralised decision-making. Lockdowns vary by state, city and county. California responded as soon as it saw cases. In the north-east governors largely ignored the White House and got on with coping with the disease, earning the Republican governors of Maryland and Massachusetts the president’s enmity, but high approval ratings. In Florida, though the governor was reluctant to impose a lockdown, county officials went ahead and did so anyway.

Contrary to demands for nationwide rules, this is a strength not a weakness, and will become more so as the pandemic runs its course. In the best-organised states, which have built up testing capacity, it helps ensure that flare-ups can be spotted quickly and rules adjusted accordingly. Because each region is different, that is more efficient than a nationwide approach.

One way democracies can deal with the virus is to draw on reserves of trust. People must behave in ways that protect fellow citizens whom they have never met, even if they themselves are feeling fine. Americans trust their local officials far more than the president or the federal government. And when it comes to public health those local officials have real power. Without this balancing feature, America might today look like Brazil, where a president with a similar love of hydroxychloroquine and distaste for face masks is wreaking havoc (see article).

If the public-health response in the United States so far matches Europe’s, its economic response to the virus may turn out better. True, the unemployment rate in America is 15%, double that in the EU. Yet in Europe most governments are protecting jobs that may no longer exist once lockdowns end rather than focusing help on the unemployed as America’s has. The EU is probably delaying a painful adjustment. Congress, not known for passing consequential legislation with big bipartisan majorities, agreed on a vastly bigger fiscal stimulus than in the financial crisis a decade ago. With a Democrat in the White House and a Republican-controlled Senate, America might not have mustered a response that was either so rapid or so large.

America still has a hard road ahead. Were daily fatalities to remain at today’s level, which is being celebrated as a sign that the pandemic is waning, another 100,000 people would die by the end of the year. To prevent that, America needs to work with the system it has, trusting local politicians to balance the risks of reopening against the cost of lockdowns.

In the next months the infrastructure built during the lockdown must prove itself. Because the virus has yet to decline in some states, it may flare up in new places, which will then need targeted lockdowns. The capacity to test, vital to spotting clusters of infection, has increased, but is still lacking in some places. Almost all the states lack the contact tracers needed to work out who needs testing and quarantining. When it considers how to withdraw fiscal support, Congress should remember this.

That America and Europe have fared similarly in the pandemic does not absolve Mr Trump. This is the first international crisis since 1945 in which America has not only spurned global leadership but, by cutting funds to the World Health Organisation, actively undermined a co-ordinated international response. That matters, as does Mr Trump’s inability to cleave to a consistent message or to speak to the country in words that do not enrage half of the population. Yet four years after Mr Trump was elected, the time to be surprised by his behaviour has long gone. Luckily, he has mattered less than most Americans think.■

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The American way”

The religious roots of Trump’s magical thinking on coronavirus (CNN)

Analysis by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor

Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT) May 21, 2020

(CNN) As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, President Trump has repeated one phrase like a mantra: It will go away.

Since February Trump has said the virus will “go away” at least 15 times, most recently on May 15.

“It’s going to disappear one day,” he said on February 27. “It’s like a miracle.”

Invoking a miracle is an understandable response during a pandemic, but to some, the President’s insistence that the coronavirus will simply vanish sounds dangerously like magical thinking — the popular but baffling idea that we can mold the world to our liking, reality be damned.

The coronavirus, despite Trump’s predictions, has not disappeared. It has spread rapidly, killing more than 90,000 Americans.

In that light, Trump’s response to the pandemic, his fulsome self-praise and downplaying of mass death seems contrary to reality. But long ago, his biographers say, Trump learned how to craft his own version of reality, a lesson he learned in an unlikely place: a church.

It’s called the “power of positive thinking,” and Trump heard it from the master himself: the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, a Manhattan pastor who became a self-help juggernaut, the Joel Osteen of the 1950s.

“He thought I was his greatest student of all time,” Trump has said.

Undoubtedly, the power of positive thinking has taken Trump a long way — through multiple business failures to the most powerful office in the world.

Trump has repeatedly credited Peale — who died in 1993 — and positive thinking with helping him through rough patches.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote the bestselling 1952 self-help book, "The Power of Positive Thinking." It sold millions of copies.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote the bestselling 1952 self-help book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” It sold millions of copies.

“I refused to be sucked into negative thinking on any level, even when the indications weren’t great,” Trump said of the early 1990s, when his casinos were tanking and he owed creditors billions of dollars.

But during a global public health crisis there can be a negative side to positive thinking.

“Trump pretending that this pandemic will just go away is not just an unacceptable fantasy,” said Christopher Lane, author of “Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.”

“It is in the realm of dangerous delusion.”

Trump says Peale has made him feel better about himself

Though they were professed Presbyterians, it’s more accurate to call Trump’s family Peale-ites.

On Sundays, Trump’s businessman father drove the family from Queens to Peale’s pulpit at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan.

The centuries-old edifice was, and remains, the closest thing Trump has to a family church. Funerals for both of his parents were held there, and Peale presided over Trump’s marriage to Ivana at Marble Collegiate in 1977. Two of his siblings were also married in the sanctuary.

The draw, Trump’s biographers say, was Peale, who elevated businessmen like the Trumps to saint-like status as crusaders of American capitalism.

Known as “God’s Salesman,” Peale wrote many self-help books, including “The Power of Positive Thinking,” that sold millions of copies.

From left to right, Donald Trump, Ivana Trump, Ruth Peale and Dr. Norman V. Peale at Peale's 90th birthday party in 1988.

From left to right, Donald Trump, Ivana Trump, Ruth Peale and Dr. Norman V. Peale at Peale’s 90th birthday party in 1988.

Peale drew throngs of followers, but also sharp criticism from Christians who accused him of cherry-picking Bible verses and peddling simplistic solutions.

But the young Donald Trump was hooked.

“He would instill a very positive feeling about God that also made me feel positive about myself,” Trump writes in “Great Again,” one of his books. “I would literally leave that church feeling like I could listen to another three sermons.”

Peale peppered his sermons with pop psychology. Sin and guilt were jettisoned in favor of “spirit-lifters,” “energy-producing thoughts” and “7 simple steps” to happy living.

“Attitudes are more important than facts,” Peale preached, a virtual prophecy of our post-truth age.”Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale writes in “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

“Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”

Peale has also influenced Trump’s spiritual advisers

To this day, Trump surrounds himself with Peale-like figures, particularly prosperity gospel preachers.

One of his closest spiritual confidantes, Florida pastor Paula White, leads the White House’s faith-based office and is a spiritual descendent of Peale’s positive thinking — with a Pentecostal twist.

White, a televangelist, belongs to the Word of Faith movement, which teaches that God bestows health and wealth on true believers.

In a Rose Garden ceremony for the National Day of Prayer earlier this month, White quoted from the Bible’s Book of Job: “If you decree and declare a thing, it will be established.”

“I declare no more delays to the deliverance of Covid-19,” White continued. “No more delays to healing and a vaccination.”

Paula White, a televangelist and religious adviser to President Trump.

Paula White, a televangelist and religious adviser to President Trump.

The Book of Job, a parable of human suffering and powerlessness, may be a strange book for a preacher to cite while “declaring” an end to the pandemic. If it were so easy, Job’s story would involve fewer boils and tortures.

But in a way, White perfectly captures the problem with positive thinking: It tries to twist every situation into a “victory,” even when reality demonstrates otherwise.

“Positive thinking can help people focus on goals and affirm one’s merits,” said Lane, author of the book on Peale. “But it does need a reality check, and to be based in fact.

“Sometimes, the reality is that you’ve failed and need to change course. But to Peale, that wasn’t an option. Even self-doubt was a sin, he taught, an affront to God.

“He had a huge problem with failure,” Lane said. “He would berate people for even talking about it.”

Peale’s teachings can explain why Trump won’t accept criticism

You can hear echoes of Peale’s no-fail philosophy in Trump’s angry response to reporters’ questions about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, said Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.

“Nothing is an exchange of ideas or discussion of facts,” D’Antonio said. “Everything is a life or death struggle for the definition of reality. For him, being wrong feels like being obliterated.”

President Donald Trump answers questions with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 3, 2020 in Washington.

President Donald Trump answers questions with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 3, 2020 in Washington.

And that’s one reason why the President refuses to accept any criticism or admit to any failure. To do so would puncture his bubble of positivity, not to mention his self-image.

So, despite his administration’s early missteps in preparing for and responding to the coronavirus, Trump won’t acknowledge any errors.

Instead, he has misled the public, claiming in February that the situation was “under control” when it was not; promising a vaccine is coming “very soon,” which it is not; and falsely insisting that “anyone can get tested,” when they could not and many still cannot.

Still, when asked in mid-March to grade his administration’s response, Trump gave himself a perfect score.

“I’d rate it a 10,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job.”

Trump’s self-appraisal might not match reality. But Peale would be proud.

Marcelo Leite: Desinteligência artificial agrava Covid-19 (Folha de S.Paulo)

www1.folha.uol.com.br

04 de maio de 2020

Terça-feira (28) participei de uma teleconversa curiosa, sobre inteligência artificial (IA) e humanização da medicina. Parecia contradição nos termos, em especial nesta pandemia de Covid-19, ou debate sobre sexo dos anjos, quando estamos fracassando já na antessala da alta tecnologia –realizar testes diagnósticos, contar mortes corretamente e produzir dados estatísticos confiáveis.

O encontro virtual, que vai ao ar amanhã, faz parte de uma série (youtube.com/rio2c) que vem substituir a conferência sobre economia criativa Rio2C, cuja realização neste mês foi cancelada. Coube-me moderar o diálogo entre Sonoo Thadaney, do Presence ­–centro da Universidade Stanford dedicado à humanização do atendimento de saúde–, e Jorge Moll Neto, do Instituto D’Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (Idor), conhecido como Gito.

O coronavírus CoV-2 já legou cerca de 3,5 milhões de infectados e 250 mil mortos (números subestimados). A pandemia é agravada por líderes de nações populosas que chegaram ao poder e nele se mantêm espalhando desinformação com ajuda de algoritmos de redes sociais que privilegiam a estridência e os vieses de confirmação de seus seguidores.

Você entendeu: Donald Trump (EUA, 1/3 dos casos no mundo) e Jair Bolsonaro (Brasil, um distante 0,2% do total, mas marchando para números dantescos). Trump corrigiu alguns graus no curso na nau de desvairados em que se tornou a Casa Branca; o Messias que não faz milagres ainda não deu sinais de imitá-lo, porque neste caso seria fazer a coisa certa.

Na teleconversa da Rio2C, Sonoo e Gito fizeram as perorações de praxe contra a substituição da ciência por ideologia na condução da pandemia. O diretor do Idor deu a entender que nunca viu tanta besteira saindo da boca de leigos e autointitulados especialistas.

A diretora do centro de Stanford, originária da Índia, disse que, se precisar preparar um frango tandoori, vai ligar e perguntar para quem sabe fazer. E não para qualquer médico que se aventura nos mares da epidemiologia dizendo que a Terra é plana, deduzo eu, para encompridar a metáfora, na esperança de que leitores brasileiros entendam de que deputado se trata.

Há razão para ver o vídeo da conversa (com legendas em português) e sair um pouco otimista. Gito afirmou que se dá mais importância e visibilidade para consequências não pretendidas negativas da tecnologia.

No caso, a IA e seus algoritmos dinâmicos, que tomam resultados em conta para indicar soluções, como apresentar em cada linha do tempo na rede social as notas com maior probabilidade de atraírem novos seguidores e de serem reproduzidas, curtidas ou comentadas (o chamado engajamento, que muitos confundem com sucesso).

Um bom nome para isso seria desinteligência artificial. A cizânia se espalha porque os usuários aprendem que receberão mais cliques quanto mais agressivos forem, substituindo por raiva os argumentos de que não dispõem para confirmar as próprias convicções e as daqueles que pensam como ele (viés de confirmação).

Já se pregou no passado que se deve acreditar mesmo que seja absurdo, ou porque absurdo (ouçam os “améns” com que fanáticos brindam Bolsonaro). Também já se disse que o sono da razão produz monstros.

O neurocientista do Idor prefere desviar a atenção para efeitos não pretendidos positivos das tecnologias. Cita as possibilidades abertas para enfrentar a Covid-19 com telefones celulares de última geração disseminados pelo mundo, mesmo em países pobres, como difusão de informação e bases de dados para monitorar mobilidade em tempos de isolamento social.

Há também os aplicativos multiusuário de conversa com vídeo, que facilitam o contato para coordenação entre colegas trabalhando em casa, a deliberação parlamentar a distância e, claro, as teleconsultas entre médicos e pacientes.

Sonoo diz que a IA libera profissionais de saúde para exercerem mais o que está na base da medicina, cuidar de pessoas de carne e osso. Mesmo que seja em ambiente virtual, o grande médico se diferencia do médico apenas bom por tratar o doente, não a doença.

Fica tudo mais complicado quando o espectro do contágio pelo corona paira sobre todos e uma interface de vídeo ou a parafernália na UTI afasta o doutor do enfermo. Mas há dicas simples para humanizar esses encontros, de portar uma foto da pessoa por trás da máscara a perguntar a origem de objetos que se vê pela tela na casa do paciente (mais sugestões em inglês aqui: youtu.be/DbLjEsD1XOI).

Conversamos ainda sobre diversidade, equidade, acesso e outras coisas importantes. Para terminar, contudo, cabe destacar o chamado de Gito para embutir valores nos algoritmos e chamar filósofos e outros especialistas de humanidades para as equipes que inventam aplicações de IA.

Os dois governos mencionados, porém, são inimigos da humanidade, no singular (empatia, mas também conjunto de mulheres, homens, velhos, crianças, enfermos, sãos, deficientes, atletas, patriotas ou não, ateus e crentes) e no plural (disciplinas que se ocupam das fontes e razões do que dá certo ou dá errado nas sociedades humanas e na cabeça das pessoas que as compõem).

São os reis eleitos da desinteligência artificial.

NIH Cancels Funding for Bat Coronavirus Research Project (The Scientist)

The abrupt termination comes after the research drew President Trump’s attention for its ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

NIH Cancels Funding for Bat Coronavirus Research Project
The canceled grant included money for surveillance of coronaviruses in Yunnan, China.
© ISTOCK.COM, REDTEA
Shawna Williams
Apr 28, 2020

A grant to a New York nonprofit aimed at detecting and preventing future outbreaks of coronaviruses from bats has been canceled by the National Institutes of Health, Politico reports, apparently at the direction of President Donald Trump because the research involved the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. The virology institute has become a focal point for the idea that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the laboratory and caused the current COVID-19 pandemic, a scenario experts say is not supported by evidence. Instead, virologists The Scientist has spoken to say the virus most likely jumped from infected animals to humans.

The grant, first awarded in fiscal year 2014 and most recently renewed last year, went to EcoHealth Alliance, which describes itself as “a global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.” The aims of the funded project included characterizing coronaviruses present in bat populations in southern China and conducting surveillance to detect spillover events of such viruses to people. The project has resulted in 20 publications, most recently a March report on zoonotic risk factors in rural southern China.

EcoHealth Alliance’s partners on the project include researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a BSL-4 facility that has for months been a focus of conspiracy theories that SARS-CoV-2 escaped or was released from a lab. On April 14, the The Washington Post published a column highlighting State Department cables about concerns regarding safety at the institute. (Experts tell NPR that, even in light of the cables, accidental escape of the virus from a lab remains a far less likely scenario than a jump from animals.) 

Then, in an April 17 White House coronavirus briefing, a reporter, whom Politico identifies as being from Newsmax, falsely stated in a question that “US intelligence is saying this week that the coronavirus likely came from a level 4 lab in Wuhan,” and that the NIH had awarded a $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan lab. “Why would the US give a grant like that to China?” she asked. “We will end that grant very quickly,” Trump said in his answer.

An NIH official then wrote to EcoHealth Alliance to inquire about money sent to “China-based participants in this work,” Politico reports, and the organization’s head, Peter Daszak, responded that a complete response would take time, but that “I can categorically state that no fund from [the grant] have been sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, nor has any contract been signed.” Days later, NIH notified EcoHealth Alliance that future funding for the project was canceled, and that it must immediately “stop spending the $369,819 remaining from its 2020 grant”—an unusual move generally reserved for cases of scientific misconduct or financial improprieties, according to Politico.

In a statement about the cancellation, EcoHealth Alliance says the terminated research “aimed to analyze the risk of coronavirus emergence and help in designing vaccines and drugs to protect us from COVID-19 and other coronavirus threats,” and that it addresses “all four strategic research priorities of the NIH/NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research, released just this week.” The organization will, it says, “continue our fight against this and other emerging diseases.”

See “Theory that Coronavirus Escaped from a Lab Lacks Evidence

The anti-quarantine protests seem spontaneous. But behind the scenes, a powerful network is helping (Washington Post)

washingtonpost.com

Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm, April 22, 2020

A network of right-leaning individuals and groups, aided by nimble online outfits, has helped incubate the fervor erupting in state capitals across the country. The activism is often organic and the frustration deeply felt, but it is also being amplified, and in some cases coordinated, by longtime conservative activists, whose robust operations were initially set up with help from Republican megadonors.

The Convention of States project launched in 2015 with a high-dollar donation from the family foundation of Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican patron. It boasts past support from two members of the Trump administration — Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development.

It also trumpets a prior endorsement from Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida and a close Trump ally who is pursuing an aggressive plan to reopen his state’s economy. A spokesman for Carson declined to comment. Cuccinelli and DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.

The initiative, aimed at curtailing federal power, is now leveraging its sweeping national network and digital arsenal to help stitch together scattered demonstrations across the country, making opposition to stay-at-home orders appear more widespread than is suggested by polling.

“We’re providing a digital platform for people to plan and communicate about what they’re doing,” said Eric O’Keefe, board president of Citizens for Self-Governance, the parent organization of the Convention of States project.

A longtime associate of the conservative activist Koch family, O’Keefe helped manage David Koch’s 1980 bid for the White House when he served as the No. 2 on the Libertarian ticket.

“To shut down our rural counties because of what’s going on in New York City, or in some sense Milwaukee, is draconian,” said O’Keefe, who lives in Wisconsin.

Polls suggest most Americans support local directives encouraging them to stay at home as covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, ravages the country, killing more than 44,000 people in the United States so far. Public health officials, including epidemiologists advising Trump’s White House, agree that sweeping restrictions represent the most effective mitigation strategy in the absence of a vaccine, which could be more than a year away.

Still, some activists insist that states should lift controls on commercial activity and public assembly, citing the effects of mass closures on businesses. They have been encouraged at times by Trump, whose attorney general, William P. Barr, said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that the Justice Department would consider supporting lawsuits against restrictions that go “too far.”

The swelling frustration on the right coincides with major policy changes in some states, especially those with Republican governors. Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee have all begun relaxing their restrictions in recent days after bowing to pressure and imposing far-reaching guidelines.

The protests are reminiscent in some ways of the tea party movement and the demonstrations against the Affordable Care Act that erupted in 2010, which also involved a mix of homegrown activism and shrewd behind-the-scenes funding.

For the Convention of States, public health is an unusual focus. It was founded to push for a convention that would add a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. That same anti-government impulse is now animating the group’s campaign against coronavirus precautions.

“Heavy-handed government orders that interfere with our most basic liberties will do more harm than good,” read its Facebook ads, which had been viewed as many as 36,000 times as of Tuesday evening.

Asking for a $5 donation “to support our fight,” the paid posts are part of an online blitz called “Open the States,” which also includes newly created websites, a data-collecting petition and an ominous video about the economic effects of the lockdown.

The group’s president, Mark Meckler, said his aim was to act as a “clearinghouse where these guys can all find each other” — a role he learned as co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group also active in the tea party movement, is seeking to play a similar function, creating an online calendar of protests.

“The major need back in 2009 was no different than it is today — some easy centralizing point to list events, to allow people to communicate with each other,” he said.

Meckler, who draws a salary of about $250,000 from the Convention of States parent group, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, hailed the “spontaneous citizen groups self-organizing on the Internet and protesting what they perceive to be government overreach.”

So far, the protests against stay-at-home orders in states including Washington and Pennsylvania have captured headlines and drawn rebukes from some governors and epidemiologists. Experts say a sudden, widespread reopening of the country is likely to worsen the outbreak, overwhelming hospitals and killing tens of thousands.

The protesters so far have not aimed their ire at Trump, though it is his administration’s experts whose guidelines underlie many of the states’ actions.

Trump’s public comments — including his recent tweets calling for supporters to “liberate” states including Michigan, a coronavirus hot spot — have catalyzed some of the broader public reaction. Following those tweets, tens of thousands of people joined Facebook groups calling for protests in states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the efforts are coordinated by a trio of brothers who typically focus their efforts on fighting gun control.

In recent days, conservatives have set their sights on Wisconsin, where a few dozen protesters turned out at the Capitol to air their frustrations with Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, after he extended his state’s stay-at-home order until late May. Ahead of the demonstration, Moore, the Trump ally, revealed on a live stream that he was “working with a group” in the state with the goal of trying “to shut down the capital.”

Moore, who served as a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, said he had located a big donor to aid in the effort, though he never elaborated. “I told him about this, and he said, ‘Steve, I promise to pay the bail and legal fees for anyone who gets arrested,’ ” Moore said in the video. He likened his quest to the civil rights movement, adding, “We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these government injustices.”

Moore, who has also worked at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, did not respond to a request for comment.

In Michigan, among those organizing “Operation Gridlock” was Meshawn Maddock, who sits on the Trump campaign’s advisory board and is a prominent figure in the “Women for Trump” coalition. Funds to promote the demonstrations on Facebook came from the Michigan Freedom Fund, which is headed by Greg McNeilly, a longtime adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

McNeilly said the money used to advance the anti-quarantine protests came from “grass-roots fundraising efforts” and had “nothing to do with any DeVos work.”

Many of the seemingly scattered, spontaneous outbursts of citizen activism reflect deeply interwoven networks of conservative and libertarian nonprofit organizations. One of the most vocal groups opposing the lockdown in Texas is an Austin-based conservative think tank called the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which also hails the demonstrations nationwide.

“Some Americans are angry,” its director wrote in an op-ed promoted on Facebook and placed in the local media, telling readers in Texas about the achievements of protesters in Michigan.

The board vice chairman of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, oil executive Tim Dunn, is also a founding board member of the group promoting the Convention of States initiative. And the foundation’s former president, Brooke Rollins, now works as an assistant to Trump in the Office of American Innovation.

Neither Dunn nor Rollins responded to requests for comment.

The John Hancock Committee for the States — the name used in IRS filings by the group behind the Convention of States — gave more than $100,000 to the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 2011.

The Convention of States project, meanwhile, has received backing from DonorsTrust, a tax-exempt financial conduit for right-wing causes that does not disclose its contributors. The same fund has helped bankroll the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which is encouraging protests of a stay-at-home order imposed by the state’s Republican governor, Brad Little.

“Disobey Idaho,” say its Facebook ads, which use an image of the “Join or Die” snake woodcut emblematic of the Revolutionary War and later adopted by the tea party movement.

In 2014, the year before it launched the Convention of States initiative, Citizens for Self-Governance received $500,000 from the Mercer Family Foundation, a donation Meckler said helped jump-start the campaign. Mercer declined to comment.

While groups and individual activists associated with the Koch brothers have boosted this far-flung network, Emily Seidel, the chief executive of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity advocacy group, sought to distance the organization from the protest activity, which she said was “not the best way” to “get people back to work.”

“Instead, we are working directly with policymakers, to bring business leaders and public health officials together to help develop standards to safely reopen the economy without jeopardizing public health,” Seidel said.

But others see linkages to groups pushing anti-quarantine uprisings.

“The involvement of the Koch institutional apparatus in groups supporting these protests is clear to me,” said Robert J. Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University whose research has focused on climate lobbying. “The presence of allies on the board usually means that they are deeply engaged in the organization and most likely a funder.”

Brulle said the blowback against the coronavirus precautions carries echoes of efforts to deny climate change, both of which rely on hostility toward government action.

“These are extreme right-wing efforts to delegitimize government,” he said. “It’s an anti-government crusade.”

Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding (The New York Times)

By Donald G. McNeil Jr.

Oct. 25, 2019

Original article

Predict, a government research program, sought to identify animal viruses that might infect humans and to head off new pandemics.

Arlette Kavugho, 40, mother of six and an Ebola survivor, carries Kambale Eloge, 16 months old, whose mother died of the disease, in Katwa, near Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo. USAID’s Predict project helped identify Ebola’s routes of transmission.
Arlette Kavugho, 40, mother of six and an Ebola survivor, carries Kambale Eloge, 16 months old, whose mother died of the disease, in Katwa, near Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo. USAID’s Predict project helped identify Ebola’s routes of transmission. Credit Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

In a move that worries many public health experts, the federal government is quietly shutting down a surveillance program for dangerous animal viruses that someday may infect humans.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that a new animal disease that can also infect humans is discovered every four months. Ending the program, experts fear, will leave the world more vulnerable to lethal pathogens like Ebola and MERS that emerge from unexpected places, such as bat-filled trees, gorilla carcasses and camel barns.

The program, known as Predict and run by the United States Agency for International Development, was inspired by the 2005 H5N1 bird flu scare. Launched 10 years ago, the project has cost about $207 million.

The initiative has collected over 140,000 biological samples from animals and found over 1,000 new viruses, including a new strain of Ebola. Predict also trained about 5,000 people in 30 African and Asian countries, and has built or strengthened 60 medical research laboratories, mostly in poor countries.

Dennis Carroll, the former director of USAID’s emerging threats division who helped design Predict, oversaw it for a decade and retired when it was shut down. The surveillance project is closing because of “the ascension of risk-averse bureaucrats,” he said.

Because USAID’s chief mission is economic aid, he added, some federal officials felt uncomfortable funding cutting-edge science like tracking exotic pathogens.

Congress, along with the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were “enormously supportive,” said Dr. Carroll, who is now a fellow at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

“But things got complicated in the last two years, and by January, Predict was essentially collapsed into hibernation.”

The end of the program “is definitely a loss,” said Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit global health organization that received funding from the program. “Predict was an approach to heading off pandemics, instead of sitting there waiting for them to emerge and then mobilizing. That’s expensive.”

“The United States spent $5 billion fighting Ebola in West Africa,” he added. “This costs far less.”

A civet cat in a meat market in Guangzhou, China, in 2004. Researchers isolated the lethal SARS virus in civet cats, suggesting that they were infecting humans.
A civet cat in a meat market in Guangzhou, China, in 2004. Researchers isolated the lethal SARS virus in civet cats, suggesting that they were infecting humans.Credit European Pressphoto Agency

The goal of Predict was to speed up and organize the previously haphazard hunt for zoonotic diseases — those that may jump from animals to humans. In recent years, scientists have discovered many lethal viruses lurking in wild and domestic animals.

It has long been known, of course, that AIDS originated in chimpanzees and probably was first contracted by bushmeat hunters. Ebola circulates in bats and apes, while SARS was found in captive civet cats in China.

In South Asia, Nipah virus reaches humans through pigs or date palm sap infected by bats carrying the virus. In Saudi Arabia, MERS also is carried by bats; they infect camels, which then infect humans. The virus can jump from human to human, especially in hospitals.

Novel influenza viruses originate in migratory ducks and geese. The viruses spread first to domestic poultry flocks, then to pigs and humans. Mutations picked up along that viral highway can render the viruses far more dangerous.

These discoveries led to new ways of preventing spillovers of infections into human populations: closing markets where wildlife is butchered for food,; putting bamboo skirts on sap-collection jars to keep bats out; or penning pigs and camels in places where they cannot eat fruit that bats have gnawed.

Predict teams have investigated mysterious disease outbreaks in many countries, including a die-off of 3,000 wild birds in a Mongolian lake. One team proved that endangered otters in a Cambodian zoo were killed by their feed — raw chickens infected with bird flu.

A Predict laboratory helped identify bat-borne viruses that a boys’ soccer team might have been exposed to while trapped for weeks in a cave in Thailand.

Camels for export at the sea port in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2013. The MERS virus is passed from camels to humans, scientists discovered.
Camels for export at the sea port in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2013. The MERS virus is passed from camels to humans, scientists discovered. Credit Feisal Omar/Reuters

Allowing Predict to end “is really unfortunate, and the opposite of what we’d like to see happening,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and former World Health Organization director-general.

She was co-chair of a panel that in September issued a report detailing the world’s failure to prepare for pandemics. “Americans need to understand how much their health security depends on that of other countries, often countries that have no capacity to do this themselves,” Dr. Brundtland said.

Even though USAID is “incredibly proud and happy over the work Predict has done,” the program is closing because it reached the end of a 10-year funding cycle, said Irene Koek, acting assistant administrator of the agency’s global health bureau.

“We typically do programs in five-year cycles, and it had two,” she said. Some similar research will be part of future budget requests, “but it’s still in the design-and-procurement cycle, so exactly what will continue is a bit of a black box.”

In mid-October, the agency said it would spend $85 million over the next five years helping universities in Africa and Asia teach the “one-health” approach that Predict used. (“One health” describes the nexus between animal, human and environmental medicine).

But it will not involve the daring fieldwork that Predict specialized in.

Among the institutions that worked on Predict projects are those staffed by wildlife veterinarians and disease-trackers like the University of California, Davis’s One Health Institute; the EcoHealth Alliance; the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo; the Smithsonian Institution, which manages the National Zoo in Washington; and Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity.

Some Predict projects will be taken over by other government agencies, such as the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency or the National Institutes of Health. But those agencies have different missions, such as basic research or troop protection. They do not share USAID’s goal of training poor countries to do the work themselves.

A man prepares chickens for sale at the a market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Poultry may carry influenza viruses that are transmitted to humans.
A man prepares chickens for sale at the a market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Poultry may carry influenza viruses that are transmitted to humans. Credit Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

As an agency that gives money to countries, USAID often has a friendlier, more cooperative relationship with governments in poor nations than, for example, Pentagon-led efforts might.

“I’ve always been impressed with the way they were able to work with ministries of health,” said Dr. James M. Hughes, a former chief of infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was on Predict’s advisory board. “They have a high level of trust, and they help countries comply with the International Health Regulations.”

(Those regulations, in force since 2007, require countries to report all major disease outbreaks to the World Health Organization and allow the W.H.O. to declare health emergencies.)

USAID still supports some health-related programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. But Dr. Carroll described those as “cookbook portfolios.”

How to fight those diseases is well-known, he explained, so the agency just comes up with a budget for drugs, diagnostic kits, insecticides, mosquito nets, condoms or other long-established interventions.

Predict more often placed medical detectives in the field, training local doctors, veterinarians, wildlife rangers and others to collect samples from wild and domestic animals.

It can be highly specialized work. Getting blood samples from pigs or wild rodents is fairly routine, but catching birds, bats or monkeys alive is not. Gorillas are harder. (Scientists usually content themselves with just collecting gorilla feces.)

Predict also experimented with novel ways to catch and release animals unharmed, to transport samples without refrigeration and to use DNA testing that can scan for whole viral families instead of just known viruses, said Dr. Christine Kreuder Johnson, associate director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis.

Predict sponsored epidemiological modeling to predict where outbreaks are likely to erupt. It also sought ways to curb practices, such as hunting for bushmeat or breeding racing camels, that encourage eruptions.

The Zaire strain was found in a bat that roosts in caves and mines, said Dr. Jonathan Epstein, an EcoHealth Alliance veterinarian, while the Bombali type was in a species that roosts in houses.

Distinctions like that are important for telling people — especially people who eat bats — which species are dangerous.

“We generated an illustrated book on how to keep bats out of houses by putting screens on windows or mesh below the roof thatch,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing Predict paid for.”

Predict served as a proof of concept for a much more ambitious idea that Dr. Carroll proposed several years ago: the Global Virome Project, which envisioned trying to compile a genetic atlas of all the viruses circulating in all animals. By some estimates, there are more than 800,000 such viruses waiting to be discovered.

Many scientists questioned the wisdom of spending as much as would be needed to do that — over $3 billion. But those experts also argued that Predict, which is focused on viruses dangerous to humans, was very much worth the relatively modest amounts of money it cost.

“Predict needed to go on for 20 years, not 10,” Dr. Epstein said. “We were getting to the point of having a trained work force that could gather animal samples and labs that could test for unknown viruses, not just known ones.”

“Once it stops, it’s going to be hard to maintain that level of proficiency.”

Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students (New York Times)

“It’s his website,” she said.

 Mr. Sutter during his Advanced Placement environmental science class. He was hired from a program that recruits science professionals into teaching. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

For his part, Mr. Sutter occasionally fell short of his goal of providing Gwen — the most vocal of a raft of student climate skeptics — with calm, evidence-based responses. “Why would I lie to you?” he demanded one morning. “It’s not like I’m making a lot of money here.”

She was, he knew, a straight-A student. She would have had no trouble comprehending the evidence, embedded in ancient tree rings, ice, leaves and shells, as well as sophisticated computer models, that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the chief culprit when it comes to warming the world. Or the graph he showed of how sharply it has spiked since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping vast quantities of it into the air.

Thinking it a useful soothing device, Mr. Sutter assented to Gwen’s request that she be allowed to sand the bark off the sections of wood he used to illustrate tree rings during class. When she did so with an energy that, classmates said, increased during discussion points with which she disagreed, he let it go.

When she insisted that teachers “are supposed to be open to opinions,” however, Mr. Sutter held his ground.

“It’s not about opinions,” he told her. “It’s about the evidence.”

“It’s like you can’t disagree with a scientist or you’re ‘denying science,”’ she sniffed to her friends.

Gwen, 17, could not put her finger on why she found Mr. Sutter, whose biology class she had enjoyed, suddenly so insufferable. Mr. Sutter, sensing that his facts and figures were not helping, was at a loss. And the day she grew so agitated by a documentary he was showing that she bolted out of the school left them both shaken.

“I have a runner,” Mr. Sutter called down to the office, switching off the video.

He had chosen the video, an episode from an Emmy-winning series that featured a Christian climate activist and high production values, as a counterpoint to another of Gwen’s objections, that a belief in climate change does not jibe with Christianity.

“It was just so biased toward saying climate change is real,” she said later, trying to explain her flight. “And that all these people that I pretty much am like are wrong and stupid.”

Classroom Culture Wars

As more of the nation’s teachers seek to integrate climate science into the curriculum, many of them are reckoning with students for whom suspicion of the subject is deeply rooted.

In rural Wellston, a former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act, rejecting the key findings of climate science can seem like a matter of loyalty to a way of life already under siege. Originally tied, perhaps, to economic self-interest, climate skepticism has itself become a proxy for conservative ideals of hard work, small government and what people here call “self-sustainability.”

A tractor near Wellston, an area where coal and manufacturing were once the primary employment opportunities. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Assiduously promoted by fossil fuel interests, that powerful link to a collective worldview largely explains why just 22 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters in a 2016 poll said they believed that human activity is warming the planet, compared with half of all registered voters. And the prevailing outlook among his base may in turn have facilitated the president’s move to withdraw from the global agreement to battle rising temperatures.

“What people ‘believe’ about global warming doesn’t reflect what they know,” Dan Kahan, a Yale researcher who studies political polarization, has stressed in talks, papers and blog posts. “It expresses who they are.”

But public-school science classrooms are also proving to be a rare place where views on climate change may shift, research has found. There, in contrast with much of adult life, it can be hard to entirely tune out new information.

“Adolescents are still heavily influenced by their parents, but they’re also figuring themselves out,” said Kathryn Stevenson, a researcher at North Carolina State University who studies climate literacy.

Gwen’s father died when she was young, and her mother and uncle, both Trump supporters, doubt climate change as much as she does.

“If she was in math class and teacher told her two plus two equals four and she argued with him about that, I would say she’s wrong,” said her uncle, Mark Beatty. “But no one knows if she’s wrong.”

As Gwen clashed with her teacher over the notion of human-caused climate change, one of her best friends, Jacynda Patton, was still circling the taboo subject. “I learned some stuff, that’s all,’’ Jacynda told Gwen, on whom she often relied to supply the $2.40 for school lunch that she could not otherwise afford.

Jacynda Patton, right, during Mr. Sutter’s class. “I thought it would be an easy A,” she said. “It wasn’t.”Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Hired a year earlier, Mr. Sutter was the first science teacher at Wellston to emphasize climate science. He happened to do so at a time when the mounting evidence of the toll that global warming is likely to take, and the Trump administration’s considerable efforts to discredit those findings, are drawing new attention to the classroom from both sides of the nation’s culture war.

Since March, the Heartland Institute, a think tank that rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, has sent tens of thousands of science teachers a book of misinformation titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” in an effort to influence “the next generation of thought,” said Joseph Bast, the group’s chief executive.

The Alliance for Climate Education, which runs assemblies based on the consensus science for high schools across the country, received new funding from a donor who sees teenagers as the best means of reaching and influencing their parents.

Idaho, however, this year joined several other states that have declined to adopt new science standards that emphasize the role human activities play in climate change.

At Wellston, where most students live below the poverty line and the needle-strewn bike path that abuts the marching band’s practice field is known as “heroin highway,” climate change is not regarded as the most pressing issue. And since most Wellston graduates typically do not go on to obtain a four-year college degree, this may be the only chance many of them have to study the impact of global warming.

But Mr. Sutter’s classroom shows how curriculum can sometimes influence culture on a subject that stands to have a more profound impact on today’s high schoolers than their parents.

“I thought it would be an easy A,” said Jacynda, 16, an outspoken Trump supporter. “It wasn’t.”

God’s Gift to Wellston?

Mr. Sutter, who grew up three hours north of Wellston in the largely Democratic city of Akron, applied for the job at Wellston High straight from a program to recruit science professionals into teaching, a kind of science-focused Teach for America.

He already had a graduate-level certificate in environmental science from the University of Akron and a private sector job assessing environmental risk for corporations. But a series of personal crises that included his sister’s suicide, he said, had compelled him to look for a way to channel his knowledge to more meaningful use.

The fellowship gave him a degree in science education in exchange for a three-year commitment to teach in a high-needs Ohio school district. Megan Sowers, the principal, had been looking for someone qualified to teach an Advanced Placement course, which could help improve her financially challenged school’s poor performance ranking. She hired him on the spot.

Mr. Sutter walking with his students on a nature trail near the high school, where he pointed out evidence of climate change. Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times 

But at a school where most teachers were raised in the same southeastern corner of Appalachian Ohio as their students, Mr. Sutter’s credentials themselves could raise hackles.

“He says, ‘I left a higher-paying job to come teach in an area like this,’” Jacynda recalled. “We’re like, ‘What is that supposed to mean?”’

“He acts,” Gwen said with her patented eye roll, “like he’s God’s gift to Wellston.”

In truth, he was largely winging it.

Some 20 states, including a handful of red ones, have recently begun requiring students to learn that human activity is a major cause of climate change, but few, if any, have provided a road map for how to teach it, and most science teachers, according to one recent survey, spend at most two hours on the subject.

Chagrined to learn that none of his students could recall a school visit by a scientist, Mr. Sutter hosted several graduate students from nearby Ohio University.

On a field trip to a biology laboratory there, many of his students took their first ride on an escalator. To illustrate why some scientists in the 1970s believed the world was cooling rather than warming (“So why should we believe them now?” students sometimes asked), he brought in a 1968 push-button phone and a 1980s Nintendo game cartridge.

“Our data and our ability to process it is just so much better now,” he said.

In the A.P. class, Mr. Sutter took an informal poll midway through: In all, 14 of 17 students said their parents thought he was, at best, wasting their time. “My stepdad says they’re brainwashing me,” one said.

Jacynda’s father, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when his daughter stopped attending Mr. Sutter’s class for a period in the early winter. A former coal miner who had endured two years of unemployment before taking a construction job, he declined a request to talk about it.

“I think it’s that it’s taken a lot from him,” Jacynda said. “He sees it as the environmental people have taken his job.”

And having listened to Mr. Sutter reiterate the overwhelming agreement among scientists regarding humanity’s role in global warming in answer to another classmate’s questions — “What if we’re not the cause of it? What if this is something that’s natural?” — Jacynda texted the classmate one night using an expletive to refer to Mr. Sutter’s teaching approach.

But even the staunchest climate-change skeptics could not ignore the dearth of snow days last winter, the cap to a year that turned out to be the warmest Earth has experienced since 1880, according to NASA. The high mark eclipsed the record set just the year before, which had eclipsed the year before that.

In woods behind the school, where Mr. Sutter had his students scout out a nature trail, he showed them the preponderance of emerald ash borers, an invasive insect that, because of the warm weather, had not experienced the usual die-off that winter. There was flooding, too: Once, more than 5.5 inches of rain fell in 48 hours.

The field trip to a local stream where the water runs neon orange also made an impression. Mr. Sutter had the class collect water samples: The pH levels were as acidic as “the white vinegar you buy at a grocery store,” he told them. And the drainage, they could see, was from the mine.

It was the realization that she had failed to grasp the damage done to her immediate environment, Jacynda said, that made her begin to pay more attention. She did some reading. She also began thinking that she might enjoy a job working for the Environmental Protection Agency — until she learned that, under Mr. Trump, the agency would undergo huge layoffs.

“O.K., I’m not going to lie. I did a 180,” she said that afternoon in the library with Gwen, casting a guilty look at her friend. “This is happening, and we have to fix it.”

After fleeing Mr. Sutter’s classroom that day, Gwen never returned, a pragmatic decision about which he has regrets. “That’s one student I feel I failed a little bit,” he said.

As an alternative, Gwen took an online class for environmental science credit, which she does not recall ever mentioning climate change. She and Jacynda had other things to talk about, like planning a bonfire after prom.

As they tried on dresses last month, Jacynda mentioned that others in their circle, including the boys they had invited to prom, believed the world was dangerously warming, and that humans were to blame. By the last days of school, most of Mr. Sutter’s doubters, in fact, had come to that conclusion.

“I know,” Gwen said, pausing for a moment. “Now help me zip this up.”

Após Trump sair do Acordo de Paris, Cacique Cobra Coral deixa de atender pedidos dos EUA (UOL Notícias)

02/06/2017, 20h54

2.jun.2017 - Post da Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral no Instagram

2.jun.2017 – Post da Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral no Instagram. Instagram/Reprodução

Em nota publicada no Instagram nesta sexta-feira (2), a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral afirmou que deixará de prestar atendimentos climáticos aos EUA. A medida será mantida “enquanto perdurar a falta de bom senso do presidente Donald Trump com relação a retirada dos EUA do Acordo de Paris, rompendo o acordo global firmado em dezembro de 2015 com mais de 190 países para reduzir a emissão de gases que produzem o efeito estufa”.

A entidade esotérica diz, em seu site, que sua missão é “minimizar catástrofes que podem ocorrer em razão dos desequilíbrios provocados pelo homem na natureza”. Também diz ser orientada pelo Cacique Cobra Coral, “espírito que teria sido de Galileu Galilei e Abraham Lincoln”.

O presidente americano afirmou que pacto climático internacional é injusto, representa um enorme fardo econômico para os EUA e não seria eficaz o suficiente. Em seu discurso, a expressão “mudança climática” não foi mencionada sequer uma vez. Trump preferiu falar de mais dinheiro e empregos.

“O Acordo de Paris sobre o clima é simplesmente o mais recente exemplo de que Washington cedeu a uma resolução que penaliza os Estados Unidos para beneficiar outros países. Deixa os trabalhadores americanos, que eu amo, e o contribuintes absorverem o custo, em termos de perda de empregos, menores salários, fechamento de fábricas e enorme redução na produção econômica”, disse Trump.

The New Climate (Harper’s Magazine)

READINGS — From the May 2017 issue

What It’s Like Being a Sane Person on the House Science Committee (Gizmodo)

12/23/16 12:00pm

Artwork by Jim Cooke

Congressional Committee tweets don’t usually get much attention. But when the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology sent out a link to a Breitbart story claiming a “plunge” in global temperatures, people took notice. The takedowns flew in, from Slate and Bernie Sanders, from plenty of scientists, and most notably from the Weather Channel, which deemed Breitbart’s use of their meteorologist’s face worthy of a point-by-point debunking video.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about Breitbart screwing up climate science, but the House Science Committee is among the most important scientific oversight bodies in the country. Since Texas Republican Lamar Smith took over its leadership in 2012, the Committee has spiraled down an increasingly anti-science rabbit hole: absurd hearings aimed at debunking consensus on global warming, outright witch hunts using the Committee’s subpoena power to intimidate scientists, and a Republican membership that includes some of the most anti-science lawmakers in the land.

The GOP’s shenanigans get the headlines, but what about the other side of the aisle? What is it like to be a member of Congress and sit on a science committee that doesn’t seem to understand science? What is it like to be an adult in a room full of toddlers? I asked some of the adults.

“I think it’s completely embarrassing,” said Mark Veasey, who represents Texas’s 33rd district, including parts of Dallas and Fort Worth. “You’re talking about something that 99.9 percent—if not 100 percent—of people in the legitimate science community says is a threat….To quote Breitbart over some of the most brilliant people in the world—and those are American scientists—and how they see climate change, I just think it’s a total embarrassment.”

Paul Tonko, who represents a chunk of upstate New York that includes Albany, has also called it embarrassing. “It is frustrating when you have the majority party of a committee pushing junk science and disproven myths to serve a political agenda,” he said. “It’s not just beneath the dignity of the Science Committee or Congress as a whole, it’s inherently dangerous. Science and research seek the truth—they don’t always fit so neatly with agendas.”

“I think it’s completely embarrassing.”

Suzanne Bonamici, of Oregon’s 1st District, also called it frustrating “to say the least” that the Committee “is spending time questioning climate researchers and ignoring the broad scientific consensus.” California Rep. Eric Swalwellcalled it the “Science” Committee in an email, and made sure I noted the air quotes. He said that in Obama’s first term, the Committee helped push forward on climate change and a green economy. “For the last four years, however, being on the Committee has meant defending the progress we’ve made.”

Frustration, embarrassment, a sense of Sisyphean hopelessness—this sounds like a grim gig. And Veasey also said that he doesn’t have much hope for a change in the Science Committee’s direction, because that change would have to come from the chairman. Smith has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign support from the oil and gas industry over the years, and somehow finds himself in even greater climate change denial than ExxonMobil.

And of course, it isn’t just the leadership. The League of Conservation Voters maintains a scorecard of every legislator in Congress: for 2015, the most recent year available, the average of all the Democratic members on the science committee is 92.75 percent (with 100 being a perfect environment-friendly score). On the GOP side of the aisle, the average is just over three percent.

(I reached out to a smattering of GOP members of the Committee to get their take on its recent direction. None of them responded.)

Bill Foster, who represents a district including some suburbs of Chicago, is the only science PhD in all of Congress (“I very often feel lonely,” he said, before encouraging other scientists to run for office). “Since I made the transition from science into politics not so long ago, I’ve become very cognizant of the difference between scientific facts, and political facts,” he said. “Political facts can be established by repeating over and over something that is demonstrably false, then if it comes to be accepted by enough people it becomes a political fact.” Witness the 52 percent of Republicans who currently believe Trump won the popular vote, and you get the idea.

I’m not sure “climate change isn’t happening” has reached that “political fact” level, though Smith and his ilk have done their damndest. Recent polls suggest most Americans do understand the issue, and more and more they believe the government should act aggressively to tackle it.

“Political facts can be established by repeating over and over something that is demonstrably false, then if it comes to be accepted by enough people it becomes a political fact.”

That those in charge of our government disagree so publicly and strongly now has scientists terrified. “This has a high profile,” Foster said, “because if there is any committee in Congress that should operate on the basis of scientific truth, it ought to be the Science, Space, and Technology committee—so when it goes off the rails, then people notice.”

The odds of the train jumping back on the rails over the next four years appear slim. Policies that came from the Obama White House, like the Clean Power Plan, are obviously on thin ice with a Trump administration, and without any sort of check on Smith and company it is hard to say just how pro-fossil fuel, anti-climate the committee could really get.

In the face of all that, what is a sane member of Congress to do? Elizabeth Esty, who represents Connecticut’s 5th district, was among several Committee members to note that in spite of the disagreements on climate, she has managed to work with GOP leadership on other scientific issues. Rep. Swalwell said he will try and focus on bits of common ground, like the jobs that come with an expanding green economy. Rep. Veasey said his best hope is that some strong conservative voices from outside of Congress might start to make themselves heard by the Party’s upper echelons on climate and related issues.

An ugly and dire scenario, then, but the Democrats all seem to carry at least a glimmer of hope. “It’s certainly frustrating and concerning but I’m an optimist,” Esty said. “I wouldn’t run for this job if I weren’t.”

Dave Levitan is a science journalist, and author of the book Not A Scientist: How politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science. Find him on Twitter and at his website.

Pesquisadores temem ações de Trump relacionadas à ciência e ao clima (Folha de S.Paulo)

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Com menos dinheiro no orçamento, ciência pode ser uma das áreas mais afetadas
Com menos dinheiro no orçamento, ciência pode ser uma das áreas mais afetadas

SALVADOR NOGUEIRA
COLABORAÇÃO PARA A FOLHA

23/12/2016  02h00

A eleição de Donald Trump pode pressagiar um período de declínio para a ciência nos Estados Unidos.

Noves fora a retórica que lhe ganhou a Casa Branca, os planos que ele apresenta para a próxima gestão podem significar cortes orçamentários significativos em pesquisas.

A campanha do republicano à Presidência bateu fortemente em duas teclas: um plano vigoroso de corte de impostos, que reduziria a arrecadação em pelo menos US$ 4,4 trilhões nos próximos dez anos, e um plano de investimento em infraestrutura que consumiria US$ 1 trilhão no mesmo período.

Na prática, isso significa que haverá menos dinheiro no Orçamento americano que poderá ser direcionado para os gastos “discricionários” -aqueles que já não caem automaticamente na conta do governo por força de lei. É de onde vem o financiamento da ciência americana.

“Se o montante de gastos discricionários cai, o subcomitê de Comércio, Justiça e Ciência no Congresso receberá uma alocação menor, e eles terão menos dinheiro disponível para financiar suas agências”, diz Casey Dreier, especialista em política espacial da ONG Planetary Society.

Entre os órgãos financiados diretamente por esse subcomitê estão a Fundação Nacional de Ciência (NSF), a Administração Nacional de Atmosfera e Oceano (Noaa) e a Administração Nacional de Aeronáutica e Espaço (Nasa).

Existe a possibilidade de o financiamento sair intacto desse processo? Sim, mas não é provável. Algum outro setor precisaria pagar a conta.

SEM CLIMA

Ao menos no discurso, e fortemente apoiado por nomeações recentes, Trump já decidiu onde devem ocorrer os cortes mais profundos: ciência climática.

Que Trump se apresenta desde a campanha eleitoral como um negacionista da mudança do clima, não é segredo. No passado, ele chegou a afirmar que o aquecimento global é um embuste criado pelos chineses para tirar a competitividade da indústria americana.

(Para comprar essa versão, claro, teríamos de fingir que não foi a Nasa, agência americana, a maior e mais contundente coletora de evidências da mudança climática.)

Até aí, é o discurso antiglobalização para ganhar a eleição. Mas vai se concretizar no mandato?

Os sinais são os piores possíveis. O advogado Scott Pruitt, indicado para a EPA (Agência de Proteção do Ambiente), vê com ceticismo as políticas contra as mudanças climáticas. E o chefe da equipe de transição escolhido por Trump para a EPA é Myron Ebell, um notório negacionista da mudança climática.

O Centro para Energia e Ambiente do Instituto para Empreendimentos Competitivos, que Ebell dirige, recebe financiamento das indústrias do carvão e do petróleo. Colocá-lo para fazer a transição entre governos da EPA pode ser o clássico “deixar a raposa tomando conta do galinheiro”.

Como se isso não bastasse, durante a campanha os principais consultores de Trump na área de pesquisa espacial, Robert Walker e Peter Navarro, escreveram editoriais sugerindo que a agência espacial devia parar de estudar a própria Terra.

“A Nasa deveria estar concentrada primariamente em atividades no espaço profundo em vez de trabalho Terra-cêntrico que seria melhor conduzido por outras agências”, escreveram.

Há consenso entre os cientistas de que não há outro órgão com competência para tocar esses estudos e assumir a frota de satélites de monitoramento terrestre gerida pela agência espacial.

Além disso, passar as responsabilidades a outra instituição sem atribuir o orçamento correspondente é um jeito sutil de encerrar o programa de monitoramento do clima.

BACKUP

Se isso faz você ficar preocupado com o futuro das pesquisas, imagine os climatologistas nos EUA.

De acordo com o jornal “Washington Post”, eles estão se organizando para criar repositórios independentes dos dados colhidos, com medo que eles sumam das bases de dados governamentais durante o governo Trump.

Ainda que a grita possa evitar esse descaramento, a interrupção das pesquisas pode ter o mesmo efeito.

“Acho que é bem mais provável que eles tentem cortar a coleção de dados, o que minimizaria seu valor”, diz Andrew Dessler, professor de ciências atmosféricas da Universidade Texas A&M. “Ter dados contínuos é crucial para entender as tendências de longo prazo.”

E O QUE SOBRA?

Tirando a mudança climática, a Nasa deve ter algum suporte para dar continuidade a seus planos de longo prazo durante o governo Trump -talvez com alguma mudança.

De certo, há apenas a restituição do Conselho Espacial Nacional, criado durante o governo George Bush (o pai) e desativado desde 1993.

Reunindo as principais autoridades pertinentes, ele tem por objetivo coordenar as ações entre diferentes braços do governo e, com isso, dar uma direção estratégica mais clara e eficiente aos executores das atividades espaciais.

Isso poderia significar uma ameaça ao SLS (novo foguete de alta capacidade da Nasa) e à Orion (cápsula para viagem a espaço profundo), que devem fazer seu primeiro voo teste, não tripulado, em 2018.

Contudo, o apoio a esses programas no Congresso é amplo e bipartidário, de forma que dificilmente Trump conseguirá cancelá-los.

O que ele pode é redirecionar sua função. Em vez de se tornarem as primeiras peças para a “jornada a Marte”, que Barack Obama defendia para a década de 2030, eles seriam integrados num programa de exploração da Lua.

(Tradicionalmente, no Congresso americano, a Lua é um objetivo republicano, e Marte, um objetivo democrata. Não pergunte por quê.)

Trump deve ainda dar maior ênfase às iniciativas de parcerias comerciais para a exploração espacial. Em dezembro, Elon Musk, diretor da empresa SpaceX e franco apoiador da campanha de Hillary Clinton, passou a fazer parte de um grupo de consultores de Trump para a indústria de alta tecnologia.

Áreas afetadas

NASA

Assessores de Trump querem tirar da agência a função de estudar a Terra em favor da exploração espacial

Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
Imagem feita pela Nasa
Imagem feita pela Nasa

PROTEÇÃO?

Scott Pruitt, indicado para Agência de Proteção do Ambiente, já processou o órgão por limitações impostas à indústria petrolífera. A agência pode perder força e deixar certas regulações a cargo dos Estados

Spencer Platt-7.dez.2016/Getty Images/AFP
Scott Pruitt chega a Trump Tower, em 7 de dezembro, para encontro com Donald Trump
Scott Pruitt chega a Trump Tower, em 7 de dezembro, para encontro com Donald Trump

PETRÓLEO

Rex Tillerson, executivo da petroleira ExxonMobil, foi indicado para o posto de secretário de Estado, o que dá mais sinais de que o governo Trump não deve se esforçar para promover fontes de energia limpa

Daniel Kramer – 21.abr.2015/Reuters
Rex Tillerson, CEO da ExxonMobil
Rex Tillerson, CEO da ExxonMobil

Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance (New York Times)

Stanford, Calif. — THE good news got pretty much drowned out this month: Yes, 2016 is on track to become the hottest year on record, but thankfully also the third year in a row to see relatively flat growth in global greenhouse gas emissions. With global economic growth on the order of 3 percent a year, we may well have turned a corner toward a sustainable climate economy.

The bad news, of course, is that the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the scholars scrambling to reverse global warming, has elected a new president with little or no interest in the topic. Or an active disinterest. Donald J. Trump is surrounding himself with advisers who are likely to do little to challenge his notion of climate change as a Chinese hoax. People like to think of us as living in an age of information, but a better descriptor might be “the age of ignorance.”

How did we get into this predicament? Why are we about to inaugurate the most anti-science administration in American history?

As a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was astonished to find how little concern there was for the beliefs of ordinary Americans. I was in the history of science department, where all the talk was of Einstein and Darwin and Newton, with the occasional glance at the “reception” of such ideas in the larger literate populace.

I had grown up in a small town in Texas, and later in Kansas City, where the people I knew often talked about nature and God’s glory and corruption and the good life. At Harvard, though, I was puzzled that my professors seemed to have little interest in people outside the vanguard, the kinds of people I had come from, many of whom were fundamentalist Christians, people of solid faith but often in desperate conditions. Why was there so little interest in what they thought or believed? That’s Point 1.

INTERACTIVE MAP

What Trump’s Climate Legacy Could Look Like

How the president-elect deals with climate change could make him the man who shrunk America or the man who helped save the planet.

Point 2: Early in my career as a historian, I was further bothered by how little attention was given to science as an instrument of popular deception. We like to think of science as the opposite of ignorance, the light that washes away the darkness, but there’s much more to that story.

Here my Harvard years were more illuminating. I got into a crowd of appropriately radicalized students, and started to better understand the place of science in the arc of human history. I learned about how science has not always been the saving grace we like to imagine; science gives rise as easily to nuclear bombs and bioweapons as to penicillin and the iPad. I taught for several years in the biology department, where I learned that cigarette makers had been giving millions of dollars to Harvard and other elite institutions to curry favor.

I also started understanding how science could be used as an instrument of deception — and to create or perpetuate ignorance. That is important, because while scholars were ignoring what Karl Marx dismissively called “the idiocy of rural life” (Point 1), tobacco and soft drink and oil companies facing taxation and regulation were busily disseminating mythologies about their products, to keep potential regulators at bay (Point 2).

The denialist conspiracy of the cigarette industry was crucial in this context, since science was one of the instruments used by Big Tobacco to carry out its denial (and distraction) campaign. Cigarette makers had met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on Dec. 14, 1953, to plan a strategy to rebut the evidence that cigarettes were causing cancer and other maladies. The strategy was pure genius: The claim would be that it had not been “proved” that cigarettes really cause disease, so there was room for honest doubt. Cigarette makers promised to finance research to get to the truth, while privately acknowledging (in a notorious Brown & Williamson document from 1969) that “Doubt is our product.”

For decades thereafter, cigarette makers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into basic biomedical research, exploring things like genetic and viral or occupational causes of cancer — anything but tobacco. Research financed by the industry led to over 7,000 publications in peer-reviewed medical literature and 10 Nobel Prizes. Including consulting relationships, my research shows that at least 25 Nobel laureates have taken money from the cigarette industry over the past half-century. (Full disclosure: I’ve testified against that industry in dozens of tobacco trials.)

Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.

This latter fact might be little more than a historical quirk, were it not for the fact that we’ll soon have a president whose understanding of science is more like that of the people in the towns where I grew up than those scholars who taught me about Darwin and Einstein at Harvard.

We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti-regulation and anti-government.

Jeff Nesbit, in his recent book, “Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the G.O.P.,” documents how Big Tobacco joined with Big Oil in the early 1990s to create anti-tax front groups. These AstroTurf organizations waged a concerted effort to defend the unencumbered sale of cigarettes and petro-products. The breathtaking idea was to protect tobacco and oil from regulation and taxes by starting a movement that would combat all regulation and all taxes.

Part of the strategy, according to Mr. Nesbit, who worked for a group involved in the effort and witnessed firsthand the beginning of this devil’s dance, was to sow doubt by corrupting expertise, while simultaneously capturing the high ground of open-mindedness and even caution itself, with the deceptive mantra: “We need more research.” Much of the climate denial now embraced by people like Mr. Trump was first expressed in the disinformation campaigns of Big Oil — campaigns modeled closely on Big Tobacco’s strategies.

We sometimes hear that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but a “repeat” is perhaps now the least of our worries. Judging purely from his transition team, Mr. Trump’s administration could be more hostile to modern science — and especially earth and environmental sciences — than any we have ever had. Whole agencies could go on the chopping block or face deliberate evisceration. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan may be in jeopardy, along with funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Grumblings can even be heard from Europe that if the Paris climate accord is abandoned, the United States may face carbon taxes on its export goods. Ignorance and its diabolic facilitator — the corruption of expertise — both have real-world costs that we ignore at our peril.

The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter (Politico Magazine)

And it’s not gender, age, income, race or religion.

1/17/2016

 

If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated?

You’d be wrong.

In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.

That’s right, Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.

My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. And in the 2008 Democratic primary, the political scientist Marc Hetherington found that authoritarianism mattered more than income, ideology, gender, age and education in predicting whether voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. But Hetherington has also found, based on 14 years of polling, that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time. He hypothesizes that the trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality. In my poll results, authoritarianism was not a statistically significant factor in the Democratic primary race, at least not so far, but it does appear to be playing an important role on the Republican side. Indeed, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters I surveyed score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale—more than twice as many as Democratic voters.

Political pollsters have missed this key component of Trump’s support because they simply don’t include questions about authoritarianism in their polls. In addition to the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions, my poll asked a set of four simple survey questions that political scientists have employed since 1992 to measure inclination toward authoritarianism. These questions pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.

Based on these questions, Trump was the only candidate—Republican or Democrat—whose support among authoritarians was statistically significant.

So what does this mean for the election? It doesn’t just help us understand what motivates Trump’s backers—it suggests that his support isn’t capped. In a statistical analysis of the polling results, I found that Trump has already captured 43 percent of Republican primary voters who are strong authoritarians, and 37 percent of Republican authoritarians overall. A majority of Republican authoritarians in my poll also strongly supported Trump’s proposals to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, prohibit Muslims from entering the United States, shutter mosques and establish a nationwide database that track Muslims.

And in a general election, Trump’s strongman rhetoric will surely appeal to some of the 39 percent of independents in my poll who identify as authoritarians and the 17 percent of self-identified Democrats who are strong authoritarians.

What’s more, the number of Americans worried about the threat of terrorism is growing. In 2011, Hetherington published research finding that non-authoritarians respond to the perception of threat by behaving more like authoritarians. More fear and more threats—of the kind we’ve seen recently in the San Bernardino and Paris terrorist attacks—mean more voters are susceptible to Trump’s message about protecting Americans. In my survey, 52 percent of those voters expressing the most fear that another terrorist attack will occur in the United States in the next 12 months were non-authoritarians—ripe targets for Trump’s message.

Take activated authoritarians from across the partisan spectrum and the growing cadre of threatened non-authoritarians, then add them to the base of Republican general election voters, and the potential electoral path to a Trump presidency becomes clearer.

So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job.

It is time for those who would appeal to our better angels to take his insurgency seriously and stop dismissing his supporters as a small band of the dispossessed. Trump support is firmly rooted in American authoritarianism and, once awakened, it is a force to be reckoned with. That means it’s also time for political pollsters to take authoritarianism seriously and begin measuring it in their polls.

Matthew MacWilliams is founder of MacWilliams Sanders, a political communications firms, and a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he is writing his dissertation about authoritarianism.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authoritarian-213533#ixzz3xj06TM2n