Great Reason for Skipping School

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 1.24.00 PM.pngStudents around the globe have launched an international walkout to protest adults’ refusal to take action on climate change. They’re taking it into their own hands! Find out more about the protest and the students’ demands.


The children worldwide protesting against lax climate change policies are trying to get something across to their elders: they won’t be silent when it comes to protecting themselves and the generations that come after them. That’s why they launched a strike on March 15, walking out of their schools and taking to the streets to make their voices heard.

The ‘Moral Clarity’ of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ at 50 ~ NYT

Credit Delacorte

 

When I was 24, I watched a small white car through the 4X scope attached to my M240B machine gun. The weapon rested on the wall of a rooftop on the outskirts of the city of Tal Afar, Iraq. The street down which the car drove was otherwise empty, the United States Army having previously informed the citizens of Tal Afar to evacuate their city or find themselves caught between military-strength deadliness and the people toward whom that deadliness was meant to be applied.

Though the day was hot and hazy, and I had been awake for all but a few of the preceding 48 hours, it was unmistakably clear that from a window of the small white car the occupant of the passenger seat had unfurled a white flag of truce. This was plain even without the aid of magnification provided by my scope. Through the scope, I saw a man in the passenger seat and a woman driving. They were old, and though I can’t say with any certainty how old, their age registered immediately as an important characteristic. Old people rarely try to kill American soldiers. I believe this to be both historically true and true in that place and at that time. Old couples waving white flags of truce from windows of small white cars are exceedingly unthreatening, even in a place like Tal Afar in September 2004, where many of the young men were very dangerous, including and perhaps especially us.

Someone said, “What ya got, Powers?” And I said: “Nothing. Just an old couple trying to get out.” There were perhaps a dozen people on that rooftop, some of whom I knew about as well as you can know a person, others whom I had only met a couple of days earlier. I think someone got on the radio but I can’t say that for sure. I do know that none of the people on that rooftop were afraid of the old man and the old woman in the small white car. Some distance away from us, perhaps on another rooftop, another group of soldiers had been watching the same white car, though I did not know that yet.

I don’t remember how much time passed between my saying, “It’s nothing,” and someone in that other group of soldiers opening fire, but it was likely less than 10 seconds. And I don’t know why they did it. But I know that .50-caliber machine-gun rounds tore into the small white car and tore into the old man and the old woman until the small white car stopped moving and the old man and the old woman were both dead. So it goes. They have been dying in my mind every day for the last 14 years. I suspect they will do so until I’ve exhausted my own days on this earth. This is my moment trapped in amber.

I am now 38. I live in a rented house in Pittsboro, N.C., with my wife, my two daughters and my dog. I try to be kind. I try not to hurt people. And though I have just told you all the things I know with certainty about that day in September in Tal Afar, Iraq, when I was 24, I’m still not sure what it means. I don’t know if my being there in that place and at that time makes me a bad person, but on most days I think it means I do not get to claim to be a good one.

There is an eminently useful thought experiment with which I suspect you are familiar. It goes something like, “What would an alien think of ____?” The blank is typically filled in with something like sex, or our destructive relationship to the natural world, or money. War is sometimes used to fill that blank, too. The point of the thought experiment is to invent a kind of critical distance between a particular aspect of human behavior and ourselves, the ones behaving un-self-consciously like humans.

Kurt Vonnegut, photographed by his wife, Jill Krementz, in 1970 Credit Jill Krementz; all rights reserved

 

This thought experiment is useful precisely because it forces a perspective so separate, or alien, that with a little luck we gain some insight into why we are the way we are or why we do the things we do, like procreate, or poison our habitat, or hoard digital proxies for paper proxies for bits of rare but not all that rare metals, or watch old people get machine-gunned to death, or firebomb medium-size German cities. I’ve often thought that “Slaughterhouse-Five” is a variation on this kind of thought experiment; it has few if any equals in creating the kind of distance that can offer insight into the mass insanity of modern warfare.

[ Read our original review of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” from 1969 ]

But it is so much more than a uniquely useful thought experiment on war. It is equally remarkable in the innovative way its structure is married to, and made necessary by, the story itself. Just before his capture by the Germans during the war, our hero, Billy Pilgrim, becomes “unstuck in time.” Later in the narrative we learn that this is a consequence of Billy’s subsequent abduction by Tralfamadorians, aliens who happen to be unbound by the normal limitations of time and space. Through this ingenuous device Kurt Vonnegut shows the past as an irresistible force, particularly in the case of those who have trauma at the center of their experience.

The war intrudes on Billy’s later life in a way that will be immediately familiar to those who have fought in one. His past arrives without invitation, bouncing between the war, his childhood and his unremarkable later life as an optometrist, which is itself punctuated by visits to mental and veterans hospitals. As the narrative progresses we begin to understand that for a man who has witnessed the horrors that Billy has, the Tralfamadorians’ belief that the past, present and future are merely the primitive notions of Earthlings starts to sound like a comforting explanation for the intrusive nature of traumatic experience.

This all may sound very strange to you. It is, beautifully strange. But let me be more direct about what I really think this book is. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is wisdom literature. It is a book of awe and humbling clarity. Its lessons are so simple that by adulthood most of us have forgotten or taken them for granted only to be stunned upon being reacquainted with their fundamental gravity.

Through the little green eyes of Billy Pilgrim’s Tralfamadorian captors, we see ourselves as mere human beings, mortal animals utterly stripped of our pretensions. Our crimes become both monumental and quotidian. Our grief and our destiny both inevitable. This may sound cynical or nihilistic, but I would argue that this book is among the most humane works of art ever created. It is concerned with and dedicated to the alleviation and prevention of human suffering in the face of its inevitability, and I can think of no braver moral position to take than that one. I’ve relied on it as a touchstone in my life. You can have Job. I’ll throw in my lot with Billy Pilgrim.

In the singularly brilliant introductory chapter, Vonnegut tells us in his own voice how he came to write this book. It was born from his experiences as a young Army private taken prisoner in World War II, witness to both the brutality of the German war machine and the catastrophic Allied firebombing of Dresden. Near the end of the chapter he writes the following: “I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.”

This is merely one example of Vonnegut’s unmatched moral clarity. He, more than any other writer I can think of, could cut through cant and sophistry and dissembling to expose our collective self-deceptions for what they are. His sentences are accusations that let you keep your dignity. And for those of us who recognize ourselves in those accusations, that generosity is a rare gift. Few among us will ever write something so plainly and undeniably true that its honesty feels provocative even 50 years after it first appears in print, but Vonnegut did when he wrote “Slaughterhouse-Five.” I, for one, am grateful it exists.

 

Kevin Powers is the author of two novels, “The Yellow Birds,” a National Book Award finalist, and “A Shout in the Ruins,” as well as a poetry collection, “Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting.”

Massacre of Children in Peru Might Have Been a Sacrifice to Stop Bad Weather ~ NYT

CreditCreditJohn Verano

Last year archaeologists in Peru announced the discovery of a centuries-old ritual massacre, at a site they believed was the largest known case of child sacrifice ever found.

Buried beneath the sands of a 15th-century site called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas were nearly 140 child skeletons, as well as the remains of 200 llamas.

While the reasoning behind the gruesome mass murder of the boys and girls — who were only between the ages of 5 and 14 — cannot be definitively determined, the researchers now say the act was done out of desperation in response to a disastrous climatic event: El Niño.

“What we seem to have at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas is a sacrifice to stop torrential rains, flooding and mudflows,” said John Verano, an anthropologist at Tulane University and an author of the paper, which was published Wednesday in PLOS One.

 

The finding provides insight into the rituals of the ancient Chimú civilization that inhabited Peru’s northern coast. It also attempts to piece together the story behind why people murdered these children, presumably by cutting open their chests and ripping out their hearts.

One day in 2011 a man named Michele Spano Pescara approached Gabriel Prieto, an archaeologist at the National University of Trujillo in Peru. He said that his children had dug up bones near his home. When Dr. Prieto followed the man to the site, he was astonished.

“There were so many complete human remains and complete bodies in perfect states of preservation everywhere,” said Dr. Prieto, who led the study.

Dr. Prieto called in a colleague, Katya Valladares, who investigated the skeletons and identified cut marks on many of the children’s sternums. That indicated that the burial site was not a group cemetery, but rather the location of an orchestrated killing event.

From 2011 to 2016, Dr. Prieto and his colleagues dug up 137 complete child skeletons and the remains of more than 200 llamas in an area that stretched about 7,500 square feet.

Some bodies had been buried in cloth, some wore cotton headdresses and others had red-cinnabar paint preserved on their skulls. Buried beside many of the victims were young llamas, each less than 18 months old. They too were sacrificed. The team noticed that the children were buried facing west to the coast while the llamas faced east to the Andes Mountains.

Using radiocarbon dating, the site was dated to about 1450 A.D., which placed it at a time before the neighboring Inca empire invaded. The team also attempted to collect DNA from the teeth of some victims but were only successful in a fraction of cases. What they got was enough to tell them that both boys and girls were present, meaning the sacrifice wasn’t gender specific. Further DNA analysis could help determine whether the children were local or if they came from across the Chimú state, but based on some morphological details the team thinks the victims came from around the empire.

A major clue to figuring out why the Chimú sacrificed the children came in the form of a thick mud layer preserved on top of the sand where the victims were buried. Because the area is a desert, the mud layer indicated there was once a period of heavy rain, like that seen during an El Niño, or a natural warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface waters that has cascading effects on the weather. Such a deluge would have devastated the Chimú state, flooding crops, killing fish and sweeping people away.

Also in this mud layer, the scientists found preserved footsteps of sandaled adults and barefoot children, as well as signs that the llamas were dragged there. The children, it appeared, were marched to the site, which was just on the outskirts of the Chimú capital city, Chan Chan. The killings, the authors suggest, were done at the order of the Chimú state as an appeal to their gods or ancestral spirits to mitigate the rains.

“The picture that starts to emerge is that under conditions of severe climatic disruption, the sacrifice of children may have been the most powerful means of communication with the supernatural,” said Haagen Klaus, a bioarchaeologist from George Mason University in Virginia not involved in the study.

Tiffiny Tung, a bioarchaeologist at Vanderbilt University also not involved in the study, said that in addition to illuminating the Chimú’s rituals, the finding provides a look into the state’s political machinery. The sacrifice, she said, would have let the Chimú leaders demonstrate to their people the lengths to which they would go to appease the deities and protect the community. At the same time, carrying out such a massive slaughter of children would have been a reminder of the leaders’ power and authority over their citizens.

“That’s a great way to get people to step in line,” she said.

Manafort’s Blameless Life

images-1.jpeg

“He has lived an otherwise blameless life,” said Judge T. S. Ellis as he sentenced Paul Manafort to just 47 months in prison on Thursday.

In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.

In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deals.

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

In an otherwise blameless life, he found himself nearly $20 million in debt to a Russian oligarch. Instead of honestly accounting for the money, he simply stopped responding to the oligarch’s messages.

In an otherwise blameless life, he tried to use his perch atop the Trump campaign to help salvage his sorry financial situation. He installed one of his protégés as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. His friend allegedly funneled $125,000 from the super PAC to pay off one of Manafort’s nagging debts.

In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was found guilty of tax evasion on an industrial scale. Rather than paying his fair share to help fund national defense and public health, he kept his cash in Cyprus and wired it home to buy more than $1 million in bespoke clothing.

In an otherwise blameless life, he disguised his income as loans so that he could bamboozle banks into lending him money.

In an otherwise blameless life, he attempted to phone a potential witness in his trial so that they could align their stories.

In an otherwise blameless life, he systematically lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, after he promised them his full cooperation.

In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. When presented with a chance to show remorse to the court, he couldn’t find that sentiment within his being. And with Ellis’s featherweight punishment, which deviated sharply downward from the sentencing guidelines, Manafort managed to bring his life’s project to a strange completion. He had devoted his career to normalizing corruption in Washington. By the time he was caught, his extraordinary avarice had become so commonplace that not even a federal judge could blame him for it.

Black in Boulder ~ A black man was picking up trash outside his home. Then police pulled a gun on him.

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 7.14.50 AM.png

Colorado officers confront black man picking up trash

Police in Boulder, Colo., are investigating a March 1 confrontation between officers and a black man picking up trash.

March 7 at 7:08 PM

The Boulder, Colo., police department is conducting an internal investigation after video surfaced of an officer questioning a black man who was picking up garbage in front of his residence. The officer has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

On March 1, an officer approached the man as he was sitting in an area behind a private property sign and asked him if he had permission to be there, according to a department release. The Daily Camera reported that the man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence. Police have not publicly named the man or the officer.

The man gave the officer his school identification card and said he both worked and lived in the building. However, the officer continued to investigate and called for backup, “indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

In the 16-minute video, which appears to have been taken by a friend and fellow building resident after the encounter began, the man can be seen holding a bucket and a trash picker.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash?” the man with the trash picker says.

The man being questioned repeatedly says of the officer, “He’s got a gun!”

“Just relax, man,” the officer responds as sirens are heard and more officers arrive and surround him.

Though a police spokeswoman would not release the number of officers involved, citing the ongoing investigation, at one point the man can be heard saying there are eight officers “with guns drawn.” The video appears to show at least one officer, on the far left, holding a gun before putting it away.

Police chief Greg Testa rebutted these particular claims made in the video at a city council meeting on Tuesday, saying “Body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out and it was pointed in the ground.”

The man who was stopped by police and the person taking the video repeatedly assert to the officers that the man lived there and was only picking up garbage.

An officer can be heard assuring the man, who is agitated by the encounter, that “my plan is not to shoot you.” The encounter continues for several minutes until an officer says “we’ve decided we’re going to end things at this point.”

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the Boulder police department release states. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”

“We began looking into the incident on Friday, shortly after it occurred, and quickly made the decision that we needed to launch an internal affairs investigation,” Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said in an emailed statement.

“Our internal affairs investigation will include a review of all body worn camera video, interviews of everyone involved which includes both officers and community members, reports and all other related information,” she said.

Testa said in a prepared statement before the city council that “this is an extremely concerning issue and one that we are taking very seriously.” Members of the public who attended the hearing carried signs and trash pickers, the Daily Camera reported.

“While it appears that the officers responding to the requests for backup followed standard procedures given the information they heard over the radio, all aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated,” he said.

“I am not aware of any information that the man did anything unlawful or wrong,” Testa said.

Charles Lief, president of Naropa University, also spoke at the hearing. “I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma that was experienced by our student, who was the victim in this situation,” he said. He noted that he spoke to the man’s mother and “she has made clear that her son is not interested in becoming a symbol for any issue that we have to deal with in this city.”

“The incident that impacted him is going to be one that’s going to take him a long time to deal with,” Lief said. “The city can’t wait that long for us to talk about the broader issues that we have to address.”

Teton Pass slide reignites debate ~ This is a Hwy. 550 Issue. ~ Thank you Don Bachman

489bf8b8-f26b-11e7-86ea-73948722d9aa.png

Skier who triggered slide on commuter route comes clean in an effort to remove stigma.

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 9.00.49 AM.png

When an avalanche ripped down the Twin Slides path on Mount Glory, snow piled up on Highway 22, halting traffic and the morning commute for thousands of drivers.

The Friday morning slide triggered by Jeff Brines, a skier who lives in Victor, Idaho, also reignited a community debate over how skiers comport themselves on Teton Pass. Two large and alluring avalanche paths overhang the integral thoroughfare between Jackson and Teton Valley, Idaho. Though no one was injured or caught in the slide, unlike in a December 2016 avalanche that buried a Jeep, Brines said the experience was harrowing.

“That was one of the darkest moments of my life,” he said. “The feeling that you might have hurt somebody else is something I hope I never feel again.”

Brines was one of about 10 skiers setting the bootpack, kicking steps into the drifted snow, Friday morning, with more hikers behind them. A little before 7:30 a.m., he said, he stopped and skied from a rocky outcropping about two-thirds of the way up, intending to peel back into the trees west of the bootpack. He clicked into his skis and gathered his dog in his arms.

“I didn’t want him to run out in the middle and cause something to break,” he said.

Though he admitted that he could have walked into the trees before clicking in, he said rocks to the west of where he stopped and a group on his heels made him think he should kick turn and drop slightly lower before angling into the trees.

When he kick turned he felt the snow shift beneath him.

“It was like I was falling, but I wasn’t falling,” he said. “I hadn’t seen any natural activity on the way up. The first whoomph I felt was when the slab slid.”

Brines thought the slab he triggered slid just a bit down the slope and stopped, but either the slab was bigger than he realized or it remotely triggered a slide that stretched to the starting zone of the Twin Slides path near the Gazex exploder. The crown was small, about 12 inches, but the slide ran the length of the path and dumped onto the road just west of the road cut.

In light of the morning slide the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed the pass from the moment of the slide until around 5 p.m. that day, keeping an untold number of employees from reaching their jobs or homes. Having to clear skiers off of the pass to conduct avalanche control protracted the closure.

WYDOT then dropped three 40-pound charges onto Glory Bowl and one onto Twin Slides in hope of triggering a slide that might entrain the massive amount of snow added to the slopes with a record February snowfall.

“It’s kind of like the last-ditch effort,” WYDOT foreman Bruce Daigle said Friday. “We’ve thrown everything at it, howitzer rounds, Gazex. We’ve hit this three times with six or seven shots each time.”

The lengths to which Daigle and his avalanche technicians had to go to keep the pass safe last month, which included several closures, reveals the tension between the recreation community and WYDOT. Backcountry skiers have become accustomed to the access offered by Teton Pass, but with upticks in both skiers and commuters trying to use the pass, the danger of a car being buried in a slide or someone being injured has also risen.

“This whole urban interface between a major transportation corridor and major recreation area is coming to a head,” Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center Director Bob Comey said.

The idea that WYDOT would cease plowing the area at the top of the pass, which Daigle pointed out is not a parking lot but a brake check area for trucks, has made the recreation community nervous for years. The Teton Backcountry Alliance started holding meetings and events this year to raise awareness about the possibility that WYDOT may close access or work with the U.S. Forest Service to close the Twin Slides and Glory Bowl areas, which could eliminate the easy bootpack access skiers now enjoy.

That fear carries more urgency following an event like last week’s, when a recreationist, rather than WYDOT’s mitigation work or a natural slide, affects commuter traffic. Because the avalanche was skier-triggered it puts the onus on skiers to self-regulate, officials say.

“There are lots of people on the road, lots of people skiing, and more every day,” Comey said. “This is a consequence; the answer has to come from the community.”

Brines pointed to a lack of information on trigger points on Twin Slides and Glory Bowl. He said reports uploaded to the Avalanche Center’s website specifically on Twin Slides did not include information on where the slides were triggered or who caused them.

He believes having more specific information available to skiers regarding the slide paths would help them make safer decisions, though he noted that many skiers on the pass are tourists who may not have access to such information or know where to turn even if it was available.

Teton Pass Ambassador Jay Pistono, who spearheads much of the education and outreach work for skiers on the pass, believes in a simpler solution.

“I’ve pushed for the skiing public to mentally close off Twin and Glory,” Pistono said. “You just don’t ski those runs.”

In the immediate aftermath of the slide, nothing much has changed. Skiers are still bootpacking up Mount Glory and skiing Twin Slides and Glory Bowl. WYDOT continues to plow the brake check area that skiers use as a parking lot.

But Pistono has seen a shift in the ski community with this slide. Several skiers on the bootpack provided Brines’ name to both Pistono and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, something Pistono said wouldn’t have happened five years ago. The propensity to name the person who caused the slide, perhaps for public shaming but also for education and accountability, is a step toward a community that conducts itself better on the pass, he said.

“That level of pressure will force the ski community to rethink,” he said.

As a skier who has spent roughly 1,000 days skiing on Teton Pass, Brines said he felt a complacency that led him to kick turn at the edge of the slide path without first thinking if there was a safer way to do it. He also realized that he didn’t know what to do once he triggered the slide. With a dead cellphone battery and no knowledge of who to call, he left the scene, which “might be the thing I feel the worst about,” he said.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said Brines had no obligation to stay at the scene and is unlikely to be charged with anything. There is no statute that addresses this type of situation and he didn’t violate any closure.

“Some people are out for blood, but we can only work with what we’ve got,” Carr said.

Brines said he wants this to be a moment that signals a shift and that he wants to do what he can to change the stigma around causing avalanches. He wants triggering a slide to be something that skiers feel they can own up to and learn from. He feels by naming himself and being willing to talk about the steps that led him to trigger the slide, he can challenge his own expert halo and provide an example of how to learn from events like this one.

He also said he’ll avoid Teton Pass for a while.

“It will be really hard for me to ski Glory and Twin Slides again,” he said. “I love those runs, but I can’t handle the idea of hurting someone.

“That was a big wake-up call for me.”

A massive aquifer lies beneath the Mojave Desert. Could it help solve California’s water problem? ~ The Washington Post


The sun sets on the Mojave National Preserve in Kelso, Calif., in early February. There is water under the desert, and whether to tap it on a commercial scale is a crucial debate in California. (Jenna Schoenefeld for The Washington Post)

The landscape here is more Martian than Earthly, rust and tan plains that rise in the distance to form the Old Woman Mountains to the east and the Bristols and Marbles to the north and west.

Almost everything here is protected by the federal government. The opportunity or threat, depending on your point of view, lies beneath the dusty surface that, after a recent rain, blooms with sprays of yellow desert dandelion.

There is water here in the Mojave Desert. A lot of it.

Whether to tap it on a commercial scale or leave it alone is a decades-old question the Trump administration has revived and the California legislature is visiting anew. The debate will help resolve whether private enterprise can effectively manage a public necessity in a state where who gets water and where it originates endures as the most volatile political issue.

It also is among several critical decisions on water policy facing the new Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who in his first State of the State address in February highlighted what he called California’s “massive water challenges.” He already has scaled back one major water project — turning a proposed twin-tunnel pipeline to run beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta into a single tunnel — and will soon consider changes in river-water allocations for urban and agricultural users.

“Our water supply is becoming less reliable because of climate change, and our population is growing because of a strong economy,” Newsom said. “That means a lot of demand on an unpredictable supply.”

Newsom said this state of 40 million people, many living in near-desert climates, must “get past the old binaries like farmers versus environmentalists or North versus South.”

“Our approach can’t be either/or,” he said. “It must be yes/and.”

His message will be tested here with a long-standing proposal to draw water from the desert — a new source that would add billions of gallons a year to the state’s overall supply but also potentially prompt new development and demand.

The fraught legacy of the state’s water wars goes back to 1913, when the Owens River was diverted to drive the growth of Los Angeles — killing Owens Lake and the agricultural economy of the Owens Valley — and it haunts the project to this day.

“This is an extremely difficult space in which to do business in this state,” said Scott Slater, chief executive of Cadiz, a publicly traded water companywith a huge interest in the Mojave. “These legacies shadow everything we do, and so we have to make sure what we are doing is right.”

Cadiz has been seeking since 1997 to tap into the Fenner Basin, an aquifer that sits beneath a portion of the 35,000 acres of private property that the company owns within the boundaries of the Mojave Trails National Monument. President Barack Obama created the preserve in his final year in office.

The aquifer is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Cadiz would draw water from the ground, pump it east through a proposed 43-mile pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct, then sell it to water districts as far as 200 miles away. An estimated 100,000 households could be customers during the project’s initial 50-year term, which would generate billions of dollars in revenue for the company.

High hurdles remain, including a new legislative effort to slow the project and sort out the science behind it.

The company still needs a permit to join the aqueduct, operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the largest wholesale supplier in the United States. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife also recently challenged Cadiz’s environmental assessment of the project, though the company does not believe it needs the agency’s permission to move ahead — except for its plans to alter streambeds along the pipeline’s proposed route, which runs mostly within a railroad right of way.

But if Cadiz can clear those obstacles, the project could be up and running within a year.


A percolating pond on Cadiz property in the Mojave. (Jenna Schoenefeld for The Washington Post)

“This will not provide enough water to be the solution to the state’s water problems,” Slater said. “But it is certainly part of the solution.”

The opposition has argued that the Cadiz plan would threaten fragile desert springs and deplete the groundwater far faster than seasonal rain and snow can replenish it, threatening flora and rare wildlife. Opponents also are newly concerned about how the environmental review process has played out.

“What’s at stake here now is the state of California’s ability to hold off against the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks,” said David Lamfrom, director of the California Desert program for the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association. “They have tried unsuccessfully for years to take this water and move it to market. Now the threat has taken a new shape given how advantageously Cadiz has been treated by the Trump administration.”

Soon after the 2016 election, the Trump transition team included Cadiz as No. 15 on its priority list of “emergency and national security” projects, drawing sharp protest from critics including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Less than a year later, the administration exempted the project from a federal review that the Obama administration required because of the federal land involved in the pipeline construction.

The current acting Interior Department secretary, David Bernhardt, then the department’s second in charge, had worked with Cadiz as a partner in the law firm handling the company’s legal and lobbying efforts before entering the administration. Bernhardt served on Trump’s transition team, but he had formally recused himself from issues involving Cadiz when the administration waived the federal review.

The project has emerged as a cause celebre. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has urged state lawmakers to block it. So has the musician and record producer Moby and the pop star Sia, who has enlisted her nearly 4 million Twitter followers in the cause.

Newsom has yet to weigh in on the issue as governor. But his aides pointed to the comments he made during last year’s campaign, when he stated his opposition to the project and criticized Cadiz. The company had donated to the election effort of one of his Democratic primary opponents, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who worked for Cadiz for a year after leaving that office.

“I don’t like people buying influence,” Newsom said then. “I don’t like money determining the fate of even good ideas, let alone bad ideas. I don’t like the way this whole thing has played out.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Videos of Mark Meadows saying ‘send Obama home to Kenya’ resurface hours after he’s accused of racist stunt

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 10.59.30 AM.png

~~~  WATCH  ~~~

Mark Meadows’s 2012 birther comments
2:20 / 2:33

After being accused of a “racist act” on Feb. 27, The Washington Post uncovered three instances of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) making birther comments about Pres

 

Andrew McCabe’s Countdown to the Mueller Report ~ The New Yorker

In his new book, the former acting director of the F.B.I. speaks with bracing directness about what was going on in the Trump-Russia investigation and why it matters.

In “Seven Days in May,” a popular novel from the early nineteen-sixties that became a movie, a cabal of military officers conspire to overthrow the President of the United States, whom they regard as unduly sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The story, along with such other Cold War fantasies as “Fail Safe” and “Dr. Strangelove,” belongs to a genre that shares certain assumptions and plot points. The President is a reasonable fellow, doing his best to insure the survival of the planet, and the villains are the defenders of the permanent bureaucracy, usually the military. Things don’t always end well in these sagas—to wit, the destruction of New York City, in “Fail Safe,” and of civilization, in “Strangelove”—but the underlying message is that the President always has the interests of the American people at heart.

The genre received a nonfiction update last week, when Andrew McCabe published “The Threat,” a book about his tenure at the F.B.I., which ended with a brief, tumultuous period as its acting director. The focus of his narrative is not seven but eight days in May of 2017, between President Trump’s firing of James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., and the appointment of Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. McCabe’s tale is like a photo negative of the Cold War stories. Now the contest pits a despotic and, at times, seemingly deranged President against shocked and horrified bureaucrats scrambling to safeguard the basic principles of our democracy.

McCabe’s book offers a fitting overture to the next important act in the Trump melodrama: the completion of Mueller’s report, which appears imminent. If the Justice Department approves its public release—William Barr, the new Attorney General, has waffled on that question—the report could provide the unified narrative that the story of Trump and Russia has so far lacked. The details have emerged incrementally in the past two years, and it’s been difficult for even attentive consumers of the news to keep track. McCabe’s book speaks with bracing directness about what was going on and why it matters. For the most part, he writes in the just-the-facts style that we expect from a career G-man—that’s how Mueller’s report will likely read, too—but that restraint makes his conclusions all the more devastating. Trump, McCabe writes, “has shown the citizens of this country that he does not know what democracy means. He demonstrates no understanding or appreciation of our form of government. He takes no actions to protect it.” Rather, McCabe adds, “The president is doing exactly the thing a president is not supposed to do.”

And what thing is that? Here the story is less complicated than it sometimes appears. Ever since Trump learned, in January of 2017, that the F.B.I. was looking into possible ties between his campaign and Russia, he has sought, if not to end the probe, then at least to curtail it. He demanded “loyalty” from Comey. Then he asked him to be lenient toward Michael Flynn, his original national-security adviser, who later pleaded guilty to lying during an interview with the F.B.I. On May 9th, after Comey’s responses proved unsatisfactory, Trump fired him. McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy, then became the acting director, and Trump’s interactions with him during the next eight days are a study in personal and political pathology.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Avalanche Claims Life of Telluride Backcountry Skier

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 3.33.02 PM.png

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Avalanche Claims Life of Telluride Backcountry Skier 

  

February 20, 2019  — (Telluride, CO) – A Telluride backcountry skier was killed in a snowboarder-released avalanche Tuesday morning in the Bear Creek Preserve area in Telluride, Colorado. 

 The victim was found by Search and Rescue and Telluride Ski Patrol with a probe line near the creek above the boulder at the top of the Bear Creek trail at approximately 1130am and identified as 47 year-old Salvadore Garcia-Atance. 

 “Of course this is not the outcome any of us were hoping for and on behalf of myself and all of us involved in this mission, we extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Garcia-Atance’s family,” Sheriff Bill Masters said. 

 The slide occurred some time between 10 and 11am Tuesday in the Tempter area of Bear Creek a couloir off the Telluride Ski area and ran approximately 75 feet wide leaving a debris field 300 feet long and 15 to 20 feet deep. 

 Mr. Garcia-Atance was reportedly skinning up the Bear Creek Trail having started his ascent from the trailhead in the Town of Telluride. 

A two-hour ground search was done in the area with rescuers and Telluride Avalanche dog teams late Tuesday for two hours to no avail. 

 The search resumed early this morning (Wednesday) with dozens of rescuers, avalanche dogs and assistance from Telluride Helitrax helicopters. 

 Sheriff Masters said, “We could not have done this mission without the cooperation and expertise of our volunteers, Telluride Ski Patrol, Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Telluride Helitrax. We appreciate all of the people and agencies who came together.”

 Bear Creek Trail is reopened but with the caution that with the new snow expected, avalanche danger will continue. “Whether you are walking your dog, skinning up, or backcountry skiing, Bear Creek is not a safe place to be,” Sheriff Masters said.

 The death is under investigation.

          

                                                      ###

 

The San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, located in Telluride, Colorado and established in 1883, serves 7,800 residents and countless visitors across the 1,288 square miles of San Miguel County. Sheriff Bill Masters has been serving as the county’s elected Sheriff since 1980