Trump aims to end automatic protections for some species

DENVER (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday proposed ending automatic protections for threatened animals and plants and limiting habitat safeguards meant to shield recovering species from harm.

Administration officials said the new rules would advance conservation by simplifying and improving how the landmark Endangered Species Act is used.

“These rules will be very protective,” said U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, adding that the changes would reduce the “conflict and uncertainty” associated with many protected species.

The proposals drew immediate condemnation from Democrats and some wildlife advocates.

Critics said the moves would speed extinctions in the name of furthering its anti-environment agenda. Species currently under consideration for protections are considered especially at risk, including the North American wolverine and the monarch butterfly, they said.

“It essentially turns every listing of a species into a negotiation,” said Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity. “They could decide that building in a species’ habitat or logging in trees where birds nest doesn’t constitute harm.”

A number of conflicts have arisen in the decades since the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act, ranging from disruptions to logging to protect spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest, to attacks on livestock that have accompanied the restoration of gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest.

Some species including gray wolves and grizzly retained protection for years after meeting their original recovery goals, often due to court orders resulting from environmentalists’ lawsuits.

The proposed changes include potential limits on the designation of “critical habitat” for imperiled plants and animals; an end to a regulatory provision that gives threatened plants and animals the same protections as species at greater risk of extinction; and streamlining inter-agency consultations when federal government actions could jeopardize a species.

Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, welcomed the potential for the changes to spur greater collaboration between landowners, government officials and conservationists — even as he cautioned against ending automatic protections for threatened species.

“This is not all good or all bad,” he said.

O’Mara said crafting case by case species management plans is an appropriate alternative to the blanket protections now given automatically to threatened and endangered species. Until those plans are completed, he said, broad protections against harming plants and animals should stay in place.

More than 700 animals and almost 1,000 plants in the U.S. are shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections.

Fewer than 100 species have been taken off the threatened and endangered lists, either because they were deemed recovered or, in at least 10 cases, went extinct.

Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have been strong advocates for oil and gas drilling and other types of development, frequently criticizing environmental policies they say hinder economic activity. Zinke also has sought to portray himself as a conservationist in the vein of President Teddy Roosevelt who will protect the nation’s natural resources.

The administration’s proposals follow longstanding criticism of the Endangered Species Act by business groups and some members of Congress. Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation to enact broad changes to the law, saying it hinders economic activities while doing little to restore species.

One of the chief architects of that effort, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the administration’s proposals were “a good start” but indicated more work was needed.

“The administration is limited by an existing law that needs to be updated,” Barrasso said. “The changes I have proposed will empower states, promote the recovery of species, and allow local economies to thrive.”

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm headquartered in California, lobbied for some of the changes.

Foundation attorney Jonathan Wood said the proposals would relieve apprehensions among property owners who in the past have been reluctant to get involved in species conservation efforts.

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NASA’s $10M Carbon Monitoring System Gets Shut Down By Trump Administration As CO2 Levels Rise

May 15, 2018 09:22 PM EDT

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Trump administration has cut funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, which is a crucial program tracking carbon emissions using information from aircrafts and satellites.
(Photo : Mark Wilson | Getty Images)

Following an all-time-high monthly average of carbon dioxide concentration, the Trump administration shuts down NASA’s multimillion research line, the Carbon Monitoring System.

The agency’s $10 million per year CMS program has played a huge role in monitoring the planet’s carbon dioxide and methane emissions, providing consolidated data that’s used all around the world.

What Is The CMS?

Matt McGrath, BBC News environmental correspondent, explains that a lot of nations track carbon emissions by estimating how much fuel they use in the different industries. However, this method is very inaccurate and often easy to cheat.

What CMS does is develop a more efficient system based on satellites and aircraft. While there are other attempts to do this, NASA’s efforts are likely the most advanced.

Now, the administration has quietly cut its funding.

Science Magazine, who broke the story on the CMS shutdown, reveals that the programs supported by the CMS are varied and far-reaching: the study of carbon contained in forests, the improvement of carbon inventories in tropical forests, and even the support of other carbon monitoring efforts.

The Effect Of The Shutdown

Kelly Sims, the director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, tells Science Magazine that the cancellation of CMS will have a negative effect on the national emission agreements that are part of Paris climate accords.

“If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” Sims points out, adding that she believes the move to kill off the CMS is “a grave mistake.”

United States officials are currently in Germany as part of the discussions in putting together a rule book for the Paris agreement.

“The cancellation of the CMS system will be seen here in Bonn [Germany] as a weakening of the chances of developing a robust and transparent emissions monitoring system — something that many see as critical in building trust for the future of the Paris climate agreement,” McGrath stresses in his report.

NASA’s ongoing grants under CMS will likely be allowed to wrap up their contracts, but there will no longer be support for brand-new research.

While research will continue with or without the CMS, Europe will likely take over the leadership with their one carbon-measuring satellite.

BBC notes that the United States’ agenda on the environment has shifted dramatically under Trump, since the president is seeking to boost the country’s fossil fuel industry. President Trump has also previously called climate change a “hoax” and cited the cold weather to prove global warming wrong.

Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)

Donald Trump says the United States is about to bomb Syria, and Russia has vowed to shoot down US aircraft with missile defenses in response. With John Bolton, the new national security adviser and infamous enemy of the United Nations by Trump’s side, diplomacy is not in the cards.

Although there has been no independent investigation, Trump is blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for an alleged chemical attack on Saturday in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, that killed 49 people.

As he did before bombing Syria with Tomahawk missiles one year ago — also in retaliation for an alleged gas attack — Trump is rushing to judgment about who was responsible. And once again, the military force that he’s threatening to use now would violate both the War Powers Resolution and the UN Charter.

Moreover, as a group of international law experts, including this writer, noted in a statement, “an act of violence committed by one government against another government, without lawful justification, amounts to the crime of aggression: the supreme international crime which carries with it the evil of every other international crime, as noted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946.”

Bombing Syria could also lead to a dangerous confrontation with Russia. Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy chairman of Russia’s upper house’s Defense Committee, said Sunday that Russia would immediately respond to US airstrikes in Syria. “A military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Both Syrian and Russian authorities denied that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Assad has already taken back from the rebels over 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta, which includes Douma, so it seems unlikely he would attack Douma. Moreover, Trump announced last week he intended to withdraw US troops from Syria. It is thus counterintuitive to conclude Assad would have launched a gas attack in Douma.

On April 6, 2017, Trump bombed Syria after declaring that Assad had used sarin gas at Khan Sheikhoun two days earlier. Assad had denied ordering the attack. But the Trump administration ignored all dissenting voices.

Assad’s responsibility for the 2017 attack has never been definitively confirmed. Indeed, on February 8, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted the United States had “no evidence” that the Assad government used Sarin against the Syrian people.

Trump said the United States is “getting clarity” and “some pretty good answers” about who was responsible for the Douma attack. But no independent investigation has yet been done.

Nonetheless, Trump has signaled that he’s about to authorize the firing of missiles at Syria. That would be illegal and potentially catastrophic.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the War Powers Resolution

The War Powers Resolution, passed by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War, permits the president to introduce US troops into hostilities or imminent hostilities only when Congress has declared war, when Congress has passed “specific statutory authorization” for the use of military force, or when there is “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

None of these three prongs is present to justify the use of military force in Syria. Congress has neither declared war nor passed legislation authorizing a US attack on Syria, and Syria has clearly not attacked the United States or US armed forces. As a result, a military attack on Syria would run afoul of the War Powers Resolution.

The Trump administration justified its 2017 bombing of Syria by citing the president’s commander-in-chief authority under Article II of the Constitution “to defend important US national interests.” But Article II gives the president power to command the US military only after Congress has authorized war pursuant to its Article I authority.

“Humanitarian intervention” is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense.

On May 22, 2017, Protect Democracy, a group of former Obama administration lawyers, filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit to make public the Trump administration’s memo detailing its legal justification for the April 2017 US military strike on Syria. Although the administration says that memo is classified, Protect Democracy has discovered that the classified portion can be easily redacted. However, the administration refuses to make the memo public. On Monday, Protect Democracy filed an emergency motion for release of the memo in light of the “potentially imminent military action” in Syria.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the UN Charter

Even if an attack by Trump on Syria did not violate the War Powers Resolution, it would still violate the United Nations Charter. The United States has ratified the Charter, making it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states that treaties shall be the supreme law of the land.

The Charter says that countries “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

A country can mount a military attack against another country in self-defense after an armed attack or if the Security Council has authorized it. Neither has occurred in this case.

Syria has not attacked the United States or any other country. “The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States,” according to international law expert Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell.

Nor has the Council granted the United States license to use military force against Syria. Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, called for compliance with resolution 2401, passed on February 24, 2018, in which the Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities to enable humanitarian assistance and medical evacuation. Resolution 2401 ends by stating that the Security Council “Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.” That means the Council — and only the Council — has legal authority to order any measures, forceful or otherwise.

Any military attack that Trump would launch against Syria would therefore violate the Charter. In fact, under Article 51, Assad would have a valid self-defense claim in the event the United States initiated an armed attack on Syria. Russia could also mount airstrikes in collective defense of Syria.

In a tweet, Trump decried the “humanitarian disaster” created by the gas attack in Syria. But “humanitarian intervention” is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense or with Security Council approval. Neither is present in this case.

Bombing Syria Could Lead to a Dangerous Confrontation With Russia

CNN Turk reported that a US Navy destroyer — the USS Donald Cook — armed with 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles is now located off the coast of Syria. A Navy source confirmed that report to the Washington Examiner, saying the destroyer “got underway in the eastern Mediterranean within range of Syria Monday.”

Russian leaders warned that any use of military force by the United States would have “grave repercussions.”

Last month, Russian government officials threatened to respond with military force if Trump were to attack Syria and thereby endanger the lives of Russian soldiers stationed there. “In the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles,” Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov warned.

What Should Be Done?

The Security Council met on Tuesday but could not agree on a resolution. Russia vetoed a US-prepared draft that would create a mechanism to assign responsibility for chemical attacks. The United States vetoed a Russian-drafted resolution that would have required investigators to report their findings to the Council, which would in turn assign responsibility.

But Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, declared that the United States would act against Assad, with or without the United Nations.

There is already an established body that has launched an investigation into the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with support from Russia and Syria, is gathering and analyzing data from all available sources. OPCW’s Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, is preparing to deploy a fact-finding mission team to Douma to investigate.

Immediately after Trump announced that the US bombing of Syria was imminent, Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, wrote on Facebook, “Smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory.”

Zakharova added, “By the way, were the OPCW inspectors warned that smart missiles will destroy all evidence of chemical weapons use on the ground? Or the whole idea is to quickly cover up the traces of provocation through the smart missiles, so the international inspectors have nothing to look for as evidence?”

There are several alternatives to bombing or attacking Syria. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has proposed a four-point plan, which includes full US support for the OPCW investigation; a congressional vote against any further US military action in Syria; a meeting between the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States to revive international negotiations toward a diplomatic solution; and the United States promptly increasing its settlement of Syrian refugees.

Dueling US and Russian airstrikes in Syria would exacerbate regional conflict and could lead inexorably to a global war.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Trump Is a Dangerous Idiot. So Why Are We Pushing Him Toward War?

There’s a big conference going on at the moment in Brussels, where the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy – a group of journos, pols, and intelligence vets from around the West – is holding a conference to discuss how to rebuild the world order in a “time of distrust.”

Speakers like Madeline Albright, Senator Chris Murphy, New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and a host of other CNN panelist types are getting together to discuss how to solve that whole “The people are revolting!” problem Beltway pols have been stumbling over for years now.

The Alliance is part of the German Marshall Fund, which in turn is the group that built Hamilton 68, whose “digital dashboard” blacklist site exists to remind us daily that Russians are lurking behind basically all unorthodox opinions here in the U.S. Such opinions apparently include any desire to not get into a nuclear war.

For instance, according to Hamilton 68, five of the Russian bots’ current six “top trending topics” are “South Korea,” “Kim Jong Un,” “Kim,” “Jong” and “Un.”

This comes in the wake of Thursday evening’s news that Trump met in the White House with South Korean envoys, who in turn announced that Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong Un “by May, to achieve permanent de-nuclearization.”

I stupidly thought it was good news that Trump had been convinced to sit down with Kim Jong Un to negotiate an end to the nuclear standoff, as opposed to letting him continue to egg Kim on to launchvia Freudian name-calling sessions and late-night tweets.

Obviously, whenever Donald Trump is involved in any meeting of import, and particularly a peace negotiation, it would be preferable to have him gagged, perhaps with the straitjacket-and-mask setup they used to allow Hannibal Lecter to speak with Senator Ruth Martin in Silence of the Lambs. Certainly you don’t want him making any sudden movements toward the nuclear football in a meeting with Kim. But talking is for sure better than trading warheads. Right?

Nope. According to David Ignatius, the well-known Washington Postreporter who apparently is also on the board of this Alliance For Securing Democracy, Trump’s negotiation plan is a sign of weakness.

Ignatius wrote as much in a column this morning called “Trump is Wile E. Coyote,” in which the Post writer relayed that his CIA buddies think Trump is getting pantsed by Little Rocket Man. Here’s the lede:

“Beep beep” was the subject line of an email message I received a few weeks ago from former CIA analyst Robert Carlin, as Kim Jong Un was accelerating his diplomatic charm offensive. “So typical,” wrote Carlin in his brief text. “The North Koreans as Road Runner, the U.S. as Wile E. Coyote.”

So to recap: Russian bots are pushing Korean peninsula-related hashtags, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, whose board member David Ignatius is simultaneously telling America that negotiating an end to an unprecedented nuclear danger there makes us look like loser cartoon characters.

As Ignatius wrote: “We’ll probably be chasing Kim around a negotiating table for a while, which is better than ‘duck and cover.’ But as Carlin says, ‘Beep beep.'”

I wrote to Ignatius to ask him what would be good, if negotiating an end to a nuclear standoff is bad. He hasn’t answered.

While the Trump White House has been fumbling to coordinate a response to the whole “The President of the United States apparently cheated on his wife with a porn star and then paid her off” problem, and fighting off the anaconda-like Mueller criminal probe, Trump’s political opposition has been spending more and more time pushing our president into aggressive military stances.

Continuing a theme that really began last year with Trump’s much-praised decision to lob missiles into Syria while eating cake with horrified Chinese leaders, Beltway voices continue to demand, for instance, that Trump escalate America’s on-the-ground opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Both Ignatius and Kenneth Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute are examples of think-tankers arguing the widespread D.C. consensus, that Syria is the perfect place for American forces to dig in and take on Iran, Assad, and by extension Russia as well.

Americans seem to be in denial about the tinderbox nature of this lunatic Syrian situation.

Things took a serious turn in early February, when a mysterious news story suggested Russian contract fighters were killed by American weapons in a town called Deir al-Zour. The incident reportedly happened on the night of February 7th, as part of a counterattacking raid conducted across the Euphrates River by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

News outlets in both the east and the west seriously buried the lede when this incident first took place. The BBC and the AP were classic examples. This was the second-to-last line in the BBC’s February 8th article: The Russian defense ministry said the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government volunteers

What? Were any of those “wounded” by our strike Russians? Were they planning to retaliate? What was going on?

The Russians similarly downplayed the incident at first. There were reports from the Russian government that first suggested “five Russian citizens” had died. That later became dozens “injured.”

Then on February 14th, Novaya Gazeta, historically the most trustworthy and independent of Russian news outlets, ran a piece called “Mistake or Treason?” that asserted 13 Russians had died that night. The paper claimed Russian officials let private Russian “Wagner” contract fighters join pro-Assad forces in a troop advance Russian military leaders had assured their American counterparts would not take place.

Novaya Gazeta said the Russians died under fire from Apache helicopters, F-15s, drones, and ground batteries. There were later rumors that the casualties were in the hundreds, but subsequent investigations by outlets like Der Spiegel failed to bear that out.

Still, the mere fact that Russian citizens were killed by American forces in an ongoing proxy war that both sides seem determined to escalate should be absolutely terrifying to ordinary citizens here and there – especially given that aggressive rhetoric is at an all-time high, again on both sides.

Vladimir Putin recently gave a frightening speech in advance of the March 18 presidential “election” in which he spent most of his time boasting about the size, modernity, and potency of Russia’s military.

Pooty-poot boasted of new “unlimited range” nuclear missiles. He paused mid-speech to show a pulled-straight-from-Dr.-Strangeloveanimated clip of a missile weaving through snow-covered mountains on its way to the American continent (the presentation ended up including simulated explosions over Florida).

“Nobody in the world has anything like this,” Putin bragged.

Meanwhile here in the States we’ve had a constant drumbeat of “new Pearl Harbor” stories describing the troll farm indictment as an “act of war,” with politicians and pundits alike calling for escalations of hostilities with Russia.

Putin’s boasts are completely in line with what he’s always been about, using nationalist rhetoric and military imagery to cover up his almost total incompetence as an economic leader. He’s just the latest in a long line of Russian heads of state, dating back to the Soviet days, who reflexively tries to cover up for empty shelves and crumbling infrastructure with marches and missile parades.

Meanwhile, in the States, the only thing about Donald Trump that any sane person ever had to be grateful for was that he entered the White House claiming to be isolationist and war-averse. That soon proved to be a lie like almost everything else about his campaign, but Jesus, do we have to help this clown down the road toward General Trump fantasies?

We have the dumbest, least competent White House in history. Whatever else anyone in America has as a goal for Trump’s remaining time in office, the single most important goal must to be keeping this guy away from the nuclear button. Almost anything else would be survivable.

Which is why it makes no sense to be taunting Trump and basically calling him a wuss for negotiating with Kim Jong Un or being insufficiently aggressive in Syria. In the middle of a shooting conflict, our troops are currently stationed right across the river from large numbers of both private and official Russian forces. Who doesn’t think this is crazy?

The rhetoric we’re hearing now about Trump’s weakness from the likes of Ignatius and Max Boot is essentially identical to the stuff we heard directed at Barack Obama when he had the temerity to express willingness to talk to leaders of nations like Iran.

There is a segment of D.C. thinkluencers who seem to think the U.S. is setting a bad precedent if it doesn’t bomb and threaten its way through every foreign policy conundrum, from Libya to Yemen to Iran to Syria to, apparently, even Russia.

It seems like the smart thing to do would be to wait until we had someone with an IQ over 9 in office before we start demanding that the White House play war with nuclear opponents. Of course, I might be biased because I have kids and live in a major population center. Can we chill on the gunboat diplomacy for a couple of years at least? And if not, why not?

Climate change skeptics run the Trump administration

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/07/trump-climate-change-deniers-443533

Agencies including the USDA, CIA, DHS and HUD have leaders who have expressed sentiments at odds with the warnings of the government’s own climate researchers.

Sonny Perdue is pictured. | Getty Images
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s top advisers include a former talk radio host who has dismissed much climate research as “junk science.” | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is filling the upper ranks of his administration with appointees who share his disbelief in the scientific evidence for climate change — giving them an opportunity to impose their views on policies ranging from disaster planning to national security to housing standards.

At the Interior Department, decisions about Pacific island territories threatened by rising seas are in the hands of an assistant secretary who has criticized “climate alarmists” for “once again predicting the end of the world as we know it.” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s top advisers include a former talk radio host who has dismissed much climate research as “junk science.” Trump’s nominee to head research and technology at the Department of Transportation claimed three years ago that global warming had “stopped” — a position at sharp odds with the findings of federal agencies like NASA.

Trump has chosen at least 20 like-minded people to serve as agency leaders and advisers, according to a POLITICO review of his appointees’ past statements on climate science. And they are already having an impact in abandoning former President Barack Obama’s attempt to help unite the world against the threat of rising sea levels, worsening storms and spreading droughts.

Most famously, the president and his team have scrubbed mentions of climate change from government websites, kicked scientists off advisory boards, repudiated the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas regulations and made the U.S. the only nation on Earth to reject the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming.

More quietly, Trump’s White House excluded rising temperatures from the list of threats in its December national security strategy, contradicting the approach of both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Last year, just before Hurricane Harvey drowned Houston, the White House rescinded requirements that projects built with federal dollars take into account the way warming temperatures might intensify extreme weather.

People worried about the consequences of climate change say a government that denies the problem is courting danger.

“The analogy could be if somebody’s got a heart problem or high cholesterol, you take medicine that helps manage that so you can avoid a heart attack,” said Ana Unruh Cohen, the government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Trump taking that away, saying, ‘Forget it, I don’t believe I have high cholesterol,’ is setting up the country for a heart attack.”

Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, found the trend worrying as well.

Many administration officials “don’t seem to believe climate change is real, or if they believe climate change is real, there’s this sort of attitude that there’s not much to do about it or it’s not caused by human actions,” said Mathur, whose AEI colleagues also include people who question the extent of man-made climate change. As a result, she said, the U.S. is falling behind countries that are taking action on the problem.

The doubts are coming from both prominent and little-known Trump appointees, in ways both obscure and subtle.

Some have expressed doubt that the Earth is warming at all, speculated that the trend might be good for humans, or said it’s just impossible to know how much of a role humans and their pollution are playing. All these statements fly in the face of findings by the government’s own research agencies and the vast majority of climate scientists.

“There are scientists that think lots of different things about climate change,” then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), now Trump’s CIA director, said on C-SPAN in 2013. “There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.” Pompeo dodged the issue in his confirmation hearing last year, saying he would “prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science.”

When he was running for president, HUD Secretary Ben Carson scoffed at the idea that strong evidence for human-caused climate change even exists. “I know there are a lot of people who say ‘overwhelming science,’ but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming science they never can show it,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015.

Few have been as publicly outspoken on the issue as Trump, who more than once has dismissed human-caused climate change as a “hoax” and claimed in January that polar ice isn’t melting.

The White House sought to strike a somewhat more moderate tone in a statement to POLITICO on Monday, which said that “the climate has changed and is always changing. The Administration supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate.” The statement from principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah added that “the development of modern and efficient infrastructure … will reduce emissions and enable us to address future risks, including climate related risks.”

Some of the administration’s climate skeptics have already come and gone.

Former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who had criticized the “allegedly ‘settled science’ of global warming” as a member of Congress, resigned in September amid criticism of his expensive travels on government and private planes. Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump’s pick to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, withdrew her nomination earlier this year after she stirred criticism with a long list of controversial statements, including calling the human role in climate change “very uncertain.”

Another unsuccessful nominee, former talk radio host and political science professor Sam Clovis, had to pull out of the running to be USDA’s chief scientist after critics noted that he has no science credentials — but he remains a top adviser to Perdue. Clovis dismissed much climate research as “junk science” in a 2014 interview, adding that “a lot of this global warming … is really about income redistribution from rich nations that are industrialized to nations that are not.”

Brent Fewell, a conservative environmental lawyer who was an EPA water official under Bush, suggested that some of these officials may privately acknowledge that man-made climate change is real. But he added: “A lot of people on the political right are uninformed about the issue. For whatever reason, it’s a lot easier to simply agree with the prominent voices in the political party.”

The upshot is the same, however: a 180-degree reversal from Obama’s efforts to make the U.S. a leader in addressing the causes and consequences of a warming planet.

The EPA is leading the charge by withdrawing or weakening a host of climate regulations, including a 2015 rule that would have sped the electric power industry’s shift away from coal-fired energy. Trump has also approved tariffs for solar panel imports, which will make it harder for green energy to compete with fossil fuels. Agencies have sought to cancel rules meant to limit the oil and gas industry’s methane pollution — another major greenhouse gas source — and are reconsidering tougher standards for vehicles, too.

The Energy Department has proposed regulatory changes to prop up coal plants that can’t compete in the market, while the White House is seeking buyers for U.S. coal and gas exports.

When Trump’s critics seek to challenge these actions in court, the government’s defense will be run by the Justice Department — an agency whose leader, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said during a 2015 Senate hearing that carbon dioxide is “really not a pollutant.”

“It’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases,” Sessions said.

Some agencies are still continuing to study climate change and factor their findings into their policy decisions. But even there, career staffers may not talk about their work as openly as they once did, and the agencies seldom showcase it the way they did during the Obama years.

Much of the alarm among Trump’s critics focuses on EPA, which has replaced dozens of scientists on its key advisory boards with industry or state representatives, and has found other ways to keep researchers from contradicting the administration’s message. Last fall, the agency canceled an appearance by three EPA scientists scheduled to speak about climate change at a Narragansett Bay conference. Both EPA and the Energy Department have given extra scrutiny to grant proposals with the words “climate change,” and in the case of EPA, it has put a political appointee in charge of signing off on them, The Washington Post has reported.

All this is in line with the public statements of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has suggested that global warming might be a good thing and has spoken about holding a public debate on whether climate change is real.

“Right out of the gate … the administration took any and all mention of climate change off of the White House website,” said Jacob Carter, a research scientist who has been tracking the administration’s treatment of science for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It seems like the administration is really trying to undo a lot of the scientific process as a whole and get experts out of the way.”

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which has studied the purging and rewording of climate-related documents on government websites, reported at the end of 2017 that it had found a “significant loss of public access to information about climate change.”

The State Department’s website took down links related to the Paris climate agreement, EPA removed a student’s guide to climate change, and the Energy Department got rid of the words “clean energy” on a page with information for investors and businesses looking for projects with national laboratories.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy development on federal land, cut text about the effects of climate change. Some of the resources are still technically available in archives or in new locations, but they are harder to find because the government sites don’t directly link to them, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative says.

“It’s not alarming the public because it’s very hard to see each incremental thing,” said Andrew Bergman, a co-author of the report.

Some Trump appointees have downplayed the idea that agency leaders’ personal views about climate change are critical to making policy, suggesting they can still respond to global warming’s effects without addressing why it’s happening.

“We continue to take seriously climate change — not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” Tom Bossert, the president’s homeland security adviser, told reporters after last year’s spree of catastrophic hurricanes that ravaged Houston, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Sarah Hunt, who works in energy policy at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, said that “policymaker views on climate science needn’t have any bearing on their support for conservative clean energy policies that spur the innovation we need to reduce emissions and promote environmental stewardship while we grow our economy.”

But Trump’s actions have reflected his views on the science. For example, one of his early executive orders in March 2017 eliminated a number of ways agencies had been required to consider climate change, including in environmental reviews for infrastructure projects.

Still, some agencies have continued to issue major reports that warn that climate change is a real and growing problem — even as the president’s staffers push the message that the science is uncertain.

In November, the government’s 13-agency National Climate Assessment concluded that humans have pushed global temperatures to their highest level in modern times. In January, NASA published data showing that last year was the second-warmest on record, and noted that temperature rises are “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.”

Trump’s nominee to run the space agency, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), criticized “climate change alarmists” on the House floor in 2013 and claimed that “global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.” (In fact, they haven’t.) At his confirmation hearing last year, he acknowledged that humans are a cause of climate change but wouldn’t call them the main cause.

“That is a question that I do not have an answer to,” he said.

How the Trump Administration Has Impacted the Environment Since the 2016 Election

Since his inauguration, on January 20, President Donald Trump and his administration have made many decisions that impact the environment, climate change, and energy. Some measures have repealed Obama-era policies, some opened reviews of existing rulings, and some approved controversial pending construction. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the Trump administration has “sought to reverse more than 50 environmental rules.” Of these, 25 rules have been overturned, 19 rollbacks are in progress, and eight rollbacks are in limbo.

Notable changes include Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, approving the Dakota and KeyStone XL pipelines, signing an executive order that called for the review of protected land (leaving 10 major sites vulnerable), reviewing national marine sanctuaries protected by the federal government, and efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Heading the Environmental Protection Agency is Trump appointee Scott Pruitt, who recently barred some scientists from advising the group.

Here are some highlights of other significant changes — some lesser known — taken thus far in the Trump presidency.

His administration ended the “stream protection rule.”

  Before leaving office, one of the last environmental regulations passed by the Obama administration is the Department of the Interior’s “stream protection rule.” In February, the Trump administration passed a joint resolution in Congress to end the regulation, which was meant to restrict coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways and, in turn, protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over two decades.

In other waterway news, a 2015 rule limiting toxic discharge from coal-fired power plants into public waterways, slated to be implemented in 2018, was postponed by the government until 2020.

Rules about reporting methane emissions were called into question.

A relatively new rule mandated oil and gas companies to report how much methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, their sites emit. Back in March, Republican officials from 11 states wrote to Scott Pruitt asking for the ruling to be revoked. They called the rule “burdensome” and said the cost of the information request would be “enormous.”

Pruitt allowed for the continued use of chlorpyrifos.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was looking into a potentially toxic chemical called chlorpyrifos. The controversial pesticide has been linked to lower birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders, and a higher incidence of autism in children. It is an endocrine disrupter, which can cause “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects,” and high exposures in humans can result in respiratory paralysis and death. It was banned from residential use in consumer products in 2000, but a decade-old petition calling for the EPA to ban the pesticide was rejected by Pruitt on the grounds of requiring more research into the chemical’s effects.

Offshore oil and gas drilling has been made easier.

Parts of the Atlantic coast and much of the water around Alaska were protected from offshore oil and gas drilling under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Trump repealed the policy in an executive order, known as the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, making millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing.

After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, safety regulations were implemented to prevent similar disasters. A review of the safety rules, ordered by Trump, is ongoing. To make matters worse, the Trump administration is taking steps to allow five oil and gas companies to use seismic air guns — which can injure and kill marine life, including whales, dolphins, and turtles – to survey the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Rules about fishing limits were cancelled.

The mile-long nets cast along the U.S. West Coast to capture swordfish manage to catch more than just the fish: Some endangered sea animals get caught in nets. A 2015 proposal offering a limit on the number of animals that can be killed or injured by swordfish gill-net fishery off the coast of California and Oregon offered a solution. But it was canceled under the Trump administration.

Fuel efficiency standards are up for review.

In the 1970s, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were put into place after an oil crisis. Under the Obama administration, the CAFE standards called for cars and light-duty trucks to have the average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — a standard previously agreed upon by automakers. The Trump administration has opened a review of greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years between 2022 and 2025.

Related: How to Fight Climate Change, as Explained by Al Gore

TRUMP MOVES THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK CLOSER TO MIDNIGHT

Jessica Sleight | 

This morning the Doomsday Clock was moved forward to 2 minutes and 30 seconds to midnight.

Created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 to convey the urgent threat nuclear weapons pose — other threats such as climate change are now also taken into account — the clock represents how close humankind is to destroying our world. The stroke of midnight is the end of humanity.

Last year, the clock remained at 3 minutes. Today, it moves half a minute closer — the closest to midnight it’s been since 1953.

The Bulletin cited two troubling concerns in their decision: the growing disregard for scientific expertise and the “cavalier and reckless language” used around the globe, particularly during the U.S. presidential election.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: Donald Trump, a man who appeared to have called for a new nuclear arms raceand has failed to show an ounce of restraint from the election to the White House, now has the absolute authority to launch a nuclear attack. Thousands of nuclear weapons can be fired within 15 minutes of Trump ordering a strike. He doesn’t need permission from Congress, his Cabinet, or anyone else to start a nuclear war.

Just one nuclear weapon has the ability to flatten cities and kill hundreds of thousands of people. The power to launch one, let alone thousands, of these weapons should never be in the hands of one individual. It’s past time for change.

The framers of the Constitution granted Congress the power to declare war to ensure the decision is not subject to the whims of one individual. The president’s autonomy in deciding to launch a nuclear weapons — a move that would constitute a major act of war — violates that power.

Enter Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Edward Markey. This week, they introduced legislation (“Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017,” H.R. 669 & S.200) that would prevent Trump, or any individual, from single-handedly initiating a nuclear first-strike.

The law would require a declaration of war by Congress and explicit authorization of nuclear use before the president could order a first-use nuclear strike. In other words, it would take away Trump’s unchecked authority to launch weapons of mass destruction.

Implementation of this bill will immediately make us safer from destruction of our own making.

We have the power to save the world from a thin-skinned, reckless president. But we must act now to roll back the Doomsday Clock before it’s too late.

Show your support: Sign the petition calling on Congress to make it illegal for Trump, and any future president, to unilaterally trigger nuclear war.

sign the petition now

https://www.globalzero.org/blog/trump-moves-doomsday-clock-closer-midnight?gclid=Cj0KCQjwprbPBRCHARIsAF_7gDa-Lw6b7Nk-gfuTtR82HZ-gbWXList74BXCaZE4Q0f0tykSMAOlKzIaAg0MEALw_wcB

Donald Trump Has History of Contradictory Statements on Nuclear Weapons

Campaign Flashback: Trump’s 2016 Nuclear Weapons Stance1:45

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. drastically increase its nuclear arsenal follows a presidential campaign in which he made a number of contradictory statements about weapons of mass destruction.

As a candidate, he called nuclear proliferation the “single biggest threat” facing the world while also suggesting Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons as a defense. During one debate he ruled out a “first strike” but in the same breath said he would not take anything off the table.

Related: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military

His desire to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities nearly tenfold, voiced during a meeting with top national security leaders in July, came as North Korea continued to escalate nuclear tensions with more weapons tests.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has been fairly consistent in calling for the modernization of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s how Trump has talked about nuclear weapons since launching his presidential run and entering the White House.

Trump Claims to Have Ordered the Modernization of the Country’s Nuclear Weapons

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

As a Candidate, He Criticized the Country’s Nuclear Arsenal as Outdated

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump Has Given A Variety of Answers on Using Nuclear Weapons

  • “I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.” — Presidential DebateSept. 26, 2016
  • “I don’t want to rule out anything. I will be the last to use nuclear weapons. It’s a horror to use nuclear weapons. The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has.” — TODAY, April 28, 2016
  • “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame.” — Interview with The New York Times, July 21, 2016
  • “Nuclear should be off the table, but would there be a time when it would be used? Possibly. Possibly. … I would be the last one to use the nuclear weapons. Because that’s sort of like the end of the ballgame. … I’m not going to use nukes, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.” — Town Hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, March 30, 2016
  • “Well, it is an absolute last stance. And, you know, I use the word unpredictable. You want to be unpredictable.” — Interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Jan. 3, 2016
  • “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.” —Interview with GQ, Nov. 23, 2015

He Has Called Nuclear Proliferation the “Greatest Threat” Facing the U.S.

  • “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” — Interview with The New York Times, March 26, 2016
  • “Our single biggest problem we have is nuclear weapons, you know, countries with them.” — Town Hall on Fox News, March 3, 2016
  • “The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear — nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” — Republican Presidential Debate, Dec. 15, 2015

But He Has Also Suggested Japan, South Korea and Even Saudi Arabia Should Have Them

  • As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century. All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.” — Presidential Debate, Oct. 19, 2016

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: But — but you’re ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to — if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, “Oh, wow, that’s fantastic,” they have many, many times — you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it’s not really for us. We’re defending other countries.

So all I’m saying is this: They have to pay.

And you know what? I’m prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don’t — if they don’t take care of us properly, if they don’t respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what’s going to have to happen, Wolf?

It’s very simple. They’re going to have to defend themselves.

— Interview on CNN, May, 4, 2016

CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER: So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have …

COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon.

Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

— CNN Town Hall, March 29, 2016

Trump Even Said He Would Not Take Using a Nuclear Bomb in Europe Off the Table

  • “Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. Now, our capability is going down rapidly because of what we’re doing. It’s in bad shape. The equipment is not properly maintained. There are all lot of talk about that. And that’s a bad thing, not a good thing. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don’t want to take anything off the table. We have to negotiate. There will be times maybe when we’re going to be in a very deep, very difficult, very horrible negotiation. The last person — I’m not going to take it off the table. And I said it yesterday. And I stay with it.” — Interview on Fox News, March 31, 2016

In Iran and North Korea, Trump Is Playing With Nuclear Fire

Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during an Anti-US protest after Donald Trump's UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Iranian protesters hold banners and shout slogans during a protest after Donald Trump’s UN speech against Iran, at the Tehran University campus in Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2017. (Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which spearheaded a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The significance of this award cannot be underestimated.

Donald Trump’s bombastic and frightening threats against North Korea and Iran may portend a catastrophic attack that could impact the entire world.

The US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing 210,000 people. During the week following the bombings, thousands of survivors experienced a unique combination of symptoms, Susan Southard wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

Their hair fell out in large clumps, their wounds secreted extreme amounts of pus, and their gums swelled and bled. Purple spots appeared on their bodies, signs of hemorrhaging beneath the skin. Infections ravaged their internal organs. Within a few days of the onset of symptoms, many people lost consciousness, mumbled deliriously and died in extreme pain; others languished for weeks before either dying or slowly recovering.

In the face of Trump’s nuclear threats, the danger the world faces is immeasurable.

Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, more than 120 countries approved the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which requires ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also prohibits the transfer of, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Fifty-three countries officially signed the treaty, and three have already ratified it, which makes them parties to the accord. Ninety days after 50 countries ratify it, the treaty will enter into force.

However, the five original nuclear-armed countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — boycotted the treaty negotiations and the voting. North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, which also have nuclear weapons, refrained from participating in the final vote as well. In October 2016, during negotiations, North Korea had voted for the treaty.

The State Department issued a statement saying, “The United States does not support and will not sign the [treaty].”

Trump Threatens to Blow Up the Iran Deal

Meanwhile, Trump is moving the world closer to nuclear war, threatening North Korea with destruction and attempting to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran. The day before the new treaty was concluded, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked; that amounted to a threat to commit genocide.

Peace prize historian Oeivind Stenersen said the Nobel committee intended “to send a signal to North Korea and the US that they need to go into negotiations. The prize is also coded to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran deal is embodied in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It rescinded the punishing US and international sanctions on Iran, amounting to billions of dollars of relief. In return, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must determine every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether it still serves US interests. The next 90-day period ends on October 15. Trump will reportedly refuse to certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement on October 12, in spite of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency’s finding that Iran is in compliance.

If Trump refuses to certify that Iran is compliant with the JCPOA or determines the agreement is not in the national interest, Congress will then have 60 days to act. If Congress reimposes sanctions, it would likely cause the JCPOA to unravel. Iran would then proceed with a program to develop nuclear weapons.

The White House has signaled that Trump will urge Congress not to reimpose sanctions, but rather hopes Congress will pass new legislation beyond the scope of the original deal. “If Congress complies, such unilateral action to change a multilateral agreement will effective kill it,” Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs and US lead negotiator for the JCPOA, wrote in The New York Times.

Moreover, if Trump’s actions scuttle the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to North Korea that the United States cannot be trusted to abide by its multilateral agreements.

Both Trump’s threats against North Korea and his undermining of the JCPOA could lead to nuclear war.

US Violates Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states to refrain from acquiring them. In 2005, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the Institute for Public Accuracy, “The US government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice stated in an advisory opinion, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” But the nuclear powers have ignored that decision.

And in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which established a weapons-of mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, Israel maintains a formidable nuclear arsenal.

“The nuclear weapons states, governed by political realists, basically have no trust in law or morality when it comes to national security,” international law expert Richard Falk wrote, “but base their faith in the hyper-rationality of destructive military power, which in the nuclear age is expressed in the arcane idiom of deterrence, an idea more transparently known in the Cold War Era as Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD!!).”

Indeed, Trump is planning a $1 trillion rebuilding of the US nuclear weapons program.

Only the US Has Used Nuclear Weapons

The United States is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons. On the day of the Hiroshima bombing, 19-year-old Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of his house helping his father prepare it for demolition when he saw a huge fireball coming at him. He heard a deafening explosion and felt a searing pain throughout his body. It felt as if boiling water had been poured over him. His chest and right arm were totally burned. Pieces of his flesh fell from his body like ragged clothing. The pain was unbearable. Shinji was three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the bomb. He survived, but most of his family perished.

Shinji’s daughter, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising From the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness, told a Veterans for Peace Convention that 99 percent of those who were outdoors at the time of the blast died immediately or within 48 hours.

This should serve as a cautionary note to Trump — and Congress — that there is no trifling with nuclear weapons.

“The Calm Before the Storm”

Yet during a photo opportunity he staged with military leaders after meeting with them to discuss North Korea and Iran, Trump issued an ominous warning:

“You guys know what this represents? … Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

What storm?

“You’ll find out.”

Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, told The Hill that Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal “will trigger a process that very likely will lead to the collapse of the deal.”

Parsi said on Democracy Now!, “The buzz here is that there’s going to be a very significant ramping up, an escalation, in the region against Iran, potentially including shooting down Iranian airplanes, sinking Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, targeting Iranian troops or Iranian-allied troops in Iraq and in Syria.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are reportedly counseling Trump to certify that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

But Trump has consistently criticized the Iran deal, probably because it was concluded on Barack Obama’s watch and Israel is dead set against it.

In any event, Trump is playing with fire — nuclear fire — in both North Korea and Iran. We must pressure the White House and Congress members alike, and hope that cooler heads prevail. The stakes are unbearably high.

Trump’s Ominous “Calm Before the Storm” Comment Sparks Fear of Impending War

 Donald Trump (center), national security advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House chief of staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump (center), National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (left), White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (second left) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right) attend a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A White House official referred to Trump’s comment as “trolling.”

During a photo-op ahead of a dinner with high-ranking military officials and their spouses Thursday night, President Donald Trump made a “foreboding” remark that immediately provoked fears that the United States could launch yet another war.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters gathered in the State Dining Room. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.”

When asked by reporters to explain, Trump refused, saying: “You’ll find out.”

Watch:

 

TRUMP: “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

REPORTER: “What storm Mr. President?”
TRUMP: “You’ll find out.” (via Satellite News)

The comment came following a meeting between Trump and military leaders, during which both Iran and North Korea were reportedly discussed.

Regarding North Korea, Trump said military officials are prepared to provide him “a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace.”

And as the Washington Post first reported on Thursday, Trump is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear accord some time next week — a move critics are denouncing as a step in the direction of military conflict.

Commentators and lawmakers immediately expressed alarm at the president’s cryptic comments.

This is NOT something a normal, stable Commander in Chief says, especially in the middle of a nuclear crisis with North Korea.  https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

This is beyond irresponsible. Trump’s triggering widespread panic — and he seems perfectly okay with it. This alone = impeach. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656 

Following Trump’s remarks, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) urged his colleagues to support his bill that would bar the president from launching a nuclear first strike without congressional approval.

Freaked out? Support HR 669 by Sen @EdMarkey & me. Bill prohibits @POTUS from launching nuclear 1st strike without Congressional approval. https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/916089355281862656