Perry backers secured lucrative Ukraine gas deal after his meeting with new president: report
By John Bowden November 11, 2019
Two political backers of Energy Secretary Rick Perry landed a lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from Ukraine’s government shortly after Perry reportedly included one of the two men in a list of suggested potential advisers to Ukraine’s new president, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reported Monday that Michael Bleyzer was among four names Perry had recommended to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Bleyzer and partner Alex Cranberg later got a contract to drill for oil and gas despite despite offering a bid that was lower than their only other competitor, the AP reported citing internal Ukrainian government documents.
The contract was awarded to Bleyzer and Cranberg because they were deemed as having better technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the AP also reported, citing the documents.
A major GOP donor, Bleyzer supported Perry’s unsuccessful 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. He is based in Perry’s home state of Texas.
He told the AP in a statement that Perry’s conversations with Ukraine’s government “did not play any role in Ukrainian Energy winning its bid” in the country and added that the process “will hopefully serve as an example of how the Ukrainian energy market can be opened for new investments.”
A spokesperson for the Energy Department denied to The Hill that Perry advocated for any specific U.S. figures or business interests during his conversations with Ukraine’s government.
“Throughout his tenure, Secretary Perry has championed the American energy industry all over the world. As previously stated, throughout his engagements with Ukrainian officials Secretary Perry has consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kyiv’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine,” said spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes.
“He delivered that same message during his visit to Ukraine for the Inauguration of President Zelenskyy [sic]. What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” she added.
The awarding of a contract to a Perry political ally in Ukraine comes as President Trump’s own conversation with Ukraine’s president about opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden has become central to the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Perry has refused to turn over documents related to his interactions with Ukraine as part of the Trump administration’s policies, as requested by a House subpoena.
Despite crisis, Trump threatens to pull federal aid for California
A melted basketball hoop is seen in a clearing after the Loma fire tore along a ridge top on Sept. 27, 2016 near Morgan Hill, Calif. Photo by Noah Berger/AP
Nearly a year ago, Donald Trump published a tweet that appeared to include a policy pronouncement. After complaining about California’s approach to forest management – an issue he only pretends to understand – the president wrote that he’d ordered FEMA to send the Golden State “no more money.”
We later learned that the Republican’s rhetoric had no relationship with reality. There was no such order – to FEMA or any other agency – and as we discussed at the time, the president’s bluster was hollow.
All of this came to mind over the weekend, when Trump’s rhetoric took on a familiar tone.
President Donald Trump offered a vague threat to pull California’s federal aid for combating dangerous wildfires on Sunday, sparking a response from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as the pair traded barbs through the day.
“The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management,” Trump tweeted early Sunday. “I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers. Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.”
During a brief Q&A yesterday afternoon, Trump kept the offensive going, telling reporters, in reference to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), “The governor doesn’t know – he’s like a child. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
I realize projection is a go-to move for the president, but I didn’t really expect him to bring his “no puppet” tactics to wildfire responses.
To the extent that reality has any meaning, Trump’s rhetoric didn’t make any sense. California’s latest wildfires, for example, haven’t burnt down forests. The president’s claims about water distribution were similarly wrong. Even the assertion about the Golden State getting “no more” federal aid is probably not to be taken seriously.
What I find important, however, is the bigger picture: Trump’s hostility toward the nation’s largest state has reached a ridiculous level.
In February, Politico ran a feature on “Trump’s War on California,” and it’s safe to say the problem has intensified in the nine months that followed. The White House has, after all, taken steps to revoke California’s right to set its own emissions standards, which came shortly before the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal highway funds from the state. Trump has also gone after California over homelessness in dubious ways.
The New York Times published this striking tidbit in September:
In recent months, the administration’s broader weakening of nationwide auto-emissions standards has become plagued with delays as staff members struggled to prepare legal, technical or scientific justifications for it. As a result, the White House decided to proceed with just one piece of its plan – the move to strip California of its authority to set tougher standards – while delaying its wider strategy, according to these people. […]
Mr. Trump … according to two people familiar with the matter, wanted to press forward with a policy that would punish California.
I’m just going to repeat that sentence for emphasis: “Trump … wanted to press forward with a policy that would punish California.”
It was 44 years ago this week that the New York Daily Newsran its infamous “Ford to City: Drop Dead” headline. Don’t be surprised if California headlines soon reflect a related sentiment from a different Republican president.
The number of family farms seeking bankruptcy protection grew 24% over the last year, according to an Ameican Farm Bureau Federation analysis of recent court data.
The analysis found family farm bankruptcies are rising fastest in the Northwest.
“We’ve seen low crop prices, low livestock prices for a number of years now,” said chief economist John Newton. “On the back, now, of that we have the trade war where agriculture’s been unfairly retaliated against.”
Newton monitors Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings as one measure of health for the farm economy. Chapter 12 is a kind of bankruptcy protection meant to help family farmers reorganize and keep farming.
Courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Federation
Nationwide, 580 family farms filed for bankruptcy in the 12-month period ending in September 2019. Newton considers that a sign of poor health.
“While it’s nowhere near the historical highs we saw in the ‘80s, it’s an alarming trend that continues to get worse,” he said.
Newton said farmers are also assuming record debt and taking longer to pay it back.
“I’m getting calls from farmers across the country that may not be at Chapter 12 bankruptcy point, but they’re very close to it,” he said.
Thirty-three farms in the Northwest filed for Chapter 12 protection over the time period measured. Most of them were in Idaho and Montana, but the figure includes Oregon apple farmers struck by tariffs in their major export markets.
Richard and Sydney Blaine, for example, filed for Chapter 12 protection just days after President Donald Trump signed a law this summer making it easier to access. The Family Farmer Relief Act increased the amount of debt a farmer can have —$10 million — and still qualify for Chapter 12 protection.
The 33 Northwest bankruptcies represent a 74% increase over the previous year, according to the American Farm Bureau’s analysis. The size of the increase appears large in part because the Northwest previously had fewer bankruptcy filings than some other regions, such as the Midwest.
Still, economist John Newton said each Chapter 12 bankruptcy matters.
“These are family farms,” he said. “And these are family farms that are having to restructure their debt due to tough financial conditions in agriculture.”
Because of the new bankruptcy rules, more farms could seek protection in the months ahead.
When the winners were announced at this year’s Broadcom MASTERS Competition, America’s premiere science and engineering competition for middle school students, the stage looked a little different than previous years — for the first time ever, all of the top prize winners were girls! 14-year-old Alaina Gassler won the top award, the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, while 14-year-olds Rachel Bergey, Sidor Clare, Alexis MacAvoy, and Lauren Ejiaga each took home $10,000 prizes. “With so many challenges in our world, Alaina and her fellow Broadcom MASTERS finalists make me optimistic,” says Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public, which runs the competition, and Publisher of Science News. “I am proud to lead an organization that is inspiring so many young people, especially girls, to continue to innovate.”
The Broadcom MASTERS — which stands for Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars — was founded in 2011 and aims to encourage middle school students to see how their personal passions can lead to career pathways in STEM. The competition is open to students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades; science fairs affiliated with the Society for Science & the Public nominate the top 10% of their participants, who then apply for the chance to join the national competition. This year, there was a pool of 2,348 applicants; 30 finalists were chosen, including 18 girls and 12 boys — the first time the finalists have been majority female as well.
In this blog post, we introduce you to these clever and creative Mighty Girls and their incredible projects. Their initiatives include reducing the size of blind spots in cars, creating new methods for protecting trees from an invasive insect species, studying how to build bricks on Mars, inventing a water filter that can remove heavy metals, and researching how increased ultraviolet light from ozone depletion affects plant growth. Their innovation and curiosity is sure to inspire science-loving kids everywhere!
Alaina Gassler: Making Vehicles Safer By Removing Blind Spots
Alaina Gassler’s mother hates driving their Jeep Grand Cherokee: the large A-pillar design around the windshield, which provides protection in a rollover crash, also impedes her view with blind spots. The problem piqued the curiosity of the 14-year-old from West Grove, Pennsylvania: “I started to think about how blind spots are a huge problem in all cars,” she says. Alaina knew that her solution had to be inexpensive, easily accessible, and work in different lighting conditions. She created a mount for a webcam that could be installed on the passenger side A-pillar, and 3D printed a part that allowed a projector to display the image at close range inside the car. Her invention won the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, but she’s not done yet: she’s already got plans to create a new prototype with an LCD screen, which is easier to see in bright light. “There’s so many car accidents and injuries and deaths that could have been prevented,” she says. “Since we can’t take [the pillar] out of cars, I decided to get rid of it without getting rid of it.”
Rachel Bergey: Trapping Invasive Insects to Protect Trees and Agriculture
In Rachel Bergey’s home in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, spotted lanternflies are a huge problem: “thousands of them have invaded my family’s maple trees,” she says. The invasive species, which is originally from Asia, damages trees and threatens over $18 billion worth of agricultural crops in Pennsylvania alone. One trap currently in use is sticky tape, but tape needs frequent replacement, doesn’t always catch the spotted lanternflies, and it can hurt helpful insects and even birds. As an alternative, Rachel came up with a trap made of a tinfoil dome with a tunnel that leads to insect netting: once the spotted lanternflies are inside, they can’t get out. When she tested it, “the tinfoil and netting trap… caught 103 percent more spotted lanternflies and 94 percent less other insects” than tape. Rachel won the $10,000 Lemelson Award for an invention that shows a promising solution to a real-world problem with her trap. She tells other young scientists to remember that most of science is hard work: “You don’t have to be super smart to be a scientist,” she says. “You just have to be observant… Hard work pays off.”
Sidor Clare: Making Bricks on Mars
Like many kids today, Sidor Clare is imagining a future Mars mission but one of her questions was how to build structures when the astronauts arrived. “Astronauts need sturdy building materials,” the Sandy, Utah native points out, “and it takes 9 months and a ton of money to ship materials to Mars.” She and her partner Kassie Holt decided to find a binding agent that would allow people to make bricks with regolith, Martian soil. The girls used Mars Global Simulant MGS-1, a soil mix that imitates the chemical and mechanical properties of regolith, and tried different binders, including polyester resin, polystyrene, and recycled high density polyethylene, or HDPE. The resin brick was the strongest — so strong that they had to use construction equipment to test it: “Our Mars resin brick can withstand more pressure than concrete.” Sidor won the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, which recognizes a young inventor with vision and promise. “A lot of people want to go to Mars,” she says, “and I wanted to help further that exploration.”
Lauren Ejiaga: Studying The Effects of Ozone Depletion
“I was always fascinated by nature,” Lauren Ejiaga says, so when she learned about how the thinning of the ozone layer let more ultraviolet rays through the atmosphere, she wondered how that change was affecting plant growth. The aspiring doctor from New Orleans, Louisiana decided to analyze the effects of increased UV radiation on plants, particularly UVB rays. She grew pansies in hollow growing cases that she built from plastic pipes and connectors. Each case had a filter that filtered UVA ray, UVB rays, or neither. She found that plants that got UVA radiation only lost 14% of their chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to photosynthesize, compared to her control group, while plants that got UVB radiation only lost 61% of their chlorophyll. “[Ozone depletion] affects us in more ways than what we know,” she concludes. Lauren won the $10,000 STEM Talent Award, sponsored by DoD STEM, which celebrates leadership and technical ability in STEM. She hopes to show other students that you can do science with minimal resources. “[You] don’t really need a bunch of fancy gadgets or whatever to prove that something’s happening,” she says. “They can do it in their home, their backyard. If they want to do a topic, they can go for it.”
Alexis MacAvoy: Designing Low-Cost, Eco-Friendly Water Filters
Alexis MacAvoy’s home in Hillsborough, California is near San Francisco Bay, where efforts to clean up heavy metals in the water have cost millions of dollars — a cost that could have been avoided if people had filtered their wastewater. But even today, she says, “80% of the industrial wastewater isn’t filtered whatsoever.” Activated carbon filters can effectively remove these heavy metals, and Alexis wondered if it was possible to make these filters using biowaste like coconut shells or sawdust. After testing several materials, she created filters using sawdust and walnut shells, ground to a specific mesh size and treated with sodium bicarbonate and fluoride; these filters absorbed up to 30 times more copper than a commercial filter! Alexis won the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement for her work to make it easier to keep our water clean. She hopes her win will raise public awareness of the multiple benefits of water filtration: “preserving ecosystems so that no further damage is conducted can actually benefit our health as well.”
Wild Goat in hot water for posting a photo on Twitter of himself after killing an American trophy hunter on a remote Scottish Island.
When reached for comment, the goat explained: ‘Human population growth is causing alarming levels of planetary destruction. These kind of culls are necessary for population control and environmental harm reduction’. 😂
Keystone oil pipeline leaks 383,000 gallons in North Dakota
James MacPherson, Associated Press October 31, 2019
A pumping station along the Keystone pipeline outside Cogswell, N.D. Built in 2011, this week’s major oil spill in North Dakota isn’t the pipeline’s first. UCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR/GETTY IMAGES
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in northeastern North Dakota, state regulators said Thursday.
Crews on Tuesday shut down the pipeline that carries tar sands oil from Canada through seven states after the leak was discovered, said Karl Rockeman, North Dakota’s water quality division director. It remained closed Thursday.
The Calgary, Alberta-based company formerly known as TransCanada said in a statement the leak affected about 22,500 square feet (2090.3 sq. meters) of land near Edinburg, in Walsh County.
The company and regulators said the cause was being investigated.
“Our emergency response team contained the impacted area and oil has not migrated beyond the immediately affected area,” the company said in a statement.
North Dakota regulators were notified late Tuesday night of the leak. Rockeman said some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water.
TC Energy reported an oil spill in the rural Edinburg area, about 30 miles northwest of Grafton, N.D. on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Submitted photo
Regulators have been at the site since Wednesday afternoon monitoring the spill and cleanup, he said.
Crude began flowing through the $5.2 billion pipeline in 2011. It’s designed to carry crude oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri on the way to refineries in Patoka, Illinois and Cushing, Oklahoma.
It can handle about 23 million gallons daily.
The pipeline spill and shutdown comes as the company seeks to build the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from people who fear it will harm the environment.
President Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017, after it had been rejected by the Obama administration.
Together, the massive Keystone and Keystone XL network would be about five times the length of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The original Keystone has experienced problems with spills in the past, including one in 2011 of more than 14,000 gallons (53,000 liters) of oil in southeastern North Dakota, near the South Dakota border. That leak was blamed on valve failure at a pumping station.
Another leak in 2016 prompted a week-long shutdown of the pipeline. The company estimated that just under 17,000 gallons (64,350 liters) of oil spilled onto private land during that leak. Federal regulators said an “anomaly” on a weld on the pipeline was to blame. No waterways or aquifers were affected.
In 2017, the pipeline leaked an estimated 407,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of oil onto farmland in northeastern South Dakota, in a rural area near the North Dakota border. The company had originally put the spill at about 210,000 gallons (795,000 liters).
Federal regulators said at the time the Keystone leak was the seventh-largest onshore oil or petroleum product spill since 2010. Federal investigators said the pipeline was likely damaged during installation during 2008 and may have occurred when a vehicle drove over the pipe, causing it to weaken over time.
North Dakota’s biggest spill , and one of the largest onshore spills in U.S. history, came in 2013, when 840,000 gallons (3.1 million liters) spilled from a Tesoro pipeline in the northwestern part of the state. The company spent five years and nearly $100 million cleaning it up.
The Sierra Club said the latest spill was an example of why the Keystone XL should not be built.
“We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this latest tar sands spill, but what we do know is that this is not the first time this pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last.”
The conservatism of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Right-wing socialism panic paints progressives as pinkos run amok. But these beliefs aren’t really that radical
David Masciotra October 26, 2019
Democratic Presidential Candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Getty Images/Salon)
Everyone to the left of Attila the Hun is now a socialist radical, apparently. According to the increasingly debased and perverted language of contemporary American discourse, the “far left” includes people ranging from anarchist street protesters to the executive board members of multinational corporations that express support for LGBT rights or announce “Happy Holidays” in December.
The latest bromide — boring and obfuscating as always — is that mainstream American political figures, most especially presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the four young women in Congress known as “The Squad,” are fringe lunatics arguing on behalf of ideas that they cribbed from the diary of Vladimir Lenin.
Reality is consistently stubborn and subversive toward right wing propaganda. A cursory study of history, or a functional memory, indicates that Senators Sanders and Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), along with her House colleagues Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), are merely trying to restore balance to the American experience — a balance that existed in such radical eras of the 1940’s and ‘50’s. The proposals of Warren and Sanders would make them moderates in most Western European countries, but they also reveal a streak of conservatism, if one of the ways to understand conservatism is the emphasis on the preservation of order in society, the imposition of limits and the respect for tradition in complicated, evolving societies.
Although the United States is slow to progress to the status of civilization that residents of counties like Canada, Japan and Australia take for granted, even among conservative circles, the social welfare state is not entirely foreign to American life. Similarly, ideas like Medicare for All, public universities with minimal or no tuition, and high tax rates on the wealthy are entirely faithful to the “good old days” that President Trump and his supporters seemingly long to resurrect.
After the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965, the rate of uninsured Americans plummeted below 15 percent. Unsatisfied with the existence of any American without access to quality health care, President Richard Nixon — not exactly Eugene Debs — proposed a universal health care program that would have functioned as a federal policy offering a buy-in rate closely connected to personal income. The poor would pay no premiums, whereas working class families might pay a marginal fee. Decades before Nixon beautified the Oval Office with his presence, President Truman — another militant leftist — proposed a national health care program accessible to all citizens at no cost. In the 1990’s, Senator Ted Kennedy cosponsored the legislation to create the State Children Health Insurance Program — not with a Democratic Socialist, but with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.
Fox News viewers currently collapsing into convulsions over discussion of the “Green New Deal” and enraged over environmental regulations might want to also contemplate that Richard Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Agency into law. He also signed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.
No one bothered asking Nixon the predictable and unimaginative question, “How will you pay for it?” The top marginal tax rate during his presidency was 70 percent. When he was vice president to President Dwight Eisenhower, the top marginal rate was 91 percent. By some sacred intervention, the rich were able to survive this dark period of history. John Galt never went anywhere. Ayn Rand, unfortunately, wrote many books, and, despite progressive taxation, collected hefty royalty checks on the sales.
Advocates of debt free higher education face accusations of liberal delusion. Rather than the administrators of a hippie commune, Sanders, Warren, and others are as extreme in their ideology as every Republican governor who presided over their respective states and commonwealths, along with their public university systems, in the 1950’s, ‘60’s, and ‘70’s. It was not until the 1980s that college tuition began its upward trajectory toward rates of highway robbery. Many state colleges in the middle of the 20th century charged no tuition, while many others had fees so low that students could pay semester-by-semester with the wages they earned in part time employment. The overwhelming majority of white male college students after the conclusion of World War II funded their studies with the GI bill, while white veterans who did not attend college used the government subsidy to buy their first homes.
For most of the postwar era, robust labor unions ensured that large amounts of full time workers received adequate pay for their work, using the power of collective bargaining and the threat of the strike to create conditions favorable to blue collar laborers, most of whom were low skilled and without advanced degrees. Organized labor barely exists in the private sector in 2019, leaving the debate on living wages in the hands of politicians, including those more concerned with maximizing executive compensation than fighting to guarantee that someone working 40 hours a week can afford to live in a single bedroom apartment.
The right wing, most especially Donald Trump, blusters about how illegal immigration — not corporate greed or the destruction of labor unions — is to blame for the stagnation of wages. They have convinced millions of voters that comprehensive immigration plans that include a “path to citizenship” are treasonous in theory and practice. Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of American conservatism, granted amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants while president of the United States.
Lazy journalists, milquetoast Democratic strategists, and citizens of curiosity and conscience should take note that the illuminative story of domestic politics is not how the prominence of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or the popularity of Warren and Sanders, is proof that the Democratic Party has drifted off the edge of the “far left,” but that the far right has so thoroughly succeeded in moving the country’s political culture away from the center that the moderate policies of the 1970’s now apparently resemble Fidel Castro’s revolutionary agenda.
A more helpful and truthful framework would instruct the electorate that the braver and more creative Democrats are making a valiant effort to return the United States to the more balanced and equitable policies of the past — policies that created the largest middle class in the history of the world. In other words, they are conservatives.
David Masciotra is the author of “Mellencamp: American Troubadour“(University Press of Kentucky, 2015) and the forthcoming “I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters” (Bloomsbury Publishing).