India And China Both Struggle With Deadly Pollution — But Only One Fights It


India And China Both Struggle With Deadly Pollution — But Only One Fights It

Leeza Mangaldas, Contributor           October 25, 2017

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. men play cricket amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Photo credit: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

India tops the world inn pollution-related deaths, accounting for 2.5 million of the total 9 million deaths attributed to pollution worldwide in 2015, according to a recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. China was second on the list, with 1.8 million total fatalities due to pollution.

The biggest problem: air pollution

The primary cause is air pollution. In 2015, 1.81 million or 28% of the 6.5 million air-pollution-linked deaths worldwide occurred in India. China saw 1.58 million deaths. The report illustrated that globally, air pollution accounts for twice the number of deaths than those linked to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and for nearly 15 times as many deaths as war and all forms of violence. The majority of air pollution-linked deaths are due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, respiratory tract diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

Major contributors to bad air quality include auto emissions due to increasing urban traffic congestion, fossil fuel powered heavy industry, construction, and the burning of agricultural land post harvests. policemen protect their faces with masks amid heavy smog in New Delhi (Photo credit: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Poor children are the most vulnerable

The study found that nearly 92% of pollution-related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Children face the highest risks because small exposures to chemicals even during pregnancy and in early childhood can result in lifelong disease, disability, premature death, as well as reduced learning and earning potential.

India and China are among the worst hit

According to the WHO, PM 2.5 levels should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period and 10 micrograms per cubic meter on average over a year. But in cities like Delhi and Beijing, there are days when PM 2.5 levels surge to almost 1,000, which is so high that it’s literally off the scales of many pollution monitoring devices.

PM 2.5 refers to fine particulate matter — microscopic particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, minuscule enough to be absorbed right into the lungs and blood. Sustained exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 can cause respiratory diseases like bronchitis, asthma and inflammation of the lungs, and even heart attacks and strokes. WHO. Graphic by Nick DeSantis, Forbes Staff.

India hasn’t yet seen state efforts of a scale that can revolutionize pollution control (although this Diwali, India’s Supreme Court banned the sale of fireworks in an effort to preserve air quality — despite resistance from Hindu religious groups and citizens alike). China on the other hand, woke up to its pollution problem some years ago. According to analyses of NASA satellite data, the levels of fine particulate matter got worse across India by 13% between 2010 and 2015, while China’s fell by 17%. Delhi’s average annual PM 2.5 concentrations are in the vicinity of 150 μg/m, compared to about 60 μg/m for Beijing. Overall, Delhi’s PM 2.5 tends to about three times the Beijing mean and 15 times the WHO guidelines. in India (Photo credit: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

India can learn from China

India should take a lesson out of China’s book. Both are large nations seeking to move their massive populations from poverty to wealth via industrialization. Environmental deterioration has long been the collateral damage of this process, as already experienced by most developed economies, from the United States to Japan.

But, as journalist and author of Choked: Everything You Were Afraid to Know about Pollution Pallavi Aiyar points out, for governments and citizens to begin to care about pollution as much as they do about economic growth usually requires an “inflection point.” In Beijing, she notes that this point was “the 2008 Olympics Games,” when unprecedented international attention “dragged [China’s] dirty air into the headlines, where it has stayed since.” wear masks to protect themselves from pollution in Beijing on December 19, 2016. Hospital visits spiked, roads were closed and flights cancelled as China choked under a vast cloud of toxic smog. (Photo credit: GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Pollution control initiatives in China over recent years have ranged from setting up city specific targets for air quality progress, and a vast network of air quality monitoring systems, to requiring companies to complete environmental impact assessments and punishing violators with heavy fines. Despite being a major source of energy in China, coal-fired power plants and steel factories have come under the hammer. Restrictions on vehicle ownership and usage have also been implemented, given that auto emissions are a major source of air pollution.

But making environmental protection a priority is often a long and conflicted process.

Pollution control can be profitable

Many developing Asian cities are among the most polluted in the world because of the pervasive but false belief that pollution is an inevitable and profitable part of the development process. In fact, inaction and environmental degradation come with significant costs, while solutions can fuel economic growth.

To illustrate this point, the Lancet report points out that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at $4.6 trillion per year — 6.2% of global economic output. But in the United States alone investment in pollution control has returned $200 billion each year since 1980 ($6 trillion total). Let’s hope India takes note.

This Year’s Crazy Fires, Freezes, and Floods Cost Farmers At Least $7 Billion

Mother Jones

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This Year’s Crazy Fires, Freezes, and Floods Cost Farmers At Least $7 Billion

The climate change predictions are coming true.

Tom Philpott         October 20, 2017 A farm in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, destroyed by September 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Hector Alejandro Santiago/AP Images

So far, the nation’s largest and most productive agriculture regions—the Midwestern Corn Belt—have largely escaped the most cataclysmic events of what has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for climate-related mega-disasters.

That means the price and availability of most foods have been mostly unaffected. But that’s just dumb luck—these regions are by no means immune, as the Central Valley epic, recently-ended drought, and the Midwest’s 2012 drought and 2008 and 2013 floods show.

Meanwhile, several more-minor farming regions have been hit hard this year, racking up billions of dollars in cumulative agriculture losses. Relentless recurrence of such events appears to the shape of things to come. In a 2013 peer-reviewed paper, federal researchers found that the “frequency of billion dollar mega-disasters” like the ones that hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California wine country have shown a “statistically significant increasing trend” of about 5 percent annually over the past several decades.

South Carolina lost 90 percent of its peach crops due to a late freeze, and Georgia lost 90 percent.

Here is my attempt to put a price tag, in terms of agricultural losses, on the biggest climate-related disasters of 2017. The data remain pretty sketchy at this point, as researchers scramble to assess the damage. I’ll update this post as new information emerges.

The Southeast’s Late Freeze

Back in March, the Southeast’s most valuable fruit plants bloomed more than three weeks early, “due to unusually warm temperatures during the preceding weeks,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Then came a three-day bout of record-low temperatures. That’s a nightmare scenario for fruit growers because buds are highly vulnerable to freezes. South Carolina lost as much as 90 percent of its peach crop and about 15 percent of strawberries; Georgia surrendered as much as 80 percent of its normal peach haul and up to 80 percent of its blueberries. The NCEI estimates a total hit to the region’s fruit growers of about $1 billion.

The West’s Rangeland Fires…

Starting in June, fires roared through the rangelands of Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, scorching 8.4 million acres, a combined land mass bigger than Maryland. Montana’s iconic cattle ranches took the brunt, with 1 million acres succumbed to flames. The NCEI estimates total fire-related losses to the region of $2 billion, but that figure includes hundreds of destroyed houses. Local and federal sources I spoke to said no ag-related loss estimates have been made yet. But the damage is extensive. The Billings Gazette reported that Montana ranchers had lost nearly 1,400 miles of fencing to the flames.

… And Drought

California’s massive drought officially ended in 2017—just in time for a new one to start a bit to the north and east. “Extreme drought cause[d] extensive impacts to agriculture in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana,” the NCEI reported. “Field crops including wheat were severely damaged and the lack of feed for cattle forced ranchers to sell off livestock.” The drought also “contributed to the increased potential for severe wildfires” (see above.) NCEI reckons total ag-related damages from the drought at $2.5 billion.

Hurricane Harvey

Back in August, Hurricane Harvey roared onto the Texas coast and stayed for days. The storm tapped into the “warm Gulf of Mexico for a seemingly endless supply of water, which it turned into torrents of rain from Corpus Christi to Houston to Beaumont,” as NOAA’s site put it. While those densely populated areas took the brunt of the damage, the region’s cotton, rice, and cattle farms were also hammered. State and federal agencies have yet to release ag-related damage figures, but they will likely be high. Gene Hall, communications director of the Texas Farm Bureau, estimates losses to cotton farmers alone at $135 million.

Puerto Rico’s secretary of agriculture estimated that the island had lost 80 percent of its crops to Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Irma

Just days later, Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, striking the heart of the state’s robust agricultural industry. In a preliminary assessment, released in October, the state’s agriculture department estimated total ag damage at a stunning $2.5 billion, including $760.8 million for citrus, $180.2 million for non-citrus fruits and vegetables, and  $624.8 million for greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture crops. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam added that “We’re likely to see even greater economic losses as we account for loss of future production and the cost to rebuild infrastructure.” Orange juice lovers, take note: The state’s vast orange groves grow mainly for the juice market; and The Washington Post reports that the Irma wiped out up to 70 percent of this year’s harvest, meaning prices will likely rise.

Hurricane Maria

Shortly after Irma subsided, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, a US territory claimed during that colonialist spasm of 1898 known as the Spanish-American War. A former Spanish sugar and coffee colony that has spent more than a century in the shadow of the US ag behemoth, the island never had much of a chance to develop a robust local agriculture economy. Puerto Rico imports more than 80 percent of its food. Back in May, NPR reporter Dan Charles reported on a “new wave of interest in food and farming” there. “People are thronging to new farmers markets,” he added. “Chefs are making a point of finding local sources of food.” Irma obliterated all of that—Puerto Rico residents now struggle to find any food at all. In early October, Puerto Rico’s secretary of agriculture, Carlos Flores Ortega estimated that the island had lost 80 percent of its crops to the storm—an estimated hit of $780 million.

Wine Country fires

As Napa and Sonoma County residents survey the wreckage after California’s deadliest-ever week of wildfires, it’s way too early to tally the damage to the region’s prestigious wineries, vineyards, and orchards. Again, costs are likely to be high. Mother Jones’ Maddie Oatman reports that “In Sonoma County alone, agriculture and livestock, including 30,000 dairy cows and 35,000 sheep and goats, is worth close to $900 million,” while Napa and Sonoma Counties together “produce the majority of the state’s high-end wine grapes and house more than 1,000 wineries.” Here is Fortune’s list of damaged wineries.

So, I have no hard data on the Montana and the wine country fires, and incomplete and/or preliminary data on all the other events. Tally what I do have up, though, and you get about $7 billion in agricultural losses. To put that number in perspective, consider that the severe drought that parched Midwestern corn and soybean country in 2012 exacted damage of at least $30 billion. In a sense, then, we got lucky this year, when it comes to protecting our plates from climate change. That’s a sobering thought, given the storms and droughts that are on the way.

Tom Philpott is the food and ag correspondent for Mother Jones. He can be reached at

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These single use dinner plates biodegrade in 30 days. It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.


These single use dinner plates biodegrade in 30 days.
It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.

Learn about plastic pollution:

These single use dinner plates biodegrade in 30 days.It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.Learn about plastic pollution:

Posted by EcoWatch on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Frequency of excessive summertime heat seen rising


Frequency of excessive summertime heat seen rising across U.S.

By Laura Zuckerman, Reuters       October 25, 2017 family plays while cooling off at the beach in Cardiff after sunset during what local media reported to be a record breaking heat wave in Southern California, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of Americans, mostly in Western states and on the Eastern seaboard, have endured more days of extreme summer heat over the past 10 years than in previous decades, a leading environmental group said in a study unveiled on Tuesday.

The analysis compared daily summertime high temperatures recorded at thousands of U.S. government weather stations across the country from 2007 through 2016 with the same data in the years 1961 to 1990, and showed a pattern of more frequent extreme heat nationally.

The study, issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, identified 21 states and the District of Columbia as being the hardest hit. In each one, at least 75 percent of residents now face more than nine summer days in which temperatures are higher than the top 10 percent hottest days of June through August during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, according to the report.

The group said its findings add to a growing body of evidence that climate change attributed to emissions of heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases, caused by fossil fuel combustion and other human activities, is having direct consequences that are being felt today.

The NRDC also cited government data showing 65,000 people end up in U.S. hospital emergency rooms each summer from heat-related illnesses and that summer heat waves were to blame for at least 1,300 deaths across 40 major U.S. cities from 1975 to 2004.

“This analysis gives a sense of the degree to which the present is really not like the past,” said Kim Knowlton, a senior NRDC scientist. “Climate change is fueling more extremely hot days and poses a clear and present threat to public health.”

Release of the NRDC study coincided with an October heat wave in Southern California that has led forecasters to predict record highs for Tuesday’s World Series opener at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Authorities also have warned of elevated risks of wildfires and heat-induced ailments across the region.

California is one of 11 Western states ranked by the NRDC report as the most affected by extreme summer heat. But the current bout of blistering triple-digit temperatures came as an early fall phenomenon linked to the region’s seasonal hot, dry Santa Ana winds.

The NRDC report was accompanied by an interactive U.S. map showing the growing extent of extremely hot summers – affecting nearly 210 million people – and projections for more of the same across much of the country (

The trend poses the greatest risk to children, the elderly and others vulnerable to respiratory distress and dehydration, said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrics professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Pinedale, Wyo.; Editing by Steve Gorman)

California braces for a third day of triple-digit heat

ABC Good Morning America

California braces for a third day of triple-digit heat

Karma Allen, Good Morning America      October 25, 2017

Residents in California experienced record-breaking heat on Tuesday as temperatures soared past 100 degrees in southern parts of the Golden State.

Meteorologists said residents should expect more triple-digit heat on Wednesday, bringing the blistering heat into its third day, but temperatures should cool after that.

The hottest temperatures were recorded in San Luis Obispo and San Diego, where temperatures reached 108 degrees.

More than a dozen heat records for the day were broken throughout the state on Tuesday and the National Weather Service said more records will be challenged on Wednesday. Los Angeles, Burbank and Woodland Hills are all forecast to see highs of least 100 degrees on Wednesday.

Downtown Los Angeles broke a 108-year-old record when temperatures hit 104 degrees on Tuesday, topping the previous record for that day of 99 degrees.

Temperatures at the San Luis Obispo Airport touched 108 degrees on Tuesday afternoon, tying the nation’s high temperature of the day with the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, according to the NWS.

The NWS warned that the heat, coupled with gusty winds, could create the most dangerous fire weather conditions seen in the past few years.

Several wildfires broke out on Tuesday, but many were quickly put out, authorities said. Nearly 120 acres were charred in a rural area of Ventura County, located an hour northwest of Los Angeles, before firefighters stopped it from spreading. No homes were threatened, but two firefighters were injured: one for smoke inhalation and the other for multiple bee stings, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire, dubbed the Vista fire by authorities, was about 50 percent contained as of late Tuesday evening.

Craig Digure, 46, who has lived in Los Angeles for less than a year, said the heat was too brutal to sun himself at Echo Park Lake near downtown.

“It’s kind of crazy. I’m from Minnesota, so I’m not used to this in October. It’s 40 degrees back home, almost ready to snow,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I thought summer was over. But it’s just not seeming to end.”

Temperatures are forecast to lower by a few degrees late Wednesday, but they will still be well above normal highs, according to the NWS. It expects to see further cooling on Thursday and Friday.

A Weed Killer Is Increasingly Showing Up in People’s Bodies


A Weed Killer Is Increasingly Showing Up in People’s Bodies

Alice Park, Time        October 24, 2017 study shows an alarming spike in levels of Roundup & #39;s chemicals in people’s urine

The latest study to look at the long-term effects of Roundup, a popular weed killer developed by Monsanto in the 1970s, raises questions about the herbicide’s possible contributions to poor health in certain communities.

The study, published Tuesday in JAMA, tracked people over the age of 50 in southern California from 1993-1996 to 2014-2016, with researchers periodically collecting urine samples during that time.

TIME Health NewsletterGet the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips. View Sample

Researchers led by Paul Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, found that the percentage of people who tested positive for a chemical called glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, shot up by 500% in that time period. The levels of glyphosate also spiked by 1208% during that time.

Read more: Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance

Exactly what that means for human health isn’t quite clear yet. There are few studies of the chemical and its effects on people, although animal studies raise some concerns. One trial from the UK, in which rats were fed low levels of glyphosate throughout their lives, found that the chemical contributed to a higher risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver and contributes to inflammation and scarring of the tissue. Mills says that the levels of glyphosate documented in the people in his study were 100-fold greater than those in the rats.

To follow up on these results, Mills plans to measure factors that track liver disease, to see if the levels of glyphosate he found are actually associated with a greater risk of liver problems in people. He heads the Herbicide Awareness & Research Project at UCSD, an ongoing research project in which he invites people to provide urine samples to test glyphosate levels. By gathering more information about people’s exposure, he is planning to tease apart how much of it comes from actually ingesting products sprayed with the chemical, and how much can be attributed to breathing in particles that have been sprayed into the air, especially in farm communities.

Read more: Here’s Which Produce Has the Most Pesticides

For now, he says the findings should make people more aware of what they are ingesting along with their food. While Roundup was developed to eliminate most weeds from genetically modified crops — and thus reduce the amount of pesticides sprayed on them — recent studies have found that many weeds are now resistant to Roundup. That means growers are using more Roundup, which could only exacerbate potential negative health effects on people who consume those products. Eating organically grown produce may help to reduce exposure to some pesticides and herbicides, but it’s not a guarantee that the products are completely free to potentially harmful chemicals.

“From my perspective it’s remarkable that we have been ingesting a lot of this chemical over the last couple of decades,” says Mills. “But the biomedical literature hasn’t said much about its effects on people. That’s a gap that we endeavored to address and bring more awareness to with this study.”

The terrible truth about your tin of Italian tomatoes

The Guardian

Global Development
Trafficking and exploitation in focus is supported by: this content

The terrible truth about your tin of Italian tomatoes

Court documents reveal that fruit from two food giants on UK supermarket shelves was picked by workers in southern Italy under ‘conditions of absolute exploitation’ workers pick tomatoes in southern Italy. The country’s tomato industry is worth an estimated €3.2bn (£2.85bn). Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Isabel Hunter and Lorenzo Di Pietro           October 24,  2017 

Two of Italy’s biggest food companies have been implicated in labour abuses of migrant workers picking tomatoes bought by thousands of British and European consumers every week, according to court documents.

Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi has named food giants Mutti and Conserve Italia as benefiting from “conditions of absolute exploitation” in the country’s hugely lucrative tomato industry, as part of an investigation into the death of a seasonal laborer.

Both Mutti and the Conserve Italia brand Cirio supply major UK supermarkets with premium tinned tomatoes and passata, and are named in court documents signed by Guglielmi.
The case began with the death of Abdullah Muhammed, a 47-year-old legal Sudanese immigrant and father of two, who suffered a heart attack while working in the fields of Nardó, which sits on the heel of southern Italy, in July 2015. The allegation against his employer was that Muhammed’s life could have been saved if he had been allowed to go to hospital.

The Italian investigator used her powers to track the supply chain up to the very top of the country’s €3.2bn (£2.85bn) processed tomato industry. While the companies are not liable for the death, their link is significant.

Like thousands of other workers, Muhammed’s day would start at 4am and he would work until 5pm handpicking tomatoes in the fierce heat of the southern Italian summer. Labor abuses listed in the court documents include working for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, without breaks, with minimal pay and no access to medical staff.

Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi. Photograph: Courtesy of Corriere Salentino

“The person responsible for the crime by law was just the gangmaster,” Guglielmi told the Guardian.

“But in this case there was also manslaughter. That guy would not have died if there had been a doctor’s visit. The violation of the safety provisions on the job was flagrant.”

Through a far-reaching investigation, Guglielmi checked telephone records, tapped phone calls and conducted aerial surveillance to painstakingly link the exploitation of seasonal migrant workers to industrial giants.

While workers make an average of €30 a day in the Puglia region, they can expect to lose up to half of that just to pay for food, transport, water and a cut to their gangmaster.

The gangmaster or “caporalato” system is rife across the Italian agricultural sector where migrants – both legal and illegal – are organized into informal labor groups that are hired by Italian landowners to harvest their crops.

The file accuses Italian company owner Giuseppe Mariano and Sudanese gangmaster Mohammed Elsalih of manslaughter. The preliminary investigation has now concluded, and a judge will decide whether the case should go to trial.

The companies named in the file are not liable and stress the extent to which they encourage their suppliers to treat their workers ethically.

A spokesman for Conserve Italia, which produces the Cirio brand of tinned tomatoes that is sold by Tesco, said it requires all its suppliers agree to “respect” their workers and the company’s ethical code, and that the company cut ties with the supplier involved after they were made aware of Muhammed’s death.

“We know in the south of Italy there are some situations that are not in line but we can’t do the work – it’s not our responsibility to verify what happens in the region but we do ask our suppliers to respect human rights,” he said. “We don’t pay less than the normal price.”

Conserve Italia has since said in a statement that it plans to sue the suppliers for damages “to protect its reputation as the most ethical company in this business”.

Mutti also issued a statement. “Mutti has always been committed to fight any exploitation of workers’ systems by all means … ,” it said. “Mutti selects its farmers and agricultural partners with special care and maintains a constant dialogue with them along the entire supply chain. As far as the protection and security of workers is concerned, each contract involves specific requirements on work conditions (salary regularity as well as security in the workplace). Mutti will continue to foster its commitment to work in cooperation with its competitors, farmers associations and the Italian institutions to avoid accidents in fields.” member of Médecins Sans Frontières talks to an African worker in a makeshift camp in the countryside near the village of Rignano Garganico, southern Italy. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Activists claim that the low production costs drive interests not to tackle the exploitation problem properly. Yvan Sagnet, 32, from Cameroon worked just five days in the fields near to where Mohammed died before leading a mass strike of the workers in 2012. Now he campaigns to end what he brands “slavery”.

“When I arrived in Puglia I discovered the gangmaster system – conditions were inhuman – they were ghettos that were like concentration camps,” he said.

“One day a guy got sick [in the fields], he couldn’t handle it and in those places there is no way to get first aid – there is no address. There is no cellphone signal. The workers don’t speak Italian so the gangmasters take advantage … The gangmaster insisted, ‘If you don’t pay me the 20 euros I will not take you. If you do you can go to the hospital tonight.’”

After years of campaigning and organizing a mass strike against the gangmasters, a strengthened law outlawing the caporalato system came into effect last year.

But campaigners say very little has changed in isolated farms where authorities do not do enough to proactively crack down on the practice.

“The interests of these fields are linked with the interests of the politicians and people who own the most important companies in Italy,” said Valeria Sallustio, former president of Finis Terrae, an Italian NGO that worked closely with the workers in Nardó.

Zoe Maddison, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents Tesco and Sainsbury’s among other major UK supermarkets, said: “This is a tragic case and we expect the Italian authorities to carry out a full investigation.

“The welfare of all people who work in our supply chains is of key importance to us, and BRC members will investigate any allegations of malpractice.”

McCain critiques Trump without labeling him ‘a draft dodger’….The Telegraph

McCain critiques Trump without labeling him ‘a draft dodger’….The Telegraph John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, speak to members of the media after their meeting Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin AP Photo

AP Congressional Correspondent         October 23, 2017 

WASHINGTON:   Republican Sen. John McCain left no doubt Monday that he was thinking of President Donald Trump as he criticized the draft system during Vietnam for forcing low-income Americans to serve while the wealthy could avoid war with a doctor’s note.

McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war, stopped short of labeling Trump a “draft dodger” for getting five draft deferments. But the senator’s comments came with Trump already immersed in controversy over how he honors U.S. troop deaths, and underscored the remove between the billionaire president and the military system he now controls as commander in chief.

McCain’s criticism also continued a long-running clash between the two men on the eve of a visit by Trump to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to court Senate GOP votes for his tax plan, a meeting that could contain more than a few awkward moments.

“I don’t consider him so much a draft dodger as I feel that the system was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country,” McCain said on ABC’s “The View.” He was being pressed about comments in a C-SPAN interview aired Sunday where he lamented that the military “drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”

One of Trump’s deferments came as a result of a physician’s letter stating he suffered from bone spurs in his feet. Trump’s presidential campaign described the issue as a temporary problem.

McCain, meanwhile, spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. Yet during last year’s presidential campaign Trump said McCain was not a war hero because “I like people who weren’t captured.”

The senator made clear during Monday’s interview that he had been referring to Trump in making his C-SPAN comments. When one of the hosts remarked that people thought he was talking about Trump because the president had sought a medical deferment, McCain interjected, “More than once, yes.”

McCain was asked to describe his relationship with the president. “Almost none” he simply said.

The six-term Arizona lawmaker, battling brain cancer at age 81, made his appearance on “The View” in honor of his daughter Meghan McCain’s birthday. She recently joined the daytime talk show as one of its panel of co-hosts. The White House declined to comment on McCain’s remarks.

The tacit criticism reflected the ongoing tension between Trump and McCain, which began during last year’s campaign and has flared on and off. Trump responded furiously when McCain’s “no” vote sunk Senate efforts to repeal and replace “Obamacare” earlier this year.

And last week, in a speech in Philadelphia, McCain questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America’s foreign policy. Trump lashed out, insisting he would fight back and “it won’t be pretty.”

That prompted McCain to retort: “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

The senator burst into sustained laughter on Monday when one of the hosts mentioned Trump’s threats and asked McCain, “Are you scared?”

After he stopped laughing, McCain said, “I mentioned that I had faced greater challenges.”

“Let’s stop insulting each other. Let’s start respecting each other,” McCain recommended.

The back-and-forth between the president and McCain stands as the latest skirmish between the two Republican Party heavyweights and another example of Trump tangling with GOP senators who could make or break his agenda in Congress.

Trump in recent weeks has feuded with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, although the president joined with the Kentucky senator at the White House last week to publicly declare they were on the same page. Both Corker and McCain could be critical to the success or failure of the president’s push to overhaul the tax system.

During Trump’s presidency, McCain has questioned the president’s immigration policies and warned him against cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The senator also criticized Trump in August for saying that both white nationalists and counter protesters were responsible for violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

McCain insisted in a tweet at the time that “there’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry” and the president should say so.

The senator underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2-inch (51-millimeter) blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with an aggressive tumor called a glioblastoma. It’s the same type of tumor that killed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at age 77 in 2009 and Beau Biden, son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, at 46 in 2015.

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown

NPR   Asia

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown

Rob Schmitz, Heard on Morning Edition         October 23, 2017 woman wearing a face mask walks on a street as Beijing is hit by polluted air and sandstorms on May 4.     Andy Wong/AP

In the gritty industrial town of Yiwu, workers prepare jeans to be dyed in a vivid range of colors.

Two months ago, this factory — and this entire city, located in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang — was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China’s environmental laws and who wasn’t.

The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he’s never seen anything like it.

“It had a big impact on our business,” he says. “We couldn’t make the delivery date since we [were] shut down. It’s not just our factory. All the factories out here had this issue.”

This is happening across the country: Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China’s government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.

“So, basically, you’re seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections,” says Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing, which connects foreign clients with China’s supply chain. “They’re instituting daily fines, and sometimes — in the real severe cases — criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail.”

In the past year, China’s Ministry of Environment has sent inspectors to 10 provinces, where they’ve reprimanded, fined, or charged officials in more than 80,000 factories with criminal offenses. Entire swaths of Eastern China have halted production, prompting some companies to move entire supply chains to countries like India and Bangladesh to meet their orders.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates, a company that exports textiles from China. Crotty says in his nearly two decades in China, he’s never seen a crackdown of this magnitude. “The consumers of China don’t want red and blue rivers. They don’t want to see gray skies every day.”

China’s crackdown reminds Crotty of 1970s America after the Clean Water Act was passed.

“At that time, we in the textile business saw many dyeing and printing houses shut down because they couldn’t comply with the regulations. We’re seeing a similar process taking place here in China, and it’s much, much bigger. The disruption is larger,” he says.

Crotty’s colleague Archie Liu, general manager of MKT & Associates, estimates that 40 percent of China’s factories have been at least temporarily shut down in the latest spate of inspections. He says that’s a good thing.

“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” he says. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”

After a quarter century of living in China, Shanghai environmental lawyer Peter Corne is gleefully celebrating the new environmental crackdown.

“This is better than a 100-percent pay raise for me,” says Corne, managing partner at Dorsey & Whitney’s Shanghai office. “I was just dreaming about it. I never thought it would come true.”

Corne says what’s most promising about this new enforcement are the new fees that are being imposed when factories, whose emissions are now monitored in real time, discharge more than the law allows.

“The implementation will be totally different,” Corne says. “It won’t be the environmental bureau that’s implementing anymore. They’ll just be monitoring. It will be the tax bureau that’s implementing it.”

This is crucial, says Corne, because China’s tax bureaus are powerful entities backed up by rigorous laws that, when violated, are typically met with aggressive local enforcement. Corne’s confident the economic hit will be temporary as companies that specialize in clean tech get a boost from so many factories now being forced to comply with much stricter laws.

But in the short term, that’s little consolation for businessmen like Michael Crotty.

“So, short-term, the disruptions are pretty significant, and the timing, quite frankly, is difficult,” Crotty says.

Difficult, because these shutdowns have impacted supply chains producing goods for the upcoming Christmas season in the U.S. Crotty thinks Americans will see an increase in prices on the shelves this holiday season due to the breadth of China’s factory shutdowns.

But, he says, it’s a small price to pay for a cleaner China.

Yuhan Xu contributed research to this story.

These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy


From Impact

These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

“For too long, dirty fuels have jeopardized the health of our communities and put our children’s future at risk.”

Alison Moodie on assignment for HuffPost     October 21, 2017 Nickelsberg via Getty Images. An array of 366 solar tracking devices in South Burlington, Vermont.

As President Donald Trump stands his ground on fossil fuels and works to roll back America’s climate and clean energy policies, cities around the country are committing to renewable energy ― and a handful already get all their power from sources such as wind and solar.

Over the past decade, five locations ― Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri ― have successfully made the switch to 100 percent renewables.

Since Trump was elected in November, the number of cities and towns that have committed to using only clean power sources has more than doubled, with 46 cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, promising a move in that direction, said Jodie Van Horn, campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative. The campaign, which launched in 2016, is challenging 100 U.S. cities to commit to 100 percent clean energy.

“For too long, dirty fuels have jeopardized the health of our communities and put our children’s future at risk,” said Van Horn. “Now cities are not only our best offense, they’re also our best defense against Trump’s destructive policies.”


Cities play a key role in reducing carbon emissions, since they account for roughly 75 percent of global C0₂ emissions. It’s becoming easier for cities to clean their air as renewable energy continues to become more affordable. Once extremely costly, wind and solar will become the cheapest sources of electricity globally by 2030, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

While cities’ pursuit of 100 percent renewable energy is an “admirable goal,” the feasibility of every city achieving this target depends partly on the city government’s mandates and how they define what “100 percent renewable” means, said Michelle Davis, senior solar analyst at GTM Research.

Even the five towns that have already made the transition had different ideas about how to reach this target, Davis said. So one city’s path to 100 percent renewable energy could look very different from another’s.

“It’s one of the main areas of criticisms of most of these renewable energy targets and policies ― it is not consistent from state to state and city to city exactly how an entity claims they are meeting certain renewable energy goals,” Davis said.

Another challenge lies in who runs a city’s electric grid, she said. Some grids are run by municipal utilities, which means the city can decide whether it wants to integrate cleaner energy options. However, other cities have grids that are run by a statewide monopoly utility. These cities don’t have jurisdiction to make those decisions.

But as clean energy technologies continue to become more affordable and efficient, a 100 percent renewable power target should be within reach for most cities.

“Right now the cities that are doing it are ones where ‘the right conditions’ ― already a good energy mix, rich ― are in place, but this doesn’t need to persist,” said Dan Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley. “Cities can all essentially source green energy and use offsets to fill gaps until more clean generation comes online.”

1 Rock Port, Missouri Grant / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2008, Rock Port, a small farm town in northwest Missouri, became the first community in America to be powered entirely by wind energy. Four large wind turbines are connected to the power grid and provide Rock Port’s 1,300 residents with more electricity than they can use.

2 Greensburg, Kansas DUNAND via Getty Images

A rural hamlet in south-central Kansas, Greensburg is the little town that could. When a tornado devastated Greensburg in 2007, half the town’s population of 1,400 left. Those who stayed decided to rebuild their community with sustainability at its core. Greensburg met its 100 percent renewable energy goal in 2013, harnessing the very thing that decimated it: wind. They also used solar and geothermal technologies. The city buys its electricity from a 12.5 megawatt wind farm just outside of town, which provides more energy than the town needs, allowing it to sell the excess.

“The wind that destroyed Greensburg is also the wind that would make us energy sustainable,” said Mayor Bob Dixson.

A big hurdle was cost. Rebuilding with an eye on going green would set the town back 20 percent more than if it had stuck with conventional energy sources and building materials. But the investment is paying off in the long term: Greensburg now saves $200,000 annually in energy costs for its largest buildings, which are all LEED certified.

3 Kodiak Island, Alaska Kaehler via Getty Images

Since 2014, Kodiak Island in southern Alaska has been 99 percent powered by wind and hydro. A decade ago, Kodiak got the majority of its power from hydro, but it was still burning 2.8 million gallons of diesel a year to make up the energy shortfall, at a cost of $7 million annually. So the island’s electric utility company set an ambitious goal that 95 percent of the community’s power would come from renewable energy sources by 2020. Kodiak succeeded in meeting its target six years ahead of schedule. It was a steep learning curve. The city bought three 1.5 MW wind turbines in 2009, but installing them was a challenge. “There was not a lot of information back then on how to keep the grid frequency and voltage steady with an influx of variable wind power,” Kodiak Electric Association CEO Darron Scott told the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute. “It was uncharted territory.”

4 Burlington, Vermont via Getty Images

Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, achieved 100 percent renewable electricity in 2014 when it bought a hydropower facility on its outskirts. Burlington, which once relied heavily on coal, is now powered by a combination of energy from burning wood chips, wind, solar, landfill methane and hydropower. During times of high demand, Burlington might use a small amount of power that comes from fossil fuels, but it generates and trades enough renewable energy during the year to effectively cancel out that usage. The city estimates it will save $20 million over the next two decades.

5 Aspen, Colorado via Getty Images

Aspen is a winter ski destination for the mega-rich, and it’s also one of the greenest towns in America. Ski resort towns have been hit hard in recent years as warmer winters mean less snow, so they’ve been ahead of the curve in tackling the effects of climate change. Aspen committed to a 100 percent renewable energy target in 2007 and achieved its goal in 2015 using primarily wind and hydropower. It wasn’t an easy road getting there. The city already had two hydroplants – built in the 1980s – to draw power from, and by 2014 it was using around 80 percent renewable energy. To close the final gap, Aspen decided to buy wind power from other states rather than resurrect a third hydroplant, which would be too costly.