Trump’s EPA Chief Rebukes Critics As ‘Climate Exaggerators’ After Quitting Paris Accord

WASHINGTON ? Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he doesn?t ?know what it means to deny the climate? in a defiant rebuke of his critics one day after President Donald Trump announced the United States? withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

?People have called me a climate skeptic or climate denier,? Pruitt said at a White House press briefing on Friday. ?I would say that they were climate exaggerators.?

To back up his point, Pruitt read from Bret Stephens? controversial debut column in The New York Times, in which the former Wall Street Journal opinion writer rebuffed environmentalists and climate scientists who took issue with his earlier work defending the conspiracy theory that manmade global warming is either overblown or a hoax.

?I don?t know if you saw this article or not,? Pruitt said. He then read aloud a passage in which Stephens understated the findings of a 2014 United Nations climate report, a mischaracterization that forced the Times to append the article with a correction.

?What the American people deserve is a debate ? objective, transparent discussion ? about this issue,? Pruitt said.

?Global warming is occurring, human activity contributes to it in some manner,? Pruitt said, staking out an argument frequently employed by what The New Republic describes as the ?kinder, gentler climate-change deniers.? ?Measuring with precision, in my perspective, the degree of human contribution is very challenging.?

The nation?s top environmental rulemaker, who is credited with convincing President Donald Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, repeatedly refused to say whether the commander-in-chief believes in the widely accepted science that emissions from burning fossil fuel, deforestation and industrial farming are warming the planet.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was equally cagey, telling reporters who asked him Friday about the president?s beliefs, ?I have not had the opportunity to have that discussion.?  

On Tuesday, Spicer also dodged questions on what the president thinks about climate change. ?Honestly, I haven?t asked him,? he said. ?I can get back to you. I don?t know. I honestly haven?t asked him that specific question.?

People have called me a climate skeptic or climate denier. I don’t know what it means to deny the climate.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Typically, White House press secretaries don?t tell reporters they?ll come back with an answer unless they really plan to, knowing that the reporter who asked the question will bring up their pledge again a few days later.

Countries around the world, including most major U.S. allies, condemned Trump?s decision to pull out of the historic accord to cut planet-warming emissions. Democrats, environmentalists and top executives from big corporations also voiced their concern.

Pruitt also spoke in the White House Rose Garden Thursday after Trump announced his plan to withdraw from the pact. The EPA administrator?s comments were clearly directed at Trump, who was standing a few feet away and apparently enjoying the lavish praise. In his two-minute speech, Pruitt said ?you? 21 times, but ?Paris? just three.

On Friday, Pruitt called the decision a ?courageous? and ?informed, thoughtful decision,? insisting the U.S. has ?nothing to be apologetic for.?

?Paris, truly, Paris at its core was a bunch of words committed to very, very minimal environmental benefits,? he said, but added that the U.S. was willing to rejoin the agreement under renegotiated terms.

Other countries have said they have no plans to reopen negotiations.

Pruitt fueled doubt that the administration is genuinely open to re-entering a global climate pact, saying any deal to cut U.S. emissions would require consent from the Senate. But he said the White House would circumvent Congress in any deal that allowed the U.S. to export technology for coal mining or hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method for extracting natural gas.

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Scientific Community Rails Against Trump’s Decision To Pull Out Of Paris Accord

As President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, some of the nation?s most prominent scientists strongly condemned the move and warned about the dire consequences it carries for the fight against global warming. 

The U.S. will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not signing onto the 2015 accord. It?s not clear how much Trump?s decision will impact the country?s carbon footprint, as many states, cities and companies have vowed to slash emissions on their own, but the move sends a strong message about the administration?s diplomatic and economic priorities.

Here?s how some members of the scientific community reacted to Thursday?s announcement. 

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: 

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:

Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly:

Climate scientist Michael Mann:

Paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill:

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy:

It?s a disappointing and embarrassing day for the United States.

This decision makes zero sense from a public health or an economic perspective. It?s contrary to science and his obligation to protect America?s kids and future generations. It?s contrary to investors and CEOs saying we need to lean in on climate action, not bury our heads in the sand, and it?s contrary to the vast majority of Americans calling for our country to do more.

Television personality Bill Nye the Science Guy:

Astrophysicist Catherine Qualtrough:

Union of Concerned Scientists? Yogin Kothari:

The organizers of the March for Science:

Science was ignored today. The decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement stands in stark opposition to the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is a real and active threat to communities around the world and to future generations. In addition, the fact that this decision was made without the input of a Presidential science advisor ? a position that, like most of the key scientific leadership positions in the Administration, remains unfilled ? is deeply troubling to all those who care about the role of science in informing policy.

Scientist David Brin:

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Bill De Blasio Says New York Supports Paris Agreement, Even If Trump Doesn’t

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) says he will sign an ?executive order maintaining New York City?s commitment to the Paris Agreement? on climate change after reports Wednesday indicated that President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from it.

De Blasio took to Twitter to criticize the president?s plans.

If Trump withdraws from the historic pact, the U.S. would be one of just three nations not part of the global initiative to reduce planet-warming emissions. 

The president has not confirmed that he plans to take the U.S. out of the agreement, but he tweeted Wednesday morning that he?d make a decision on the issue ?over the next few days.?

De Blasio?s support for the pact aligns with his other efforts to battle climate change, including a goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions and a $20 billion resiliency plan ? all factors voters will get to consider when elections roll around this November.

Other state lawmakers have also expressed their support for the pact should Trump withdraw the U.S. from it.

Thirty-seven mayors representing cities around the country ? including Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta ? signed an open letter to the president in November urging him to join them in battling climate change. But they also indicated they?d be ?prepared to forge ahead even in the absence of federal support.?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reinforced his stance with a tweet earlier this month.

While the Paris climate accord is an international treaty, smaller initiatives by individual states can still make a difference.

The national government doesn?t mandate whether a city?s bus fleet runs on natural gas or is electric, Seth Schultz, director of science and innovation for C40, a global climate and cities consortium, told Wired. ?They cannot mandate sidewalk setback or a bicycle sharing system. But there are ways cities can control huge swaths of emissions from the transport sector.?

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Most Americans Want To See More School Integration As Trump Destroys Existing Efforts

Over 63 years after Brown v. Board of Education made state-sanctioned school segregation illegal and set off a wave of controversial efforts to diversify districts, many schools have settled back into old patterns. Although the law no longer endorses it, schools are still divided along fault lines of race and class.

And a majority of Americans today want this to change, at least in theory.

A new study from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress analyzes the extent to which poor students are isolated in high-poverty schools, and whether parents think anything should be done about it. As it turns out, 70 percent of Americans support the economic integration of schools, even as the Trump administration just ended one of the federal government?s few programs promoting such efforts.

The group conducted a nationally representative poll of Americans on the topic of school integration, specifically focusing on socioeconomic integration instead of race. After a 2007 Supreme Court case questioned the constitutionality of using race as the single factor to integrate schools, a growing ? albeit still tiny ? number of districts have been working to integrate along economic lines. About 100 districts across the country are making concerted efforts to diversify schools economically, a number that is up from 40 districts in 2007.

This poll, according to CAP researchers, is one of the first to look at how Americans feel about these efforts.

At a moment in history when the current president of the United States was elected after running an acrimonious campaign built around marginalizing certain minority groups, the stakes for creating a more harmoniously integrated society are high, according to CAP researchers. But the stakes are also high on a more granular level. Decades of research show that the American public school system in many ways reflects a two-tiered system, where poor and wealthy students occupy separate and vastly unequal spheres.

Nearly half of the country?s low-income students ? 40 percent ? attend schools characterized by high rates of concentrated poverty. These schools typically employ less experienced teachers and receive less funding. Students who attend poor schools graduate from high school at a rate of 68 percent, compared to students who attend more affluent schools and graduate at a rate of 91 percent. However, when low-income students attend more socioeconomically diverse schools, they show higher rates of college attendance, says the report. 

Integration efforts are key to improving academic achievement for all students, and also creating a more just and equal society, according to study author and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Ulrich Boser.

?What are ways we as a nation are going to come together? The schools are the way to do that. They allow us to create better citizens and think about how we can come together as a society around a set of shared values,? Boser said.

Seventy percent of survey respondents said they think more efforts should be made to integrate low- and high-poverty schools, and over 60 percent of respondents said the issue of school segregation is at least somewhat important to them, even across all major racial subgroups. But responses still varied by race. Black respondents were most enthusiastic about the need to integrate schools. On the other hand, low-income and high-income respondents showed nearly identical interest in the issue.

They allow us to create better citizens and think about how we can come together as a society around a set of shared values
Ulrich Boser, Center for American Progress senior fellow

While respondents typically agreed that school integration could boost the quality of education provided to poor students, they were less sure how it would affect richer students. However, research shows integration efforts can benefit all students, even the more affluent ones. Attending diverse schools makes students less likely to believe harmful stereotypes, and it also improves students? problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

?In a globalized economy where workplaces are increasingly diverse, being able to work productively with people from all walks of life is an invaluable skill,? the study notes.

Researchers also met with focus groups of parents to better understand how these issues affect families? lives, and what could be done about it. They found little consensus on how policymakers should go about making integrated schools a reality, although many agreed that high-quality, theme-based schools or programs could attract a range of families. Parents scoffed at the prospect of students being driven to faraway schools in buses in the name of desegregation, a practice of districts in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Some low-income respondents were concerned about how it feels to be a poor kid in the classroom while surrounded by wealthier peers. Affluent parents of color who attended racially diverse schools as children were particularly excited about the opportunities provided by integrated settings.

?What we found was at an abstract level parents could agree diversity was a strong value and made sense, it could improve education of their children, but when it came to specific policy mechanisms, it was more of a problem getting shared consensus on what could boost diversity in schools,? said Perpetual Baffour, a research associate at CAP.

But despite the general public?s enthusiasm for socioeconomic integration, it is unlikely the federal government will take steps to capitalize on this interest. In March, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos discontinued a grant program that put funding behind schools? efforts to deliberately diversify by income.

Instead, it may be up to individual districts to chart their own path in economic integration. Indeed, from Denver, Colorado, to Stamford, Connecticut, districts already started employing creative, and instructive methods of deliberately diversifying their student bodies. An interactive map included with the CAP report allows readers to see the extent to which 1,700 school districts are economically segregated. 

Boser is hard-pressed to think of a school reform technique that would have more of a positive effect on students? learning, while also having the potential to challenge students? assumptions about the world and other people.

?This has been shown in many studies. If you?re always spending time in gated communities, then you think gated communities are the norm. If you?re spending time with people who share your political beliefs, you think that?s the norm. It?s been really incumbent on policymakers, thought leaders and advocates to make sure we engage as a community, as a nation, with people who are different than us,? Boser said.

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Squatty Potty Dumps Kathy Griffin Over Beheaded Donald Trump Picture

Squatty Potty has pulled commercials featuring Kathy Griffin after a backlash over a snap of the comedian posing with a bloody mask depicting President Donald Trump?s decapitated head.

CEO Bobby Edwards confirmed Wednesday that the Utah toilet company had suspended its ad campaign in which Griffin starred.

?We were shocked and disappointed to learn about the image Ms. Griffin shared today, it was deeply inappropriate and runs contrary to the core values our company stands for,? Edwards said in a press release.

?In response, Squatty Potty has suspended its ad campaign featuring Ms. Griffin,? added Edwards, whose foot stool product allows users to elevate themselves while on the toilet.

It appeared on ?Shark Tank? in 2014. The company has also gained fame through its unicorn rainbow commercial.

?We have acted swiftly and decisively to demonstrate our commitment to a culture of decency, civility, and tolerance,? Edwards said.

Griffin has since apologized for the photograph, which celebrity photographer Tyler Shields snapped and released Tuesday.

In a video she posted to Twitter, Griffin said she ?went way too far? and acknowledged that the image was ?too disturbing.?

?I understand how it offends people. It wasn?t funny. I get it,? she added.

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Bernie Sanders Draws On Borough Childhood In Brooklyn College Commencement Speech

In a speech at the Brooklyn College commencement ceremony Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders told how his challenging childhood just a few miles away shaped his world view.

The former Democratic presidential candidate said his upbringing in the polyglot New York borough influenced him in two key ways.

The economic struggles of his parents, who raised him and his brother in a small rent-controlled apartment in the Flatbush neighborhood, inspired him to seek economic justice, he said. 

?As with many of your families who don?t have a lot of money, financial pressure caused friction and tension within our household,? the 75-year-old Sanders recalled. ?From those experiences of growing up without a lot of money, I have never forgotten that there are millions of people throughout this country who struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, try to save for their kids? education, or for retirement ? people who, against great odds, are fighting today to live in dignity.?

In addition, his father?s background as a Jewish immigrant from Poland who escaped the anti-Semitism and violence of Eastern Europe served as a flesh-and-blood reminder of the dangers of nationalism and racial demagoguery, he said.

?While my father emigrated to the United States and escaped [Adolf] Hitler and the Holocaust, many in his family did not,? Sanders said. ?For them, racism and extremism and ultra-nationalism were not ?political issues.? They were issues of life and death and some of them died horrific deaths.?

?From that experience, what was indelibly stamped on my mind, was the understanding that we must never allow demagogues to divide us up by race by religion, by national origin, by gender or sexual orientation,? he declared, drawing loud applause.

Sanders went on to deliver a familiar denunciation of President Donald Trump and the policies of congressional Republicans. He made an equally passionate appeal for policies that bridge the wealth gap, ensure affordable health care for all, fight climate change, protect women?s reproductive rights and reverse mass incarceration.

He concluded on an optimistic note, arguing that notwithstanding the country?s enormous challenges, the American people?s collective wealth, ingenuity and access to technological advances provide the makings of greatness if properly harnessed.

?My message to you is very simple: Think big, not small, and help us create the nation that we all know we can become,? he said.

Sanders, who completed a year of studies at Brooklyn College before transferring to the University of Chicago, was received warmly from the moment he walked to the speaker?s lectern. He told the crowd his year at Brooklyn College had a ?great impact? on his life.

As part of the festivities, Sanders was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters. But the red and gold academic hood that Brooklyn College officials placed on Sanders to signify the honor did not last more than few minutes.

The hood began to ride up on toward his neck as he spoke and he quickly discarded it. 

?I think speakers have a right not to have that stuff around their throats,? he quipped.

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