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Science

Richard Dawkins And The Eugenics Argument That Literally No One Asked For

This is no way to live, Richard.

Yesterday, at 7:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins opened up Twitter, and for no discernible reason whatsoever launched a defense of eugenics that not a single person the whole wide world over had asked for. Well, not a defense of eugenics so much as a strange tirade about how believing that it would be bad for moral reasons shouldn't mean that people should assume it wouldn't "work."

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Religion

Go To Jail, James Bakker. Again.

Bakker wants you to die of coronavirus, for Jesus.

Jim Bakker, that old I Need Your Money For Jesus huckster who did a five-year stint in the federal slammer for fleecing his flock faithful, has been back on low-budget cable for a few years now, mostly selling nigh-inedible survival meal buckets to get you through the End Times and explaining that Planned Parenthood performs Satanic rites, free with every abortion. Ever the kind of fellow to hop on the latest trend, Bakker is now hawking a "silver solution" that just might cure the COVID-19 coronavirus, which now has an official name. Here's the spiel, as captured by the nice folks at Right Wing Watch.

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Environment

UK Teens Tired Of Waiting For Climate Education, So They Drafted A Law To Require It

The kids are more than all right.

British high school students would very much like to have a human-friendly planet when they're older, thank you very much. So instead of just waiting for Parliament to finally get funkadelic with teaching about climate in the nation's schools, they've produced their own bill that would mandate a climate education program and other steps to make sure their voices are included in UK climate policy. Seems a reasonable demand, since they and their kids will be living with the consequences of decisions being made right now.

The "Teach the Future" campaign was launched by 17-year-old Joe Brindle, who the Guardian reports "is preparing for his A-levels in Devizes, Wiltshire" — which we believe has something to do with graduating from wizarding school. Brindle's motivation is pretty straightforward: He says he's "angry about the injustice that is allowing the most vulnerable people in the world to suffer from the actions of the richest and most powerful."

Isn't that just typical of the selfishness of youth? Not a single bit of empathy for investors in fossil fuel companies.

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Environment

GOP Will Save Climate By Painting Smokestacks Green, Hoping Everybody Fooled

You can't fix anything with recycled bullshit.

In December, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that nearly three-quarters of adults and teens in America agree climate change is real, and humans are causing it. It even found that a majority of younger Republicans accept climate science and want the government to do something about it. So, ever attuned to the nation's political mood, at least some Republicans are making a big show of their desire to do something about climate, hooray! That led to headlines like "Are Republicans coming out of 'the closet' on climate change?" in the Washington Post, and "How House Republicans won over conservatives to gain consensus on a climate agenda" in the Washington Examiner. The latter piece even featured arch-Trumper Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) gushing, "Climate denial is a bad political strategy [...] At some point, you have to be for something to fix it." Oh, hooray for the new generation of GOP Climate Achievers!

Mind you, the "plan" Gaetz, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, and other rightwingers have unveiled has a lot more to do with marketing than with any real change that would slow global warming. It's all about looking like Republicans Care Very Much about whatever the kids are upset about, and will fix it with the "Free Market" Principles that got us into this mess in the first place. As John Roberts puts it at Vox, the conservative climate plans "are neither conservative nor plans."

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Environment

Suck It, Trump: Switch From Coal To Renewable Energy Could Save Billions A Year

Also fuck you.

Despite the pillar-of-fire reminders from Australia that climate change is here, with devastating effects, 2020 is also bringing us some good climate news.

For one thing, despite Donald Trump's attempts to prop up the coal business, 2019 saw the second largest drop ever in the number of coal-fired power plants in the US. In fossil-fuel-humping Texas, the amount of electricity generated by wind in 2019 nearly equaled the portion of the state's power (20 percent) generated by coal, and wind power in Texas is on track to surpass coal power in 2020. That's partly due to the growth of wind, even with the Trump administration ending a clean-energy tax credit, but mostly, again, to the decline of coal. (Natural gas still accounts for 47 percent of the state's electricity, however.) And nationwide, coal consumption dropped 18 percent in 2019, which resulted in a 2.1 percent drop in US greenhouse gas emissions for the year -- a welcome change from 2018, which saw an increase. Even money management giant BlackRock has announced it will no longer invest in coal, resulting in a brief boost in pun futures.

And now, as the Energy and Policy Institute reports, two major big financial services outfits, the capital-est of capitalists, indicate that the sooner electric utilities shift from coal-fired plants to renewable power generation, the better for their bottom lines, and the better for ratepayers and shareholders. Why, yes, the magic of the marketplace can help the shift to green energy, although to get the reductions in emissions the world needs, we're still going to need a radical shift away from petrocapitalism.

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Environment

Australian Prime Minister Too Tone Deaf To ​Fiddle While His Country Burns

IT'S THE CLIMATE, STUPID.

Australia's record-setting bushfires are still burning, and there are months remaining in the fire season. The fires are known to have killed 28 people so far, as well as over a billion animals, with a B. The smoke has reached South America. The EU's climate agency estimates the fires have released "400 megatonnes of carbon dioxide" into the atmosphere so far, and notes satellite data showing the planet's highest concentration of CO2 on January 2 was found over the normally "clean" South Pacific, generated by the fires in New South Wales.

The Australian government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal party, which in Australia is actually very conservative, possibly because of the Coriolis effect, seems stuck in George-Bush-After-Katrina mode, blandly insisting that everything will be fine and there's no need to get all upset about climate, because what even is that?

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Environment

Trump Undoing 50-Year-Old Environmental Review Law Because It's Too Old For Him Probably

Buh-bye.

Donald Trump announced yesterday his administration plans to scrap one of the country's most basic environmental laws, making it easier for major infrastructure and energy projects to be built with minimal review of how they'd affect the environment. Through new rules set to be published today, Trump would bypass the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to analyze the long-term environmental implications of major construction projects before approving them.

The new rules would allow more projects to avoid review altogether, and would shorten the time allowed for review. Worse, agencies would no longer have to consider environmental effects of a project beyond the immediate scope of its being built, so highways could be built with no thought as to how they'd pollute a neighborhood over time or how increased traffic would contribute to global warming.

The rules are a great big gift to Trump's pals in the real estate and fossil fuel industries, in the name of removing the "burdens" of regulation. If these rules survive court challenges, a pipeline company could decide to drain an actual swamp -- without filing an environmental impact statement.

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Environment

If 2019 Was Second-Hottest Year In History, Why Did It Snow Last Night?

Also, people are already dying. But you haven't met them, so no big.

As seemed likely last summer when July became the hottest month in human history and the glaciers in Greenland were gushing melt water into the ocean, scientists have confirmed that 2019 was among the hottest years on record. A team of European climate scientists at the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service announced exactly that Wednesday, noting that 2019 was the second-warmest year on record, and that's only by a hair, because "the global average surface air temperature was 0.04 °C lower than in 2016, the warmest year on record." As the New York Times explains for USA people who use real non-socialist temperatures, that difference was "less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit."

Pretty sure I wouldn't be able to feel the difference sitting in my 1973 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, even with the broken AC (it's parked and my daily drive is a hybrid, shut up).

Also, the death toll from the Australian wildfires is now up to 27 humans and over a billion animals. One billion.

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Environment

Wingnuts Fight Australian Bush Fires With Gaslighting

It's not global warming, it's bad guys. Shoot the bad guys!

The horrifying Australian wildfires have (finally) gotten worldwide attention, and vividly illustrate the environmental catastrophes that are becoming increasingly common with climate change. Hotter temperatures dry out ecosystems, resulting in more stuff that's likely to burn, leading to hotter, faster-spreading fires. And people fleeing their homes and tweeting photos of Martian-looking skies with the hashtag #apocalypse. Twenty-six people have died and Australia's rural firefighting force, largely made up of volunteers, is exhausted but still going, because what else are they going to do?

Or maybe it's all a HOAX! That's the conclusion of a whole bunch of rightwing assholes who have taken to Twitter to insist that the record wildfires are really evidence of a wave of arson. There's no actual wave of arson, but why bother with mere facts? Monday, police in New South Wales released statistics on arrests relating to the fire season, noting that 183 people are facing legal penalties for various infractions. Forty-seven were accused of "discarding a lighted cigarette or match," 53 for "failing to comply with a total fire ban," and 24 with setting fires deliberately. The Sydney Morning Herald notes that, of those arson cases, "None of those fires are threatening the South Coast," where the worst, headline-grabbing fires are. That would be zero.

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Environment

Australia On F*ckfire

Government says this is no time to talk about climate. Have some respect for all the koalas that died.

Australia, as we mentioned New Year's Eve, is on fire. Wildfires have burned roughly 12 million acres in the country since September and killed at least 15 people; by comparison, the 2018 wildfires in California, which killed about 100, burned 1.9 million acres. Here's a map of current fires (within 72 hours) on the continent, via researchers at Western Australian universities:

New South Wales has declared a week-long state of emergency, giving authorities greater powers to coordinate disaster and evacuation response, like closing roads and utilities.

Some of the numbers from Australia's bush fires are simply terrifying:

The blazes made breathing the air in Sydney as bad as smoking 37 cigarettes and have killed 480 million animals, environmental officials told the Times in the United Kingdom, including nearly one-third of the koalas in one of Australia's most populated koala habitats in an area 240 miles north of Sydney.

Half a billion animals. Sure, a lot of Australian wildlife wants to kill you, but that's still horrible. On Monday, a volunteer firefighter in New South Wales died when a 10-ton fire truck was knocked on its side by a fire tornado, a term we've learned here in the USA too.

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Environment

2019: The Year We Finally Started Taking Climate Seriously. Or More Seriously.

Most of us. Just not the people in charge.

Let's start with good news on climate: In poll after poll, large majorities of Americans say they agree climate is a major concern and that the government needs to do more to reduce carbon emissions. More than three-quarters of adults and teens agree that human activity is affecting the climate, and a majority think it's not too late to find solutions. Some people are shaky on the scientific details; a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this month found that

43 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens cited "plastic bottles and bags" as a "major" contributor to climate change, which is incorrect. That response may echo a recent burst of news media attention to plastic pollution in the oceans.

But the main point is that big majorities know that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet, so if some people drive less and recycle more plastic, that's not a terrible thing. How's this for encouraging? Among Republicans, a majority of millennials and Gen-Z young'uns want more government action on climate, too. Baby steps -- teach your parents well, young Rs.

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Right Wing Extremism

It Is Impossible For The Impossible Whopper To Turn Anyone Into A Woman

These people are terrified of garden burgers.

Over the last week or so, right-wingers have been all in a dither over the Burger King Impossible Whopper and not for any reason that could be considered normal. You see, on Christmas Eve, an article titled "DOCTOR: Burger King's 'Impossible Burger' Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper" sent shockwaves through the wingnut-o-sphere, resulting in a whole lot of panic regarding some evil Burger King plot to turn everyone into women through burger HRT.

No, really.



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Environment

Donald Trump: What Has Two Thumbs And Kills More Birds Than Wind Power? THIS GUY!

Gosh who could have seen that coming how very surprising we are astonished.

Last week, Donald Trump unleashed yet another unhinged lie-filled rant claiming wind turbines cause American Bird Carnage. As Wonkette's Liz Dye pointed out, nah, many times more birds are killed by buildings and domestic cats, though generally not at the same time. Then, on Christmas Eve, the New York Times ran a major story on a very real threat to far larger numbers of birds: the Trump administration's decision to gut the Migratory Bird Act in 2017, by changing how the law is enforced.

The report is based on a trove of government documents and emails about the new enforcement priority -- really a policy of nearly complete non-enforcement. The administration has effectively eliminated any penalties for companies that kill birds or destroy their habitats, and is now actively discouraging industry as well as state and local governments from taking actions to protect wild birds.

Wouldn't you know it, Trump's bitter tears about all the poor birds being murdered by wind energy aren't just fake; his own policies pose a far greater environmental risk. Isn't that a surprise.

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Environment

Dutch Court Orders Government To Cut Carbon, For The Kids

Wooden shoe like to see other countries do that too?

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday that the country's government must sharply cut national carbon emissions by the end of 2020, the first time a nation's courts have demanded such specific action on climate. The ruling mandates a reduction in greenhouse gases to 25 percent of 1990 levels.

Because of climate change, "the lives, well being and living circumstances of many people around the world, including in the Netherlands, are being threatened," Kees Streefkerk, the chief justice, said in the decision. "Those consequences are happening already."

The Dutch government has already committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, though its environmental agency estimates the planned cuts would come to 19 to 25 percent of 1990 levels. Now the higher end of that target is the minimum that must be met. That could require the complete closure of coal-fired power plants, including some opened in the last decade. GOOD.

And here's an advantage that this and other lawsuits against European national governments have: The group that filed the lawsuit, the Urgenda Foundation, based some of its arguments in human rights laws. Pity the US no longer considers those relevant!

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Journamalism

New York Times Now 'Both Sides'-ing Measles, Whooping Cough, The Plague...

Vote for New Jersey vaccine law postponed at last minute.

The New York Times, the paper of Robin Thicke records, won't stop with the "both sides" nonsense, even when one of the "sides" has measles. The New Jersey legislature tried to pass a law ending religious exemptions to vaccine requirements for students attending any public or private school and college. This seemed a good idea because schools are often buildings containing other people, many of whom don't want to catch infectious diseases. The bill was postponed, however, because legislators faced angry protestors shouting, "Don't touch my child!" To clarify, no one was going to touch anyone's child. That's creepy. The law would merely have prevented parents from unleashing an army of Typhoid Marys on New Jersey schools.

Here's how the Times summed up the debate in a tweet yesterday. It's screen-captured in case it's removed after Dean Baquet accidentally wanders into the Times offices.

The New York Times

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Science

NJ Anti-Vaxxers Somehow Protesting Traffic Problems In Fort Lee

They're not about to let Big Room Scheduling push them around.

At the New Jersey statehouse Thursday, hundreds of angry anti-vaxxers packed into a hearing room to demand their voices be heard. It was the wrong hearing room, but they demanded to be heard anyway, because this is America.

The crowd wanted to express their opposition to a bill that would eliminate the state's religious exemption for vaccine requirements, but they somehow ended up in a room where a completely unrelated hearing for New Jersey Transit was scheduled. And no, they weren't going anywhere -- just like ambulances in Fort Lee.

Gosh, you mean to say that even when they were informed of the facts and advised that if they wanted to achieve their aims, they should literally change where they stood, they refused to listen? Seems like that's very on-brand. Good for them, refusing to be told how to live their lives by a bunch of so-called "experts" and "authorities."

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