The House just passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA – Updated by Brian Resnick Mar 30, 2017, 5:10pm EDT


Republicans are using the language of science reformers to obstruct the EPA.

House Republicans just passed two bills that will make it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to use scientific research to protect health and the environment. And they’ve done so under the deceptive guise of “transparency.”

Over the past two days, the House has passed the “HONEST Act” and the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.” On the surface, they seem noble. They use the same language scientists use when advocating for stronger research practices.

But they’re “wolf in sheep’s clothing types of statutes,” says Sarah Lamdan, a law professor who studies environmental information access at CUNY. “What’s really happening is that they’re preventing the EPA from doing its job.”

First, the “HONEST Act”

The HONEST Act is this year’s version of a piece of legislation formerly called the “Secret Science Reform Act.” Its sponsor is Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — the same Congress member who, by the way, said that President Donald Trump “might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

The HONEST Act stipulates that the EPA can’t make any assessment or analysis based on science that not openly accessible to the public. Specifically, the text states the EPA can’t cite research that isn’t:

publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results, except that any personally identifiable information, trade secrets, or commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential, shall be redacted prior to public availability.

Sounds reasonable, right? If passed by the Senate, it would mean the EPA would have to make all the data it uses in its decision-making freely available online so that public and independent researchers could more easily scrutinize its decisions. For sensitive health data, the bill has provision that would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to redact.

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Samsung, Apple Intensify Battle for Smartphone Users -By  Timothy W. Martin and  Tripp Mickle March 31, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET


Owners of Apple and Android phones rarely switch brands—but this year offers a rare chance for industry leaders to win (or lose) fans

D.J. Koh, Samsung's mobile chief, shows the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones on Wednesday in New York.

D.J. Koh, Samsung’s mobile chief, shows the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones on Wednesday in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

It’s shaping up to be a big year in the smartphone wars.

Samsung Electronics Co.  fired the first shot this week with the unveiling of its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, which won strong initial reviews. That comes about six months ahead of Apple Inc.’s launch of a 10th-anniversary model of its iPhone, which analysts expect to be its most innovative handset in years.

The new devices are coming as the industry’s boom times have faded. Brands in recent years have struggled to develop impressive new features, and consumers are holding on to their devices longer. Global sales growth has fizzled and most phone buyers stick with the brands they know, meaning Apple, Samsung and others generally have been competing over a relatively small share of consumers whose loyalties are up for grabs.

“There are fewer new customers and you’re having to fight to get your customers to upgrade,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst with Jackdaw Research.

But in 2017, several factors are creating a rare chance to siphon away—or lose—consumers.

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Ashton Cofer: A young inventor’s plan to recycle Styrofoam – Filmed December 2016 at TED-Ed Weekend


From packing peanuts to disposable coffee cups, each year the US alone produces some two billion pounds of Styrofoam — none of which can be recycled. Frustrated by this waste of resources and landfill space, Ashton Cofer and his science fair teammates developed a heating treatment to break down used Styrofoam into something useful. Check out their original design, which won both the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award and the Scientific American Innovator Award from Google Science Fair.

 

Dena Simmons: How students of color confront impostor syndrome – Filmed November 2015 at TED Talks Live


As a black woman from a tough part of the Bronx who grew up to attain all the markers of academic prestige, Dena Simmons knows that for students of color, success in school sometimes comes at the cost of living authentically. Now an educator herself, Simmons discusses how we might create a classroom that makes all students feel proud of who they are. “Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin,” she says.

 

Asset Forfeiture in Texas: VICE News Tonight on HBO (Full Segment) – Published on Mar 30, 2017


In Texas, a public fight has broken out over a strategy used to fight drug crime: Civil asset forfeiture, which lets police officers seize property from suspected criminals. Opposition to the tactic is uniting two groups who don’t usually get along: lawbreakers, and conservative politicians. VICE News Tonight correspondent Roberto Ferdman goes to Austin, Texas to see how this law is impacting people’s lives who aren’t actually convicted crimes.

 

Diplomats instructed to ‘avoid eye contact’ with Tillerson: report – BY BROOKE SEIPEL – 03/30/17 11:22 PM EDT


Getty

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remained relatively removed from President Trump’s administration and his own department, a new report by The Washington Post says, adding that many diplomats have yet to meet him and some have been told to avoid eye contact.

The Post report reads:

“Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.”

Tillerson has kept a low profile since the inauguration. He has made very few remarks to the press and opted not to travel with a press pool.

Earlier this month, Tillerson stood by his decision not to allow reporters to travel with him on his trip to Asia, calling himself “not a big media press access person.”

Erin McPike of the right-leaning Independent Journal Review — the only reporter selected by State to travel with Tillerson — pressed the diplomat about his decision in an interview.

McPike noted China restricts press access and asked whether he’s concerned about the the message he’s sending.

Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

Tillerson also skipped the customary visits to overseas State employees and their families during his travels, the Post reported.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/326655-diplomats-instructed-to-avoid-eye-contact-with-tillerson-report

POTUS on the warpath against Freedom Caucus – BY JORDAN FABIAN AND JONATHAN EASLEY – 03/30/17 07:06 PM EDT


POTUS on Thursday launched an extraordinary attack against conservative Republicans who thwarted the party’s healthcare plan, escalating an intra-party feud that could threaten the rest of his legislative agenda.

In a string of tweets, Trump threatened to back primary challenges against members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus if they continue to oppose party leaders. He also named and shamed the group’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and two other prominent group members for what he said is their efforts to derail ObamaCare repeal and tax reform.

“If @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform,” the president tweeted.

“Where are @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador? #RepealANDReplace #Obamacare.”

House conservatives fought back, furious at the president for picking the fight at a time when congressional Republicans are trying to move past last week’s bitter legislative defeat.

“Most people don’t take well to being bullied,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a Freedom Caucus member, told reporters. “It’s constructive in fifth grade. It may allow a child to get his way, but that’s not how our government works.”

Freedom Caucus members argued Thursday that they did Trump a favor by sinking the American Health Care Act, which was reviled by grassroots conservatives and failed to attract support from even some moderate members of the GOP conference.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who was named by Trump, shot back over Twitter.

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Who Is Narendra Modi? By Kanchan Chandra March 30, 2017


JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, June 2016.

On March 19, a short man in saffron robes and a monk’s shaven head was sworn in as chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. UP is India’s largest state, with a population larger than that of Russia. It had just held elections for its legislative assembly, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had taken 312 of 403 seats, securing the biggest majority any party had won in the state in four decades. Yogi Adityanath, as the saffron-robed monk is known, was Modi’s hand-picked nominee to lead Uttar Pradesh’s new government. He is the head priest of a monastic order in northeastern India and an aggressive advocate for Hindu nationalism.

The appointment of a religious leader as the chief of a state government is unprecedented in Indian politics. The BJP has often included members of the Hindu clergy in its mobilization campaigns, but it has generally kept religious figures away from executive positions. (An exception is the Hindu nun Uma Bharti, who is now a cabinet minister in Modi’s government and served as chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh from 2003 to 2004; unlike Adityanath, Bharti does not head a religious organization.)

Indian newspapers exploded with astonishment when the BJP announced Adityanath’s appointment—not only because of his background but also because of the timing of his selection. The elections in Uttar Pradesh were the first state contest since November, when the Modi government demonetized high-value Indian banknotes in an attempt to curb illicit transactions, and the BJP’s victory seemed to reflect a popular endorsement of Modi’s reforms. Modi himself suggested as much: the election, he said in a speech in Delhi, marked the dawn of a new India, in which citizens would vote to advance development rather than identity-based issues.

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