Republicans pressure Trump to back down on border emergency – BURGESS EVERETT 02/28/2019 02:50 PM EST

Sen. Lamar Alexander urged the president to withdraw his national emergency declaration or face a potential GOP revolt.

Lamar Alexander
The president’s national emergency declaration for border wall funding is “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the Constitution,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said. | Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Senate Republicans are offering a choice to President Donald Trump: Withdraw your national emergency declaration at the border or face a potential rebellion from the GOP.

The message was delivered clearly on Thursday by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), part of an effort by senior Republicans to avoid a direct confrontation with Trump on the Senate floor.

In a much-anticipated floor speech, the retiring senator declined to state whether he will become the deciding vote to block the president’s maneuver. But he signaled broad opposition to the emergency declaration and sought to convince Trump that he has other ways to collect $5.7 billion for the border wall — the precise amount of money he demanded during the government shutdown fight.

“He’s got sufficient funding without a national emergency, he can build a wall and avoid a dangerous precedent,” Alexander told reporters afterward, referring to billions from a drug forfeiture fund and anti-drug smuggling money at the Defense Department. “That would change the voting situation if he we were to agree to do that.”

Three Republicans have already said they would join Democrats in voting for a resolution to block Trump, and only one more is needed for the Senate to successfully reject Trump’s declaration. Alexander is just one of about 10 senators who are committed to blocking the president’s move or are considering doing so, suggesting the White House has a ways to go to avoid a public split in the party and a Trump veto.

Asked how the GOP can avoid a battle with Trump, one Senate Republican considering voting for the disapproval resolution said: “He can change his mind.”

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Heckuva way to end Black History Month, Pam Northam Jonathan Capehart

Pam Northam, wife of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), listens as he addresses the media Feb. 2 at the governor’s mansion in Richmond. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post)

More than two weeks after a heinous medical school yearbook photo of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) roiled Richmond, his wife, Pam Northam, shook things up again by reportedly handing cotton to black kids during a tour of the governor’s residence and asking, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?” At least she didn’t call them “indentured servants.”

The Post reports that a Virginia state employee wrote a letter to the governor and legislators complaining that on a tour of the residence on Feb. 21, Mrs. Northam handed her eighth-grade daughter raw cotton and made that say-what-now? query. “The governor’s office … said she simply handed the cotton to whoever was nearby,” the story notes, “and wanted everyone to note the sharpness of the stems and leaves on the raw cotton, to imagine how uncomfortable it would’ve been to handle all day.”

[‘White privilege’ in America: The blissful ignorance of Ralph Northam.]

As an educational point, I get it: Having children touch and feel cotton to help imagine a time when handling the rough fiber was daily life during slavery isn’t a terrible thing. It brings history into the present day. And Northam’s stated beliefthat “it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there” is laudable. Where Northam ran off the rails was in handing the stuff to the African American children who were a part of the annual tour for state Senate pages and asking them that dumb question. Yes, I call it a dumb question, because for African Americans, cotton is not an abstraction. It is as integral to our family history as it is to the nation’s.

Opinion | Political apologies should not be this hard

From wearing blackface to having inappropriate sexual relations, people who serve in public office must meet a higher standard of repentance. (Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

In his 2013 PBS series “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” renowned historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. devoted an entire episode to the cotton economy and slavery, an economy that exploded with Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and had slavery as its accelerant. Walking through a blooming cotton field, Gates explained just how devastating all this was to African Americans.

Slaves in the Upper South became incredibly more valuable as commodities. Because of this demand for them in the Deep South, they were sold off in droves and that created a second Middle Passage. And in many ways, the second Middle Passage was just as devastating as the first. To feed ‘King Cotton’ more than a million African Americans were carried off into the Deep South. That’s two and a half times the number that were brought to the United States from Africa. It was the largest forced migration in American history.

Despite never addressing the original sin of slavery, this nation has come a long way since those horrifying days. But I like to remind people how the distant past is not so distant. I am a descendant of slaves; my parents grew up in North Carolina during the hateful reign of Jim Crow. More to the point, my cousins and I are the first generation in our family who didn’t have to pick cotton. Think about it: Even after the Civil War that freed the slaves, generations of their descendants — our parents, aunts, uncles and distant cousins — continued their work for a pittance.

The cotton fields would drift by as my Jehovah’s Witness grandmother drove us to the Kingdom Hall or to Bible study at someone’s home during my summer vacations in North Carolina. But as we rode past those same vast patches of land on our way to bury her in 2003, my mother and her sisters told rueful stories about picking cotton in those same fields. Although they weren’t farmers, my mother and her siblings were hired to help other people who farmed.

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Budweiser Brewer Pushes Alternative Drinks as Bud Falls Flat – Saabira Chaudhuri Updated Feb. 28, 2019 10:47 a.m. ET

AB InBev has struggled in the U.S. amid a shift toward craft beers, Mexican imports, wine and spirits

A scene from Michelob Ultra's 2019 Super Bowl spot, featuring singer Maluma (center). AB InBev markets Michelob Ultra to health-conscious consumers.

The world’s largest brewer has struggled in recent years, as American drinkers shift to craft beers, Mexican imports, wine and spirits. It has also had to grapple with challenging emerging markets and a huge debt pile from its more than $100 billion acquisition of SABMiller in 2016.

Those issues weighed on results Thursday, but early signs of improvement and a forecast for revenue and earnings growth this year prompted shares to rise as much as 5%.

Losing FizzEstimated U.S. market shareSource: Beer Marketer’s Insights
%Bud LightBud2014’15’16’17’18051015202530

AB InBev’s fourth-quarter revenue dropped 2.4% to $14.25 billion and net profit plunged to $457 million from $3.04 billion, largely because of one-time items. Organic volumes, which strip out acquisitions and divestitures, edged up 0.3%.

The North American market remained tough, but showed signs of improvement. Volumes in the region fell 0.4%, compared with a 1.2% decline a year earlier. U.S. market share fell 0.2 percentage point, its smallest decline since 2012, with Bud and Bud Light both declining.

In response to the slowdown, AB InBev has launched pricier, limited-edition or flavored variants of its flagship brands and worked to diversify. Earlier in February, it bought a maker of ready-to-drink canned cocktails and high-end spirits, adding to its growing portfolio of nonbeer offerings, including spiked seltzer and energy drinks.

It has also pushed Michelob Ultra, a light beer that AB InBev markets to health-conscious consumers. On Thursday, it said a new organic version of Michelob Ultra and a relaunched lower-calorie, lower-alcohol spiked seltzer had performed well.

“We think we can expand Michelob Ultra in a big way,” Chief Executive Carlos Brito said, adding that the brand currently makes up about 10% of the company’s U.S. volumes. Budweiser makes up 13% and Bud Light 35%.

Mr. Brito said he didn’t expect Bud or Bud Light to return to growth and is focused on stabilizing their performance.

However, the success of AB InBev’s pricier products is attracting competition. This week, Molson Coors Brewing Co. begins selling a rival to Michelob Ultra: a low-calorie, low-carb beer called Saint Archer Gold.

The battle between the U.S.’s top two brewers has intensified in recent weeks after a Bud Light Super Bowl ad took aim at Miller Lite and Coors Light, prompting the no. 2 brewer to say it would pull out of a planned industrywide campaign to promote beer.

AB InBev is also grappling with macroeconomic challenges in Brazil, South Africa and Argentina that have capped consumer spending. Weaker emerging-market currencies have reduced the value of sales in some markets when converted into dollars.

That combination of factors prompted the company to say last year it would slash its dividend to focus on paying down debt.

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Scientists Just Pulled CO2 From Air And Turned It Into Coal-Trevor Nace

Caterpillar tractors collect black coal pile. Illustration of supply field of a power station. Credit: GettyGetty

Scientists have discovered a breakthrough technology, a way to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it back into coal. This new discovery has the potential to change the way we think about CO2.

The research, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, provides a step-by-step guide in turning CO2 into coal, acting to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and lock it away in solid carbon form.

Carbon sequestration, the act of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away is a growing field aimed at mitigating climate change. Major oil and gas companies, like Shell, are spending billions of dollars to develop carbon sequestration plants that store CO2 in porous reservoirs within Earth. However, this approach is expensive as it requires CO2 to be compressed into liquid form and injected into rock formations within Earth. Due to cost, this approach is not economically viable without heavy subsidies and/or a carbon tax to help offset costs.

A schematic showing the use of liquid metal to convert CO2 into solid coal. RMIT University

This recent development adds another method to efficiently lock away carbon dioxide in a safe and long term way. This isn’t the first time scientists converted carbon dioxide into a solid form, however, previous techniques required extremely high temperatures making the approach not practical beyond a laboratory setting.

To convert CO2 from the atmosphere into solid carbon coal, the researchers used a cerium-containing liquid metal catalyst, which is uniquely efficient at conducting electricity and has specific properties.

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Narendra Modi and the struggle for India’s soul – The Economist Mar 2nd 2019

How India’s prime minister uses Hindu nationalism

WHEN THE world’s biggest electorate handed Narendra Modi a thumping victory five years ago, India seemed poised for far-reaching change. His party had won an outright majority of seats in the national parliament, a rare feat in India’s fractious politics. This was not only punishment for tarnished incumbents or reward for Mr Modi’s hard-working, no-nonsense, business-friendly image. Many also saw it as a ringing endorsement of his ideology. Mr Modi’s strident brand of Hindu nationalism, which pictures Pakistan less as a strategic opponent than a threat to civilisation, puts him at the fringe even of his own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

After five years in power, the Hindutva (Hindu-nationalist) movement faces a moment of reckoning. That is not just because first Pakistan’s jihadists and then its air force have presented Mr Modi with a political crisis. It is also because India is approaching a general election looking as polarised as at any time since independence.

The rival visions confronting India’s 900m voters have rarely been so sharply defined. Hindu nationalists regard India as a nation defined by its majority faith, much like Israel or indeed Pakistan. On the other side stand those who see India’s extraordinary diversity as a source of strength. For most of the country’s seven decades the multi-coloured, secular vision has prevailed. But the orange-clad Hindutva strain has grown ever bolder.

Under Mr Modi, the project to convert India into a fully fledged Hindu nation has moved ahead smartly. The pace would undoubtedly accelerate if, carried on a surge of patriotism brought by the clash with Pakistan, he sweeps into another term. But given that in 2014, the BJP grabbed its big majority with just 31% of the popular vote, how far would Mr Modi be able to push the Hindutva project, even if he does get a new mandate? And if he loses, can a secular India be rebuilt?

The answers depend less on politics than on the underlying strength of the Hindu nationalist movement itself. To measure this, the place to start is with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). With an all-male membership of around 5m, the flagship of Hindutva modestly describes itself as the world’s largest volunteer organisation. It is far more than that.

Founded in 1925, the RSS has over time absorbed or co-opted nearly every rival Hindutva group. “The miracle and also the design of the Sangh is that they have not split—and that is their power,” says Vinay Sitapati, a historian. Its most obvious manifestation is the RSS’s 60,000-odd self-financing cells, or shakhas, which meet daily for communal exercises and discussion, typically on a patriotic theme. The harder core of the RSS consists of some 6,000 full-time apostles known as pracharaks. These devotees exercise discreet control across not just the shakhas, but a broader “family” of Hindutva groups.

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How’d the Cohen Hearing Go? That Depends on Your Filter Bubble – ISSIE LAPOWSKY CULTURE 02.27.19 05:41 PM

On social media and on partisan news sites, the conversation about Michael Cohen’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee split into like-minded echo chambers.LAUREN JOSEPH; ALYSSA FOOTE; GETTY IMAGES

Donald Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, is a flawed man with nothing left to lose, charting a path to redemption by finally coming clean about crimes and misdeeds allegedly committed by the president of the United States. Either that, or he’s a cheat and a crook who can’t be trusted, who’s already pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and isn’t above doing it again if it’ll help him land a book deal.

These are the two interpretations of Cohen’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee that manifested online Wednesday. As they’ve done so many times before—during the Benghazi investigation, during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings—the internet’s tribal factions retreated to their corners over the course of the day to tell utterly opposite stories about the much-anticipated hearings and what they revealed about Cohen and Trump.

On social media and on partisan sites, the conversation split into like-minded echo chambers, with each side parroting the talking points of their party’s members who were sitting in the hearing room. What emerged was a sort of cacophonous bizarro world that would have seemed implausible just a year ago: Conservative pundits and political operatives, including Trump’s own children, worked overtime to discredit a man who spent 10 years as a close confidante to Trump, and until last June, served as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Liberals, meanwhile, spent their 240 characters sticking up for and even applauding the humility of a man who’ll head to prison in May for, among other things, lying to Congress to defend Trump and making hush money payments on his behalf.

In a world of divergent media diets and carefully curated filter bubbles, just which story you heard depends mostly on your timeline.

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At the End of a Long, Tedious Cohen Hearing, AOC Was Sharp and Crisp – Ed Kilgore 6:09 P.M.

New York’s favorite new congresswoman was impressive after waiting all day to question Michael Cohen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Until today, I had been skeptical about the hype over new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is, after all, a backbencher from a safe Democratic district in a heavily Democratic state. She won an impressive upset primary victory last year, but is still south of 30 years old and belongs to the small if interesting tribe of self-identified democratic socialists (to which I do not happen to belong). Maybe I don’t spend enough time on social media to understand her mastery of latter-day communications. But I figured she had become a self-perpetuating legend probably resented by her colleagues who spent years toiling for a tiny fraction of the attention she’s attracted.

But at the end of a long, tedious day in the House Oversight Committee marked by clumsy questioning of Michael Cohen by Democrats, and shrieking hostility to the witness from Trump-loving Republicans, AOC (as she is universally known in the political universe — you know, like FDR and JFK) put in perhaps the single most impressive appearance of the hearing.

Check it out:

She was crisp, succinct, and very focused on raising some previously undiscussed potential criminal liability issues for Trump that Cohen’s testimony suggested (e.g, insurance fraud), including several where the hot-button issue of Trump’s missing tax returns might be germane. I wasn’t the only viewer who was impressed; so was the fact-checker from the Washington Post, another person unlikely to be excessively biased toward AOC:

Indeed, she was the opposite of a grandstander. True, she’s lucky to be the rare member of Congress who will get attention no matter what she does. But this time, she earned it, and if nothing else it’s a solid indication that she hasn’t let her early celebrity go to her head.

Watch Michael Cohen Excoriate Trump Alleging Crimes In Office | The Beat With Ari Melber | MSNBC – Published on Feb 27, 2019

In a historic day in Washington, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testifies against him in public under oath, before the House Oversight Committee. MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent, Ari Melber, breaks down how in the extraordinary, unprecedented testimony, Michael Cohen excoriated Trump, and alleged he lied about hush payments, knew about Wikileaks emails, ran for profit and struck alliances to kill stories. Cohen’s friend, Donny Deutsch, who spoke to him shortly after his testimony tells Ari Melber about Cohen’s response to the hearing.

Mueller’s Investigation Has Created An Underworld Of Online Sleuths (HBO) – VICE News Published on Feb 26, 2019

Sorting through the data of the dead — their pots, their knives, and the rocks they cooked on — in order to reconstruct how they once lived, is not so different from tracking the Special Counsel investigation. On a Friday in February, Adrienne Cobb, 29, lab assistant in the archaeology department at Western Washington University, was trying to do both. She was digitizing data on artifacts found on a farm in Washington state that were about 3,000 years old, and keeping track of what was happening on Capitol Hill, where the House Judiciary Committee grilled Matthew Whitaker — then, acting Attorney General — about his involvement in Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and its links to Russia. Cobb’s an unlikely candidate for legal sleuthing. She’s a recovering heroin addict with no experience in journalism, and a preference for Ghost Adventures over Reliable Sources. (“I hate cable news.”) She has dyed red hair, rocks Daria-esque glasses, and tends to look at the floor when she isn’t absorbed by a screen. She spends her free time — and some of her office time, too — tracking every update, big and small, in Mueller’s probe. She’s part of an online community of digital sleuths, amateur journalists, and statisticians, who commit hours upon hours of their lives to all things Mueller. Some have launched careers out of obsessively tracking the investigation’s twists and turns. But for her, keeping track of Mueller’s work is about helping others feel less “helpless” in a wilderness of fast-paced, complex news that doesn’t always add up. She calls herself an “aggregator,” which seems simple enough, but it’s tough work. She checks Twitter and Reddit three times an hour for new, relevant reporting, and saves links to those articles with the program, Evernote. Meanwhile, news of every White House departure goes in a separate spreadsheet that she’ll refer to in order to update her website, 45Chaos, which in granular detail, notes every staffer who’s left, whether and why they quit, resigned, or resigned under pressure (“R-UP”), and measures the length of their tenure in “mooches,” a metric born in Trump’s White House. (She goes by 10-days, not 11, though there’s a debate over how long Anthony Scaramucci really lasted as White House Communications Director.) On the weekends, she wakes at 4:30 a.m. and never makes plans to leave the house for long — giving her just enough time for scan every article she’s saved to Evernote, for any new revelations. These get boiled down into weekly recaps that she posts every Monday to a Reddit forum called, appropriately, “Keep_Track.” Readers sometimes message her in appreciation or send tips, and her summaries have ballooned along with the news cycle to run as long as 5,000 words. On Monday, the process starts again. “I get a lot of people who say, ‘I can’t believe that all happened in one week,’” she said. “Or, ‘That feels like it was a month ago, because so much has happened.’ So I think there’s value to seeing it all in one spot.” There’s value, even for the other Mueller obsessives who, like Cobb, have become addicted to tracking the unknown-knowns. Scott Stedman, a 23-year-old, started tracking Mueller’s probe while he was a political science major at UC Irvine. Within a year of graduation, his obsessive reporting and research has earned him bylines in major outlets and landed him a book deal (Real News, out in April). Stedman says he’s a fan of Cobb’s recaps. “I find them super useful. It’s a testament to how much information there is.” Some of Cobb’s readers even donate — she makes about $150 a month through her Patreon account, and 76,000 people subscribe to the Reddit forum, where her work is pinned to the top, so any new members can get caught up on the fly. “There was a New Yorker cartoon that came out this week that I think sums it up pretty well,” says A.G., the host of the popular podcast Mueller She Wrote, referring to a Julia Suits cartoon that some might see as an exaggeration but that many in this Mueller-obsessed world received with a ring of truth. The cartoon shows a conspiracist-type standing in a room, wallpapered in names ripped from Washington Post headlines, and string trying to connect them all.

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. But if you lobby for better fishing policy… – Kelsey Piper Feb 26, 2019, 5:20pm EST

A charity focused on cost-effective giving is shifting its sights toward influencing policy.

Origami by Katharine Molloy / Photo by Anand Katakam

What’s the most cost-effective way to help people?

Lots of people have tried to answer that question. Donors care, a lot, about whether the charities they’re giving to are effective (though they often don’t know a good way to measure that). Charity evaluators like GuideStar, CharityWatch, and Charity Navigator rate charities primarily by how well they’re run.

My favorite charity evaluator, GiveWell, takes a different approach — the group focuses on identifying charities that deliver the most cost-effective interventions available. In global health and development, for example, we often have robust evidence that some health interventions are a particularly good way to save and change lives. That means that the charities delivering those interventions are places where your money goes especially far. Those interventions include distributing malaria nets, treating kids for intestinal parasites, supplementing Vitamin A to reduce child mortality from infectious disease, and, yes, just directly giving people money.

But can we do better than that? That’s a question GiveWell is asking — and it is expanding its scope in the hopes of finding even more promising opportunities.

GiveWell recently announced that it’s more than doubling the size of its research team to try to find more cost-effective programs. But its revised approach involves increased attention to something relatively new for GiveWell: policy-oriented philanthropy.

In a blog post announcing the change, the organization said it would be researching new, more complex ways to measure how to do good in areas, including:

  • Public health regulations like anti-smoking laws, restrictions on lead paint, air pollution, and the fight against counterfeit medicines
  • “Improving government program selection,” or assisting governments in their selection of more effective health, education, and antipoverty programs
  • “Improving government implementation,” or helping with training and operations so that government policies work better
  • “Increasing economic growth and redistribution” — advocating for or helping implement policies that produce healthy overall economic growth, and ones that reduce inequality
  • Improved data collection
  • Advocating for more aid spending to go to the most cost-effective direct-delivery programs

GiveWell is not planning to change their focus on low- and middle-income countries. But they’ll be considering lots of interventions they wouldn’t have looked at before.

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