WTF Community

The Latest – Wednesday, November 25 (🦃 Thanksgiving weekend edition)

:zap: A community space for breaking news :zap:

A daily community thread to collect updates and events pertinent to the daily shock and awe, this is The Latest.

:warning: This thread has ended. The discussion continues: The Latest – Monday, November 30

What we’re talking about



Well, he finally did what we knew he would.


Trump Admin Is Rushing to Mine Sacred Tribal Land in Arizona

In yet another attack on the environment before leaving office, the Trump administration is seeking to transfer ownership of San Carlos Apache holy ground in Oak Flat, Arizona, to a copper mining company.


I hate him.

That is all.

They are looking to bring back firing squads and the blood ELECTRIC CHAIR. And there are five executions scheduled between now and when Joe Biden takes over.


The Supreme Court blocked New York’s virus-imposed limits on religious services. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was a decisive vote in the 5-4 ruling.


OH, “Don’t talk to me that way…” President T - And that’s his way of dealing with the press…always. :clown_face:


E.P.A.’s Final Deregulatory Rush Runs Into Open Staff Resistance

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency was rushing to complete one of its last regulatory priorities, aiming to obstruct the creation of air- and water-pollution controls far into the future, when a senior career scientist moved to hobble it.

Thomas Sinks directed the E.P.A.’s science advisory office and later managed the agency’s rules and data around research that involved people. Before his retirement in September, he decided to issue a blistering official opinion that the pending rule — which would require the agency to ignore or downgrade any medical research that does not expose its raw data — will compromise American public health.

“If this rule were to be finalized it would create chaos,” Dr. Sinks said in an interview in which he acknowledged writing the opinion that had been obtained by The New York Times. “I thought this was going to lead to a train crash and that I needed to speak up.”

With two months left of the Trump administration, career E.P.A. employees find themselves where they began, in a bureaucratic battle with the agency’s political leaders. But now, with the Biden administration on the horizon, they are emboldened to stymie Mr. Trump’s goals and to do so more openly.

The filing of a “dissenting scientific opinion” is an unusual move; it signals that Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., and his politically appointed deputies did not listen to the objections of career scientists in developing the regulation. More critically, by entering the critique as part of the official Trump administration record on the new rule, Dr. Sinks’s dissent will offer Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s E.P.A. administrator a powerful weapon to repeal the so-called “secret science” policy.

E.P.A. career employees this month also quietly emailed out the results of a new study concluding that the owners of half a million diesel pickup trucks had illegally removed their emissions control technology, leading to huge increases in air pollution. And some senior E.P.A. staff members have engaged in back-channel conversations with the president-elect’s transition team as they waited for Mr. Trump to formally approve the official start of the presidential transition, two agency employees acknowledged.

Current and former E.P.A. staff and advisers close to the transition said Mr. Biden’s team has focused on preparing a rapid assault on the Trump administration’s deregulatory legacy and re-establishing air and water protections and methane emissions controls.

“They are focused like a laser on what I call the ‘Humpty Dumpty approach,’ which is putting the agency back together again,” said Judith Enck, a former E.P.A. regional administrator who served in the Obama administration.

The transition team is particularly focused on renewing efforts to tackle climate change, which had been crushed by the Trump administration and mocked by Mr. Wheeler as little more than “virtue signaling" to foreign countries. There also are plans to revamp scientific advisory boards that Mr. Wheeler and his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, had stacked with allies of private industry and purged of many academic scientists.

“They seem hyper-focused on what it’s going to take to get things back on track,” said Chris Zarba, former director of the E.P.A.’s science advisory board, adding, “I think they’re going to do a full reset.”

Racing against those efforts is Mr. Wheeler, who has a long list of priorities that aides and confidants said he is determined to complete before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. He has also maneuvered legally to erect time-consuming hurdles that Mr. Biden will have to clear to unwind some Trump administration policies.

At the top of Mr. Wheeler’s to-do list is finalizing the science rule, officially called “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.”

Under it, the agency would have to dismiss or give less weight to scientific studies that fail to release all their raw data to the public. Mr. Wheeler says the rule’s opponents prefer that regulatory decisions be made in “a back room, a proverbial smoke filled room.”

But thousands of medical and scientific organizations say the plan would cripple the E.P.A.’s ability to create new air and water protections because people who participate in epidemiological or long-term health studies that examine exposure to toxins typically take part only if their personal health information is kept private.

The E.P.A. under Mr. Wheeler has argued that it can create data protections to secure personal information like home addresses and medical records. But Dr. Sinks, who was the only agency scientist who worked to establish that data security, said the agency lacks the technical expertise and funding to succeed.

“Human subjects research is the most predictive data for establishing the human health impact from environmental exposures,” Dr. Sinks wrote, adding, “Any rule or guidance that diminishes or removes high quality research from consideration in rule making results in poorly developed rules.”

Thomas A. Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served as E.P.A. science adviser in the Obama administration, expressed amazement at Dr. Sinks’s dissent.

“It speaks volumes about the failure of the process and the failure of the administration to listen not just to this one person but to the broader scientific leadership in the United States,” he said. Mr. Burke called the rule “a very thinly-veiled dream rule for polluters.”

James Hewitt, a spokesman for the E.P.A., said in a statement that Dr. Sinks’s objections were “irrelevant.” He accused Dr. Sinks, without presenting evidence, of failing to follow agency “protocol for raising concerns” and also said Dr. Sinks did not read the most recent draft of the rule before filing his dissent. Mr. Hewitt also did not explain why such a high-ranking career scientist was not provided the final draft of the rule.

“The purpose of the science transparency rule is to codify internal procedural requirements for how the E.P.A. will consider the availability of data that it relies upon in developing its final significant regulatory actions and influential scientific information,” Mr. Hewitt said.

Mr. Wheeler in these final months also sidestepped a promise he made to the E.P.A. inspector general to address accusations from more than 250 employees about political interference with science under the Trump administration.

Mr. Wheeler had agreed to determine the reasons for the concerns about a culture of disregard for scientific integrity and “tone at the top” of the agency by Sept. 30. He did not.

Instead he issued a memo in November affirming the agency’s support for its 2012 scientific integrity policy. But even that document was watered down. The final version eliminated language that assured science would occur “without political interference, coercion of scientists or regard to risk management implications,” according to a document of tracked changes reviewed by The New York Times.

Mr. Hewitt in a statement said that memo did not affect the underlying scientific integrity policy.

Of Mr. Wheeler’s broader agenda over the next two months, he said, “E.P.A. continues to advance this administration’s commitment to meaningful environmental progress while moving forward with our regulatory reform agenda.”

The E.P.A. also is expected to finalize in the coming weeks a rule on industrial soot pollution, which is linked to respiratory diseases, including those caused by the coronavirus. The rule is expected to leave in place a 2012 standard on fine soot from smokestacks and tailpipes, known as PM 2.5, ignoring the E.P.A.’s own scientists, who wrote last year that the existing rule contributes to about 45,000 deaths per year from respiratory diseases, and that tightening it could save about 10,000 of those lives.

In April, a study published by researchers at Harvard linked long-term soot exposure and Covid-19 death rates. The study found that a person living for decades in a county with high levels of fine particulate matter is 15 percent more likely to die from the coronavirus than someone in a region with one unit less of the fine particulate pollution.

And last month, the agency finalized a rule that creates a lengthy new legal process to overturn or withdraw certain policy directives known as “guidance documents,” which give federal agencies direction on the specifics of how to enforce laws.

Such guidance documents can give an administration some license to interpret laws in ways that advance their policy agenda. For example, the E.P.A. during the Trump administration has published a guidance document that allows oil and gas companies to release flares from their wells for up to 15 minutes at a time before regulations apply — a process that releases methane, a powerful planet-warming greenhouse gas.

Another guidance document allows polluting entities with several adjacent polluting buildings on the same site, such as power plants and factories, to report the separate buildings as smaller individual pollution sources, rather than report the total pollution levels of the overall site. That could allow the polluters to avoid pollution control requirements that would be triggered by reporting the larger amount of pollution attributed to the larger site.

These types of documents are not legally binding, but they do stand as the official policy of a government agency until they are formally withdrawn or changed. Under the new guidance document rule, the E.P.A. would have to formally issue a new regulation in order to withdraw the guidance — a lengthy legal process that can take months or even years, meaning that until it is complete, those Trump guidance documents will stand as the official policies of the Biden administration.

Jody Freeman, a professor of environmental law at Harvard and a former adviser to the Obama administration, called the rule a “little I.E.D.,” referring to an improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb, aimed at slowing a Biden administration’s plans to overturn Mr. Trump’s rules.

“Shenanigans like these are what awaits the Biden team,” she said.



Iran has had one of their nuclear scientists assasinated. Seems like we maybe itching for a conflict sounds about right…unfortunately. Big problem right now.

An Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program was killed Friday in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate. Israel, long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, declined to immediately comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told the public to “remember that name” when talking about Fakhrizadeh.

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Blistering…complete repudiation of Trump’s plans to upend the election results.

In a blistering decision, a Philadelphia appeals court denied on Friday the Trump campaign’s attempt to challenge a lower court loss that had sought to stop — or even reverse — the certification of election results in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania certified its election results on Tuesday, as Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on the slate of 20 electors and solidified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory there.

The 21-page ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was a complete repudiation of Mr. Trump’s effort to halt Pennsylvania’s certification process and a full-throated affirmation of a decision last Saturday by Judge Matthew W. Brann of Federal District Court in Williamsport, Penn., who dealt the Trump campaign its initial defeat in the case.

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote on behalf of the appeals court. “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Moments after the three-judge panel from the Third Circuit ruled, Jenna Ellis, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, wrote on Twitter that she and Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is leading the postelection legal effort, planned to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. In her Twitter post, Ms. Ellis accused “the activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania” of covering up “allegations of massive fraud” despite the fact that all three judges on the panel were appointed by Republicans.But given the narrow way the Trump campaign structured its appeal, it would not get much even if the U.S. Supreme Court granted its proposed request to reverse the Third Circuit. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had asked the appellate court only for permission to submit a revised version of its original complaint to Judge Brann. If the Supreme Court abided by the strict terms of the appeals, it could do no more than return the case to Judge Brann’s court for further action.

In a letter to the Third Circuit filed earlier this week, lawyers for the Trump campaign had suggested that the appeals court could, on its own, reverse the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote — though they stopped short of formally requesting such a move.

But the appeals court shot down that suggestion too, saying the campaign’s arguments for effectively undoing Pennsylvania’s election had “no merit” and would be “drastic and unprecedented.”

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A major contributor to a group backing President Donald Trump’s fight to overturn the presidential election sued to recover $2.5 million in donations after the campaign failed in several court cases and was unable to prove any fraud.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas by North Carolina venture capitalist Fred Eshelman argued that the nonprofit group True the Vote promised to keep him informed of how his millions were being used in what was pitched as a strong case against alleged election fraud. Instead, the suit alleged, he was fed “vague responses, platitudes and empty promises of follow-up” that never occurred.

He was kept in the dark when weak cases filed in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania were voluntarily withdrawn in a decision the investor claimed was made in “concert with counsel for the Trump campaign,” the suit said.

In the Wisconsin case, Republican powerhouse attorney James Bopp promised that “evidence will be shortly forthcoming.” But Bopp withdrew the case last week just hours before scheduled oral arguments without ever providing a shred of evidence. Bopp won the the infamous Citizens United case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which opened the floodgates of dark money into campaigns.

A fed-up Eshelman last week ordered True the Vote in an email to immediately wire back his contribution. When the organization failed to comply, he filed the lawsuit.

Eshelman is a major Trump backer who has twice donated the maximum allowable individual contribution of $2,700 to Trump’s campaign, as well as a $100,000 contribution to the Trump Victory PAC, according to records.

HuffPost could not immediately reach True the Vote, the only plaintiff named in the suit.

Trump has refused to concede the presidential election and continues to complain about massive voter fraud without any evidence to support his allegations. He again claimed in remarks at the White House Thursday, “There was massive fraud.”-

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Iran’s supreme leader vows revenge over slain scientist

Any escalation of course is super dangerous.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist who led Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program, as the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for a slaying that has raised fears of reignited tensions across the Middle East.

After years of being in the shadows, the image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suddenly was to be seen everywhere in Iranian media, as his widow spoke on state television and officials publicly demanded revenge on Israel for the scientist’s slaying.

Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian scientists a decade ago amid earlier tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing Friday. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush, the likes of which Israel has been accused of conducting before.

The attack has renewed fears of Iran striking back against the U.S., Israel’s closest ally in the region, as it did earlier this year when a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general. The U.S. military acknowledged moving an aircraft carrier back into the region, while an Iranian lawmaker suggested throwing out U.N. nuclear inspectors in response to the killing.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.” Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate.

Speaking earlier Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for the killing.

“We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Rouhani said. “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”

Both Rouhani and Khamenei said that Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop the nuclear program. Iran’s civilian atomic program has continued its experiments and now enriches a growing uranium stockpile up to 4.5% purity in response to the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal after the U.S.′ 2018 withdrawal from the accord.

That’s still far below weapons-grade levels of 90%, though experts warn Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium for at least two atomic bombs if it chose to pursue them.

Analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led America’s Manhattan Project in World War II that created the atom bomb.

Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

Fakhrizadeh’s widow appeared unnamed on state television in a black chador, saying his death would spark a thousand others to take up his work.

“He wanted to get martyred and his wish came true,” she said.

Hard-line Iranian media has begun circulating memorial images showing Fakhrizadeh standing alongside a machine-gun-cradling likeness of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whom the U.S. killed in the January drone strike.

Soleimani’s death led to Iran retaliating with a ballistic missile barrage that injured dozens of American troops, but Tehran also has the support of proxy forces across the Mideast that it can call upon. The Iranian Guard’s naval forces routinely shadow and have tense encounters with U.S. Navy forces in the Persian Gulf as well.

Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region. It cited the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the reason for the decision, saying “it was prudent to have additional defensive capabilities in the region to meet any contingency.”

Iran has conducted attacks targeting Israeli interests abroad over the killing of its scientists, like in the case of the three Iranians recently freed in Thailand in exchange for a detained British-Australian academic.

Iran also could throw out inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have provided an unprecedented, realtime look at Iran’s nuclear program since the deal. Nasrollah Pezhmanfar, a hard-line lawmaker, said a statement calling to expel the “IAEA’s spy inspections” could be read Sunday, the parliament’s official website quoted him as saying.

Friday’s attack happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the country’s elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said. The precision of the attack led to the suspicion of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service being involved. The CIA separately declined to comment on the attack Saturday.

State media has only said the attack killed Fakhrizadeh, though a statement Saturday from the European Union described the incident as killing “an Iranian government official and several civilians.” EU officials did not respond to requests for comment.

In Tehran, a small group of hard-line protesters burned images of Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, who has said his administration will consider reentering Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. And while burning an American and Israeli flag, the hard-liners criticized Iran’s foreign minister who helped negotiate the nuclear deal, showing the challenge ahead of Tehran if officials chose to come back the accord.

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:foot: :dog2: This is better than blasting FOX Network with lies, but a bit of a setback.

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Trump is now in the “blame my own people” phase of things.

First, he is undermining his party’s desperate bid to keep the senate by un-endorsing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp…

…and then by claiming the FBI and Justice Department may have helped rig the election.

I wonder what Bill Barr thinks of that?