Commentary

Small pieces of news you may have missed in the bigness of the day.

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Florida News

Duval may lose three middle schools to charters if state bill passes, Board warns Times Union

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Republic Services scuttles plans to bury coal ash at its Wayne County landfill: Times Union

Republic Services is withdrawing three applications for permits that would have allowed it to bury thousands of tons of coal ash per day at its Broadhurst Landfill in Wayne County, Ga., the company said.

The company is withdrawing a request to modify a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to impact wetlands to construct a rail yard that would have accommodated hopper cars filled with coal ash from power plants, Broadhurst Environmental said.

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Expanding homestead exemption would deal $36 million hit to Jacksonville: Times Union

A move by state lawmakers to expand Florida’s homestead exemption by another $25,000 would deliver a $36.6 million hit to the city of Jacksonville’s budget if the measure gets on the November 2018 ballot and wins approval from voters.

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GTM Research Reserve in danger of losing funding from NOAA St. Augustine Record

President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget proposal includes cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funding. That could mean a large decline in funding for the GTM Research Reserve.

According to Ellen Leroy-Reed, executive director for The Friends of the GTM Research Reserve, about half of the funding for Guana comes from an NOAA grant. The Friends group is a private nonprofit “citizen organization supporting the GTM Research Reserve’s education, stewardship, and research.”

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Native American News

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Earth+Bone, Part 2: Wall Plan Desecrates Tohono O’odham Sacred Land; Fronteras Desk

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to build a wall along the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border. He remains resolute, despite the obstacles that stand in his way. One is the Tohono O’odham, the American Indian tribe that straddles the two countries. Tribal leaders say a wall would desecrate land they believe to be sacred.

When it comes to the the president’s plan to build a wall across the mountain range, Jose said, “Over my dead body will we build a wall. It’s like me going into your home and saying ‘You know what, I believe in order to protect your house we need some adjusting.’ You’re going to say, ‘Wait a minute. Who are you to come into my house and tell me how to protect my home?’ And you’d probably tell me, ‘Get out of my house.’ Now we’re not saying get out … We asked for assistance in securing the border.”

Jose said they’re asking the Trump administration to collaborate with the tribe.

“We’re not your enemy,” Jose said. “We’re your ally. We want to work with you in protecting America.”

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Katherine Smith, Iconic Navajo Land Defender And Matriarch, Dies: Fronteras Desk 

Katherine Smith was best known for standing up to the federal government in the 1970s when it forced thousands of Navajo people to move off their land.

Billowing clouds rolled in and out over Big Mountain bringing wind, rain, snow and sun when Katherine Smith said goodbye to the land she loved and defended.

“In our beliefs when a death occurs, the weather will tell you how blessed they were, the prosperty,” said daughter Marykatherine Smith. “We see rain, wind and snow as prosperity so she was very blessed.”

From a distance Big Mountain appears small but its importance to the Navajo and Hopi people is great. For centuries Navajo families like Smith’s shared the ancestral land with Hopi.

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National News

The Minimum Income It Takes to Live in Each State: Mental Floss

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The Surprising Truth Behind Tax Day: Where Your Taxes Go, Moyers and Company

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The West Coast Will Determine the Fate of the Fossil Fuel Industry:  Yes Magazine

All along the West Coast, environmentalists are gearing up for an epic fight. Advocates of a clean energy economy talk of building a “thin green line” from California to British Columbia to protect and improve on gains against the spread of fossil fuel infrastructure so that the production, use, and export of oil, coal, and natural gas steadily decline.

The fronts in this war are multiplying—along pipelines and rail lines, in the courts and media, through finance and all levels of government—even as an emboldened fossil fuel industry tries to roll back gains for climate justice and revive stalled infrastructure projects. Opponents are outmatched by the billions of dollars energy companies can throw around, but they are buoyed by an invigorated grassroots effort to stymie the industry and strengthen resistance by local elected officials. And they are aided by economic trends that increasingly favor renewable energy.

The Northwest is the gateway between vast energy reserves in the U.S. interior and huge markets in Asia.

Portland and the entire Northwest are key to the fate of the fossil fuel industry simply because of geography, explained Dan Serres, conservation director of Columbia Riverkeeper. The Columbia River, which forms most of the border between Washington and Oregon, is the most accessible shipping point for large flows of oil, coal, and natural gas seeking a deep-water pass. The river’s path also provides the flattest route for trainloads of oil and coal. As such, the Northwest is the gateway between vast energy reserves in the U.S. interior and huge markets in Asia.

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World News

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People Reject Neoliberalism’s Return, But Challenges Remain in Ecuador | By William K. Black | Common Dreams

Ecuador has just staged another successful democratic election—as even the Wall Street Journal now reports, based on international election observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) that have no love for the Ecuadorian party that won the election. Most of the foreign reportage on the election focuses on Julian Assange, who has taken refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London. But what are the real problems that Lenin Moreno and the people of Ecuador will face when he becomes President?

Ecuador’s oligarchs have run the country for most of its existence, crippling economic development and producing high rates of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. The neo-liberal policies that became synonymous with the “Washington Consensus” led to extreme financial deregulation and privatization that produced the typical wave of “control fraud.” The nation’s leading bankers led that epidemic of fraud by seemingly legitimate banks. The fraud epidemic led to one of the many banking crises of the late 1990s that swept through Latin America. The banking crisis drove a serious recession, led to exceptional levels of emigration from Ecuador, produced extreme political instability in Ecuador—and set the stage for the election of the reformist Rafael Correa. Correa and his supporters created the Alianza Pais (AP). Correa became president in 2007. The AP has a majority holds a majority of the seats in Ecuador’s unicameral legislature.

The election of Correa and AP supporters, and the discrediting of the oligarchs based on their economic and political malfeasance and thefts, created the political space for dramatic changes in Ecuador’s public policies that have broad support among the people of Ecuador. Hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians have “voted with their feet” to return from emigration to work and live in Ecuador. Poverty, unemployment, and inequality all fell under President Correa.

Driverless shuttle bus to be tested by public in London  BBC

Over the next three weeks, about 100 people will travel in a prototype shuttle on a route in Greenwich, London.

The vehicle, which travels up to 10mph (16.1kmph), will be controlled by a computer.

However, there will be a trained person on board who can stop the shuttle if required during the tests.

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Political News

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The Highly Funded Right-Wing Think Tank That Has Been Waiting 40 Years for This Moment: By Theo Anderson / In These Times April 4, 2017

Trump is proving to be the perfect tool for the radical conservative Heritage Foundation to gut the federal budget. Heritage’s impact will be felt in the Trump administration’s budget proposal, expected in mid-March. Last year, Heritage published a blueprint for bringing the federal budget into balance that calls for reducing spending by $10.5 trillion and cutting taxes by $1.3 trillion over a decade. It aims a wrecking ball at virtually every law, program and institution that defends the environment or promotes green energy. It calls for opening up “all federal waters and all non-wilderness, non federal-monument lands to exploration and production” to fossil fuel, mining and other commercial interests. According to Greenpeace, Heritage received at least $780,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2012, and more than $5.7 million from foundations associated with fossil-fuel industrialists the Koch brothers between 1997 and 2014.

The Trump administration is widely expected to adopt much of that blueprint as its own. Paul Winfree, the former director of Heritage’s Institute for Economic Policy Studies, was named the White House director of budget policy. Heritage noted in late February that Winfree is “expected to play the starring role in drafting Trump’s first budget. … The proposal will likely include deep spending cuts at domestic agencies.” According to Politico, Trump plans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency by about one-fourth, or roughly $2 billion.

The Heritage influence can be seen in non-budgetary ways, too. Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in early February, Trump said he would “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, an IRS rule that prevents nonprofit organizations, including churches, from endorsing political candidates. The call to repeal it has been a consistent theme of Heritage. A September 2016 essay in The Daily Signal argued that pastors “should be accountable to God alone, not the IRS, for what they say behind the pulpit.”

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Right-wing super PAC makes desperate attempt to link top Democratic candidate with Osama bin Laden: Think Progress

A super PAC affiliated with House Republican leadership has put together an ad linking Jon Ossoff—a Democratic candidate for the suburban Atlanta congressional seat formerly held by Tom Price before he became President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services—to Osama bin Laden.

Ossoff’s offense? Getting paid by Al Jazeera for documentary films produced by his company, Insight TWI.

The Congressional Leadership Fund’s ad begins with a narrator saying that “Al Jazeera, a media outlet that has been described as a mouthpiece for terrorists, has been paying Jon Ossoff thousands of dollars.” Those words are read over a clip of bin Laden speaking. The ad concludes by asking, “What is he hiding? How can we trust him?”

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