Jay Inslee Calls For Accepting ‘Historic Levels’ Of Refugees Amid Climate Crisis

Jay Inslee vowed Friday to resettle record numbers of refugees in the United States if elected president, casting a stark contrast between himself and President Donald Trump at a moment when extreme weather and unprecedented climatic changes are displacing millions around the world. 

The Washington governor, who is running for the White House on a promise to enact sweeping economic reforms in the face of a climate crisis, called the record-low cap of 45,000 refugee applicants that the Trump administration set last year “damaging and unacceptable.”

“At an absolute minimum, we have to be at historic levels,” Inslee, 68, told HuffPost in a wide-ranging interview in New York. “We know the climate crisis is today driving mass migration.”

The United States resettled just 22,491 refugees in 2018, a figure that ticked up only to 24,369 this year. That’s despite the United Nations recording more than 65 million people displaced worldwide. Depending on how you count, the global figure represents the highest number of refugees ever.

Catastrophic weather disasters have displaced an average of 24 million people per year since 2008, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the Swiss-based international organization. By 2050, that number could surge to anywhere from 140 million to 300 million to 1 billion. In 2018, the World Bank estimated the climate change impacts on three regions ― Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America ― could compel 143 million people to flee by the middle of the century.

In a photo from May 2017, a boy sits on an abandoned boat on what is left of Guatemala's Lake Atescatempa, which dried up due

In a photo from May 2017, a boy sits on an abandoned boat on what is left of Guatemala’s Lake Atescatempa, which dried up due to drought and high temperatures. 

Historic droughts and repeated crop failures drove many of the thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to the United States’ border with Mexico last year.

“We know that a significant portion of the people on our southern border are climate refugees today,” Inslee said. “We know in the Guatemalan highlands, they lost their growing season, where subsistence farmers have lost their ability to subsist.”

The remarks are likely to draw fire from Republicans. Websites like the Washington Free-Beacon and The Daily Caller, owned by white nationalist-adored Fox News host Tucker Carlson, mocked Inslee last month for drawing the lines between climate change and Central American migration during a segment on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

In 2015, Inslee became the first governor to publicly welcome Syrian refugees, saying in an NPR interview that it was an opportunity to “to really dig deep and see what kind of character our nation and my state has.”

While the steady influx of migrants in Europe has propelled a rise of far-right, xenophobic parties there, Inslee told HuffPost that the United States’ vast size and diversity, and its long history of immigration, make it an ideal place to resettle greater numbers of refugees.

“America has always been a refuge for those most dispossessed,” he said. “That’s a proud tradition so interwoven with what it is to be in America.”

The backlash from a resurgent white nationalist movement, egged on in part by Trump and his allies, is nothing new, Inslee said. He called the current anti-immigrant fervor “a replay of the same movie we’ve seen for 150 years, for the Jewish community from Europe, for the Irish community from Ireland, for the Italian community from Italy.”

“We have to fight the same battle America has always fought with every wave of immigration in American history,” he said. “This is not a unique period.”

The set of climate policy proposals he’s issued so far should help alleviate those social pressures, he said. On Thursday, the Inslee campaign released the most ambitious economic platform of any candidate to date, promising $9 trillion of investments to create 8 million jobs and decarbonize much of the U.S. economy in 10 years.

We have to fight the same battle America has always fought with every wave of immigration in American history. This is not a unique period
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D)

“If you don’t want mass migration, if you don’t want refugees, get on board with my climate crisis plan to defeat the climate crisis,” he said. “That’s the ultimate way to win this if that’s the perception.”

The plan calls for repealing laws that make it harder to unionize, arguing a revived labor movement and increasing protections for women and minority workers will eliminate poverty and level the economic playing field.

“There is not one economy, there are two economies,” he said. “One of those economies, for the top half of the economic pyramid, there’s been some relative wealth. But for the bottom half, there’s been almost zero wealth creation or increase in wages for over 20 years.”

Inslee remains far behind in polls. But his singular, scientifically sound focus on climate change could resonate with voters if he makes it to the Democratic debate stage. In March, 81% of self-described liberals, 77% of Democrats and 53% of independents reported feeling “highly worried” about climate change in a Gallup poll. An April CNN poll found climate change was a top issue for 82% of registered Democrats planning to vote in the 2020 presidential primary. 

While at least nine of Inslee’s rivals publicly backed the Green New Deal framework activists are promoting, the governor’s 15,000-word Evergreen Economy Plan offered the most fleshed out policy vision yet for how to zero out most emissions by 2030. 

Dows Shocking Comeback Falls Short, Exposing Wall Streets Dangerous Hubris

By CCN: The Dow and broader U.S. stock market finished lower on Friday, as investors weighed a myriad of macro risks against an apparent surge in consumer confidence. Those betting on a consumer-driven recovery may be in for a rude awakening amid record debt levels and the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

Dow Reverses Brutal Drop

After a brutal pre-market for U.S. stock futures, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed losses to trade slightly higher during the afternoon session. But the gains were short-lived as the blue-chip index settled down 98.68 points, or 0.4%, at 25,764,00

Dow Jones Industrial Average reverses around half of its 200-point drop. | Chart via Yahoo Finance.

The broad S&P 500 Index of large-cap stocks finished down 0.6% at 2,859.53. Most of the 11 primary sectors finished lower, led by energy and industrials companies.

The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index plunged 1% to 7,816.28.

Consumer Confidence Surges in May, but Not Everyone Buys It

consumer confidence fools stock marketconsumer confidence fools stock market

U.S. consumer confidence surges in May, but not everyone is convinced. | Source: Shutterstock.

U.S. consumer confidence surged to a new 15-year high in May, as Americans gave a glowing assessment of their prospects and reaffirmed their optimism about the Trump recovery.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index climbed to 102.4 in May from 97.2 in April. The reading was well beyond the 97.5 analysts had expected.

The gauge of future expectations surged to 96.0 from 87.4, which was also a 15-year high. The assessment of current economic conditions improved slightly.

Survey results showed that Americans were still concerned about an escalating tariff war with China, which “could further diminish the pace in consumer spending” that accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

The results came weeks after the U.S. government reported an unexpected surge in GDP growth during the first quarter. However, not everyone is convinced the economy is on solid footing or that consumers should get their hopes up too soon.

Perma-bear and market contrarian Peter Schiff says consumers are over-hyping the so-called “booming economy” because they think it will help their personal circumstances. But nothing of that sort will happen once rising prices diminish their purchasing power.

Schiff says that a full-blown U.S.-China trade war would hurt America the most because the Chinese have been subsidizing the world’s largest economy for decades. “When China withdraws the supports, our credit based service sector economy will implode!” he tweeted earlier this week.

Click here for a real-time Dow Jones Industrial Average price chart.

Ripple Potentially Sped Up XRP Distribution by 21 Years: Crypto Wonks

By CCN: CoinMetrics, a firm that analyzes blockchain data for crypto investors, published a bombshell report this week which tells the story of how Ripple Labs has allegedly misrepresented its escrow system. Ripple has effectively misrepresented the amount of XRP transferred back to escrow at least twice. More importantly, the bank-friendly cryptocurrency’s escrow process diverges significantly from the way it was presented initially.

Ripple Escrow System: Not Working As Advertised

Ripple is supposed to take 1 billion XRP out of its fund every month, liquidate what it needs, and return the remainder to escrow. The recovered funds are supposed to go to the end of the escrow line, and 1 billion XRP should be available to Ripple every month. Over time, additional months will be added, as the company doesn’t use anywhere near that amount.

However, CoinMetrics found that Ripple moves the funds to an escrow contract designated for unlocking much earlier than you would expect.

“In February (month 1) they unlocked another 1 billion XRP and used 100 million of it. Instead of locking another 900 million XRP in month 56 (September 2022), the first month in which no escrow was scheduled to release, the remaining 900 million were escrowed in two different contracts: one of 100 million XRP expiring on month 55, putting the XRP escrowed for that month at 1 billion XRP, and another one of 800 million XRP expiring on month 56.”

“Of particular importance is that month 55 had already previously been designated as a month in which an escrow would be released. According to Ripple’s original description of the escrow mechanism, all of the unused funds in month 1 of the scheme should have been scheduled to release in month 56.”

This differing method of re-escrowing funds functionally accelerates the release of funds by as much as 21 years, depending on how many XRP Ripple liquidates each month.

How Long Will The Escrow Actually Last?

ripple xrp escrow cryptoripple xrp escrow crypto

Ripple’s actual XRP escrow model speeds up distribution by as much as 21 years. | Source: CoinMetrics

Changing crypto market tides could make that figure higher or lower. The XRP price has been relatively stable until the recent overall crypto bull run. We can expect that when prices are higher, Ripple will liquidate less. When prices are lower, they’ll have to liquidate more.

CCN spoke to Nic Carter, co-founder of CoinMetrics, who believes the misreporting aspect may be a simple accounting error. He points out that the misrepresentation is “not substantial,” saying:

“The error we found was fairly small in the grand scheme. It may have just been an accounting mistake.”

Ripple declined to comment to CoinMetrics about the report, although it was shared with them prior to its publication. CCN has also reached out for comment and will update this article upon receiving a reply.

The CoinMetrics team had to assess Ripple’s blockchain and the company’s escrow as part of adding XRP to its platform. It further finds that an unknown entity receives what amounts to a salary in XRP every month. The funds originated with Ripple and are locked into contracts expiring twice per month for several years. It notes that the majority of the funds find their way to Bitstamp, where they are presumably traded for other assets or fiat.

This is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, that researchers have called Ripple Labs’ holdings into question. Starting out with 55% of the tokens you issue will have that effect. XRP fanatics later threatened Ryan Selkis, one of the researchers who determined that Ripple’s market capitalization is vastly overstated.

Trump Administration Defies Tax Return Subpoena

WASHINGTON ― Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that the administration will not comply with a subpoena for copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, setting up yet another legal showdown with Democrats

Democrats’ request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and the Treasury Department is therefore “not authorized” to hand over the documents,  Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.). 

Neal had requested the documents under a longstanding federal law giving Congress access to private tax information. Mnuchin said he’s not authorized to produce the documents, but the law actually doesn’t authorize him to refuse. 

“The law, by its terms, does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information,” Neal said in a statement responding to Mnuchin’s letter. 

The tax returns are just one part of a broader standoff between the Trump administration and Congress. Lawmakers have a constitutional right to oversee the executive branch, but the White House has been stonewalling demands for testimony and documents.

Democrats will probably be at the mercy of federal courts to enforce their subpoenas, although some lawmakers have talked about dusting off the legislature’s own power to force compliance through jail or fines. 

Neal asked for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns last month and followed through with the subpoena last week after Mnuchin refused the initial request. 

“I didn’t think that they would turn it over,” Neal told HuffPost on Thursday, before Mnuchin had officially defied the subpoena. 

Neal declined to discuss next steps but has previously said he would sue in federal court and ask a judge to enforce the subpoena. Courts have repeatedly ordered executive branch officials to cooperate with subpoenas, but the process typically takes longer than election cycles, meaning Trump could be out of office before Democrats can win.  

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. 

Neal’s subpoena is just one of 10 that Democrats have issued. A subpoena is a legally enforceable demand for information. 

“I’m concerned that we want to get this done as rapidly as possible and that we want to figure out how to expedite the court fights as rapidly as possible,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who subpoenaed for an unredacted copy of the special counsel investigation into the president’s 2016 campaign and subsequent efforts to obstruct investigations, said Thursday.

One difference between the other subpoenas and the request for the tax returns is that there’s a federal law explicitly stating the Treasury Department is supposed to hand over any tax returns requested by chairs of congressional committees that write tax laws. The statute should give Democrats an even stronger position in court. 

Another option would be for Democrats to revive the congressional power of “inherent contempt” rather than rely on courts. Lawmakers theoretically could use inherent contempt proceedings to jail uncooperative officials, but Congress hasn’t done so since the 1930s. Democrats have also said they could impose fines. 

Ways and Means member Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said Democrats shouldn’t let Trump run out the clock. 

“Congress shrinks its own power if it does not deploy its most credible remedy ― inherent contempt,” Doggett said. 

Mnuchin said Tuesday during a hearing on the Treasury Department’s budget that he would be glad to let a court deal with the tax return request, ostensibly because he didn’t want to “set a precedent” of politicians seizing private tax information to damage their enemies. Another possibility is that Mnuchin just doesn’t want to hand over documents that his boss would like to keep secret, and would prefer if a court forced his hand. 

“If this issue goes through the courts, I think it’s better that we have the court’s interpretation,” Mnuchin said.  

This article has been updated with additional comments from lawmakers and with more details about Democrats’ options. 

Suspicious Fires Are Terrorizing A Massachusetts Jewish Community

Police in Massachusetts said they believe fires that have appeared twice at a rabbi’s home and once at a Chabad center nearby were intentionally set.

Rabbi Avi Bukiet of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life contacted police last Saturday and Thursday after fires broke out at the center, which is also his home, in Arlington, The Boston Globe reported.

“The community has been rallying around us this entire week,” Bukiet told the publication.

Arlington police told The Associated Press that the first small fire was set on the home’s exterior wood shingles, which someone was able to put out with a fire extinguisher. Firefighters then put out a shingle fire just days later at the home.

Surveillance video outside the home of Rabbi Avi Bukiet shows a suspicious person walking by.

Surveillance video outside the home of Rabbi Avi Bukiet shows a suspicious person walking by.

In the nearby town of Needham, police were dispatched to Chabad Jewish Center the same night as the second shingle fire to put out a fire that was set to the siding of the building. The Needham Police Department stopped short of saying the fire in Needham is connected to the ones in Arlington but said it is investigating it as a hate crime.

“Our family lives here, so that’s what makes it even more frightening,” Bukiet told the Globe of the shingle fires. “The fact that this person is not just targeting a [Jewish] center, but knowing there’s children inside, makes it even more alarming.”

Surveillance video outside Bukiet’s home shows a person walking past with a hood on and holding a bag. Arlington police have stationed a full-time detail officer at the home, according to CBS Boston.

The FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Massachusetts State Police; and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey’s office are all assisting with the investigation, according to WHDH.

How America Is Sabotaging The Global War On Plastic Waste

When President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act into law last October, he painted a grim picture of just how dire marine plastic pollution had become.

“Every year, over 8 million tons of garbage is dumped into our oceans,” he declared. “This waste, trash and debris harms not only marine life, but also fishermen and coastal economies along America’s vast stretches.”

However, the Trump administration has refused to recognize America’s role in the ocean plastic crisis and has repeatedly tried to stymie international efforts to tackle the problem, while boosting the plastic industry at home.

Trump has blamed “many countries of the world” for the marine plastic problem, calling out China and Japan by name. “The bad news is [this garbage] floats toward us” from “other countries very far away,” the president said last year, adding that the U.S. is then “charged with removing it, which is a very unfair situation.”

While it is true that Asia is the source of an estimated 80% of marine plastic pollution, what Trump failed to mention was that most of it doesn’t actually originate there.

President Donald Trump signing the Save Our Seas Act in the Oval Office on Oct. 11, 2018.

President Donald Trump signing the Save Our Seas Act in the Oval Office on Oct. 11, 2018.

“It’s an uncomfortable fact that … the vast majority of the waste in these Asian countries that are ending up in the oceans actually come from the U.S. and Europe,” David Azoulay of the Center for International Environmental Law said from Geneva on Thursday.

The U.S., which is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of plastic, is also the No. 1 exporter of plastic scrap

For decades, it sent much of this waste to China, which had processed about 45% of the world’s plastic scrap until it decided in 2018 to bar most of these imports. As a result, China’s Southeast Asian neighbors have been deluged with American plastic waste. Unlike China, however, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have neither the infrastructure nor the resources to properly handle this onslaught.

As a HuffPost investigation uncovered earlier this year, bales of plastic trash from countries like the U.S., U.K. and Australia are being illegally dumped or burned across Southeast Asian countries. Local activists in Malaysia said at the time that the U.S. and other wealthy nations were using the region as a “dumping ground.”

A Greenpeace activist at a dumpsite in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Jan. 30. Unlicensed recyclers are illegally burning or dumping wast

A Greenpeace activist at a dumpsite in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Jan. 30. Unlicensed recyclers are illegally burning or dumping waste plastics at sites across the country.

Yet, despite Americans’ contribution to the global plastic waste crisis ― and despite the recent efforts of most of the world’s governments to develop solutions to address it ― the Trump administration has chosen to take an “obstructionist” stance on this issue, activists say.

The U.S. is “very clearly isolating itself from the rest of the world on this issue,” said Azoulay, who directs CIEL’s environmental health program.

Just last week, the U.S. was accused of attempting to undermine a landmark Basel Convention proposal to control the flow of plastic waste to developing countries ― a set of rules that would shut the U.S. off from many of the countries where it currently ships its plastic scrap.

“It was another clear example of the U.S. playing an obstructive role in international negotiations,” Von Hernandez, global coordinator for the Break Free From Plastic initiative, said on Tuesday, speaking from the Philippines. “This has long been their playbook for anything to do with the plastic waste trade; they obfuscate the issue, they try to delay the process.”

On Friday, 186 countries and the European Union — all parties of the 1992 Basel treaty, which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste between nations — signed a legally binding agreement to track and limit the trade of lower-quality, mixed and contaminated plastics. These materials are typically difficult or impossible to recycle and are the plastics that often end up in landfills or polluting waterways. They also make up the vast majority of the plastic scrap exported by developed countries to poorer ones.

The U.S. is one of two countries that signed but never ratified the Basel treaty ― and, as such, was not among the countries that signed on to the new agreement, dubbed the Norwegian amendment after the country that first proposed it. That didn’t stop the American delegation from rabble-rousing, however.

There was an overwhelming consensus in support of the amendment, an unusual scenario for international agreements of this kind, according to Hernandez, Azoulay and Jim Puckett, founder of the Basel Action Network, who were all in the room during the Basel negotiations last week. Even countries that have historically been antagonistic to plastic waste regulation, like Japan and Canada, backed the proposal.

There was just one tiny faction of countries that opposed the amendment, they said. The U.S. was vocal in its opposition, they noted. The others were Argentina and Brazil, neither of which export very much plastic scrap; the South American duo appeared to parrot the U.S. line. 

“The U.S. delegation’s argument was the same argument we always hear from them: ‘We need more time, we cannot make a decision now, we need more data,’” Hernandez said. “You could tell that other parties were frustrated by their behavior.”

Puckett estimated that about 90% of the plastic exported to developing countries is mixed or contaminated. Under the new agreement, which will come into effect in January 2021, parties to the convention that wish to export most mixed and contaminated plastics will first need to obtain consent from the receiving nations. 

Puckett described the new rules as “historic” and one of the convention’s greatest achievements to date. 

The regulations, he said, are expected to have a profoundly positive effect on the plastic waste and recycling industry worldwide. There will be more transparency to what has historically been the very opaque international trade of plastic scrap. Recyclers in wealthy nations will be compelled to improve their sorting practices, which is expected to increase the rate that plastics are actually recycled. (Since 1950, the plastic waste recycling rate has been an abysmal 9% globally.)

The measures are also expected to significantly reduce the amount of contaminated plastics flowing into Southeast Asia, Africa and other developing areas ― and, in turn, slash the amount of marine plastic pollution originating from these nations.

It’s not hard to imagine why the Trump administration would oppose the Norwegian amendment. Hernandez said the U.S. has long opposed the Basel Convention and has a terrible track record when it comes to regulations related to waste of any kind.

Plus, he noted, the new rules are expected to hit the U.S. especially hard.

According to recent estimates by industry publication Resource Recycling, the U.S. currently exports at least 80% of its mixed plastics. Since the U.S. has not ratified the Basel Convention, however, developing countries that are parties to the treaty will no longer be able to accept most mixed plastics from the U.S. under the new rules.

“As a nonparty, the U.S. won’t be allowed to trade with parties” except for the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Puckett explained, noting that OECD members are mostly high-income economies known more for exporting plastic scrap than for importing it.

“The United States has been exporting so much of its scrap [to developing countries],” Puckett said. “They’re going to have to figure out something very different” after 2021.

A Malaysian activist checks out an illegal plastic dumping site inside a palm oil estate in Kuala Langat. Shredded plastic wa

A Malaysian activist checks out an illegal plastic dumping site inside a palm oil estate in Kuala Langat. Shredded plastic was spread on the ground and left here. Often, the dumpers will return and burn the piles at night.

Under Trump, a self-declared anti-globalist, the U.S. has increasingly been steered onto an isolationist path. It’s distanced itself from traditional trade partners and allies, has pulled out of international treaties like the landmark Paris climate change agreement and now, on the issue of plastics, has emerged starkly as a global outlier ― one that, according to activists, has attempted to dismantle the progress that other nations have made in this area.

Azoulay said this American separateness and antagonism was particularly obvious at a United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting held in Kenya in March. During that meeting, almost all countries agreed to a proposal calling for U.N. members to phase out “most problematic single-use plastic products by 2025.” The U.S., with the support of Saudi Arabia and Cuba, however, took issue with this pledge and ultimately succeeded in watering down the language of the commitment to say only that countries would aim to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics by 2030.

According to Azoulay, who attended the Kenya meeting, the U.S. also played a “very strong obstructionist role” during discussions about broader frameworks related to marine litter and microplastics. “Again, the U.S. was a very lonely voice opposing the [plastic proposals] at UNEA,” he said.

Azoulay, a veteran attorney of environmental law, said he’s never seen the world’s nations as united over an issue as they appear to be regarding plastic waste.

“Today, if you look at those international gatherings, almost all countries are supporting tighter controls of plastic and they’re moving very fast,” he said. “In my whole career, I’ve never seen any international regulation move as fast.”

“Since there’s such a wide consensus,” Azoulay added, America’s opposition appears even “more radical.”

Observers have suggested that Trump’s chummy relationship with the fossil fuel industry, as well as influence from the American recycling lobby, could be a root cause of the administration’s hostile position.

Plastic production had been ramping up in the U.S. even prior to Trump’s ascent to the presidency. In 2015, the American Chemistry Council, an oil and gas trade association, declared that a plastics “renaissance” was underway in the U.S. 

A pump jack operating as a drill rig sits on a well pad in the Bakken Formation in Williston, North Dakota, on March 8, 2018.

A pump jack operating as a drill rig sits on a well pad in the Bakken Formation in Williston, North Dakota, on March 8, 2018. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels.

Trump’s support of natural gas and other fossil fuels has further boosted America’s plastics industry, according to Azoulay and others. 

As a 2017 CIEL reports detailed, 99% of the world’s plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels, and the “availability of cheap shale gas in the United States is fueling a massive wave of new investments in plastics infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad, with $164 billion planned for 264 new facilities or expansion projects in the U.S. alone,” the report said.

If this investment is spent in the way that it’s intended, CIEL said, virgin plastic production is slated to increase by 33%-36% in the U.S. by 2025.

“With the current administration relying so much on a good relationship with the fossil fuel industry, you can see a pattern in their [international] negotiations ― they oppose any source of restriction or anything that would result in a tighter control on plastic, whether virgin plastic production or plastic waste,” Azoulay said. “Their policy line at this point is, basically, don’t touch the plastic industry and let them deal with these issues themselves.”

U.S. politics has for decades been heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry, ― and the country has historically been known for its generally anti-regulatory stance in the global arena. But Jesse Bragg of the Boston-based nonprofit Corporate Accountability International said the Trump administration has been unique in its strident approach.

Even the Obama administration, which positioned the U.S. as an environmental leader and the country that spearheaded the Paris agreement, has been accused of weakening global environmental agreements, Bragg said, noting that “if you speak to most developing countries, they’ll tell you the reason the Paris agreement is as weak as it is, is because of the U.S.” But the Obama White House took pains to obscure this side of the negotiations.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, appears to have “less interest in hiding their true intentions,” Bragg said. “It doesn’t take much to see what they’re doing … and that’s a big departure from past administrations. The Trump administration doesn’t care what the world thinks.”

This attitude, Bragg warned, is a “dangerous place to be.”

“If they don’t care what their international reputation is, there’s nothing keeping the administration from continuing the obstruction that has been the [U.S.] trend for decades,” he said, “and they can operate in some dangerous ways to advance the financial interest of those in the administration ― and those supporting the administration.”

This story is part of a series on plastic waste, funded by SC Johnson. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the company.

Letterman Slams Goon Trump, Saves Biggest Barb for MAGA Haters

By CCN: In an upcoming interview on Sunday Today, former Late Show host David Letterman slammed Donald Trump. But he thinks the MAGA haters who spend all their time complaining about the president’s Twitter antics should “stop yacking.”

David Letterman: President Trump Doesn’t Represent Me

In a teaser clip of the interview, Letterman complained that he doesn’t feel like President Trump represents him in the White House.

“As an American I don’t like this man as a president of our country. I love being an American, but I don’t feel he represents me and I don’t like that. I mean, even with other presidents that I’ve disagreed with politically I’ve felt like, okay, I can live with their representation.”

Hold up. Does David Letterman really think Trump is worse than Presidents Obama, Bush, or Clinton? Other than crass and endlessly-entertaining tweets, the policies of these presidents’ administrations were substantively no different than Trump’s. They rounded up and deported immigrants, they abused executive power, they loaded up Wall Street’s coffers with Main Street’s money, and they ran up the national debt for decades.

Letterman also lambasted Trump as a “goon,” but – shockingly – he saved his parting shot in the teaser video was for MAGA haters:

“But I’m sick and tired of everybody wringing their hands about this: ‘Oh my God did you hear what he did?’ Okay let’s just settle this at the next election. Let’s just stop yacking about what a goon he is.”

Letterman Bizarrely Claims That Late Show is Doing a ‘Really Good Job’ in Trump Era

donald trump late show stephen colbertdonald trump late show stephen colbert

Stephen Colbert and other late-night hosts have stopped trying in the Trump era. | Source: Shutterstock. Image Edited by CCN

Elsewhere in the interview, host Willie Geist asked Letterman whether he missed having the opportunity to host the Late Show now that Trump is president.

He answered:

“No because first of all, the people who are in charge now do a really good job of it, and as I’ve said before it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as you’re done, you’ve got to start all over, and it would be the same night, after night, after night, after night.”

That is absolutely false. The people in charge of the Late Show now are not really even trying. They have beaten the Trump horse to death. It’s frankly creative laziness that goes for the low-hanging fruit of cheap political applause instead of actually surprising the audience with something new and funny and making them laugh.

The Late Show and – sadly – pretty much all of the late night genre in the Trump era has become so politicized and uptight they have lost their sense of humor, and their comedy is suffering. Going so political in the first place was a pact with the devil to heat audiences up and boost ratings at the sacrifice of the art of comedy.

This is what a government that’s way too big does to the culture at large. The stakes are so high comedians can’t even just be comedians anymore. The monetary incentives of the big government mass media-political complex are so vast even the clowns of the realm must be soldiers in a never-ending civil war.

It’s amazing that Letterman seems confidently arrogant that Trump will lose at the next election. Even a loss so devastatingly-unexpected as 2016 was not enough to humble the media and entertainment elite of their detachment from reality. As much as they do like to yack about him, one might suspect the entertainment industry elite are secretly happy one of their clowns was crowned king.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.

Sneak Peek! 2024 is Absolutely the Year Bitcoin Becomes Mainstream

By CCN: Bitcoin may be a decade old, but we’re still in the early stages. In fact, we’re so early that a Medium article revealed that we’re in the year 1994 if you compare crypto’s trajectory to that of the internet in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, mass adoption is coming at a rapid rate and our research shows that we are half a decade away from that dream. In this article, we explain why 2024 is the year that cryptocurrencies become mainstream.

The Number of Bitcoin Users Will Definitely Explode in 2024

It is quite difficult to get the precise number of bitcoin users today, but there are figures that give us a good estimate. For instance, the Bitcoin Market Journal reveals that there are 32 million bitcoin wallets. More than half of those wallets (53%) are used for either long-term investment or speculation.

Bitcoin wallets chartBitcoin wallets chart

In 2018, the number of bitcoin wallets surpassed the 20 million mark | Source: Medium

So let’s say there are 32 million bitcoin users today. By 2024, that number is expected to swell by 525%. According to a report, experts predict the exponential rise of bitcoin users from 32 million this year to 200 million in the next five years. At that point, bitcoin’s purpose would have evolved. On top of investment and speculation, casual consumers will welcome bitcoin as a safe store of value and digital money.

Essentially, 2024 is the expected year when cryptocurrency penetrates the mainstream market. A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) poll further supports this assertion.

People Will Use the Digital Currency to Pay for Meals by 2024

In five years, fewer than 20% of consumers will use cash or bank cards to pay for lunch. Close to six out of 10 people will transact using cryptocurrency.

In April, an IMF poll with 37,000 respondents revealed that in 2024, 56% of the people surveyed think they’ll be buying lunch using cryptocurrency:

The survey shows that many people expect cryptocurrencies to be one of the primary payment methods in the near future.

Merchants Are Adapting to the Changing Tides

As demand for bitcoin and cryptocurrency is expected to rise, merchants are quickly responding to the writing on the wall.

A Kaspersky study reveals that the number of businesses accepting bitcoin payments across the globe has ballooned by more than 700% in the last six years. In 2013, the number of businesses that accepted bitcoin stood at 1,789. In 2018, that number skyrocketed to 14,346 venues.

Now if we take the current growth rate of merchants accepting crypto (70 times in five years) to forecast the number of bitcoin-accepting venues in 2024, there will likely be more than 1 million stores that accept bitcoin as a mode of payment. This is a conservative figure, as we’re only considering the very early stages of adoption.

With more than 200 million people using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and more than 1 million stores accepting payments in BTC, it is not so farfetched to think that bitcoin can become an asset worth $5 trillion in 2024. That’s quite difficult to imagine considering that the current market cap of bitcoin is slightly more than $127 billion. Nevertheless, we are still very early. Keep in mind, we’re in 1994 compared to where the internet progress was.

Baidu Stock Slides 16%: Heres Why Chinas Google is Stuck in Freefall

By CCN: Baidu, China’s largest search engine and that country’s equivalent of Google, suffered a 16 percent stock price haircut after reporting a poor earnings quarter that stunned shareholders.

Baidu Stock in Freefall After Q1 Losses Shock Investors

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Baidu stock endured a brutal crash at Friday’s opening bell, and it failed to recover along with the wider market. | Source: Yahoo Finance

As China’s economic growth continues to slide, one of its largest tech companies, Baidu, has taken a hit to advertising revenues. It reported losses of $47 million for the first quarter of 2019, with online advertising demand plunging.

CEO Robin Li blames his company’s woes on the slowing pace of China’s economic growth as well as tighter government oversight of the internet. China remains one of the most censored countries in the world. Li told investors during an earnings call:

“Although the Chinese government has announced many economic policies to bolster the economy … We are taking a cautious view that online marketing in the near term will face a more challenging environment.”

Trade Tensions To Blame?

China’s economy is now growing at its slowest pace in almost 30 years, albeit on the back of year-on-year double-digit GDP growth during the first decade of the century. Baidu relies heavily on the health of the domestic economy.

The country is now plagued by mounting uncertainty as it finds itself in the midst of escalating trade tensions with the United States. The two countries have been threatening to increase tariffs, with Walmart recently announcing plans to increases retail prices as a result of higher wholesale costs.

Two affiliates of Chinese mobile phone giant Huawei were slapped with indictments alleging ten federal crimes, including fraud and conspiracy in connection with deals in Iran.

The case has further strained relations between the two economic powerhouses. Apple stock could face a beating due to mounting trade tensions between the two countries. The consumer electronics giant could be severely lashed by a Sino-US trade war, with the Chinese market its second most important.

While Baidu is not exposed to the US marketplace, any strain placed on China by trade tensions could impact the company negatively, especially as the domestic Chinese economy continues to struggle.

Baidu On The Mat As Tencent And Alibaba Reign

Baidu might be suffering from wider Chinese malaise, but rival tech giants Tencent and Alibaba both released positive figures for the quarter earlier in the week, suggesting Baidu may be facing problems relating to its corporate strategy.

With a reliance on internet marketing revenue, which made up 73 percent of its earnings for the last quarter, Baidu said it would merge its mobile and search businesses into one. The firm also announced several executive changes.

BIDU shares last traded at $128.88 for a session decline of 16.15 percent, far and away the worst among Nasdaq-listed stocks.

Overstock Insiders Revolt as Crypto-Crazed CEO Dumps 900,000 Shares

By CCN: Overstock CEO and crypto enthusiast Patrick Byrne felt the need to defend his sale of about 900,000 shares of company stock. Byrne wrote a letter defending his decision, as news of his choice had reportedly sent insiders into a tizzy and dropped O shares about 16% earlier in the week.

Overstock Stock Price Recovers After Mid-Week Slump

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Overstock shares faced significant downward pressure after Patrick Byrne revealed that he had sold 900,000 shares of stock. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Byrne explained in a public letter that he was investing in blockchain projects alongside Overstock and that he needed the money to keep his commitments, including to charity.

While there is a definitive correlation with the news and the change in price, it’s notable that the market has been incredibly volatile on the whole lately.

This is not the first time the CEO’s stock sales have made headlines. He assured investors all was well when he sold $20 million worth last year. Byrne spends a portion of the letter explaining that he could not sell for most of the past year due to having information that would have made it unethical to do so.

Miffed at people questioning his right to sell the stock, Byrne said he does not intend to defend himself again.

“I owe shareholders staying within the law and not making decisions based on inside information, not explanations of my life and projects outside Overstock,” he wrote.

$350+ Million Company, $100,000 CEO Salary

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Patrick Byrne defended his stock sale, noting that his $100,000 salary ranks among the lowest compensation packages for a company of Overstock’s size. | Source: YouTube

Byrne said that he needs money to supplement his $100,000 annual salary and invest in several blockchain projects. His salary ranks among the lowest compensation packages for a company on the order of Overstock, valued at over $360 million even after the recent decline.

“A year ago, I told shareholders that I would be making significant sales to fund a variety of projects. Since then I have invested $12.5 million in blockchain projects, approximately 2/3 of that directly alongside your company’s investments (thus, I am not only not running from eating my own cooking, I have been asking for a double helping of it). I have donated and pledged to donate approximately $50 million to charity[…]

“As we recently discussed in our Q1 2019 earnings call and shareholders meeting that occurred the same day, the quicker-than-expected rebound towards profitability of our top-of-class e-commerce machine coupled with our Medici Ventures keiretsu companies bringing world-changing products to market has me as optimistic as ever about the future. I simply had to supplement my nominal salary with stock sales in order to fulfill personal commitments to invest personally in blockchain projects such as Medici Land Governance, along with a need to meet charitable pledges such as those outlined above.”

Overstock previously announced that it would sell its retail business to focus on blockchain ventures, though it appears to have walked back those plans.

Overstock’s Complicated Relationship With The World At Large

One of the first major retailers to accept cryptocurrency, with a CEO who actively supports crypto, Overstock played the crypto boom of 2017 exceptionally well. Just like the rest of the crypto-oriented market, however, the company’s shares have fallen over 80% since their height in January 2018.

Investors responded with enthusiasm when Byrne announced the company would be moving heavier into blockchain, but things have moved relatively slowly for crypto-focused subsidiary Medici Ventures. Shares dropped when the company revealed it was included in an SEC probe into crypto-related companies.

Reportedly, Overstock also has a long and complicated relationship with the world at large.

Take, for example, this post from 2005, which details a supply-chain in a state of chaos and flux. Then five years later, this NY Observer writer outlined a rather unpleasant experience with criticizing the firm.