They then began to build bridges across the Hellespont from Abydos to that headland between Sestus and Madytus, the Phoenicians building one of ropes made from flax, and the Egyptians building a second one out of papyrus. From Abydos to the opposite shore it is a distance of almost two-thirds of a mile. But no sooner had the strait been bridged than a great storm came on and cut apart and scattered all their work.
Xerxes flew into a rage at this, and he commanded that the Hellespont be struck with three hundred strokes of the whip and that a pair of foot-chains be thrown into the sea. It's even been said that he sent off a rank of branders (1) along with the rest to the Hellespont! He also commanded the scourgers to speak outlandish and arrogant words: "You hateful water, our master lays his judgement on you thus, for you have unjustly punished him even though he's done you no wrong! Xerxes the king will pass over you, whether you wish it or not! It is fitting that no man offer you sacrifices, (2) for you're a muddy and salty river!" In these ways he commanded that the sea be punished and also that the heads be severed from all those who directed the bridging of the Hellespont. Herodotus, The Histories, Second Persian Invasion of Greece, 480 BC.
Trump Just Ordered Government Scientists to Hide Facts From the Public
He also immediately suspended all EPA contracts and grants.
Throughout Donald Trump's campaign, he and his proxies consistently expressed hostility to government regulation, particularly of the fossil fuel and agriculture industries. Within days of taking over, the Trump administration has already put a squeeze on the two agencies that most directly regulate Big Energy and Big Ag, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture.
At the EPA, the administration has ordered that "all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately," ProPublica writers Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger report, quoting an internal EPA email they obtained. Myron Ebell, the climate change denier who led the Trump team's EPA transition and directs the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, confirmed the suspension, Revkin and Eisenger report.
If you can prevent public agencies from conducting vital functions, "you can say they don't do anything, and justify cutting their funding."
That's potentially a massive blow to the agency's core functions, says Patty Lovera, assistant director of the environmental watchdog group Food & Water Watch. "The EPA's not necessarily out there running a bulldozer to clean up a toxic site," she says. Superfund, an EPA program responsible for cleaning up the nation's most contaminated land, is executed through contracts, she said. The EPA turns to contractors for "tons of water stuff, too"—from monitoring water quality downstream from polluters to helping municipalities update water infrastructure to avoid toxins.
"It's one thing to put a pause on new contracts so they can be reviewed, but to reach back and stop existing ones is a whole other can of worms," Lovera said.
In Flint, Michigan, where lead contamination has led to the nation's most notorious drinking-water catastrophe in years, the announcement brought uncertainty and confusion. "State officials are seeking more information on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency freeze on grants and contracts and what it could mean to $100 million in federal funds already appropriated for the Flint water crisis," the news site MLive.com reported Tuesday. In statement quoted by MLive.com, the press secretary for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder noted that "we haven't received any guidance from the federal government" about the EPA's funding to address the Flint crisis.
Andrew Rosenberg, who directs the Center for Science and Democracy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, adds research to the list. The agency funds crucial environmental science through contracts with outside scientists, and interruptions to their funding can be devastating, he said. He likened the situation to the government shutdown of 2013, which temporarily blocked research funding throughout the federal government, including the EPA. In a blog post at the time, Rosenberg quoted an EPA scientist he interviewed on the effects of such interruptions:
A toxicologist who works for the Environmental Protection Agency expressed great frustration that the crucial work of testing chemicals on the market for toxicity has been interrupted. This work had been slow and complex, and short of manpower. Now, things are worse, the scientist writes. "The next time you reach under the sink to pull out a cleaning product, ask yourself if you'd really like to know if it was causing cancer, or if it was safe." The shutdown, the toxicologist concludes, will keep toxic chemicals on the shelves "longer than they otherwise should have."
Of course, it remains unclear exactly how far-ranging the contract suspension is—and that brings us to another move from the White House: a media blackout. The Huffington Post's Kate Sheppard got hold of an internal EPA email sent to staff Monday blocking all press releases, social-media messages, and blog posts. As for answering queries from journalists, "Incoming media requests will be carefully screened," the email stated. My own calls and emails to EPA spokespeople on Tuesday went unanswered.
Meanwhile, over at the USDA, a similar media blackout is afoot, reports BuzzFeed's Dino Grandoni:
According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff—including some 2,000 scientists—at the agency's main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.
"Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents," Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.
"This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content," she added.
Food & Water Watch's Lovera notes that the decree is somewhat ironic, because the Obama USDA itself kept its scientists on a short leash in terms of press access—especially on topics of high importance to the agrichemical industry, like pesticides and genetically modified crops. The plight of former ARS entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, who focused on those sensitive issues, illustrates her point. My profile of Lundgren is here.
"It's not like USDA scientists were out shouting in the public square," Lovera said. The recent gag order signals that the Trump team will put USDA research under even tighter control.
If the funding interruptions and media blackouts continue, she said, much of what the USDA and EPA do to study and protect the public from polluting industries will be negated. And that might be the point, she said: If you can prevent public agencies from conducting vital functions, "you can say they don't do anything and justify cutting their funding."
On a positive note, all the information that emerged Tuesday on the EPA and the USDA came from internal leaks. Trump may be determined to keep these crucial watchdog and research agencies tightly muzzled, but at least some career bureaucrats and scientists appear unwilling to keep the public in the dark.
The Independent (UK)
Trump 'will definitely pull out of Paris climate change deal'
Warning comes from the former head of the US President's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency
A former climate change adviser to Donald Trump has said the US President will pull America out of the landmark Paris agreement and an executive order on the issue could come within “days”.
Myron Ebell, who took charge of Mr Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, said the President was determined to undo policies pushed by Barack Obama to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.
He said the US would "clearly change its course on climate policy" under the new administration and claimed Mr Trump was "pretty clear that the problem or the crisis has been overblown and overstated".
“I expect Donald Trump to be very assiduous in keeping his promises, despite all of the flack he is going to get from his opponents,” he told a briefing in London.
“He could do it by executive order tomorrow, or he could wait and do it as part of a larger package. There are multiple ways and I have no idea of the timing.”
Mr Ebell, a long-standing climate sceptic, was employed by the Trump team last September to review the EPA and worked for the Republican billionaire until his inauguration on 20 January.
Mr Trump, who has previously called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese, promised a raft of policies during his campaign including to undo Obama’s climate action plan and defund UN climate change work.
The Paris agreement, successor to the Kyoto Protocols, aims to "stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".
In November, two weeks after his election victory, Mr Trump said he had an "open mind" on the climate deal, which was drafted at the end of 2015 and signed on the 22 April 2016.
The agreement has 194 signatories, including the US.
Mr Ebell, who has criticised the "alarmist agenda" of the climate change lobby, said any efforts by Mr Trump's new Secretary of State to keep the US in the Paris deal would be futile.
Rex Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil chief executive, acknowledged the existence of climate change during his recent Senate hearing.
Asked about the Paris deal, he said: "I think it’s 190 countries have signed on. We’re better served by being at that table than by leaving that table.”
However, speaking on Monday afternoon at an event hosted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which itself is accused of denying the damaging impact of climate change, Mr Ebell responded: "His [Mr Trump's] mandate is pretty clear, and he knows who he got it from. If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the President, who is going to win that debate?
"Well I don't know but the President was elected and Rex Tillerson was appointed by the President, so I would guess that the President would be the odds-on favourite to win any disagreement over climate policy."
Mr Ebell's assertion appears to contradict Mr Trump's approach to other policy areas - specifically torture - where the President has said the final say will be given to his cabinet picks, notably the secretary of defence James Mattis.
Asked last year about the link between humans and climate change, Mr Trump said there was “some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much”.
The New York property tycoon has also said he would look “very closely” at whether to remain a signatory of the Paris agreement.
Friends of the Earth’s director of campaigns, Simon Rayner, said pulling the US out of the Paris climate treaty "would be an act of utter contempt from Donald Trump towards the international community.
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges the whole planet faces – and one the U.S must play its fair share in tackling.
“The warning lights are flashing: Theresa May must urgently stand up to Donald Trump and an environment and political agenda that is already causing huge harm.”
Mr Ebell admitted he had not met Mr Trump and said he was appointed last August by a former member of his inner circle, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The self-described "enemy of climate change alarmism", who disputes the negative impact of carbon dioxide on the environment, added: "There hasn't been much warming for the last 20 years, or statistically no warming for the last 20 years, but it is going to happen because we keep pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
"Since 1996, that is the year before the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, over 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions since the era of fossil fuels began in around 1750 have been emitted. Now, if we were going to have some warming, it should have started.
"The fact is that the sensitivity to carbon dioxide, the sensitivity to the climate, has been vastly exaggerated.
"In all of this discussion of the impacts of global warming, the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels and of warming...are completely minimised by the alarmist community."
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the UK Green Party, said a US withdrawal would be a “bitter blow to the fight to save our planet,” but added: “The momentum we have gathered is unstoppable, and the Paris Agreement will continue in strength with or without Donald Trump.”