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May 20, 2019

Fact Checker I Analysis | Trump says he was not warned about Flynn. The Mueller report disagrees.

By Glenn Kessler Glenn Kessler The Fact Checker



Fact Checker Analysis
Analysis Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events

“It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this but, if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?”
— President Trump, in a tweet, May 17, 2019
The president tweeted that he did not realize Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser, had been under investigation on suspicion of being a Russian agent and that he should have been warned.
This is a puzzling complaint. First, a report issued by a Republican-led House committee — often touted by Trump — disclosed in 2018 that there had been an ongoing counterintelligence investigation of Flynn. So that’s not new information. Second, Trump was warned by President Barack Obama not to hire Flynn — and the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III says that warning actually soured Trump on Flynn.
Here’s what we know about the warnings Trump received about Flynn. In a narrow, technical sense, Trump was not warned that Flynn was being investigated as a possible Russian agent. But there were plenty of other flashing lights that Flynn was trouble — warnings that Trump chose to ignore.

The Facts

Flynn was fired on Feb. 13, 2017, in the opening weeks of the Trump administration, after he supposedly misled Vice President Pence about a conversation with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had claimed he had not requested the Russian government decline to respond to sanctions imposed by Obama, when, in fact, he had delivered that message and Russia had agreed. (The whole story can be seen in our compelling video above.)
Mueller secured Flynn’s guilty plea to lying to FBI agents, who, on Jan. 24, had interviewed him about his conversations with Kislyak. U.S. officials had become aware of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations because of intelligence monitoring of Kislyak, as they tried to determine why Russia had decided not to retaliate in response to the sanctions.
The House Intelligence Committee report detailed that Flynn had already been the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. It was possibly sparked by his 2015 attendance at the 10th anniversary gala in Moscow for the state-sponsored Russian television network RT, for which he earned $45,000 and was seated next to President Vladimir Putin. The Mueller report indicates a key focus was Flynn’s relationship with Kislyak: “Previously, the FBI had opened an investigation of Flynn based on his relationship with the Russian government. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key component of that investigation.”
The House committee report says the FBI had been prepared to end the counterintelligence investigation against Flynn, but then the conversation with Kislyak was discovered.
Then-FBI Director James B. Comey “testified that he authorized the closure of the CI [counterintelligence] investigation into General Flynn by late December 2016; however, the investigation was kept open due to the public discrepancy surrounding General Flynn’s communications with Ambassador Kislyak,” the House report said. “Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe stated that, ‘We really had not substantiated anything particularly significant against General Flynn,’ but did not recall that a closure of the CI investigation was imminent.”
The House report faulted that “the Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns,” even after Trump had become the Republican nominee and started to receive intelligence briefings.
But who accompanied Trump to those briefings? Flynn — who presumably did not know he was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. Trump responded to his first classified briefing by politicizing it, declaring he could tell that government officials were unhappy with Obama for not following expert advice.
But Trump did get a warning not to hire Flynn from Obama — advice that the Mueller report, in a footnote, says began to gnaw at him and eventually soured the president on Flynn.
“Several witnesses said that the President was unhappy with Flynn for other reasons at this time. [Senior adviser Stephen] Bannon said that Flynn’s standing with the President was not good by December 2016. The President-Elect had concerns because President Obama had warned him about Flynn shortly after the election. (President Obama’s comment sat with President-Elect Trump more than [press aide Hope] Hicks expected). [White House chief of staff Reince] Priebus said that the President had become unhappy with Flynn even before the story of his calls with Kislyak broke and had become so upset with Flynn that he would not look at him during intelligence briefings. Hicks said that the President thought Flynn had bad judgment and was angered by tweets sent by Flynn and his son, and she described Flynn as “being on thin ice” by early February 2017.”
The Washington Post reported in May 2017 that Obama raised his concern about Flynn on Nov. 10, two days after the election, when Trump visited the White House and met with Obama in the Oval Office. One official told The Post that Obama had not planned to raise concerns about Flynn, but “as the two men discussed personnel, Obama expressed caution about putting Flynn in a high-level position. There were multiple reasons, the former official said, including Flynn’s performance leading the DIA, his attendance at the RT event in Moscow, and his controversial statements on Islam.”
The White House at the time claimed Trump dismissed Obama’s advice because Obama had fired Flynn as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Flynn had turned critical of Obama. But we now know Obama’s warning had actually troubled Trump, though he chose not to act on it.
There were other warning signs:
  • Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent Pence a letter on Nov. 18, 2016, requesting more information about the potential conflicts of interest posed by Flynn’s lobbying work for Turkey, revealed by reports in the Daily Caller and Politico.
  • Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), who briefly served as Trump’s transition director, claims in his memoir “Let Me Finish” that “against my strong and heated advice, Donald had appointed that walking car crash to be his national security advisor.”
  • Flynn himself told White House counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 4, 2017, that he was the subject of a federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. As part of his plea agreement with the special counsel, Flynn admitted to making false statements and omissions in connection with federal filings about his lobbying work for Turkey, but he was not charged.

The Pinocchio Test

The president rarely takes responsibility for his actions. In this instance, he tries pin on the FBI his own failure to heed warnings and vet carefully his personnel. Whether the FBI would have been comfortable telling a presidential candidate that the aide sitting by his side was the subject of a counterintelligence inquiry is an interesting question. The House Republican report suggested that it should have been considered.
Whether Trump would have accepted such an explicit warning is open to question. He has been deeply skeptical of intelligence that did not conform to his views. In any case, it’s misleading to frame the lack of a warning about Flynn in such a narrow fashion. There were many warning signs.

Two Pinocchios




Zacks I These 5 Top Stocks May Surprise You With an Earnings Beat

Zacks Investment Research



Just earnings growth is not enough to keep investors happy these days. A positive earnings surprise or a “BEAT” is what matters, irrespective of earnings growth. A positive earnings surprise or earnings beat is typically the case when actual or reported earnings come in above the consensus estimate.
Why Is a Positive Earnings Surprise So Important?
Historically, stocks of companies with solid quarterly earnings (on a nominal basis) tank if they miss or merely meet market expectations. After all, a 20% earnings rise (though apparently looks good) doesn’t tell you if it has been decelerating.
Seasonal fluctuations also come into play. If a company’s Q1 is seasonally weak and Q4 is strong, it is likely to report a sequential earnings decline. In such cases, growth rates are misleading while judging the true health of a company.
It’s only after significant research and analysis on a company’s financials and initiatives that Wall Street analysts project its earnings. They also take a company’s guidance into consideration when deriving an earnings estimate.
Thus, outperforming that estimate is almost equivalent to beating the company’s own expectation as well as the market perception. If the margin of earnings surprise is big, it typically drives the stock higher right after the release. Thus, more than anything else, an earnings surprise can push a stock higher.
 How to Locate Potential Outperformers?
Investors tend to look for stocks that have the potential to beat on the bottom line but might not always succeed. One way of identifying the winners beforehand is by looking at the earnings surprise history of a company.
An impressive track record in this regard generally acts as a driver. It indicates the company’s ability to exceed estimates. Investors generally believe that the company will have the same trick up its sleeve to deliver yet another earning beat in its upcoming release.
The Winning Strategy
In order to shortlist stocks that are likely to come up with an earnings surprise, we chose the following as our primary screening parameters.
Last EPS Surprise greater than or equal to 10%:Stocks delivering positive surprise in the last quarter tend to surprise again.
Average EPS Surprise in the last four quarters greater than 20%:We lifted the bar for outperformance slightly higher by setting the average EPS surprise for the last four quarters at 20%.
Average EPS Surprise in the last two quarters greater than 20%:This points to a more consistent surprise history and makes the case for another surprise even stronger.
In addition, we place a few other criteria that push up the chance of a surprise.
Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: Only companies with a Zacks Rank of #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) can get through.
Earnings ESPgreater than zero: A stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank of #1, 2 or 3 (Hold) for an earnings beat to happen, as per our proven model.
In order to zero in on those that have long-term growth potential and high trading liquidity we have added the following parameters too:
Next 3–5 Years Estimated EPS Growth (Per Year) greater than 10%: Solid expected earnings growth exhibits the stock’s long-term growth prospects.
Average 20-day Volume greater than 100,000: High trading volume implies that the stocks have adequate liquidity.
A handful of criteria narrowed down the universe from over 7,700 stocks to just seven.
Here are five out of the seven stocks:
IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC - Free Report) ): This is a leading media and Internet company. The stock carries a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Tactile Systems Technology Inc. (TCMD - Free Report) ): This is a medical technology company, which develops medical devices for the treatment of chronic diseases at home. It has a Zacks Rank #2 and belongs to a top-ranked Zacks industry (top 41%).
Martin Marietta Materials Inc. (MLM - Free Report) The Zacks Rank #2 company is engaged principally in the building materials business, including aggregates, cement, ready mixed concrete, and asphalt and paving product lines. It hails from a top-ranked Zacks industry (top 36%).
Fortinet Inc. (FTNT - Free Report) : This Zacks Rank #2 company is a provider of network security appliances and Unified Threat Management network security solutions to enterprises, service providers and government entities worldwide. The company belongs to a top-ranked Zacks industry (top 17%).
Intuit Inc. (INTU - Free Report) : The Zacks Rank #2 company provides financial management, and compliance products and services for small businesses, consumers, self-employed and accounting professionals. It hails from a top-ranked Zacks Industry (top 26%).
You can get the rest of the stocks on this list by signing up now for your 2-week free trial to the Research Wizard and start using this screen in your own trading. Further, you can also create your own strategies and test them first before taking the investment plunge.
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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.
Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.

Source: Zacks 

Monday briefing I 'Dirty money' could reach Farage party, Brown says

Martin Farrer


Top story: Brexit party donations risk ‘undermining democracy’

Good morning briefers. I’m Martin Farrer and here are the top stories this morning.
Gordon Brown has called for an investigation into the funding of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party over concerns that its financial structure could lead to foreign interference in British elections. With Brexit well ahead of all the other parties in polling before Thursday’s European elections, the former prime minister has written to the Electoral Commission calling on it to examine whether the party takes enough precautions to stop donations of “dirty money”. In a speech in Glasgow today, Brown will say that the Brexit party’s no-questions-asked donations model risks undermining democracy with potentially “under-the-counter and underhand campaign finance”. Our reporter Paul Lewis has been on the road with Farage and he reports on the how the arch-Brexiter has eschewed policies in favour of a persistent message pitting politicians against the people.
As the Tories head for a calamitous defeat at the ballot box, Theresa May is preparing what she calls a “bold offer” in a final effort to convince MPs to vote for her Brexit withdrawal agreement bill (WAB). The proposals could include concessions on workers’ rights, the environment and fresh assurances for the Democratic Unionists. But John Harris reckons that the Tories will ignore their remain voters at their peril.

Huawei blocked – Google has reportedly suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those available via open-source licensing. The move, reported by Reuters, could cripple Huawei’s smartphone business outside China because it would mean that users would not be able to receive updates to Google’s Android operating system. It further escalates the standoff between the US and China over trade and technology issues and follows the Trump administration’s decision to add Huawei to a trade blacklist. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday night, Donald Trump claimed that his policy of imposing tariffs on Chinese goods was already bearing fruit by encouraging companies to move manufacturing to other countries. It also emerged overnight that a US warship sailed close to waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Poor show – Ministers have been accused by Human Rights Watch of ignoring evidence of a “stark deterioration” in the living standards of Britain’s poorest people. The watchdog says the government has breached its international duty to keep people from hunger by pursuing “cruel and harmful polices” with no regard for the impact on children living in poverty. In a 115-page report based on a study of poverty in Hull, Cambridgeshire and Oxford, the NGO cites an increased use of food banks and reports from schools about pupils being too hungry to concentrate.

‘Never threaten the US’ – Donald Trump has issued one of his starkest warnings yet to Iran by suggesting in a tweet that if the Islamic republic attacks American interests, it will be destroyed. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” the US president tweeted last night. It follows rising tensions between the two countries following Trump’s decision to impose fresh sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. Earlier on Sunday an Iranian military chief dismissed the threat of war by saying that although Iran is ready to fight, the US is “afraid of war” and didn’t “have the will for it”.

Train strain – Rail passengers are preparing for widespread disruption from new timetables today as figures show that last year’s changes saw the worst level of delays and cancellations ever recorded. An estimated 4 million hours were lost to passengers in 2018 thanks to major delays, with 80 trains every day on average held for half an hour or more, according to a study by Which? The north-west and south-east of England were worst hit but rail bosses are hoping that they have learned the lesson of last year when the new timetables come into force today. The number of changes are about one-third of the number that came into force last May.

End Game – After eight seasons, high drama, intrigue, countless grisly deaths, incest and fire-breathing dragons, Game of Thrones has finally ended and winter really has come for its millions of fans across the world. If you’re planning to watch the final episode, don’t worry, the briefing is a spoiler-free zone. But if you’ve already watched or don’t care either way, you can read Lucy Mangan’s review of the epic finale, find out how viewers reacted and relive the excitement with our blog of the programme here.

Today in Focus podcast: Mayday! how thousands of people are stranded at sea

More than 4,000 people are believed to be stranded on abandoned boats in seas and oceans across the world. When companies run in to financial trouble they can leave whole crews drifting at sea with no visas, wages or supplies. Karen McVeigh and Andy Bowerman tell the story of one vessel adrift off the coast of UAE. Plus, Rupert Neate on the tax breaks attracting the super-rich to Italy

Lunchtime read: Rose Garnett, the film industry’s favourite

Few people outside the film industry have heard of Rose Garnett, but the head of BBC Films is one of the most influential people in British film-making with a CV that boasts hits such as Room, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Favourite. They were all overseen by Garnett when she was at Film4 where her success led to her being poached by the corporation. In a rare interview, she tells Catherine Shoard about the “incredible” entitlement bestowed on film-makers, her bucolic childhood and how kicking heroin changed her life. While Garnett has an under-the-radar style, luminaries of the film world are queuing up to pay tribute to her, including lifelong friend Rachel Weisz, director Andrea Arnold and Steve McQueen, who says: “She’s my kind of woman. I wouldn’t bother talking if she wasn’t so fantastic.”

Sport

Brooks Koepka won the US PGA Championship – his fourth major – by two shots from Dustin Johnson despite making five bogeys on the back nine at Bethpage in New York. England’s cricketers will yomp into the World Cup with chests puffed out and optimism aplenty after a 54-run win over Pakistan at Headingley wrapped up a convincing 4-0 series victory. Liam Dawson is expected to enter the debate over England’s squad when the selectors and the captain, Eoin Morgan, convene on Monday. Lucy Bronze has revealed she told her distraught England teammate Toni Duggan they will “win the World Cup together instead” this summer following Lyon’s 4-1 Champions League final dismantling of Barcelona. Rafael Nadal won his 34th Masters 1000 title – a record – with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open. And Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming the country’s first openly gay athlete.

Business

The trade standoff between the US and China continues to cast a shadow over financial markets but Asia-Pacific stocks recovered some ground overnight after last week’s battering in the wake of the Huawei decision. They were helped by a 1.4% rise in Australian shares thanks to the centre-right’s surprise election win on Saturday. Closer to home, unions are lobbying investors to force Amazon into improving working conditions. The FTSE100 is set to open flat. The pound is on $1.273 and €1.141.

The papers

It’s the usual varied offering of stories for a Monday morning. The Guardian leads with a Human Rights Watch report: “UK ‘breaching human rights duty by ignoring children in hunger’”, while the Mail goes for a call on behalf of families affected by contaminated blood scandal: “Give us justice before it’s too late”. The Mirror reports on the conditions for migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar: “82p-an-hour World Cup shame” and the i has: “Parents’ fury at NHS failure to prescribe ‘life-saving’ cannabis”.
Guardian front page, Monday 20 May 2019
Photograph: The Guardian
There is an espionage theme to some front pages. The Times says: “MoD policy lets Britain break laws on torture”, the Telegraph has: “UK spies given lurid dossier on Trump” and the FT reports: “Spy chiefs warn US companies on risks of doing business with China.”

The Express splashes with “Concern at young royals’ rivalry”, about supposed “oneupmanship” between the Sussexes and the Cambridges while the Sun runs a story about the Duchess of Sussex messaging an X-Factor singer months before meeting Prince Harry: “Meg’s factor.”

Source: The Guardian

Reuters I Trump vs. House Democrats: 10 upcoming showdowns

Reuters Editorial



(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is refusing to cooperate with numerous congressional probes of himself and his administration, taking a defiant stance that is likely to result in a court battle with Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors' Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, U.S., May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Trump’s stonewalling hardened after the mid-April release of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and his attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.
In most of the cases where Trump and his advisers are refusing to cooperate, they run the legal risk of contempt of Congress citations and court enforcement actions that could result in fines and even imprisonment.
Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress dismiss the inquiries, led mostly by House Democrats, as political harassment ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.
The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating. In a departure from the stonewalling pattern, Donald Trump Jr. has reached an agreement with that committee for its senators to interview him in mid-June, a congressional source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
Here are some high-profile examples of Trump, who has declared he is “fighting all the subpoenas,” defying Congress:

TAX RETURNS

Unlike past presidents in recent decades, Trump refuses to make public his tax returns, raising questions about what is in them. Democrats are probing Trump’s past business dealings and possible conflicts of interest involving him.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday defied a subpoena from the head of the House tax committee seeking six years of Trump’s past individual and business tax returns.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, is empowered to request the president’s returns under a law that says the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” them upon such a request being made.
In a letter to Neal on Friday, Mnuchin said Treasury, based on advice from the Justice Department, would not release Trump’s returns. “We are unable to provide the requested information in response to the committee’s subpoena,” the letter said.

MUELLER REPORT

The redacted Mueller report, released on April 18 by Attorney General William Barr, left some questions about the probe unanswered. Democrats have subpoenaed the unredacted report and the evidence Mueller relied on.
Barr, a Trump appointee, has refused to comply with the subpoena. The House Judiciary Committee voted on May 8 to recommend that the full House cite Barr for contempt of Congress. “We are now in a constitutional crisis,” Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s Democratic chairman, told reporters.
The committee vote came hours after the White House asserted the seldom-used principle of executive privilege to keep the full Mueller report under wraps, even though Trump earlier allowed aides to speak with Mueller during his investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, has also subpoenaed Barr for Mueller-related documents. After Barr disregarded the subpoena, Schiff said on Thursday the committee planned to take “enforcement action.”

SPECIAL COUNSEL

Nadler’s panel has demanded testimony from Mueller. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday that Mueller was unlikely to appear before the committee as requested on May 23.
EX-COUNSEL MCGAHN
Nadler has threatened to hold former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt if he fails to show up to testify at a hearing slated for Tuesday. McGahn has been directed not to produce documents in response to a committee subpoena.

MAZARS

A federal judge on Tuesday said financial records from Trump’s long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP would be a “proper subject of investigation” by Congress, appearing to side with Democratic lawmakers seeking more oversight of the president.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington heard oral arguments on whether Mazars must comply with a House Oversight Committee subpoena, marking the first time a federal court has waded into the tussle about how far Congress can go in probing Trump and his business affairs.
In an unprecedented step, Trump filed a lawsuit attempting to keep U.S. lawmakers from obtaining his financial records.

CENSUS AND CITIZENSHIP

The Justice Department has rebuffed an Oversight Committee request for an interview with John Gore, an official involved in the administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

IMPEACHMENT

Trump has vowed to fight any effort by congressional Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against him, promising to go to the Supreme Court, even though it plays no role in the constitutional impeachment process.

FBI HEADQUARTERS

Congressional Democrats say the administration has responded too slowly to their requests for documents about Trump’s abandonment of a plan to relocate the FBI’s headquarters.
Before he became president, Trump supported moving the headquarters to the suburbs of Washington from the center of town, said Democrats looking into the matter.
They said that after Trump was elected and disqualified from bidding to buy the FBI’s present headquarters site for commercial development, he switched his position. Democrats have raised questions about a possible Trump conflict of interest.

IMMIGRATION AIDE

The White House has refused a request for Trump’s top immigration aide Stephen Miller to testify to Congress, in a letter to the House Oversight Committee.

BANK SUBPOENAS

Trump has sued to block House subpoenas for his financial records sent to Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial, banks he did business with.
A 2017 financial disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to Germany’s Deutsche Bank.
Compiled by Caroline Stauffer and David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish

Source: Reuters

Health & Science I States aren’t waiting for the Trump administration on environmental protections

By Brady Dennis 




A pump jack over an oil well in Colorado, which is tightening its methane emission regulations. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Brady Dennis
Reporter focusing on environmental policy and public health issues
More than a dozen states are moving to strengthen environmental protections to combat a range of issues from climate change to water pollution, opening a widening rift between stringent state policies and the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda.
In recent months, Hawaii, New York and California have moved to ban a widely used agricultural pesticide linked to neurological problems in children, even as the administration has resisted such restrictions. Michigan and New Jersey are pushing to restrict a ubiquitous class of chemical compounds that have turned up in drinking water, saying they can no longer wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to take action.
Colorado and New Mexico have adopted new policies targeting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel drilling and limiting where these operations can take place. And more than a dozen states have adopted policies that would force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars than required by federal standards.
The growing patchwork of regulations is creating uncertainty for American businesses as state lawmakers vie to change rules that, in past administrations, were more likely to be set at the federal level.
“At the end of the day, I think regulated entities want to know what the expectations are,” said Wendy Heiger-Bernays, an environmental health professor at Boston University. “They’d prefer not to have two different standards — one in one state and another in another state.”
Local officials say the jumble of policies also threatens to create disparities, not only in obligations placed on businesses but also in the level of protections guarding human health in different communities.

California is leading more than a dozen states to require higher gas mileage than the federal standard. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
“It is difficult to communicate to your customers that New Jersey or Minnesota or Vermont has evaluated the risk to their residents differently, and that one state places a lower value on protection of public health than another,” Brian Steglitz, the water treatment manager for Ann Arbor, Mich., said last week in testimony before a panel of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Since President Trump took office, his administration has scaled back numerous environmental rules enacted under President Barack Obama and declined to impose federal limits on some contaminants and pesticides. The Trump administration also has reversed course on climate change, refusing to embrace the limits on greenhouse gas emissions that the federal government previously had pledged to adopt under an international agreement.
In an interview, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the federal government regularly works hand-in-hand with the states, which often are the more appropriate forum for litigating such environmental matters. For example, he said, the Trump administration has allowed many states to shape their own strategies for meeting air quality standards, rather than imposing a federal plan.
“Overall, we try to defer to the states as much as possible,” Wheeler said — though he added that the administration would oppose state action that would “interfere with national commerce” or “create uncertainties for consumers or for businesses.”
At the Interior Department, which controls industry access to vast swaths of public lands, spokeswoman Molly Block said in an email that the administration views its more business-friendly approach as a key contributor to the nation’s vibrant economic growth under Trump.


“We will continue our work to advance President Trump’s deregulatory agenda, which has boosted the American economy,” she said.
In some states — especially those newly under Democratic control — the federal approach has created a vacuum that other officials have rushed to fill. For example, when New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) replaced a Republican in the governor’s mansion earlier this year, one of her first acts was to sign an executive order focused on climate change. It instructs regulators to develop statewide limits on greenhouse gas emissions and a more stringent renewable energy requirement for New Mexico’s power sector.
“A lot of what you see in that executive order reflects a lack of action on the federal level,” said Sarah Cottrell Propst, secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. “The state is feeling like we need to fill the gap.”
In Orgeon, Gov. Kate Brown (D) is expected to sign a bill this week to codify federal clean air and clean water standards that were in place before Trump took office, making them enforceable under state law even if the White House rolls them back. The Trump administration is poised to replace at least three major policies this year, and has delayed or altered many others.
States also are taking the lead on chemical and pesticide regulation, as the EPA in some cases has held off on setting exposure limits or banning some substances outright.
At least a half-dozen states have pushed forward with their own plans to limit a class of compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, saying ample evidence exists to regulate them. The lab-made compounds have long been used in consumer products such as nonstick pans, water-repellent fabrics and firefighting foams.
Long-term exposure has been associated with an array of health problems, including thyroid disease, weakened immunity, infertility and certain cancers, though researchers continue to study the human health implications. Because PFAS do not break down in the environment, they have become known as “forever chemicals.”
Catherine McCabe, an EPA veteran, is now the top environmental official in New Jersey, which has proposed one of the nation’s most stringent standards for PFAS in drinking water. The state also is trying to compel five chemical manufacturers, including 3M and Dupont, to fund tests for the chemicals and to clean up contamination.
McCabe said it would be better for the nation and for industry if the federal government set a single national limit for PFAS in drinking water. “It doesn’t serve anybody’s interest for us all to be coming up with different numbers,” she said.
Given the health threat, however, McCabe said the need for action is urgent. “I would love to wait if [federal officials] were moving quickly, but they are not,” she said. “We can’t wait any longer.”
Companies such as 3M, which faces significant regulatory and cleanup costs, also have pressed for a national standard. “We support regulation rooted in the best-available science and believe that this plan may help prevent a patchwork of state standards that could increase confusion and uncertainty for communities,” the company said in a statement.
Wheeler said the EPA is acting with urgency, pointing to a long-term PFAS “action plan” released earlier this year. But he said the agency must undertake a “rigorous” review before settling on national standards that are legally and scientifically defensible.
One of the most pressing splits is unfolding in the auto industry, as the EPA and the Transportation Department prepare to finalize a rollback of tighter tailpipe standards for cars and smaller pickup trucks. Last year, the Trump administration proposed freezing federal mileage requirements between model years 2020 and 2026, rather than boosting them to require that vehicles get more than 50 miles per gallon, as was required under Obama administration rules.
California, which has received federal waivers in the past to set its own rules, has pledged to press ahead with the tighter standards regardless of what the White House decides. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia are poised to adopt California’s standards if they diverge from the federal government’s.
Automakers, who pressed Trump to revisit the mileage targets as soon as he took office, are pressing the two sides to reach a compromise rather than fracture the nation’s car market. Two different standards could lead companies to market a small variety of more-efficient vehicles in some states while offering their entire fleet in others, said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.
“That’s why there could be a stampede to buy popular larger vehicles in a neighboring state that follows the federal standard,” Bergquist said. “This is all new territory, so no one really knows how it will unfold, but it will be a headache for everyone involved, including consumers.”
Colorado and New Mexico are in the midst of rewriting the rules for how the oil and gas industry operates, such as limits on greenhouse gas emissions from drilling operations.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) recently signed a bill transferring a large portion of the state’s authority over drilling to local governments, and changing the orientation of its Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to emphasize public health and safety over extraction.
Even as the Interior Department has relaxed an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions from drilling operations, Colorado is tightening its methane standards.
New Mexico, too, is drafting a new methane rule. Meanwhile, its land commissioner last month put nearly 73,000 acres in the northwest part of the state off-limits to drilling on the grounds that the area, known as the Greater Chaco Region, is sacred to the Pueblo and the Navajo tribes.
Interior had planned to auction off more than 4,000 acres of leases in the Greater Chaco Region last year but abruptly canceled the sale in the face of public criticism.
Robert McEntyre, spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said in an interview that his members are used to dealing with both state and federal regulators, and are engaged in discussions about how to curb methane that leaks or is deliberately released and burned off.
“Across the board, every operator in New Mexico recognizes that limiting methane emissions while continuing growth is a top priority,” McEntyre said, adding that EPA data show overall methane emissions dropping by 4 percent in the Permian Basin, which straddles New Mexico and Texas, even as production doubled between 2011 and 2017.
Erik Milito, vice president of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute, said the industry recognizes the role of the states as regulators. But he said some changes, such as Colorado’s new limits on drilling, go too far.
“The localities should not have the authority to ban oil and gas operations,” said Milito, whose group is now working with regulators to help shape how the new law is implemented. “They should have the zoning authority they already have.”

News I The Guardian: Google blocks Huawei access to Android updates after blacklisting

Lily Kuo


Google has suspended Huawei’s access to updates of its Android operating system and chipmakers have reportedly cut off supplies to the Chinese telecoms company, complying with orders from the US government as it seeks to blacklist Huawei around the world.
Google said it was complying with Donald Trump’s executive order and was reviewing the “implications”, after Reuters initially reported the story.
It later said Google Play and the security features of Google Play Protect would continue on existing Huawei devices but the next version of its smartphones outside China would lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play store, Maps and the Gmail app.
Chipmakers such as Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom have told employees they will not supply chips to Huawei until further notice, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Huawei will continue to have access to the version of the Android operating system available through the open source licence that is free to anyone who wishes to use it. But, according to the Reuters source, Google will stop providing technical support and collaboration for Android and Google services.

Huawei promised on Monday to continue providing security updates and after-sale services for its smartphones and tablets.
“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world,” it said. “As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.”
The spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Lu Kang, said Beijing would “support Chinese enterprises in defending their legitimate rights through legal methods”.
The company previously said it was developing its own backup operating system in case it was blocked from using US software.
In an interview in March with the German publication Die Welt, Richard Yu, the head of the company’s consumer division, said the company had a “plan B”. He said: “We have prepared our own operating system. Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared.”
Huawei, which relies on chips from the US, has reportedly been stockpiling the chips and other components in anticipation of the ban. In an interview on Saturday, the Huawei chief executive, Ren Zhengfei, said the company would be “fine” without US chips.
Google’s move comes after the Trump administration officially added the telecoms manufacturer to a trade blacklist on Thursday, declaring a national economic emergency to ban the technology and services of “foreign adversaries”. The blacklist immediately led to restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the firm to do business with US companies.
In another development in the growing trade war between the two countries, Trump claimed in an interview on Fox on Sunday night that his policy of imposing tariffs on Chinese goods was already bearing fruit by encouraging companies to move manufacturing to other countries.
The latest restrictions are likely to hit Huawei’s European business, its second-biggest market, because it licenses many of its mobile phone services from Google in Europe.
Geoff Blaber, the vice-president of research at the market research firm CCS Insight, told Reuters: “Having those apps is critical for smartphone makers to stay competitive in regions like Europe.”
Google’s suspension follows a report last week calling for Huawei to be prevented from supplying 5G mobile networks in the UK, because its operations are “subject to influence by the Chinese state”.
The research, by a Conservative MP and two academics, said a decision announced by Theresa May last month, after a fraught meeting of the national security council (NSC), to allow the company to supply “non-core” equipment should be overturned because using the company’s technology presents “risks”.
In the report by the Henry Jackson Society thinktank, the authors claimed Huawei “has long been accused of espionage” – a claim repeatedly denied by the firm – and noted that “while there are no definitely proven cases”, a precautionary principle should be adopted.
The British government has been pressured by partner intelligence agencies in the US and Australia to reconsider letting the Shenzhen-based multinational participate in the UK’s 5G network.
In April, May provisionally approved the use of Huawei technology for parts of the networks after a meeting of the NSC. A leaked account of the meeting said five cabinet ministers had raised concerns about the company.
Robert Strayer, a deputy assistant secretary at the US state department, warned last month that the UK’s proposal to adopt Huawei technology risked affecting intelligence cooperation with the US. He claimed the Chinese firm “was not a trusted vendor” and any use of its technology for 5G was a risk.
Australia, which also shares intelligence with the UK, has already moved to ban Huawei as a supplier for its future 5G network.
Huawei has always insisted it is a privately held company, independent of the Chinese state, owned largely by its employees, and has worked supplying phone technology in the UK for 15 years without problems.

Source: The Guardian