Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars

Adjunct professors in America face low pay and long hours without the security of full-time faculty. Some, on the brink of homelessness, take desperate measures

There is nothing she would rather do than teach. But after supplementing her career with tutoring and proofreading, the university lecturer decided to go to remarkable lengths to make her career financially viable.

She first opted for her side gig during a particularly rough patch, several years ago, when her course load was suddenly cut in half and her income plunged, putting her on the brink of eviction. In my mind I was like, Ive had one-night stands, how bad can it be? she said. And it wasnt that bad.

The wry but weary-sounding middle-aged woman, who lives in a large US city and asked to remain anonymous to protect her reputation, is an adjunct instructor, meaning she is not a full-time faculty member at any one institution and strings together a living by teaching individual courses, in her case at multiple colleges.

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I feel committed to being the person whos there to help millennials, the next generation, go on to become critical thinkers, she said. And Im really good at it, and I really like it. And its heartbreaking to me it doesnt pay what I feel it should.

Sex work is one of the more unusual ways that adjuncts have avoided living in poverty, and perhaps even homelessness. A quarter of part-time college academics (many of whom are adjuncts, though its not uncommon for adjuncts to work 40 hours a week or more) are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

They resort to food banks and Goodwill, and there is even an adjuncts cookbook that shows how to turn items like beef scraps, chicken bones and orange peel into meals. And then there are those who are either on the streets or teetering on the edge of losing stable housing. The Guardian has spoken to several such academics, including an adjunct living in a shack north of Miami, and another sleeping in her car in Silicon Valley.

The adjunct who turned to sex work makes several thousand dollars per course, and teaches about six per semester. She estimates that she puts in 60 hours a week. But she struggles to make ends meet after paying $1,500 in monthly rent and with student loans that, including interest, amount to a few hundred thousand dollars. Her income from teaching comes to $40,000 a year. Thats significantly more than most adjuncts: a 2014 survey found that the median income for adjuncts is only $22,041 a year, whereas for full-time faculty it is $47,500.

We take a kind of vow of poverty

Recent reports have revealed the extent of poverty among professors, but the issue is longstanding. Several years ago, it was thrust into the headlines in dramatic fashion when Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor of Romance languages in her 50s, revealed she was homeless and protested outside the New York state education department.

We take a kind of vow of poverty to continue practicing our profession, Debra Leigh Scott, who is working on a documentary about adjuncts, said in an email. We do it because we are dedicated to scholarship, to learning, to our students and to our disciplines.

Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarterbetween 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, dont receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance.

This is why adjuncts have been called the fast-food workers of the academic world: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as precarious employment, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association taskforce focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career.

Adjunct
Adjunct English professor Ellen James-Penney and her husband live in a car with their two dogs. They have developed a system. Keep nothing on the dash, nothing on the floor you cant look like youre homeless, you cant dress like youre homeless. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

The struggle to stay in housing can take many forms, and a second job is one way adjuncts seek to buoy their finances. The professor who turned to sex work said it helps her keep her toehold in the rental market.

This is something I chose to do, she said, adding that for her it is preferable to, say, a six-hour shift at a bar after teaching all day. I dont want it to come across as, Oh, I had no other choice, this is how hard my life is.

Advertising online, she makes about $200 an hour for sex work. She sees clients only a handful of times during the semester, and more often during the summer, when classes end and she receives no income.

Im terrified that a student is going to come walking in, she said. And the financial concerns have not ceased. I constantly have tension in my neck from gritting my teeth all night.

To keep their homes, some adjuncts are forced to compromise on their living space.

Caprice Lawless, 65, a teacher of English composition and a campaigner for better working conditions for adjuncts, resides in an 1100 sq ft brick house near Boulder, Colorado. She bought it following a divorce two decades ago. But because her $18,000 income from teaching almost full time is so meager, she has remortgaged the property several times, and has had to rent her home to three other female housemates.

I live paycheck to paycheck and Im deeply in debt, she said, including from car repairs and a hospitalization for food poisoning.

Like every other adjunct, she says, she opted for the role thinking it would be a path to full-time work. She is so dependent on her job to maintain her living situation that when her mother died this summer, she didnt take time off in part because she has no bereavement leave. She turned up for work at 8am the next day, taught in a blur and, despite the cane she has used since a hip replacement, fell over in the parking lot.

If she were to lose her home her only hope, she says, would be government-subsidized housing.

Most of my colleagues are unjustifiably ashamed, she said. They take this personally, as if theyve failed, and Im always telling them, you havent failed, the system has failed you.

A precarious situation

Even more desperate are those adjuncts in substandard living spaces who cannot afford to fix them. Mindy Percival, 61, a lecturer with a doctorate from Columbia, teaches history at a state college in Florida and, in her words, lives in a shack which is in the woods in middle of nowhere.

Lecturer
Lecturer Mindy Percivals mobile home in Stuart, Florida. Her oven, shower and water heater dont work. Photograph: Courtesy of Mindy Percival

The mobile home she inhabits, located in the town of Stuart, north of Miami, was donated to her about eight years ago. It looks tidyon the outside, but inside there are holes in the floor and the paneling is peeling off the walls. She has no washing machine, and the oven, shower and water heater dont work. Im on the verge of homelessness, constantly on the verge, she said.

Percival once had a tenure-track job but left to care for her elderly mother, not expecting it would be impossible to find a similar position. Now, two weeks after being paid, I might have a can with $5 in change in it. Her 18-year-old car broke down after Hurricane Irma, and she is driven to school by a former student, paying $20 a day for gas.

I am trying to get out so terribly hard, she said.

Homelessness is a genuine prospect for adjuncts. When Ellen Tara James-Penney finishes work, teaching English composition and critical thinking at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley, her husband, Jim, picks her up. They have dinner and drive to a local church, where Jim pitches a tent by the car and sleeps there with one of their rescue dogs. In the car, James-Penney puts the car seats down and sleeps with another dog. She grades papers using a headlamp.

Over the years, she said, they have developed a system. Keep nothing on the dash, nothing on the floor you cant look like youre homeless, you cant dress like youre homeless. Dont park anywhere too long so the cops dont stop you.

James-Penney, 54, has struggled with homelessness since 2007, when she began studying for her bachelors degree. Jim, 64, used to be a trucker but cannot work owing to a herniated disk. Ellen made $28,000 last year, a chunk of which goes to debt repayments. The remainder is not enough to afford Silicon Valley rent.

At night, instead of a toilet they must use cups or plastic bags and baby wipes. To get clean, they find restrooms and we have what we call the sink-shower, James-Penney said. The couple keep their belongings in the back of the car and a roof container. All the while they deal with the consequences of ageing James-Penney has osteoporosis in a space too small to even stand up.

James-Penney does not hide her situation from her class. If her students complain about the homeless people who can sometimes be seen on campus, she will say:Youre looking at someone who is homeless.

That generally stops any kind of sound in the room, she says. I tell them, your parents could very well be one paycheck away, one illness away, from homelessness, so it is not something to be ashamed of.

Ellen
Ellen James-Penney teaching an English class at San Jose State University in California. She tells her students, youre looking at someone who is homeless. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

I hung on to the dream

Many adjuncts are seeking to change their lot by unionizing, and have done so at dozens of schools in recent years. They are notching successes; some have seen annual pay increases of about 5% to almost 20%, according to Julie Schmid, executive director of the American Association of University Professors.

Schools are often opposed to such efforts and say unions will result in higher costs for students. And for certain adjuncts, any gains will come too late.

Mary-Faith Cerasoli, 56, the homeless adjunct who captured the publics attention with her protest in New York three years ago, said that in the aftermath little changed in termsof her living situation. Two generous people, a retiree and then a nurse, offered her temporary accommodation, but she subsequently ended up in a tent pitched at a campground and, after that, a broken sailboat docked in the Hudson river.

But there was, however, one shift. All the moving around made it hard for her to make teaching commitments, and in any case the pay remained terrible, so she gave it up. She currently lives in a subsidized room in a shared house in a wealthy county north of New York.

For Rebecca Snow, 51, another adjunct who quit teaching after a succession of appalling living situations, there is a sense of having been freed, even though finances continue to be stressful.

Author
Author Rebecca Snow, now retired from adjuncting, has moved to a small apartment just north of Spokane, Washington. Photograph: Rajah Bose for the Guardian

She began teaching English composition at a community college in the Denver area in 2005, but the poor conditions of the homes she could afford meant she had to move every year or two. She left one place because of bedbugs, another when raw sewage flowed into her bathtub and the landlord failed to properly fix the pipes.

Sometimes her teenage son would have to stay with her ex-husband when she couldnt provide a stable home. Snow even published a poem about adjuncts housing difficulties.

In the end she left the profession when the housing and job insecurity became too much, and her bills too daunting. Today she lives in a quiet apartment above the garage of a friends home, located 15 miles outside Spokane, Washington. She has a view of a lake and forested hills and, with one novel under her belt, is working on a second.

Teaching was the fantasy, she said, but life on the brink of homelessness was the reality.

I realized I hung on to the dream for too long.

  • Do you have an experience of homelessness to share with the Guardian? Get in touch

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/28/adjunct-professors-homeless-sex-work-academia-poverty

We can’t hear Colin Kaepernick any more. He’s being drowned out by noise | Ameer Hasan Loggins

The quarterback ignited a storm by kneeling during the national anthem. He wanted to communicate a message but, sadly, many still refuse to hear it

Colin Kaepernick is everywhere. Like an icon, he is freeze-framed stoically kneeling for everyone to see. We see his image on stickers, T-shirts, graffiti and posters. Its on magazine covers, television shows and social media sites. Oddly, the more we see Kaepernicks likeness, the less we hear his message.

Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during a pre-game national anthem in 2016. His reasoning was simple: [Im] not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.

To Kaepernick his protest was: bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

He was referring to the fact that many police officers involved in high-profile killings of black people do so with apparent impunity. The killers of Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Terrence Crutcher, Philando Castile and Freddie Gray (to sadly name a few) have all gone unpunished. They either were acquitted or, even worse, were never charged with a crime at all.

That is what Kaepernick wants to talk about. Instead, his message is being slowly erased. Some want to make Kaepernicks protest all about Trump. Others want to ignore what he is saying completely and shift the conversation to patriotism, the military and respect for the flag.

The NFL the same league that now treats Kaepernick like a castaway is in on the game, too. After Trumps admonishment of the sports league, some higher-ups tried to turn the kneel into a symbol of unity among players, coachers and owners. It became a protest against, not the politics of the president, but the fact that he criticized the NFL.

That isnt what this is about.

Ive known Kaepernick as a friend for some time now, and I can see how his intentions surrounding the protest are being ignored.

Kaepernick used lucid language to articulate his mission when he said: This [protest] is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.

This reminds me of something Franz Fanon poignantly wrote in The Wretched of The Earth, his groundbreaking text on race and colonialism: Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity. Colin doesnt just want to fulfill his mission. He has made his mind up to never betray it.

When Donald Trump was busy threatening to cut the budget for Meals on Wheels, a program that provides meals to older impoverished Americans, Colin Kaepernick was donating $50,000 to their program.

As Trump was signing an executive order to push forward the intensely disputed Dakota Access pipeline, Kaepernick was donating another $50,000 to desperately needed health clinics at Standing Rock.

When Trump was talking about repealing the Deferred Action of Child Arrivals policy, which protected migrants who came to America as children, Kaepernick was donating $25,000 to United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation.

During Trumps tirade about the un-patriotic nature of Kaepernicks taking a knee, he forgets that Kaepernick donated $25,000 towards paying rent for US veterans facing eviction, and providing employment training programs for people who served in military uniform.

We need to eliminate the noise. We need to listen to what Colin Kaepernick is saying, pay attention to what he is actually doing, and why.

As he put it himself: This stand wasnt for me. This [protest] is because Im seeing things happen to people that dont have a voice. People that dont have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change. Im in a position where I can do that, and Im going to do that for people that cant.

Thats why, as this protest gathers steam, its important to know what this kneel is about and what it isnt about.

Kaepernick was the architect of this protest. He was candid with his convictions, and clear with his vision. He could not take it any more. He wanted to talk about black lives being crushed by law enforcement. He wanted to bring attention to the many tentacles of systemic oppression. Kaepernick has been true to his message.

The question is: have we been true to it too?

  • Ameer Hasan Loggins is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley in African Diaspora Studies

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/27/colin-kaepernick-protest-nfl-take-a-knee

America gives $700bn to the military but says healthcare is a luxury | Trevor Timm

On Monday, the Pentagon received even more money than it had asked for. Funding war is something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on

When Bernie Sanders released his much anticipated healthcare plan last week, countless pundits and members of Congress asked why the government should pass such a bill given its potential cost. Now that Congress on the verge of sending a record-setting $700bn Pentagon spending bill to Trumps desk, you can bet those deficit scolds will be nowhere to be found.

On Monday evening, the Senate passed in bipartisan fashion a policy bill that set the parameters for military spending in 2018 that tops $700bn, including tens of billions in spending for wars Trump has been expanding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Amazingly, the bill far exceeds even the increase in spending that the Trump administration was asking for, and as the Associated Press reported, it would put the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Only eight senators voted against the bill three Republicans and five Democrats. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Even in a time of hyper-partisanship, you can always count on Congress to come together and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build weapons and bombs for killing people overseas, even as our infrastructure crumbles at home and thousands of people die each year without healthcare.

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are also engaged in a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act before their deadline to do so expires on 30 September. If they succeed, they will likely force millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, and they will make the case that they did so in part to save money and lower the deficit. The Republicans shamelessness, as always, knows no bounds.

But why wouldnt Democrats put up even a modicum of a fight against this gargantuan National Defense Authorization Act? Given that Trump has been ramping up US wars across the Middle East, civilian casualties have been exploding, and the administration cant even give a legal explanation for its strikes in Syria, youd think this would be a good time for Democrats to take a stand against the Forever War posture now engulfs the Trump administration as it did the two administrations before him.

But no.

Only five Democratic senators voted against the bill. All of them Gillibrand, Sanders, Wyden, Leahy and Merkley deserve to be commended, but its embarrassing that so many others would go ahead and vote for this.

Sadly, we know why. Giant defense contractors call every single state in the United States home, where they who have factories that make the fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and bombs that the Pentagon has an insatiable appetite for.

They lavish congressmen with campaign contributions and then attempt to terrify everyone that jobs (ie building bombs that kill people) will dry up if Congress doesnt increase military spending each year.

The difference in the response from both Congress and political pundits when it comes spending on our military and on domestic programs could not be more stark. Any government program meant to help poor people get food, housing or healthcare are analyzed to pieces by deficit trolls in countless op-eds and cable television appearances, as if our economy will suddenly collapse if the government spends just a tiny percentage more to help our most unfortunate.

But when it comes to spending money on military bases overseas and already rich defense contractors, no amount of extra money is ever too high.

What makes it all the more hypocritical and shameful that the Pentagon is the agency where the most waste exists by far when it comes to government spending. The Washington Post produced a must-read report last year showing that the Pentagons own auditors could save a mind boggling $125bn over a five year period without cutting any programs, given all of the duplicative and unnecessary spending that plagues the defense department.

Yet as the Post reported at the time, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results and then the Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings.

The story was quickly forgotten, and now, like clockwork, the Pentagon receives more money than it even asked for.

Just remember this vote the next time some congressman or political prognosticator on television says that the United States cant afford to help its most needy. Theres always plenty of money for bombs, but when it comes to healthcare or anything else, what theyre saying is youre out of luck.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/20/america-700bn-military-healthcare-luxury

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

Exclusive: Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agencys headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.

The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood.

We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that its having on wildlife, to be concerned, said Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb. If its impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that its not going to somehow impact us?

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A magnified image of clothing microfibres from washing machine effluent. One study found that a fleece jacket can shed as many as 250,000 fibres per wash. Photograph: Courtesy of Rozalia Project

A separate small study in the Republic of Ireland released in June also found microplastic contamination in a handful of tap water and well samples. We dont know what the [health] impact is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put enough effort into it now, immediately, so we can find out what the real risks are, said Dr Anne Marie Mahon at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who conducted the research.

Mahon said there were two principal concerns: very small plastic particles and the chemicals or pathogens that microplastics can harbour. If the fibres are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we cant measure, she said. Once they are in the nanometre range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying. The Orb analyses caught particles of more than 2.5 microns in size, 2,500 times bigger than a nanometre.

Microplastics can attract bacteria found in sewage, Mahon said: Some studies have shown there are more harmful pathogens on microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants.

Plastic fibres found in tap water across the world

Microplastics are also known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals and research on wild animals shows they are released in the body. Prof Richard Thompson, at Plymouth University, UK, told Orb: It became clear very early on that the plastic would release those chemicals and that actually, the conditions in the gut would facilitate really quite rapid release. His research has shown microplastics are found in a third of fish caught in the UK.

The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fibres and fragments in all of the 24 beer brands they tested, as well as in honey and sugar. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling from the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city each year, and that it was also present in the air in peoples homes.

This research led Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at Kings College London, to tell a UK parliamentary inquiry in 2016: If we breathe them in they could potentially deliver chemicals to the lower parts of our lungs and maybe even across into our circulation. Having seen the Orb data, Kelly told the Guardian that research is urgently needed to determine whether ingesting plastic particles is a health risk.

The new research tested 159 samples using a standard technique to eliminate contamination from other sources and was performed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The samples came from across the world, including from Uganda, Ecuador and Indonesia.

How microplastics end up in drinking water is for now a mystery, but the atmosphere is one obvious source, with fibres shed by the everyday wear and tear of clothes and carpets. Tumble dryers are another potential source, with almost 80% of US households having dryers that usually vent to the open air.

We really think that the lakes [and other water bodies] can be contaminated by cumulative atmospheric inputs, said Johnny Gasperi, at the University Paris-Est Creteil, who did the Paris studies. What we observed in Paris tends to demonstrate that a huge amount of fibres are present in atmospheric fallout.

Plastic fibres may also be flushed into water systems, with a recent study finding that each cycle of a washing machine could release 700,000 fibres into the environment. Rains could also sweep up microplastic pollution, which could explain why the household wells used in Indonesia were found to be contaminated.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the water supply comes from natural springs but 94% of the samples were contaminated. This research only scratches the surface, but it seems to be a very itchy one, said Hussam Hawwa, at the environmental consultancy Difaf, which collected samples for Orb.

This
This planktonic arrow worm, Sagitta setosa, has eaten a blue plastic fibre about 3mm long. Plankton support the entire marine food chain. Photograph: Richard Kirby/Courtesy of Orb Media

Current standard water treatment systems do not filter out all of the microplastics, Mahon said: There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.

Bottled water may not provide a microplastic-free alternative to tapwater, as the they were also found in a few samples of commercial bottled water tested in the US for Orb.

Almost 300m tonnes of plastic is produced each year and, with just 20% recycled or incinerated, much of it ends up littering the air, land and sea. A report in July found 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, with the researchers warning that plastic waste has become ubiquitous in the environment.

We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic and I am very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late, said Prof Roland Geyer, from the University of California and Santa Barbara, who led the study.

Mahon said the new tap water analyses raise a red flag, but that more work is needed to replicate the results, find the sources of contamination and evaluate the possible health impacts.

She said plastics are very useful, but that management of the waste must be drastically improved: We need plastics in our lives, but it is us that is doing the damage by discarding them in very careless ways.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals

US federal department is censoring use of term ‘climate change’, emails reveal

Exclusive: series of emails show staff at Department of Agricultures Natural Resources Conservation Service advised to reference weather extremes instead

Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference weather extremes instead.

A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change.

A missive from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health, lists terms that should be avoided by staff and those that should replace them. Climate change is in the avoid category, to be replaced by weather extremes. Instead of climate change adaption, staff are asked to use resilience to weather extremes.

The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term reduce greenhouse gases blacklisted in favor of build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency. Meanwhile, sequester carbon is ruled out and replaced by build soil organic matter.

Firefighters
Firefighters battle a wildfire in California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

In her email to staff, dated 16 February this year, Moebius-Clune said the new language was given to her staff and suggests it be passed on. She writes that we wont change the modeling, just how we talk about it there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them, and that a colleague from USDAs public affairs team gave advice to tamp down on discretionary messaging right now.

In contrast to these newly contentious climate terms, Moebius-Clune wrote that references to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural US, agro-tourism and improved aesthetics should be tolerated if not appreciated by all.

In a separate email to senior employees on 24 January, just days after Trumps inauguration, Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs at the NRCS, said: It has become clear one of the previous administrations priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch.

Bramblett added that prudence should be used when discussing greenhouse gases and said the agencys work on air quality regarding these gases could be discontinued.

Other emails show the often agonized discussions between staff unsure of what is forbidden. On 16 February, a staffer named Tim Hafner write to Bramblett: I would like to know correct terms I should use instead of climate changes and anything to do with carbon … I want to ensure to incorporate correct terminology that the agency has approved to use.

On 5 April, Suzanne Baker, a New York-based NRCS employee, emailed a query as to whether staff are allowed to publish work from outside the USDA that use climate change. A colleague advises that the issue be determined in a phone call.

Some staff werent enamored with the new regime, with one employee stating on an email on 5 July that we would prefer to keep the language as is and stressing the need to maintain the scientific integrity of the work.

In a statement, USDA said that on 23 January it had issued interim operating procedures outlining procedures to ensure the new policy team has an opportunity to review policy-related statements, legislation, budgets and regulations prior to issuance.

The statement added: This guidance, similar to procedures issued by previous administrations, was misinterpreted by some to cover data and scientific publications. This was never the case and USDA interim procedures will allow complete, objective information for the new policy staff reviewing policy decisions.

Kaveh Sadeghzadeh of the Natural Resources Conservation Service added that his organisation has not received direction from USDA or the administration to modify its communications on climate change or any other topic.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the veracity of climate change research, infamously suggesting that it is part of an elaborate Chinese hoax. The president has started the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement, has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to scrap or amend various regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gases, and has moved to open up more public land and waters to fossil fuel activity.

The nomenclature of the federal government has also shifted as these new priorities have taken hold. Mentions of the dangers of climate change have been removed from the websites of the White House and the Department of the Interior, while the EPA scrapped its entire online climate section in April pending a review that will be updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership.

The series of emails. Some parts were redacted before the emails were released. The Guardian has further redacted phone numbers, and highlighted key passages.

These records reveal Trumps active censorship of science in the name of his political agenda, said Meg Townsend, open government attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

To think that federal agency staff who report about the air, water and soil that sustains the health of our nation must conform their reporting with the Trump administrations anti-science rhetoric is appalling and dangerous for America and the greater global community.

The Center for Biological Diversity is currently suing several government agencies, including the EPA and state department, to force them to release information on the censoring of climate change verbiage.

While some of the changes to government websites may have occurred anyway, the emails from within the USDA are the clearest indication yet that staff have been instructed to steer clear of acknowledging climate change or its myriad consequences.

US agriculture is a major source of heat-trapping gases, with 15% of the countrys emissions deriving from farming practices. A USDA plan to address the far reaching impacts of climate change is still online.

However, Sam Clovis, Trumps nomination to be the USDAs chief scientist, has labeled climate research junk science.

Last week it was revealed that Clovis, who is not a scientist, once ran a blog where he called progressives race traders and race traitors and likened Barack Obama to a communist.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/07/usda-climate-change-language-censorship-emails

WannaCry ‘hero’ to plead not guilty to accusation he wrote banking malware

US prosecutors claim Marcus Hutchins, hailed as accidental hero for stopping major ransomware attack, admitted to creating Kronos malware targeting banks

The British security researcher who stopped a global ransomware attack admitted to police that he wrote the code of a malware that targeted bank accounts, US prosecutors said during a hearing on Friday, but his attorneys said that he planned to plead not guilty.

Marcus Hutchins, the 23-year-old hailed as a hero for stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack, is accused of helping to create, spread and maintain the banking trojan Kronos between 2014 and 2015 and is facing six counts of hacking-related charges from the US Department of Justice (DoJ), according to a recently unsealed indictment.

A judge ruled on Friday that Hutchins who had been in Las Vegas for the annual Def Con hacking conference could be released on $30,000 bail. The judge said the defendant was not a danger to the community nor a flight risk and ordered him to remain in the US with GPS monitoring.

Dan Cowhig, the prosecutor, argued in federal court that Hutchins should not be freed because he is a danger to the public, adding: He admitted he was the author of the code of Kronos malware and indicated he sold it.

As part of a sting operation, undercover officers had bought the code from Hutchins and his co-defendant, who is still at large, Cowhig said in court. The prosecutor said there is also evidence from chat logs between Hutchins and the co-defendant, revealing that Hutchins complained about the money he received for the sale.

After the hearing, Adrian Lobo, Hutchins defense attorney, said: We intend to fight the case.

She added: He has dedicated his life to researching malware, not to trying to harm people.

The attorney also told reporters that Hutchins supporters were raising money for his bond and that he should be released on Monday.

He has tremendous community support, local and abroad and in the computer world.

She declined to comment on the specifics of the charges, but said he was completely shocked by the indictment and that he was in good spirits.

The DoJ charges relate to the Kronos malware, which is a type of malicious software used to steal peoples credentials, such as internet banking passwords.

According to the indictment, Hutchins co-defendant advertised the malware for sale on AlphaBay, a darknet marketplace, and sold it two months later. The indictment did not make clear if the malware was actually sold through AlphaBay.

US and European police eventually seized servers for the marketplace, which was shut down on 20 July.

Hutchins, known on Twitter as @MalwareTechBlog, gained a reputation as an accidental hero in May for halting the global spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack. WannaCry infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide in less than a day, encrypting their hard drives and asking for a ransom of $300 in bitcoin to unlock the files. The cyberattack wreaked havoc on organisations including the UKs National Health Service, FedEx and Telefnica.

The cybersecurity researcher, working with Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint, found and inadvertently activated a kill switch in the malicious software.

The kill switch was hardcoded into the malware in case the creator wanted to stop it spreading. This involved a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to just as if it was looking up any website and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading.

Hutchins noticed the domain was unregistered and so bought it for $10.69, not knowing what it did at the time. It immediately started registering thousands of connections every second.

The intent was to just monitor the spread and see if we could do anything about it later on. But we actually stopped the spread just by registering the domain, he told the Guardian at the time.

The WannaCry malware ended up affecting more than 1m computers, but experts estimate that without Hutchins intervention it could have infected 10-15m computers. Hutchins was given a special recognition award at the cybersecurity SC Awards Europe for his role in halting the malware.

Lobo and the US attorneys office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The Press Association contributed reporting.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/04/wannacry-marcus-hutchins-kronos-malware-arrest

Republicans urge Trump to keep critical health subsidies for low-income people

Donald Trump has threatened to stop payments that help millions to afford insurance, amid frustration over his partys failure to repeal Obamacare

Republicans lawmakers are urging Donald Trump to continue paying critical health insurance subsidies that help lower-income people afford it, amid growing concern that the president will follow through on his threat to cancel them.

Frustrated by his partys failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump has dangled the possibility that he would stop the payments a move that experts say would send insurance markets into turmoil and cause premiums to rise dramatically.

Democrats have called the threat an attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate health, education, labor and pensions Committee, announced on Tuesday that his committee would begin holding hearings after Labor Day to discuss bipartisan legislation to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market in 2018.

There are a number of issues with the American healthcare system but if your house is on fire you want to put out the fire, Alexander said in introductory remarks at the start of a committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon. And the fire in this case is the individual health insurance market. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this.

Alexander publicly called on the president to continue the payments to insurance companies, knowns as cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies. The payments help insurance companies off-set low-income customers out-of-pocket medical expenses such as deductibles and co-payments.

Without payment of these cost-sharing reductions Americans will be hurt, he said.

He described the impact of cutting off the payments, which total an estimated $7bn in 2017 and cover roughly 7 million people. Without the funding, he said, the insurance markets would unravel and insurers would likely leave the marketplaces leaving consumers with few, or possibly no, coverage options to buy insurance through the marketplace exchanges.

The insurers that stay will likely have to raise insurance premiums in order to offset the loss of the payments. He cited an analysis by the Americas Health Insurance Plans that found insurance premiums would increase by roughly 20%. Middle-class Americans would largely bear the brunt of the increases, as poorer customers could still access the subsidies.

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Chuck Schumer praises John McCain for rejecting healthcare bill video

The announcement was the first attempt by senators of both parties to cooperate on healthcare after a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed in dramatic fashion on the chamber floor. On Monday, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members, unveiled a suite of fixes to the healthcare law to stabilize the insurance markets. The most significant of their five proposals would appropriate funding for the laws cost-sharing subsidies.

Trump has repeatedly raised the possibility that he might cancel the payments to insurance companies in an attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldnt it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays? Trump tweeted on Monday.

Democrats have accused the administration of trying to inject uncertainty into the insurance market.

The American people need a president who puts their interests first, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech on Tuesday, not someone who plays political games with their healthcare.

On Tuesday, several Republican senators joined Democrats in urging the president to continue payments.

Just thinking about those families that would be hurt were they not [continued], I think it would be better to continue them, said Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana. And I think it would be better then for Congress to do the constitutional thing and get it appropriated for a year or two.

Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who helped thwart the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, said it was absolutely essential that the president continue funding for the subsidies.

Republican
Republican senator Susan Collins on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

When I hear them described as insurance company bailouts, that is just not an accurate description, she said. The reason that we have CSRs is to help low-income people who earn only between 100% and 250% of the poverty rate afford their out-of-pocket costs. That seems to be lost in the debate.

Trump has referred to the payments as bailouts for the insurance companies, implying that the subsidies are compensation for business failings. Rather they help reimburse insurance companies for the money they lose.

But not all Republicans agree. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a fierce critic of the healthcare law who pushed for its full repeal, agreed with Trump: We need to honor our promise to repeal Obamacare and billions for the insurance companies isnt doing that, Cruz said.

During the committee hearing, Alexander said reducing the uncertainty about whether the payments will be continued should bring down premiums in 2018.

If the president were to approve continuation of cost-sharing subsidies for August and September, and if Congress in September should pass a stabilization plan that includes cost-sharing for one year … it is reasonable to expect that the insurance companies in 2018 would then lower their rates, he said.

Though Republicans were not able to dismantle the healthcare law this year, its immediate fate lies largely in the hands of the president.

Beyond canceling subsidies, the administration could also refuse to enforce the individual mandate, which requires Americans to purchase healthcare or face a penalty. It could also refuse to help customers sign up for insurance coverage on the marketplace when enrollment opens in November.

The ball is in the presidents court, Schumer said. He can make the payments as the law requires and needs, or he can sabotage our healthcare system.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/01/donald-trump-healthcare-cut-subsidies-low-income

John McCain had the chance to do the right thing on healthcare. He failed | Lucia Graves

There are many reasons to respect the Arizona senator, but his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse his yes vote in the Senate

John McCain often gets cast as a truth-teller to Donald Trump, but his voting record says otherwise. And nowhere was that more clear than on Tuesday when, despite his own ill health, when it came to the decision of whether to take other peoples healthcare away, he cast a decisive vote in the wrong direction.

Addressing his fellow lawmakers, McCain called passionately for a return to regular order, and for senators to work constructively across the aisle. Why dont we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act, he said in his Tuesday speech. If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then lets return to regular order!

Though he has often railed against Trump as if he cant actually affect what he is complaining about, McCain isnt a helpless observer hes an influential senator. And on Tuesday, as the country draws closer than ever before to the death of the Affordable Care Act, he was a pivotal one.

Had McCain simply voted no to the question of whether the Senate should begin debate on a repeal or replacement of Obamacare, which squeaked by in the Senate with a vote of 51-50, the chambers leader Mitch McConnell might well have been forced to do the very thing McCain claimed to want: restore the chamber to order.

Instead, McCain, who was recently and tragically diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and who returned to DC explicitly to help save the GOP healthcare bill, voted yes.

To put it another way, faced with a rare opportunity to make a real tangible difference, he risked traveling amid failing health to make possible the very thing he decried.

More damningly, he voted yes to take away healthcare from millions of Americans including an untold number of other cancer patients even as he continues to access benefits of the quality care afforded him as a senator, care subsidized by American taxpayers.

Never mind that at this point in time Republicans have little idea what the bill they would replace Obamacare with will contain. Never mind that we have arrived at this point through a secretive process devoid of public hearings, or even that Republicans would have the healthcare of millions of American women dreamed up entirely by men.

Politics appears to have triumphed over logic. Sadly, the politics that won out today are is not even a sort personally dear to John McCain that much was made clear in his floor speech. Its not even his own electoral politics that won out, either; after a tough re-election battle, he wont be up again until 2022, freeing him up as much as electorally possible to act solely with his moral compass as the guide.

Instead, McCain did the very thing he had just railed against, acting out of partisan loyalty.

There are many reasons to respect McCain, a former prisoner of war who endured torture in the five and a half years he spent captive in North Vietnam, and has campaigned against torture by the US. His 2008 campaign against Barack Obama now looks like the very model of civility in the wake of Trump.

But even his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse what he just did.

The grim reality is that health insurance is of the utmost importance when it comes to surviving cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease. Put simply, the uninsured are much more likely to die than those with insurance and sooner.

A recent study in the journal Cancer found the uninsured were 88% more likely to die of testicular cancer than those with insurance. For patients with Medicaid, the number dropped to a 58% greater chance of dying than privately insured patients like McCain.

The study found the same trend held true for patients with glioblastoma, the malignant brain cancer McCain was recently diagnosed with. Its a terribly disease with a median life expectancy with his type of just 15 months, and thats as true for McCain as anyone, but the uninsured still die faster than anyone.

Voting to subject any one of millions of Americans to go to meet such a fate without even the benefit of the best tools medicine has to fight it is cruel, given McCains new-found appreciation of the benefit.

The estimated cost of McCains recent surgery to remove the cancer above his eye is a sum that would bankrupt many Americans, using the Medicare rates for which McCain qualifies.

Theres a way to fix the fact that many Americans under the age of 65 dont have access to any such care: let everyone under it buy in, a scheme for which many on the left have argued. But on Tuesday, McCain helped move the country in precisely the opposite direction.

We still dont know which of several bills Republicans will bring up for a vote, but all of them involve millions of Americans losing the very sort of health insurance upon which McCain depends.

The only question is whether its a matter of 22, 32, or just 15 million people who will lose access. What we can say with confidence is whatever version moves forward, McCains lost more than his good health hes lost his decency.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/25/john-mccain-healthcare-senate-vote-republicans

Trump to rally: GOP senators who oppose health bill ‘will have a lot of problems’

Trump speaks for an hour at campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, and boasts of accomplishments while pledging once again to build that wall

Donald Trump warned that Republican senators who dont support legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare will have a lot of problems.

Speaking for an hour at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump took a victory lap after the Senate voted to begin debate on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We are now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare, he said.

Before a raucous crowd in the blue-collar city, Trump went on to warn that any senator who votes against repeal and replace tells America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and I predict theyll have a lot of problems.

However, Trump spent comparatively little time discussing healthcare. Instead, he returned to familiar themes from his freewheeling presidential campaign, deriding fake news and pledging once again to build that wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. He also returned to familiar boasts about how, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, he can be more presidential than any president thats ever held this office and taunted protesters, saying about one: Hes going back home to mommy.

He spent much of the rally boasting about his accomplishments since taking office: I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we have done in his first six months.

In particular, Trump dwelled on his efforts to curb illegal immigration and deport undocumented migrants from the United States. Trump claimed that in doing so we are liberating our towns and cities and warned darkly of immigrants in gangs committing crimes.

They dont want to use guns because its too fast and its not painful enough, claimed Trump. So theyll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die, and these are the animals that weve been protecting for so long.

Trump though did not address the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election or his growing displeasure with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself from the justice departments investigation into the 2016 campaign.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/25/trump-republicans-healthcare-bill-rally-ohio

John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer, spokesman says

Statement reveals brain tumor known as glioblastoma was removed along with blood clot above senators right eye during surgery last Friday

John McCain, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

A brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was removed from McCain along with a blood clot in a surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Friday, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

McCains office had only previously announced that the blood clot had been removed from above the 80-year-olds left eye.

The Mayo Clinic said in a statement released by McCains office: The senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The senators doctors say he is recovering from his surgery amazingly well and his underlying health is excellent.

The surgery had forced McCain to stay in Arizona this week and miss votes in the Senate. It had led to a delay in the vote on the Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was originally scheduled for Monday. Since the delay was announced, a sufficient number of Republican senators came forward to express their opposition to the bill and forced the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to shelve it and instead try to push a vote on a clean repeal of the ACA.

In a statement, the Arizona senators spokesperson said that in the aftermath of his diagnosis, further consultations with [the] Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.

An extended absence would likely make it even more difficult for Republicans to repeal or replace the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare. Senate Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority and, with the tie-breaking vote of Mike Pence, can only afford to lose two votes if McCain is present. His absence means that two Republican no votes would now sink any legislation if all 48 Democrats are unified in opposition.

McCain, who was re-elected to his sixth term in the Senate in 2016, was the Republican partys presidential nominee in 2008 and finished second to George W Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential primary. Prior to his career in politics, McCain served as an aviator in the US navy, and was held as prisoner of war for five and a half years during the Vietnam war. While being held captive by the north Vietnamese, McCain was repeatedly subjected to torture. He retired as a captain after earning a number of decorations including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Arizona senators illness sparked an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle.

In a statement, Donald Trump said: Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon. Trump, who famously set off a political firestorm in 2015 by saying McCain was not a war hero, said earlier in the week of the Arizona senator: We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. Hes a crusty voice in Washington. Plus we need his vote. And hell be back.

Barack Obama, against whom McCain ran in the 2008 presidential election, tweeted: John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters Ive ever known. Cancer doesnt know what its up against. Give it hell, John.

Barack Obama (@BarackObama)

John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.

July 20, 2017

A number of McCains colleagues in the Senate also expressed their well wishes. In a statement, Mitch McConnell said: John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life. The entire Senate familys prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well. We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.

Outside a meeting of Senate Republicans to discuss healthcare reform on Wednesday night, senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said they had learned of the diagnosis during the meeting.

It was very emotional almost kind of stunned disbelief, Hoeven told reporters. Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, then led them in prayer.

Hoeven said the senators had received a message from McCain via South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham, a close friend. The senator told them he was eager to get back and get to work, Hoeven added.

Graham was visibly emotional as he recalled his conversation with McCain when he learned of the diagnosis.

He says, Ive been through worse, Graham told reporters. Five minutes into the call, however, McCain wanted to talk the legislative priories, Graham said.
God knows how this ends, he said. But I do know this: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.

In a statement, McCains daughter Meghan said: He is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest Americans of our age, and the worthy heir to his fathers and grandfathers name. But to me, he is something more. He is my strength, my example, my refuge, my confidante, my teacher, my rock, my hero my Dad.

Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain)

Statement regarding my father @SenJohnMcCain: pic.twitter.com/SMte9Hkwkq

July 20, 2017

Lauren Gambino contributed to this report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/john-mccain-brain-cancer