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Fights, Escape Attempts, Harm: Migrant Kids Struggle in Facilities

In one government facility for immigrant youths, a 20-year-old woman who had lied that she was 17 sneaked a needle out of a sewing class and used it to cut herself.

In another, cameras captured a boy repeatedly kicking a child in the head after they got into an argument on the soccer field.

One 6-year-old tried to run away from the same facility after another boy threw his shoes into the toilet. Three employees had to pull the boy off a fence and carry him back into a building.

​14,000 children detained

Records obtained by The Associated Press highlight some of the problems that plague government facilities for immigrant youths at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration has been making moves in recent weeks that could send even more migrant children into detention.

About 14,000 immigrant children are detained in more than 100 facilities nationally, with about 5,900 in Texas. Many crossed the border without their parents and are having to wait longer in detention to be placed with relatives or sponsors, who are being dissuaded to come forward out of fear they’ll be arrested and deported.

Hundreds of children who were separated from their parents earlier this year were also detained in these facilities, but most of them have since been released to their parents.

Overtaxed system

Amid the global uproar over family separation, the Trump administration presented the facilities as caring, safe places for immigrant children.

But as records obtained by the AP show, the child detention system is overtaxed. Children are acting out, sometimes hitting each other and trying to escape, and staff members struggle to deal with escalating problems.

Doctors have warned for months about the consequences of detaining children for long periods of time, particularly after most of them had fled violence and poverty in Central America and undertaken the dangerous journey to the U.S.

“Being in detention can be a form of trauma,” said Dr. Alan Shapiro, a pediatrician who works directly with immigrant children. “We can’t treat children for trauma while we’re traumatizing them at the same time.”

Sexual abuse in Arizona

Southwest Key Programs, a Texas-based nonprofit, operates the facilities where the three incidents occurred. In Arizona, the organization agreed in October to close two facilities and stop accepting more children at others as part of a settlement with the state, which was investigating whether the organization conducted adequate background checks of staff. One former employee was convicted this year of sexually abusing multiple boys.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Southwest Key is pushing to expand. It has sued Houston after local officials tried to stop the opening of a facility.

In a statement, Southwest Key said it reported all three incidents on its own and that it was committed to correcting any problems.

“As long as immigrant children are forced to leave their homes due to violence and poverty, we want to provide them with compassionate care and help reunify them with family safely and quickly,” the group said.

Southwest Key’s facilities are licensed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which inspects child detention centers and released inspection records to the AP.

The U.S. government has also set up a temporary facility in Tornillo, Texas, that isn’t licensed by the state because it’s located on federal property. There, roughly 1,800 children are housed in large tents at much higher costs than the licensed facilities. That’s up from 320 in June, at the height of the family separation crisis.

Repeated investigations

One facility that was repeatedly flagged was Casa El Presidente in Brownsville, Texas, operated by Southwest Key.

As parents were being arrested and separated from their infants and young children, Casa El Presidente became one of three Texas “tender age” facilities that took in their kids. A group of congressmen who visited in June said the facility had an infant room with high chairs and toys, where staff members were caring for babies.

Casa El Presidente multiplied in size during the family separation crisis. According to the state’s monthly head counts, the facility went from 56 children in June to 367 in the most recent count taken Nov. 15.

A shift supervisor told a state inspector June 26 that more staff were quitting and that workers “struggle with implementing healthy boundaries for children of this age.”

“He admitted staff are afraid to touch the children,” the inspector wrote in a report.

The supervisor said Casa El Presidente had to change its policy on restraining young children who were misbehaving, because holding them for too short a time was “escalating instead of de-escalating.” Southwest Key said an example of a typical restraint would be holding a child’s arm or shoulder, and that it doesn’t use mechanical restraints.

The facility was cited for improperly restraining a 6-year-old boy who tried in July to climb a playground fence and run away.

The boy was identified in an inspection report by his first name, Osman. Staff members told an inspector that two days before Osman ran to the fence, two other boys had placed his shoes in a toilet. Osman “also expressed frustration about being in the shelter away from his family,” the report said.

Three staff members eventually carried Osman away from the fence and back into the building.

The same month, two boys named Luis and Franklin got into a fight after Luis apparently kicked a soccer ball that Franklin said belonged to him. An inspector who viewed the facility’s video wrote that Franklin chased Luis and punched him, causing Luis to fall.

“Franklin starts to kick him, once again making contact and kicking Luis in the face,” the inspector wrote. Employees “never make efforts to move Franklin away from Luis; the staff just hold him.”

The inspector cited the facility for not properly intervening to stop the kicks.

At Casa Rio Grande in San Benito, Texas, one of the people living there was a 20-year-old who told the staff she was 17. An investigation report identified her as Julia.

Julia told an inspector that she took a needle from a sewing class and used it to cut herself because “she felt alone.” She hid her wrist for around two weeks under a sweater, but when she forgot to wear her sweater one day, a staff member spotted the marks.

In each case, inspectors interviewed other minors detained at the facility. According to the reports, the other youths said they were treated well, had enough food, and felt respected by the staff.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, acknowledged that staff morale has suffered this year because of the unprecedented demands.

“We are against family separations at the border,” Eller said. “Keeping families together is better for the children, parents, and communities.”

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Fights, Escape Attempts, Harm: Migrant Kids Struggle in Facilities

In one government facility for immigrant youths, a 20-year-old woman who had lied that she was 17 sneaked a needle out of a sewing class and used it to cut herself.

In another, cameras captured a boy repeatedly kicking a child in the head after they got into an argument on the soccer field.

One 6-year-old tried to run away from the same facility after another boy threw his shoes into the toilet. Three employees had to pull the boy off a fence and carry him back into a building.

​14,000 children detained

Records obtained by The Associated Press highlight some of the problems that plague government facilities for immigrant youths at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration has been making moves in recent weeks that could send even more migrant children into detention.

About 14,000 immigrant children are detained in more than 100 facilities nationally, with about 5,900 in Texas. Many crossed the border without their parents and are having to wait longer in detention to be placed with relatives or sponsors, who are being dissuaded to come forward out of fear they’ll be arrested and deported.

Hundreds of children who were separated from their parents earlier this year were also detained in these facilities, but most of them have since been released to their parents.

Overtaxed system

Amid the global uproar over family separation, the Trump administration presented the facilities as caring, safe places for immigrant children.

But as records obtained by the AP show, the child detention system is overtaxed. Children are acting out, sometimes hitting each other and trying to escape, and staff members struggle to deal with escalating problems.

Doctors have warned for months about the consequences of detaining children for long periods of time, particularly after most of them had fled violence and poverty in Central America and undertaken the dangerous journey to the U.S.

“Being in detention can be a form of trauma,” said Dr. Alan Shapiro, a pediatrician who works directly with immigrant children. “We can’t treat children for trauma while we’re traumatizing them at the same time.”

Sexual abuse in Arizona

Southwest Key Programs, a Texas-based nonprofit, operates the facilities where the three incidents occurred. In Arizona, the organization agreed in October to close two facilities and stop accepting more children at others as part of a settlement with the state, which was investigating whether the organization conducted adequate background checks of staff. One former employee was convicted this year of sexually abusing multiple boys.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Southwest Key is pushing to expand. It has sued Houston after local officials tried to stop the opening of a facility.

In a statement, Southwest Key said it reported all three incidents on its own and that it was committed to correcting any problems.

“As long as immigrant children are forced to leave their homes due to violence and poverty, we want to provide them with compassionate care and help reunify them with family safely and quickly,” the group said.

Southwest Key’s facilities are licensed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which inspects child detention centers and released inspection records to the AP.

The U.S. government has also set up a temporary facility in Tornillo, Texas, that isn’t licensed by the state because it’s located on federal property. There, roughly 1,800 children are housed in large tents at much higher costs than the licensed facilities. That’s up from 320 in June, at the height of the family separation crisis.

Repeated investigations

One facility that was repeatedly flagged was Casa El Presidente in Brownsville, Texas, operated by Southwest Key.

As parents were being arrested and separated from their infants and young children, Casa El Presidente became one of three Texas “tender age” facilities that took in their kids. A group of congressmen who visited in June said the facility had an infant room with high chairs and toys, where staff members were caring for babies.

Casa El Presidente multiplied in size during the family separation crisis. According to the state’s monthly head counts, the facility went from 56 children in June to 367 in the most recent count taken Nov. 15.

A shift supervisor told a state inspector June 26 that more staff were quitting and that workers “struggle with implementing healthy boundaries for children of this age.”

“He admitted staff are afraid to touch the children,” the inspector wrote in a report.

The supervisor said Casa El Presidente had to change its policy on restraining young children who were misbehaving, because holding them for too short a time was “escalating instead of de-escalating.” Southwest Key said an example of a typical restraint would be holding a child’s arm or shoulder, and that it doesn’t use mechanical restraints.

The facility was cited for improperly restraining a 6-year-old boy who tried in July to climb a playground fence and run away.

The boy was identified in an inspection report by his first name, Osman. Staff members told an inspector that two days before Osman ran to the fence, two other boys had placed his shoes in a toilet. Osman “also expressed frustration about being in the shelter away from his family,” the report said.

Three staff members eventually carried Osman away from the fence and back into the building.

The same month, two boys named Luis and Franklin got into a fight after Luis apparently kicked a soccer ball that Franklin said belonged to him. An inspector who viewed the facility’s video wrote that Franklin chased Luis and punched him, causing Luis to fall.

“Franklin starts to kick him, once again making contact and kicking Luis in the face,” the inspector wrote. Employees “never make efforts to move Franklin away from Luis; the staff just hold him.”

The inspector cited the facility for not properly intervening to stop the kicks.

At Casa Rio Grande in San Benito, Texas, one of the people living there was a 20-year-old who told the staff she was 17. An investigation report identified her as Julia.

Julia told an inspector that she took a needle from a sewing class and used it to cut herself because “she felt alone.” She hid her wrist for around two weeks under a sweater, but when she forgot to wear her sweater one day, a staff member spotted the marks.

In each case, inspectors interviewed other minors detained at the facility. According to the reports, the other youths said they were treated well, had enough food, and felt respected by the staff.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, acknowledged that staff morale has suffered this year because of the unprecedented demands.

“We are against family separations at the border,” Eller said. “Keeping families together is better for the children, parents, and communities.”

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Memos to Nobody: Inside the Work of a Neglected Fed Agency

Mark Robbins gets to work at 8:15 each morning and unlocks the door to his office suite. He switches on the lights and the TV news, brews a pot of coffee and pulls out the first files of the day to review.

For the next eight hours or so, he reads through federal workplace disputes, analyzes the cases, marks them with notes and logs his legal opinions. When he’s finished, he slips the files into a cardboard box and carries them into an empty room where they will sit and wait. For nobody.

He’s at 1,520 files and counting.

Such is the lot of the last man standing in this forgotten corner of Donald Trump’s Washington. For nearly two years, while Congress has argued and the White House has delayed, Robbins has waited to be sent some colleagues to read his work and rule on the cases. No one has arrived. So he toils in vain, writing memos into the void.

Robbins is a one-man microcosm of a current strand of government dysfunction. His office isn’t a high-profile political target. No politician has publicly pledged to slash his budget. But his agency’s work has effectively been neutered through neglect. Promising to shrink the size of government, the president has been slow to fill posts and the Republican-led Congress has struggled to win approval for nominees. The combined effect isn’t always dramatic, but it’s strikingly clear when examined up close.

“It’s a series of unfortunate events,” says Robbins, who has had plenty of time to contemplate the absurdity of his situation. Still, he doesn’t blame Trump or the government for his predicament. “There’s no one thing that created this problem that could have been fixed. It was a series of things randomly thrown together to create where we are.”

Robbins is a member of the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial federal body designed to determine whether civil servants have been mistreated by their employers. The three members are presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed for staggered seven-year terms. After one member termed out in 2015 and a second did so in January 2017, both without replacements lined up, Robbins became the sole member and acting chairman. The board needs at least two members to decide cases.

That’s a problem for the federal workers and whistleblowers whose 1,000-plus grievances hang in the balance, stalled by the board’s inability to settle them. When Robbins’ term ends on March 1, the board probably will sit empty for the first time in its 40-year history.

It’s also a problem for Robbins. A new board, whenever it’s appointed and approved, will start from scratch. That means while new members can read Robbins’ notes, his thousand-plus decisions will simply vanish.

“There is zero chance, zero chance my votes will count,” the 59-year-old lawyer says, running his fingers over the spines leather-bound volumes lined up neatly on a shelf. Inside are the board’s published rulings. None of the opinions he’s working on will make it into one of them.

“Imagine having the last year and half of your work just … disappear,” he said.

Despite the choke of files piled up everywhere else, Robbins’ office is remarkably orderly. Three paperweights rest on stacks of papers on his desk: a stone from Babel province, a memento from his time working for the State Department in Iraq; a model of the White House, to commemorate his tenure under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; and a medallion bearing the merit board’s seal. This job, which pays about $155,000 a year, “has been the honor of my life,” he says.

In the corner, a potted plant he rescued from a trash can outside his condo six years ago is now so tall that it’s bumping up against the ceiling, growing in circles.

He swears it’s not a metaphor.

Robbins, a Republican, was excited when Trump won the election. The president chooses two board members of his or her own party, and the Senate minority leader picks a third. Robbins assumed he’d finally be in the majority after years of serving alongside Democrats, soon able to write opinions rather than just logging dissent.

No such luck.

Trump was in office a year before he nominated two board members, a pair of Republicans, including Robbins’ replacement. A third nominee, a Democrat, was named three months later, in June.

Assuming they’d be swiftly confirmed, Robbins quickly began preparing for their arrival, leaving customized notes with comments and suggestions for the nominees based on their distinct personalities and experience on each case.

He’d at least impart a little wisdom, he thought.

But months went by and still no vote. Robbins said he was told the Democrats were refusing to confirm the two Republicans by unanimous consent, insisting instead on a full debate for each. In late September, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee that screens nominees told Robbins it probably would not be able to confirm the appointees before the end of the current Congress. That meant that the entire process, which typically takes several months when there are no complications, will begin again come January, with no guarantee the nominees will be the same.

Now his pile of personalized sticky notes is bound for the trash, too.

Tall, slim and bald, Robbins is an eternal optimist. He sees the futility of the piles of paper and empty offices. But he’s determined to keep the trains running, even if he’s the only one on the ride.

“It’s not like I’m sitting around on the sofa watching soap operas and eating bonbons. I’m still doing my job,” he said. “It’s only when the agency stops working that people realize what we do and the value we bring.”

“Maybe someday they’ll say, `Good old Robbins, he just kept plugging along.”’

Frustrating? Yes. But at least it makes for a good story at parties.

“When I say to people, And then my votes just disappear,' the crowd usually goesOh, no!”’ he said. “And there’s empathy, there’s real empathy.”

The board, established in 1978, is responsible for protecting 2.1 million federal employees from bias and unfair treatment in the workplace. The board handles appeals from whistleblowers and other civil servants who say they were mistreated or wrongly fired, and want to challenge an initial ruling by an administrative judge. The board also conducts independent research and writes policy papers destined for the president’s desk.

Or it used to.

Robbins is quick to point out the staffing crisis began under President Barack Obama, back when Robbins’ first colleague termed out without a replacement.

Others say it’s the Trump administration’s fault.

Trump has lagged slightly behind his predecessors in nominating political appointees. As of Nov. 19, he had nominated people for 929 positions, compared with Obama’s 984 and Bush’s 1,128 at the same point in their presidencies. Congress has acted on just 69 percent of those nominations, according to data provided by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan organization promoting government efficiency.

Max Stier, the partnership’s CEO, blames the administration, the Senate and a dysfunctional system of appointing and confirming political nominees.

“There are many different flavors of the same problem,” he said. He cited several other vacancies, including assistant secretary for South Asian affairs at the State Department, deputy secretary and undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the deputy secretary at the Homeland Security Department, among others. “There is so much going on, but the underlying reality is that our basic government is suffering.”

John Palguta, former director of policy and evaluation for the merit board, called the delay “outrageous.”

“We’re setting a new standard, and it’s particularly severe and unfortunate at MSPB because of the structure of the agency. It just can’t operate. And to let it go for this long, that’s really unconscionable,” Palguta said. “The administration simply hasn’t done its job.”

Sen. James Lankford, who chairs the Senate Home Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management said in a statement he understands the urgency in filling these positions.

“There are over 1,500 individuals waiting for their cases to be heard, but there are not board members in place which means the backlog cannot be addressed,” said Lankford, R-Okla.

Robbins keeps plugging away and the cases keep piling up.

“We are running out of space,” he said, shimmying between towers of boxes in a storage closet close to 6 feet tall. More boxes are stacked against the hallway wall and piled up in the clerk’s office.

“Any additional cases I work from now on are just, grains of sand on a beach.”

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Memos to Nobody: Inside the Work of a Neglected Fed Agency

Mark Robbins gets to work at 8:15 each morning and unlocks the door to his office suite. He switches on the lights and the TV news, brews a pot of coffee and pulls out the first files of the day to review.

For the next eight hours or so, he reads through federal workplace disputes, analyzes the cases, marks them with notes and logs his legal opinions. When he’s finished, he slips the files into a cardboard box and carries them into an empty room where they will sit and wait. For nobody.

He’s at 1,520 files and counting.

Such is the lot of the last man standing in this forgotten corner of Donald Trump’s Washington. For nearly two years, while Congress has argued and the White House has delayed, Robbins has waited to be sent some colleagues to read his work and rule on the cases. No one has arrived. So he toils in vain, writing memos into the void.

Robbins is a one-man microcosm of a current strand of government dysfunction. His office isn’t a high-profile political target. No politician has publicly pledged to slash his budget. But his agency’s work has effectively been neutered through neglect. Promising to shrink the size of government, the president has been slow to fill posts and the Republican-led Congress has struggled to win approval for nominees. The combined effect isn’t always dramatic, but it’s strikingly clear when examined up close.

“It’s a series of unfortunate events,” says Robbins, who has had plenty of time to contemplate the absurdity of his situation. Still, he doesn’t blame Trump or the government for his predicament. “There’s no one thing that created this problem that could have been fixed. It was a series of things randomly thrown together to create where we are.”

Robbins is a member of the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial federal body designed to determine whether civil servants have been mistreated by their employers. The three members are presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed for staggered seven-year terms. After one member termed out in 2015 and a second did so in January 2017, both without replacements lined up, Robbins became the sole member and acting chairman. The board needs at least two members to decide cases.

That’s a problem for the federal workers and whistleblowers whose 1,000-plus grievances hang in the balance, stalled by the board’s inability to settle them. When Robbins’ term ends on March 1, the board probably will sit empty for the first time in its 40-year history.

It’s also a problem for Robbins. A new board, whenever it’s appointed and approved, will start from scratch. That means while new members can read Robbins’ notes, his thousand-plus decisions will simply vanish.

“There is zero chance, zero chance my votes will count,” the 59-year-old lawyer says, running his fingers over the spines leather-bound volumes lined up neatly on a shelf. Inside are the board’s published rulings. None of the opinions he’s working on will make it into one of them.

“Imagine having the last year and half of your work just … disappear,” he said.

Despite the choke of files piled up everywhere else, Robbins’ office is remarkably orderly. Three paperweights rest on stacks of papers on his desk: a stone from Babel province, a memento from his time working for the State Department in Iraq; a model of the White House, to commemorate his tenure under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; and a medallion bearing the merit board’s seal. This job, which pays about $155,000 a year, “has been the honor of my life,” he says.

In the corner, a potted plant he rescued from a trash can outside his condo six years ago is now so tall that it’s bumping up against the ceiling, growing in circles.

He swears it’s not a metaphor.

Robbins, a Republican, was excited when Trump won the election. The president chooses two board members of his or her own party, and the Senate minority leader picks a third. Robbins assumed he’d finally be in the majority after years of serving alongside Democrats, soon able to write opinions rather than just logging dissent.

No such luck.

Trump was in office a year before he nominated two board members, a pair of Republicans, including Robbins’ replacement. A third nominee, a Democrat, was named three months later, in June.

Assuming they’d be swiftly confirmed, Robbins quickly began preparing for their arrival, leaving customized notes with comments and suggestions for the nominees based on their distinct personalities and experience on each case.

He’d at least impart a little wisdom, he thought.

But months went by and still no vote. Robbins said he was told the Democrats were refusing to confirm the two Republicans by unanimous consent, insisting instead on a full debate for each. In late September, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee that screens nominees told Robbins it probably would not be able to confirm the appointees before the end of the current Congress. That meant that the entire process, which typically takes several months when there are no complications, will begin again come January, with no guarantee the nominees will be the same.

Now his pile of personalized sticky notes is bound for the trash, too.

Tall, slim and bald, Robbins is an eternal optimist. He sees the futility of the piles of paper and empty offices. But he’s determined to keep the trains running, even if he’s the only one on the ride.

“It’s not like I’m sitting around on the sofa watching soap operas and eating bonbons. I’m still doing my job,” he said. “It’s only when the agency stops working that people realize what we do and the value we bring.”

“Maybe someday they’ll say, `Good old Robbins, he just kept plugging along.”’

Frustrating? Yes. But at least it makes for a good story at parties.

“When I say to people, And then my votes just disappear,' the crowd usually goesOh, no!”’ he said. “And there’s empathy, there’s real empathy.”

The board, established in 1978, is responsible for protecting 2.1 million federal employees from bias and unfair treatment in the workplace. The board handles appeals from whistleblowers and other civil servants who say they were mistreated or wrongly fired, and want to challenge an initial ruling by an administrative judge. The board also conducts independent research and writes policy papers destined for the president’s desk.

Or it used to.

Robbins is quick to point out the staffing crisis began under President Barack Obama, back when Robbins’ first colleague termed out without a replacement.

Others say it’s the Trump administration’s fault.

Trump has lagged slightly behind his predecessors in nominating political appointees. As of Nov. 19, he had nominated people for 929 positions, compared with Obama’s 984 and Bush’s 1,128 at the same point in their presidencies. Congress has acted on just 69 percent of those nominations, according to data provided by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan organization promoting government efficiency.

Max Stier, the partnership’s CEO, blames the administration, the Senate and a dysfunctional system of appointing and confirming political nominees.

“There are many different flavors of the same problem,” he said. He cited several other vacancies, including assistant secretary for South Asian affairs at the State Department, deputy secretary and undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the deputy secretary at the Homeland Security Department, among others. “There is so much going on, but the underlying reality is that our basic government is suffering.”

John Palguta, former director of policy and evaluation for the merit board, called the delay “outrageous.”

“We’re setting a new standard, and it’s particularly severe and unfortunate at MSPB because of the structure of the agency. It just can’t operate. And to let it go for this long, that’s really unconscionable,” Palguta said. “The administration simply hasn’t done its job.”

Sen. James Lankford, who chairs the Senate Home Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management said in a statement he understands the urgency in filling these positions.

“There are over 1,500 individuals waiting for their cases to be heard, but there are not board members in place which means the backlog cannot be addressed,” said Lankford, R-Okla.

Robbins keeps plugging away and the cases keep piling up.

“We are running out of space,” he said, shimmying between towers of boxes in a storage closet close to 6 feet tall. More boxes are stacked against the hallway wall and piled up in the clerk’s office.

“Any additional cases I work from now on are just, grains of sand on a beach.”

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White House Says Dire Climate Report Based on ‘Extreme Scenario’

The Trump administration is downplaying the significance of a report issued Friday that included dire predictions about the impact of climate change in the U.S. The White House said the study was largely based on “the most extreme scenario” and doesn’t account for new technology and other innovations that could diminish carbon emissions and the effects of climate change.

The National Climate Assessment, the fourth edition of a congressionally mandated report on climate change, noted that disasters caused by weather are becoming more common.  The report, prepared by more than 300 researchers in 13 U.S. government departments and agencies, predicts that those events will become more common and more severe if steps aren’t taken “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

 

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters noted that work on the assessment began under the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama and uses multiple modeling scenarios to assess the effects of climate change.  But the report issued Friday, according to Walters, relies too heavily on the worst-case-scenario.

“The report is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population,” Walters said in a statement.

She said the next climate assessment, which will be prepared over the next four years, will “provide for a more transparent and data-driven process that includes fuller information on the range of potential scenarios and outcomes.”

Walters also pointed out that, since 2005, carbon dioxide emissions related to energy production in the U.S. have declined 14 percent, while global emissions continue to rise.  

While that’s true, the U.S. remains the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind only China.

The Trump administration has rolled back several environmental regulations put in place during the Obama administration and has promoted the production of fossil fuels.

 

Last year, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, which had been signed by nearly 200 nations to combat climate change. He argued the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy and said there is little evidence in its environmental benefit.

Trump, as well as several members of his Cabinet, have also cast doubt on the science of climate change, saying the causes of global warming are not yet settled.

White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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White House Says Dire Climate Report Based on ‘Extreme Scenario’

The Trump administration is downplaying the significance of a report issued Friday that included dire predictions about the impact of climate change in the U.S. The White House said the study was largely based on “the most extreme scenario” and doesn’t account for new technology and other innovations that could diminish carbon emissions and the effects of climate change.

The National Climate Assessment, the fourth edition of a congressionally mandated report on climate change, noted that disasters caused by weather are becoming more common.  The report, prepared by more than 300 researchers in 13 U.S. government departments and agencies, predicts that those events will become more common and more severe if steps aren’t taken “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

 

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters noted that work on the assessment began under the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama and uses multiple modeling scenarios to assess the effects of climate change.  But the report issued Friday, according to Walters, relies too heavily on the worst-case-scenario.

“The report is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population,” Walters said in a statement.

She said the next climate assessment, which will be prepared over the next four years, will “provide for a more transparent and data-driven process that includes fuller information on the range of potential scenarios and outcomes.”

Walters also pointed out that, since 2005, carbon dioxide emissions related to energy production in the U.S. have declined 14 percent, while global emissions continue to rise.  

While that’s true, the U.S. remains the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind only China.

The Trump administration has rolled back several environmental regulations put in place during the Obama administration and has promoted the production of fossil fuels.

 

Last year, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, which had been signed by nearly 200 nations to combat climate change. He argued the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy and said there is little evidence in its environmental benefit.

Trump, as well as several members of his Cabinet, have also cast doubt on the science of climate change, saying the causes of global warming are not yet settled.

White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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US Government Asks High Court to Hear Transgender Military Case 

The Trump administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an unusually quick ruling into the military’s policy of restricting military service by transgender people.

The administration Friday asked the Supreme Court to review lower court rulings blocking the military’s policy, seeking to bypass a federal appeals court currently considering the issue.

Except in rare cases, the Supreme Court usually waits to get involved in cases until both a trial and appeals court have ruled on the matter.

The Trump administration argued Friday that the Supreme Court should get involved in this case early because it “involves an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the nation’s armed forces.”

Administration officials say they want to ensure that the Supreme Court would be able to review the dispute before its term ends in June 2019.

Pentagon policy

The Pentagon changed its policy regarding transgender people in 2016, under then-President Barack Obama, allowing them serve openly in the military. But when President Donald Trump was elected, his administration reversed the policy and reinstated a ban on transgender troops.

Several courts ruled against that ban, leading the Trump administration to modify its policy, which now states that most transgender troops are banned from serving in the military except under limited circumstances.

Ruled unconstitutional twice

Lower courts have since ruled that the new administration policy is essentially the same as the original ban and is unconstitutional.

One of the lawsuits against the Pentagon policy has made its way to an appeals court, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court is a frequent target of criticism by Trump who tweeted just this week “the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result.”

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US Government Asks High Court to Hear Transgender Military Case 

The Trump administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an unusually quick ruling into the military’s policy of restricting military service by transgender people.

The administration Friday asked the Supreme Court to review lower court rulings blocking the military’s policy, seeking to bypass a federal appeals court currently considering the issue.

Except in rare cases, the Supreme Court usually waits to get involved in cases until both a trial and appeals court have ruled on the matter.

The Trump administration argued Friday that the Supreme Court should get involved in this case early because it “involves an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the nation’s armed forces.”

Administration officials say they want to ensure that the Supreme Court would be able to review the dispute before its term ends in June 2019.

Pentagon policy

The Pentagon changed its policy regarding transgender people in 2016, under then-President Barack Obama, allowing them serve openly in the military. But when President Donald Trump was elected, his administration reversed the policy and reinstated a ban on transgender troops.

Several courts ruled against that ban, leading the Trump administration to modify its policy, which now states that most transgender troops are banned from serving in the military except under limited circumstances.

Ruled unconstitutional twice

Lower courts have since ruled that the new administration policy is essentially the same as the original ban and is unconstitutional.

One of the lawsuits against the Pentagon policy has made its way to an appeals court, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court is a frequent target of criticism by Trump who tweeted just this week “the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result.”

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Roger Stone Associate in Plea Talks with Mueller

A conservative writer and conspiracy theorist who is an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump and Trump confidant Roger Stone said Friday that he was in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team.  

Jerome Corsi declined to comment further on his talks with Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But Corsi said on a YouTube program last week that expected to be charged with lying to federal investigators. 

Mueller’s team questioned Corsi about Stone’s links to WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia provided to WikiLeaks hacked material aimed at hindering Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. 

The talks with Corsi could help Mueller’s office determine whether Stone and other associates of Trump were aware of WikiLeaks’ plans to release the material. 

Corsi is a former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars. He reportedly cooperated with investigators for about two months, giving them computers and a cellphone. He also gave the FBI access to his email and Twitter accounts. 

Stone has denied acting as a conduit for WikiLeaks, which was founded by Julian Assange and published thousands of emails allegedly stolen from the computer of Clinton’s campaign chairman weeks before the election. Stone has also said he expects to be indicted. 

Corsi’s attorney, David Gray, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller and an attorney for the president. 

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Roger Stone Associate in Plea Talks with Mueller

A conservative writer and conspiracy theorist who is an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump and Trump confidant Roger Stone said Friday that he was in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team.  

Jerome Corsi declined to comment further on his talks with Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But Corsi said on a YouTube program last week that expected to be charged with lying to federal investigators. 

Mueller’s team questioned Corsi about Stone’s links to WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia provided to WikiLeaks hacked material aimed at hindering Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. 

The talks with Corsi could help Mueller’s office determine whether Stone and other associates of Trump were aware of WikiLeaks’ plans to release the material. 

Corsi is a former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory website InfoWars. He reportedly cooperated with investigators for about two months, giving them computers and a cellphone. He also gave the FBI access to his email and Twitter accounts. 

Stone has denied acting as a conduit for WikiLeaks, which was founded by Julian Assange and published thousands of emails allegedly stolen from the computer of Clinton’s campaign chairman weeks before the election. Stone has also said he expects to be indicted. 

Corsi’s attorney, David Gray, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller and an attorney for the president. 

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