News Briefs February 23, 2017

Trump remains fixated on “fake news”

President Donald Trump held a press conference at the White House on Thursday, Feb 16. Prior to opening the floor to questions, Mr. Trump gave a lengthy address, touching on topics ranging from his nominee for Secretary of Labor and job creation, to his approval rating and the media. The conference lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes.

President Trump opened by stating his purpose for the conference, saying, “I’m here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since [his] inauguration.” However, two minutes into his initial address, he shifted focus to the national media. President Trump has been vocally critical in the past of the news media, and Thursday’s conference was no exception. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it,” he said, “we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.”

Despite President Trump’s efforts to focus on his administration’s accomplishments, reporters barraged the President with questions regarding Russia, following the resignation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn last week. Mr. Flynn’s resignation only added to the speculation regarding President Trump’s ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid evidence of attempted Russian interference in November’s election.

President Trump was quick to dismiss the issue, saying, “[It’s] fake news, [a] fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats.” In response to another question, Trump repeated himself: “Russia is fake news. Russia—this is fake news put out by the media … Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.”

These comments from the President are the most recent example of what he called a “back-and-forth” between the media and himself. President Trump refused to take a question from CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta during his Jan. 11 press conference. “Your organization is terrible,” he said to Mr. Acosta in January. “You are fake news.”

Mr. Acosta attended Thursday’s conference as well. When called on by the President, Acosta began, “Thank you very much Mr. President. And just for the record we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you.”

Acosta asked President Trump if he is concerned that he is undermining the people’s faith in the first amendment. Trump answered, “I’d be a pretty good reporter. Not as good as you. But I know what’s good. I know what’s bad.” He continued, “You’re CNN, I mean, it’s story after story after story is bad.”

The President gave no answer on whether he was concerned about undermining the first amendment by dismissing stories as “fake news.”

On Friday afternoon, President Trump followed up his press conference with a public statement from his personal Twitter account. The tweet read: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing [at]nytimes, [at]NBCNews, [at]ABC, [at]CBS, [at]CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Jim Acosta tweeted on Friday as well, saying “We are real news Mr. President. #realnews.”

–Dylan Smith, Guest Reporter

Investors take stand against climate change

Earlier this week, investors holding assets worth nearly $2.8 trillion dollars penned a letter criticizing the reliance on and support of the fossil fuel industry by the world’s leading economies (The Independent, “Investors with $2.8 Trillion in Assets Unite against Donald Trump’s Climate Denial,” 2.15.2017). Specifically, they demanded that fossil fuel subsidies end within three years’ time, feeling that government-funded protection of fossil fuels is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars, especially in an industry that may be defunct in less than a decade (Business Green, “End Fossil Fuel Subsidies by 2020, Insurers and Investors Tell G20,” 2.15.17). Besides the fact that they are an incredibly risky investment, the investors’ most significant concern is that these subsidies prolong the degradation of our environment with lasting damage. Surprisingly, these investors represent companies, such as Aegon Asset management, Aviva Investors and Legal and General and Trillium, that have large holdings in fossil fuels, revealing the severity of the climate change problem.

The Group of Twenty (G20) foreign ministers received the letter this past Thursday, Feb. 16, right before their meeting. At every annual forum, leaders from the twenty leading economies around the world meet to discuss international problems, spanning from financial crises to human rights violations. With the July climate change summit approaching fast, this declaration serves as an important reminder for these representatives to collaborate towards a greener future. Cutting out fossil fuel subsidies is an integral part of this future. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that governments around the world spent nearly $5.3 trillion dollars on preserving the fossil fuel industry—nearly twice the investors’ worth (IMF, “IMF Survey: Counting the Cost of Energy Subsidies,” 7.17.2015).

These actions directly contrast what G20 countries have promised since 2009: “to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery” (IMF, “Annual Report: Fighting the Global Crisis,” 7.31.2009). Last year, at the G20 summit in Beijing, representatives from the United Nations and European Union as well as 200 non-governmental organizations attacked energy ministers for failing to even set a deadline for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies (Reuters, “Pressure Mounts on G20 for Fossil Fuel Subsidies Deadline,” 6.28.2016). The preferred deadline seems to be 2020, yet others have pushed it back as far as 2025.

The current frustration may have been magnified by other recent events. During this past week, the European Commission has given the United Kingdom a “final warning” over violating air pollution quotas, leaving the country only two months to take actions before consequences occur (BBC, “Air Pollution ‘Final Warning’ from European Commission to UK,” 2.15.2017). Germany, France, Italy and Spain have also received the same caution. A recently published study revealed a frightening decline in the amount of oxygen dissolved in oceans across the world, which would cause disastrous damage to marine ecosystems—affecting fisheries and coastal economies (Nature, “Decline in Global Oceanic Oxygen Content During the Past Five Decades,” 2.15.2017).

Undoubtedly, the election of climate change skeptic, President Donald Trump, has evoked massive fear for environmentalists and climate change advocates everywhere. Trump’s recent nomination of Scott Pruitt, who has been tied closely to various fossil fuel companies, to head of the Environmental Protection Agency may spell the end of pollution regulation (The New York Times, “Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt as E.P.A. Head,” 2.17.2017). Still, it seems that members within the industry itself see fossil fuels as part of the past and they will not stand by as government spend trillions creating irreparable damage.

–Steven Huynh, Guest Reporter

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