A tough week for the climate

On Thursday, in a move that was globally condemned, President Trump announced he was officially pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. However, “under the terms of the agreement,” as NPR reports, “he wouldn’t actually be able to withdraw until November 2020.”

The US joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries to completely reject the climate pact.

Following Trump’s decision, the governors of California, New York, and Washington State announced they were forming a United States Climate Alliance, “a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.” A growing number of cities are also committing themselves to meet the standards of the climate agreement.

In related news: according to an internal EPA memo seen by Reuters, the agency is offering some employees a buyout, as Trump “proposes slashing the agency’s budget and workforce to reduce regulation.” In Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, the EPA would see a 31 percent budget reduction, along with the elimination of 3,200 of its 15,000 employees.

You can read Trump’s announcement here, along with annotations by NPR staff.

At Pacific Standard, Nick Hagar provides a refresher on climate trends.

At The American Conservative, Daniel Larison argues that withdrawing the US from the climate pact was a poor decision because “it needlessly creates rifts with other governments whose cooperation we need on many other issues.”

This week in Russia

Former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, who was one of the leading voices in favor of the ‘Brexit’ campaign last year, has become a ‘person of interest’ in the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian intelligence, the Guardian reported on Thursday. Farage “raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange.”

At an economic forum in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Moscow “had no choice but to build up its own forces in response” to US anti-missile activity in Alaska and South Korea.

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Don’t forget about North Korea

Last Monday, North Korea fired a missile that “appears to have landed inside Japan’s economic zone where fishing and cargo ships are active,” according to the New York Times. Japanese President Shinzo Abe condemned the action and asserted that Japan would continue to work closely with South Korea and the US to “make the utmost efforts to ensure people’s safety.”

In March, North Korea launched four short-range ballistic missiles at once, with three of them landing inside Japan’s economic zone.

Both China and Russia condemned the launch, although Russia urged ‘restraint’ in its official statement.

On Tuesday, new South Korean president Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation into the US THAAD anti-missile system, after learning of “shocking” delivery and installation of four additional launchers. The South Korean Defense Ministry had not informed the president of the new launchers. President Jae-in’s probe announcement came the same day the US successfully shot down “a missile similar to the type that North Korea could someday use to threaten the United States.” As NPR reports, this was “the first time a ground-based midcourse interceptor has destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile target.”

Other notes:

Following the G7 summit in Sicily last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a crowd at a beer hall on Sunday that Germany “really must take our fate into our own hands” – an apparent reference to her fraught relationship with the Trump administration. Merkel repeated this sentiment after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, telling reporters that “the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”

Mike Dubke, who’d been the White House communications director for a little more than three months, resigned from his post on May 18th, though he remained in his role during President Trump’s recent trip abroad. Press Secretary Sean Spicer is expected to take on his functions in the interim.

Amid jockeying among the US, China, and India for solar industry dominance, the US has announced to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it is “considering putting emergency ‘safeguard’ tariffs on imported solar cells,” according to a Reuters report filed Monday.

Heading into what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts will be an “above-normal” hurricane season, both NOAA and FEMA, the federal disaster relief agency, are without chief administrators and facing proposed budget cuts, as NPR reports.

A truck bomb “devastated a central area of Kabul near the presidential palace and foreign embassies on Wednesday,” as the New York Times reports, killing at least 80 people and injuring hundreds more.

The Trump administration has introduced “a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants worldwide that asks for social media handles for the last five years and biographical information going back 15 years,” in an effort to more thoroughly vet foreign visitors. The Office of Management and Budget approved the new questions on a six-month emergency basis.

above image: "Photo of the Day: 6/1/17," The White House / flickr

'will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'

'will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'

'the bare minimum'

'the bare minimum'