US extreme weather ‘reminder of intensifying impacts of climate change’ – White House
On Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky today he is not just viewing the effects through the lens of a disaster needing federal assistance but also through the lens of the climate crisis that is making events like this more intense, more common and more deadly, in America and around the world.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the issue in her media briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington with the US president and first lady Jill Biden a little earlier.
“The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said.Breathitt County, Kentucky, late last month. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. Photograph: Ryan C Hermens/AP
Kentucky was hit by massive flash flooding in the last two weeks that killed 37 people and caused mass destruction. The atypical rain storms followed eight months after tornadoes killed almost three times that many people in western Kentucky and many parts of the country are suffering record heatwaves, drought and wildfire after an extreme 2021 in the American west.
Jean-Pierre of course emphasized the importance of the Senate vote yesterday to pass the historic climate action bill , which she called “so vital” alongside previous infrastructure legislation.
“Over the long term, these investments will save lives, reduce costs and protect communities like the one we are visiting today,” she said. Biden is due to land in Kentucky about now.The Bidens in Delaware this morning, en route to Kentucky. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
Updated at 17.27 BST
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Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida who is widely seen as a potential leading Republican presidential contender, will campaign this month for Donald Trump-endorsed party candidates in key swing states for the 2024 White House race, Reuters is reporting.
DeSantis, who is currently running for re-election in Florida, will speak at “Unite and Win” rallies on behalf of congressional and gubernatorial candidates in Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania later this month, his campaign and rally organizer Turning Point Action said today.
“He’s a wildly popular political figure and I think he can really make a difference for some of these candidates,” said Andrew Kolvet, a spokesman for Turning Point Action, which is the political arm of the conservative school campus group, Turning Point USA.
Joe Biden promised the crowd he spoke to before a toppled building in Lost Creek, Kentucky that even with the at least 37 killed and the substantial flood damage, “we’re going to come back better than we were before”.
“We’re the only country in the world that has come out of every major disaster stronger than we went into it,” Biden said. “We got clobbered going in, but we came out stronger. That’s the objective here: not just to get back to where we were, but to get back to better than where we were.”
He said with the bipartisan infrastructure bill – the feather in his legislative agenda – “we have the wherewithal to do it now”. Biden said that because of the bill, now when crews are replacing damaged water lines, municipalities have the funds to also lay down high-speed Internet at the same time.
“I don’t want any Kentuckian telling me you don’t have to do this for me,” Biden said. “Oh yes we do. You’re an American citizen. We never give up. We never stop. We never bow. We never bend. We just go forward and that’s what we’re going to do here. And you’re going to see.”
Joe Biden has taken to the podium in Kentucky, where he is touring flooding damage from the catastrophic flooding that has killed at least 37 and displaced hundreds.
“The people here in this community are not just Kentuckians, they’re Americans,” Biden said. “This happened in America. This is an American problem. Everybody has an obligation to help. We have the capacity to do this. It’s not like it’s beyond our control. The weather may be beyond our control for now, but it’s not beyond our control and I promise you, we’re staying, the federal government, along with the state and county and the city, we’re staying until everybody is back to where they were.”
Rudy Giuliani was among the many allies of Donald Trump that were subpoenaed by the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, in her investigation into whether Trump and others illegally tried to interfere in the 2020 general election in Georgia.
A judge ordered Giuliani to appear before a special grand jury in Atlanta this month, and today he made an emergency motion to postpone his scheduled deposition.
Rudy GIULIANI has made an emergency motion to postpone his scheduled Fulton County deposition. A hearing on his motion is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. pic.twitter.com/hltHbN2Odn
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 8, 2022
Giuliani’s excuse was that he had a recent medical procedure that left him uncleared to fly. He was willing to appear virtually and is prepared to testify, but the district attorney is insisting he appears in person.
UPDATE Giuliani’s motion to delay his grand jury appearance seems to be medical — he says a recent procedure has left him uncleared to fly. He says he is prepared to testify and even willing to appear virtually but DA has insisted he appear in person. https://t.co/DAPhXqXDp7
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 8, 2022
The Fulton county district attorney’s office quickly countered with a tweet of Giuliani’s that showed he had traveled out of state – Giuliani said he had traveled to New Hampshire by car. But the district attorney also found evidence that he had purchased airline tickets to Rome and Zurich that were meant for use between 22 July and 29 July, after his medical procedure.
Giuliani said a recent heart procedure meant he couldn’t travel to ATL out of state …so the Fulton DA’s office found a tweet of Giuliani apparently traveling out of state. pic.twitter.com/LZONxwDxZz
— stephen fowler (@stphnfwlr) August 8, 2022
Report: Capitol attack House committee has Alex Jones’ texts
CNN is reporting that two years’ worth of text messages exchanged by right wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have been turned over to the House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.
During Jones’ defamation trial, in which Jones has been ordered to pay nearly $50m over his repeated claims that the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, an attorney for the plaintiffs revealed that Jones’ attorneys had “messed up” and inadvertently sent him the two years of text messages.
The House select committee was immediately interested: Jones’ rhetoric is popular among those who swarmed the Capitol that day, and he was on the grounds in the lead-up to the attack, riling up the crowd. However, according to CNN, Jones claims he tried to prevent people at the Capitol from breaking the law, and has rejected any suggestion that he was involved in the planning of violence.
“Well, we know that his behavior did incentivize some of the January 6 conduct and we want to know more about that,” congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who sits on the committee, told CNN this weekend. “We don’t know what we’ll find in the texts because we haven’t seen them. But we’ll look at it and learn more, I’m sure.”
Jones’ attorney had asked the judge to order Mark Bankston, the attorney who represented the two Sandy Hook parents who successfully sued Jones, to destroy the texts and not transmit them to the House committee.
“I’m not standing between you and Congress,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Bankston. “That is not my job. I’m not going to do that.”
Updated at 20.58 BST
Pentagon announces $1bn in military aid for Ukraine
The Biden administration has pledged another $1bn in military aid for Ukraine, the largest promise of rockets, ammunition and other arms to Ukrainian forces.
This brings the total US security assistance committed to Ukraine by the Biden administration to roughly $9bn since Russian troops invaded in February.
“At every stage of this conflict, we have been focused on getting the Ukrainians what they need, depending on the evolving conditions on the battlefield,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said in announcing the new weapons shipment.
New today: US announces another $1 billion military package for Ukraine including more ammo for HIMARS. And USAID announces $4.5 billion in economic aid to the Ukrainian government
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) August 8, 2022
Greetings all – Vivian Ho here, taking over the blog from Joanna Walters.
Over in Kentucky, Joe Biden kicked off his tour of the catastrophic flooding that has killed at least 37 people with a briefing.
Touring flood damage in eastern Kentucky – @POTUS participates in briefing at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek KY. @AndyBeshearKY welcomes the group – confirms 37 Kentuckians have died in the storm. Adds there are still 2 missing people. pic.twitter.com/Wed6Bei500
— Julia Benbrook (@JuliaBenbrook) August 8, 2022
Updated at 18.29 BST
Hello, live blog readers, with the climate crisis as a powerful undercurrent to Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky today, we’ll bring you more news on that and all the developments, as they happen.
My colleague Vivian Ho will take over the blog after this and keep you up to speed for the next few hours.
Here’s where things stand.
- White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the climate issues in her media briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington with the US president earlier. “The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said.
- During his time in the Oval Office, Donald Trump wanted the Pentagon’s generals to be like Nazi Germany’s generals in the second world war, according to a book excerpt in the New Yorker. Peeks of Susan Glasser and Peter Baker’s new book The Divider have more on some of those screaming matches in the White House between the-then president and senior aides.
- Joe Biden is visiting eastern Kentucky to tour areas inundated and families devastated by the terrible flooding a week ago that killed dozens of people. Biden is expected to make public remarks (around 2pm ET) as well as talking with relatives and officials in private, and he and the first lady will return to the White House this evening.
- The US president said “I’m not worried, but I am concerned” about China’s aggression towards Taiwan in its live-fire military exercises that lasted for the last four days and menaced the island democracy, whose capital, Taipei, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi controversially visited early last week.
Joe Biden is touring flood damage in eastern Kentucky with state governor Andy Beshear.The kind of thing the president will see today: a bridge along KY-3351 over Troublesome Creek near Ary in Perry County, damaged by flooding in eastern Kentucky. Photograph: Ryan C Hermens/AP
The state’s lieutenant governor, Jacqueline Coleman, earlier told CNN that in one county, 50 bridges had been wrecked by the floods that have devastated the region in late July-early August.
“The infrastructure needs are monumental,” she said.
Coleman described the rains that hit the area.
“It happened so fast and it happened overnight and that’s the reason folks were trapped in their homes,” she said, often in areas of mountainous terrain.
Asked if, with the climate crisis, this kind of extreme weather is going to become the new normal, she remarked: “I hope this is not the new normal, for sure.”This home in eastern Kentucky is washed onto a road on Saturday, July 30, 2022, after historic rains. Photograph: Michael Clevenger/AP
The 700-plus-page inflation reduction bill moving through the US Congress would steer significant new funds toward battling wildfires and extreme heat – climate change-related risks that are wreaking havoc across the country this summer, Reuters reports.
The legislation, pared down from earlier versions, would direct approximately $370 billion toward a range of climate and energy initiatives, including renewable energy tax credits, backing for electric cars and heat pumps, and environmental justice.
This is going to, if passed, be the most action the United States has ever taken on climate. Will there be more that we need to do? Absolutely. But this is just so significant and [it’s] so important that we get this over the finish line,” said Christina DeConcini, director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute, a global research group.
As drought-fueled wildfires spread out of control in the western United States, lawmakers want to direct about $2 billion toward hazardous fuels reduction.
The money in the bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, could go toward measures like clearing brush through prescribed burns or mechanical thinning so when fires do occur they’re not as intense.
The bill also earmarks funds to combat increasingly extreme heat as the United States – and much of the world – grapples with record-shattering and increasingly deadly temperatures this year.
For example, there is $1.5 billion in grant funding through the US Forest Service for initiatives such as helping cities plant trees, which provide natural cooling and can improve air quality.
The bill aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade through other spending on clean energy tax incentives and electric vehicle credits.
Sponsors of the bill say more than $60 billion in measures included are directed toward “environmental justice” initiatives intended to help communities that have disproportionately borne the brunt of poor air quality and pollution.
But that amount isn’t nearly enough, said Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at the nonprofit New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
You can read the full Reuters report here.Firefighters conducting controlled burns along the bulldozer lines on the Oak Fire near Jerseydale, California, on July 26. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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