Vice President Pence arrived at the National Governors Association summer meeting with one mission: to revive support for the flagging Republican plan to rewrite the nation’s health-care laws.
Instead of rousing cheers on the waterfront in Providence, R.I., Pence was greeted with an icy air of skepticism on a Friday as he pitched the legislation, which would reduce federal Medicaid funding and phase out coverage in dozens of states.
By Monday evening, when President Trump and Pence gathered a cluster of GOP senators in the Blue Room of the White House over plates of lemon ricotta agnolotti and grilled rib-eye steak, the measure was all but dead.
“The president talked about France and Bastille Day,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in an interview Tuesday, recalling the president’s tales during dinner of parades and pomp from his recent trip to Paris.
Daines described the group’s conversation, which also touched on issues ranging from health care to the debt limit, as loose — as if Trump “sat down and went out to dinner with friends, acquaintances, people you work with. It was just dinner to talk about what’s going on.”
As the dinner ended, reality returned. Two more Republican senators had suddenly bolted from supporting the health-care bill, lifting the total number of Republicans opposed to four and effectively killing it.
“I was very surprised when the two folks came out last night,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “We thought they were in fairly good shape.”
Yet the dramatic collapse of the GOP proposal in the Senate was hardly a shock to most, especially those intimately involved in a venture that has been stalled and fitful since the House passed its version in May.
The upheaval Monday night was a tipping point after weeks of burbling discontent within the party about whether passing the legislation made sense. Nearly every GOP senator was eager to check the box of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act they had long opposed — but many were also distressed by the possible costs of upending a law that has grown deep roots in states, risen in popularity and is relied upon by some Republican governors.
Moderates were always skittish about the drastic Medicaid cuts opposed by many of their governors. Conservatives were always unhappy with the scope of the Senate’s legislation, which they felt did not go far enough to gut the law.
And Trump was frequently disengaged, sporadically tweeting and making calls to on-the-fence senators but otherwise avoiding selling the bill at the kind of big rallies that he often holds on issues he champions.
“It has been obvious to me for some time, and likely obvious to the leaders, that up to 10 Republicans were uncomfortable with the bill and were thinking about voting against the motion to proceed,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a critic of the bill, said in an interview Tuesday. “So it’s surprising to me that after the administration failed to win over the governors this past weekend, there wasn’t more of a recognition of the fact that the bill was probably in fatal trouble.”
Read more at The Washington Post
HAMBURG — President Trump and other world leaders on Saturday emerged from two days of talks unable to resolve key differences on core issues such as climate change and globalization, slapping an exclamation point on a divisive summit that left other nations fearing for the future of global alliances in the Trump era.
The scale of disharmony was remarkable for the annual Group of 20 meeting of world economic powers, a venue better known for sleepy bromides about easy-to-agree-on issues. Even as negotiators made a good-faith effort to bargain toward consensus, European leaders said that a chasm has opened between the United States and the rest of the world.
“Our world has never been so divided,” French President Emmanuel Macron said as the talks broke up. “Centrifugal forces have never been so powerful. Our common goods have never been so threatened.”
The divisions were most bitter on climate change, where 19 leaders formed a unified front against Trump. But even in areas of nominal compromise, such as trade, top European leaders said they have little faith that an agreement forged today could hold tomorrow.
Macron said world leaders found common ground on terrorism but were otherwise split on numerous important topics. He also said there were rising concerns about “authoritarian regimes, and even within the Western world, there are real divisions and uncertainties that didn’t exist just a few short years ago.”
“I will not concede anything in the direction of those who are pushing against multilateralism,” Macron said, without directly referring to Trump. “We need better coordination, more coordination. We need those organizations that were created out of the Second World War. Otherwise, we will be moving back toward narrow-minded nationalism.”
Read more at The Washington Post.
Veteran political insider David Gergen appears to have offered some conflicting views about President Trump’s performance at the G20 summit in Germany.
The former White House adviser, who has served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, initially appeared on a CNN panel calling Trump “presidential.”
Gergen focused on the apparent successes stemming from Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin including confronting the issue of election hacking, discussing future cyberattacks, and possibly working together on Syria.
He then said, “This was presidential. This was big league stuff.”
But hours later, the Harvard professor reappeared on CNN, saying that “this is the first time I’ve seen a president come to a G20 meeting in which he’s no longer regarded as the leader, no longer regarded as the world leader.”
Gergen followed up the comment by saying, “Europe is going its own separate way. Japan just signed this big trade agreement with Europe. That is troubling.”
The United States was also an exception on climate change at the G20 summit as The Guardian noted, “19 of the 20 leaders were able to agree on all points made in the joint declaration (known as the communique) with the exception of Donald Trump who could not agree on climate change.”
Gergen did, however, speak positively again about the extended session between Trump and Putin, saying that “it does mean they went deeper, they were more serious, they engaged more.”
Gergen later added that Trump “didn’t crumple in front of Putin, and Putin didn’t bully him into a corner…When the president…does something better than expected, I think we should say so.”
Read more at AOL.
On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.
Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines.
It happened on eight days in January and nine in February as well. All told, those transactions helped save Arizona electricity customers millions of dollars this year, though grid operators declined to say exactly how much. And California also has paid other states to take power.
The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity.
Solar and wind power production was curtailed a relatively small amount — about 3% in the first quarter of 2017 — but that’s more than double the same period last year. And the surge in solar power could push the number even higher in the future.
Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?
The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power.
No single entity is in charge of energy policy in California. This has led to a two-track approach that has created an ever-increasing glut of power and is proving costly for electricity users. Rates have risen faster here than in the rest of the U.S., and Californians now pay about 50% more than the national average.
Perhaps the most glaring example: The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.
At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.
A decade ago, coal powered almost 50% of U.S. electricity. By last year, that figure had dropped to 30%, and natural gas has made up most of the difference. Here’s an Axios card deck primer on America’s electricity sources.
Fueled by the oil and natural gas boom over the last decade, API began moving into the electricity business in late 2015, when it acquired another trade group, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, whose sole mission was to pump up demand for natural gas. API’s broader mission has come into clearer focus over the last few months in three ways.
Trump’s grid study
The Energy Department is set to issue as soon as this week a study looking at the electric grid, with a focus on what the government could do to stop coal and nuclear plants from shutting down. Energy Secretary Rick Perry talks a lot about how environmental rules and renewable subsidies are hurting coal and nuclear, but the biggest driver is the bounty of cheap natural gas in stagnant electricity markets. That puts API, a typical ally of the new administration, in an ironic position.
“We certainly want to make sure there isn’t some inadvertent message coming out of this study that maybe we should be worried about having too much natural gas,” said Marty Durbin, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at API.
Starting last year, API began hearing concerns from utility officials and others about fuel diversity. “To us that was a buzzword to say don’t be too dependent upon natural gas,” Durbin said. Which is exactly what the coal industry is doing. “We have not beat up on natural gas I would say, but we certainly have pointed to an over-reliance on the fuel,” said Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
Read more at Axios.
Since the beginning of 2016, the topic has been featured in marketing campaigns by Walmart and GE, declared a priority by two widely respected global economics think tanks, and featured on the covers of myriad business and pop culture magazines.
The Atlantic, The Economist, and the New York Times have all hosted conferences during the last two years exploring work’s evolution, as have consultancies PwC, Deloitte, and McKinsey; the Aspen Institute and Brookings Institution; and Citrix, Xerox, and Adobe. Software companies Slack and Box have their own, similar events on the calendar.
Today many worry that strides in artificial intelligence—new machines that can parse legal documents, diagnose diseases, drive trucks, and complete other jobs once thought too complex to automate—will result in widespread unemployment, just as, in the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I denied a patent to the inventor of a new automated knitting machine because she feared it would take the jobs of “young maidens who obtain their daily bread by knitting.”
Technology has, of course, transformed the world since the 16th century. But the debate around how it will impact jobs in the future has evolved remarkably little in the process.
As is the case today, pessimists throughout history have fretted about the impact of new inventions on the value of human labor, while optimists have pointed to past examples of how technology has improved the human condition. In our current discussion, there’s also a common counter-argument to this point. “Those weren’t thinking machines,” summarizes Vasant Dhar, a data scientist and professor at NYU. “This is not the same as last time, not the same as previous kinds of technology that changed the nature of work.”
But this, too, is not a unique argument. In 1933, the New York Times argued that the technology of the era would have unique consequences in a story headlined “the threat of the machine age:”
“We are frightened today because in the lessons of the past there is no reassurance. The past never knew such momentum, such vibration, such dislocation, such jarring transitions as we are in for.”
We’ve been having the same conversation for hundreds of years. Here are some highlights from the last 150 of them.
Read more at Quartz.
Social media used to be a place where people could go to post photos of cute animals, link to weird articles, and share mundane status updates with friends and relatives. But as events such as the 2016 US presidential election have shown, social media has tipped into feeling primarily like a breeding ground for messages of hate and a forum for bullying.
In response to the onslaught of crushingly negative content, a trend among younger users has emerged—highlighting and sharing only messages that are dripping with positivity. Suddenly, for almost every gloomy trend that has percolated on the internet, there now exists a positivity-promoting counter meme.
Memes—images with pithy captions that are meant to encapsulate relatable scenarios and emotions—often evoke visceral reactions in those who identify with them. It’s a little like that feeling you get when you recognize yourself in a comedian’s joke. Memes are “a way for people to express themselves through a different channel,” said Tumblr-star-turned-media-consultant Jason Wong. “They’re the emojis of real life.”
WholesomeMemes, which has an Instagram account with over 22,000 followers, was among the first of these jolly promoters. They often feature animals, babies, and cartoons. The comment thread beneath them is filled with people tagging their friends and phrases like “reminds me of you” or just “us.”
For a long time online, it seemed like only the snarkiest and most deprecating of memes would get a share; if a post wasn’t biting or cruel enough, it didn’t cut through. But in 2017, wholesome memes began morphing insults into encouragements—small acts of polite defiance against the tide of negative rhetoric spread on the internet. The original Instagram account’s administrator, who wants to remain anonymous, attributes the popularity of this trend to the shareable nature of those memes. “People want to feel good and they want to make their friends, family, and other close ones feel good,” they wrote. “Having a positive impact is what makes these memes popular.”
Wholesome-meme accounts and threads now exist across a number of social-media networks including Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Over 1 million people have subscribed to these platforms in various forms in order to see images that carry messages of self-love and support for others, and give advice on maintaining a positive outlook.
Read more at Quartz.