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10 Things to Know for Today



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Your daily look at late breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:


Theresa May announces she will step down as U.K. Conservative Party leader on June 7, sparking a contest to become Britain’s next prime minister.


Trump has directed the U.S. intelligence community to “quickly and fully cooperate” with Barr’s investigation of the origins of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.


The president Trump calls the House speaker ‘crazy’ as Pelosi questions his fitness for office the day after White House blowup.


North Korea says nuclear negotiations with the United States will never resume unless the Trump administration moves away from unilateral demands for disarmament.


The U.S. filed new charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act


Police officers are now using virtual reality to learn the best ways to interact with people who suffer from autism and de-escalate situations that could quickly turn awry.


Concerns about climate change has prompted mass protests across Europe for the past year, turning the issue into a key topic ahead of the European Parliament elections.


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Iranians Greet Latest Sanctions Imposed by U.S. With Mockery




politic new york

Iranian officials have railed for two months against the Trump administration’s sanctions blocking their oil sales as “economic warfare.”

But the response to the latest American penalties imposed on Monday, which targeted the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior leaders, was more measured, even mocking.

“Ridiculous,” declared a headline from the semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“Are there really any sanctions that the U.S. hasn’t imposed against our country and people in the past 40 years?” a foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, asked reporters in Tehran. “And what did it achieve?”

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An Iranian calling himself K. Jafari wrote in a widely circulated tweet: “The only people left to sanction are me, my dad and our neighbor’s kid. The foreign ministry should share Trump’s phone number so we can call him and give him our names.”

In contrast to the threats and bluster of Tehran’s previous responses to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, Iranians across the political spectrum dismissed the latest embargoes on Monday as little more than insults. Both hard-liners and reformers argued that the new sanctions would have little practical impact, aside from undermining Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions that he is seeking to renew talks with Tehran, if only to restrict its nuclear weapons program.

“Sanctions announced today officially closed all the windows and doors for U.S. and Iran talks,” Hassan Soleimani, the editor in chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Mashregh News Agency, said in a telephone interview from Tehran. “If Trump was hoping for negotiations with Iran, he can now only dream about it.”
Mr. Khamenei, the most prominent individual targeted in the latest sanctions, for example, never travels outside Iran and the conglomerate he controls, Setad, has little reliance on international banking. The new sanctions, which prohibit him from entering the United States or doing business with American financial institutions, will have almost no impact on the ayatollah.

The same appears to be true for most of the other individuals sanctioned on Monday. Several are senior officers of the Republican Guard. The Trump administration in April designated the guard as a terrorist organization, and that prohibited them from entering the United States or doing business with Americans.

Yet the gesture may still come at a cost. Under the Iranian political system, Mr. Khamenei’s personal assent is required to open any talks with the United States, and the new sanctions are unlikely to win him over. What is more, in addition to being Iran’s paramount political leader, Mr. Khamenei is revered by some Iranians as a singular spiritual authority as well, and those Iranians may also be offended.

The sanctions on Mr. Khamenei and other top officials were a “clear violation of Iran’s sovereignty and against international norms,” Abbasali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman of the Guardian Council, the powerful body that supervises the work of elected officials, said on Twitter.

Most startling to Iranians was Mr. Trump’s order to add sanctions that target Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Mr. Zarif was educated in the United States and within the Iranian political system he is considered a moderate — the kind of figure hard-liners might seek to cast out and previous American administrations had sought to cultivate. As foreign minister, he would also be the main conduit for any negotiations with Tehran.

Both reformers and hard-liners said on Monday that the order to sanction Mr. Zarif severely undermined Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions he is seeking to reopen talks with Iran about a revised deal to limit its nuclear weapons program.

“The important point about sanctioning Zarif is the reality that the U.S. is not really after negotiations,” tweeted Ali Gholizadeh, a reform advocate who was jailed in the crackdown after a wave of pro-democracy protests in 2008.
In a tweet on Monday, Mr. Zarif called the latest sanctions evidence that the hawks in the Trump administration now “thirst for war.”

Cutting off Mr. Zarif will only embolden the Revolutionary Guards and other hard-line elements of the military to steer Iranian foreign policy toward more confrontation with the United States, said Mr. Soleimani of the Guards’ news agency. Washington, he said, had now silenced the most moderate voices within Iran’s government and those most likely to advocate talks.

How the Iranian leaders might respond in the coming days remains to be seen. Even before the addition of the new sanctions targeting individuals, the Iranian economy was under severe pressure from the previous round of restrictions and penalties. Announced in April, those actions sought to cut off all Iranian oil sales, targeting the lifeblood of the Iranian economy.

It was in response to those actions that the Iranian government announced that for the first time in four years it would restart the steps that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. Iran had agreed to restrictions limiting its nuclear research as part of a 2015 deal with the United States and other international powers. Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal last year with a vow to negotiate a stricter one.

Since the Trump administration imposed the oil sanctions, the White House has also accused Iran of using naval mines to damage six tankers in two incidents in the waters around the Persian Gulf. Last week the Revolutionary Guards also shot down an American surveillance drone, and the United States came within minutes of carrying out a retaliatory missile strike against Iran before Mr. Trump called it off.

Still, even as tensions appeared to build with the addition of more sanctions, some senior Iranian officials imagined what a new round of negotiations might look like.

“U.S.’s claim that it wants negotiations without preconditions, while it increases sanctions and pressure, is not acceptable,” said Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, who is also considered a moderate voice within the political system.

If Washington wants something more than the existing nuclear deal, “then it must offer us more than the deal with international guarantees,” Mr. Ashena said.


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The heat is on, New York: A new climate law is a major landmark, but now requires work and sacrifice




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New York became an instant global leader in the fight against climate change with the passage last week of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

No other state and no large country has enacted a law with the essential ingredients to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Climate Agreement: a legally binding legislative act to achieve ​​an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a goal of net zero.

Years of dogged work by environmental, environmental justice and labor advocates — some behind the scenes, some loudly in the streets — paid off. So did the persistence of Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Gov. Cuomo. It was a political triumph all around.

The champagne corks are still popping. But the realization is dawning that implementing the new law will be really, really hard. New York is boldly going where no state has gone before. The goal can be accomplished, mostly with existing technology, but it will take a great deal of sweat and treasure (no one knows just how much), as well as a continuation of the political will that brought us to this point.

In a perfect world, serious action to lower emissions would have begun in the late 1980s when scientists rang the first loud warning bells. That didn’t happen. In a less perfect world, at least now we would have a Congress and a president willing to take serious action. Since we have neither, it is left to the states to act. California has long been the leader, but New York has now leapt into the front rank.


The new law will affect every sector of the economy. The most straightforward is electricity. By 2040, all the power used in the state will have to come from clean sources — none at all from fossil fuels. The last two coal-fired power plants in the state are already scheduled to close, but there are quite a few natural-gas plants that still have many years of life in them.

Someone will have to eat the cost of their early closure — whether it’s investors, ratepayers or taxpayers. To replace them, there will be a massive program to build offshore wind facilities, solar farms and storage; the law requires enough of these to add up to the equivalent of 18 nuclear power plants.

There will also need to be a great deal more onshore wind, rooftop solar, solar arrays and transmission lines. Fortunately the costs of wind farms, solar panels and energy storage have been plummeting worldwide, and their all-in costs (capital plus operating) are often below those of fossil plants.

Not everyone will be thrilled to see wind turbines over the horizon from their beach homes in the Hamptons, or on top of their favorite mountains, or the transmission lines that will take the power to where it is needed. But a little bit of visual blight, if that’s what it is — some people think wind turbines are beautiful — is nothing compared to the ugliness that will envelope the planet if we do not act decisively to move away from fossil fuels.

A World War II-scale mobilization has often been called for to fight climate change; and during that war, no one was heard to object to the construction of an airplane or tank factory near their home.

Electricity loads can be reduced by encouraging or mandating more energy efficient lighting (such as LEDs) and other equipment, but that will be more than overcome by the increased loads due to electrification of transportation and space heating and cooling. More on that in a minute.


Only 17% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions is from making electricity. The largest portion, 33%, is transportation. Radically reducing that amount will require the conversion of almost the entire passenger vehicle fleet to electric. (Perhaps some cars will use hydrogen or other clean technologies.)
This won’t happen overnight. No one will be required to give up their current cars, though perhaps incentives will be provided, improving on 2009’s federal cash-for-clunkers program. But increasingly, and in time entirely, new cars and SUVs will have to be electric.

This will require federal cooperation, which hopefully will be available in a couple of years, because Washington sets national standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy.

But the state must set up the infrastructure to charge the electric vehicles that will have to replace internal combustion engines. Instead of going to gasoline stations, people will fill up their batteries at home, at work, in parking lots or garages or in charging stations on the road.

Many buses and some trucks are already electric, and as batteries become cheaper and hold higher charges, they will run even the heaviest trucks. This will also mean an end to terribly unhealthy emissions from gasoline and diesel, and much quieter streets.

For the vehicles that still use gasoline or diesel, the state may impose a low-carbon fuel standard that requires more of the fuel to come from biological sources, though care must be taken to ensure that this does not involve cutting down forests or reducing food supplies. Another possible energy source for heavy-duty vehicles is renewable natural gas from sources like food and agricultural waste.

We also need to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The congestion-pricing law that will take effect in Manhattan south of 60th St. in early 2021 will help there. The state and cities can further reduce auto use through better mass transit, bicycle paths and transit-friendly land use patterns. Telecommuting will also contribute.

Residential and commercial

Residential and commercial uses add up to 26% of state greenhouse gas emissions. Most of this is from heating and cooling buildings; heating water; and cooking, mostly by natural gas and oil. This will be reduced mostly by retrofitting millions of buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Improvements to insulation, windows, HVAC systems, and other elements can greatly reduce buildings’ energy load. Old inefficient appliances will need to be replaced with new ones. Many buildings will need to have their heating and cooling converted to electricity and heat pumps.
This is another huge lift. Keeping homes from Buffalo to Brooklyn warm in the dead of winter without using gas or oil will take an enormous amount of new electrical capacity. Delivering it, especially on days when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing very hard, is going to be a massive challenge.

Converting fossil-fuel-based heating systems to clean electrical ones costs a lot of money. That will require additional subsidies (some already exist) from governments or utilities — especially for the housing for the less affluent, and for small businesses. New York City got a jump start in April on these building efficiency improvements when the City Council passed a law requiring emissions reductions from large buildings.


The economic costs are real; so are the opportunities.

Just retrofitting buildings in the New York City area has the potential to create 126,000 jobs by 2030 — architects, engineers, sustainability consultants, building tradespeople, HVAC professionals — according to Prof. David Hsu of MIT. (This is three to five five times as many jobs as Amazon would have brought to New York.) This will require massive job training programs to provide New Yorkers with the necessary skills.

Inevitably, some jobs will also be lost in the bargain; we can’t pretend otherwise. The law has detailed provisions for helping out workers displaced by the transition away from fossil fuels, and also for assisting those communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution.


Even as we marshal all our creativity and resources to transform our energy economy, some emissions will be completely beyond the power of the state to reduce. New York cannot bar out-of-state cars or trucks from coming into or passing through the state. New York has no control over airplanes, which are highly emitting.

Some industrial operations, such as cement and aluminum production, rely on processes that emit large quantities of carbon dioxide that are very difficult to control.
Some earlier bills had required absolute zero emissions, but that is not possible. Instead the final law allows up to 15% of statewide emissions to remain. Companies that still emit must entirely offset their greenhouse gases, mostly through natural methods that are subject to elaborate restrictions that may be difficult to meet.

The law gives state agencies the power to accomplish much of this, but it does not tell them just how to do it. It’s left to various committees to figure that out. As these committees are formed and the magnitude of the financial opportunities for some sectors and perils to others become clear, enormous pressures will be brought to bear to secure outcomes favorable to various groups; lobbyists will be among the first to enjoy an employment boom.

Our leaders will need to display the backbone to make sure the ultimate objective of net-zero emissions is achieved.
The costs of all of this will be very high. But one thing is clear: the costs of not acting, and allowing the seas and the temperatures to rise up without restraint, would eventually be far greater. Our grandchildren will not forgive us for imposing these costs on them rather than taking responsibility for the costs of our own pollution.

The world will be watching, and the reverse of the old adage will apply: if it can’t be done in New York, it can’t be done anywhere. New York already has the country’s most efficient transportation system (thanks to our subways, buses and commuter rail) and building stock (thanks to our density). We’re a state rich in money, brains and moxie. Let’s do this.


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Why we can’t possibly switch everyone to electric cars




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The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was hailed by activists as a great achievement to address climate change. It will require untold billions to remake the state’s electric grid and overhaul the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. It’ll also require overhauling the transportation sector — and that’s where things get dodgy.

Converting the state’s cars, trucks and buses from oil to electricity will require New York to gobble up huge portions of the world’s supply of materials like cobalt and neodymium, which will make the state’s auto fleet heavily reliant on a single supplier: China.

The CCPA requires New York to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050. Transportation accounts for about one-third of that output.

Slashing transportation emissions will require electrifying nearly all of New York’s 11.3 million motor vehicles. What would that mean? We can get an estimate by looking at a remarkable June 3 letter that was sent to the British government by professor Richard Herrington, the head of earth sciences at the Natural History Museum in London, and seven colleagues.

Herrington and his colleagues looked at the UK’s climate goals and the requirement that all its vehicles be converted to electricity by 2050. They found doing so would require two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production during 2018. Remember, that’s just for the UK!

New York’s automotive fleet is about a third the size of Britain’s. So if we use Herrington’s estimates, converting all of the Empire State’s vehicles to electricity will require roughly 60% of the world’s cobalt production, 30% of global neodymium, a quarter of global lithium and 15% of all copper production.

Who controls those commodities? The copper market is fairly well diversified. But China controls about half of global lithium production and about 85% of the world’s supply of cobalt, a critical ingredient in the batteries used in electric vehicles. China also mines about 70% of the world’s supply of “rare earths,” including neodymium, which is an essential ingredient in electric motors.

China’s dominance of the cobalt and rare-earth industries has allowed it to become a leader in electric vehicle manufacturing and deployment. And it doesn’t plan to cede that leadership role.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited a rare-earth processing plant, a move widely seen as a signal to the United States not to impose tariffs on China’s goods. In addition, the official People’s Daily newspaper warned: “Don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back.”
Even if cobalt, neodymium and the other commodities needed to produce millions of electric vehicles were widely available — and not controlled by the Chinese government — mining and smelting the vast quantities of material needed to make those automobiles will itself require enormous amounts of energy, and therefore mean more carbon dioxide emissions.

Further, any significant switch from diesel fuel and gasoline will require vastly more electricity production from renewables, on top of the amount needed to replace the fossil fuels now being used to generate power for the grid.

There are numerous other problems. The law will result in big jumps in electric prices and require the construction of massive amounts of new renewable-energy capacity even as New Yorkers already pay some of the country’s highest electric rates.

But Herrington’s letter provides a stark illustration of the global supply-chain issues that will emerge if New York attempts large-scale electrification of transportation. In the conclusion to their letter, Herrington and his colleagues declared that “society needs to understand that there is a raw-material cost of going green.”

In other words, regardless of lawmakers’ good intentions, there’s still no such thing as a free lunch — in the energy sector or anywhere else.


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