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Emmanuel Macron To Talk To Biden Amid Crisis Over Submarines

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Emmanuel Macron To Talk To Biden Amid Crisis Over Submarines

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will speak in the coming days with President Joe Biden in their first contact since a major diplomatic crisis erupted between France and the United States over a submarine deal with Australia, an official said Sunday.

The phone call is at the request of Biden, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, adding that there was “shock” and “anger” at first in France over news of the deal. But now it’s time to try to move forward, he said.

What the French now call a “grave crisis” erupted over the sudden, surprise end to a 2016 contract worth at least $66 billion between France and Australia to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Instead, Australia signed on with the United States and Britain for eight nuclear-powered submarines. France insists it was not informed of the deal in advance.

France recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Australia in a sign of the seriousness of the crisis.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met Sunday with the two ambassadors to discuss “the strategic consequences of the current crisis,” the ministry said without elaborating.

“What’s at play in this affair, this crisis … are strategic issues before being commercial issues,” Attal told BFMTV. “The question is … the forces present, the balance, in the Indo-Pacific where part of our future is at play, and our relations with China.”

The deal by the United States reflects the American pivot toward the Indo-Pacific region, seen as increasingly strategic as China bolsters its influence there. Yet France feels the deal steps on its feet in a region where it has long had a strong presence that it, too, is working to bolster, in addition to a five-year contract with Australia.

“France is a country of the Indo-Pacific,” Attal said, noting the French territory of New Caledonia, the French citizens living in the region and the French military forces based there.

The Indo-Pacific is also an issue for Europe, he said.

Macron will be seeking explanations from Biden about what led to a “major rupture in confidence,” the spokesman added. “There was a moment of shock, of anger … Now, we must advance.”

On Friday night, Le Drian railed against what France views as a betrayal marked by “duplicity, disdain and lies” in the submarine affair.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that France “would have had every reason to know that we have deep and grave concerns” about the capability of France’s Attack class subs, which he said can’t meet Australia’s strategic interests.

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Texas School Official Apologizes For ‘Opposing’ Views On Holocaust Comment

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Texas School Official Apologizes For ‘Opposing’ Views On Holocaust Comment

A north Texas school superintendent has apologized for an administrator’s instruction that students be taught “opposing” views on the Holocaust.

The executive director of curriculum and instruction at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake was recorded earlier this month suggesting to a group of teachers that a new Texas law requires them to present “opposing” perspectives on events, no matter how horrifying they might be.

“Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has opposing — that has other perspectives,” instructed the official, Gina Peddy, as teachers reacted in stunned surprise

NBC News published a recording of the comments on Thursday.

District Superintendent Lane Ledbetter issued a statement later on Thursday offering his “sincere apology,” and insisting that Peddy’s comments were “in no way to convey the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”

He added: “Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides to the Holocaust.”

Peddy was reacting to the state’s hugely controversial new curriculum law, which eliminated a requirement to teach that the Ku Klux Klan is “morally wrong,” among numerous other changes.

The law is a thinly veiled attempt to overwhelm the teaching of critical race theory in schools with requiring “opposing” views.

“The idea is to whitewash American history of any legacy of racism,” state Rep. James Talarico (D) said of the law when it passed. An additional consequence of whitewashing racism appears to be soft-pedaling anti-Semitism.

The law prohibits teachers from discussing “a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” If a teacher does engage in such a discussion in the classroom, the educator is required to “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

The Holocaust — namely, Nazi Germany’s murder of 6 million Jews — is not a “widely debated” or “currently controversial” issue.

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association union, told The Washington Post that Peddy’s instruction to teachers was “reprehensible.”

“We’re saddened to hear it, but we’re not terribly surprised,” said Robison. “There is enough vagueness and ambiguity in that law that some educators are overreacting to it, as we feared that they would.”

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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises

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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises


Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

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Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden had promised to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, but an essential tool the administration planned to use to achieve that goal now appears out of reach.

The New York Times reported Friday that Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, has indicated to the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

The president needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators in order to pass the measure through a process known as reconciliation.

The program in question is the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would financially reward utilities that transition to renewable energy and penalize those which do not. Experts say that the program would sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution tied to electricity generation — which today accounts for roughly a quarter of U.S. emissions.

Manchin is at odds with his Democratic colleagues

Manchin, who leads the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during an appearance on CNN in September that energy companies are already transitioning to clean energy.

“Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing,” he said. “Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”

Manchin’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.

Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat and champion of the clean energy measures, said in an interview with the Star Tribune newspaper that Manchin’s characterization is “just not right.”

“In fact, what we’re doing is we’re providing utilities with support, so that they can rapidly add clean power without raising utility rates,” Smith said.

Ties to the fossil fuel industry

Coal is a dominant industry in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.

As of 2019, the state is the second-largest U.S. coal producer and relies on the fuel for 91% of its energy needs. The energy sector accounts for 6% of the state’s employment, compared with a national average of roughly 2%.

The senator also has personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Last year, according to his public financial disclosure, Manchin received about $492,000 in dividends on stock from Enersystems, Inc., the coal business he founded in 1988, which is now controlled by his son Joseph. According to OpenSecrets, which tracks political fundraising, Manchin is the top recipient of donations from the oil and gas and coal mining industries this election cycle.

After news broke of Manchin’s reported opposition to the clean energy program, Smith issued a warning to the White House on Twitter.

“Let’s be clear: the Build Back Better budget must meaningfully address climate change,” Smith said, using the administration’s branding for the legislative package.

“I’m open to different approaches, but I cannot support a bill that won’t get us where we need to be on emissions,” Smith said. “There are 50 Democratic senators. Every one of us is needed get this passed.”

Smith told NPR this month that she and Manchin have been in regular contact about Manchin’s concerns.

U.S. credibility is on the line

In two weeks, world leaders will meet in Scotland for a major United Nations conference on climate change, COP26.

President Biden and John Kerry, his climate envoy, have been working to build U.S. credibility on climate issues after years of inaction and climate change denialism.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Kerry said that the administration’s trouble passing its own climate policies hurts the effort to spur climate action abroad.

“I’m not going to pretend it’s the best way to send the best message. I mean, we need to do these things,” Kerry said. He said that if Congress fails to pass significant climate change legislation, “it would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again.”

A crucial moment for the health of the planet

Kerry also indicated that the conference talks are likely to fall short of securing the pledges that would be necessary, if met, to limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, from pre-industrial levels.

Under current worldwide commitments, global emissions are expected to rise by about 16% in 2030, compared to 2010. That would put the planet on track for more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by 2100.

At that point, rising sea levels would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves would be significantly more common and more intense floods and droughts would potentially displace tens of millions of people.

Lauren Sommer contributed reporting.



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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows

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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows


It turns out when sea otters are foraging for dinner, they’re also doing a huge favor to the ecosystem.

According to new research, the critters have positive effect on sea grass meadows, a crucial part of the underwater environment that help stabilize the ocean floor, improve water quality and serve as food for some species and habitat for others.

Nuno Valadas / 500px via Getty Images

Sea otters disturb these meadows when they dig for clams, and their presence is marked by bare patches and indentations from all the digging, according to National Geographic. Though some might assume that means otters aren’t so great for the grass, ecologist Jane Watson noticed in the 1990s that where sea otters thrived, so did sea grass, The New York Times reported.

Decades later, Watson’s idea inspired her former student, Erin Foster, to lead a study on the matter. Watson, who conducted the seagrass research while completing a PhD at the University of Victoria, co-authored a paper on the findings, which was published Friday in the journal Science.

As it turned out, Watson was right all along. The researchers studied meadows of eelgrass ― a type of sea grass ― in British Columbia, and found that they had significantly higher genetic diversity in areas where otters were present. Not only that, but the longer that otters had been living in a particular area, the higher the genetic diversity among the eelgrass.

Eelgrass.
Eelgrass.

Andrey Nekrasov via Getty Images

So how do otters do this? The answer has to do with the fact that eelgrass can reproduce two ways ― clonally or sexually. Clonally basically means that each new plant is genetically identical to its predecessor; sexually means that the plants reproduce via pollination, and that each new plant has genetic material from each of its parent plants. The researchers believe that otters disturbing the grass specifically encourages sexual reproduction in the eelgrass, which creates a more genetically diverse meadow.

That’s good news for the grass, which is vulnerable to numerous threats, from climate change-fueled ocean acidification and warming water temperatures to pollution from fertilizer runoff and severe disruption from human activities like dredging for development. More genetic diversity gives the grass a better shot of long-term survival.

“Genetic diversity typically builds resilience to change, and considering the challenges we’re facing … this will be important for eelgrass meadows,” Foster told National Geographic.

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