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Aide asks voters to unseat Republican congressman critical of Trump

White House director of social media called on voters to defeat big liability Justin Amash in new sign of division between the president and the party

A top aide to Donald Trump has called for a primary challenge to a Republican member of Congress.

In a tweet on Saturday, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called on voters to defeat congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Scavino wrote: @realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.

The libertarian-leaning Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, is a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus and has long been critical of Trump.

The direct intervention by Scavino, who has worked for Trump since caddying for the then-real estate developer as a teenager, is however a new sign of division between Trump and congressional Republicans.

The president this week used Twitter to criticize members of the Freedom Caucus for their role in blocking the American Health Care Act, the House bill that aimed to replace Barack Obamas healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The AHCA was pulled from the House floor shortly before a scheduled vote, due to insufficient support from all corners of the Republican party.

Many members of the Freedom Caucus thought the bill, which was widely criticised for its likely removal of insurance from millions of Americans, in fact left government with too prominent a role in the provision of healthcare.

In a reference to rightwing descriptions of supposedly self-serving Washington DC, Amash derided the AHCA as Swampcare.

In tweets on Thursday, Trump criticized three members of the Freedom Caucus: chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ral Labrador of Idaho.

Meadows and Labrador stumped for Trump in 2016, and Labrador was considered for a cabinet post.

In a tweet of his own on Thursday, the Idaho Republican wrote: Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. Were trying to help u succeed.

Trump has yet to criticize Amash by name. The maverick Michigan Republican is however used to primary challenges. In 2014, he fended off a self-funding establishment Republican who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

However, a competitive primary in Amashs district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids, could have political consequences. Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump ran 8% behind Amash there in 2016.

Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Scavinos tweet.

However, Amash tweeted in response: Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.

Justin Amash (@justinamash)

Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers. https://t.co/ALcV59iHXx

April 1, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/01/justin-amash-republican-challenge-freedom-caucus-trump-dan-scavino


Living under a tarp next to Facebook HQ: ‘I don’t want people to see me’

The sprawling Silicon Valley campus has cafes, bike repair services, even dry cleaning. But across the road a homeless community epitomizes the wealth gap

In a patch of scrubland across the road from the Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley, a woman named Celma Aguilar recently walked along some overgrown train tracks. She stopped where a path forked into some vegetation, just a few hundred yardsfrom the tourists taking photos by an enormous image of a Like icon at the campus entrance.

Welcome to the mansion, Aguilar said, gesturing to a rudimentary shelter of tarps hidden in the undergrowth.

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The campsite is one of about 10 that dot the boggy terrain, and are a striking sight alongsidethe brightly painted, low-slung buildings housing the multi-billion-dollar corporation. The contrast epitomizes the Bay Area wealth gap.

Harold Schapelhouman, a fire chief whose department has dealt with conflagrations on the land, said he was struck by the disparities. Their employees are very well taken care of. They have on-site medical facilities, dry cleaning, bicycle repair, they feed them and there are restaurants that are there. Its amazing what Facebook does for its employees. And yet within eyeshot it really isnt that far there are people literally living in the bushes.

Schapelhouman said he was not blaming Facebook, though it is true that the success of technology companies has driven up real estate prices in the area. As a whole, California is one of the lowest-ranking US states for the availability of affordable housing, and has one-fifth of Americas homeless population. Irrespective of the utopianism that imbues Silicon Valley culture, the tech campuses are not immune to these broader social problems.

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An aerial view of the Facebook campus on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The land that the homeless encampments are on lies across the main road. Photograph: Noah Berger / Reuters/Reuters

Aguilar, 44, said she was aware of the Facebook HQ, though she wasnt quite sure what happened there as it always seemed so quiet. Can I get a job there? So I can get out from here.

The land where the encampments are located belongs largely to the state and private owners, and it takes 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Aguilar pointed out a pond, covered with scum, at which she said she sometimes washed. One campsite spills out from a huge clump of marshy greenery. Another is reached via a railway sleeper slung across a strip of water where a number of bike frames are submerged.

Salvadorian by birth, Aguilar said she once worked in nursing homes and at Burger King, and had four children. She said she had been homeless for about three years as a result of a crystal meth addiction, and thought she suffered from mental illness. Can you see how the trees move? she said as she sat on the rusted train tracks. I like to think theyre talking to me.

Friend requests and instant messages presumably zing back and forth on the other side of the street christened Hacker Way, but Aguilar said she had lost her Facebook password. No matter what I do they dont want to give it back to me.

A man named Rafael Barajas Ortiz, living in a lean-to amid mud and trash, said that, like Aguilar, he had no phone. Another resident opened the door of his shelter, which was blocked off by fencing made of woven branches, and said I dont use Facebook, before declining to be interviewed further.

Passing by on his bike, a local named Jesus said he did log on to the site, but he faced a problem familiar to many homeless people: he had nowhere to charge his phone. (He showed the Guardian his profile. The public pictures offered no hint he was on the streets.)

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A homeless encampment near Facebook headquarters. Photograph: Alastair Gee for the Guardian

Although it is not widely known, phone ownership and even social media usage are relatively common among homeless people, even if not those living next to Facebook. One Bay Area survey of around 250 homeless people found that 62% had phones. A study of homeless youth in Los Angeles indicated that more than three-quarters used social media.

Devices and service plans are readily available because the federal government offers subsidized cellular service to low-income Americans. It is known as the Obamaphone program both to its users and its rightwing critics, but in fact it originated as a landline subsidy during the Reagan era. The minimum standards specify 500 minutes per month of talk time or 500 megabytes of 3G data, and consumers can get a combination of them.

They use the phone for exactly the same reasons we use it, said Allan Baez, who launched a program that involved giving hundreds of free, Google-donated phones to homeless people. The cameras are particularly popular. They are individuals, they have kids, they have friends, they have good moments, and you take pictures.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the encampments, though he noted that the companys investments in local affordable housing include an $18.5m commitment announced late last year. Otherwise, the county provides an array of homeless services, and its homeless numbers have dipped a moderate amount, according to a 2015 count.

The
The sign welcoming visitors to Facebooks campus. The company recently said it would invest $18.5m in local affordable housing. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Standing amid waving grass near a campsite, Gonzalo Apale, in a filthy jacket and work boots, described social media access as almost a marker of his progress in life. Ill try to get a telephone very soon, Ill use Facebook again, he said with optimism.

Still, he tries to avoid walking on the same side of the road as the Facebook campus because I dont want people to see me like this, he said. Because they are clean and everything.

Towards sunset, Aguilar took a path that spiraled up a small hill to a clearing littered with detritus.

Im going to make my house here, she explained, gesturing at a partially unfurled tent. The Facebook campus was visible through the tops of the bushes. Preferably, she said, it would not be.

The trees will grow and no one will see me.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/31/facebook-campus-homeless-tent-city-menlo-park-california


John, I’m only decorating: David Bowie’s old apartment on sale for $6.5m

The New York apartment where Bowie lived in the 90s is on the market and his pianos included in the price

If youre still mourning David Bowie, and want something to remember him by, then theres one unique piece of Bowie memorabilia you might be interested in. The only drawback? It will cost you the thick end of $6.5m.

The item in question is David Bowies old three-bedroom apartment in New York, in which he lived from 1992 to 2002 with his second wife, Iman. It is being sold through the real estate firm Corcoran for $6.495m.

It should be said, its a fairly splendid setup, located in the famous Essex House apartment block on Central Park South. The living room of apartment 915 has panoramic views of the park, and opens into a stately walnut-panelled office that also faces Central Park the perfect place from which to close the next big deal, write the next bestselling novel or make into a third bedroom, according to the listing.

David
David Bowies old living room the furniture belongs to the subsequent owner. Photograph: Corcoran real estate

The apartment also comes with a Yamaha piano that belonged to Bowie, but which he evidently did not feel the need to remove when he left the property. Or perhaps the removers took one look at a grand piano and refused to take it down nine floors.

When Bowie and Iman lived in the apartment, they reportedly had a panic room installed. That has since been converted back into a master bedroom, removing the opportunity for Bowie obsessives to recreate the cocaine-and-paranoia years from the safety of a sealed box.

The couple left the apartment to move downtown, to a property in SoHo that Bowie had bought in 1999.

The listing for the Essex House apartment reads:

Calling all Central Park and music lovers!

Make beautiful music in this elegant, Central Park-facing condominium home that includes a pristine Yamaha piano that was David Bowies! This tremendous home offers a gracious limestone entry foyer and generously proportioned rooms with incredible storage space. Large picture windows frame a clear and direct view of the incomparable Central Park. Look on to the perfect landscape, enjoy the serenity of the trees, flanked by the historic and commanding buildings the view is not to be missed.

The grand-scaled living room measures 28 feet wide and opens into a stately walnut-panelled office that also faces Central Park – the perfect place from which to close the next big deal, write the next bestselling novel or make into a third bedroom. The pass-through kitchen is newly renovated and features top of the line appliances. There are two master-sized bedrooms, with beautifully crafted en-suite baths made of custom marble, porcelain and limestone. The master bedroom offers a separate dressing area and extra large bath with separate deep soaking tub, rain shower and heated floors.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/30/david-bowie-old-apartment-sale-65m-new-york


Ivanka Trump to become White House employee instead of informal adviser

Presidents daughter decides to assume official role as unpaid government employee in attempt to mitigate ethical controversy over administration position

Following criticism from ethics experts, Ivanka Trump will become an official government employee, working as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House, alongside her husband.

Last week the presidents daughter came under fire after announcing she would become an adviser without a specific title, but with an office in the West Wing, a government-issued phone and computer and security clearance to access classified information.

While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees, she said at the time.

Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as chief ethics lawyer for George W Bush between 2005 and 2007 and has frequently spoken out about the Trump familys various ethical controversies, told the Guardian: She has a West Wing office, she has equipment, she has a White House email address, shes going to be doing policy work. For purposes of the conflict of interest statute, I believe she is a government employee.

Now Ivanka Trump has responded to such criticism by taking on a formal role.

She said in a statement: I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.

Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told the New York Times, which first reported the news, that Trump had changed her mind because of her commitment to compliance with federal ethics standards and her openness to opposing points of view.

The Times quoted a spokeswoman for Donald Trump as saying: Ivankas service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously.

Painter told the Guardian on Wednesday: I think she made the right decision because her lawyers told her what Ive been saying all along … that she is a government employee.

He added: And I think she understands that and I think she told the White House, Stop screwing around and playing games and let her be an employee.

Referring to conflict of interest statutes, he said: Im glad they sorted this out, because the last thing we need is the presidents daughter committing a crime that could be a felony.

The role of billionaire investor Carl Icahn, another of Donald Trumps informal advisers, needed to be similarly formalised, Painter said.

Several attorneys and government watchdog leaders last week wrote a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn asking him to reconsider his approval of Ivanka Trump serving her father without becoming an official government employee.

Norman Eisen, who was Barack Obamas ethics counselor, was among those who signed the letter. He said that for a change in what has largely been an ethics disaster, the White House came to their senses. Lets hope it doesnt turn out to be an isolated moment of sanity.

Fred Wertheimer, president of the government watchdog group Democracy 21 and a co-writer of the letter to McGahn, said he commended Ivanka Trump for formalizing her status. Democracy 21 praises Ms Trump for her decision, which recognizes that it would have been wrong for her to function as a White House employee and not be subject to the same rules that apply to other White House employees, he said in a statement.

There is no precedent for someone whose father is president to work in the White House, although two presidents Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan had their nieces serve in the role of first lady since Jackson was a widower and Buchanan a bachelor.

Ivanka Trump has handed control over the day-to-day running of her eponymous clothing business to an executive and its assets are maintained by a trust managed by two of her husbands siblings.

As part of the trust rules, outlined in the New York Times, Trump can veto any potential business deals for her clothing company that might create a conflict with her political work meaning she will continue to know about any new deals.

Trumps marriage to her fathers senior adviser, the real estate developer Jared Kushner, poses additional potential problems, because both could benefit financially from each others businesses.

Kushner was appointed to an additional role this week at the helm of Donald Trumps White House Office of American Innovation, which is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector.

The same day it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last years election. Kushners offer to appear before the Senate panel stems from his meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US whose contacts with former national security adviser Michael Flynn led to the latters resignation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/29/ivanka-trump-white-house-government-employee-ethics


As Jared Kushner ascends White House ladder, Senate Russia inquiry adds scrutiny

Trumps son-in-law will lead Office of American Innovation to privatize certain government functions, as he agrees to testify in Russia election investigation

Jared Kushner, Donald Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser, found himself back in the spotlight for better and for worse on Monday.

As the US president appointed him to a new White House role, it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last years election.

With Kushner at its helm, Trumps White House Office of American Innovation is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector, it was announced on Monday. The venture, which will bring together a team of former executives to privatize certain government functions, will follow through on the presidents business-minded approach to running the country.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/jared-kushner-white-house-office-trump-russia


Atlantic City and Miami Beach: two takes on tackling the rising waters

Sea level rise is making floods more common and as the New Jersey resort braces for the next Sandy, the well-heeled Florida city is throwing money at the problem

The Irish Pub near Atlantic Citys famed boardwalk doesnt have any locks on the doors as it is open 24 hours a day. So when Hurricane Sandy crunched into what was once known as the Las Vegas of the east coast in 2012, some improvisation was needed.

Regular drinkers helped slot a cork board through the frame of the door, wedging it shut and keeping out the surging seawater. The wild night, which severely damaged more than 320 homes and caused a week-long power blackout, was seen out by those taking shelter with the help of several bottles of Jameson.

But Sandy was just the headline act among increasingly common flooding events that are gnawing away at the thin island upon which the city sits.

Sandy, as devastating as it was, isnt the greatest barometer because we have flash floods, said Cathy Burke, who has run the Irish Pub since 1973. Burke, a gravelly voiced institution along the boardwalk, has hoarded treasures from Atlantic Citys zenith. The upstairs of the pub is replete with vintage furniture, gramophones and china dogs.

We can have floods at the drop of a hat, Burke said. Without even realizing were going to have them. Itll be raining and within seconds youll see flooding in the street. You dont read about it in the paper. You dont hear about it on the radio or television. You just have water that just comes up and if you dont have warning and move your car, you have water in the car.

These flooding events have increased seven-fold in Atlantic City since the 1950s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and are spurred by rainfall or simply a spring tide abetted by unhelpful gusts of wind.

The casinos and boardwalk are protected on the ocean side by a network of beach dunes. But the western side of the city, where few tourists venture and poverty lingers, is more vulnerable. Several times a month water swells in the bay behind Absecon Island the barrier strip dotted by the resorts of Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport and with nowhere to go can slosh into the streets, wrecking cars and stranding residents.

The rising ocean, fed by melting glaciers and the expansion of warming water, is piling up water along Americas entire eastern seaboard. To compound the problem much of the mid-Atlantic coast is sinking, a hangover from the last ice age, meaning life and property is being swamped like never before.

atlantic city sea level

And yet with no overarching national sea level rise plan and patchy commitment from states, many coastal communities are left to deal with the encroaching seas themselves. Wealthier areas are raising streets and houses, erecting walls and pumps. Those without the funds or political will have several state or federal grants they can access but often make muddled choices in the face of this sisyphean task.

There is no central place that makes all the decisions, so you get one town building a pump station to push water out and another town pumping the water back to the same place, said Rouzbeh Nazari, an environmental engineering expert at Rowan University.

Nazari is critical of outdated flood maps, risky building in areas prone to flooding and what he considers an undue haste to buy up water-ravaged houses on the cheap to compensate homeowners rather than improve ragged coastal defenses.

It kind of feels like weve just given up, that we cant do anything about it, he said. Im less worried about a Sandy-like event than nuisance flooding. They are losing 20 cars a month to nuisance flooding on Absecon Island. We need a regional solution but New Jersey has no specific plan to deal with it.

A spokesman for New Jerseys department of environmental protection disputes claims that it lacks a plan, pointing to work with the army corps of engineers over future levees and a solution to inadequate stormwater systems that can exacerbate flooding.

We will be working very closely with coastal communities in identifying problem areas and the best ways to deal with them, the spokesman said. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, has previously said there was no evidence that Hurricane Sandy was linked to climate change. Asked about flooding at Cape May last year, Christie said: I dont know what you want me to do, you want me to go down there with a mop?

Tom
Tom Quirk, a lifelong resident of Atlantic City, stands in a recently flooded area. Photograph: Laurence Mathieu-Leger for the Guardian

In Atlantic Citys heyday, its Steel Pier hosted concerts by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, as well as a recurring attraction where a horse was required to dive off a 60ft platform into a pool of water a colossally stupid idea according to the then president of the US Humane Society. Today, it abuts the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino, which was sold by the president last year, as well as a tidal gauge that is quietly recording the fate of the city.

The numbers are stark the sea is rising at nearly 1.5 inches (38mm) a decade, streaking ahead of the global average and eroding away the tips of the island. Slender barrier islands such as Absecon arent easy to tame even with a stable sea level. Native Americans used to holiday, but never live, on the shifting sandy outcrop because they knew that it would be perennially mauled by the sea. Today, there are about 40,000 people living in Atlantic City, with the boardwalk drawing in millions of tourists to its hulking casinos.

The Native Americans were a lot smarter than the European settlers, said James Whalen, a former Atlantic City mayor turned state senator. The barrier islands up and down the coast really should not have been built on, but here we are.

And then there are the storms. Ben Horton, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, said that a Sandy-like storm used to occur on the east coast once every 500 years, before industrial activity began loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Now such a storm arrives once every 25 years or so. Should the sea level continue to rise sharply, by 2100 Sandy would visit Atlantic City every five years.

If you chat to people here and you say, How sustainable is the New Jersey shore or Atlantic City to an event of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy occurring every five years?, youll get a very negative response, Horton said.

The sustainability of Atlantic City consumes the thoughts of Elizabeth Terenik, the citys spry planning director. Terenik said the rise in nuisance flooding has become a major quality of life issue for back-bay residents. Many of those able to have raised their homes new buildings must now be a foot higher than previous codes due to the flooding.

Terenik is plotting new sea walls, a curb on new development in flood-prone areas and an underground canal that can funnel away stormwater. Perhaps most ambitiously, she is taken by an idea, put forward by Princeton University, that would raise the streets and houses in Chelsea Heights, a vulnerable neighborhood, and allow the water to seep into vacant land to create a sort of New Jersey twist on Venice.

Its an exciting project but one that really needs to be looked at closely before anythings moved forward and of course it would need funding, Terenik conceded. A lot of funding.

Miami Beach: climate gentrification

Funding isnt such a problem 1,200 miles south at another barrier island facing a daunting challenge from the seas Miami Beach. While it shares much of Atlantic Citys bygone glory, with its art deco grandeur and former celebrity playground status, Miami Beach linked by causeways to the mainland city of Miami has managed to retain much of the wealth that has allowed it to hurl money at the sea level rise problem.

Pancake flat and built on porous ground that is slowly sinking back to the seabed, Miami Beach is surrounded by seas accelerating at an astonishing 9mm a year vastly more than the 3mm-a-year global average. Should slabs of Antarctic ice start to crumble away into the ocean and fuel a 6ft sea level rise by 2100, Miami Beach will pretty much be swallowed up.

We are facing an existential threat here, said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Miami Beachs city commissioner. Gonzalez, a college professor, focused heavily on sea level rise when she was elected last year. Its not really much of a choice these days the mayor, Philip Levine, paddled down a flooded street in a canoe as part of an election stunt.

miami beach sea level

Once known as a sunny place for shady people due to its popularity with pre-war gangsters, Miami Beach is now often referred to as ground zero for the sea level rise phenomenon. But its perhaps more like a living laboratory experiment into what happens when you give a cashed-up place the task of avoiding drowning.

Miami Beach is spending $400m on a network of pumps, sea walls and raised streets in order to beat the tides. One vulnerable neighborhood, Sunset Harbor, has had its streets raised by 2ft at a cost of over $30m. All over the island, predominantly in the wealthier neighborhoods where properties go for $10m or more, streets are being torn up.

Kristen
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez: Were literally going to have to rise above this. Photograph: Michael Landsberg for the Guardian

Were literally going to have to rise above this, Gonzalez said. Thats very scary for many of us because right now, we cant really picture what that looks like. It is so hard to imagine parts of Miami Beach disappearing. A lot of this island is fill. We filled it in once. Well fill it in again.

City engineers admit that they are merely buying themselves time, perhaps 20 years or so, until Miami Beach will need to work the problem out again, possibly with some new technology. The seas are relentless, and rising ever further without end in sight. Much of southern Florida will eventually be reclaimed, but for now there is trillions of dollars of real estate to save.

Retreat isnt on the agenda, but as in Atlantic City theres an equity issue at play. The affluent can afford to raise their homes, lobby for sea walls and water pumps, and stay in a nice hotel if it all gets a bit much.

Poorer residents are less able to do this, nor can they foot the bill for the work Miami Beach has eye-watering average water bills of $350 a month in order to pay for the street work. Some people may have to leave if the costs mount further. Even some of the wealthier residents are buying insurance properties in areas of the mainland, farther from the coast.

Valencia Gunder calls this phenomenon climate gentrification. Gunder is a nascent climate campaigner and resident of Liberty City, a Miami district known for its problems with crime and poverty. Gunder has been agitating, so far unsuccessfully, for some large trees to help shade the Liberty City populace from increasingly frequent heatwaves. She gives a wry smile at the mention of Miami Beachs extreme engineering.

Were noticing things like heatstrokes and people passing out because its so hot outside, people cant take the heat, she said.

I do understand that you want to take care of the community thats right on the shore, but we all are affected. Four hundred million dollars, yes, is needed for resiliency, but just to put it in one neighborhood I think is ridiculous.

Michel
Michel Rodriguez tries to jump to a shallow spot as he crosses a flooded street in Miami Beach in 2015. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

We pay taxes. We live here. We go to school here. We work here. We deserve the same treatment as other communities.

Federal leadership for communities like Atlantic City and Miami Beach is unlikely to arrive before the situation escalates further. Donald Trumps administration has already taken aim at existing coastal resiliency funding and has disparaged basic scientific understanding of climate change.

Should the seas rise by 6ft, 13 million Americans in coastal areas will have to relocate by the end of this century, according to recent research. There will need to be a plan, beyond just cutting emissions, well before this time.

In the meantime, threatened cities such as New York and Boston will mull gargantuan sea barriers, Miami Beach will hoist itself further upwards, and Atlantic City will hope a solution, or a combination of solutions, is found before the next Sandy arrives.

What links these places is the reluctance to abandon them. Miami Beach is one of the most special places in the entire world and we dont plan on going anywhere, said Gonzalez. Were going to be here for the long haul. I love this city. Its my home. I cant imagine there not being a Miami Beach.

Back in Atlantic City, Cathy Burke, surrounded by her Boardwalk Empire-style refinements, is similarly defiant.

I am a diehard Atlantic City native, she said. I love Atlantic City. I dont want to live anywhere else.

Ive seen hotels demolished. Storms, whatever. And as far as Im concerned, Atlantic City will always be here and it will only get bigger and better than ever.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/20/atlantic-city-miami-beach-sea-level-rise


‘The blues still stands for authenticity’: my Mississippi road trip

Inspired by fragments of lyrics and old recordings, novelist Hari Kunzru set off through Americas deep south

We were driving from New York to west Texas, and late in the afternoon we left Nashville and crossed the Tennessee state line into Mississippi. My girlfriend (now my wife), a writer friend and I were following the Natchez Trace, an ancient route that had been turned into a national park, a strip of unbroken green stretching 400 miles south. As I drove, the modern world of gas stations and strip malls fell away, and it seemed to me that I was travelling back into a yellow-hued past. It was beautiful, but at the same time faintly threatening, like several moments on that trip: the Disney castle that loomed up over a dark forest and revealed itself as a chemical plant; the electrical storm on the horizon as we pulled into a motel.

In the rural south, the three of us stuck out like a sore thumb. We were the set-up for a bad joke: an Asian woman, a white woman and a non-specific brown man walk into a bar More than once we brought a place of business to a halt. I remember a gas station with a diner counter where a row of men in hunting camo stopped spooning eggs into their mouths just to watch me pay for a soda. There was a diner in Clarksdale run by a Lebanese family (flag on the wall, tabouleh and hummus on the menu after the usual American items) where the waitress leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, New York?, as if making contact on behalf of the super-secret immigrant-welcoming committee.

Soon we left Mississippi behind, but the place was firmly lodged in my imagination: the signs of the Baptist churches raining hellfire on passing motorists, the empty bottles of Four Roses bourbon at the William Faulkner House, the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. Even before that journey Id been caught up in the music. Modern Mississippi (the part that isnt buying Faith Hill records) bumps along to trap and bass, nodding its head to Gucci Mane or the Jackson rapper Big KRIT, but I had got mixed up in a style that seems to have been consigned to heritage tourism: the country blues.

If I say its almost impossible to hear the blues now, thats not because its unavailable, quite the opposite. In every city in America (and most others around the world) there is a half-empty bar where a middle-aged man with a ponytail is yodelling about how he woke up this morning and got down on his knees. Young baby boomers fell in love with the blues, and made their taste global. In England, skinny young rock musicians like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones studied the old songs, then sold them back to America with extra heaviness. John Bonhams massive booming drums on When The Levee Breaks werent recorded anywhere near a levee, but in the hall of a Hampshire country house. Though the height of its popularity was 50 years ago, in the popular imagination the blues still stands for authenticity.

But since authenticity is catnip to capital, the blues has become a visual shorthand in advertising: a tastefully blown-out shot of a sharecropper sitting on a porch playing a harmonica, cut with a water droplet running down the flank of a beer bottle. Its hard to think of another kind of music that has been so thoroughly hollowed out.

But it is extraordinary music, if you can really hear it. Ive been making playlists of songs originally recorded on 78rpm shellac discs in the years before the second world war, songs that sounded like the work of ghosts. The voices of the old singers were distant in time, muffled by crackle and hiss, and yet somehow immediate. I started scribbling lists of names in my notebook, fingerpicking guitarists, men from the Mississippi hills who played fife and drums. Inevitably, I started writing a novel, if only as a pretext for my obsession. A couple of years after my first short trip, I went back, following a meandering path dictated by fragments of old lyrics and the life stories of musicians.

Hari
Hari Kunzru at Dockery Farm, a Mississippi blues mecca. Photograph: Hari Kunzru

One morning I drove through heavy rain towards the river, near a place called Rosedale. Lord, Im going to Rosedale, going to take my rider by my side, sings Robert Johnson, whos making his way through towns and women in Traveling Riverside Blues. The rider is from Friars Point, a little farther upriver, near the Stovall plantation where Muddy Waters was still an unknown tractor driver. She has gold teeth and a mortgage on my body, now, and a lien on my soul.

Rosedale today is a scatter of one-storey houses and cabins. On Main Street theres a bank, a courthouse and an old cafe selling hot tamales. Johnson must have stopped in places like that, because another of his girls (she long and tall, she sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall) sells them two for a nickel four for a dime. The tamale is a Mississippi delta curiosity. Shucks of corn, filled with ground meat and cornmeal, wrapped up with twine into skinny little parcels of steaming fragrant paste. I order them by the half-dozen, by the dozen; smother them in cheese and slather them in hot sauce. Most people argue that they were brought by Mexican migrants who worked the cotton fields in the early 20th century. A few say that tamales are far older, a trace of the maize-based agriculture of the mound-building Native Americans who once lived on the river.

The mounds, and the memory of the people who built them almost 1,000 years ago, are one of the many ghostly traces on the Mississippi landscape. Downriver from Rosedale, at Winterville, I walked around the base of one of these mysterious constructions, part of a culture that had disappeared by 1500. Big Bill Broonzy used to tell a tall story about his birth, claiming it took place during the great Mississippi flood of 1893. His parents (and their 15 other children) had fled to the top of a Choctaw mound, possibly even this one. There his mother went into labour, after his father had gone off in a rowing boat to get help.

You can be very close to the Mississippi river and still not see it. The reason is the levee, a huge mound of earth raised to prevent flooding. Not until you walk up on top do you witness the great sluggish beast making its way down to the Gulf. Since European colonisation, engineers have been battling to stop the Mississippi spreading itself out across the delta in times of heavy rain. As I stood on the levee near the river port of Greenville, the rain was falling hard and the Mississippi was rushing on in a great brown muddy torrent. I retreated to my car and spent the night in a motel on a strip of fast-food restaurants on the highway, listening to the sound of eight inches of rain falling on the state. I woke to discover that rivers and creeks had overtopped their banks, washing away roads and killing at least one person, a little girl swept into a storm drain.

Robert Johnson singing Me And The Devil

The National Weather Service classified this as minor to moderate flooding. The great flood of 1927 was one of the most destructive in the history of the US: 27,000 square miles were inundated, leaving some parts of the delta 30ft underwater. You can hear its impact in the blues. Charley Patton found high water everywhere, which drove him from one place to another, frantically looking for shelter. The water in Greenville and Leland, Lord, it done rose everywhere,/ I would go down to Rosedale but they tell me theres water there. Two hundred thousand people were displaced in Mississippi, most of them farm workers and their families. Its raining, it has been for nights and days./ Thousand people stands on the hill, looking down where they used to stay, sings Barbecue Bob, who is sitting here looking at all of this mud,/ And my gal got washed away in that Mississippi flood.

The flood had a wider impact on the lives of the black people of the delta. The federal response was to institute a massive programme of levee reconstruction, some of it using forced labour. The Mississippi levee camps were some of the roughest places in the south. Gangs worked from sun-up to sundown (traditionally from can see to cant or just from can to cant), wheeling barrows of earth and driving mule teams. Some men were free, others convicts, working off fines. Conditions were primitive. Bosses were armed and drove the workers hard. Cholera was rife.

Legendary
Bluesmen Robert Johnson (on left) and Johnny Shines, circa 1935. Photograph: Robert Johnson Estate/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Near the camps, women set up their own tents, washing clothes and selling sex. Men on the levee hollering whoa and gee,/ Women in the levee camp hollering who wants me, sang the Texan Gene Campbell. Stories abound of drunken fights in camp jukes and barrelhouses, where bluesmen would play to patrons so inured to violence, it was said theyd tread on your corpse to get to the bar.

Many blues lyrics are based on levee camp hollers, work chants that could contain everything from gossip (That woman aint nothing but a downtown money waster) to advice on when its safest to ask for wages from a psychopathic boss (Oh, boys, if you want to go down to Mr Charlie and dont get hurt,/ go down Monday morning when the boys are at work,/ youll be alright) and the broken-down condition of the draft animals (Lord, I walked around the whole corral,/ couldnt find a mule with his shoulder well), which at times made it impossible for them to pull a load.

Inland from Rosedale is the monotonous landscape of the delta, flat agricultural land that in the 20s and 30s was devoted to highly profitable large-scale cotton farming. I drove through it under a lowering sky. The fields were full of standing water. At first it was a place where the majority of landowners were black; but by 1890 black people had been disenfranchised and a systematic pattern of lynchings had driven out most of the former owners and put their land firmly in the hands of white people. In the interwar period, it was known as a racy, modern place, where people went to work on large farms like Dockerys, the plantation where Charley Patton used to play to the pickers on payday.

No one else wanted to look at the old plantation in the rain, so I walked around the outbuildings on my own. At its height, the place had supported 2,000 black workers, who were paid in farm currency or scrip, tying them to the place. No wonder it was so glamorous to be a rambler, a rounder, able to move around freely. In Me And The Devil, Robert Johnson (often to be found around Dockerys) cheerfully greets Satan, whos come to take him to hell, and leaves instructions that you may bury my body, not in sanctified ground, but by the highway side,/ So my old evil spirit can get a Greyhound bus and ride.

Some, like Johnson, travelled all across the country playing music. Son House travelled, but he saw the upside of home: Clarksdales in the South, and lays heavy on my mind,/ I can have a good time there, if I aint got but one lousy dime. When cotton was king, Clarksdale was a thriving town, with streets of smart shopfronts in the newly fashionable deco style. Now its a fragile place, the downtown economy vampirised by Walmart and the other big box stores that lurk at the periphery of most southern towns. These days, Mississippi has the lowest average household income in the US, at just under $37,000 (30,000) a year.

I walked around Clarksdale, thinking about Son House, who saw the towns 20s and 30s boom time from the gutter. Every day in the week, he sings, I goes to Midtown Drugs,/ and get me a bottle of snuff, and a bottle of Alcorub. During prohibition, the poorest southern alcoholics, who couldnt even afford the price of a jug of country liquor, would try to stave off the comedown by sniffing rubbing alcohol or drinking camping fuel, known as canned heat. Crying, canned heat, mama, sings Tommy Johnson, sure, Lord killing me.

I stumbled around in a muddy graveyard as rain hammered down, looking for one of the three reputed graves of Robert Johnson. I stood outside the ruins of Bryants grocery, where in 1955 14-year-old Emmett Till was accused of reckless eyeballing and whistling at the owners wife. I climbed in and out of ruined shops on Jacksons Farish Street, once known as the black Mecca. I looked for railway junctions. At one time there were more than 100 lines serving the delta. Almost all have gone, except in the lyrics of the blues. The composer and bandleader WC Handy was asleep on a train in 1903, when in the depot at Tutwiler, just south of Clarksdale, he heard a ragged musician sing about going where the Southern cross the Dog. I found that spot, at Moorhead, the junction of the Southern Railroad and the Yazoo and Delta line, known because of its initials as the Yellow Dog. There are still rails, but no trains will ever run on them again.

Rounders such as Johnson would hop freights if they had no money for a regular ticket. I got to keep moving, he sings, blues falling down like hail./ And the days keeps on worrying me, theres a hellhound on my trail. The most famous train in the blues is the Midnight Special, implored by hundreds of singers over the years to shine her ever-loving light on me. Its a Texas train, the Southern Pacific Golden Gate Limited, which passed Sugar Land prison outside Houston, bringing dreams of freedom and redemption.

Lead Belly singing Midnight Special

But in the delta there was another known by the same name. Every fifth Saturday, at midnight, the Midnight Special left Jackson on the Yellow Dog line, arriving at dawn at Parchman Farm, the notorious state prison. Judge give me life this morning, down on Parchman Farm./ I wouldnt hate it so bad, but I left my wife and home, sings Bukka White. The Parchman Midnight Special shone a light on the men incarcerated there, because it brought wives and lovers on conjugal visits, as well as prostitutes who would be smuggled in for guards or trustees. And it always held out the tantalising possibility of freedom, the arrival of the woman with the umbrella and the pardon in her hand, who appears in various versions of Midnight Special saying, Warden, give me my man.

There are recordings from inside the prison, made by John and Alan Lomax. In 1948, a group of prisoners led by a caller known as 22 sang one of the many prison works songs dedicated to Rosie: Aint but one thing I done wrong, they sang, stay in Mississippi a day too long. That line ran round my head as I sat in my rental car outside the main gate. Flat farmland stretched away in all directions. Cars came and went, entering what is now the Mississippi State Penitentiary. If Id learned one thing about the blues by driving around Mississippi in the rain, it was that you have to listen to messages like that. I turned the key in the ignition and headed down the road, in the direction of Louisiana.

Hari Kunzrus new novel, White Tears, is published on 6 April by Hamish Hamilton at 14.99.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/24/the-blues-authenticity-mississippi-road-trip-hari-kunzru-music


Eric Trump says he will keep father updated on business despite ‘pact’

Middle son says he is deadly serious about fathers separation from business before saying president will get updates probably quarterly

Eric Trump has said he will give his father quarterly updates on the familys businesses which the president has refused to divest from in spite of the sons promises to separate the private companies from their fathers public office.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Donald Trumps middle son at first said the family honored kind of a steadfast pact we made not to mix business interests with public ones.

There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise, he said. I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us.

But he went on to say that he would keep the president abreast of the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, thats about it.

He said those reports would be probably quarterly.

My father and I are very close, he added. I talk to him a lot. Were pretty inseparable.

Since their father handed day-to-day management of the Trump Organization to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr, the family has insisted they do not discuss the business with president. Ethics attorneys of both parties and the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics have called the arrangement a failure to prevent potential conflicts of interest for instance, Trump hotels selling rooms to foreign diplomats.

Eric Trumps statement alarmed ethics experts, including Lisa Gilbert, a director at the not-for-profit watchdog Public Citizen. It confirms our worst assumptions about the lack of separation between his business and current office, she said. Theres no way to reconcile quarterly updates from your son.

Gilbert said there were signs that the Trump family was already profiting from the presidency, including increased business at his golf clubs. His south Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, doubled its entrance fee to $200,000 in January, and in February the first lady, Melania Trump, filed court documents arguing that the White House was an opportunity to develop multimillion-dollar business relationships.

Its not a single thing, Gilbert said. Their businesses are doing better because there is more cachet around them.

The watchdog released a report this week analyzing the first two months of the Trump presidency. It concluded that Trump had broken several promises to isolate himself from the business, that his White House was clouded by corruption and conflicts, and that he had surrounded himself with the same major donors and Wall Street executives he claimed he would fight if elected.

A Washington DC wine bar sued Trump and his new hotel this month, alleging that his ownership provides an illegal competitive advantage. The president still holds direct ties to his businesses, DC liquor board documents show, as the sole beneficiary of a revocable trust.

The White House and Department of Homeland Security have declined to answer questions about whether taxpayer dollars have profited the Trump family, for instance through Secret Service rental payments to Trump properties.

Eric Trump and his father the president are doing what we thought they would do all along, said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics attorney for George W Bush. This of course makes no difference for conflict of interest purposes because it is his ownership of the businesses that creates conflicts of interest, regardless of who manages them.

Painter added that Trumps remarks show that the businesses is an important concern for the president.

Gilbert compared the arrangement to other possible conflicts in the White House. Trump has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser, despite anti-nepotism laws, and the presidents daughter, Ivanka, has acquired a security clearance and an office in the White House, although she has no official role. In November, Trump denied that he had sought security clearances for his children.

We dont really have a mechanism to enforce the ethics rules, Gilbert said. Its left us without a lot of ground to stand on.

Like the president, Kushner and his wife have said they will separate themselves from their family businesses, but have only done so partially, if at all. Kushner retains parts of his billionaire familys real estate empire, White House documents show, and Ivanka Trump has so far failed to resign, as promised, from the family business, according to documents acquired by ProPublica.

Possible conflicts have already arisen for both of the presidents family confidantes: Kushners family is negotiating a $400m deal with a Chinese firm connected to Beijings leadership, and one of Ivanka Trumps brands was promoted, in violation of ethics rules, on national television by another of the presidents advisers.

In Dallas this month, Donald Jr told Republican fundraisers that he had basically zero contact with his father. His brother, similarly, told Forbes that he tries to minimize fluff calls that you might otherwise have because I understand that time is a resource.

But he also echoed an earlier boast about the family brand being the hottest it has ever been.

Were doing great in all of our assets, he said, before arguing that being the family in the White House also entailed great sacrifices for the business, especially when you limit an international business to only domestic properties, when you put hundreds of millions of dollars of cash into a campaign, when you run with very, very tight and strict rules and the things that we do every single day in terms of compliance.

I dont know, he concluded. You could look at it either way.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/24/eric-trump-business-conflicts-of-interest


Will Trump be impeached or is it just a liberal fantasy?

Only two presidents in history have been impeached, but murmurs continue to surround Trump. Heres how the process would work if it would at all

On 21 July 2007, George W Bush underwent surgery to have five polyps removed after what was described as a routine colonoscopy. The date may have been lost to history, but for the rare invocation at the time of a constitutional amendment laying out how the transfer of power to the vice-president works in cases of presidential disability.

For 125 minutes as long as it took for Bush to enter and emerge from partial anesthesia, eat breakfast and display possession of his native wit Dick Cheney held all the powers attached to the office of the presidency. (Some wags have suggested that Cheney wielded that authority, unofficially, over a much longer time span.)

Even before the FBI director announced on Monday that the bureau is investigating possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 presidential election, the precise rules for how the powers of the presidency might be transferred or simply rescinded in case of criminality or emergency had become the subject of newfound and intense focus in the United States.

Whispers about impeachment, the most familiar constitutional procedure for removing a president, began to circulate even before Trump had taken the oath of office. But two months into Trumps presidency, those whispers and the search for any other possible emergency exit have grown into an open conversation that has moved well beyond the realm of a Democratic party daydream. Get ready for impeachment, an influential, 13-term Democratic congresswoman tweeted after the bombshell FBI announcement.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/donald-trump-president-impeached-liberals-history-process


Get outta town: startup offers workers $10,000 if they ‘delocate’ from Silicon Valley

Offer from Zapier comes as high-paid tech workers in Bay Area have complained about the cost of living in a region that suffers from a major housing shortage

A Silicon Valley startup is paying employees $10,000 to leave Silicon Valley.

Zapier, an automation company founded in 2011, has announced that it is offering new recruits a hefty de-location package if theyre willing to move away from the Bay Area, an unusual perk that offers yet another sign of the worsening housing crisis in northern California.

Zapier, where all employees work remotely, recently announced that if current Bay Area residents were interested in improving their familys standard of living by relocating, the firm would provide $10,000 in moving reimbursements. Since CEO Wade Foster posted about the package last week, the uptick in applicants has been dramatic, he said in an interview.

A lot of folks just have a difficult time making the Bay Area a long-term home, he said, noting that the firm heard from roughly 150 job applicants over the weekend, including 50 who specifically mentioned the de-location offer. Housing is really challenging.

The offer from Zapier comes as high-paid tech workers in San Francisco and Silicon Valley have increasingly complained about the high cost of living in a region that suffers from a major housing shortage. Tech workers earning between $100,000 and $700,000 recently spoke to the Guardian about their real estate struggles, and one study suggested that for some engineers, more than 50% of their salary goes to rent.

By many measures, San Francisco has the priciest real estate in the country.

The housing crisis has had devastating impacts on low-income neighborhoods, particularly communities of color, as the growth of companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Twitter have helped spur mass evictions, homelessness and displacement.

Wade
Wade Foster, Zapiers CEO: A lot of folks just have a difficult time making the Bay Area a long-term home. Photograph: Zapier

But middle-class and wealthier tech workers have also spoken up about their difficulties buying homes and raising families near their jobs, leading to articles about the next Silicon Valley emerging in regions across the US, including Texas, the Pacific northwest and the Midwest.

Foster said he wanted to take advantage of tech workers desire to leave the Bay Area by offering a competitive package to those on the fence about staying in the region.

The Bay Area is a great place to live. Its fun to be here, said Foster, 30, who lives with his wife in Sunnyvale, a city located near the Facebook and Google campuses. At the end of the day, if you cant make the money side of it work, folks seem to be looking elsewhere.

Foster said he got the idea after two recent hires decided to move out of the Bay Area to Florida and Pennsylvania to be closer to their families. Weve basically just flipped relocation assistance on its head.

The $10,000 offer from Zapier a platform that connects apps to automate tasks and now employs 85 people bucks a number of trends in Silicon Valley hiring.

Facebook faced criticisms for accelerating gentrification and worsening the housing crunch when it offered employees $10,000 to leave near its Menlo Park campus. In 2013, Yahoo made headlines when it banned employees from working at home, arguing that communication in an office setting was critical.

Foster said he has long embraced remote working and that more startups should consider the model given how many talented workers want to move away from the epicenter of the industry.

Weve seen the technology advance to a state where people can legitimately work anywhere in the world, he said, noting that his staff is global, with clusters of employees in Austin, Portland and the Bay Area.

Foster said he enjoys living in Silicon Valley, but he doesnt know how long hell stay either. As we start to think about a family ourselves, its a decision were weighing.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/zapier-pay-employees-move-silicon-valley-startup


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