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How The Federal Budget Process Works - Journalist's Resource

"The annual United States government budget, which these days runs over $4 trillion, takes 17 months to draft, 12 subcommittees to review and is covered in countless fingerprints.

Journalists may be thankful that the process happens only once a year. But it is not inscrutable. And because the budget governs all federal spending, it’s a constant story.

In this overview, we describe the different players and the data sources available to journalists and curious citizens alike. We also look at how Washington can punish state and local municipalities that don’t abide by controversial directives."

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EXXON: Don't Quit Paris Climate Deal


      Exxon to Trump: Don't ditch

      Paris climate change deal

      ExxonMobil doesn't want President Trump to abandon the global climate agreement reached in Paris.

      By Matt Egan

      CNN Money


      America's biggest oil company told the White House it believes the Paris agreement is an "effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change" and the U.S. should remain a party to it.

      Exxon (XOM) said the country is "well positioned to compete" under the terms of the Paris deal, which was reached in late 2015 with the goal of slowing global warming. President Obama hailed the agreement as "the moment that we finally decided to save our planet."

      The Exxon letter was sent to the White House on March 22, just days before Trump took a massive swipe at environmental regulations implemented under Obama. The administration had asked Exxon for its views on the Paris accord.

      Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to undo the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to slash carbon emissions by coal plans and other power utilities.

      Before taking office, Trump called climate change a "hoax" and blasted the Paris COP21 agreement as a "bad deal" for the U.S.

      However, after winning the election Trump told The New York Times he has an "open mind" about the Paris agreement and said he believes clean air and "crystal clear water" are important.

      Exxon has a complex and controversial history with climate change.

      The energy giant is being investigated for allegedly misleading the public and shareholders about what it knew about the dangers of climate change.

      But in 2007 Exxon admitted publicly that climate change poses risks and said it's responsible to begin working on ways to reduce emissions.

      Exxon has also been a consistent public supporter of the Paris agreement.

      "We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015, and again when it came into force in November 2016. We have reiterated our support on several occasions," Peter Trelenberg, Exxon's environmental policy and planning manager, wrote to the White House.

      Last month Exxon CEO Darren Woods, who replaced Rex Tillerson when he left to become Trump's secretary of state, wrote a blog post saying the company is "encouraged" that the Paris agreement creates a framework for "all countries" to address rising emissions.

      Exxon noted in its letter to the White House that unlike the Kyoto Agreement, the Paris deal is the first major international accord to feature pledges from developed nations like the U.S. and developing ones like China. Exxon pointed out that China is the world's leading greenhouse gas emitted and India is likely to pass the U.S. as No. 2 before mid-century.

      Even though Trump is a climate change skeptic, his secretary of state and leading emissary on climate issues, does not appear to be one.

      During his confirmation hearing in January, Tillerson said he came to the conclusion years ago that "the risk of climate change does exist and the consequences could be serious enough that action should be taken."

      But Tillerson ducked allegations that Exxon misled the public on climate change. He refused to answer repeated questions during the hearing about whether the company ignored internal research going back to the 1970s on the impact of burning fossil fuels.

      Earlier this month it emerged that Tillerson allegedly used the pseudonym "Wayne Tracker" to send emails related to climate change while serving as CEO of Exxon.

      -- CNNMoney's Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.



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      UN Nuclear Talks - Nobody Paying Attention


          The UN’s Nuclear Weapon Talks May Be The Most Important Thing Nobody’s Paying Attention To

          On Monday, a quixotic and necessary conference

          kicked off at the United Nations.

          The United Nations Building - New York City

          By Alexander Zaitchik


          Over protests from the U.S. and other nuclear powers, more than 120 countries began work on a treaty at the United Nations this week with the aim of banishing nuclear weapons from the face and the oceans of the earth.

          In a sign of mounting nuclear anxiety around the globe, the conference timeline is extremely condensed by U.N. standards. As early as July, Conference President Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica hopes to unveil a draft text — a “rapid pace,” she explained, “reflecting the urgency Member States attach to the need to realize progress in nuclear disarmament.”

          The treaty text is expected to be a historic document, a landmark in collective security and international law. As a tool to force the nuclear genie back into the bottle, it is also expected to be roughly as effective as a plate of egg salad sandwiches.

          Everyone in the U.N. conference hall knows this, of course. The treaty is not a naive attempt to compel the immediate disarmament of the nuclear powers. As with other U.N. disarmament efforts, this treaty is about strengthening norms, nudging progress, and keeping the flame lit on the idea that humanity can overcome its historical cycle of mass bloodshed. The limited expectations surrounding the treaty are reflected in the language of even its most ardent supporters. Daryl G. Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, released a statement that sounded like a lukewarm book blurb. A new treaty, he said, “could be a useful and timely contribution... It is a worthy goal.”

          As much as anything, the treaty talks can be seen as a collective diplomatic howl from the nuclear bleachers, over which hangs a Doomsday Clock reading two and a half minutes to midnight. Nuclear dread is cresting at levels not seen since the early 1980s, when senior figures in President Ronald Reagan’s Pentagon spoke in earnest about “winnable” nuclear war that everyone would be able to survive so long as there were “enough shovels to go around.” In an echo of that era, the new U.S. president does not understand the nuclear taboo and shares a patron with a biochemist and sheep rancher who seems to believe gamma rays are essentially a form of Vitamin D.

          As in previous eras of high atomic anxiety, the U.S. and Russia are center stage. This time, however, the nuclear superpowers are grappling cliff-side without the guardrails that provided relative stability for much of the Cold War. Long gone is the cornerstone Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that banned defensive systems and brought a measure of reassurance to both sides. The U.S. is now building an open-ended, layered missile defense system near Russian borders. The system is part of a dangerous and destabilizing quest for nuclear “primacy” — that is, the ability to knock out other nuclear powers with a first strike. Whether U.S. officials describe the system as such is irrelevant. This steady drive toward primacy, combined with NATO expansion, has deepened suspicions and accelerated countermeasures by Moscow, including new missile development and violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

          This mutually reinforcing dynamic is now accelerating. It is feeding insecurity leading to reductions in the size of “decision windows” that were already terrifyingly small. Leaders now have less confidence and less time to respond to data that suggests incoming missiles, which can involve anything from Norwegian weather balloons to sunlit clouds to misplaced software.

          Some combination of machine error and human panic has always been the leading candidate for triggering planetary nuclear holocaust, and that threat has never been greater. Russia currently has no satellite early warning system, relying on short-notice ground radars to provide notice of a surprise attack. The U.S. knows this, yet continues to pursue policies that only stoke Russian fears of just such an attack. That the nuclear controls are now in the hands of a man whose mental health is routinely questioned in public, and whose hot temper is taken for granted, can only heighten the paranoia of adversaries. This, in turn, heightens the odds of a globe-melting overreaction.

          Our own command and control system, meanwhile, is a fraying mess of analog tech run by inexperienced and possibly coked-up junior officers. At the top of the chain is a White House full of Rapture-ready hawks and spite-driven nihilists, led by a man who has wondered aloud “why do we make” nuclear weapons if we’re not going to use them.

          Against this backdrop, the U.N. conference is, if nothing else, a welcome statement of resolve. It’s also an overdue return to an institutional promise made long ago. In its very first sessions, U.N. member states discussed how best to bring nuclear weapons under international control. Those efforts failed; arsenals ballooned; the nuclear club expanded. In 1970, most nuclear powers recommitted to disarmament with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Fifty years after the NPT, the U.N. is once again taking up the threat it was tasked with solving in the year of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

          Just as newsreels of the first bombs haunted the U.N. debate of the 1940s, the 2017 conference opens under the digitally remastered shadow of thermonuclear test footage.

          The films, released by the government this month, are the stuff of a million slow-motion Cold War nightmares: multi-megaton, city-swallowing suns that make Little Boy and Fat Man look like backyard bang snaps. Our nuclear complex is not studying these old test tapes to rekindle the transatlantic disarmament movement. The project is part of a $300 billion nuclear maintenance and modernization program.

          “We need to be able to validate our codes and trust that the answers that are being calculated are correct,” explained Greg Spriggs, the physicist at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory overseeing the film project. “The legacy that I’d like to leave behind is a set of benchmark data that can be used by future weapon physicists.”

          The Livermore release closes with Spriggs stating his preference that “we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again.” But as Albert Einstein quipped the last time the U.N. debated a bomb ban, you cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.

          Preparing for war isn’t all that Spriggs and his Livermore colleagues are doing. It’s more accurate to say they’re preparing for war in ways that make war more likely. The current issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists features a jaw-dropping report by several leading nuclear analysts that details how the U.S. Energy Department’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program has provided cover for enhancing warheads with “super-fuze” detonation technology in a way consistent with building a first-strike capability. The new warheads are most alarming from Moscow’s view, and thus most destabilizing, when fitted onto submarine-based missiles within range of Russia’s land-based silos.

          “This increase in capability is astonishing,” write the authors of the Bulletin report. “It creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

          Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, one of several recent high-profile defectors from the official nuclear consensus, has described current U.S. policy as “sleepwalking into [a] new nuclear arms race... We and the Russians and others don’t understand what we are doing.”

          That may have been true in the 1940s. But in the seven decades since the first U.N. debate on nuclear weapons, we’ve had time to figure some things out. The evidence now suggests a darker conclusion: We know exactly what we’re doing. Or at least some of us do.

          Alexander Zaitchik - Freelance reporter; Author, ‘The Gilded Rage’

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          Melania Trump Highlights Women's Empowerment In Keynote Speech

          Melania Trump highlights women's empowerment in keynote speech

          Washington (CNN)First lady Melania Trump called for women's empowerment and celebration of diversity in rare remarks Wednesday morning at the State Department.

          "As leaders, we must continue to work towards gender empowerment and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities, remembering always that we are all members of one race, the human race. Each one of us is uniquely different," Trump said, honoring 12 women at the 2017 Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Awards.
          The awards honor women across the globe who have overcome injustice -- from domestic violence to environmental disaster to gender bias to acid attacks -- and gone on to transform their societies, often in the face of personal danger.
          "We must continue once again to shine a light on the horrendous atrocities taking place around the corner and around the globe," Trump said. "We must continue to fight injustice in all its forms, in whatever scale or shape it takes in our lives. Together, we must declare that the era of allowing brutality against women and children is over."
          Trump did not mention her husband or his administration during her 10-minute remarks.
          She personally handed out the 12 awards and many recipients got emotional upon being honored.
          "Their lives remind us of the boundless capacity of the human spirit when guided by moral clarity and desire to do good," she said of the honorees, encouraging those in the audience to consider what it would be like to experience the adversity they were each able to overcome.
          "Ask yourself if you would have the fortitude of spirit, the courage of your convictions, and the enormous inner strength required to stand up and fight against such odds," Trump said.
          The first lady shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before boarding Air Force One with her husband on Friday, February 10. The Trumps hosted the Abes at their Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

          First lady Melania Trump speaks during an event honoring International Women of Courage at the State Department on Wednesday, March 29.
          She called for US and international comunities to "remain vigilant against injustice in all its many forms."
          During the campaign, Trump said she would seek to champion combating cyberbullying as first lady. More recently, she has identified women's empowerment as a key platform for her East Wing.
          Her staff is slowly coming together -- on Monday, it was announced that Stephanie Grisham would serve as her communications director, joining chief of staff Lindsay Reynolds and social secretary Anna Cristina "Rickie" Lloyd.
          Trump, who is living in New York with son Barron, 11, was on hand Tuesday evening to host a reception with senators and spouses. She is expected to make her move to Washington at the conclusion of the school year.
          Her next major White House event will be the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn next month.

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          The Analemma Tower would be suspended from space by an asteroid.
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