New EPA head Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal close ties with fossil fuel interests

Documents suggest former Oklahoma AG followed lobby groups guidance on challenging environmental regulations, and put letterhead to oil firm complaints more than once

The close relationship between Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and fossil fuel interests including the billionaire Koch brothers has been highlighted in more than 7,500 emails and other records released by the Oklahoma attorney generals office on Wednesday.

The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one firm, Devon Energy. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once.

The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitts office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. AFPM encouraged Oklahoma to challenge the rules, noting: This argument is more credible coming from a state. Later that year, Pruitt did file opposition to both of these regulations.

The letters also show the cosy relationship between Pruitt and the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), the influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses, and other lobby groups sponsored by the Koch brothers, the billionaire energy investors who have spent decades fighting against environmental regulation.

Alec has consistently challenged the science on climate change and fought against tougher environmental regulation. Companies including Google, Ford and Enterprise Rent-a-Car have quit Alec in protest of its climate change activities.

The emails contain correspondence between Pruitts executive assistant and Amy Anderson, Alec director and Oklahoma membership contact, about Pruitts appearance at a May 2013 Alec board meeting in Oklahoma City.

That meeting attracted more protesters than attendees, with 600 firefighters, teachers, environmentalists and church leaders carrying signs reading ALEC is Not OK and chanting: Backroom deals are Alecs game / Sweetheart deals for corporate gain.

Pruitt addressed a workshop entitled Embracing American Energy Opportunities: From Wellheads to Pipelines.

The emails state that Pruitt spoke on state primacy in oil and gas regulation and the EPAs sue & settle modus operandi. The lunch meeting was sponsored by Koch Industries, a major Alec sponsor.

Pruitt was congratulated for his work on pushing back against the EPA by another Koch-backed pressure group.

Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obamas EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states, said one email sent to Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman in August 2013 by Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit group also funded in part by the Kochs. You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty! the note said.

Last week, an Oklahoma judge ordered that emails from a January 2015 open records request be released by Tuesday. A further batch of emails is due to be turned over next week. The Center for Media and Democracy, which has made nine separate open records requests for Pruitts emails, said it will attempt to obtain all of the sought-after communications without exceptions.

Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator on Friday. Democrats had sought to delay the Senate vote until the emails were released but were unsuccessful.

The emails show a very cosy relationship between Pruitts office and particularly Devon Energy, as well as other coal, oil and gas companies, said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Pruitt is the worlds top environmental regulator now and these emails raise serious conflict of interest concerns. He has very close ties to fossil fuel firms and has shown himself to be generally opposed to the rules the EPA has to protect the environment.

Pruitts appointment as EPA chief has been vigorously opposed by environmental groups, Democrats and even some EPA staff as antithetical to the agencys mission. More than 700 former EPA employees wrote to senators to urge them to vote against Pruitt, while some current staff in Chicago took part in protests against him. This effort did little to budge the mathematics of the Senate, with only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voting against Pruitt.

Following the confirmation, the EPA put out a press release listing those that cheer Pruitts appointment. They include Republican representatives and lobbyists for mining, farming and grazing, who were quoted in the EPAs own release calling the agency rogue and one of the most vilified agencies in the swamp of overreaching government.

The former Oklahoma attorney general, a Republican, has described himself as a leading advocate against the EPAs activist agenda and sued the regulator 14 times over pollution regulations relating to mercury, smog, methane and sulfur dioxide. Fossil fuel companies or lobbyists, a frequent source of Pruitts past donations, joined with him in 13 of these cases against the EPA.

A staunch opponent of what he sees as federal overreach, Pruitt said following his appointment that citizens dont trust the EPA is honest with its scientific work, particularly around climate change. Pruitt has said he accepts the planet is warming but has questioned the degree of human influence over this, despite the volumes of scientific literature on the impact of greenhouse gases.

In his first speech at EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Pruitt praised career employees and promised to listen, learn and lead. He said regulators such as the EPA ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.

He added: I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and -jobs, and pro-environment. We dont have to choose between the two.

John OGrady, an EPA environmental scientist and head of a union that represents 9,000 agency staff, said that Pruitt came across very professionally and conciliatory, he didnt come out heavy handed.

But OGrady said that many staff are nervously waiting for the administrations agenda to unfold, with Donald Trump expected to sign executive orders that aim to do away with the EPAs effort to reduce greenhouse gases and regulate Americas expanse of waterways.

Mr Pruitt isnt a proponent of addressing climate change or of a strong EPA, so it wont surprise me when they start to whittle away at what we do as an agency, OGrady told the Guardian. Im wondering when the hammer is going to fall.

  • Readers: help us search the cache of Scott Pruitts emails. Follow this link and scroll down to find nine documents containing the emails. Each document is searchable using keywords. If you spot something interesting, email

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

3D-Printed Sculptures Bloom Under A Strobe Light

John Edmark can transform a static sculpture into dynamic animation. The “bloom’s” animation effect is achieved by progressive rotations of the golden ratio, phi (ϕ), the same ratio which nature uses to create the spiral patterns in sunflowers. “The rotational speed and strobe rate of the bloom are synchronized so that one flash occurs every time the bloom turns 137.5º (the angular version of phi),” Edmark explains. He calls his work a celebration of patterns underlying space and growth. “I employ precise mathematics in the design and fabrication of my work. I do this neither out of a desire to exhibit precision per se, nor to exalt the latest technology, but because the questions I’m trying to formulate and answer about spatial relationships can only be addressed with geometrically exacting constructions.”

3D-Printed Sculptures ‘Bloom’ Under A Strobe Light

John Edmark can transform a static sculpture into dynamic animation. The “bloom’s” animation effect is achieved by progressive rotations of the golden ratio, phi (ϕ), the same ratio which nature uses to create the spiral patterns in sunflowers. “The rotational speed and strobe rate of the bloom are synchronized so that one flash occurs every time the bloom turns 137.5º (the angular version of phi),” Edmark explains. He calls his work a celebration of patterns underlying space and growth. “I employ precise mathematics in the design and fabrication of my work. I do this neither out of a desire to exhibit precision per se, nor to exalt the latest technology, but because the questions I’m trying to formulate and answer about spatial relationships can only be addressed with geometrically exacting constructions.”

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

The Map Of Mathematics

If you want to up your nerd-level, just watch this video by Dominic Walliman about the different fields of math. But beware: Over 350,000 people already have seen this and might be a lot smarter by now. Try to keep up!

“The entire field of mathematics summarised in a single map! This shows how pure mathematics and applied mathematics relate to each other and all of the sub-topics they are made from.”

via: sploid

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Ebola Study Shows How ‘Superspreaders’ Can Prolong An Outbreak

Disease superspreaders may have played a major role in the spread of the Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, according to a new statistical analysis published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An estimated 3 percent of people infected with the virus, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding, managed to amplify the diseases spread, passing it to 61 percent of the population in a study that focused on the region of Sierra Leones capital, Freetown.

These superspreaders tended to be either younger than 15 or older than 45, though the researchers didnt study why age might explain a difference in the spread of the virus.

Learning more about how to identify the characteristics of superspreaders, as well as superspreading events like funeral and burials, is a vital part of virus research and could help scientists mute the effect of the next infectious disease outbreak, said study co-author Benjamin Dalziel, an assistant professor of Integrative Biology and Mathematics at Oregon State University.

Evidence suggests that at the beginning of an emerging epidemic like Ebola, its worth asking the question,Where are the superspreading contexts likely to be for this epidemic, and can we identify them? Dalziel said. And if you ask that question early, we [could] put ourselves in the best position to target interventions toward the superspreaders.

Superspreaders were crucial in prolonging the outbreak

To see how superspreaders fueled the Ebola outbreak, Dalziel analyzed Red Cross data on the Ebola deaths of 200 people near Freetown. These deaths occurred in the community, an understudied population compared with deaths that happened in clinics, and the data included location, time of symptom onset, date of burial, age and sex.

Using mathematical models, Dalziel and co-author, Max Lau of Princeton University tried to create a web of transmission that helped them visualize who acquired the infection from whom.

They found that 3 percent of their population sample had spread the disease to about 61 percent of the rest of the people in the study. They also found that superspreading occurred later on in the epidemic, about 100 days after the outbreaks peak, suggesting that superspreaders were crucial to prolonging the epidemics growth and duration.

Had the superspreaders been identified and quarantined early, Dalziel and Lau write in the study, up to 61 percent of the analyzed fatal infections could have been prevented.

Its unclear how these results are representative of other regions in the country, or in Liberia and Guinea, which were also hit hard by the epidemic. But Dalziel guessed that, if given the data, he would find that superspreaders also played a similar role in other parts of West Africa.

Superspreading is probably a social, not biological, phenomenon

Dr. Christopher Gill, an associate professor of international health at Boston Universitys Center for Global Health and Development, wasnt involved in the study but said it shed light on an important aspect of the Ebola outbreak.

[Ebola virus] is an interesting example because it is not particularly infectious as infectious diseases go, he said. But clearly Ebola did propogate, and thats because a small number (3 percent) were responsibly for a very large number of transmissions.

Based on the most recent outbreak, Ebola is thought to have a basic reproductive rate of 2.4, which means that an infected person will, on average, pass the disease on to 2.4 people (measles, on the other hand, has a reproductive rate between 12 to 18, probably because it can spread through the air).

However, Ebolas reproductive rate is only an average, and it obscures the very different rates of secondary infection that most Ebola patients had, Gill explained. For instance, Dalziel found that most of the people who got Ebola went on to give the disease to an average of less than one person, which means the epidemic should have died out on its own quickly. But a very small number of Ebola patients were responsible for a large number of transmissions, driving the average up.

Gill was able to make some educated guesses about the superspreaders based on age:One possible explanation could be that the young and the old may experience the virus in a way that makes them more contagious to others or prolongs their infectious period. But because the immune systems of children and older adults are quite different from each other, Gill suspects that the reasons may be social, not biological.

Children are fussed over when sick, and often seen by many people who worry about them, bring them food, hold them, soothe them, caress them and maybe even kiss them lovingly, he said. Similarly, those older than 45 are parents or grandparents, and they too get fussed over and loved and attended to, allowing for lots of infectious exposure to the loving family members.

Young adults, on the other hand, may be living independently or dont have wide social networks to care for them when they are sick.

No matter how one parses the data, the implications should bring a tear to your eye, Gill concluded. It is just heartbreaking to think of it this way.

How superspreading has affected past outbreaks

Scientists have identified superspreaders in other recent outbreaks, like MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

For instance, scientists suspect that superspreaders were responsible for about 71 percent and 75 percent of SARS infections in Hong Kong and Singapore, respectively, during the the 2002-2003 outbreak in Asia. These superspreaders were either people with a lot of close social contacts, who passed the infection on to eight or more people, or people who went to multiple hospitals seeking help.

Scientists analyzing the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea also found that five people were responsible for causing 83 percent of the cases in the outbreak. This was mostly due to the hundreds of people they came into contact with when they were treated at the hospital, highlighting the importance of infectious disease control at medical centers.

While some obvious changes can be made at an institutional level, like installing infectious disease wards and training medical staff on infectious disease protocol, scientists still have a long way to go when it comes to identifying superspreaders in the community before they infect many people, said Dalziel.

Were not at the point of being able to identify, a priori, what the superspreading contexts are going to be, but we can at least ask the question at the beginning of an epidemic and make that our goal, he concluded.

This reporting is brought to you by HuffPosts health and science platform, The Scope. Like us onFacebookandTwitterand tell us your

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Cassie” Is Set To Revolutionize The Way Robots Walk

Robots can prevent heart failures, diagnosis cancers, and evenbeat a website’sI Am Not A Robottest. But on the whole, they really do suck at walking.

Hopefully, Cassie willbe able to change that. Looking like a mix between a chicken and an AT-ST Walker from Star Wars, this bipedal machine was developed by Agility Robotics, a robotics startup born out of Oregon State University.

Cassie was createdwith a 16-month, $1 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Building on the work of Oregon States ATRIAS robot, this sleeker design is able to walk over uneven surfaces, cope with different elevations, and even deal with a kick from a human (see video below).

Rather interestingly, Cassie wasnt explicitly designed to look like an ostrich fromthe get-go. Instead, its simply the way their mathematics dictated the most stable and agile two-legged moving structure.

“We werent trying to duplicate the appearance of an animal, just the techniques it uses to be agile, efficient and robust in its movement, Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor of robotics in the OSU College of Engineering, said in astatement.

Revolutionizing robot mobility in this way could open the door for a limitless number of applications by allowing robots to go anywhere people can go. This could mean anything from delivering parcels, walking the dog, exploring dangerous territories, or even fighting wars.

Quite simply, robots with legs can go a lot of places that wheels cannot. This will be the key to deliveries that can be made 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by a fleet of autonomous vans that pull up to your curb, and an onboard robot that delivers to your doorstep, Hurst added.This technology will simply explode at some point, when we create vehicles so automated and robots so efficient that deliveries and shipments are almost free.

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , ,

This Light Painting, Double Pendulum Elegantly Demonstrates Chaotic Movement

Pendulus” is a double pendulum built by Devin Montes that visualizes the unpredictable patterns of chaotic movement in real-time, using an LED light and glow-in-the-dark paint.

For more cool projects, check out Devin’s YouTube channel, Make Anything // 3D Printing Channel

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

U.S. Public Schools Are Not Failing. Theyre Among The Best In The World

Everyone knows U.S. public schools are failing.

Just like everyone knows you should never wake sleepwalkers, bulls hate red and Napoleon was short.

Wrong on all counts. Waking sleepwalkers will cause them no harm in fact, theyre more likely to harm themselves while sleepwalking. Bulls are colorblind; theyre attracted to movement. And Napoleon was 57, which was above average height for Frenchman during his lifetime.

So why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?

Because far-right policymakers have convinced us all that its true.

Its not.

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms Americas public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!

We have made a commitment to every single child regardless of what their parents can afford to pay, regardless of their access to transportation, regardless of whether they can afford uniforms, lunch or even if they have a home. Heck! We even provide education to children who are here illegally.

That cant be said of many countries with which were often compared especially countries comparable to the U.S. in size or diversity. So from the get-go, we have an advantage over most of the world.

We define education differently. Though our laws are woefully backward, in practice we look at it as a right, not a privilege. And for a full 13 years (counting kindergarten) its a right for every child, not just some.

But thats not all! We also provide some of the highest quality education you can get in the world! We teach more, help more, achieve more and yet we are criticized more than any system in any country in the world.


Critics argue that our scores on international tests dont justify such a claim. But theyre wrong before you even look at the numbers. Theyre comparing apples to pears. You simply cant compare the United States to countries that leave hundreds of thousands of rural and poor children without any education whatsoever. The Bates Motel may have the softest pillows in town, but its immediately disqualified because of the high chance of being murdered in the shower.

No school system of this size anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us one of the best.

It doesnt mean our system is problem free. There are plenty of ways we could improve. Were still incredibly segregated by race and class. Our funding formulas are often regressive and inadequate. Schools serving mostly poor students dont have nearly the resources of those serving rich students. But at least at the very outset what were trying to do is better than what most of the world takes on. You cant achieve equity if it isnt even on the menu.

However, for some people, this will not be enough. Theyll say that despite our high ideals, the quality of what we actually provide our students is low. After all, those international test scores are so low.

First point: it depends on the scores youre looking at. American elementary and middle school students have improved on theTrends in International Mathematics and Science Study every four years since the tests began in 1995. They are above the international average in all categories and within a few percentage points of the global leaders (something rarely mentioned on the nightly news).

Even on the PISA test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to 15-year-olds in about 60 countries, US children are far from the bottom of the scale. Were somewhere in the middle. Weve always been in the middle for all the decades since theyve been making these comparisons. Our schools have not gotten worse. They have stayed the same.


To some this just demonstrates that our schools have always been mediocre. But again youre overlooking the consequences of our ideals.

The broader the spectrum of children who take a test, the lower the average score will be. In other words, if only your top students take the test, your average score will be very high. If only your top and middle students take the test, your average score will still be quite high. But if ALL of your students take the test, your average score will be lower.

Now add in poverty. Living in poverty reduces your access to health care, books, early childhood education and many other factors that increase learning throughout your life. Children from poor families are already more than a year behind those of rich parents on the first day of kindergarten. If you only test the wealthiest students, the average test score will probably be quite high. The average score will drop dramatically if you test all of your students.

Thats why many of these countries where the poorest children do not have access to education have higher test scores than the United States. Youre not comparing equals. The United States has the highest child poverty rate in the Western World. And we dont hide them away. We include them on our tests. That has a major impact on our scores. But talking heads on TV almost always ignore it. They pretend it doesnt exist. Its the only way they can use these test scores to prove to a gullible audience that Americas schools are failing.

But if you fairly compare education systems and factor in the equal access we provide for all children to an education, our system comes out way on top. We have one of the best systems in the world.

But wait! Theres more!


Not only does the United States serve all children regardless of academic achievement or poverty. We also serve far more students with disabilities.

Why are there so many special education children in the USA? Because we have a higher standard of living.

A standard pregnancy lasts about 280 days or 40 weeks. However, some mothers give birth to children after only 28 weeks. Two decades ago, these babies would not have survived. Today, they often do. Five years later that child will enter kindergarten and our school system will be responsible for teaching that student to read, write and learn math. In other countries, premature babies have a much lower chance of survival. They dont survive to become the special education population. So things as diverse as the live-birth rate actually affect average test scores.

Another counterintuitive factor is the suicide rate. In many countries where pressure to perform at the highest levels on standardized tests is extreme, many children are actually driven to suicide. This is especially true in numerous Asian countries with a record of high scores on these international tests. So a higher suicide rate actually increases test scores.

Would you say this makes other countries superior to the United States? Heck no! In fact, just the opposite. I certainly wouldnt wish more underperforming U.S. students were ending their lives so we could do better on international tests. Nor would I wish that more premature babies died to improve our international standing.

We have developed a special education system to help children at the edges that many other countries just cant touch. In some countries these students are simply excluded. In others they are institutionalized. In some countries its up to parents to find ways to pay for special services. The United States is one of the only countries where these children are not only included and offered full and free access, but the schools go above and beyond to teach these children well beyond their 12th academic year.

In every public school in the United States these students are included. In math, reading, science and social studies, they are there benefiting from instruction with the rest of the class. And this, in turn, benefits even our non-special education students who gain lessons in empathy and experience the full range of human abilities.

Of course, most of our special education students are also included in our test scores. Yes, other countries that ignore these children and exclude them from testing get higher scores. But so what? Do you mean to tell me this makes them better? No, it makes them worse.

In many ways, we are the gold standard, not them. They should be emulating us, not the other way around. They should be jealous of the way we prize each others humanity. We shouldnt be salivating at test scores achieved through shunning certain students in favor of others.


But its not just who we teach, its also what we teach.

Compared to many other countries, U.S. school curriculum is often much wider and varied. Countries that focus only on testing often leave out sciences, arts, literature and humanities.

Unfortunately, the push from policymakers even in the U.S. has been to narrow curriculum to imitate some of the worst practices of our competitors. But in many districts we still strive to create well-rounded graduates and not just good test-takers.

The bottom line: the curriculum at most American schools is more inclusive than that found internationally. We even include societal issues like alcohol and drug abuse prevention, stress reduction and relaxation, and physical fitness programs.

In addition we dont stratify our children based on academic ability to nearly the same degree as many international schools. We dont weed out our worst students through middle and high school until only our most capable are left in 12th grade. Nor is college only open to our best and brightest. We make a much greater effort than many other countries to keep this option open to as many students as possible regardless of whether they can afford it or not. The number of Americans with at least some college educationhas soared over the past 70 years, from 10 percent in 1940 to 56 percent today, even as the population has tripled and the nation has grown vastly more diverse. Meanwhile, Graduation rates are at an all-time high of 83.2 percent, and for the first time minority students are catching up with their white counterparts.

Its not easy. But its something were committed to as a nation. And thats not true around the world.


Finally, theres the issue of size. The United States is a big country the third most populous in the world. We have 324,450,000 people and growing. Thats about 50 million students in public schools.

Its much easier to educate less children. Even excellent education systems would struggle with our sheer numbers. Small systems often outshine bigger ones. For instance, I might be able to make dinner for my immediate family, but Id find it much more challenging to prepare a meal for a banquet hall of hundreds. Similarly, it remains to be seen whether smaller nations could handle educating a population as big and diverse as ours without collapsing.

By any fair measure, Americas public education system is simply stunning. But the media perpetuates the myth that were failing.


After decades of hearing these falsehoods, the American public is strikingly divided. On a 2011 Gallup poll, parents were asked their opinion of their local school and the public was asked its opinion of schools in general. The results are enlightening. Parents who gave their local school an A grade were at the highest percentage ever (37%) whereas only 1% of respondents rated the nations schools that way. Why the difference? Respondents said it was mostly because people knew about their local schools through direct experience. They only learned about the state of education nationally through the news media.

Why is education reporting so biased? Part of it is monetary. Huge corporations make hundreds of millions of dollars off of the failing schools narrative. They sell new standardized tests, new test prep materials, new Common Core books, trainings for teachers, materials, etc. If they cant demonstrate that our schools are failing, their market shrinks. And who do you think owns the shrinking media conglomerates? Thats right, many of these same corporations.

But even when journalists want to be fair, its difficult for them to get the inside story of how our public schools work. They are rarely permitted inside our schools to see the day-to-day classroom experience. Legal issues about which students may be photographed, filmed or interviewed, the difficulty of getting parental permissions and the possibility of embarrassment to principals and administrators often keeps the doors closed. In many districts, teachers arent even allowed to speak on the record to the media or doing so can make them a political target. So reporters are often in the position of being unable to directly experience the very thing theyre reporting on. Imagine if sportswriters never got to see athletes play or political reporters never attended a campaign rally. Of course there would be a disconnect!

So were left with a public education system that should be the envy of the world being portrayed as a loser.


As ever, far-right politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether they be Democratic Neoliberals or Republican Tea Partiers, are using falsehoods about our public schools to sell an alternative. They say our public schools are beyond saving and that we need to privatize. They call it school choice but its really just an attempt to destroy the system that has so much going for it.

We should strengthen public education not undermine it. We should roll up our sleeves and fix the real problems we have, not invent fake ones.

People act as if alternative facts were invented by the Trump administration. Our policymakers have been using them for decades in a libelous and dishonest campaign against our public schools.

They are some of the best in the world if only people knew it.


This article originally appeared on my Website, Gadfly on the Wall Blog.

Read more:

Technorati Tags: , , ,