The coming robot invasion is suddenly a hot topic again. This week, Fresh Air interviewed Martin Ford, whose book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future was just reviewed in the New York Times by Barbara Ehrenreich. The Harvard Business Review published a long article with advice for protecting your career from super-smart robots. And NPR's Planet Money has been producing a series of stories on how machines are getting really good at doing tasks from serving food and writing news articles to reading emotions.
As MoJo's Kevin Drum, who's been following this rapidly emerging trend for while, explains, by 2030 or 2040 we could see a major economic shift in which robots and computers start to make significant chunks of the human workforce obsolete: "When the robot revolution finally starts to happen, it's going to happen fast, and it's going to turn our world upside down."
So just how worried should you be that a bot or app is about to force you into early retirement? Planet Money made a nifty tool that spits out the chances that your job may soon be done by robots or computers. Some selected results:
Telemarketers: 99.0% chance of being automated
Umpires and referees: 98.3%
Manicurists and pedicurists: 94.5%
Massage therapists: 54.1%
Chief executives: 1.5%
Preschool teachers: 0.7%
The numbers, based on a 2013 study by an economist and a machine-learning prof from Oxford, are all over the board. In general, jobs that require negotiation, creativity, and people skills tend to have a lower chance of being done by a robot. So dancers and preschool teachers can sleep easy. As can CEOs, who will no doubt find a way to provide essential oversight of the new 24-7, benefit- and bathroom break-free workforce.
Some of the findings seem to push the bounds of what we're currently willing to let machines do. Robocalling people during dinnertime, sure. But will we really see a robot ump calling the 2040 World Series? In theory, a computer can call a strike more accurately than a person, but what's the fun in shouting "Get your vision algorithm debugged!" at a camera behind home plate?
Only a mindless machine would read these as precise probabilities. "The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong," Planet Money concedes. Now if only there were a machine that was good at analyzing data to make reliable estimates…
Volunteers fill buckets with oil near Refugio State Beach. Michael A. Mariant/AP
On Tuesday, an oil pipeline burst near Refugio State Beach west of Santa Barbara, California, sending an estimated 105,000 gallons of oil onto the beach. Up to a fifth of that oil is believed to have reached the ocean, Reuters reports.
Now, volunteers and private contractors are racing to clean up the oil. About 6,000 gallons have been collected so far, according to the AP. But damage has already been done. At least two pelicans have been found dead, and five more pelicans and one sea lion were sent for rehabilitation. Biologists have also found many dead fish and lobsters. Local officials have closed the beach at least through Memorial Day, and possibly for "many weeks" after that, one scientist at the scene said.
A young female sea lion affected by the Santa Barbara oil spill receives treatment from the SeaWorld California animal rescue team. Rex Features/AP
The company that owned the pipeline, Plains All American, has one of the country's worst environmental safety records. An analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that the company's rate of incidents per mile of pipeline is more than three times the national average. A spokesperson said the company deeply "regrets this release," but it remains unclear what penalties it could face for this latest accident.
It could be years before the full impact is truly understood, since damage to the ecosystem can sometimes take a while to manifest. Five years after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, biologists are still tallying the damage.
Here are some of the latest images coming in from the scene:
Refugio State Beach Santa Barbara News-Press/ZUMA
A small crab covered in oil Troy Harvey/ZUMA
Two whales surfaced near an oil slick off Refugio State Beach. Michael A. Mariant/AP
A dead lobster covered in oil on the shoreline Troy Harvey/ZUMA
Clean-up workers remove a dead octopus from the beach. Mike Eliason/ZUMA
Crews from Patriot Environmental Services collect oil-covered seaweed and sand. Michael A. Mariant/AP
A helicopter coordinates ships below pulling booms to collect oil from the spill. Michael A. Mariant/AP
Clean-up workers monitor the site of the underground oil pipeline break. Michael A. Mariant/AP
For three years, Wisconsin prosecutors have been investigating whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker broke campaign finance laws as he battled a 2012 recall effort sparked by his push for a law that undercut the power of public-sector unions. Prosecutors allege that Walker and his aides illegally coordinated with conservative groups that were raising money and running ads to support Walker and his Republican allies. At least one group at the center of the probe, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, has gone to court to stop the investigation. Its fate now rests with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which will rule any day now on whether the inquiry can proceed.
But there's a rub. Two key targets of the investigation—the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state's leading business group—have spent more than $10 million since 2007 to elect a conservative majority to Wisconsin's top court. Given their involvement in the investigation, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth's position as a party to the case, good-government advocates question whether the four conservative justices elected with the help of these two groups should be presiding over the case.
The Wisconsin Club for Growth and WMC did not make direct contributions to the campaigns for these justices. Instead, they poured millions into so-called independent issue ads that clearly conveyed messages that supported these campaigns. And in an odd twist, due to lax recusal guidelines—which were adopted at the urging of one of these conservative outfits—these justices on the state's high court are not compelled to sit out a case involving these two groups.
The Wisconsin Club for Growth and WMC are top players in a years-long undertaking by Walker and his allies to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that is friendly to conservative policies—an operation that has included spending millions on ads, ending public campaign financing for Supreme Court elections, rewriting the court's ethics guidelines, and amending the state's constitution. This effort has led to one of the most partisan and dysfunctional judicial bodies in the country, a court with liberal and conservative justices who won't appear together in public. And it could well end up benefiting the conservative groups under investigation should the jurists they helped elect rule the probe should stop.
"This large amount of money and special interests has impacted the workings of the court, the reputation of the court, and how it's interacting internally," says former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske, who served on the court from 1993 to 1998.
Harry Moskoff wouldn't immediately strike you as the guy to discover the true location of the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that supposedly once held the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. He was born in Canada, studied jazz at Berklee College of Music, worked in IT, and started a company that specialized in copyright infringement claims when he moved to Tel Aviv 10 years ago. But in his free time, the ordained rabbi has dabbled in biblical archeology, poring over ancient texts and contemporary works, in search of any unturned stone that might help him track down the ark.
"I came up with a theory via Maimonides as to where the ark is located, which I later discussed with rabbis and archeologists in Israel," he told the Times of Israel in 2013. "It was a Jewish Da Vinci Code type project." His grand theory? It's been in Jerusalem all this time, buried underneath the courtyard of the Temple of Solomon. To promote his discovery, in 2013 he made a sci-fi movie called TheA.R.K. Report.
In early 1945, the federal government started to open the internment camps where it had held 120,000 Japanese Americans for much of World War II. Seven decades later, photographer Paul Kitagaki Jr. has been tracking down the internees pictured in wartime images by photographers like Dorothea Lange (who photographed Kitagaki's own family—see below).
So far, he's identified more than 50 survivors, often reshooting them in the locations where they were originally photographed.
Seven-year-olds Helene Nakamoto Mihara (left, in top photo) and Mary Ann Yahiro (center) were photographed by Lange as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance outside their elementary school in San Francisco in 1942. Both were sent to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. Yahiro (right, in bottom photo) was separated from her mother, who died in another camp. "I don't have bitterness like a lot of people might," she told Kitagaki.
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Lange photographed 19-year-old Mitsunobu "Mits" Kojimoto in San Francisco as he waited to be sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California. "We were being kicked out of San Francisco," he recalled to Kitagaki. "It was kind of shocking, because as you grow up you think you are going to have certain rights of life, liberty. And to be sitting there was very disheartening. I was really wishing that somebody would come and save us. We were citizens, but now we were not."
Kojimoto volunteered for the army and received a Bronze Star for his service in France and Italy. "I felt, I'm going to volunteer," he said. "Why not?…We were behind barbed wire, and we should put our best foot forward and volunteer."
Dorothea Lange/UC Berkeley Bancroft Library
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
In one of the best known photographs of Japanese American internment, 70-year-old Sakutaro Aso and his grandsons Shigeo Jerry Aso and Sadao Bill Aso wait to be deported from Hayward, California, in 1942. "When I look at the picture, I can see my grandfather realized that something terrible was happening and his life was never going to be the same again. That was the end of the line for him," Bill Asano told Kitagaki about his grandfather. His brother, Jerry Aso, agrees: "So, [grandfather's] dream of coming to the United States, his dream of making a life, his dream of having his children working in this business, to support them all were totally dashed."
"My parents and my grandparents seldom talked about the internment experience, even though I know that it was a searing memory," said Aso. "And I think because it was so searing, that they didn't want to talk about it. But I think also, also the idea that, if you try to explain the unfairness of the whole situation, the explanation itself kind of falls on deaf ears."
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Below, seven-year-old Mae Yanagi before being sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, where her family spent several months in a horse stall before being shipped to a camp in Utah. The Yanagis left their home and nursery business in Hayward, California, in the care of a businessman. "When we got back, it had been sold," Mae Yanagi Ferral told Kitagaki. "It was there, but somebody else was living there. We didn't talk about it." Her father had to start over as a gardener in Berkeley. "He had the most difficult time with the relocation and he never accepted the premise that they were doing it for our benefit. For many years he was very angry. My father felt the injustice of the interment, and my older siblings really felt the injustice of it. We just didn't say anything about it."
Dorothea Lange/UC Berkeley Bancroft Library
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Harvey Akio Itano was interned in 1942, forcing him to miss his graduation from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded the school's highest academic honor in absentia. In the summer of 1942, he was allowed to leave Tule Lake War Relocation Center to attend medical school. Itano went on to help discover the genetic cause of sickle cell anemia while working with Dr. Linus Pauling at Cal Tech in 1949. He also worked as the medical director of the US Public Health Service and as a pathology professor at University of California, San Diego. In 1979, he became the first Japanese American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He died in 2010.
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
"We should be careful not to incarcerate whole groups of people, as they did," Anna Nakada told Kitagaki. "We need to be very wary of that.” As a girl, Nakada was photographed during a 1945 performance at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. After the war, Nakada became a master of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Internment, she reflected, "displaced our family in kind of a positive way rather than negative. It didn't drag us down. In fact, it gave us some chances."
War Relocation Authority/California Historical Society
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Kitagki located former Boy Scouts Junzo Jake Ohara, Takeshi Motoyasu, and Eddie Tetsuji Kato, who had been photographed during a morning flag raising ceremony at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. "I didn't feel anything until later on," said Ohara, who later became a pharmacist. "I got kind of angry, because of all the experiences that we went through, the losses, not for myself but for the parents and the older guys that had already graduated high school. You start to think about those guys." After Takeshi returned home, he became an electrical engineer. "I think for us young guys it was not too bad," he said. "They fed you, they clothed you. It's just the persecution from you being the enemy, that's the only thing that would bother you."
Pat Coffey/War Relocation Authority/UC Berkeley Bancroft Library
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Ibuki Hibi Lee stands in the exact location in Hayward, California, where she and her mother waited to board a bus with their belongings 70 years earlier. Her parents, Matsusaburo Hibi and Hisako Hibi, were artists who documented life in their internment camp in Utah. "You have to think of camp from the view of injustice," Lee said. "And it was really an injustice to Japanese Americans and those who were citizens. It had to do a lot with economics, racism and politics."
Paul Kitagaki Jr.
Lange photographed Suyematsu Kitagaki and Juki Kitagaki as they sat with their children, 11-year-old Kimiko and 14-year-old Kiyoshi, at the WCCA Control Station in Oakland, California, before being detained in May 1942. In the photo, a family friend hands Kimiko a pamphlet expressing good wishes toward the departing evacuees. The Kitagakis were later sent to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah.
More than 60 years later, Paul Kitagaki Jr. joined his father and aunt outside the same Oakland building where they had been photographed with his grandparents. From left to right: Agnes Eiko Kitagaki (his mother), Kimiko Wong (his aunt), Paul Kiyoshi Kitagaki (his father), Sharon Young (his cousin), and Paul Kitagaki Jr.
In the midst of the Congressional debate about mass surveillance and a Senate filibuster of a vote on the Patriot Act, it might be easy to forget how we got here. Arguably, none of would be happening if not for Edward Snowden, the erstwhile National Security Agency contractor who rocked the world when he leaked a trove of documents exposing the US government's spying and surveillance operations.
Snowden took questions on Reddit during an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Thursday. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some highlights:
It represents a sea change from a few years ago, when intrusive new surveillance laws were passed without any kind of meaningful opposition or debate. Whatever you think about Rand Paul or his politics, it's important to remember that when he took the floor to say "No" to any length of reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he was speaking for the majority of Americans -- more than 60% of whom want to see this kind of mass surveillance reformed or ended.
On the American public's apparent apathy about the NSA snooping revelations:
Jameel probably has a better answer, but we know from very recent, non-partisan polling that Americans (and everyone else around the world) care tremendously about mass surveillance.
The more central question, from my perspective, is "why don't lawmakers seem to care?" After all, the entire reason they are in office in our system is to represent our views. The recent Princeton Study on politicians' responsiveness to the policy preferences of different sections of society gives some indication of where things might be going wrong:
Out of all groups expressing a policy preference within society, the views of the public at large are given the very least weight, whereas those of economic elites (think bankers, lobbyists, and the people on the Board of Directors at defense contracting companies) exercise more than ten times as much influence on what laws get passed -- and what laws don't.
On why people should care:
Some might say "I don't care if they violate my privacy; I've got nothing to hide." Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they "need" a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right. But even if they did, you can't give away the rights of others because they're not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.
But even if they could, help them think for a moment about what they're saying. Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.
On what people should do if they want to push for reforms:
Some claim the Senate should keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act (which will be voted on in two days) because we need "more time for debate," but even in the US, the public has already decided: 60% oppose reauthorization. This unconstitutional mass surveillance program was revealed in June 2013 and has been struck down by courts twice since then. If two years and two courts aren't enough to satisfy them, what is?
A few try to say that Section 215 is legal. It's not. Help them understand.
The bottom line is we need people everywhere -- in the US, outside the US, and especially within their own communities -- to push back and challenge anybody defending these programs. More than anything, we need to ordinary people to make it clear that a vote in favor of the extension or reauthorization of mass surveillance authorities is a vote in favor of a program that is illegal, ineffective, and illiberal.
On whether kids should pursue careers in cryptography:
Yes, but good luck keeping tabs on them as teens.
"Where have you been?" "Out." "If you don't tell me, I'll just check your ph-- Oh."
On the potential of coming back to the states one day (the questioner said, "I hope so!"):
Me too. The White House has been working on that petition for a couple years, now, and the courts have finally confirmed that the 2013 revelations revealed unlawful activity on the part of the government. Maybe they'll surprise us.
On Wednesday, when President Barack Obama spoke at the US Coast Guard Academy's commencement ceremony, he called climate change "an immediate risk to our national security." In recent months, the Obama administration has repeatedly highlighted the international threats posed by global warming and has emphasized the need for the country's national security agencies to study and confront the issue.
So some national security experts were surprised to learn that an important component of that effort has been ended. A CIA spokesperson confirmed to Climate Desk that the agency is shuttering its main climate research program. Under the program, known as Medea, the CIA had allowed civilian scientists to access classified data—such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines and topography data collected by spy satellites—in an effort to glean insights about how global warming could create security threats around the world. In theory, the program benefited both sides: Scientists could study environmental data that was much higher-resolution than they would normally have access to, and the CIA received research insights about climate-related threats.
But now, the program has come to a close.
"Under the Medea program to examine the implications of climate change, CIA participated in various projects," a CIA spokesperson explained in a statement. "These projects have been completed and CIA will employ these research results and engage external experts as it continues to evaluate the national security implications of climate change."
The program was originally launched in 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration and was later shut down during President George W. Bush's term. It was re-launched under the Obama administration in 2010, with the aim of providing security clearances to roughly 60 climate scientists. Those scientists were given access to classified information that could be useful for researching global warming and tracking environmental changes that could have national security implications. Data gathered by the military and intelligence agencies is often of much higher quality than what civilian scientists normally work with.
In some cases, that data could then be declassified and published, although Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security, said it is usually impossible to know whether any particular study includes data from Medea. "You wouldn't see [Medea] referenced anywhere" in a peer-reviewed paper, he said. But he pointed to the CIA's annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, which includes multiple references to climate change, as a probable Medea product, where the CIA likely partnered with civilian scientists to analyze classified data.
With the closure of the program, it remains unclear how much of this sort of data will remain off-limits to climate scientists. The CIA did not respond to questions about what is currently being done with the data that would have been available under the program.
Marc Levy, a Columbia University political scientist, said he was surprised to learn that Medea had been shut down. "The climate problems are getting worse in a way that our data systems are not equipped to handle," said Levy, who was not a participant in the CIA program but has worked closely with the US intelligence community on climate issues since the 1990s. "There's a growing gap between what we can currently get our hands on, and what we need to respond better. So that's inconsistent with the idea that Medea has run out of useful things to do."
The program had some notable successes. During the Clinton administration, Levy said, it gave researchers access to classified data on sea ice measurements taken by submarines, an invaluable resource for scientists studying climate change at the poles. And last fall, NASA released a trove of high-resolution satellite elevation maps that can be used to project the impacts of flooding. But Levy said the Defense Department possesses even higher-quality satellite maps that have not been released.
Still, it's possible Medea had outlived its useful life, said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a 23-year veteran of the CIA who had first-hand knowledge of the program before leaving the agency in 2009. He said he was not surprised to see Medea close down.
"In my judgment, the CIA is not the best lead agency for the issue; the agency's 'in-box' is already overflowing with today's threats and challenges," he said via email. "CIA has little strategic planning reserves, relatively speaking, and its overseas presence is heavily action-oriented."
Over the past several years, climate change has gained prominence among defense experts, many of whom see it as a "threat multiplier" that can exacerbate crises such as infectious disease and terrorism. Medea had been part of a larger network of climate-related initiatives across the national security community. Medea's closure notwithstanding, that network appears to be growing. Last fall, Obama issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to collaborate on developing and sharing climate data and making it accessible to the public.
But the CIA's work on climate change has drawn heavy fire from a group of congressional Republicans led by Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.). Barrasso said last year that he believes that "the climate is constantly changing" and that "the role human activity plays is not known." He recently authored an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he listed the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere as "greater challenges" than climate change. (The Syrian civil war, however, was likely worsened by climate change.)
Around the time Medea was re-instated by the Obama administration, the CIA formed a new office to oversee climate efforts called the Center for Climate Change. At the time, Barrasso said the spy agency "should be focused on monitoring terrorists in caves, not polar bears on icebergs." That office was closed in 2012 (the agency wouldn't say why), leaving Medea as the CIA's main climate research program.
So does the conclusion of Medea signal that the CIA is throwing in the towel on climate altogether? Unlikely, according to Femia. At this point, he said, US security agencies, including the CIA, are still sorting out what resources they can best offer in the effort to adapt to climate change. Regardless of whether the CIA is facilitating civilian research, he said, "continuing to integrate climate change information into its assessments of both unstable and stable regions of the world will be critical."
"Otherwise," added Femia, "we will have a blind spot that prevents us from adequately protecting the United States."
The tea party hates South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and the feeling is mutual. It attacked the Republican lawmaker mercilessly during his Senate reelection campaign in 2014, but Graham held his seat with 55 percent of the vote. "Kicking the crap out of the tea party is the most fun Senator Lindsey Graham has ever had," wrote Molly Ball for The Atlantic last June after interviewing the South Carolina Republican on the eve of his primary election victory, when he faced six no-name challengers, one of them a tea party pick, in his deep red state's Republican primary.
On June 1, Graham plans to join the crowded GOP 2016 field, according to his preannouncement on Monday. And his soon-to-be presidential campaign raises the question: How will the Graham/tea pary feud continue?
The animosity between this three-term senator and tea partiers began before his 2014 reelection campaign, triggered in part by Graham's intermittent attempts to work with Democrats in the Senate. Such moves have enraged staunch conservatives. The Greenville GOP compiled a list of 29 offenses that they "strongly disapprove of and hold to be fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of the South Carolina Republican Party."* Right-wing blogs have nicknamed him "Flimsy Lindsey" and "Grahmnesty" because he disagreed with his party on climate change, immigration reform, and a few other hot-button Republican issues.
Climate change triggered the first tea party salvos against Graham. In the fall of 2009, tea partiers in South Carolina and beyond bashed Graham for his support of energy legislation that aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In an editorial titled "Graham's Dalliance With Cap-And-Trade Crowd a Bad Move," Michael Costello of the Idaho's Lewiston Tribunewrote, "If Republicans really want to completely alienate this crowd and give birth to a third party, they should follow the lead of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). [He] has thrown his lot in with John Kerry (D-Mass) to push one of the worst pieces of legislation in American history, the carbon cap and trade bill."
Soon after that, as Politico reported, the conflict between Graham and tea partiers "sparked a mutiny back home" in South Carolina. The Charleston County Republican Party, in a written resolution, slammed Graham for stabbing Republicans in the back and undercutting "Republican leadership and party solidarity for his own benefit." Politico noted that "bubbling" conservative discontent blew up because of the climate change bill but was also fueled by Graham's support for immigration reform and changes at the US detention facility Guantanamo Bay. Graham, a hawk who often criticizes President Barack Obama's national security policies, didn't try to make peace with his conservative critics. Instead, he called detractors of immigration reform "bigots" and refused to disavow or stop his occasional bipartisan efforts.
"I'm making that a tea party goal to get scoundrels like Lindsey Graham out of office," Greg Deitz, a Charleston Tea Party organizer, told Politico.
In 2010, about 100 tea party activists gathered outside Graham's office in Greenville, South Carolina, to protest his support for the bipartisan climate bill. "No cap and trade," they chanted. Two different countywide GOP organizations in South Carolina voted to censure Graham noting that "in the name of bipartisanship—[he] continues to weaken the Republican brand and tarnish the ideals of freedom, rule of law, and fiscal conservatism."
Tea party activists routinely booed him when he spoke at town hall meetings. At one gathering at the Bluffton Library in June 2010, activists in the audience interrupted Graham with angry questions and accusations when he asked what the biggest problems facing the world were. One audience member, according to the Beaufort Gazette, told Graham to "be conservative and quit reaching across the aisle."
Graham further upset the tea party by meeting with Obama several times to discuss working together on various issues, such as "closing Guantánamo Bay and bringing terror suspects to justice," according to Newsweek. Graham was a former military prosecutor who served on the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, and Joe Biden invited him over to his home for a steak dinner to discuss Afghanistan.
In July, 2010, Graham told the New York Times that the tea party would "die out" because "they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country."
A few months later, though, Graham tried to mend a few fences. In September, during a private meeting with tea party organizers in North Charleston, he attempted to address tea partiers' concerns. Later, he praised the movement in interviews, including one with Politico where he said tea party activists "[came] to Washington talking about reducing spending. Thank God they're here." He even tried to get the Senate's two tea party caucus founders, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, to help him push legislation on Social Security in 2011, which would raise the retirement age to 70 and cut retirement benefits for the wealthy. By August 2011, around the second time he asked for a private meeting with local tea party leaders, Graham bragged to the Associated Press that his new push for fiscally conservative policies had united him with the conservative right.
The détente did not hold. When Graham was up for reelection in 2014, tea partiers were chomping at the bit to defeat him. The only thing they lacked was a candidate who could win in a Republican primary, where Graham needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run off.
"There was speculation that he would face severe tea party resistance," says Robert Wislinski, a political strategist based in South Carolina. "[But] that never really materialized." Graham raised $13 million for the primary race, and mobilized a powerful campaign. Five challengers who were seeking their first elected office, and one incumbant state senator, ran against him, but their combined campaign war chest was only about $2 million. The Republican opposition was split, and Graham's opponents weren't particularly well known. Nor did the opposition get any help from national tea party activists like Sarah Palin, who remained silent on the race. "The conservative opposition could not unify for the singular purpose of defeating Graham," wrote the conservative blog RedStatein January, and Graham won with 56 percent of the vote.
So Graham beat the tea party and went on to win easily the general election. But will his presidential bid give the tea partiers another chance to cause him political pain?
So far, the tea party has been silent on his campaign. The South Carolina tea party convention did not respond to request for comment, and neither did multiple national tea party organizations.
Either way, Graham's hawkish rhetoric and lack of national popularity make his chances for election pretty low. If the tea party has their way, those chances might be even lower.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified who submitted the list of offenses to the Executive Committee of the South Carolina Republican Party.
On Wednesday, militants from the so-called Islamic State captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. After nearly a week of fighting, government forces reportedly fled the city, according to the British monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Palmyra, a desert outpost of 50,000 people, sits on a strategic highway and is close to several gas fields that ISIS has repeatedly attacked. It's also a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site known for its 2,000-year-old, Roman-era tombs, temple, colonnades, and artifacts, as well as a storied mythology.
As ISIS has taken more territory, it has damaged or destroyed many cultural heritage sites and priceless artifacts. Condemning much ancient art as idolatry, its fighters have chiseled the face off of a 3,000-year-old Assyrian winged bull and broken apart statues of the kings of Hatra. And, as I've reported, what ISIS doesn't destroy, it loots and sells on the international black market to fund its activities.
When ISIS reached the gates of Palmyra late last week, fears arose that the World Heritage site would face the same kind of destruction seen elsewhere. Amr Al-Azm, an archeologist who works with a secret network of activists trying to safeguard Syria's cultural heritage, told me, "If they get their hands on a World Heritage site, the looting itself could be bad, plus they have a ready made site for cultural heritage atrocities that they're very likely to commit. Palmyra is full of Roman tombs and carvings. They'll smash up what they want and steal what they want. It's an iconoclast's heaven."
As of this evening, ISIS militants had seized the city, and the ruins were left "unguarded." Syria's antiquities director Maamoun Abdulkarim has claimed that hundreds of statues have been moved to safety. But nothing can be done for the remaining structures at the ancient site. Before ISIS took the town, AbdulKarim told the Guardian, "If ISIS enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction. If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe."
Speaking to graduating cadets at the US Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, President Obama once again outlined his administration's case for ambitious climate action. At the heart of today's speech: the president's contention that global warming constitutes an immediate threat to America's national security and will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars if left unchecked.
Watch the highlights from the speech above.
Obama took direct aim at climate change deniers in Congress. "Denying it—or refusing to deal with it—endangers our national security and undermines the readiness of our forces," he said. "Politicians who care about military readiness ought to care about this too."
"Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security," Obama added. Refusing to act, he said, is "a dereliction of duty."
Casting climate change as major threat at home and abroad, Obama detailed how warming could accelerate political instability and civil strife, prompt expensive and complex rescue missions in the wake of natural disasters, and hit US military assets along the coast. In the Arctic, he said, "we're witnessing the birth of a new ocean."
Obama also focused on the economic costs of rising seas: "A further increase in sea level of 1 foot…by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion," he said.
"We need the Coast Guard more than ever," Obama said. "Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service."
Today's remarks are the latest in a string of climate-focused speeches by Obama in the run-up to global climate talks in Paris later this year. The commencement address contained very similar language to the president's State of the Union speech in January. "The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe," he said then. "The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it."
In the Florida Everglades last month, Obama also took a shot at Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor in a bizarre effort to dispute climate science. "If you have a coming storm, you don't stick your head in the sand," he said. "You prepare for the storm."