White House warns of ‘intensifying impacts of climate change’ as Biden tours flood-hit Kentucky – live

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US extreme weather 'reminder of intensifying impacts of climate change' – White House

On Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky today he is not just viewing the effects through the lens of a disaster needing federal assistance but also through the lens of the climate crisis that is making events like this more intense, more common and more deadly, in America and around the world.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the issue in her media briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington with the US president and first lady Jill Biden a little earlier.

“The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said.

Breathitt County, Kentucky, late last month. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history.
Breathitt County, Kentucky, late last month. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. Photograph: Ryan C Hermens/AP

Kentucky was hit by massive flash flooding in the last two weeks that killed 37 people and caused mass destruction. The atypical rain storms followed eight months after tornadoes killed almost three times that many people in western Kentucky and many parts of the country are suffering record heatwaves, drought and wildfire after an extreme 2021 in the American west.

Jean-Pierre of course emphasized the importance of the Senate vote yesterday to pass the historic climate action bill , which she called “so vital” alongside previous infrastructure legislation.

“Over the long term, these investments will save lives, reduce costs and protect communities like the one we are visiting today,” she said. Biden is due to land in Kentucky about now.

The Bidens in Delaware this morning, en route to Kentucky.
The Bidens in Delaware this morning, en route to Kentucky. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

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CNN is reporting that two years’ worth of text messages exchanged by right wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have been turned over to the House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

During Jones’ defamation trial, in which Jones has been ordered to pay nearly $50m over his repeated claims that the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, an attorney for the plaintiffs revealed that Jones’ attorneys had “messed up” and inadvertently sent him the two years of text messages.

The House select committee was immediately interested: Jones’ rhetoric is popular among those who swarmed the Capitol that day, and he was on the grounds in the lead-up to the attack, riling up the crowd. However, according to CNN, Jones claims he tried to prevent people at the Capitol from breaking the law, and has rejected any suggestion that he was involved in the planning of violence.

“Well, we know that his behavior did incentivize some of the January 6 conduct and we want to know more about that,” congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who sits on the committee, told CNN this weekend. “We don’t know what we’ll find in the texts because we haven’t seen them. But we’ll look at it and learn more, I’m sure.”

Jones’ attorney had asked the judge to order Mark Bankston, the attorney who represented the two Sandy Hook parents who successfully sued Jones, to destroy the texts and not transmit them to the House committee.

“I’m not standing between you and Congress,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Bankston. “That is not my job. I’m not going to do that.”

Pentagon announces $1bn in military aid for Ukraine

The Biden administration has pledged another $1bn in military aid for Ukraine, the largest promise of rockets, ammunition and other arms to Ukrainian forces.

This brings the total US security assistance committed to Ukraine by the Biden administration to roughly $9bn since Russian troops invaded in February.

“At every stage of this conflict, we have been focused on getting the Ukrainians what they need, depending on the evolving conditions on the battlefield,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said in announcing the new weapons shipment.

New today: US announces another $1 billion military package for Ukraine including more ammo for HIMARS. And USAID announces $4.5 billion in economic aid to the Ukrainian government

— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) August 8, 2022

Greetings all – Vivian Ho here, taking over the blog from Joanna Walters.

Over in Kentucky, Joe Biden kicked off his tour of the catastrophic flooding that has killed at least 37 people with a briefing.

Touring flood damage in eastern Kentucky - @POTUS participates in briefing at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek KY. @AndyBeshearKY welcomes the group - confirms 37 Kentuckians have died in the storm. Adds there are still 2 missing people. pic.twitter.com/Wed6Bei500

— Julia Benbrook (@JuliaBenbrook) August 8, 2022

Interim summary

Hello, live blog readers, with the climate crisis as a powerful undercurrent to Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky today, we’ll bring you more news on that and all the developments, as they happen.

My colleague Vivian Ho will take over the blog after this and keep you up to speed for the next few hours.

Here’s where things stand.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the climate issues in her media briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington with the US president earlier. “The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said. During his time in the Oval Office, Donald Trump wanted the Pentagon’s generals to be like Nazi Germany’s generals in the second world war, according to a book excerpt in the New Yorker. Peeks of Susan Glasser and Peter Baker’s new book The Divider have more on some of those screaming matches in the White House between the-then president and senior aides. Joe Biden is visiting eastern Kentucky to tour areas inundated and families devastated by the terrible flooding a week ago that killed dozens of people. Biden is expected to make public remarks (around 2pm ET) as well as talking with relatives and officials in private, and he and the first lady will return to the White House this evening. The US president said “I’m not worried, but I am concerned” about China’s aggression towards Taiwan in its live-fire military exercises that lasted for the last four days and menaced the island democracy, whose capital, Taipei, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi controversially visited early last week.

Joe Biden is touring flood damage in eastern Kentucky with state governor Andy Beshear.

 a bridge along KY-3351 over Troublesome Creek near Ary in Perry County, damaged by flooding in eastern Kentucky.
The kind of thing the president will see today: a bridge along KY-3351 over Troublesome Creek near Ary in Perry County, damaged by flooding in eastern Kentucky. Photograph: Ryan C Hermens/AP

The state’s lieutenant governor, Jacqueline Coleman, earlier told CNN that in one county, 50 bridges had been wrecked by the floods that have devastated the region in late July-early August.

“The infrastructure needs are monumental,” she said.

Coleman described the rains that hit the area.

“It happened so fast and it happened overnight and that’s the reason folks were trapped in their homes,” she said, often in areas of mountainous terrain.

Asked if, with the climate crisis, this kind of extreme weather is going to become the new normal, she remarked: “I hope this is not the new normal, for sure.”

This home in eastern Kentucky is washed onto a road on Saturday, July 30, 2022, after historic rains.
This home in eastern Kentucky is washed onto a road on Saturday, July 30, 2022, after historic rains. Photograph: Michael Clevenger/AP

The 700-plus-page inflation reduction bill moving through the US Congress would steer significant new funds toward battling wildfires and extreme heat - climate change-related risks that are wreaking havoc across the country this summer, Reuters reports.

The legislation, pared down from earlier versions, would direct approximately $370 billion toward a range of climate and energy initiatives, including renewable energy tax credits, backing for electric cars and heat pumps, and environmental justice.

This is going to, if passed, be the most action the United States has ever taken on climate. Will there be more that we need to do? Absolutely. But this is just so significant and [it’s] so important that we get this over the finish line,” said Christina DeConcini, director of government affairs at the World Resources Institute, a global research group.

As drought-fueled wildfires spread out of control in the western United States, lawmakers want to direct about $2 billion toward hazardous fuels reduction.

The money in the bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, could go toward measures like clearing brush through prescribed burns or mechanical thinning so when fires do occur they’re not as intense.

The bill also earmarks funds to combat increasingly extreme heat as the United States – and much of the world – grapples with record-shattering and increasingly deadly temperatures this year.

For example, there is $1.5 billion in grant funding through the US Forest Service for initiatives such as helping cities plant trees, which provide natural cooling and can improve air quality.

The bill aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade through other spending on clean energy tax incentives and electric vehicle credits.

Sponsors of the bill say more than $60 billion in measures included are directed toward “environmental justice” initiatives intended to help communities that have disproportionately borne the brunt of poor air quality and pollution.

But that amount isn’t nearly enough, said Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at the nonprofit New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

You can read the full Reuters report here.

Firefighters conducting controlled burns along the bulldozer lines on the Oak Fire near Jerseydale, California, on July 26.
Firefighters conducting controlled burns along the bulldozer lines on the Oak Fire near Jerseydale, California, on July 26. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

US extreme weather 'reminder of intensifying impacts of climate change' – White House

On Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky today he is not just viewing the effects through the lens of a disaster needing federal assistance but also through the lens of the climate crisis that is making events like this more intense, more common and more deadly, in America and around the world.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the issue in her media briefing aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington with the US president and first lady Jill Biden a little earlier.

“The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said.

Breathitt County, Kentucky, late last month. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history.
Breathitt County, Kentucky, late last month. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says it’s some of the worst flooding in state history. Photograph: Ryan C Hermens/AP

Kentucky was hit by massive flash flooding in the last two weeks that killed 37 people and caused mass destruction. The atypical rain storms followed eight months after tornadoes killed almost three times that many people in western Kentucky and many parts of the country are suffering record heatwaves, drought and wildfire after an extreme 2021 in the American west.

Jean-Pierre of course emphasized the importance of the Senate vote yesterday to pass the historic climate action bill , which she called “so vital” alongside previous infrastructure legislation.

“Over the long term, these investments will save lives, reduce costs and protect communities like the one we are visiting today,” she said. Biden is due to land in Kentucky about now.

The Bidens in Delaware this morning, en route to Kentucky.
The Bidens in Delaware this morning, en route to Kentucky. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Trump asked why US generals not more like Nazi Germans – new book

Edward Helmore

During his time in the Oval Office, Donald Trump wanted the Pentagon’s generals to be like Nazi Germany’s generals in the second world war, according to a book excerpt in the New Yorker.

In an exchange with his former White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, Trump reportedly complained: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?”

Kelly asked which generals, prompting Trump to reply: “The German generals in World War II.”

According to the excerpt published by the New Yorker from The Divider: Trump in the White House, by the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser and the New York Times’s Peter Baker, an incredulous Kelly pointed out that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was almost assassinated by one of his own generals.

“No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” Trump replied, apparently unaware of Claus von Stauffenberg’s plot in July 1944 to kill Hitler with a bomb inside his Wolf’s Lair field headquarters.

Kelly reportedly told Trump that there were no American generals who observe total loyalty to a president. Instead, they swear, like all military personnel, to “support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.

The rest of that report is here.

Outrage in the Oval Office:

“Trump told his top White House aide that he wished he had generals like the ones who had reported to Adolf Hitler, saying they were “totally loyal” to the leader of the Nazi regime…”https://t.co/vfj9EGR92x

— carolynryan 🏳️‍🌈🏓 (@carolynryan) August 8, 2022

Here’s the cover again (first revealed in April):

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is briefing reporters aboard Air Force One and she is insisting that the US policy towards China has not changed and that “nothing is going to change there” despite condemning Beijing’s live-fire military exercises around Taiwan over the last four days.

Those war games now seem set to continue in the Taiwan Strait and around the island democracy of Taiwan, which the People’s Republic of China has long-claimed as a province, while the authorities in Taipei claim independence.

The US does not formally recognize independence for Taiwan and supports the status of “one China”, with a single Chinese national government operating out of Beijing, while simultaneously maintaining “strategic ambiguity” and pledging to come to Taiwan’s defense if the PRC tries to take the island by force.

Jean-Pierre was asked if the continued war games in the strait and around Taiwan look likely to become a permanent military escalation by China, which Beijing is trying to “normalize”.

She didn’t answer specifically on those two points, but said that US respect for one China “is long-standing, and nothing is going to change there.”

She noted that the US will continue to “communicate directly with Beijing”, while noting that Washington has condemned the military exercises that menaced Taiwan, following the trip to Taiwan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, chiefly because they “raise the risk of miscalculation” in the region - ie some sort of error or misunderstanding leading to conflict.

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug 3, 2022.
People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug 3, 2022. Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and Australian foreign minister Penny Wong discussed China’s recent actions and reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in a meeting today, the US State Department said and Reuters reports.

Sherman is visiting Australia as part of a trip to Pacific nations.

Penny Wong and Wendy Sherman (right) in Canberra today.
Penny Wong and Wendy Sherman (right) in Canberra today. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AP

The US State No. 2 was in the Solomon Islands at the weekend, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal, one of the pivotal battles in the Pacific region during World War II and where her own father fought.

John F Kennedy was almost killed there and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Australia, attended the ceremony alongside Sherman.

There is concern that China will build a military base in the Solomon Islands.

The US @DeputySecState has reassured the Pacific region the Biden administration is watching closely as the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands takes shape, warning a military base on the islands would "create security concerns for all".https://t.co/h8ldO6yveU

— abc730 (@abc730) August 8, 2022

Meanwhile, Wong today called for a cooling of tensions on the China and Taiwan front, the Associated Press reports.

Australia continues to urge restraint, Australia continues to urge deescalation, and this is not something that solely Australia is calling for, and the whole region is concerned about the current situation, the whole region is calling for stability to be restored,” Wong told reporters gathered in the Australian capital of Canberra.

It’s always hit and miss for the pool reporters whose job it is to follow the president of the United States around on any given day, as to whether he (and there’s still never been a she, obviously) will come over to chat or respond to shouted questions.

Today, just before flying off to Kentucky where the rest of the day will be filled with very sobering conversations on the deadly and destructive flooding there, current Potus Joe Biden actually beckoned to the gathered hacks on the tarmac in Dover, Delaware, as he and Jill Biden alighted from the presidential helicopter, ready to board Air Force One.

After answering a question on the Inflation Reduction Act, the bill that passed the Senate yesterday and now heads back to the House, where it should pass efficiently by the end of the week and travel to Biden’s desk to be passed into law, he was asked about Taiwan.

This is the morning after, as our Helen Davidson reports from the Taiwanese capital Taipei, China’s military has announced new drills near the island democracy off its south-east coast, including anti-submarine attack and sea raid operations, a day after Beijing’s major live-fire exercises targeting the territory were supposed to end.

Is Biden worried, he was asked?

“I’m not worried, but I am concerned,” he said. It was hard to hear over the helicopter and jet engine blades, but he said something very close to that he is concerned that the communist regime is “making so many moves”. Then he added, however, that: “I don’t think they are going to do any more.”

He was asked for his opinion on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial and, bluntly, provocative, trip to Taiwan last week, at such a delicate time in geopolitics, and the president said, simply: “It was her decision.”

That emphasizes the point the Americans tried to signal to the Chinese, that his executive branch and Pelosi’s congressional branch are co-equal but independent slices of the US government.

Joe Biden has just spoken briefly with reporters gathered at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, as he was transferring between the helicopter that brought him there and the Air Force One jet that will take him and Jill Biden to Kentucky.

It was a little hard to hear over the noise of the rotor blades and jet engines, but the US president was first asked whether he thought the $739bn climate action and health bill that passed the Senate yesterday and should be on his desk just days from now will help the Democrats in the mid-term elections this November.

“Do I expect it to help? Yes,” Biden said.

He noted that seniors on Medicare will now have their annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs capped at $2,000.

“That’s a big deal,” he said - echoing more politely the remark he made to president Barack Obama, when Biden was his veep, that passing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2010 was a “big fucking deal.”

This is the most significant legislation affecting healthcare since then.

There are other measures in there to try to bring down inflation and improve the cost of living.

“There are a range of things that will help ordinary folks. Some will not kick in for a while, but it’s all good,” Biden said on the air base apron moments ago.

He added that when these proverbial ordinary Americans sit down at the kitchen table at the end of each month they will have an easier time paying their bills, as a result of the legislation.

US president Joe Biden talks to reporters while boarding Air Force One on a trip to eastern Kentucky to visit families affected by devastation from recent flooding, as he departs from Delaware Air  Guard Base in New Castle, Delaware, moments ago.
US president Joe Biden talks to reporters while boarding Air Force One on a trip to eastern Kentucky to visit families affected by devastation from recent flooding, as he departs from Delaware Air Guard Base in New Castle, Delaware, moments ago. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden tested negative for Covid-19 for a second consecutive day yesterday and ended his isolation at the White House with a trip to his vacation home in Delaware and a reunion with his wife, first lady Jill Biden, Reuters notes.

Biden has been holed up at the White House for more than two weeks with coronavirus, leading to canceled trips and events even as his symptoms stayed mild.

He had had to cancel several trips, as well as in-person meetings he’s planned not just at the White House but also on Capitol Hill.

The US president originally tested positive for Covid-19 on July 21, having avoided it for the whole pandemic, which hit the US in March, 2020.

He was given the anti-viral medication Paxlovid, which resulted in a negative test several days later but then the virus regrouped and he tested positive again.

Now he’s been given the all-clear to get on with his in-person schedule.

Joe Biden last year.
Joe Biden last year. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joan E Greve

Joan E Greve

Senate Democrats passed their climate and healthcare spending package yesterday, sending the legislation to the House and bringing Joe Biden one step closer to a significant legislative victory ahead of crucial midterm elections in November.

If signed into law, the bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act, would allocate $369bn to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in renewable energy sources. Experts have estimated the climate provisions of the bill will reduce America’s planet-heating emissions by about 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

Democrats have promised the bill will lower healthcare costs for millions of Americans by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and capping Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket prescription drug prices at $2,000 a year. Those who receive health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace are also expected to see lower premium costs.

The legislation includes a number of tax provisions to cover the costs of these policies, bringing in $739bn for the government and resulting in an overall deficit reduction of roughly $300bn. The policy changes include a new corporate minimum tax, a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks and stricter enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.

“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share,” Biden said in a statement celebrating the bill’s passage. “I ran for president promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does – period.”

Joe Biden visits Kentucky in aftermath of deadly floods

Joe Biden is visiting eastern Kentucky today to visit areas inundated and families devastated by the terrible flooding a week ago that killed dozens of people.

The US president is leaving his seaside residence at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for Dover air force base and thence on Air Force One this morning to Lexington, Kentucky.

The sobering trip is in stark contrast to celebrations for Democrats in Washington yesterday afternoon as the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest hurdle on the way to getting the historic climate and health bill into law, and a much-needed fillip for the president.

On the trip today, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will be greeted by Kentucky’s Democratic governor Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy Beshear.

According to the White House, the president will participate in a briefing on the response efforts to the recent flooding, with the event to be held at Marie Roberts elementary school in Lost Creek.

Then the Bidens will visit families affected by the devastation from recent flooding and survey impacts and response efforts.

Joe Biden is expected to make public remarks as well as talking with relatives and officials in private, and he and the first lady will return to the White House this evening.

Karine Jean-Pierre will speak with reporters on board AF1 en route to Lexington this morning and we’ll bring you the highlights of the White House press secretary’s briefing.

Biden visits flood-ravaged Kentucky, day after historic Senate vote

Good morning, US politics live blog readers. Joe Biden is heading to eastern Kentucky today to tour areas devastated by deadly flooding last week. There’s a busy day and week ahead in political news after a hard day’s night and weekend in the Senate resulted in passage for the major climate-and-health bill. Let’s get started.

Joe Biden is in Delaware and will head to Kentucky in a few minutes. He tested negative for coronavirus over the weekend and is out of isolation. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Lexington, Kentucky. The US president and first lady Jill Biden will spend the day in eastern Kentucky visiting areas and families devastated by the appalling, climate change-driven extreme flooding last week. Excerpts from a new book show how America’s top military man, chairman of the joint chiefs Mark Milley, drafted his resignation letter after Donald Trump’s stunt involving him in Lafayette Square during Black Lives Matter protests, then pulled back from the brink to try to stop Trump blowing things up further. Trump asked him why American generals couldn’t be more like Hitler’s... China plans to resume military drills around Taiwan, despite winding down its four days of war games yesterday, following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last week. Capitol Hill is still buzzing after the historic vote yesterday to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill now heads to the House, where Pelosi predicts it will pass and whizz its way to Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
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