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National Reaction: As coal country cheers on Trump, the coasts are worried

Perspective from around the country as the nation reacts to the President withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords.

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PORTLAND, Maine — From coal country to the ports of Maine to the wind farms of the West Coast, Americans react to President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday that he’s pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord.

Warming Water and Losing Lobsters

Tim Pettis, a Maine lobsterman, said he’s felt the effects of climate change in the waters he works in, and wishes President Trump could feel the same.

“I think most people believe that the climate is changing over the years,” Pettis said as he stood in front of stacks of yellow lobster traps. We can all see it, just because he doesn’t want to believe it, he shouldn’t be able to pull the whole country out on his own but he is the president so I guess you can.”

Pettis said he and his fellow workers in the far north have been beneficiaries from the changes so far, because there are fewer lobsters further south in places like New York and Connecticut.

“As the water keeps warming up, the numbers keep going down from the south up to us,” Pettis said. “The last three or four years we’ve been doing better lobstering and I think it does have to do with that.”

“Some of the fish are disappearing,” Pettis said. “We’re catching fish now in our traps that are southern fish; it just tells you that the water is warming up every year a little bit.”

Jersey Shore remembers Sandy, sees more storms

In Belmar on the Jersey Shore, Tom Rodgers, owner of TR’s Food Court, said he didn’t feel qualified to talk about science.

“You wanna know about Burgers, Fries I can tell you. You wanna know about climate, I’m really not an expert, so I leave certain things up to the experts. I just hope the president has done his due diligence and spoke to the right people.”

Rodgers’ restaurant was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, as were the homes of many in Belmar including Sandy Snyder.

“There was devastation here, the streets were full of sand and water, homes were damaged,” Sandy said. “They call it the storm of the century, but why was there a storm of the century when there are reports that climate change is affecting the planet, I think we are going to see more of it and unfortunately if we don’t take care of it now I think that is going to be the norm rather than the rarity.”

Snyder said he thinks “it is a very, very big mistake for the US to pull out of this agreement, It will open the door for other countries, other countries “that … are on the fence as far as watching climate control.”

Retired Coal Minter laments Jobs lost

In Centertown, Kentucky, retired coal miner Kenny Smith watched Trump’s TV announcement with approval.

“He’s keeping his promise that he’s going to help get the coal jobs back, help people get back to work, and that’s what we need, anywhere in this country,” Smith said. “You can go to Detroit, you can go to Pennsylvania you can go to West Virginia, there’s people that have been laid off for years, they’re just forgotten. And most of our factories have gone overseas, we need to get them back, I think he’s trying to do that.”

Trucks constantly rumble through town from the Midway mine, a major employer, but production has fallen from around 10 million tons of coal a year to less than half that figure.

Trump “said when he (got) elected, that’s the first thing, jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what he said he’d do, and that’s what he’s doing,” Smith said. “I mean, I’m proud of him.”

Smith, 67, dismissed the idea that coal is unhealthy or environmentally unsound. He pointed in the direction of a coal-fired power plant.

“I’ve lived in this house since 1974 and that power plant has never made me sick,” he said. “There’s good jobs that come from power plants.”

West Virginia coal country eyes revival

In West Virginia’s coal country, Tod Tuttle, the co-owner of a small roadside grocery store near two mines, applauded Trump for what he’d done for the local industry.

“Under Obama our business was lacking big time. Trump’s taken over and we’ve come back around,” Tuttle said. “A lot of places here have come back around.”

West Virginia has had an uptick in coal production late last year and so far this year, attributed by industry officials to higher market prices and increased demand for metallurgical coal. Tuttle credits Trump.

“When the mines are working it’s booming like crazy,” he said. “When the mines are down … our business was just trickling.”

About the Paris agreement, he said that issue isn’t really with coal itself, which is still needed for reliable electrical generation without outages.

“You can burn the coal, and if these companies do it right,” Tuttle said. “They always blame the coal mines. It’s not the coal mines. It’s the electric plants themselves.”

California wants more wind, change of direction

The president’s decision disappointed Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association.

The Berkeley-based nonprofit is supported by makers of wind turbines, contractors, component suppliers and project developers.

“I think it’s pretty sad that Trump sees this in terms of a deal, as something as simple as that,” Rader said. “This is about the future of the planet. This is about the health and safety of our children.”

California and other states already are working to reduce carbon emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy and the cost of such alternatives has dropped dramatically, she said.

California and the United States must be on the “leading edge” of the shift in order to reap the greatest economic rewards, Rader said.

Rader also said she was heartened that leaders of other countries “understand that Americans generally understand climate change, we want to do something about it.”

“Unfortunately, we have a president that doesn’t get it right now,” she said.

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Explained: Why Colorado, Arizona teachers are walking off the job

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Tens of thousands of schoolteachers plan to walk off the job in Arizona and Colorado on Thursday, shuttering classrooms in pursuit of better pay and school funding.

But there are key differences between the protests in the two states, which share below-average spending on public schools. The actions build on a movement that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Arizona and Colorado:

WHAT ARE TEACHERS PLANNING AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Teachers will walk off the job to hold rallies and other demonstrations at their respective state Capitols.

In Arizona, the first-ever statewide strike starts Thursday after educators voted overwhelmingly in favor of the action. There’s no end date scheduled, so it’s not clear how long classes might be interrupted.

Educators who are planning to participate could face consequences in the right-to-work state, where unions do not collectively bargain with school districts and representation is not mandatory.

The Arizona Education Association, the largest teacher membership group, has warned its 20,000 members about a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion saying a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials.

But no school district has said they would fire educators who strike or revoke teaching certificates.

In Colorado, teachers in four suburban school districts, including two of the largest in the state, will hold protests Thursday. But the bulk of the widespread walkouts will happen as a single-day demonstration Friday.

No laws in Colorado prohibit strikes. In response to recent national protests, a Republican lawmaker proposed a measure docking teacher pay and threatening fines and jail time for striking. Democrats oppose it, and it’s not expected to pass the politically divided Legislature.

WHAT ARE THE DEMANDS?

Arizona teachers have a long list, including a 20 percent raise for teachers, who earn $47,403 annually compared with a national average of $59,660, according to 2017 data from the National Education Association. They also want yearly raises until their salaries reach the national average and competitive wages for classified staffers.

They are seeking a return to pre-Great Recession spending levels, which would be a roughly $1 billion increase annually, plus additional funding increases until Arizona reaches the national average in per-pupil spending.

In Colorado, teachers secured a $150 million annual boost to schools in this year’s budget negotiations but want to wipe out an annual school funding shortfall within the next four years. After next year’s boost, Colorado will underfund its schools by $672 million a year versus what’s required by the state Constitution.

Colorado teachers don’t have specific demands regarding salaries, because they are set at the local level. But the hope is that more state funding will trickle down in the form of better pay. The average Colorado teacher earned $51,808 in 2017, according to the national teacher salary data.

Complicating matters, lawmakers are negotiating sweeping changes to the state and school pension fund, which will likely cut teacher retirement benefits and could decrease their take-home pay. Educators say they hope their protests highlight that any changes to the pension fund could further erode their compensation.

HOW ARE STATE LEADERS RESPONDING?

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has offered teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and pledged to see his proposal through despite concerns on how to fund it.

Ducey’s plan relies on higher-than-expected state revenue. Republican legislative leaders have questioned where the money might come from and are negotiating the plan this week.

Colorado lawmakers have secured a bipartisan deal to boost school funding but are negotiating on the pension changes. Republicans want public employees, including teachers, to put more of their own pay into the system to close a $32 billion funding gap. Democrats have countered with a plan to contribute $225 million in annual state funding to shore up the fund.

WHAT DOES THE WALKOUT MEAN FOR SCHOOLS, TEACHERS AND PARENTS?

In both states, school districts have been weighing whether to stay open or cancel classes.

Many in Arizona, including the state’s largest district in suburban Phoenix, will be closed at least Thursday and Friday. Some have said they will try to stay open if they have enough staff.

Many parents are scrambling to make child care plans. Community groups are organizing day camps, churches are opening for free care and some stay-at-home parents are volunteering to watch others’ children.

Colorado’s largest district, Denver Public Schools, will be closed Friday, along with more than a dozen others. Four others, including large suburban districts in Jefferson and Douglas counties, will be shuttered Thursday but are expected to reopen Friday.

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More than just pie, the Pecan industry sets sights on snacks

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The humble pecan is being rebranded as more than just pie.

Pecan growers and suppliers are hoping to sell U.S. consumers on the virtues of North America’s only native nut as a hedge against a potential trade war with China, the pecan’s largest export market.

The pecan industry is also trying to crack the fast-growing snack-food industry.

The retail value for packaged nuts, seeds and trail mix in the U.S. alone was $5.7 billion in 2012, and is forecast to rise to $7.5 billion by 2022, according to market researcher Euromonitor.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based American Pecan Council, formed in the wake of a new federal marketing order that allows the industry to band together and assess fees for research and promotion, is a half-century in the making, said Jim Anthony, 80, the owner of a 14,000-acre pecan farm near Granbury, Texas.

Anthony said that regional rivalries and turf wars across the 15-state pecan belt — stretching from the Carolinas to California — made such a union impossible until recently, when demand for pecans exploded in Asian markets.

Until 2007, most U.S. pecans were consumed domestically, according to Daniel Zedan, president of Nature’s Finest Foods, a marketing group. By 2009, China was buying about a third of the U.S. crop.

The pecan is the only tree nut indigenous to North America, growers say. Sixteenth-century Spanish explore Cabeza de Vaca wrote about tasting the nut during his encounters with Native American tribes in South Texas. The name is French explorers’ phonetic spelling of the native word “pakan,” meaning hard-shelled nut.

Facing growing competition from pecan producers in South Africa, Mexico and Australia, U.S. producers are also riding the wave of the Trump Administration’s policies to promote American-made goods.

Most American kids grow up with peanut butter but peanuts probably originated in South America. Almonds are native to Asia and pistachios to the Middle East. The pecan council is funding academic research to show that their nuts are just as nutritious.

The council on Wednesday will debut a new logo: “American Pecans: The Original Supernut.”

Rodney Myers, who manages operations at Anthony’s pecan farm, credits the pecan’s growing cachet in China and elsewhere in Asia with its association to rustic Americana — “the oilfield, cowboys, the Wild West — they associate all these things with the North American nut,” he said.

China earlier this month released a list of American products that could face tariffs in retaliation for proposed U.S. tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Fresh and dried nuts — including the pecan — could be slapped with a 15-percent tariff, according to the list. To counter that risk, the pecan council is using some of the $8 million in production-based assessments it’s collected since the marketing order was passed to promote the versatility of the tree nut beyond pecan pie at Thanksgiving.

While Chinese demand pushed up prices it also drove away American consumers. By January 2013, prices had dropped 50 percent from their peak in 2011, according to Zedan.

U.S. growers and processers were finally able in 2016 to pass a marketing order to better control pecan production and prices.

Authorized by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, federal marketing orders help producers and handlers standardize packaging, impose quality control and fund research, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees 28 other fruit, vegetable and specialty marketing orders, in addition to the pecan order.

Critics charge that the orders interfere with the price signals of a free, unfettered private market.

“What you’ve created instead is a government-sanctioned cartel,” said Daren Bakst, an agricultural policy researcher at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Before the almond industry passed its own federal marketing order in 1950, fewer almonds than pecans were sold, according to pecan council chair Mike Adams, who cultivates 600 acres of pecan trees near Caldwell, Texas. Now, while almonds appear in everything from cereal to milk substitutes, Adams calls the pecan “the forgotten nut.”

“We’re so excited to have an identity, to break out of the pie shell,” said Molly Willis, a member of the council who owns an 80-acre pecan farm in Albany, Georgia, a supplement to her husband’s family’s peanut-processing business.

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Navajo Nation marks 150th anniversary of return to homeland

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A long-lost original copy of a historic treaty signed in 1868 by leaders of one of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes and the U.S. government will go on display later this year as the Navajo Nation commemorates a dark, but significant chapter of history.

Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez and other tribal officials gathered Tuesday in Albuquerque to detail some of the events that will mark the signing of the treaty 150 years ago.

That treaty is what cleared the way for tribal members to return to their homeland in the heart of the American Southwest after being rounded up years earlier by the U.S. cavalry and forced to make an arduous and deadly trek hundreds of miles to a camp in eastern New Mexico.

Nez recounted the hardships of what came to be known as the Long Walk, saying many Navajos died along the route to Bosque Redondo. He also talked about those who stayed behind and hid in canyons and on mesa tops, often foregoing the warmth of a fire to avoid capture.

“We want our younger generation to know about our history,” Nez told a room packed with tribal officials and reporters.

He also talked about problems facing tribal communities, from suicide to alcoholism, drug addiction and violence. He said he wants to tap into the resilience of those Navajo ancestors who endured the hardships of the 1800s.

“What this will do is inspire, encourage our people out there that they can’t give up, to jump back up, dust themselves off and to fight even harder than ever before for what they believe in,” Nez said.

Navajo President Russell Begaye has said this year’s commemoration is also about telling the story of the Long Walk, the signing of the treaty and the return home from the perspective of Native Americans. He and other tribal officials say one goal is to address what they called a “legacy of misrepresentation” that has stemmed from that era.

Before research and planning began for this year’s events, there were only two known copies of the historic treaty. The whereabouts of one is now a mystery and the other has been kept by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The third copy turned up only recently when the relatives of a peace commissioner who was involved in the negotiation and signing of the treaty in 1868 found the document in a trunk in the family attic.

It was rolled up and bound with the original but faded ribbon. It was in pristine condition along with notes and other documents that historians hope might fill in some of the blanks from that time.

Pages of that copy will be on display starting in June at the Bosque Redondo Memorial near Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The National Archives is partnering with the Navajo Nation to display the other original copy at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, for the month of June.

It took more than two years of planning to make the exhibition possible as this marks only the second time an original treaty has gone back to a homeland.

Museum director Manny Wheeler said the treaty is more than just a document to the Navajo people.

“When I saw the document and I saw the marks of all of our leaders on that paper, it is a powerful thing and it is very much so opening up dialogue among all Navajos about who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re going,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler suggested that as much as the document was key to the Navajos’ past, it also has the power to change the future by awaking tribal members to the importance of preserving their culture and language.

The leaders of the Navajo Nation’s three branches of government signed a proclamation earlier this year declaring 2018 as the year of the treaty, and the tribe launched a website .

The commemoration also includes a day of prayer across the Navajo Nation, cultural nights, tours of the tribal council chambers and a run that will span more than 400 miles (644 kilometers) from Fort Sumner to the Navajo capital.

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