'Frontline' shows Scott Pruitt is the clear winner in environmental wars for now

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The 'War on the EPA' is loud and clear

They can now toast Scott Pruitt in coal country, perhaps with plastic flutes of toxic rain. Tuesday brought what New Yorker writer Jane Mayer has called the "triumph of the anti-environmental movement." It's a triumph you can watch on tonight's installment of PBS' "Frontline."

Mayer is one of two prominent journalists featured in "War on the EPA," a depressingly timely investigation that will surely now be edited to insert word of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's Tuesday announcement of his plan to rescind President's Obama's signature move to curb greenhouse emissions from power plants (the so-called Clean Power Plan).

An early version of the show sent for review purposes was in and of itself convincing about what at least constitutes a giant temporary victory of Donald Trump and all those who see the environmental movement as a contrivance of wealthy and left-wing Americans who actually believe in global warming.

This is essentially a profile of Pruitt, who was elected attorney general of Oklahoma in the 2010 Republican sweep of Congress and made his priority an unceasing battle —coordinated with other Republican attorneys general and the fossil fuels industry — against Obama's energy agenda.

Its strength is on-the-record interviews with key players on both sides, ranging from bombastic Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray and Southern Company lobbyist Andrew Miller, on one side, to former top Obama aides and officials, as well as reporters Mayer and The New York Times' Eric Lipton on the other.

Lipton won a Pulitzer Prize for astonishing disclosures about the relationship between the attorneys general, led by Pruitt, and the industry that supported them. It's as vivid a demonstration as one can find about the nexus of money and power. But, lest one get too cheery about the positive impact of great journalism, watch one Republican strategist on "Frontline" declare that Lipton's revelations not only didn't hurt Pruitt in Oklahoma, they may have helped a man whose acts included copying energy company-crafted letters, and putting his letterhead on them, in filing protests with the EPA.

And now, as Lipton says here, Pruitt "is making the regulated the regulator." Until Tuesday, the most vivid example was a September decision to gut a long-in-the-works regulation to keep toxic coal waste out of the water supply. Pruitt suspended the rule, claiming it threatened harm to the economy. He's now gone a bridge too far.

An undercover hit job hurts The Times

As RealClearPolitics summarizes, "In the latest installment of 'American Pravda' from James O'Keefe and 'Project Veritas,' Nick Dudich, audience strategy editor for NYT Video, is caught on camera saying the Times 'always' slants news with an anti-Trump bias. Dudich speaks candidly to an undercover reporter about how his left-wing political bias influences his editorial judgment, and reveals an unusual connection to former FBI Director James Comey, and a strange association with domestic terror group Antifa."

At first blush, this bit of skullduggery is not at all good for the paper and will present a field day for its right-leaning enemies, playing into all their preconceptions of liberal bias. The paper responded pretty quickly, calling Dudich a junior editor, without the responsibilities he suggests, who "violated our ethical standards." It's reviewing the matter and will apparently have more to say.

More Harvey Weinstein fallout

His wife, Georgina Chapman, said she's leaving him. That now puts her in a select group, certainly along with Huma Abedin, in not standing by her very public man. Op-ed editors, you might crank out some thoughtful speculation as to whether we have a trend. 

Meanwhile, both "Fox & Friends" and CNN's "New Day" were on the same page in gabbing about the lengthy initial silence of the Clintons on the Weinstein mess. Yes, he's been a big supporter of both of them. But this was an easy one, and to take five days before Hillary Clinton issued a rebuke (it's a 6.5 on a 10-point Rebuke Scale) struck CNN co-host Ailsyn Camerota as "puzzling." No, it wasn't. It was Clintonian caution and premeditation. She probably focused grouped it on her cell before going public.

Oh, and TMZ, our primary chronicler of Important Cultural Happenings (especially if a source takes a few bucks), claimed that Weinstein was boarding a private plane last night to get to a European clinic that deals with alleged sex addiction. Well, I figured he wasn't flying coach on United.

Trump's morning tweet

It came at 6:47 a.m. as USA Today's estimable sports columnist Christine Brennan was discussing sports, culture and the NFL on CNN's "New Day" with Camerota and Chris Cuomo.

"It is about time that that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem - RESPECT OUR COUNTRY."

Brennan quickly annotated that sunrise harrumphing. "Trump is saying something that Goodell did not say. ...The NFL has not changed its demand yet. ... The NFL is not saying they must stand. ... It's against the collective bargaining agreement. ... I think Trump might be declaring victory before there is anything close to a victory."

Now, drum roll, we give you the tale of another Trump tweet that battles the truth:

Trump's latest whopper

Trump sent out a typically belittling tweet Tuesday about Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who'd derided Trump over the weekend in a New York Times interview. He suggested that "Liddle Bob" was somehow a victim of undercover skullduggery — the Times as a left-wing Project Veritas. My email exchange with reporter Jonathan Martin elicited why that was total baloney, with two Corker aides taping the same chat, which is to say it was no surprise to the senator.

Sheryl Sandberg's emergency clean-up

Recode details, "Facebook is dispatching Sheryl Sandberg, its powerful chief operating officer, to Washington, D.C., this week, as the company attempts to contain the political fallout from revelations that Russian agents spread disinformation on the social network."

"The house call to the nation’s capital — confirmed to Recode on Tuesday by multiple source — comes as Facebook prepares to join its tech peers and testify at two public congressional hearings in November that are focused on the Kremlin’s suspected meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

"As part of the trip, Sandberg is expected to huddle on Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, two sources said."

A pathetic display

As longtime English soccer announcer Ian Darke tweeted last night, "No team has a divine right to go to the World Cup. It has to be earned. USA did not earn it. No hard luck story here."

Yes, a country with a population of 323 million lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, which has 1.3 million people. That means the U.S. is eliminated from the World Cup, to be held in Russia, for the first time since 1986. ESPN's roundup of the damning social media response is here

Steven Goff, a very fine and longtime Washington Post soccer writer, noted in his story how missing the tournament, given the marshmallow soft geographic region in which they U.S. competed, "was an almost impossibility." But we did the impossible and absolutely flopped. Thirty years of claims about the rise of the sport in this country, always pointing to the growth in U.S. soccer, are again proven false.

When I reached him very late (very) last night, Goff emailed, "Like the players, I am slowly realizing there will be no World Cup for U.S. soccer next summer. I really didn't start following the sport closely until the late '80s, so I don't know what it's like not to cover the team at the soccer spectacle. My first World Cup was 1994. Been to every one since. Not sure how the Post will handle next summer. Sure saves a lot of travel cash — and hacked equipment. Oh well, on to France for Women's World Cup in 2019. That U.S. women's team is fun to cover."

At "Trump & Friends" this morning, co-host Brian Kilmeade, apparently a soccer fan, alluded to the big investments of both Fox and Nike and was suitably pained by the result. "Oh, my goodness, what a disaster," he said, and with droll theatricality briefly walked off the set.

A sigh of relief in Bristol?

As Business Insider notes, "In order to win a bidding war with ESPN, Fox agreed to pay $400 million for the English-broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. With the Americans eliminated from 2018 contention, chances are those broadcasts are significantly less valuable than previously imagined."

'North Korea in Focus'

Reuters unveiled a new section of its website, which will explore the politics, culture and crisis in North Korea. The opening includes a look into why dictator why Kim Jong Un uses a particular seaside resort for some of his big military tests. It's no bombshell but worth a read to gain a fuller explanation of his government's motives and priorities.

The origin of that 'moron' quote

Carole Lee, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter who split to NBC, is primary author of an NBC News piece that elaborates on the predicate for the previously reported tale of Rex Tillerson calling his boss "a moron." It followed a military meeting in July at which Trump "said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal."

She explained further on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "nobody took him literally," which is a rather distinct qualifier (and presumably source of some vague relief). "It was more a lack of understanding why that wasn't feasible but also unnecessary" that left the assembled taken aback, she said this morning. Co-host Joe Scarborough segued seamlessly into Trump-is-an-idiot autopilot, arguing that such a statement displayed total ignorance of a history in which multiple predecessors negotiated lower levels of nuclear stocks.

The horrors of juvenile "justice"

The juvenile justice system has been broken in most places for decades, with a melancholy monotony to disclosures about its frequent inhumanity and bureaucratic incompetence. The latest expose is found in the Miami Herald, which in part focuses on the excessive force routinely exhibited and encouraged by staffers in Florida. They even offer prizes for "beatdowns by kids of kids." There's video proof.

If history repeats itself, there will be calls for reform, some well-intentioned "blue ribbon" panel's recommendations, a few changes, insufficient funding and, then, another newspaper expose somewhere down the road. And the kids will continue to be screwed.

Turkey goes after Wall Street Journal

Yet another example of how Trump's threats to the press are in a different, more benign league than what reporters face in dozens of countries. Now, as the Journal reports, "A Turkish court sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to two years and one month in prison Tuesday, declaring her guilty of engaging in terrorist propaganda in support of a banned Kurdish separatist organization through one of her Journal articles."

"The conviction of Ms. Albayrak, who is currently in New York, highlights the increasing targeting of journalists in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has gained attention for deteriorating media freedoms."

“'This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report,' said Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker. 'The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.'"

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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