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Good morning. Welcome back! It has been a while since I mentioned that Axios had a bunch of cool, informative and breezy newsletters on tech, finance, health care and more. You can sign up here. One other thing: Big thanks to Amy Harder and several other Axios colleagues for their contributions to today's newsletter. Ok let's dive in . . .

The campaign for Paris

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We're watching an important dynamic in light of reports last night, including ours, that White House momentum is shifting toward an exit from the Paris climate pact — the prospect of a NAFTA redux.

What we're hearing: Sources tell Axios that advocates for the U.S. staying in the Paris deal are upping their efforts to have heads of state directly weigh in with President Donald Trump in favor of remaining, similar to how the leaders of Mexico and Canada reportedly called Trump and persuaded him to renegotiate instead of terminate NAFTA.

  • "One of the things we're doing as the green group contingency is to talk to other countries to make sure to tell them that now is the time to make your voice heard," an environmentalist said.

What they hope: To shift the momentum back towards staying in the Paris pact.

  • "It's not over until it's over when it comes to Trump," a longtime global climate diplomacy insider told Axios.

Exclusive from Amy’s notebook: Data shows coal decline

Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Coal mining jobs dropped almost 8% in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same period last year, according to Labor Department data obtained by Axios.

Reality check: The coal industry in the U.S. is not going to have a big and lasting comeback. Any upward tick will be peripheral and temporary, and mostly driven by market trends like natural gas prices and coal demand in China, not Trump's rhetoric and his efforts to repeal Obama-era environmental rules.

What they're saying: "I have no illusion we'll suddenly go back to the production we were at five years ago," Colin Marshall, CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, one of the biggest coal producers in the U.S., said in a recent interview with Axios.

The race to save ARPA-E

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In private Capitol Hill meetings and public advocacy, cleantech companies and universities are lobbying to preserve an Energy Department program that funds research into cutting-edge technologies.

Driving the news: A fight between the White House and Congress over the fate of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program with bipartisan backing that Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget plan would zero out.

  • Round one: The new federal spending deal that runs through September is a win for ARPA-E backers, providing $306 million, which is actually a slight boost over current funding. But the battle for 2018 money remains.

Going public: A letter out today from over 100 companies, universities and groups to top congressional appropriators to provide at least $325 million, arguing the program provides a "tremendous competitive advantage to our nation."

Behind the scenes: Energy company leaders, researchers and university officials have been meeting with their delegations urging support.

  • CEOs with the American Energy Innovation Council, a coalition of big companies and advocates including Bill Gates, have privately urged key appropriators that ARPA-E and related programs are "critical to U.S. long-term energy technology competitiveness and U.S. economic growth," a source with the group said. More meetings are expected as the FY 2018 fight heats up in coming months.

Even more ARPA-E

There's a lot of angst and confusion over what exactly is going on. According to multiple press accounts and your host's own reporting, funding for some projects approved under existing appropriations has been halted by Trump's Energy Department personnel.

High-level attention: It's something that's on the radar screen of GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who heads the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is also a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

What they're saying: Murkowski said yesterday that she's been in touch with staff about the fate of the projects. The upshot of what she said is that the projects are not scuttled.

  • "It means that until they get this release on the authorization to send the monies out, that they are just on hold. It is my understanding that we have not lost those projects, but there is kind of a process issue that we are dealing with right now," she said.

Climate change and Saudi Aramco’s IPO

Not the usual fare on the mother of all IPOs: An essay in The Economist Intelligence Unit makes the case that Saudi Aramco's massive initial public offering next year has a climate change "upside."

The take: Ben Caldecott, director of the Sustainable Finance Programme at the University of Oxford, says:

  • Cash raised can help Saudi Arabia, the world's 10th-largest GHG emitter, invest in renewables to help move its "inefficient and heavily polluting economy" off of oil.
  • Aramco's reserves are low-carbon intensity compared to some of the hard to reach, expensive holdings of international oil companies (IOCs) like BP and Shell. Investors can cut exposure to IOCs by shifting to Aramco. This should have a double impact: It will make it harder for IOCs to raise money for costly and environmentally harmful projects, and it should "jolt" the IOCs to diversify away from fossil fuels.
  • If Aramco is listed on an exchange with high standards, like the London Stock Exchange, it will pressure the company and the kingdom for more transparency and accountability — it might even push Aramco into implementing climate risk disclosure recommendations.
IPO details: Reuters has the latest on the planned Aramco IPO.

Lightning round

Utilities: Power giant Southern Company reported $658 million profit in the first quarter of 2017 on Wednesday.

Solar: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is probing whether solar energy companies are "masking how many customers they're losing."

Regulations: Bloomberg reports that a congressional vote to kill one of Obama's climate regulations could hinge on an unrelated ethanol dispute.

Tesla: Axios' Steve LeVine has a smart look at the difficulties confronting Elon Musk's vision of underground tunnels, which would carry self-driving cars, to ease traffic.

More Tesla: Recode sets the stage for the company's first-quarter earnings call this evening.

One fun thing

Climate activist Bill McKibben hasn't read the scientific paper recently penned about his influence in the climate debate, but he writes to Axios' Amy Harder that it makes him "feel suitably ancient to be the subject of academic inquiry..."

For the record: The paper's title is "Bill McKibben's Effect on the US Climate Change Debate: Shifting the Institutional Environment Through Radical Flank Effects."

Thanks for reading! Oh, and a little going away present: my Axios colleague Stef W. Kight has a handy guide to the blowback over New York Times' columnist Bret Stephens' piece on climate change. Your confidential tips and feedback are welcome at ben@axios.com. See you tomorrow.

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Peter Thiel has parted ways with Y Combinator

Peter Thiel. Photo: Kevin Moloney / Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Famed investor Peter Thiel, who publicly supported Donald Trump during his candidacy and as president, is no longer affiliated with startup accelerator program Y Combinator, as BuzzFeed first reported and a blog post update confirms.

Be smart: Thiel isn't the only one departing the program. Y Combinator has shuttered its entire part-time partner program in which Thiel participated, according to BuzzFeed. So it's not quite the symbolic move many wanted YC to make last year.

  • The organization has been experimenting with various ways to involve alumni entrepreneurs who want to advise new startups, such as having "visiting partners" for a 6-month run.
  • And as a venture capitalist with close ties to the startup community and friendships with some of YC's executives, it's hard to believe that Thiel won't continue to meet with and invest in the accelerator program's startups.
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Report: War on ISIS killing 31 times more civilians than claimed

Airstrikes target ISIS positions on the edge of the Old City a day after Iraq's prime minister declared "total victory" in Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Felipe Dana / AP

The U.S.-led war against ISIS is claiming civilian lives at a rate 31 times higher than was previously acknowledged by the coalition, according to Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, NYT reporters who conducted an 18-month investigation in northern Iraq.

Why it matters: This staggering number of deaths "is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history," per NYT. It also raises questions about civilian casualties in neighboring Syria, and how far this reporting problem reaches around the world.

What they did, per the NYT: The reporters went to roughly 150 airstrike sites in northern Iraq to interview witnesses and local officials, photograph bomb fragments, search local records and news sources, and map out the destruction through satellite imagery. They visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition is based and interviewed coalition officials and advisers. They provided coalition analysts with coordinates and date ranges of 103 air strikes to examine and compare their responses.

What they found, per the NYT: The coalition claims 1 civilian is killed in every 157 airstrikes but their on-the-ground analysis shows 1 civilian is killed in every 5 airstrikes. They added the coalition is doing a poor job of investigating claims or even to keep proper records to make investigation possible.

"While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants," according to Khan and Gopal.

Featured

White House on sexual allegations: Franken admitted wrongdoing, Trump hasn't

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during a press briefing at the White House. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday that the allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Al Franken are different from those against President Trump because, "Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the president hasn't. That's a very big distinction."

Key quote: When asked why allegations against Franken merit an investigation but those against Trump don't, Sanders replied "The American people spoke very loud and clear when they elected the president."

More from Sanders:

  • Is it the WH position that Trump's accusers are lying? "The president has denied those allegations."
  • Does Trump believe the women who accused Roy Moore? "The president certainly finds the allegations extremely troubling ... and he feels it's up to [Alabama] ... to make a determination."

Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, joined Sanders to discuss the latest on tax reform:

  • Trickle-down economics: "There's nothing about that's controversial."
  • Difficulty of passing tax reform in the Senate: "I'm hopeful that people can work it out, and that everybody, even Democrats, will end up wanting to vote for it."
  • Temporary tax cuts: Hassett said he hopes future congresses won't let them expire.
Featured

Florida Democratic Chair resigns after sexual harassment claims

Stephen Bittel apologized to the women who felt uncomfortable. Screengrab via YouTube

Stephen Bittel, Florida's Democratic Party chairman since last January, resigned today after several women accused him of making inappropriate comments toward them, according to Politico's interviews with six women.

Key quote: "There was a lot of boob stuff in his office," one woman, a former fundraiser for Bittel, told Politico. "I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned."

Why it matters: Bittel is another Democrat after Franken who has faced allegations of sexual harassment, and he's likely not going to be the last. His resignation is one example of some of the consequences these men will face in the wake of these revelations.

His statements:

  • To Politico on Thursday, before his official resignation: "Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry. I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I've not been successful in that goal, and I will do better."
  • On the day of his resignation: "When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside. I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable under my tenure at the Democratic Party. I am working with our leadership to elect my successor."
One more quote: "He's just so f----ng creepy," a former party staffer told Politico. "He just leers at you, and stares. I don't know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you. I don't know how to describe the feeling."
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Report: Trump administration plans to halt work permits for H-1B spouses

Computer information specialist and immigrant from India, Santosh Pala, right, carries his three-month-old son Hemang during a prayer procession at the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple in Frisco, Texas, in 2015. Photo: LM Otero / AP.

The Trump administration plans to halt work permits for the spouses of H-1B visa holders, which would discourage H-1B visa applicants from staying in the country and would revoke the ability to work for thousands of visa holders' spouses, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Why it matters: It's another move by the Trump administration to make it more difficult for foreign workers to come to America in its larger effort to safeguard American jobs.

  • Approximately 100,000 spouses and children of H-1B visa holders come to the U.S. every year on a visa known as H-4.
  • These workers were not able to work in the U.S. before 2015, when President Barack Obama created a work permit for some H-4 holders.
  • Silicon Valley will be disproportionately affected, since many high-tech employers employ H-1B workers. Because of the region's high cost of living, It is difficult for a family to survive on one salary and, as a result, may not be able to stay in the country.
  • A decision on the H-4 work authorization will likely come soon, immigration attorneys told The Chronicle.

Other efforts: Earlier this week, a House committee advanced Rep. Darrell Issa's bill to increase restrictions on how "H-1B dependent" companies can obtain the work permits for employees. Find details of Issa's bill here, and the Indian firms' lobbying efforts against crack downs on H-1B visas here.

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Franken's former female staffers defend him amid allegations

Jim Mone / AP

Amid a firestorm of criticism for his alleged sexual misconduct, eight of Sen. Al Franken's former female staffers issued a joint statement obtained by the Star Tribune Friday saying the senator treated them "with the utmost respect" and "was a champion for women both in the legislation he supported and in promoting women to leadership roles in our offices."

Franken's former chief of staff, Casey Aden-Wansbury, also told ABC News that during the eight years she had known him, "he has always worked hard to create a respectful environment for his staff." She added that "the inappropriate behavior reported today does not live up to the values I know he holds."

Featured

Spotify acquires yet another startup as it prepares to go public

Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios

Spotify has acquired Swedish collaborative music-making startup Soundtrap, the latter said on its website. Spotify paid at least $30 million, according to Breakit.

The big picture: As Spotify eyes a public listing of its stock next year (as it has been reported and sources tell Axios), the company has to keep growing its music business beyond streaming existing tracks. This way, it can provide more services, such as music collaboration tools to artists.

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White House requests 3rd disaster relief package

Volunteers sort supplies for those affected by Hurricane Maria. Photo: Carlos Giusti / AP

The White House requested an additional $44 billion from Congress on Friday for disaster recovery, which if approved would bring the total to almost $100 billion for Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Politico reports.

Go deeper: The latest on Puerto Rico recovery, per Puerto Rico's government site and FEMA:

  • Almost 82% of the island has water.
  • Nearly 45% of the island has electricity.
  • There are 15,000 civilian/military personnel assisting in recovery, plus 2,800 FEMA personnel.
  • 84% of gas stations are up and running.
  • Almost 89% of supermarkets are running.
  • There are 1,822 people taking shelter in 50 shelters.
Featured

Kayla Moore says her husband will not step down

Roy Moore's wife, Kayla, said that he will not step down from the U.S. senate race in the face of sexual harassment allegations.

Moore also said the "liberal press" and others who have attacked President Trump are now attacking them and taking spotlight away from the Russia investigation: "To the President, I would say now is a good time to get some things done in Congress."

Featured

How evolution shaped passenger pigeons' DNA — and their fate

Martha, the last known passenger pigeon before dying in 1914, can be seen at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

A new study suggests passenger pigeons, which once covered North America with massive flocks before their extinction in the early 20th century, may have maintained stable populations for thousands of years until human hunters came along, per The Washington Post. That counters previous research that found the species had already taken a downturn by that time.

The double whammy: Besides the sudden influx of human predators, the birds' genome had been tuned to the size of its population. It had surprisingly low genetic variation in some parts of its genome, which "provided few avenues for the bird to respond to human pressures, which ultimately drove it to extinction," according to the study, published Thursday in Science.

Role of genetics: One way genomes evolve is via random mutation (also called neutral evolution). Those mutations don't necessarily have an immediate benefit but sometimes can in the long run. Another process is selection in which one version of a gene is preferred — or not — over another because it influences survival. Researchers found the passenger pigeon's genome was diverse overall compared to other birds but that diversity wasn't uniform across their chromosomes. The researchers think that suggests their large population size allowed them to adapt quickly to their environment (via selection) but the cost was that there wasn't much neutral evolution happening, which left them with little genetic variation.

"Large population size appears to have allowed for faster adaptive evolution and removal of harmful mutations, driving a huge loss in their neutral genetic diversity," the researchers wrote. "These results demonstrate the effect that selection can have on a vertebrate genome and contradict results that suggested that population instability contributed to this species's surprisingly rapid extinction."

The bottom line: The study says having a huge population was initially a key survival mechanism for the passenger pigeon. However, the birds' surprisingly low genetic variation caused it to be unable to recover from humanity's overhunting practices. As one of the study authors told WashPost, "It's impossible to adapt to gunfire."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide further information.