Aug 5, 2018

Trump claims California wildfires "made so much worse" by environmental laws

President Trump tweeted on Sunday evening about the ongoing California wildfires, stating that "bad environmental laws" have "magnified" the disaster and "made [it] so much worse."

"California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!"

Our thought bubble, via Axios science editor Andrew Freedman: President Trump appears to be referring to endangered species protections, which mandate availability of water for some species. However, firefighters haven’t complained about lack of water for firefighting, but rather, the extreme nature of these fires.

  • The factors contributing to these fires include decades of national forest mismanagement and climate change, which is making summers hotter and drier than they otherwise would be.
  • The Trump administration is working on broad changes to the Endangered Species Act — as well as opening federal forests to logging, oil and gas drilling. This tweet appears to tie the fires to both policy goals — without any evidence that they are key factors in the state’s devastating fire season.

What they're saying:

  • Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who works with the Cato Institute: "Blue check marks: please take a deep breath and read up on California's forest management issues that are decades in the making. Governor Brown blames climate change for wildfires and avoids any meaningful conversation on policy solutions."
  • Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA: "Lost in recent conversation over #wildfire risk is the following point by @thirstygecko: Warming #climate & drying forests/vegetation across American West is clearly not the only relevant factor behind emerging era of megafires. But it is large & growing contributor.#CAfire #CAwx"

Go deeper: In vast stretches of the warming, drying American West, there is no well-defined wildfire season anymore.

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Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Health

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.