Oil Companies Spent At Least $114 Million Fighting Climate Action In 2015

Non-profit organization Influence Maphas released a report alleging that oil companies spent $114 millionlast year to prevent action being taken on climate change. The money was divided between publicity to mislead the public on the science and lobbying of politicians to prevent the passage of legislation. The estimate does not include contributions from other fossil fuel companies, and probably misses some under the table payments.

The UK-based NGO used tax records and lobbying registers to assess corporate influence andestimate the total spend,not only on direct lobbying, but alsoadvertising, marketing, public relations, political contributions, regulatory contacts, and trade associations. They donot, however, include what Influence Map refers to as dark pools, money being channeled into anti-climate think tanks and institutes, as it is harder to allocate fully the origins of these funds.

The funds were predominately spent in the United States, climate obstructionism having limited traction in most of the rest of the world. The majority of the $114 million came from the American Petroleum Institute (API), the representative body to which most oil companies contribute.

However, Influence Map says that Exxon Mobil spent $27 million directly, despite knowing about climate change since the early ’80s and having promised to cease its climate denial operations in 2008.Shell spent $22 million, in addition to their contributions to the API. In July 2015,Shell leftthe American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing body thatlobbies U.S. state governments, because of ALEC’s denial of human responsibility for global warming, but they seem keen to keep on resisting legislative change.

Source and type of expenditure. Influence Map.

The single biggest expenditure was the $43 million the API spent on advertising and public relations campaigns, including holding conferences and conventions to influence debate.

Most of the rest of the money went to paying communications and media staff to shape the debate around the science and policy of climate change. The organizations’ total expenditure on communications staff was much larger, but Influence Map only included the component they estimate was spent on working against climate activities. Donations to politicians’ campaigns represented a very small cost by comparison.

Although the study captured expenditure incurred by smaller oil companies through the API and two other trade organizations, direct payments from these companies were not included, so the true total is almost certainly higher. It is not unreasonable to estimate that in excess of $500m is spent by the corporate sector globally on obstructing ambitious climate policy and regulations in line with achieving less than 2C warming, the report argues.

Much of the money was spent, not on attacks on official climate policy, but on attempting to undermine programs to support renewable energy.

The tide may be turning against this sort of behavior, however. Influence Map’s report notesthat in the first three months of 2016 there have been 15 shareholder resolutions filed by investors in the U.S. alone, seeking to force companies to cease lobbying against climate action or to be more transparent about their activities. Many of these resolutions are coming from unions and retirement funds increasingly concerned about the long-term economic consequences of failing to take action on climate change.

[H/T:Climate Home]

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/oil-companies-spent-least-114-million-fighting-climate-action-2015

A generation of artists were wiped out by Aids and we barely talk about it

A new film about the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is a shocking and brilliant reminder of the devastation HIV and Aids wreaked and still does

There are many shocking images in the brilliant new documentary Robert Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, made by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. You probably know many of them already. Some are just seared into our culture and no longer disturb anyone. The cover of Horses with Patti Smith was as much of a statement as her music. His celebrity pics of Eurotrash and rich collectors, or actual celebs such as Debbie Harry and Bianca whispering in Mick Jaggers ear remain fascinating. Their beauty blasted by his light into timelessness; his naked flowers, the sex organs of plants in all their glory. As he said himself, he could perfect a bowl of carnations just as well as a fist up someones ass. Then there was the documentation of his S&M activities and his fetishisation of the black body so many of these images remain, to use the word du jour, problematic. Good. His life was an artwork. He would pick up guys, do drugs, have sex and then get down to work. He would photograph them.

When you see these pictures, you wonder why with sexual imagery everywhere all the time these pictures linger, hanging somewhere in a dark part of the collective memory. You keep looking because he kept seeing.

In this film, we have Mapplethorpe in his own words, not the rose-tinted memories that Smith gave us in Just Kids. He is openly a man of sociopathic ambition who wants sex, fame and money, and would use anyone to get them. That countercultural drive echoed what was going on in the 1980s so much that it would become indistinguishable from mainstream culture. When people talk about the end of the New York scene, thats what they mean.

Just as he got what he wanted, he got sick. This ruined Cupid, this beautiful man, we see skeletal with Aids giving his final party.

Whether its an orgy or a cocktail party I know how to do it. He certainly did. Its hard to see this vain man visibly dying. But he made his death part of his art. His 1988 self-portrait with a skull cane remains a masterpiece. I feel sorry for those who say photography is not an art. Bowie used his death in his final work too. No hiding away.

But what the film also brings home is the erasure of history the fact that all those deaths from Aids have been somehow glossed over. Gay people can get married. Everything is lovely now!

Its hard to see this vain man visibly dying Mapplethorpes 1988 self-portrait with skull cane. Photograph: By permission: Mapplethorpe Foundation

Yet there was a time when you could walk around London or New York and see these gaunt faces, marked with sarcomas, and everyone you hung out with was dying. The official culture was in denial. Sometimes it was easier to be. I remember seeing Derek Jarman at a play. At that point he was blind. I didnt want to see him like that. And then my friend was queer-bashed on the way home. Freddie Mercury died. Keith Haring died. Eazy- E from NWA died. Denholm Elliott died. Rock Hudson died. Fela Kuti died. And my uncle who wasnt famous or even my actual uncle died. One of my friends lost seven people who were all under 30.

I was explaining this to my 25-year-old daughter. She understood what happened, but said, I just cant imagine it. And somehow nor can I, but we lived through it. HIV, we say, is now no longer a death sentence. But, of course, it is in many parts of the world. South Africa has a 19% HIV rate. Russian is only just starting to admit the scale of its problem with an estimate of 1.5 million people with HIV. Neither homosexuality nor addiction can be spoken about in Putins Russia.

Mapplethorpes work was censored by US senator Jesse Helms who, like many Republicans, saw Aids as a punishment for homosexuality. Nancy and Ronald Reagan pretty much signed up to this line. Republicans banned needle exchanges. The Catholic church banned condoms. Mapplethorpes work is shot through the lens of his Catholic upbringing, the black mass and rituals of S&M his composition, his invocation of the devil not as a metaphor, but as a living presence.

He was but one of a generation of artists, activists and athletes wiped out by Aids. Why dont we speak about this anymore? Is it ancient history? Not for me, as it propelled a politics of queer solidarity arising from horrific circumstances.

The debate about safe spaces came to mind watching this film. Mapplethorpes entire oeuvre was a trigger warning. A bullwhip up his rectum, a penis lit like Mona Lisa. He died at 42.

When Paul OGrady was asked in the Guardian about the death of his friend Cilla Black, he said: Ive lost about everybody I know. He talked about Aids wiping out all his friends, and about having to pretend to some of their families that they were dying of cancer as he nursed them. People my age will never get over the horrors.

Antiretrovirals may make us think it has all gone away. It hasnt. Aids is killing people all over the world. The living death mask of Mapplethorpe disturbed me more than any pictures of fisting. Because I thought of all those we lost, and how we dont really want to remember any more. Mapplethorpes unblinking need to document his life, his sex, his magic and his death reminded me why we must never forget. The battle is not won.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/commentisfree/2016/apr/20/a-generation-of-artists-were-wiped-out-by-aids-and-we-barely-talk-about-it-robert-mapplethorpe

Who’s behind this army of Donald Trump-loving Twitter bots?

There is a small army ofTwitterbots working to getDonald Trump elected president.

Earlier this month, Patrick Ruffini, the politically conservative co-founder of the social media analytics company Echelon Insights, sent out a tweetstorm about the bot network, after he discovered a collection of highly suspicious Twitter accounts tweeting pro-Trump messages. The accounts were also urging followers to file complaints with theFCCabout robocalls generated by the campaign of Trump’s GOP primary rival, Texas Sen.Ted Cruz.

Ruffini noted that many of these accounts didn’t exclusively tweet about Trump. They also tweeted marketing spam.

According to Sam Woolley, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies the political use of social media bots, this type of behavior is relatively common.

A lot of the time, the place where someone is buying bot followers, a marketing firm or … content-management firm, is working for a lot of different people, Woolley said. Bots are among one of many, many different tactics they use.

By Ruffini’s tally, in the 30 days prior to April 7, the accounts had tweeted over 1.7 million times. About 411,000 of those tweets were about Trump. He also estimated that the group had collectively retweeted Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign’s social media manager, 13,000 times.

Shortly after Ruffini tweeted about the bot network, the original tweets about reporting Cruz’s robocalls to the FCC were deleted. However, the Daily Callercaptured screengrabs of the tweets before they were taken down.

Ruffini did not respond to our requests for comment. However, a few days later, he sent a series of tweets digging into one Twitter account in particularone that sparked a national outcry after Trump himselfretweetwed a meme unflatteringly comparing pictures of Cruz’s wife Heidi to Trump’s wife Melania.

A message to the account in question was not returned.

Ruffini posted a Google Docs spreadsheet listing nearly 500 Twitter accounts he believed to be part of the bot network. A quick check of 20 randomly selected accounts in the list found that 12 of them rated as having more than a 50 percent chance likelihood of being bots, according to theBotOrNottool developed by Indiana University Bloomington’s Truthy project, which performs a series of tests to grade Twitter accounts based how bot-like their behavior is. A significant number of accounts on the list had been suspended by Twitter.

This instance is not the first time Twitter bots have been discovered to be boosting Trump. Immediately following the Nevada caucuses in February, a number of Twitter accounts appearing to belong to Latinos, based on their names and photos, all tweeted an identical message about Trump winning 40 percent of the Latino vote in the state,indicating the accounts were likely bots.

While every high-profile Twitter user has some bots among their followers, in his own poking around the Twitter following of the 2016 presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, Woolley has noticed that Trump and Democratic frontrunnerHillary Clinton have unusually large numbers of bot followers.

You can pay to have fake followers, but also a lot of time fake followers will just follow you, Woolley said. I’ve been manually doing some investigation on Trump and Clinton. … Both of them have a lot of bot-looking profiles that are just Twitter eggs with no followers, but they tweet all the time solely about … how great trump is or … about how great Clinton is. It seems pretty suspicions from my point of view.

An analysis conducted by Followerwonk on behalf of FiveThirtyEight found that the two leading candidates, Trump and Clinton, havesignificantly larger shares of automated followers8 percent and 7 percent, respectivelythan do their primary rivals, who top out at about 4 percent (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate) or below.

Ever since Twitter became widely recognized as a powerful tool for political organizing, political organizations have used bots to amplify their messages on the micro-blogging platform. In 2010, researchers discovered bots thatwere sending out messages promoting the website of then-House Minority Leader John Boehner. Two years prior,as discovered by a pair of researchers at Wellesley College, another network of Twitter bots, all created within minutes of each other, sent out a flurry of messages intended to influence the outcome of the special Senate election contest in Massachusetts between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat left open by the death of Ted Kennedy.

Discovering the existence of these bot networks is often the easy part. It’s typically much more difficult to determine who is operating them and, even trickier still, to determine if a campaign is directly responsible. In the case of these Trump bots, it hasn’t been determined if they’re the work of the campaign (which did not respond to a request for comment), an outside group (like a super PAC), a false flag effort by one of Trump’s opponents designed to make the real estate heir and former reality-TV star look bad, or just an individual Trump supporter with too much free time on his or her hands.

Woolley, however, has a theory.

My best guess is that the campaigns … hire digital strategy firms, and those digital strategy firms say, These are all the things we can do for you, he said. Bots are just one of them. The candidates and the campaigns, I’m guessing, are more divorced from the bots. They’re ultimately culpable, because they’re paying these strategy firms to help them with their content management … and bots are just one way they think helps them with their brand.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Read more: http://www.dailydot.com/politics/trump-twitter-bots-ruffini/