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Can California’s wildfires teach America a lesson? — Meanwhile in America

As wildfires race across thousands of acres of tinder-dry brush in California, the conversation is once again turning to climate change and how to stop it.

Here in the Golden State, scrambling to fight these fast-moving blazes has become almost routine, particularly when the famed Santa Ana winds sweep the landscape. (See Joan Didion’s 1967 essay “Los Angeles Notebook” about how the Santa Ana winds dry “the hills and the nerves to flash point” and remind us “how close to the edge we are.”) Still, there’s no question California’s fires have become more devastating—just like the storms that sweep the other coast during hurricane season. This week the Los Angeles Times editorial board noted that five of California’s deadliest wildfires occurred during the last two years. And Californians are adjusting to a new normal: planned power outages to prevent wildfires from occurring.

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For years, California led the nation with measures to slow the pace of climate change. More recently the state has clashed with President Trump, the climate-change-denier-in-chief, over its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But public opinion here is firmly on the side of the climate change believers. Last fall, two-thirds of Californians said the effects of global warming were already occurring, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll, and strong majorities favored state efforts to address it. In that same survey, 62% of Californians said the issue of global warming was important to them, compared with about 48% of adults nationwide.

There’s an old saying in California that “the future happens here first.” Will these fires stir public opinion on climate change? It wouldn’t be the first time California leads the way. — CNN’s Maeve Reston writes for Meanwhile from Los Angeles

‘A secret ritual conducted by a cult’

There is a genuine argument to be had over whether President Donald Trump’s apparent search for political favors in Ukraine is sufficiently serious for him to be ousted. That’s the task of the impeachment inquiry that the full House of Representatives will vote on for the first time on Thursday — and ultimately it would be up to the US Senate to decide whether Trump’s alleged offenses should cost him his presidency.

Many Democrats argue that the President abused his power by pressuring a foreign leader for dirt on a political rival — 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden. But as the evidence mounts, it’s hard to find Republicans building a defense on the merits. Trump loyalists are instead mirroring the President’s tactics by attacking the impeachment process itself, hitting out at Democrats, impugning the character of witnesses and resorting to conspiracy theories.

Deny, deny, deny. Some have chosen to simply not acknowledge eyebrow-raising statements in witness testimony and in a rough transcript of Trump’s now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Attack the process. Republicans are also arguing that the whole thing is a partisan plot that infringes on the Constitution and defies the will of people who voted for Trump. However, the Constitution does give the House of Representatives the right to draw up its own impeachment process as a backstop against wrongdoing in the Oval Office.

Call it a “secret ritual conducted by a cult.” Some seem to have decided to simply jump the shark.

Introduce chaos. A last line of defense seems to be to sow as much confusion as possible, in the hope that no one will be able to understand exactly how bad things seem to be getting for the President.

APEC needs a home

Violent protests have forced Chile into the embarrassing decision to cancel two upcoming global summits — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering and the UN’s COP25 climate conference.

On such short notice, it’ll be tough to find an alternative venue for world leaders, their entourages and press. But following the White House advance team’s lead, Meanwhile has performed a sweeping search of APEC nations for other sites, and found a few that the US President might approve of:

Trump Doral, Florida

Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver

Trump International Hotel Waikiki, Hawaii

Trump resorts outside Jakarta and in Bali, unfortunately, won’t be ready in time. But maybe in a second term?

Meanwhile in Iraq

Iraqi protesters are fed up. First it was the country’s dire economic conditions, like unemployment and alleged government corruption. Now it’s the government’s violent response.

More than 200 people have been killed during recent demonstrations. More than 100 have died since Friday alone. But far from being scared off, more people are leaping into political action, to call for a new government, Parliament and even constitution.

“I told my husband I have to take part in the protests. I can’t stand watching our people getting murdered by this corrupted government,” Alyaa Sadiq, a mother of three, said to me from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Demonstrations have spread across several Iraqi provinces, and videos on social media show locals bringing protesters water and food.

While the government has made much of its role in the US raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, several Iraqis told me that his death means little to them. They are concerned with their watn — their nation — which they say has been wrested away from the people by militias and gangs.

“We heard about the death of al-Baghdadi. Is this going to change anything here? Is this going to end corruption?” asked Adel Sami, a 25-year-old from Baghdad.

Added Ali Al Saeidi, 36, “I am happy he is dead, but so what?”

Pressure is now building within the political class. Radical Shiite cleric, politician and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has already invited Iraq’s second-largest party to cooperate with him in a no-confidence vote in the country’s Prime Minister — unless he holds snap elections to let Iraqis take their protest to the polls. — CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Taylor Barnes write for Meanwhile from Atlanta

Scorched earth

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has had a lucky escape from the wildfires that tore toward its hilltop in Simi Valley, California. The library hosts the graves of Reagan and his wife, Nancy, and priceless historical artifacts, including the 40th President’s records, the blue-and-white liveried plane used as Air Force One through two terms and his former Marine One helicopter.

The complex may have been partially saved by a herd of goats, which are regularly brought in to clear nearby brush, forming a natural fire perimeter. Emergency action by fire services probably didn’t hurt, either. Fanned by high winds, the fires still came perilously close, as this picture shows. Insert your own punch line about old-school Republicanism imperiled at a time of scorched-earth politics …

Number of the day: $244

Yup, Marianne Williamson is still in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and CNN’s David Wright reports that she is gingerly upping the ante with her first TV ad booking: a $244 cable buy in Columbia, South Carolina. The ad makes the case for slavery reparations, to “clean up this original character defect of racism” in America. But at that price, it’s not likely to have much of an existential impact for the nation — Williamson’s is the smallest ad buy of the cycle for any candidate, presidential or otherwise.

CNN

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