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Donald Trump and California: A battle of wildfires and wills | Climate Change



As wildfires raged across California late last year, scorching more than 100,000 acres and driving tens of thousands from their homes, US President Donald Trump lashed out at the state’s Democratic Party leadership and threatened to cut off federal aid.

“You’ve got fires eating away at California every year, because management is so bad,” Trump claimed.

The battle over wildfires between Trump and California reveals fundamentally different views about the dangers posed by climate change, and the choice voters face in the 2020 presidential election over taking action to combat it.

“Because of Trump’s philosophy, he is inevitably drawn into conflict with California,” says Jerry Brown, who served four terms as Democratic governor of California and ran three times for president.

“When it comes to the green economy and climate change, California is in front and given our tremendous economic dynamism, California does refute the Trumpian claim that reducing carbon emissions hurts the economy.”

The suffering will take place primarily after Trump is dead … He won’t have to pay for what he is imposing on billions of people.

Jerry Brown, former California governor

Brown, who held a Global Climate Action Summit while governor in 2018, sees Trump’s disregard for climate change as a serious threat to the planet.

“The suffering will take place primarily after Trump is dead and that’s the evil of it,” Brown says. “He won’t have to pay for what he is imposing on billions of people into the future.”

California wildfires

Errol Navickas experienced the full fury and destructiveness of the California wildfires last October. He lost his home and virtually all his possessions in the Saddleridge fire, which burned close to 9,000 acres (3,640 hectares) in northern Los Angeles.

The flames were “going about 70 miles an hour with the wind, so it’s the fastest fire I’ve ever seen,” he says. In the fall, California is buffeted by winds that flow off the mountains towards the coast, increasing the spread and intensity of fires.

Firefighters tackle a wildfire threatening nearby hillside homes in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2019 [Getty Images]

Navickas does not give much credence to President Trump’s claim that wildfires are the result of mismanagement of the forests.

“There’s no forest around here,” he says. “And if there’s no rains you’re going to have four feet of just crispy, dry plants ready to burn. And for about 15 years it’s been getting drier and drier.”

In fact, “about 50 percent of the area burned in California in the last 30 years has been due to anthropogenic or human-caused climate change,” according to Crystal Kolden, a professor at the University of California, Merced, specialising in wildfire behaviour. She says that the scientific evidence connecting California wildfires and climate change is “overwhelming”.

“It dries the vegetation out so that it’s more flammable. And then with climate change rains are on average getting pushed back by several weeks in some cases. So now we see that where winter used to be far too wet for things to burn, now we can have long dry periods when the winds are starting to really pick up and it means that fires can burn really intensely.”

“[The majority] of the most destructive fires in the last decade, they’re not in places that are forests,” Kolden adds. “And we’re seeing the same types of increases in fire intensity, in fire size and this extension of fire season across the entire globe.”

But the science does not carry much weight for President Trump, a point Joe Biden hammers home in a campaign ad in which the president is shown blaming California wildfires on a lack of “pre-emptive raking”, and which reprises Trump’s remark about climate change that “a lot of it is a hoax, it’s a hoax”.

People and Power - Trump v California part 2

A whirlwind of hot ash and embers moves through a wildfire, dubbed the Cave Fire, burning in the hills of Santa Barbara, California in 2019 [Reuters]

Clean air agreements

The president is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement in which 195 countries pledged to meet emissions reductions goals.

Trump “wants to free up fossil fuel companies, he wants to let it rip regardless of the natural environment”, Brown says. In 2018, the California legislature and Brown committed the state to 100 percent zero-carbon electricity and economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.

California is also a leader in setting fuel efficiency standards for cars and promoting the use of electric vehicles. Autos are the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

Green energy sounds great, but how many jobs is it actually going to produce and how reliable is the energy going to be?

Charles Kesler, California conservative

For 50 years, California has had a waiver under the Clean Air Act allowing it to establish fuel efficiency standards beyond national requirements.

In 2012, the Obama administration adopted California’s goal of achieving 54 miles (87 km) a gallon by 2025 as the national standard. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in March, the Trump administration reduced it to only about 40 miles (64 km) per gallon.

The administration has also revoked the waiver allowing California to set its own clean car standards. The state and 14 others are now challenging the rollbacks in court.

“The Chinese are moving inexorably to zero-emission cars,” Brown says. “If Trump were to succeed to be able to subsidise the old-fashioned gasoline car with the lowest possible regulation, we’ll wake up in the next five to seven years and the American industry will be in collapse. And we in California are trying to hold him back to prevent it.”

Brown believes Trump is blinded by his belief in the sanctity of the free market, and that for him imposing a fuel efficiency standard is “what you would call blasphemy if you were trying to see this in religious terms”. “And that’s what it is, it’s almost a religious war and therefore they have to stop California.”

Watch: Trump v California (Part 1)

Trump supporters and opponents

Trump’s understanding of freedom, and the threats California liberals pose to it, resonates not only with supporters across the rest of the US, but also those in the rural northern part of California. Members of the right-wing Tea Party movement and other conservatives there are trying to break away from California and set up a new 51st state – the State of Jefferson.

Radio hosts Terry Rapoza and Win Carpenter are leaders in the effort to establish a new state, which has thousands of supporters in 23 northern counties. They feel Democratic representatives from urban areas have too much power in shaping policy. “Los Angeles has 11 senators, and 11 counties in northern California have one,” Rapoza says.

Carpenter says the list of government policies they object to is “way too long”. “You’re looking at taxation, I mean just the restrictions on basic things to take care of yourself and to defend yourself.”

In his view, the wildfire problem is largely the result of regulations that restrict logging, not climate change. “We live in a four-season part of the state,” Carpenter says. “The climate changes every season.”

Rural counties in northern California, like those across the US, voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election. “People understand the truth. They can spot a liar a mile away. Thank God we had Mr Trump run for the presidency,” Carpenter says.

People and Power - Trump v California part 2

President Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California after it was vandalised in 2018 [Reuters]

But in West Hollywood, people are so dismayed by the Trump presidency that the city council passed a resolution calling for the removal of Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“Donald Trump has harassed and otherwise demeaned women throughout his career,” West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath says. “He has targeted immigrants, LGBT people, he is a bully in chief. We do not need national monuments that glorify the kind of behaviour that he has exhibited.”

So far, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has refused to remove Trump’s star, which is repeatedly vandalised, exasperating Horvath. “We’re tired of resources being spent on this,” she says. “The crisis of homelessness has hit our region hard. We could be spending those dollars actually caring for people and uplifting people.”

In his State of the State Address last February, Gavin Newsom made combatting homelessness California’s top priority. The governor called for investing $750m in a new housing fund, on top of $1.5bn the state has allocated to local governments to combat homelessness over the last two years.

Common threats and common sense

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has pledged to invest $640bn over 10 years to expand the supply of affordable housing, and to provide vouchers to help people pay rent in California and other states. But at his rallies, President Trump has repeatedly bashed California politicians for the state’s homelessness problem. “It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace to our country,” he says. His administration has proposed cuts in the federal housing budget.

People and Power - Trump v California part 2

Donald Trump surveyed homes destroyed by fires with Gavin Newsom, first responders and Jerry Brown in Malibu in November 2018 [Reuters]

Charles Kesler, a California conservative who edits the Claremont Review of Books, says Trump’s attacks on California for homelessness are “part of his general reaction to the failure of blue-state policies”. Along with the president, he believes that homelessness in California reflects Democratic policies that have harmed the middle class, and that the strategy of building a green economy to reinvigorate the American Dream is fundamentally flawed.

“Green energy sounds great, but how many jobs is it actually going to produce and how reliable is the energy going to be,” Kesler says.

At the UN Climate Action Summit in New York last September, Governor Newsom pointed out that: “California is significantly outperforming the United States of America in GDP growth over a five-year period because of our environmental strategies. Five to one – five to one, the number of clean energy jobs in the State of California versus fossil fuel jobs.”

Daniel Kammen, who founded the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley adds that the state is ahead of schedule in meeting its energy needs from renewable sources, and is far along in building a green economy. “Across the United States right now, 35-40 percent of all investments in green tech flow through California,” he says.

The 2020 election in the United States is absolutely critical, because we know on the climate side that we have very few years left to get on an innovative green energy path.

Daniel Kammen, University of California, Berkeley

Biden is following California’s lead, and promises to transition the US to a green economy. His plan calls for investing $2 trillion over the next four years, setting the US on a path to achieve a clean energy, net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

“The 2020 election in the United States is absolutely critical,” Kammen says, “because we know on the climate side that we have very few years left to get on an innovative green energy path.”

The importance of the coming poll is at least something both sides can agree on. Radio host Win Carpenter feels it is critical that Trump wins. “Mr Trump is at one point of the government and then we are at the other end. He’s fighting from that side, we’re fighting from this side,” he says.

Former Democratic governor Jerry Brown says the stakes in the 2020 election are climate change, social turmoil and the current pandemic.

“We’ve got to find a way to see the common threats. Certainly, the coronavirus is a common threat. Climate change is a common threat … all we need is some common sense in the minds of those people who are in charge.”

Watch: Trump v California (Part 2)

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.


Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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