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Ryan lists immigration, debt as regrets

MADISON, Wis. — Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday named immigration and the national debt as his two biggest regrets as he prepares to leave office after 20 years in Congress, saying he has no immediate plans to return to public office.

The Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, sat for an interview with The Washington Post as he prepares to step down. Ryan also delivered one of his final floor speeches, thanking his staff and voters of his Wisconsin congressional district, where he first won election in 1998 at age 28.

In a break with the GOP-controlled Senate, Ryan said he opposes a resolution passed there calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, led by Saudi Arabia. Congress has been debating how to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ryan said the Yemen resolution “isn’t the way to go” and instead he favored invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which gives the U.S. government the power to impose sanctions for human rights abuses.

“Yes, we have lots of strategic interests in alignment with the Saudis, no two ways about it,” Ryan said. “Still, we can speak with moral clarity. We can take actions that address these issues.”

Ryan sidestepped questions about his sometimes contentious relationship with President Donald Trump. But he bemoaned what he said was Trump’s “hostile” relationship with the media. He said that “tribalism” among Republicans and Democrats is “getting out of control” because “polarization sells.”

“That tribalism in our country, to me, is our undoing,” Ryan said. “Yes, the president has a hostile relationship with the press, no two ways about it. But that’s the new norm in this day and age.”

The interview came in the midst of a budget showdown with Trump over funding for Trump’s promised wall along the U.S-Mexico border. Ryan said he does not think Trump wants a government shutdown and “our hope is that we can get a successful conclusion.” He said the onus will be on the White House and Senate Democrats to find common ground on a budget bill.

“He thinks the issue of border security is a winner,” Ryan said of Trump. “I don’t think he sees a shutdown as a winner. I think he sees border security as a winner. ... We don’t want to have a shutdown. I have no interest in doing that. That makes no sense.”

As for his regrets, Ryan cited not paying off the national debt and failing to pass an immigration overhaul. If those can be solved, Ryan said, “we will have a great 21st century.”

Still, Ryan said he thought “history is going to be very good to this majority” because of the tax overhaul passed under his leadership and increased funding for the military. Critics have said the tax changes benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Ryan was elected speaker in 2015 after publicly saying he had no interest in the job. Ryan said that’s in contrast with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who has been bargaining with Democrats to secure their support for her to succeed Ryan.

“I could do it on my terms,” Ryan said. “This is the benefit Nancy does not now have, and I think it’s regretful. ... Our members knew I didn’t need it, didn’t necessarily want it but was happy to do it joyfully and happily and I’m really glad I did.”

Ryan said when he saw Pelosi recently he offered her congratulations and condolences.

Ryan is leaving office as Mitt Romney, who picked Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 presidential election, prepares to join the Senate representing Utah. Ryan said he looks to Romney to be the “standard bearer of our principles.”

Republican Bryan Steil, a corporate attorney and former Ryan aide, won election in November to succeed him in Wisconsin.

Ryan, 48, did not say what he plans to do after leaving Congress, other than to take his wife on a beach vacation. When asked if he would ever be interested in serving as ambassador to Ireland, Ryan, who has Irish ancestry, said: “That’s the only other government job I would aspire to, in my 60s, to be ambassador of Ireland.”


Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis awarded him with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Wednesday at the Pentagon in Washington.


Rescue boats float on a flooded street last year as people are evacuated from rising floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Scientists say climate change is faster, more extensive and worse than they thought a quarter century ago. They've concluded climate change has caused more rain in hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Katrina and others.

Climate change worse than we imagined

WASHINGTON — Climate scientists missed a lot about a quarter century ago when they predicted how bad global warming would be.

They missed how bad wildfires, droughts, downpours and hurricanes would get. They missed how much ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland would melt and contribute to sea level rise. They missed much of the myriad public health problems and global security issues.

Global warming is faster, more extensive and just plain worse than they once thought it would be, scientists say now.

International negotiators will meet in Poland in the coming days to discuss how to ratchet up the fight against climate change in what’s called the Conference of Parties. The world’s understanding of global warming has changed dramatically since the first conference in March 1995. Since then, the globe on average has warmed nearly three-quarters of a degree (0.41 degrees Celsius) but that’s not even half the story.

That global annual temperature increase is slightly lower than some early 1990s forecasts. Yet more than a dozen climate scientists told The Associated Press that without the data currently available and today’s improved understanding of the climate, researchers decades ago were too conservative and couldn’t come close to realizing how global warming would affect daily lives.

One scientific study this month counted up the ways — both direct and indirect — that warming has already changed Earth and society. The total was 467.

“I don’t think any of us imagined that it would be as bad as it’s already gotten,” said University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles, a co-author of the recent U.S. National Climate Assessment. “For example, the intensity of severe weather. We didn’t know any of that back then. And those things are pretty scary.”

In the 1990s, when scientists talked about warming they focused on the average annual global temperature and sea level rise. The problem is that people don’t live all over the globe and they don’t feel average temperatures. They feel extremes — heat, rain and drought — that hit them at home on a given day or week, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley.

“The younger generations are growing up where there is no normal,” University of Washington public health and climate scientist Kristie Ebi said, pointing out that there have been 406 consecutive months when the world was warmer than the 20th century average.

More recently economists have joined scientists in forecasting a costly future. Yale economist William Nordhaus, who won the 2018 Nobel prize for economics for his work on climate change and other environmental issues, told the Associated Press that his calculations show climate change would cost the United States $4 trillion a year at the end of the century with a reasonable projection of warming.

The way science has looked at global warming has changed over the last quarter century because of better knowledge, better computers, better observations, more data — and in large part because researchers are looking more closely at what affects people most. Add to that what many scientists see as an acceleration of climate change and the picture is much bleaker than in the 1990s.

Scientists now better understand how changes in currents in the air — such as the jet stream — and the rain cycle can cause more extreme weather. And recent research shows how climate change is altering those natural factors.

The biggest change in the science in the last quarter century is “we can now attribute changes in global temperatures and even some extreme events to human activity,” said Sir Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British climate scientist who chaired the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from 1997 to 2002.

Scientists attribute extreme events to human-caused warming by comparing what happened in real life to simulations without heat-trapping gases from fossil fuels. They’ve concluded climate change has caused more rain in hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Katrina and others.

Studies have shown climate change has worsened droughts, downpours and heat waves, such as the Russian one in 2010, that have killed thousands of people. And they have linked climate change to the growing amount of land in the western United States burned by wildfire, which wasn’t considered a big climate issue a couple decades ago, said University of Utah fire scientist Phil Dennison.

From air pollution triggered by wildfires that caused people in Northern California to don breathing masks to increased asthma attacks that send children to the hospital, medical experts said climate change is hurting people’s bodies.

Massive ice sheets in western Antarctica and Greenland are melting much faster than scientists figured a quarter century ago, too.

Antarctica has lost nearly 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, enough to cover Texas nearly 13 feet deep, scientists reported in June. Greenland has lost more than 5 trillion tons in the same period.

Non-experts who reject mainstream science often call scientists “alarmists,” yet most researchers said they tend to shy away from worst case scenarios. By nature, scientists said they are overly conservative.

In nearly every case, when scientists were off the mark on something, it was by underestimating a problem not overestimating, said Watson, the British climate scientist.

But there are ultimate worst cases. These are called tipping points, after which change accelerates and you can’t go back. Ice sheet collapses. Massive changes in ocean circulation. Extinctions around the world.

“In the early 1990s we only had hints that we could drive the climate system over tipping points,” said Jonathan Overpeck, environment dean at University of Michigan. “We now know we might actually be witnessing the start of a mass extinction that could lead to our wiping out as much as half the species on Earth.”


A melting iceberg floats in 2011 along a fjord leading away from the edge of the Greenland ice sheet near Nuuk, Greenland. Massive ice sheets in western Antarctica and Greenland are melting much faster than scientists figured a quarter century ago. 

Threat leads to 'hold' at Chippewa Falls Senior High School

The Chippewa Falls Senior High School was “on hold” for 15 minutes Wednesday afternoon in response to a threat found on a bathroom wall, according to a release from the school.

A hold means students and staff were asked to stay in their classroom and avoid walking through the hallways.

A student was immediately questioned by administration based on video footage and handwriting samples. However, to err on the safe side, administration determined to place students in a hold before students reported to their fourth-hour class.

The hold happened at approximately 1:40 p.m.

High school and district administration worked with law enforcement to investigate the report and address the incident with the student. The student confessed to writing the note, and the student’s locker and personal belongings were searched, according to the release. The investigation concluded there were no indications of a plan or means for violence against the school or students.

The student who made the threat will not be at school pending consideration of longer term consequences, the release said.

“Comments of threats, even made in jest, evoke fear and leave staff, students, parents and the community feeling unsettled,” the release said.

On Thursday, staff at the high school planned to talk with students about the serious nature of threatening comments and the importance of telling a trusted adult when they have worries about school.