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It’s unconstitutional for Trump to block people on Twitter

A uniquely 21st-century constitutional question received a satisfying answer today from a federal judge: President Trump cannot block people on Twitter, as it constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. The court also ruled he must unblock all previously blocked users. “No government official is above the law,” the judge concluded. The question was brought as part of a suit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute , which alleged that the official presidential Twitter feed amounts to a public forum, and that the government barring individuals from participating in it amounted to limiting their right to free speech. After consideration, New York Southern District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald determined that this is indeed the case: We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment. The president’s side argued that Trump has his own rights, and that in this case the choice not to engage with certain people on Twitter is among them. These are both true, Judge Buchwald found, but that doesn’t mean blocking is okay. A group of Twitter users is suing Trump for blocking them There is nothing wrong with a government official exercising their First Amendment rights by ignoring someone. And indeed that is what the “mute” function on Twitter is equivalent to. No harm is done to either party by the president choosing not to respond, and so he is free to do so. But to block someone both prevents that person from seeing tweets and from responding to them, preventing them from even accessing a public forum. As the decision puts it: We reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs… While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the President’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him. The court also examined the evidence and found that despite the Executive’s arguments that his Twitter accounts are, for various reasons, in part private and not subject to rules limiting government spaces, the president’s Twitter is definitively a public forum, meeting the criteria set out some time back by the Supreme Court. At this point in time President Trump has by definition performed unconstitutional acts, but the court was not convinced that any serious legal remedy needs to be applied.

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Trump eliminates national cyber-coordinator job, gives Bolton keys to the cybers

Enlarge / Would you trust this man to direct cybersecurity for the entire government? (credit: Getty Images) Last month, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce announced that he would be leaving his position, a role within the White House's National Security Council responsible for synchronizing the information security efforts of all federal agencies. The job also entailed setting policy for defensive and offensive network operations by the US military, Department of Homeland Security, and intelligence community. It's a big job, and it's one that Joyce had unique credentials for—he used to direct the Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the National Security Agency's main network intrusion and hacking unit. Joyce's departure would leave some big shoes to fill. But President Donald Trump has apparently decided that those shoes can easily be filled by NSC Director John Bolton all by himself. In an executive order yesterday, Trump eliminated the national cybersecurity coordinator position in a reorganization of the NSC, placing authority of all things cyber on Bolton and his NSC staffers. That move has prompted concern from members of Congress, and from Democrats in particular, who have called for Trump to reverse the move. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In February, no fossil fuel-based generation was added to US grid

The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. (credit: Russ Nelson ) In the US, two types of electricity generation are on the rise: natural gas and renewables. If one of those is set to make a bigger mark than the other this year, it's natural gas: in 2018, natural gas-burning capacity is expected to outpace renewable capacity for the first time in five years, according to data from the Energy Information Agency . All that additional natural gas capacity—approximately 21GW expected this year—could spell trouble for the already-troubled coal and nuclear industries. Once a new gas facility is built, it makes it easier to close down older, inefficient coal plants, even if the price of natural gas rises a little. Coal plant closures have been happening for years already, and the Trump administration has made a point of promising to bring coal back. But officials are having trouble finding a legal and politically acceptable way of boosting coal at the expense of natural gas, which is also a big US-based industry. For nuclear, the problem is similar. The EIA wrote this week  that the US nuclear energy industry is fighting not just against the falling cost of natural gas and renewable energy, but also against the "limited growth in electric power demand." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NASA finally has a new administrator

The Trump administration nominated Oklahoma Republican Representative Jim Bridenstine for the top NASA job in September of last year. He's been a vocal proponent of the privatization of space, which led to some criticism of the choice as injecting po...

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