By Stian Reklev ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific nations are failing to halt the loss of natural forests and grasslands, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday, robbing people of their livelihoods and worsening environmental problems like desertification and climate change. Forests and grasslands make up 58 percent of the region's land mass, but each year 2 million hectares (20,000 square kms) are degraded and rendered useless, Patrick Durst, a FAO senior forestry officer told a food conference in Ulan Bator. Across the Asia-Pacific, 400 million hectares (4 million sq kms) - an area equal to the combined size of India and Myanmar - are now in bad need of restoration, he said. "We are already seeing strong negative impacts," Durst told Reuters at the conference. In China and Mongolia, over-grazing and poor land management mean herders increasingly have to give up feeding their livestocks and instead look for new jobs in fast-growing cities. Lost grassland boosts desertification and helps cause massive sand storms that sometimes carry as far as eastern Canada. Meanwhile, illegal logging, farmland expansion and urbanization drive deforestation across the region, especially in Southeast Asia. Data from green group WWF show the greater Mekong region lost a third of its forests in the 35 years to 2009, even though deforestation rates have slowed somewhat in recent years. Bucking the trend would form a basis for much needed economic development in the region, Durst said. "Forest and grassland restoration can provide a range of ecosystem-derived environmental, social and economic benefits," he said. But solving the issue would require funding arrangements, stronger domestic law enforcement, strong political will and capacity-building, FAO said. REFORESTATION GONE WRONG In search of positive news, FAO said that while loss of natural forests continue, actual forest coverage in the region has increased over the past 20 years, mostly thanks to reforestation programs in China, India and Vietnam. But experts say problems have only gotten worse in many reforested areas because biologically diverse forests have been replaced with single species planted for commercial purposes, such as palm oil and rubber plantations. In China's Yunnan province, for example, experts say reforestation policies are partly to blame for a four-year drought despite being a rain-rich regions. Less than 10 percent of Yunnan's natural forest remains, and recently planted commercial trees lack the ability to regulate groundwater flow. Because they are more water intensive than native trees they require irrigation, consuming a large share of the region's water resources. "Mixing trees with grass in dry areas would ensure their survival and protect biodiversity, isolate pests and limit forest fires," said Jin Zhonghao, China director for WWF's global forest and trade network. (Additional reporting by Kathy Chen in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry)
- The Independent
Judge denies release for 26-year-old accused of taking part in the deadly Capitol attacks then returning to Washington on Inauguration Day
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
- Associated Press
Transgender kids would be banned from playing on school sports teams for the gender with which they identify under a GOP-backed bill that advanced Thursday in Montana, one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year. The order immediately sparked a backlash from conservative groups, a split that reflects the deep divisions in the U.S. around transgender youth. Proponents of the Montana bill say allowing transgender athletes to compete can create an unfair playing field in middle and high schools, especially in girls' sports.
Beau Biden, who served in the Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.
- The Week
Majority of House GOP reportedly supports removing Liz Cheney from leadership after impeachment vote
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is facing an internal resistance after splitting from her party on former President Donald Trump's impeachment.Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot. More than a majority of GOP House members have since indicated they'd support ousting Cheney from her leadership spot, while at least two other Republicans have lined up to replace her, Politico reports.At least 107 House members — more than half the caucus — privately support removing Cheney from power, multiple GOP sources involved in the effort told Politico. Meanwhile New York Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who defended Trump during both of his impeachments, are reportedly looking to replace her.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have said they don't intend to remove Cheney. But McCarthy also echoed Republicans' reported anger that Cheney voiced her support of impeachment the day before the House vote, giving Democrats time to use her views in their own arguments. "Questions need to be answered," such as the "style in which things were delivered," McCarthy told reporters Thursday.Many other Republicans, including some who voted against impeachment, meanwhile don't want Cheney removed just for "vot[ing] her conscience," as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) put it. Others argue removing Cheney would fly in the face of the party's unification message in the post-Trump era — something Cheney herself is trying to counter by making "making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out," Politico reports.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
- National Review
Biden Admonishes Reporter for Questioning Whether Vaccine Goal Is Ambitious Enough: ‘Give Me a Break’
President Biden pushed back on a reporter at a press briefing on Thursday, who questioned whether the new administration’s coronavirus vaccine goal is ambitious enough. Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office. During the press conference, Biden called the Trump administration’s distribution of coronavirus vaccines a “dismal failure so far,” warning that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” However, the seven-day rolling average for coronavirus vaccine doses administered to Americans currently sits at 912,000, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. (On Wednesday alone, 1.6 million doses were administered.) This indicates that the Biden administration is not far from its goal of vaccinating one million Americans per day. On Thursday, Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man,” Biden responded. “It’s a good start, a hundred million.” Internal projections from the Trump administration showed that the U.S. could administer at least 170 million doses by the end of April, two Trump administration officials told Bloomberg. During the press conference, Biden also announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act to “accelerate the making of everything that’s needed to protect, test, and vaccinate and the care of our people.” Biden warned that the death toll from coronavirus infections would hit 500,000 in February. Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
- Associated Press
The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday. Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.
- The Week
President Biden has taken office, former President Donald Trump is in Florida, and the U.S. still hasn't seen a mass arrests of Democrats or a nationwide blackout.All of these facts were shocking for some followers of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, as they thought and hoped that Trump would somehow seize permanent power on Wednesday, NBC News reports. But as Biden was sworn in without a hitch, QAnon message boards lit up with followers who realized a violent overthrow of the government wasn't about to happen, that Trump had no secret plans to somehow stay in office, and that they'd been wrong for months, if not years.> "Q was a LARP the entire f---ing time." > "There is no plan.' > "It's over and nothing makes sense... absolutely nothing..." pic.twitter.com/I2k8C7708m> > — Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) January 20, 2021> Current mood in Q circles> > "I just want to throw up" > "I'm so sick of the disinformation and false hope" > "What a waste of my life" > "I feel sick" > "Burning my flag" > "Game over" > "Where is the military" > "I'm just so confused" > "I'm just sick" pic.twitter.com/hUR2N6y1sg> > — Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) January 20, 2021Even Ron Watkins, the administrator of the extremist message board 8kun who may have even originated QAnon, posted a last-ditch call for unity that didn't acknowledge the harmful conspiracy theories he'd allowed to spread for years.> Ron Watkins, the former 8kun admin who helped keep QAnon afloat for years (and who some suspected of being Q himself), is throwing in the towel. pic.twitter.com/HJdBrOexO2> > — Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) January 20, 2021Still, just as the many flaws in QAnon's past predictions failed to dissuade supporters, some believers are continuing to make excuses for Wednesday's events and suggesting some sort of overthrow is still possible.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
- NBC News
A GoPro camera was found inside a bathroom and changing area at a Premier Athletics facility, which trains young cheerleaders, gymnasts and dancers in Franklin.
- The Telegraph
Thousands of national guardsmen were turfed out of the Capitol building on Thursday and sent to sleep in car parks, before being allowed back in late at night after complaints from lawmakers. Despite the quick reversal, two Republican governors commanded their troops home in protest. US Capitol police had ordered the reservists to vacate the building and set up camp outdoors or in nearby hotels, with thousands ending up stationed outside or in car parks. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one of the guardsmen told Politico. The National Guard were brought into the US capital to provide security after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
An initial report said he had been found unresponsive.
- The Week
A Delaware News Journal reporter captured a powerful, private moment on Wednesday as Joe Biden gave his first address as president of the United States. "Poignant moment," the reporter, Patricia Talorico, captioned the photo, which swiftly went viral. "While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau."> Poignant moment: While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau. pic.twitter.com/QkCuJRHzTz> > — Patricia Talorico (@PattyTalorico) January 20, 2021As Talorico explained in a subsequent article, "Delaware is a tiny state." She described how back in 2002, when she was struggling with an assignment from her editor, Beau Biden approached her to ask if she was okay while she sat alone on a bench at an elementary school in Wilmington. "He wasn't in office at the time," she wrote. "He was just being kind. It wasn't a grand gesture, just a small one, but somehow, it made a difference that day. I never forgot that act of kindness."On Wednesday, Beau — who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at the age of 46 — was on Talorico's mind, and she decided to drive by his grave to say "a short prayer" when she saw "a lone man in a blue uniform kneeling at Beau's grave. No one else was around … In my car, I had the radio tuned to CNN. Joe Biden was being sworn in as president and was about to begin his address."As Talorico writes, "The journalist in me wanted to go back and find out [the man's] identity and ask why he was there. The person who once received a kind gesture from Beau when I needed it most knew it was a time to be respectful, and I drove away." Read her full story at Delaware News Journal.More stories from theweek.com Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
- Yahoo News Video
Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama delivered a recorded message to President Biden on Wednesday night.
- National Review
Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Wednesday warned fellow Republicans that if they try to “erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re going to get erased.” “I hope people in our party understand the party itself,” he told Fox News hours after President Joe Biden was sworn-in. “Most Republicans like his policies. A lot of Republicans like his style,” Graham said. “A lot of people are disappointed with him personally at times but appreciate the outcomes he’s achieved for our country.” Asked if he thinks Trump will try to start another political party — according to the Wall Street Journal, the former president is toying with the idea of forming a “Patriot Party” — Graham said he hoped Trump does not, adding that he would like to see him “stay the leader of the Republican Party.” He defended Trump’s presidency as “a good four years for judges, for rebuilding the military, for bringing order to the border, for historic peace agreements in the Mideast.” He also commended the former president’s appointment of three Supreme Court justices. “I hope President Trump understands that his legacy and his best future lies with the Republican Party,” he said. He added that removing Trump from the party “would be a disaster … The one way Democrats can survive is for the Republican Party to crack up. The best way for the Republican Party to crack up is try to move forward without Donald Trump.” A number of Republicans have disavowed Trump in recent weeks after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, leaving five people dead. A handful of House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach the president for “incitement of insurrection.”
- NBC News
Southlake is known for its top-ranked public schools. But a heated fight over a diversity plan has some parents questioning their future in the city.
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a cluttered, dilapidated San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished in a late-night fire in 2016 is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Families of several victims told the East Bay Times last week that prosecutors told them Derick Almena, 50, will plead guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a nine-year sentence. Almena may serve little or none of that term because of time already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Returned Honduran migrants are directing anger against their president this week after their U.S.-bound caravan was blocked by the region's security forces, accusing him of making their county unlivable while thwarting their escape to a better life. Honduras is reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America in November, as well as an historic economic contraction on the back of coronavirus pandemic. President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also been under fire from U.S. prosecutors that have accused him of having ties to drug cartels, an allegation he has strongly denied.
- The Independent
Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has filed articles of impeachment against Joe Biden the day after he was inaugurated as president. The lawmaker, who has ties to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, took to Twitter to announce the move against the new president. “I’ve just filed articles of impeachment on president Joe Biden, we will see how this goes," she said.