YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon President Paul Biya has given final approval to New York venture capital firm Herakles Capital to start work on a 20,000 hectares palm oil plantation, despite opposition from some locals and conservation groups. Herakles' palm oil project in the South West forest region of Cameroon has been mired in controversy after environmental campaigners including Greenpeace and WWF said it violated Cameroon's laws and could endanger wildlife and deprive locals of their livelihoods. The firm had initially planned for a 73,000 hectare plantation, an area more than 10 times the size of Manhattan, but this was halted after protests. The government asked Herakles in June reduce the size of the plantation to 20,000 hectares. The decree signed by Biya on Monday said Herakles can begin work on the reduced-size plantation after paying a 198 million CFA francs land tax and must invest another 259 million CFA francs in palm nurseries. The government said Herakles will invest about 260 billion CFA francs in the project. Greenpeace and Think Tank Oakland Institute said in a joint statement on Tuesday the government approval of the project, although downsized, was alarming. "A downsized project does not resolve the problems related to the palm oil project by Herakles Farms," said Irene Wabiwa, campaigner with Greenpeace Africa. "It simply remains the wrong project in the wrong place, as the impact on communities' livelihoods and the forests remain unacceptable." The government is also putting at risk a partnership with the European Union and Germany, who have a long standing relationship with Cameroon to help protect biodiversity and promote good governance in the forest sector, the statement said. Palm oil is the world's most important vegetable oil, used in everything from margarine and soap to biofuel, with annual global production worth about $20 billion. Critics of large palm oil plantation projects in Africa say it is part of a broader trend of land grabs in the continent, rich in farmable land, by companies looking to tap into the move to increase global agricultural production as demand and prices rise. (Reporting by Beaugas-Orain Djoyum; additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; editing by James Jukwey)
- Yahoo News
Black National Guardsman describes being deployed to protect Biden’s inauguration: 'I just felt this huge sense of pride'
As most of the 25,000 National Guardsmen who were called upon to protect Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration began heading home this week, one Black service member agreed to speak to Yahoo News about the experience of protecting the nation’s capital in the wake of a pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill.
Word has it the former Second Family is staying at the Indiana governor’s cabin or crashing with kinfolk back in their home state. Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, are reportedly looking for a new home after their free, taxpayer-funded housing officially ended just over a week ago. The story was originally shared by Business Insider but reposted to other outlets: Pence is reportedly staying at a cabin that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb uses as a retreat, while two other Indiana Republican insiders say that the former second-in-command and ex-Second Lady are staying with family.
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico. The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed." In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing. More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorTrump's impeachment lawyer said he thinks 'the facts and the law will speak for themselves'Mitch McConnell is the GOAT
President Biden's plan to replace the government’s fleet of 650,000 cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. by union workers is easier said than done. Why it matters: The populist "Buy American" message sounds good, but the vehicles Biden wants are still several years away and his purchase criteria would require an expensive overhaul of automakers' manufacturing strategies, not to mention a reversal of fortune for labor organizers long stymied by Tesla and other non-union companies.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Reality check: Right now, not a single model fits the president's criteria: battery-powered, made in America, by union workers. * Tesla produces the vast majority of EVs in the U.S., and all of its models contain at least 55% American-made parts, according to federal data. But Tesla doesn't have a union and CEO Elon Musk has run afoul of federal labor laws. * General Motors' Chevrolet Bolt is the only U.S.-built EV made by union labor. But it's made mostly with parts imported from Korea. Just 24% of the content is considered domestic. * The Nissan Leaf, another popular EV, is made in Tennessee. But the factory is non-union and only 35% of the parts are domestic. "Made in America" itself is confusing, because current rules governing "domestic" content include parts made in both the U.S. and Canada. * Under the American Automobile Labeling Act, passed in 1992, every car requires a label disclosing where the car was assembled, the percentage of equipment from the U.S. and Canada combined, and the country where the engine and transmission were built. * The newly passed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement adds another layer of rules about the origin of parts.Biden wants to change the whole system of determining whether a federal vehicle is "American." * Today, the government requires federal vehicles to have at least 50 percent of their components made in America, but loopholes allow the most valuable parts like engines or steel to be manufactured elsewhere, Biden told reporters Monday. * He wants a higher threshold and tighter rules that would directly benefit American workers. Be smart: It's all doable, but definitely not within Biden's four-year term in office. * "It just doesn't add up," said Joe Langley, a forecasting analyst for IHS Markit. "The product is still a few years away." * And replacing 650,000 federal vehicles with EVs would require an increase in U.S. investment through the whole supply chain, including electric motors, batteries and vehicles — all of which will take time, Langley said. * Union leaders are glad Biden is focused on the industry's future. "He sees new technology as a way to grow our industry and our economy," a spokesperson for the United Auto Workers told Axios.Some of that investment is already happening. GM, for example, is overhauling several factories to produce electric vehicles in Tennessee and Michigan. Ford will make its upcoming e-Transit van in Missouri. * But GM, Ford and Stellantis (the newly merged FiatChrysler and Peugeot) just recently committed to build more EVs at union factories in Canada. * And Ford is ramping up production of its highly anticipated Mustang Mach-E in Mexico. What to watch: There could be some surprise winners from Biden's plan. * A handful of well-funded EV startups such as Lordstown Motors, Rivian and Workhorse are developing plug-in commercial vehicles like vans and trucks — things that are often needed in government fleets. * "This could put wind in the sails of a lot of new startups," said Langley.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters. In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling. Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others.
- NBC News
"The member in question had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested," the House speaker said.
- National Review
President Joe Biden on Monday expressed support for the Chicago Teachers Union in its fight against reopening schools for in-person learning, saying, “I know they want to work.” The CTU voted Monday to defy the city school district and continue to work remotely. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that,” Biden said. Biden’s comments came in response to a question about the union at a news conference after an event on American manufacturing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. White House staffers were reportedly briefed about the ongoing standoff in the nation’s third-largest district by American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten. Asked if teachers should return to school, the president said, “we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers and for the help that is in those schools maintaining those facilities.” The president added, “we should be able to open up every, every school, kindergarten through eighth grade, if in fact we administer these tests, and we’ll have the added advantage I might add, a putting millions of people back to work.” Biden did not mention Chicago or Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot in his response. He said widespread testing and functioning ventilation systems are key to reopening schools – both of which have fueled disagreements between Chicago Public Schools officials and the CTU, which is a local affiliate of the AFT. Weingarten said the White House is “really concerned about reopening and really concerned about doing it right.” “I felt it was my moral obligation to brief the White House this weekend, which I did,” she said, adding that she briefed Biden senior staffers on “what was going on in Chicago, from my perspective.” She indicated she was “very pleased” with his comments on Monday. Politically powerful national teachers unions make up a key part of Biden’s base. First Lady Jill Biden along with Weingarten and National Education Association President Becky Pringle held a virtual event with 11,000 teachers last week. About 70,000 elementary school students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on February 1 for the first time since schools closed in March 2020, according to the Chicago Public School’s coronavirus reopening plan. Around 10,000 elementary school teachers and staff were expected to report to work on Monday to prepare for the reopening. However, CTU members voted to stay at home due to disagreements with CPS over the reopening plan. Eighty-six percent of all CTU members cast ballots with 71 percent opting to continue to work from home. The union is advocating for members with medically vulnerable relatives at home to receive accommodations for remote work and for teachers to only be required to return to in-person instruction upon receiving a vaccination. It is also pushing for increased testing of staff and students as well as a public health metric that would determine when schools should reopen or close. Union members said they were encouraged to hear Biden’s comments on the situation, according to the Sun-Times. CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said Biden “is not taking sides” but is “prioritizing the safety of every stakeholder in every city in every state in this country.”
- The Independent
Melissa Carone was widely mocked following her court appearance in December 2020
Pirates who seized 15 sailors when they stormed a Turkish-crewed container ship in the Gulf of Guinea two days ago have not yet made contact with authorities, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday. "We have not yet received word from the pirates," foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. Turkey was in contact with officials in Gabon, where he said the Liberian-flagged container ship Mozart had docked with its remaining crew, and with authorities in neighbouring countries.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- NBC News
Steven Brandenburg was fired from the Aurora Medical Center after the hospital said he admitted he "intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration."
- Associated Press
Immigrant rights activists energized by a new Democratic administration and majorities on Capitol Hill are gearing up for a fresh political battle to push through a proposed bill from President Joe Biden that would open a pathway to citizenship for up to 11 million people. The multimillion-dollar #WeAreHome campaign was launched Monday by national groups including United We Dream and the United Farm Workers Foundation. “We are home,” a young woman's voice declares in the first video spot showing immigrants in essential jobs such as cleaning and health care.
Troops have until Oct. 1, 2027, to purchase the AGSU, after which the ASU will become the Army's optional dress uniform.
- The Independent
‘There appeared to be no remorse,’ says Calcasieu Parish sheriff Tony Mancus
Bulgaria started vaccinating care home patients in the capital Sofia against the new coronavirus on Wednesday as the Balkan country seeks to accelerate immunisations and catch up to European Union peers. An updated delivery schedule showed it will be able to inoculate about 2.2 million people with Pfizer and Moderna doses by the end of the year. Sofia has bet heavily on AstraZeneca's vaccine, of which it has ordered 4.5 million doses, but reports that the company will fail to meet its obligations to the EU in the first quarter may further delay its vaccination plan.
- NBC News
Analysis: Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose from fighting a quixotic war over the filibuster just days into his presidency.
- Yahoo News Video
A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans’ hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient that he misdiagnosed.
- Associated Press
The mother of a Tennessee man who authorities say carried flexible plastic handcuffs during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month can be released from custody, a federal magistrate judge ruled Monday in Tennessee. Lisa Eisenhart is accused of breaking into the U.S. Capitol with her son, Eric Munchel of Nashville, during the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington. Eisenhart poses no flight risk or danger to the public while awaiting trial, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley ruled.
Myanmar's army warned on Tuesday it would "take action" if an election dispute was not settled and declined to rule out staging a coup if its demands were not met, just days out from the convening of a new parliament. Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a new conference there may have been fraud in the November contest, which was won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi's National league for Democracy (NLD) party. "We will take action according to the constitution and existing laws if they don't resolve the issue," he said of the election commission, declining to give further details.
- Reuters Videos
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to a power-sharing agreement with Democrats... after he dropped his demand that Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation. Democrat Chuck Schumer, now the the Senate Majority Leader, has been at odds with McConnell over the Republican's request that Democrats promise to protect the key stalling tactic. McConnell's demand had held up basic functioning of the senate for days. Schumer has refused to guarantee the filibuster would stay in the 50-50 chamber, where Democrats hold the slimmest of majorities with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast tie-breaking votes. But late Monday, McConnell said he was ready to move forward citing two Democrats -- Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- who signaled they would not vote to end the legislative filibuster, assuring McConnell that it would stay in place. Both leaders on Tuesday claimed victory. Schumer: "I am glad the Republican Leader finally relented and we can move forward now to organize the Senate, set up committees, chairs and ranking members." McConnell: "Rather than rely on the Democratic leader, I took the discussion directly to his members. Basic arithmetic now ensures that there aren't enough votes to break the rule." In recent years, the filibuster has brought the Senate nearly to a halt on major legislation. Killing the tool was a key demand of some liberal Democrats as a way to help advance President Joe Biden's agenda, though Biden has not signaled support for such a move. With Harris unable to attend every Senate session, Schumer and McConnell have been discussing an arrangement to govern day-to-day operations, similar to one struck the last time the Senate was equally split in 2001. Democrats could unilaterally change the rules to require only a simple majority to approve bills, a move sometimes called the "nuclear option," if all 50 members stuck together and Harris provided the tie-breaking vote.