By Markus Wacket BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel hammered out the framework for a deal with state premiers on Wednesday on reforms to Germany's renewable energy law aimed at curbing the costs and controlling the speed of the future roll-out of green power sources. After a meeting with the leaders of Germany's 16 states that stretched into the early hours of Wednesday, the government agreed to limit the expansion of onshore wind at 2.8 gigawatts in capacity per year, equivalent to about 1,000 wind turbines. In addition, only a certain amount of new capacity will be permitted in north Germany to avoid overburdening the electricity grid. "We have come a long way," Merkel told reporters following the meeting. Saxony-Anhalt Premier Reiner Haseloff spoke of a "breakthrough," while his counterpart in Bremen, Carsten Sieling, said they had covered 90 percent of the ground. Generous green subsidies have led to a boom in renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. But the rapid expansion has pushed up electricity costs in Europe's biggest economy and placed a strain on its grid. The latest reforms are aimed at slowing the growth in renewables, which accounted for around a third of Germany's electricity last year. With the government sticking to its target for an increase in the share of renewable sources to 40 to 45 percent of total electricity production by 2025, it will have to put the brakes on growth to avoid overshooting. One of the biggest sticking points in the talks were plans to limit the amount of onshore wind, with critics saying that would endanger Germany's long-term energy goals and put jobs in the sector at risk. The government also wants to move away from guaranteed set payments to a competitive auction system where green energy producers only receive payments for their power if they win a tender. According to the proposals, an upper limit of 600 megawatts will be placed on solar power expansion. Installations that are smaller than 750 kilowatts of capacity will continue to receive support so as not to discourage rooftop solar panels. The government and states failed to agree on upper limits for biomass, which is important in the southern state of Bavaria, while questions remain over the future expansion of offshore wind plants. The government now hopes to approve the proposals in the Cabinet in coming weeks. The draft law is due to come into force at the start of 2017. (Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Leslie Adler)
- 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 Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan
- CBS News
The vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory, where Harris will live, is undergoing repairs.
Former President Donald Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his Senate impeachment trial over a charge that he incited insurrection, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Bowers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. While relatively unknown on the national stage, Bowers has represented former Republican governors in South Carolina and served in the U.S. Justice Department under Republican former President George W. Bush, according to his website.
- Yahoo News
Counterintelligence official Michael Orlando joins a growing chorus of voices on both sides of the political aisle who point to China as a major national security threat, particularly in terms of technology and cybersecurity.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities on Thursday ended the search for remaining victims and debris from a Sriwijaya Air jet that nosedived into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board. Transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi said retrieval operations have ended after nearly two weeks, but that a limited search for the missing memory unit from the cockpit voice recorder will continue. The memory unit apparently broke away from other parts of the voice recorder during the crash.
- 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
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Qatar has not taken any initiative to solve the problems with Bahrain, despite an agreement to end a rift of more than three years, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani said on Thursday. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt agreed earlier this month at a summit to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties severed in 2017 over accusations that Qatar supported terrorism, a charge it denies. The emerging deal followed mediation efforts by the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump and Kuwait.
- Yahoo News 360
Recent history shows the opportunity to pass major bills can disappear quickly. What should Democrats’ top priority be?
- Associated Press
China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft. Others covered by the sanctions include Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; health and human services secretary, Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon.
The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara's human rights record. Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.
- The Week
It's the end of a very caffeinated era.When former President Donald Trump occupied the Oval Office, he quite literally had a button on his desk that ordered a Diet Coke to the room whenever it was pressed. But as a glimpse at President Biden's desk just hours after his inauguration shows, the soda-summoning button is gone.> President Biden has removed the Diet Coke button. When @ShippersUnbound and I interviewed Donald Trump in 2019, we became fascinated by what the little red button did. Eventually Trump pressed it, and a butler swiftly brought in a Diet Coke on a silver platter. It's gone now. pic.twitter.com/rFzhPaHYjk> > — Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) January 21, 2021While it may have sounded just too weird to be true, Trump's Diet Coke obsession and his button to match were absolutely real. No word on if Biden will install some kind of ice cream-ordering alternative.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 Fauci says he feels liberated in his 1st White House briefing under Biden
- NBC News
The two Republican senators' actions call for a probe and "a determination whether disciplinary action is warranted," the complaint said.
- Yahoo News Video
President Joe Biden issued a warning Wednesday to his appointees that a hostile workplace will not be allowed in his administration.
A British prosecutor hired by the Hong Kong government to lead a case against democracy activists has pulled out after coming under pressure in Britain including 'disgraceful' comments by its foreign minister, city authorities said on Wednesday. David Perry, a Queen's Counsel, was due to lead the case against tabloid media magnate Jimmy Lai and several others, including veteran democracy activists Martin Lee and Margaret Ng. But Hong Kong's Department of Justice noted "growing pressure and criticism" of Perry in Britain for taking the case, adding in a statement that he had "concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine" and "indicated that the trial should proceed without him".
- 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 Week
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is genuinely undecided on how he will vote in former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial, his close allies say, but a faction of Senate Republicans are warning him if he votes to convict, the backlash will be swift and severe, CNN reports. "If he does, I don't know if he can stay as leader," one senior GOP senator told CNN, portraying that as a sentiment shared by several of his colleagues. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he could not support McConnell if he voted against Trump.McConnell has publicly shifted against Trump since a pro-Trump mob ransacked Congress on Jan. 6. "The mob was fed lies," McConnell said Tuesday. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people." McConnell is part of "a small but notable faction of high-profile Republicans are taking a stronger stance against Trump or distancing themselves from him," The Associated Press notes, but "Trump is expected to remain politically active, including trying to exact revenge by backing primary challenges against Republicans he believed scorned him in his final days," especially the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him."In the House, a group of Trump loyalists are seeking to strip Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney of her GOP leadership post for supporting impeachment," CNN reports, "a predicament some Republican senators privately believe could hound McConnell if he seeks to end Trump's political career."The logistics and timing of Trump's impeachment trial are up in the air, though multiple Capitol Hill sources tell Politico's Playbook team it could end up being as short as three days, barring Trump calling witnesses. In the end, CNN reports, "Republicans who know McConnell well believe he will take the temperature of the Senate GOP conference and ultimately make a decision based in part on the views of his colleagues and the mood of the country when it comes time to cast the key vote."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan
Former California Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors.
- National Review
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, refuted a claim by the Biden administration that the outgoing Trump administration left no plan for distributing coronavirus vaccines. President Biden said at a White House press conference on Thursday that the Trump administration’s distribution of coronavirus vaccines has been a “dismal failure,” and set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans by the end of April. Meanwhile, sources in the Biden administration claimed that the previous administration left no vaccine distribution plan. “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” one source told CNN on Thursday. However, Dr. Fauci directly refuted this claim after Biden left the press conference. “We certainly are not starting from scratch,” Dr. Fauci told reporters. Regarding the Trump administration’s vaccination effort, Dr. Fauci said, “You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all.” The seven-day rolling average of coronavirus vaccines administered to Americans is 914,000, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, with 1.6 million doses administered on Wednesday alone. Biden’s plan calls for a million Americans to be vaccinated each day. When asked by a reporter whether the goal to vaccinate one million people per day is not ambitious enough, Biden said that the goal was a “good start.” “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man,” Biden said.
- The Independent
Ms Harris is expected to move into the 128-year-old residence once a number of repairs have been made