By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration's plan for U.N. climate change talks encountered swift opposition after its release Tuesday, with Republican leaders warning other countries to "proceed with caution" in negotiations with Washington because any deal could be later undone. The White House is seeking to enshrine its pledge in a global climate agreement to be negotiated Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris. It calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by close to 28 percent from 2005 levels within a decade, using a host of existing laws and executive actions targeting power plants, vehicles, oil and gas production and buildings. But Republican critics say the administration lacks the political and legal backing to commit the United States to an international agreement. "Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn't even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. U.S. officials stressed that their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, U.N. lingo for its official submission, stands on sound legal footing, with the measures drawing authority from legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act. Todd Stern, the lead U.S. climate change negotiator, said he frequently tells foreign counterparts that "undoing the kind of regulation we are putting in place is very tough to do." But elements of the administration's climate policy already face legal challenges. On April 16, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. will hear arguments from 13 states opposed to as-yet-unfinalized regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that target emissions in existing power plants. And McConnell's warnings echoed the tone of a March 9 "open letter" from 47 Republican senators to Iran, in which they warned a Republican president would not be bound to honor a nuclear agreement struck by Democrat Obama without congressional approval, calling it a "mere executive agreement." Some observers said that resistance to the administration's climate policies leaves foreign governments questioning whether Obama's commitments can last. “By strenuously invoking EPA regulations, the Administration is trying to convince skeptical international audiences that the U.S. can actually deliver on its new climate goals, despite Republican resistance,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House official who is now with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “But major capitals are likely to remain nervous.” The administration is clearly sensitive to the threat. Power plants are the biggest domestic source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the EPA is seeking to use its power to slash carbon levels from plants to 30 percent of their 2005 levels by 2020. On Monday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency had designed power plant rules under the authority of the Clean Air Act - and insisted that they can withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. "We don’t need a plan B if we are solid on our plan A," she said. But Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer representing utilities industries for Bracewell & Giuliani and former assistant administrator of the EPA under George W Bush, says even if the courts uphold the EPA proposal on power plants, a future Republican administration can reverse it. "There are some EPA rules that are very difficult for a new administration to change but this is not one of those rules," Holmstead said. He calculates that at least five high court justices are wary of the EPA's regulatory leeway. Environmental groups, on the other hand, were more confident that Obama's measures cannot be reversed by the courts or politics. “The Clean Air Act has proven to be quite durable," said David Waskow, director of international initiatives for the World Resources Institute. "While elements may be slowed or modified by legal challenges, they are rarely overturned.” (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Bruce Wallace and Grant McCool)
- 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.
- The Telegraph
A doctor with terminal cancer killed a female pediatrician and then himself after taking hostages at a children's clinic in Austin, Texas. Dr Bharat Narumanchi held hostages in a five-hour siege before killing Dr Katherine Lindley Dodson. Narumanchi had applied for a volunteer position at the clinic a week ago and was declined. He later came back carrying a pistol, a shotgun and two duffel bags. Police spokesman Jeff Greenwalt said Narumanchi had recently been given "weeks to live" after a cancer diagnosis. He said: "The case as far as who did this is closed. We know who did it. And we know that there's no longer a threat to the public. But we really, really want to answer the question of why." Dr Lindley Dodson, 43, was beloved by patients and their families. Karen Vladeck, whose two children were among her patients, told the Austin American-Statesman: "You saw her at your worst when your kid was sick, and she just always had a smile on her face. "She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting." During the siege a SWAT team used a megaphone to communicate with the armed doctor. A hostage negotiator shouted: "Your life is very important to me. And I know life is very important to you. "You don't deserve to go through this. For all you have done for others. That is why I want to help you work through this. You have saved a lot of lives." Police first sent in a robot and then officers went into the medical office where they found two bodies. They did not comment on how the two doctors died. A police spokesman said: "The SWAT situation has ended. Two subjects have been located and were pronounced deceased."
Jamaican police said on Tuesday they had detained a person of interest as part of their investigation into an attack over the weekend on six homeless men in Kingston in which four were hacked to death and two critically injured. While Jamaica has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, the attack was particularly grisly. More worrying still to the local homeless population, this was not the first such occurrence and could be the work of a serial killer.
- The Independent
Grandmother ‘overjoyed’ to be outside after receiving Covid-19 vaccine killed in Portland vehicle attack
Police have not released a motive in the attack
President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Keenan spent 14 years writing for Obama, including working alongside Biden for eight of those years. He acknowledged being embittered by his own experience, especially after Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to make his former boss a one-term president. * "Until the Republican Party steps up and tells their own voters what's really happening with the truth, it's going to be elusive," Keenan said. "It's not up to (President Biden) alone to deliver. He can't."Keenan helped Obama with the first volume of his memoir, "A Promised Land." He stopped working with the former president on New Year's Eve and has taken a full-time role at Fenway Strategies. The firm is run by another ex-Obama speechwriter — Jon Favreau — and presidential aide, Tommy Vietor. * "It just seemed like a natural spot after the book and the elections and, you know, [Obama] is not going to do a ton, especially with Biden in office," Keenan said.Keenan is also writing a book, titled "Grace," about the 10 days from the 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to the eulogy Obama delivered for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. * Obama ended by singing "Amazing Grace." * The title also nods to Keenan's newborn daughter, named Grace.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Telegraph
The leader of the Proud Boys extremist group has been unmasked as a "prolific" former FBI informant. Enrique Tarrio, 36, worked undercover exposing a human trafficking ring, and helped with drug and gambling cases, according to court documents. Tarrio's documented involvement with law enforcement related to the period 2012 -2014. There was no evidence of him cooperating after that. But the revelation raised further questions over why police did not take further steps to secure the US Capitol ahead of the riots on Jan 6. At least half a dozen members of the Proud Boys were arrested over involvement in the riots. Tarrio denied ever being an informer, telling Reuters: "I don’t know any of this. I don’t recall any of this."
- The Week
Career officials at the State Department "don't expect huge improvements" under the Biden administration, a U.S. diplomat told Politico. So far, people who stuck it out for four years under the Trump administration feel like they're being snubbed in favor of political appointees as higher-level positions get filled. On the one hand, Politico reports, the fact that not a single career official was named in the first wave of top appointments that require Senate confirmation is seen as "a slight to the hardworking rank-and-file officials," especially after they felt they were not treated well under the previous administration. "The diplomatic corps has been battered and bruised," the diplomat told Politico. "Why not come explain your thinking? I'm prepared for disappointment and under-delivering from this team." But the criticism may not all be personal. Brett Bruen, a consultant who previously served on the Obama National Security Council, suggested that passing over holdovers from the Trump years could hinder policy decisions. "None of the people who were there for the last four years, who understand how the world has changed, will be in the room when the big decisions were being made," he told Politico. A spokesperson for Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to ease the concerns, telling Politico "career experts will always be at the center of our diplomacy." Read more at Politico. More stories from theweek.comMitch McConnell is the GOATWho is the Cinderella in the GameStop fairy tale?GameStop makes the case for financial regulation
- The Independent
Jill Biden spent her first week as First Lady reshaping the role. Melania Trump spent hers isolated in a tower
New first lady signals she will be an active and constant presence in the White House - drawing stark contrasts to her predecessor
- NBC News
President Joe Biden vowed to ultimately put an end to private prisons, but activists says the move isn't enough to fully address mass incarcerations.
- Yahoo News Video
In remarks on Tuesday, President Biden said his administration will increase COVID-19 vaccine doses to states from 8.6 million to 10 million every week. He also said that states and territories will get a three-week forecast of vaccine supply.
A man in Portland, Oregon has been charged with bias crimes after allegedly kicking and racially attacking an Asian American woman last week. The incident, which left the victim with “some trouble walking,” occurred on a TriMet bus in the area of Southeast 52nd Avenue and Foster Road at 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 22. Eschright also allegedly used racial slurs during the encounter, mentioning the coronavirus in regards to the victim’s race and skin color.
The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told me. Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Driving the news: A senior State Department official told me the department is “temporarily pausing the implementation of some pending U.S. defense transfers and sales to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review it”. * The official claimed that was a “routine administrative action typical to most any transition,” intended to ensure U.S. arms sales “meet our strategic objectives." * The suspension of the arms deals was first reported by Bloomberg News.The big picture: The F-35 deal came in the context of the U.S.-brokered normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel. * Israel had been the only country in the region to possess the F-35, but dropped its objections to the sale after protracted discussions with the Trump administration. * Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing that the Biden administration supported Israel's recent normalization deals, but would review some of the commitments the Trump administration had made to achieve them. * Blinken also committed to ending U.S. support for the war in Yemen. The Biden administration is concerned the munitions included in that deal will be used there.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Explainer: Why Trump's post-presidency perks, like a pension and office, are safe for the rest of his life
The impeachment proceeding against Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has fueled speculation online that he could lose some of the benefits extended to former presidents. But according to legal experts, under the laws currently in effect, Trump will retain perks including a pension, office space and security detail even in the unlikely event that he is convicted by the Senate in its impeachment trial. Trump can thank a relatively obscure law, the Former Presidents Act.
- 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.”
- NBC News
Tommy Frederick Allan said he took the documents because he is a taxpayer, according to an arrest warrant.
- Associated Press
A group of U.N experts has criticized Sri Lanka's requirement that those who die of COVID-19 be cremated, even it goes against a family's religious beliefs, and warned that decisions based on “discrimination and aggressive nationalism” could incite hatred and violence. The experts, who are part of the Special Procedures of the U.N Human Rights Council, said in a statement Monday that rule amounts to a human rights violation. “We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country,” the experts said.
The move could save the service millions of dollars and provide wearers with better protection in the field.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday stuck to his stance that Tehran must resume complying with the Iran nuclear deal before Washington, which abandoned the pact under former President Donald Trump, would do so. Making his first public comments on Iran as the chief U.S. diplomat, Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden's policy "that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing."
- Miami Herald
When Lake Correctional Institution inmate Christopher Howell, 51, suffered fatal injuries in his cell last year, slammed into a wall by corrections officer Michael Riley, it was yet another reminder of the institutionalized violence that festers in Florida’s prison system. The three officers’ accounts of what happened at the critical moment match — nearly word for word.