By Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of Interior, on Tuesday said he would consider an expansion of energy drilling and mining on federal lands but would ensure sensitive areas remain protected. The former Navy SEAL sought to outline a measured approach to the job of managing America’s national parks, forests and tribal lands during a four-hour Senate confirmation hearing that was mostly cordial, lacking some of the hot-tempered grilling that has marked other sessions to vet Trump’s cabinet nominees. "Yes," he said in response to a question from Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska about whether he would review drilling curbs imposed by President Barack Obama's administration in her state, home to vast petroleum deposits both onshore and beneath Arctic waters. "I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation than overseas with no regulation ... We need an economy." But he added he was committed to protecting sensitive wildlife habitats and to keeping federal lands under federal control to ensure they are preserved for future generations, so "my granddaughter’s children can look back and say that we did it right." The Interior Department oversees territories covering a fifth of the United States' surface from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, including rich deposits of oil, gas and coal and important pasturelands for ranchers. Zinke, an avid hunter and angler, emerged as a surprise pick to head the department in part because he has embraced federal stewardship of public land, diverging from the Republican Party's official position to sell off acreage to states. But as a congressman he has also fought for increased energy development, a position that has worried conservationists and which fits neatly with Trump's campaign vows to bolster the U.S. energy sector by scaling back regulation. Over the last eight years, the Interior Department has sought to limit industry access to federal lands and played a key role in Obama's agenda to combat climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emitting industries. Under Obama, the department banned new coal mining leases on federal property early in 2016. More recently the agency placed parts of the offshore Arctic and Atlantic off-limits to drilling and declared national monuments that protect large parts of Utah and Nevada from development. Zinke said he believed Trump could "amend" Obama's moves to declare millions of acres of federal property as national monuments. But he said that any move Trump made to rescind a designation would immediately be challenged. He did not comment directly on whether he would seek to reverse Obama's federal coal-lease ban but said he believed coal plays an important part in the U.S. energy mix and has previously pushed to end the moratorium. Zinke was the first of three Cabinet heads Trump has chosen to oversee his environment and energy portfolio to face Senate scrutiny this week. All three have opposed Obama's measures to combat global climate change by targeting carbon dioxide emissions. Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, was to testify on Wednesday, and Trump's choice for Energy secretary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, was to testify on Thursday. CLIMATE CLASH Zinke told committee members that he believes humans contribute to global climate change – a statement that appeared to clash with Trump’s views. Before running for the White House, Trump called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to weaken U.S. businesses, a position he has since defended. "I do not think it is a hoax," Zinke said. But he added that he believed there is still debate over the degree to which humans have an impact, and what should be done about it, adding that regulations could sometimes hurt jobs without helping the environment. He said, for example, he would support efforts by the U.S. Congress to cancel recent regulation imposed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management aimed at preventing leaks of methane - another gas scientists blame for climate change - from oil and gas installations. In his opening remarks, Zinke struck a moderate tone, saying that he recognizes that some federal lands require strong protection. He also called himself an "unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt," a former Republican president who pioneered public land conservation. Zinke also said he would tackle a multi-billion dollar backlog in maintenance at national parks and promised to ensure greater sovereignty for tribes.
- 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 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 James Bond movie No Time to Die delayed another 6 months
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 move prompted an outcry from some troops.
- Yahoo News Video
President Joe Biden issued a warning Wednesday to his appointees that a hostile workplace will not be allowed in his administration.
- The Telegraph
The White House's top adviser on Covid-19 has said he feels liberated now that Donald Trump has left office – because now he can finally tell Americans the truth about the virus. In extraordinary remarks to reporters at a briefing on the virus, Anthony Fauci said that President Joe Biden's administration would be "completely transparent, open and honest" with the public rather than "point fingers", like his predecessor. Dr Fauci, who often clashed publicly with Mr Trump, also said he felt "really uncomfortable" about things said by the White House as it dealt with the virus that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans, including announcements on hydroxychloroquine – and he said he feared "repercussions" from Mr Trump if he misspoke. Speaking at his first White House briefing as President Biden's top Covid adviser, Dr Fauci was asked to compare his experience under the previous administration to the new one. The 80-year-old initially said he wasn't sure he could "extrapolate" based on first impressions. But then he said: "One of the things that was very clear as recently as about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the president, is that one of the things that we're going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest. "If things go wrong, not point fingers but to correct them and to make everything we do be based on science and evidence."
- 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.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved Avril Haines as the Director of National Intelligence, the nation's top intelligence job, making her the first of President Joe Biden's nominees to be approved. The vote was 84-10, with all the "no" votes coming from Republicans. Both Democrats and leading Republicans issued statements praising the nominee.
Chinese Actress Faces Backlash After Allegedly Hiring 2 Women to Have Her Babies Then Abandoning Them
Chinese actress Zheng Shuang is facing massive backlash after being accused by her former partner, producer Zhang Heng, of abandoning their two children born to U.S.-based surrogate mothers. An international scandal: In a 2019 audio recording that emerged on Monday, Heng said Shuang decided to abandon the children before they were even born following the end of their relationship, South China Morning Post reports. Shuang’s father purportedly made the suggestion to abandon the children at the hospital.
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump spent his first hours as a private citizen scrambling to find lawyers to represent him in his upcoming impeachment trial, as he settled into his new home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. One of Mr Trump’s first calls after leaving office was to Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator and staunch ally, telling him he was now “looking for some lawyers” for the imminent Senate hearing. "[Trump] said, 'I really don't know the lay of the land here,' and he's looking for some lawyers," Mr Graham told Punchbowl News. "I'm trying to help him there, and he's just trying to put together a team." Mr Trump will not be drawing on his usual litigators: Rudy Giuliani, his longtime personal lawyer, is likely to step aside as he could be called as a witness, while attorneys who represented him at the first impeachment hearing have declined.
- The Independent
Change came just hours after President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Yahoo News 360
Recent history shows the opportunity to pass major bills can disappear quickly. What should Democrats’ top priority be?
- The Telegraph
Investigators in Indonesia are probing whether a malfunctioning automatic throttle could have brought down the Sriwijaya Airlines flight that nosedived into the Java Sea on January 9. A person familiar with the investigation told Bloomberg that the autothrottle was producing more thrust in one of the Boeing 737-500’s two engines than the other after the plane took off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport carrying 62 people. Unequal thrust can cause a plane to roll onto its side and descend abruptly and autothrottle malfunctions have previously caused incidents on the 737 and led to the Tarom airlines crash in Romania in 1995, which killed 60 people. The source said the device had been having problems on previous flights made by the aircraft. Nurcahyo Utomo, the lead investigator at Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, confirmed that a malfunctioning throttle was “one of the factors that we are looking at, but I can’t say at this point that it’s a factor for the crash or there was a problem with it." Earlier this month, officials investigating the tragedy were reported to be looking at a possible link to the 27-year-old plane’s prolonged grounding because of travel restrictions and reduced timetables during the Covid-19 pandemic.