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Controversial EPA nominees approved by Senate

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On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Senate approved four nominees for key posts at the EPA including one, who will head the agency’s office of chemical safety, with ties to the chemical industry.

Senator Tom Carper, the top democrat on the committee, said two of the nominees gave him cause for “grave concern” Bill Wehrum, nominated for assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and Michael Dourson to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

He also said that Dourson was “one of the most troubling nominees I have ever considered during my time on the committee.”

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, whose state economy has a lot of oil business in it, the panel’s senior Republican, was very happy about the passage of the nominees and urged the Senate to confirm so they can “improve public health within the scope of the EPA’s authority.”

Republicans said that the EPA under former President Barack Obama had overstepped its authority to regulate. President Donald Trump’s EPA advisor Scott Pruitt said the agency had an “activist agenda” under Barack Obama’s administration.

Pruitt has been working to do away with rules and regulation instated and approved by the Obama administration including getting rid of the Clean Power Plan and is trying to alleviate the restrictions on emissions linked to climate change.

Pruitt had sued the agency multiple times when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma.

Jeff Holmstead, head of EPA air and radiation office under former President George W. Bush said that Wehrum is the “ideal person to shepherd Administrator Pruitt’s reforms through the regulatory process.”

Environmental activists have called upon the Senate as a whole “All four of these nominees, especially Wehrum and Durson, would accelerate Scott Pruitt’s mission to dismantle the EPA from the inside.” said Sarah Chieffo, vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.

The other two nominees approved by the Senate today are Matthew Leopold for assistant administrator for the Office of General Counsel, and David Ross for the Office of Water.


More details to follow. ■

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Basketball great Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

The L.A. Lakers star won five championships.

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File photo.

Basketball legend and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant died in a California helicopter crash on Sunday along with at least one of his daughters and seven others, reports and officials said.

LIVE: Coverage from CBS News

A fire broke out sending his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter spiralling out of an overcast sky above Calabasas and killing all five on board. It has been widely reported that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore is among the dead.

During a brief initial press conference on Sunday evening, authorities said that there were nine killed in the crash. Police received a call at 9:47 a.m. that a helicopter may have crashed, officials said.

The Bryants were on their way to Mamba Academy for basketball practice, reports say.

Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said his agency and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating. Sikorsky says it is cooperating with authorities to find out the cause of the crash.

Photo of the crash scene via Twitter.

Bryant is survived by Vanessa, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 17, Bianka, three, and Capri, sevens months.

The L.A. Lakers star is considered one of greatest basketball players of all time. He spent his entire 20-year National Basketball Association career with the California team.

Bryant, 41, won five championships and was an 18-time all-star. He is known for scoring 81 points in a single game.

The basketball great’s final tweet was sent out on Saturday evening, congratulating LeBron James for taking his position as third on the ladder in overall career points.

Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016 but began a new career in Hollywood. In 2018, he won an Oscar along with director Glen Keane for the animated short film “Dear Basketball”, the L.A. Times reports.

IGNITE Vice President Ryan Stafford, who represents Lakeshore Campus, posted a tribute to the basketball legend on his Instagram Story.

Obituary

The following obituary was posted by Reuters news agency:

“A transcendent star who went straight from high school to the game’s biggest stage, Bryant won five NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers and was the face of the franchise during his 20-year career.”

“Bryant, a small forward and shooting guard, averaged 25 points during his career and twice led the NBA in scoring.”

“He was an 18-times NBA All-Star who wore the jersey numbers 24 and 8 – both of which were retired by the Lakers – and continued the ‘Showtime’ tradition of the storied franchise that has been home to the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.”

U.S. President Donald Trump called the development “terrible news”. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Bryant “will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes.”

An NBA game taking place at the time the news broke took a moment of silence and soccer superstar Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. made a “24” symbol with his fingers after scoring a goal on Sunday. ■

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Trudeau outlines plan to pass trade deal

CUSMA will come before parliament.

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After the new North American free trade deal approved by U.S. Senate, the Canadian government plans to ratify the deal next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Tuesday in a news conference after a three-day cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, saying that it’s the government’s utmost priority to push forward with the Canadian-U.S.-Mexico agreement, known domestically as CUSMA, as millions of jobs depend on the new trade pact.

“On Monday, we will present a ways and means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislations to ratify the deal,” said Trudeau, describing what will take place next week.

In order for the Liberals to pass this legislation in a minority government, they will neeed the support of another party in the House of Commons. Trudeau had expressed is hopes that all parties will negotiate and cone on ratification together.

“What we are doing is reminding everyone in the House and across the country of how important it is to secure the most important trading relationship for future generations.”

CUSMA has been on the top of the list of government priorities that were discussed during the cabinet meetings in Winnipeg.

The cabinet ministers also listened to expert guest speakers, who discussed other important matters including the fight against climate change, the current state of the country’s economy and pressing global affairs, among other critical matters facing the new minority government.

The trade deal, a result of a year of sometimes rocky negotiations with with the Trump administration, has been passed in the U.S. Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. It has also been approved in Mexico.

Justin Trudeau said in Winnipeg “we are going to make sure we move forward in the right way and that means ratifying this new NAFTA as quickly as possible.”

Conservatives who are the main opposition, are generally supportive of the deal, but have vowed to grill the Liberals over its specifics when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday. ■

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Weinstein charged with rape, sexual assault

The disgraced media mogul faces up to 28 years in prison for these charges alone.

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File photo of Harvey Weinstein via PBS.

A Los Angeles district attorney on Monday charged disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein with raping a woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013.

If Weinstein is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 28 years in prison.

“We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement, reported Reuters.

It comes the same day that Weinstein is on trial for a separate but similar case in New York. ■

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