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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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Campus

Trudeau outlines plan to pass trade deal

CUSMA will come before parliament.

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File photo.

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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United States

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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Trump

Trump impeached by U.S. House

Trump could be the third-ever president impeached.

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File photo of U.S. President Donald Trump via Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. House of Representatives late on Wednesday impeached Republican President Donald Trump with a vote largely along party lines, passing at two articles of impeachment put forward by the majority Democrats claiming abuse of power and obstruction of justice, handing the fate of the president over to a trial in the GOP-held Senate.

The ballots marked by lawmakers in the House came after a day of debate that saw Democrats calling Trump a threat to democracy as Republicans fought back, claiming the proceedings were a partisan coup with Rep. Kevin McCarthy calling it the “least credible impeachment in American history.”

Democrats in the House, led by Nancy Pelosi, accuse the 73-year-old president of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President and current presidential hopeful Joe Biden in return for military aid. Trump is also charged with obstructing congressional probes by directing officials and departments to ignore legal summons.

Impeachment is an extraordinary check on presidential power written into the United States Constitution by the founders that allows for the removal of presidents by Congress over the vague “high crimes and misdemeanours” — and Trump is the third president to be impeached after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

As the House made history, Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, rallied supporters from Battle Creek, Michigan. 

Article One was supported by 230 Democrats while two Democrats voted against the article, which accuses Trump of abuse of power over his dealings with Ukraine. Democrats lost one ballot when voting in favour of Article Two, which alleges abuse of power.

Sole Independent Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, voted with Democrats on both articles. None of the 195 Republicans in the House supported the articles, as expected by political analysts, while Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted only “present”.

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