Posted on 06 January 2011.
William Daley, a banking executive and former commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton, will replace Rahm Emmanuel as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, sources said Thursday.
Daley hails from Chicago, where his brother, Richard M. Daley, is the mayor. Emmanuel resigned to run for that post.
CNN reported Thursday that two White House officials speaking on condition of anonymity announced that Obama has chosen Daley to replace interim chief of staff Pete Rouse. Rouse said he did not want to remain in the position and recommended Daley as his successor.
Obama is expected to make the news official later Thursday, AP said.
Posted in Policies, Politics & Politicians, U.S. Federal Government Agencies
Posted on 05 January 2011.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Joe Martens to serve as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Martens, who has served as president of the non-profit group the Open Space Institute since 1998, has played a key role in acquiring land for conservation, sustainable development and sustainable farming in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.
He will replace Peter Iwanowitz, who has held the post since late October after Gov. David Paterson dismissed Alexander B. Grannis.
Grannis was fired over a leaked memo condemning the agency’s layoffs. He has since been hired as first deputy comptroller in the office of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Martens, who will need to wait for Senate approval to begin his work, previously served as deputy state secretary of energy and the environment from 1992-94 under Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council have praised Cuomo’s choice to appoint Martens. “Joe Martens’ experience, judgment, and temperament make him the right person at the right time to meet the challenges that DEC faces,” said Ashok Gupta of the NRDC, according to the New York Times. “He has the support and key relationships with the business and environmental community that will allow him to hit the ground running.”
Martens will take over as the DEC works to complete an analysis of the environmental impact of the controversial “hydro-fracking” process in New York State’s Marcellus Shale region.
Posted in Laws & Regulations, Natural Gas, Policies, Politics & Politicians, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local
Posted on 04 January 2011.
Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s largest province, was assassinated in Islamabad by one of his security force protectors Tuesday, officials said.
A report by the Associated Press of Pakistan said that the Punjab governor was shot while riding in his motorcade through a market district in the nation’s capital.
Police official Mohammad Iftikhar told AP that Taseer was shot by a member of his own guard, who later surrendered to the police. Five others were wounded in relation to the Islamabad attack.
Taseer, a senior member of the ruling party (the Pakistan Peoples Party), was against Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The attacker said he disagreed with Taseer’s opposition to the policy.
He was rushed to Polyclinic in a critical condition before he died, the News Tribe reported. He had been shot 27 times.
Meanwhile, more violence erupted in the southwestern city of Turbat when a school bus near a girl’s school was bombed, UPI reports. Five children were wounded, one of them critically. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.
On Monday, five ostensibly politically motivated murders took place in Karachi, UPI said. A violent mob spilled into the streets and set fire to to buses, a rickshaw and a hotel after a local politician was gunned down.
Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Politics, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 31 December 2010.
Bolivia lapsed into nationwide pandemonium Thursday as protests against an 83 percent rise in fuel prices shut down public transport.
President Evo Morales’ government decreed the gas cost hikes Sunday, announcing it could no longer afford to subsidize the previous prices, which had been frozen for six years, AP reports.
The response in the Andean country was violent unrest as thousands of demonstrators marched and bus drivers maintained the four-day strike that has left major cities largely immobile.
Morales attempted to placate citizens Wednesday by announcing a 20-percent minimum salary increase, but unions and civic groups said the demonstrations would go on nevertheless.
The gasoline subsidies that kept prices low for years cost the government about $380 million per year, AFP reports.
Morales’ administration says the hikes are necessary partly because much of the subsidized gas was being smuggled across borders to neighboring countries.
Posted in Oil & Petroleum, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 28 December 2010.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., has requested that the government update the families of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion victims on the ongoing federal investigation of the accident.
The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has not provided the families of the 29 miners with any information since September, Rockefeller said in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
“Three months is too long for these families to wait for information,” Rockefeller wrote, according to The Associated Press. “I request that MSHA meet with these families as soon as possible, and that you provide me with the expected date that this briefing will occur. Further, I would also request an update on the status of MSHA’s investigation, including when we can expect the investigation to be completed.”
The April 5 disaster occurred 1,000 feet underground in a Massey Energy mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia. It was the deadliest mining accident in the U.S. since 1970.
In addition to MSHA’s civil investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice is also conducting a criminal probe. Massey Energy denies responsibility for the accident, claiming the blast was caused by an unexpected overflow of natural gas. MSHA has largely rejected this explanation, AP reports.
The agency announced that it plans to meet with the families after the holidays.
“Our response to Senator Rockefeller’s letter will provide additional details, including an outline of our ongoing efforts to keep the victims’ families up to date on the status of the investigation,” the Labor Department said in a statement.
Posted in Coal, Minerals & Mining, Policies, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 24 December 2010.
The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced its plans to take over carbon dioxide permitting of any new power plants and refineries in Texas, citing the state’s refusal to comply with emissions regulations going into effect Jan. 2.
Texas industries have openly opposed the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act, a program designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They claim that the cuts will threaten productivity, and that the economy, in turn, will take a hit.
The EPA said Thursday that it was reassuming the state’s Clean Air Act Permits because “officials in Texas have made clear . . . they have no intention of implementing this portion of the federal air permitting program,” The Associated Press reported.
“EPA prefers that the state of Texas and all states remain the permitting authority for (greenhouse gas) sources,” the agency said in a statement. “In the same way that EPA has worked with other states and local agencies, the agency stands ready to do the same with (Texas).”
The EPA constructed a framework for carbon emissions regulations in seven other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Wyoming.
The agency also devised a timetable for establishing the cuts for all U.S. facilities and power plants. It plans to propose performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions beginning in July for powerplants and for oil refineries by December. The standards will be finalized in May 2012 for powerplants and November 2012 for refineries.
Gov. Rick Perry spokeswoman spoke out against the EPA’s decision to directly issue air permits in Texas.
“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Cesinger said, according to the San Antonio Express.
An estimated 167 new or expanding projects would be subject to the EPA takeover. Texas lays claim to more oil refineries, chemical plants, and coal-fired power plants than any other state and produces the most greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollution in the country, AP reports.
The new carbon emissions standards were adopted after a 2007 Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases should be classified as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and EPA research in 2009 revealed that the gases have a harmful effect on human health.
Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Coal, Courts & Litigation, Drilling for Oil, Energy Industry, Global Warming, Laws & Regulations, Oil & Petroleum, Ozone, Policies, Pollution Prevention
Posted on 23 December 2010.
The Obama administration plans to repeal a Bush-era policy that prevented undeveloped acres of land from being recommended for federal wilderness protection.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that his agency will undo the “No More Wilderness” policy, which was enacted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton in 2003.
Congress remains the only governmental body capable of designating new “Wilderness Areas,” but the order will allow U.S. Bureau of Land Management field members to protect areas with “wilderness characteristics,” MSNBC reported.
“Americans love the wild places where they hunt, fish, hike, and get away from it all, and they expect these lands to be protected wisely on their behalf,” Salazar said in a statement.
The 2003 policy was adopted in an out-of-court deal between Norton and then-Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt to remove federal protections for 2.6 million acres in the Rocky Mountain region. The move allowed oil and gas drilling, mining, and other commercial development on land under consideration as wilderness areas.
“I am proud to sign a secretarial order that restores protections for the wild lands that the Bureau of Land Management oversees on behalf of the American people,” Salazar said Thursday in Denver, according to MSNBC.
The policy shift creates a new management category called “Wild Lands,” which will be determined through a public process.
“Because the ‘Wild Lands’ designation can be made and later modified through a public administrative process, it differs from ‘Wilderness Areas,’ which are designated by Congress and cannot be modified except by legislation, and ‘Wilderness Study Areas,’ which BLM typically must manage to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress determines whether to permanently protect them as Wilderness Areas or modify their management,” Salazar explained.
Congress will still make the final call on whether areas of land receive permanent wilderness protection. The BLM has six months to submit new criteria for wilderness evaluations.
Posted in Conservation, Courts & Litigation, Parks by Region, Policies, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 23 December 2010.
The U.S. Senate cleared the New START treaty Wednesday in a 71-to-26 vote.
The U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty, one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities for the lame-duck Congress, will reduce the number of U.S. and Russian missiles by a third and implement on-site inspections of nuclear weapons facilities after a one-year suspension.
The agreement was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 last spring.
Vice President Joe Biden acted as Senate president during the final vote on the treaty, which will last 10 years.
“This is one of those rare times in the United States Senate where we have it within our power to safeguard or endanger humankind,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, Foreign Relations Committee chairman and one of the floor debate managers, said prior to the ratification vote.
56 Democratic senators and two independents voted in support of the treaty.
13 Republicans also joined in voting to approve the treaty, including: Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Robert Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, George Voinovich of Ohio, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
President Obama said Wednesday that the arms control agreement will help the U.S. stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
The international community has also praised the Senate’s ruling. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the treaty “a firm and clear message in support of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation,” AP reported.
Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Policies, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 23 December 2010.
Ivory Coast opposition figure Guillaume Soro called on the international community Wednesday to intervene in the country’s presidential election dispute.
Soro is the prime minister candidate under Alassane Outtara, the opposition leader widely recognized by international observers to have won Ivory Coast’s Nov. 28 runoff election.
Incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo also claimed the victory and refuses to leave office. At least 50 people have been killed in the Ivory Coast in the recent political stalemate since the election, the U.N. said Sunday.
Soro urged the U.N., European Union, African Union, and other world leaders to consider ousting Gbagbo before more bloodshed occurs.
“It is obvious that there is one solution left – that of force,” Soro told France’s i-tele television channel, according to The Associated Press.
The United States and the EU are imposing sanctions on Gbagbo’s regime, and the World Bank said Wednesday that it has frozen lending and disbursing funds to the Ivory Coast.
According to CNN, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday that the United States and other countries were considering expanding the U.N. force currently in the Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile, French officials warned its citizens Wednesday of mounting dangers in the West African country. Government spokesman Francois Baroin urged the estimated 13,000 French nationals in the Ivory Coast to leave immediately if possible.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany have issued similar warnings to their traveling citizens.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his fears that the conflict will ignite another civil war.
“In the past week, there has been an alarming increase in the use of intimidation by elements of the national security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo against the civilian population, and in particular against supporters of President-elect Ouattara,” he said, according to CNN.
“The tactics include abductions and killings and the propagation of hate speech through the state broadcasting corporation,” he continued. “There is a real risk of a return to civil war.”
Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Politics & Politicians
Posted on 18 December 2010.
About 140 inmates have escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico Friday in the most significant Mexican prison break since President Felipe Calderon began his crackdown on drug trafficking four years ago.
The northern Mexico town is located across the border from Laredo, Texas.
Reuters reported that inmates exited through the main vehicle entrance of the prison. The country’s federal interior department is pointing the finger at local authorities for not providing adequate security of the facility.
Later in the day Friday, an SUV exploded outside a police station on the outskirts of the wealthy business hub Monterrey. Authorities have not yet commented on whether the two incidents may be linked.
The blast injured two people and knocked out power in the small town of Zuazua, a major battlezone in the war between drug gangs and police.
Posted in International Relations & Treaties, Laws & Regulations, Military, Politics & Politicians