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The Trump administration has proposed allowing offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all of the United States’ coastal waters. The reversal of the Obama-era restrictions would open more than a billion acres of water along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Arctic and allow oil companies to drill off the coast of California for the first time in decades. The proposal faces opposition from environmental groups and the governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington and Florida.
The Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil and gas drilling comes as scientists say climate change may be related to the devastatingly freezing weather currently engulfing wide swaths of the United States. Some scientists say the melting of the Arctic and the weakening the jet stream could be allowing more cold air to escape the Arctic and engulf lower latitudes, such as Europe and parts of North America. A brutal cold is setting in across the East Coast and Midwest today, with wind chill temperatures expected to dip as low as negative 15 degrees Fahrenheit in New York and negative 25 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston over the weekend. The freeze comes after a winter storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone” dumped more than a foot of snow across eight different states, closing schools, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights and knocking out power for tens of thousands of people. At least 17 people have died from the weather so far this week. The National Guard has been mobilized in multiple states. In Boston, the blizzard not only blanketed the city in more than a foot of snow, it also caused frigid water from the Boston Harbor to surge into the city’s streets. This is Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaking Thursday.
Gov. Charlie Baker: “And if a foot of snow wasn’t enough, the forecast predicts single-digit temperatures to move in on Friday. That means the snow from this storm will freeze quickly, and bitter cold temperatures will return. Make sure you’re prepared, especially in the event you lose power, and stay safe while our road crews and first responders work through this snowstorm.”
The feud between President Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon is escalating amid the publication of a new tell-all book in which Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr. of “treason” and predicts Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation will find evidence of money laundering. President Trump is trying frantically to stop the publication of the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” written by journalist Michael Wolff. Trump’s lawyers have sent cease and desist letters to Bannon, author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt, trying to stop the book’s publication and distribution. But amid the media firestorm, publisher Henry Holt has moved up the book’s publication date to today. It had been slated to be published on Tuesday. The book has already reached number one on the Amazon best-seller list. In the book, Bannon portrays his former boss as wholly unprepared for the presidency. He accuses Donald Trump Jr. of “treason” over a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian officials. The book says a spokesperson for President Trump’s legal team quit after Trump dictated a misleading statement while aboard Air Force One about his son’s meeting. The former Trump spokesperson, Mark Corallo, told author Michael Wolff he feared the Air Force One meeting represented obstruction of justice. In the book, Bannon also says special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is about money laundering. Bannon is quoted talking about Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s real estate empire, saying, “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner s**. The Kushner s** is greasy. They’re going to go right through that.” Bannon is also quoted as saying, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV”—also in reference to money laundering. Earlier this week, the publication of excerpts of the book caused Trump to attack Bannon, saying he’d lost his mind. Meanwhile, Bannon himself is losing key allies, including billionaire backer Rebekah Mercer, who issued a statement Thursday saying, “I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected. My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.” On Thursday, President Trump responded to questions from reporters about Steve Bannon.
President Donald Trump: “I don’t know. He called me a great man last night, so, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick. All right, thank you all very much. Thank you. I don’t talk to him. I don’t talk to him. I don’t talk to him. That’s just a misnomer. Thank you.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has abruptly rescinded Obama-era policies that discourage federal prosecutors from cracking down on marijuana in states where marijuana use and sale has been legalized. At least 29 states and the District of Columbia have at least partially legalized marijuana, including, most recently, California, where it became legal on January 1. But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s move to rescind the policy, known as the “Cole Memorandum,” sparked widespread backlash and concern about a nationwide crackdown against the production, sale, distribution and use of marijuana. This is Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner speaking on the Senate Floor Thursday.
Sen. Cory Gardner: “Without the Cole Memorandum, legal businesses operating in accordance to states’ rights, states’ laws, they’re operating now under a cloud of uncertainty. … Thousands of jobs at risk, millions of dollars in revenue, and certainly the question of constitutional states’ rights, very much at the core of this discussion. Because I believe what happened today was a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters. And, sure, this was a heavily debated issue, something that I’ve already said that I opposed. But the people of Colorado spoke. They spoke loudly, and I believe if the same question were asked today, they’d even have more support for the decision they made back several years ago.”
North Korea and South Korea have set a date for their first high-level talks in more than two years. The talks are slated to be held on January 9. The two countries are seeking to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, largely sparked by President Trump’s repeated nuclear threats against North Korea. This is the spokesperson for South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Baik Tae-hyun: “North Korea accepted our offer for talks at the Peace House in Panmunjom on January 9. The two sides decided to discuss working-level issues for the talks by exchanging documents. Regarding the agenda, both will discuss Pyeongchang’s Winter Olympics and ways to improve ties between South and North Korea.”
The United States and South Korea have also agreed to delay planned military drills on the Korean Peninsula until after the Winter Olympics, which are being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, about 60 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone.
The United States has suspended at least $900 million in military aid to Pakistan, after President Trump accused Pakistan of not doing enough to combat terrorism. This is State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
Heather Nauert: “Today, we can confirm that we are suspending national security—or, excuse me, we are suspending security assistance, security assistance only, to Pakistan at this time. Until the Pakistani government takes decisive action against groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network—we consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel—the United States will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan.”
In Afghanistan, at least 20 people have been killed, and dozens more were wounded, in a suicide bomb attack in the capital Kabul Thursday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which struck a market where shopkeepers were protesting against the police.
In Syria, about two dozen civilians were reportedly killed by airstrikes in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus on Thursday. The Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, says the airstrikes were carried out by the Russian military and that the victims included women and children. Eastern Ghouta has been besieged by the Syrian military since 2013, and food, water and medicine are in short supply.
In Russia, at least 10 people were killed when a fire tore through a shoe factory in Siberia Thursday. At least seven of the victims were Chinese migrants who were working in the factory. Local media is reporting the fire may have been caused by workplace safety violations.
And back in the United States, in Virginia, Republicans have declared victory in a pivotal House of Delegates race, after an election official randomly picked Republican incumbent David Yancey’s name out of a bowl, breaking a tie between him and his rival, Democrat Shelly Simonds. But Simonds refused to concede the race, and suggested she may demand a second recount. The race decides control of the Virginia House of Delegates.