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March 14, 2014

Parisians are used to waving away thick clouds of smoke from their faces, but this time it's not from cigarettes. The French capital is currently cloaked in a heavy blanket of smog, a case of severe air pollution spurred by unseasonably warm temperatures. It's so bad that the city is making public transportation (including bikes and electric vehicles) free for the weekend to get people out of their cars and motorcycles.

The European Environment Agency reports that the smog is the worse it's been since 2007, with nearly three-quarters of France affected. Local hospitals are treating an influx of patients suffering from chronic respiratory ailments, such as difficulty breathing and coughing.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the upper 60s and low 70s until Monday, when a cold front is expected to usher in some rain and relief. -- Jordan Valinsky

11:21 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), stressed the vitality of "choice" while promising healthcare access for "every single American" in his senate hearing Wednesday.

Price laid out his six principles for healthcare, including "affordability, accessibility, quality, responsiveness, innovation, and choices." "No one is interested in pulling the rug out from anybody," he said, addressing many Americans concerns about losing their insurance when the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Many on the left were unimpressed by his promises, though, with both Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ripping into Price's promises:

While Price will likely be confirmed, Democrats mean to hassle him as much as possible during his hearing due to his plans to dismantle ObamaCare. Jeva Lange

11:15 a.m. ET

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for commerce secretary, faced the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for his confirmation hearing Wednesday. Last week, the Senate committee announced it was delaying Ross' hearing due to ethics considerations, as Ross' team had not yet submitted required paperwork.

On Wednesday, Ross addressed his potential conflicts of interests, vowing to be "quite scrupulous about recusal on any topic where there's the slightest scintilla of doubt." But while being questioned by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ross admitted he would not be divesting all of his shipping interests:

As commerce secretary, Ross would oversee both domestic and foreign commerce — including international shipping. On Tuesday, Ross filed to divest at least 80 of his assets, The New York Times reported, as well as resign from "positions with more than two-dozen funds or companies in which he has a financial interest." The Office of Government Ethics, which had objected to Ross' scheduled hearing last week due to a lack of completed ethics paperwork, subsequently released a 57-page disclosure of Ross' holdings Tuesday. Included in the OGE's Tuesday releases was an agreement it had struck with Ross "spelling out his plans for the divestiture of holdings that could post a conflict with running the Commerce Department," the Times wrote.

CNN Money noted that while he is seeking to avoid conflicts of interest through the actions announced Tuesday, Ross will retain interests in 40 assets for up to six months after his confirmation, due to the fact that they are "illiquid" and will take longer to divest. There are also several assets in which Ross will retain financial interest "as a passive investor," as detailed in the OGE agreement; these holdings concern "transoceanic shipping, mortgage lending, and real estate financing." Kimberly Alters

11:13 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, slammed the UN for its "bias" against "our close ally" Israel during her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, and vowed to take a stand against those biases if confirmed. "I will never abstain when the U.N. takes any action that comes in direct conflict with U.S. interests and values," Haley said.

Last month, the U.S. abstained when the U.N. voted against Israeli settlements being built on Palestinian land, drawing criticism from President-elect Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Haley said Wednesday the American people are "fed up" with the U.N.'s "mistreatment of Israel," and promised to take it upon herself to "reform the U.N." Becca Stanek

10:13 a.m. ET

Fox News host Tucker Carlson began his interview Tuesday night with an unusual demand: "Tell me what your real name is." While the man Carlson was talking to claimed to be Dom Tullipso, director of operations for a business called Demand Protest, Carlson said a "law enforcement-level background check" revealed that name "does not exist" — and Carlson wasn't convinced Tullipso's business did either. "So, this is a sham," Carlson said of the business, which claims to organize "paid protest." "Your company isn't real, your website is fake, the claims you have made are lies, this is a hoax."

The man never exactly admitted that the whole business is, in fact, a hoax, but he does give a pretty good display of what Carlson dubs "performance art." At one point, Tullipso (if that's really his name) claims his support for "national treasures such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Peyton Manning." Yes, football-playing, Super Bowl-winning Peyton Manning.

Watch the utterly indescribable interview below. Becca Stanek

9:47 a.m. ET
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Women's Campaign Fund

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) recently returned from a "fact finding" trip to Syria, and her spokeswoman will not definitively confirm if Gabbard did or did not meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Foreign Policy reports.

Gabbard is an outspoken dissenter from President Barack Obama on the matter of Syria, opposing U.S. efforts for a regime change by stating that the region will become more unstable and dangerous if Assad is removed from power. Gabbard "felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees, and government and community leaders," said her spokeswoman, Emily Latimer. When asked directly if Gabbard met Assad, Latimer declined to comment "citing security and logistical concerns."

Foreign Policy notes that Gabbard's trip is "exceedingly rare" for a representative. Gabbard is a veteran of the Iraq War and has found receptive audiences in the incoming administration, including earning a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss Syria and the fight against al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Jeva Lange

9:34 a.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tweeting isn't something President-elect Donald Trump likes to do, it's simply something he has to do — or so he says. "Look, I don't like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing," Trump said during an interview on Fox & Friends that aired Wednesday morning. "But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it's my only way that I can counteract."

And counteract he has. Trump has racked up more than 34,000 tweets since he joined Twitter in March 2009, and he's taken up calling out news outlets, people he dislikes, and businesses considering offshoring jobs. Just this morning, for example, Trump slammed the Today show for being "biased" and having "little credibility."

But Trump claimed this would all come to an end if the media just treated him better. "Now if the press were honest — which it's not — I would absolutely not use Twitter," he said. "I wouldn't have to."

For now though, he indicated, he has no choice but to continue tweeting to his more than 20 million followers, collecting thousands and thousands of "likes" along the way. Becca Stanek

9:19 a.m. ET

Ignorance can surely, at times, be bliss. Donald Trump appears "unusually subdued" these days, Axios co-founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei noted during their interview with the president-elect, and it might just be that the weight of the office is suddenly coming clear.

"A top adviser told us the sober tone reflects a bumpy few days inside Trump Tower — and the realization that he's days away from truly running the nation," Allen and VandeHei write. Trump admitted as much himself:

Trump seemed, dare we say, humbled by recent intelligence briefings on global threats. Dick Cheney's friends used to tell us he was a decidedly darker, changed man once he started reading the daily intel reports after 9/11. Trump seemed moved by what he's now seeing.

"I've had a lot of briefings that are very … I don't want to say 'scary,' because I'll solve the problems," he said. "But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies."

He offered a reminder many critics hope he never forgets: "You also realize that you've got to get it right because a mistake would be very, very costly in so many different ways." [Axios]

But lest you begin to miss the "old Trump," don't worry, he's not that much more subdued: As of Wednesday morning, he was still his usual self, taking furious shots at the media on Twitter. Jeva Lange

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