President Biden on Thursday nominated longtime environmental advocate Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management, the Interior Department division that oversees about a quarter-billion acres of federal lands in Western states. BLM also manages drilling and mining rights, animal grazing, and recreational activities on those lands.
Stone-Manning, 55, has worked at the National Wildlife Federation since 2015, and before that she led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality and worked as chief of staff to former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and an aide to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Tester said in a statement that Stone-Manning is "a tireless public lands champion with a lifetime of experience," while Montana's other senator, Steve Daines (R), said he would be "digging through and looking at her record and history" on environmental and energy issues.
BLM never had a Senate-confirmed director under former President Donald Trump, who cycled through "a string of acting directors to execute a loosening of restrictions on industry," The Associated Press reports. "Chief among them was conservative lawyer William Perry Pendley, who before he took the position advocated for selling off federal lands." After Pendley stayed in the job for more than a year without a Senate hearing, Bullock — with Stone-Manning's support — sued, and a federal judge ordered Pendley removed.
Montana Petroleum Association director Alan Olson said Stone-Manning, who he served on a climate council with, is highly intelligent, "left of center" but not extreme, and receptive to opposing arguments, but she should expect from Republicans the same treatment Democrats afforded Trump's appointees. "Tracy went after Pendley," he told AP. "She can expect the same." Peter Weber
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is reportedly set to receive a whopping $5 million for his book about the COVID-19 pandemic, which controversially debuted while the pandemic was still unfolding.
Cuomo has reported that he earned $3.12 million in 2020 from his book American Crisis:Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, and under the contract for the book, another $2 million will be paid over the course of the next two years, The New York Times reportedon Monday.
A spokesperson for the governor told the Times that Cuomo netted a total of $1,537,508 from the book last year after expenses and taxes, a third of which was donated to United Way of New York State for COVID-19 relief and vaccination efforts. The rest of the money will be given to "a trust for his three daughters equally," the spokesperson said.
Cuomo faced criticism last year for his decision to release a book about New York's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020 before the pandemic was over. In the subsequent months, his administration became engulfed in multiple scandals, including surrounding its handling of the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents and allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo.
Last month, The New York Times also revealed that Cuomo was facing an investigation into allegations that he used state resources while writing American Crisis. Cuomo has said some staff volunteered to work on the book but has denied improperly misusing state resources.
Given that Crown, the publisher of American Crisis, previously announced it would not release a paperback edition of the book, the Times reported it was unclear whether the full advance would be paid. But the Times also notes that with about 50,000 copies sold, book sales for American Crisis "have been anemic." Brendan Morrow
The battle for the Republican Party's future is ongoing, and Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) aims to be a part of it, albeit in a different role.
Duncan (R), who clashed with former President Donald Trump over the latter's false claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia's presidential election, announced Monday that he won't seek re-election and will instead focus his energy on building a national organization he is calling "GOP 2.0." "The national events of the last six months have deeply affected my family in ways I would have never imagined when I first asked for their support to run for lieutenant governor in 2017," Duncan said in a statement.
Duncan's explanation of the GOP 2.0 suggests he's not looking to start a new, breakaway party. Rather his goal, he said, is to heal and rebuild the current Republican Party by "reminding Americans [of] the value of conservative policies through genuine empathy and a respectful tone."
CNN's Jake Tapper praised Duncan as one of the GOP's "stalwarts standing for facts and truth against the maelstrom of election lies." Tim O'Donnell
Believe it or not Americans are more content with the federal government that at any point since 2004, a Pew Research survey published Monday found.
While a majority of the respondents remain "frustrated" by the government, 29 percent described themselves as "basically content" with it, compared to just 17 percent who are "angry." Last fall, those numbers were 18 and 24 percent, respectively, and it helps to go back even further to really get perspective on the seemingly mild figure; in 2013, only 12 percent of Americans were content with and 30 percent were angry at the government.
Of course, this is the United States in 2021, so the sentiment is highly partisan. The rise appears to be driven by a whopping 34-point increase — 9 to 43 percent — from 2020 among Democrats who consider themselves content now that President Biden is in office. On the flipside, only 13 percent of Republicans feel the same way, though their drop from the days of the Trump administration is not quite as dramatic.
The Pew Research survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 5,109 adults in the U.S. between April 5-11. The margin of error is 2.1 percentage points. Read the full results here. Tim O'Donnell
In a departure from typical, "time-honored" strategy, Republicans are seemingly gearing up for a 2022 midterm election in which the Democratic president is not framed as the main villain, according to more than 25 GOP strategists and party officials interviewed by Politico. Instead, the GOP reportedly plans to group President Biden in with "more polarizing figures" — like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (R-N.Y.)
This shift in game plan and messaging is attributed most notably to Biden's current classification as a "less-than-ideal foil," Politico writes.
The right has long struggled to effectively demonize the president — throughout the election, attempts to "depict him as mentally unfit or corrupt" fell mostly "flat," Politico writes.
Not to mention Biden is, well...a bit boring. "There are bigger bogeymen," said Republican strategist John Thomas, "We don't need [Biden] as our No. 1 foil" in 2022. Said another strategist to Politico: "It's less about vilifying one person." Notably, the president is already absent from ads seeking to attack "vulnerable" Senate Democrats, like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
The break in Obama and Trump era midterm strategy may also be indicative of a GOP "still preoccupied with their own intra-party skirmishes." Said Republican ad maker Fred Davis to Politico: "The main problem is it's Biden and the Democrats versus two Republican parties."
There remains plenty of time for the president's reputation (and otherwise "sticky" approval rating) to deteriorate — but still, even the inevitable attacks on Biden himself are expected to focus more "on policy than personality." For now, the Republican party's reported disorganization and reluctance to "cast" the president as the "central character" should be considered a "rare bright spot" for Democrats in an "otherwise rough midterm landscape."
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is reportedly eyeing an exit after the announcement of the company's merger with Discovery — which he reportedly only found out about recently.
Kilar has "hired a legal team to negotiate his departure" as chief executive of WarnerMedia, a job he has held for about a year, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The news came only hours after AT&T said it would spin off WarnerMedia, which owns HBO, Warner Bros., CNN, and more, and merge it with Discovery to create a new standalone company run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav. The idea was that the combined company would be better positioned to compete against the likes of Disney and Netflix, and Discovery's brands include HGTV, Food Network, and Animal Planet. The deal is expected to be finalized next year.
But Kilar, the Times reports, was "kept in the dark about the deal until recent days." Zaslav told reporters on Monday that he and AT&T CEO John Stankey had met "secretly" over the past few months.
Kilar's name was not mentioned in the AT&T press release announcing the $43 billion deal, and the Times reports that when Kilar sent a memo to employees about the "momentous news," he didn't mention anything about his future at the company.
Kilar took over as the head of WarnerMedia in May 2020 after previously serving as Hulu's CEO. HBO Max, the new WarnerMedia streaming service, launched later that month. Kilar's reported plans to exit were revealed only three days after The Wall Street Journal published a profile of him, which described how he has "led one of the most radical overhauls in the entertainment industry" and opened by saying, "Jason Kilar might have a career as a tour guide if this WarnerMedia chief executive gig doesn't work out for him." Brendan Morrow
President Biden announced Monday that the United States will export 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June. Those doses are on top of the 60 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca already earmarked for export.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has not received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, so the U.S. wouldn't be able to distribute the doses produced in the country anyway, but the latest development is significant because the other companies' shots are in use domestically.
An anonymous Biden administration official told Bloomberg the measure is only a first step, and, as the vaccination rate plateaus in the U.S., the White House will increasingly turn its attention to helping curb the coronavirus pandemic abroad. The pivot comes as the global discrepancy in vaccinations has become more glaring — many lower-income countries are struggling to secure supplies even as the virus surges in many pockets of the world.
It's not yet clear where exactly the exported vaccines will go, or how the U.S. will decide which countries get them, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the criteria should become available soon. One thing Biden did clarify in his comments is that the U.S. won't use vaccines to secure favors from other countries. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell
The new CDC guidance on mask usage for Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 has swiftly shifted mask mandates. My state of Minnesota lifted its mandate, though our municipal mandate is still in place. Our favored Costco, however, is outside city limits and newly mandate-free for vaccinated customers, which means I can do my next grocery trip unmasked.
My twin toddlers soon cannot. They'll turn two this summer, which means that just as my husband and I can take our masks off in most indoor spaces, they'll have to put theirs on. Teaching them to wear a mask is proving a herculean task, so much so that I wonder if it's possible. Either way, I know it's ridiculous.
Other nations realize this. We have a flight planned for later this summer, so I've been researching airline rules. American carriers and airports all require masks for children two and up, per federal mandate. Airlines from other nations take a far more reasonable approach. At Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, the minimum age is six years old. For British Airways and Air France, it's 11 (and that higher cutoff isn't only for air travel).
This isn't indicative of a lax attitude toward the pandemic: France and the U.K. have had far stricter mitigation measures than we've seen anywhere in the United States. In the most recent French lockdown, for example, no one could travel more than 6 miles from their homes, a wildly draconian rule. Yet French parents don't have to wrestle their uncomprehending toddlers into masks to travel, and American parents do.
I have two ideas for a more reasonable (and, yes, obviously self-serving) approach given what we know of young children's mental and emotional development and COVID-19 itself. The first idea, which is my preference, is that children 11 and younger, who are currently too young to be vaccinated, would simply be exempt from all mask mandates, which is exactly what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. For this demographic, pandemic risks are very low, especially with adult vaccination rates rising, and the benefits of normal life are high.
The second idea, if WHO guidance isn't acceptable, is to make kindergarten the cutoff. (The WHO actively advises against masks for kids 5 and under.) A child too young to go to school is too young to wear a mask. Their brains are just not ready yet, and this is as much biological reality as is COVID-19. Bonnie Kristian