Senate Democrats vow to fight drilling in Alaska reserve

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democrats vowed on Tuesday to fight a measure expected to be slipped into budget legislation that would open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil and gas drilling, saying it would destroy one of earth’s remaining paradises.

Northern Alaska’s ANWR is a wilderness about the size of South Carolina that supports tribes that have fished and hunted there for thousands of years and is home to polar bears, caribou and birds vulnerable to development.

A plan passed by the Senate budget committee late last month contains a directive for the Senate energy committee to draw up a provision securing $1 billion in revenue for the budget, which is expected to be voted on late Thursday.

The head of the energy panel, Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and a longtime proponent of drilling in ANWR, is expected to write a provision opening the reserve. She and Senator Dan Sullivan, also an Alaska Republican, have both supported measures to open up parts of ANWR.

“This Republican budget scam to hand over the wildest place left in America to Big Oil should be removed from the budget and put on ice,” said Senator Edward Markey.

Activists attend a protest against the legislation that would open Wilderness in Alaska to oil drilling on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Senator Jeff Merkley said there is “something cynical and sad” about the effort because it could boost oil output from the U.S. state that is already feeling the fastest effects of climate change, which the overwhelming majority of scientists link to human-caused carbon emissions.

An environmentalist said Republicans were trying to sneak drilling into the budget and eliminate opportunities for debate.

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Lydia Weiss, the director of government relations at the Wilderness Society, called it an “unacceptable abuse of Senate procedure” and said Americans deserve to see the Senate debate the issue in the open.

Petroleum interests have long lobbied to explore in the area and say technology advances mean the impact of operations on the reserve would be smaller than in years past.

Still, it is uncertain whether energy companies that have faced static crude prices amid a wealth of oil and gas in the continental United States would be willing to increase drilling in the harsh and frigid Arctic.

Markey said the group is reaching out to Republicans for support in opposition to the drilling amendment, which likely will need 50 votes in the 100-member chamber to pass. Democrats hope Republican senators John McCain and Susan Collins, who have previously voted against drilling, will support them.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Matthew Lewis

Vietnam floods killed 83 and more rain on the way

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HANOI (Reuters) – Floods in Vietnam last week killed 83 people and 20 were missing, officials said on Tuesday, with thousands of homes submerged or destroyed and several towns cut off.

The floods also damaged more than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice but did not hit the coffee belt. The Southeast Asian nation is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee.

Medium to heavy rains are expected in the south of the Central Highlands, the coffee belt, as well as central and southern provinces, from Tuesday night to Thursday.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wreaked havoc across central provinces last month.

Flooding also hit nine provinces in neighboring Thailand.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Nick Macfie

U.S. regulator hints at changes to plan boosting coal, nuclear plants

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said on Tuesday that a directive from the U.S. energy secretary to prop up struggling nuclear and coal power plants has initiated an important conversation, but hinted the agency may not pass the plan without changes.

Late last month, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed FERC, an independent agency, to pass a rule within 60 days that would allow certain coal and nuclear plants that store 90 days of fuel on site to recover full costs through regulated pricing, saying the plan increases reliability of the nation’s power grid.

“There’s real value in Secretary Perry initiating a conversation” on whether FERC adequately compensates certain power generators for their contributions to reliability, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee told an energy conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Last week, Chatterjee told reporters that he did not want to do anything to disrupt the existing power market structure, formed over nearly two decades and large investments.

His Republican counterpart on the commission, Robert Powelson, said this month that Perry was being thoughtful, but there were “many different approaches on how we can tackle this issue.” Powelson said he would leave his job if a new rule undoes organized and competitive power markets, according to a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence’s SNL.

Cheryl LaFleur, the Democrat on the commission, tweeted that Powelson’s comment was a “Great Message.”

Chatterjee stressed at Tuesday’s conference that FERC makes its own decisions. “Let me be clear, I remain committed to upholding the commission’s independence on this and the many other issues that may come before us,” Chatterjee said.

Later on Tuesday Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate energy committee and 10 of her Democratic colleagues, wrote a letter urging FERC to reject Perry’s proposed rule because it would result in higher power bills for consumers.

Power markets are changing with swift closures of both coal and nuclear plants but also a rapid rise in solar and wind power, said Chatterjee, a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and one of two Republicans on FERC. The grid has maintained its reliability during these changes but only with the vigilance of regulators, he said.

Chatterjee said that a conversation about how to improve reliability can “ensure that we don’t find ourselves coming to regret not having asked hard questions … amongst all the changes in the energy industry.”

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker

Game of Thrones star accuses Harvey Weinstein

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Game of Thrones star Lena Headey has claimed Harvey Weinstein angrily marched her out of a hotel after she rejected his advances.

The British actress posted a series of tweets in which she detailed meetings between the two where the Hollywood mogul allegedly made “suggestive” comments towards her and became enraged after she rejected his advances.

It comes as Weinstein has resigned from the board of The Weinstein Company – the film studio he co-founded in 2005.

The 65-year-old reportedly owns an approximate 20% stake of the company, which is in talks with Colony Capital over a potential buyout.

Image:Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, said she first met Weinstein at the Venice Film Festival.

She wrote: “Harvey asked me to take a walk down to the water, I walked down with him and he stopped and made some suggestive comment, a gesture, I just laughed it off, I was genuinely shocked.

“I said something like, oh come on mate?! It’d be like kissing my dad!”

Headey said in another meeting at a Los Angeles hotel about potential work, the pair talked about films before the producer turned his attention to the “state of my love life”.

Image:Harvey Weinstein has denied the allegations against him

“I shifted the conversation back to something less personal,” Headey wrote.

She claimed Harvey Weinstein then asked her up to his room to give her a film script.

“We walked to the lift and the energy shifted, my whole body went into high alert, the lift was going up and I said to Harvey, I’m not interested in anything other than work, please don’t think I got in here with you for any other reason, nothing is going to happen,” said Headey.

“I had such a strong sense of don’t come near me.”

The actress said Weinstein was “silent” and “furious” as they walked towards his room.

She said: “His hand was on my back, he was marching me forward, not a word, I felt completely powerless, he tried his key card and it didn’t work, then he got really angry.

“He walked me back to the lift, through the hotel to the valet, by grabbing and holding tightly to the back of my arm, he paid for my car and whispered in my ear, don’t tell anyone about this, not your manager, not your agent.

Video:Special report: Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace

“I got into my car and I cried.”

A series of women – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Ashley Judd – have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment.

The producer has “unequivocally denied” the claims against him.

Game of Thrones star accuses Harvey Weinstein

Published by:

Game of Thrones star Lena Headey has claimed Harvey Weinstein angrily marched her out of a hotel after she rejected his advances.

The British actress posted a series of tweets in which she detailed meetings between the two where the Hollywood mogul allegedly made “suggestive” comments towards her and became enraged after she rejected his advances.

It comes as Weinstein has resigned from the board of The Weinstein Company – the film studio he co-founded in 2005.

The 65-year-old reportedly owns an approximate 20% stake of the company, which is in talks with Colony Capital over a potential buyout.

Image:Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, said she first met Weinstein at the Venice Film Festival.

She wrote: “Harvey asked me to take a walk down to the water, I walked down with him and he stopped and made some suggestive comment, a gesture, I just laughed it off, I was genuinely shocked.

“I said something like, oh come on mate?! It’d be like kissing my dad!”

Headey said in another meeting at a Los Angeles hotel about potential work, the pair talked about films before the producer turned his attention to the “state of my love life”.

Image:Harvey Weinstein has denied the allegations against him

“I shifted the conversation back to something less personal,” Headey wrote.

She claimed Harvey Weinstein then asked her up to his room to give her a film script.

“We walked to the lift and the energy shifted, my whole body went into high alert, the lift was going up and I said to Harvey, I’m not interested in anything other than work, please don’t think I got in here with you for any other reason, nothing is going to happen,” said Headey.

“I had such a strong sense of don’t come near me.”

The actress said Weinstein was “silent” and “furious” as they walked towards his room.

She said: “His hand was on my back, he was marching me forward, not a word, I felt completely powerless, he tried his key card and it didn’t work, then he got really angry.

“He walked me back to the lift, through the hotel to the valet, by grabbing and holding tightly to the back of my arm, he paid for my car and whispered in my ear, don’t tell anyone about this, not your manager, not your agent.

Video:Special report: Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace

“I got into my car and I cried.”

A series of women – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Ashley Judd – have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment.

The producer has “unequivocally denied” the claims against him.

Trump: Dead soldier ‘knew what he signed up for’

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Donald Trump is in hot water again after reportedly telling the wife of a soldier killed in action that “he knew what he signed up for”.

Sgt La David Johnson, a Special Forces soldier, was among four US soldiers who were killed serving in Niger.

US President Mr Trump phoned Sgt Johnson’s pregnant widow Myeshia Johnson and spoke to her for about five minutes, according to ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10 in Miami.

The conversation happened shortly before Mrs Johnson and the couple’s two children – a two-year-old son and six-year-old daughter – arrived at the airport to meet her husband’s coffin.

With her was Frederica Wilson, a Democrat congresswoman for Florida.

Video:His widow grieves as Sgt Johnson comes home

Ms Wilson told WPLG that Mr Trump had said: “(Sgt Johnson) knew what he signed up for…but when it happens it hurts anyway.”

She later tweeted: “Sgt La David Johnson is a hero.

“(Donald Trump) does not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States.”

A former Walmart employee, Sgt Johnson enlisted in January 2014 and defied the odds to become a decorated member of the prestigious 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

But the 25-year-old was killed on 4 October after his group was ambushed by more than 50 Islamist militants.

He was initially left behind during the evacuation and it was nearly two days later that his body was retrieved.

Mr Trump was playing golf as Sgt Johnson’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on 7 October.

Image:Donald Trump has been criticised for what he said to an army widow

Mr Trump’s phone conversation with Mrs Johnson comes just days after he was criticised for saying previous presidents had not called families of fallen services personnel.

He told NBC: “President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t.

“I don’t know, that’s what I was told.

“All I can do, all I can do is ask my generals.

“Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. And some presidents didn’t do anything.

“But I like the combination of, I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter.”

As controversial as his comments were, some critics say he made them to distract attention from what happened to the four soldiers in Niger, which has not yet been fully explained.

The others killed in the Niger attack were Staff Sgt Bryan C. Black, 35, of Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Ohio, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Georgia.

The White House said Mr Trump had called all four families involved and “offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their families’ extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten”.

U.S. municipal disaster plans seen more vital for ratings: report

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. state and city governments’ planning for natural disasters will become more critical to their credit quality as costs to deal with extreme weather events increase, S&P Global Ratings said in a report on Tuesday.

“What we do expect is the severity of. these storms – in terms of financial impacts and the human impact as population tends to move toward urban, coastal cities – will grow over time,” Kurt Forsgren, public finance analyst at S&P, said in an interview.

Costs to build more resilient infrastructure will increase, while federal disaster relief could become less certain, according to the report on how climate change affects credit quality.

If extreme weather becomes more frequent, municipalities might be unable to count on the traditional level of federal disaster relief after an event, Forsgren said.

Climate change can hurt municipal issuers, for instance, if sea levels rise and damage properties and their values, or increase electricity loads because of higher average temperatures, the report said.

“Overall, we see some municipal issuers recognizing, measuring, and reporting their impact on the environment as well as documenting how operations and capital planning are changing in response, but this is not widespread,” the report said, adding that California is leading the pack.

While relatively few credit downgrades have been prompted by natural disasters or climate risks, S&P said that number could rise if climate risks increase and are not mitigated.

The report came after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria inflicted widespread damage on areas including Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.

On Tuesday S&P revised its outlooks on five Texas municipal utility districts to negative due to impacts of Hurricane Harvey.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Puerto Rico’s General Obligation bonds on Oct. 11 to Ca from Caa3, citing in a report protracted economic and revenue disruptions caused by Hurricane Maria.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Daniel Bases and Richard Chang

Actor Bill Pullman receives award and breaks it

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Bill Pullman was given an award at the Woodstock Film Festival, but accidentally broke it before he could accept it.

The US actor, star of screen both big and small, with credits including Independence Day and Sleepless In Seattle, was honoured with the Excellence In Acting award at the ceremony in Kingston, New York.

Unfortunately, as he was about to deliver his note of thanks, he smashed the award in half when it toppled off the lectern on stage.

The actor breezily rescued the situation by proclaiming: “I got two awards tonight”, as he was handed the remains of his prize.

The award was later repaired.