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Obama will ask Congress to devote more federal funds to preventing wildfires

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will ask Congress in his budget proposal next week to change the way it pays for the soaring costs of fighting wildfires, the White House said on Monday, noting the new approach will ensure more money goes to preventing fires.

Obama met on Monday with governors from western states that have had massive fires in recent years, including Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, to discuss the approach.

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“Population growth near forest and range lands, past management practices and a changing climate have dramatically increased wildfire risk and the resulting cost,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

The Agriculture and Interior department currently base their fire-fighting budgets on a 10-year average of costs, which left them underfunded for 8 of the past 10 years, and forced to draw from fire prevention programs to make up the costs.

“Unfortunately, the current way that the government pays for fire suppression and preparedness costs is ill-suited to the increasing severity and cost of fires,” Carney said.

Obama supports legislation sponsored by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo that would treat the largest fires as natural disasters, meaning funds would come from disaster accounts.

The senators estimate removing the largest 1 percent of fires from regular budgets would free up to $412 million for fire prevention projects.

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“The largest wildfires are natural disasters, no different from tornadoes or earthquakes,” Wyden said in a statement.

Obama has pledged to do more to address climate change and help communities prepare for the impact of severe weather. Earlier this month, he toured parts of California’s drought zone, and stressed that governments need to do more to curb carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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There’s no respite from Trump’s vindictiveness and foolishness

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As we know, even in the midst of a national emergency, Donald Trump could find time and bandwidth to continue his retribution campaign.

He dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, for doing “a terrible job,” satisfying his own thirst for vengeance for anyone who actually adhered to law and practice over blind loyalty to Trump himself. Indeed, asked about it the next day, Trump underscored his action by saying, Atkinson “was no Trump supporter, that I can tell you.”

It was an act that we once would have labeled corruption, by Democrats and Republicans – that is using the office for personal purposes – if Congress and too many Americans had not since become inured by so many like instances.

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This is how Taiwan and South Korea bucked the global lockdown trend

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As the coronavirus pandemic sparks global lockdowns, life has continued comparatively unhindered in places like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong after their governments and citizens took decisive early action against the unfolding crisis.

At first glance Taiwan looks like an ideal candidate for the coronavirus. The island of 23 million lies just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off mainland China.

Yet nearly 100 days in, Taiwan has just 376 confirmed cases and five fatalities while restaurants, bars, schools, universities and offices remain open.

The government of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose deputy is an epidemiologist, made tough decisions while the crisis was nascent to stave off the kind of pain now convulsing much of the rest of the world.

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Republican ex-lawmaker with coronavirus scolds Wisconsin GOP for forcing voters to risk their health

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On CNN Tuesday, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who is himself dealing with a bout of COVID-19, chastised the Wisconsin GOP for doing everything in their power to block the state elections from being moved — and forcing many voters to stand in line and risk exposure to the virus to cast their ballot.

"I have to tell you, here in Pennsylvania we have a Democratic governor and Republican legislature," Dent told host Don Lemon. "They postponed the election here from April 28 until June 2. Without any controversy. Everybody agreed it was the right thing to do and they moved on. I'm surprised Wisconsin took this risk, knowing they don't have to."

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