Trump Chooses David Bernhardt, a Former Oil Lobbyist, to Head the Interior Dept. – The New York Times

Mr. Bernhardt was narrowly confirmed to his current post by a vote of 53 to 43, with most Democrats voting against him. He is likely to face further scrutiny in his next confirmation hearings. If enough Democrats opposed his nomination, they could block a procedural motion requiring 60 votes to bring his confirmation to the Senate floor.

Mr. Bernhardt, who was also a top interior official in the George W. Bush administration, went on to work for some of the country’s largest oil and gas companies. As a partner in the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he lobbied for the oil companies Cobalt International Energy and Samson Resources. His legal clients have included the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Halliburton Energy Services, the oil- and gas-extraction firm once led by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In August 2017, Mr. Bernhardt signed an ethics letter saying he would recuse himself from policy decisions that might stand to benefit former clients specifically.

If confirmed, Mr. Bernhardt will lead a sprawling department that oversees the nation’s nearly 500 million acres of public land, including vast national monuments and protected wilderness areas. Already, in little more than a year as the department’s deputy, he has overseen numerous polices aimed at opening public lands and waters to mining, drilling, farming and other development.

Environmentalists see him as a threat. “David Bernhardt is the most dangerous man in America for endangered species and public lands,” said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group, adding that he “has been dismantling basic protections for lands that belong to all of us and the vulnerable species, like the sage grouse, that depend on them.”

This year, Mr. Bernhardt oversaw the revision of a program to protect tens of millions of acres of habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, a puffy-chested, chickenlike bird that roams over 10 oil-rich Western states. His proposal to change that plan, made public in December, would strip protections from about nine million acres of the sage grouse habitat, a move that would open more land to oil and gas drilling than any other single policy action by the Trump administration.

Mr. Bernhardt has also helped shepherd policies such as loosening the standards of the Endangered Species Act, speeding the path to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to new oil and gas drilling, and reducing the boundaries of national monuments to open the land to mining and drilling.

Ethics inquiries into Mr. Zinke’s activities contributed to his departure in early January. He had become the subject of several federal investigations, one of which his department’s top watchdog has referred to the Justice Department, a potential step toward a criminal investigation.

The inquiries include an examination of a real estate deal involving Mr. Zinke’s family and a development group backed by David J. Lesar, the chairman of Halliburton. Mr. Zinke stood to benefit from the deal, while Mr. Lesar’s oil services company stood to benefit from Mr. Zinke’s decisions on fossil fuel production.

As public criticism of Mr. Zinke increased this fall with the news of the Halliburton deal and the Justice Department investigation, John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, sent Mr. Zinke a message: He should leave by year’s end or risk being fired in a potentially humiliating way, two people familiar with the discussion said.

In a statement posted on Twitter shortly after his resignation was announced, Mr. Zinke wrote: “After 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations. It is better for the President and Interior to focus on accomplishments rather than fictitious allegations.”

Among the first major decisions awaiting Mr. Bernhardt will be how to handle the administration’s plan to open the nation’s coastlines to offshore drilling — one of the issues for which Mr. Zinke is under investigation. After the Trump administration in early 2018 announced it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, Mr. Zinke made a surprise announcement a few days later on Twitter that he would exempt Florida from that plan.

The statement, which was accompanied by a photograph of Mr. Zinke and Rick Scott, the former Florida governor who was then running for a Senate seat, was seen as politically motivated. A federal investigation is continuing into whether it violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their offices to influence elections.

Governors of other coastal states have said that they, too, would like to be exempt from the drilling, and that if the plan to exempt Florida but not other states goes forward, they will sue the department.

Ryan Zinke Is Leaving The Interior Department, Trump Tweets : NPR

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks to members of the media outside the White House in August.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks to members of the media outside the White House in August.

Ryan Zinke is out as Secretary of the Interior.

Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year; his successor is expected to be announced next week.

On Saturday morning President Trump tweeted that Zinke is leaving after serving for almost two years. He said Zinke has accomplished much during his tenure, and thanked him for his service.

Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years. Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation…….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

Zinke’s departure comes after a tumultuous two years at the department, marked by mounting allegations of misconduct in office. He also faced the prospect of congressional probes after newly-elected Democrats take majority control of the House.

The former Navy SEAL and one-term Montana congressman showed up for his first day at the Interior Department on horseback, promising to model himself after Theodore Roosevelt, the famed conservationist and 26th president.

“I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’ and will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits all Americans for generations to come,” Zinke said in a statement, released during his swearing in.

But Zinke’s critics and even some of his early supporters soured on him early, arguing that his actions benefited extractive industries over all else.

As the top manager for more than 500 million acres of public lands, including nearly 400 national parks and monuments and wide expanses of coastal waters, the Interior secretary has a lot of control over outdoor recreation, development and energy production on federal lands.

Boosting the latter has been a priority for the Trump administration. President Trump came into office touting an “America First” energy plan and Zinke was instrumental in seeing it through.

As Interior secretary, he moved to open more coastal waters and public lands for oil and gas leasing, recommended the shrinking of two national monuments, and initiated the roll back of a number of Obama-era environmental regulations, which industry and Republican lawmakers had criticized as being overly burdensome.

The moves have helped fuel a boom in domestic oil and gas production. The U.S. recently surpassed 11 million barrels of crude oil a day, making it the world’s leading producer.

But some conservation and environmental groups argue that has come at a cost to the environment, wildlife and the future climate.

Ethics inquiries

Zinke’s tenure was also marred by mounting ethics inquiries into his travel and personal financial dealings, among others.

He was vindicated in some cases, including investigations into his use of chartered and military aircraft, whether he improperly attended a GOP fundraiser in the Virgin Islands and whether he shrank the boundaries of a national monument in Utah to help a local Republican official. Others were closed because of lack of cooperation from his agency.

Still others remained, becoming sore points for the administration.

The most glaring centered on a land deal in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., that involved an organization run by Zinke’s wife and the chairman of Halliburton, a giant in the oil and gas industry.

Democrats contend that the land deal constituted a conflict of interest for Zinke.

Mary Kendall, the acting inspector general at Interior, opened an investigation into it last summer, looking at Zinke’s involvement in the deal and whether any taxpayer resources were used to advance the development.

Zinke’s lawyer and spokeswoman have both said that he did nothing improper.

The inspector general is also looking at whether Zinke blocked a proposal from two Connecticut Native American tribes to expand a casino because of political pressure and lobbying from MGM resorts.

Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a lawyer and longtime lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, is expected to take Zinke’s place.

Bernhardt worked at Interior under George W. Bush as the department’s solicitor. He’s expected to pursue a similar agenda of deregulation on the nation’s public lands.

Gin-Filled Baubles Are The Ultimate Christmas Tree Decoration

The Lakes Distillery

‘Tis the season to be merry, and what better way to achieve that slightly sozzled state than with some decorative gin that doubles as a bauble?

Calling all gin-drinkers and tree-decorators; boy, does The Lakes Distillery have a treat for you and your tree this Christmas.

The distillery elves have been toiling away in their workshop, to design these festive spirit-filled baubles, which contain two measures of their finest gin.

The Lakes Distillery

That’s 50ml of sweet Mother’s Ruin, to you and me. The baubles come in packs of one – which hardly seems like much fun if you ask me – and packs of six – which sounds like a Christmas party.

The magical Christmas gin bauble gift set, includes a selection of different gins, for the connoisseurs out there.

It features The Lakes Gin, The Lakes Sloe Gin – which has tasting notes of raspberry jam, cinnamon, orange citrus with hints of juniper and coriander – and The Lakes Damson Gin, which is made using fresh cherries, ripe plums and juniper berries with hints of spice.

The Lakes Distillery

The guys over at the distillery are pretty proud of their namesake spirit, saying:

This is an award-winning speciality gin, with a uniquely complex, delicious flavour.

Every aspect of creating this gin is entrenched in the gorgeous natural heritage of the Lake District, from its use of locally sourced Cumbrian Juniper which grows wild in the fells, and its other 13 native botanicals – including bilberry, meadowsweet and heather – to its distillation with the fresh flowing water from the River Darwent.

The end result is a delightfully piquant gin, bursting with the wild flavours of one of the most beautiful parts of England.

The Lakes Distillery

The tasting notes read like a who’s who of the spice cupboard:

A complex yet balanced nose, with enjoyable lightly spiced aromas of fresh fruits, treacle, and a subtle smokiness.

The rich palate expertly balances notes of spice and honey-roasted nuts, with just a hint of dried fruit and wood smoke.

The Lakes Distillery

The single baubles, which have a measures of 20cl (ABV: 43.7 per cent), retail at £19.95, and you can buy them directly from The Lakes Distillery website and social media pages.

But due to economy of drinking, the 6-pack Gin Gin gift set, which holds 6 measures of 5cl (ABV: 43.7 per cent), retails at a round £35.

You can throw in a shot glass too for £2.50, and they’re all available to pre-order now in time for Christmas. Not t mention the fact the baubles will look like beautiful twinkly fairy lights, festooning your tree this year.

Make this Christmas magical ✨ _________________________________________ Our spirit-filled bauble collection, The Spirit of #Christmas is available now for pre-order! Follow our link in the bio

A post shared by The Lakes Distillery (@lakesdistillery) on

The Lakes Distillery’s take on the Ol’ Faithful Mother’s Ruin sounds absolutely delicious. Gin has always been a mainstay of British drinks cabinets – linked to both curative qualities for hayfever and a connection to psychopathy.

Between 1695-1735 thousands of gin-shops sprang up throughout England, a period known as the Gin Craze, and despite garnering a negative reputation throughout Britain, the juniper-based tipple remains ever popular.

Now, that’s what I call the festive spirit.

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23 Design Ideas That Can Help You Nail Your Next Home Renovation

23 Design Ideas That Can Help You Nail Your Next Home Renovation

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There are so many clever ways to transform your home into an indoor paradise; from creating hidden passages to secret rooms to turning your backyard into a beach oasis. Anyone would love their home to look like movie scenery or a dream destination. Keep in mind that a house is not a home until you make it one with lots of love and imagination. There’s no space that wouldn’t benefit from a renovation.

At Bright Side, we gathered some of the most interesting and inspirational ways to take your home remodeling to the next level.

1. Everything you imagine can be real, so maybe it’s time for an indoor hammock over the staircase.

2. Be creative and make your home office look like a secret hideaway with a ceiling library.

3. Literally, transform your backyard into a beach oasis.

4. An aquarium decorating your staircase is an interesting surrealistic idea.

6. Maybe use the space under the stairs to create a special house for your furry friend.

7. You can always have a secret passage built leading to a secret room if you please.

8. Lie down or take a shower in an insanely clever S-shaped steam room.

9. Turn your bathroom into an illusion room with a jaw-dropping floor.

10. A fireplace piece of art

11. A sparkling prism coffee table for your living room

12. If you love skateboards this skateboard house is for you!

13. Your old bicycle can be your new sink.

14. A good hiding place under the stairs can also serve as storage space.

15. Or maybe an all-in-one bed is a much better idea for your needs.

16. Transform a corner into a cozy fairytale reading nook every kid would love to be in.

17. Transform your room by creating illusions on the floor.

18. Bring the night sky into the bedroom with a cloud ceiling lamp.

19. A glass bottom bedroom that gets you one step closer to paradise

20. An aquarium coffee table gives an exotic touch to your living room.

21. Build a stained-glass door or windows to add colorful light tones in your home.

22. With imagination and creativity, “build” a treehouse playroom for your kids.

23. Or let your kids grow up in a pirate ship room!

BONUS: Watch how to turn the ceiling or the entire room into a galactic experience with colors that glow in the dark.

Which was your favorite renovation idea that you’d love to try during your next remodel? Let us know in the comments below.

​Couple Renovate Knackered Old Bread Van Into Dream Home For Just £20k

We all know how it is these days. Everybody’s skint and no one can even pay for a pint without having to close their eyes and pray that their card doesn’t get declined… And that’s before anyone has even THOUGHT about the prospect of buying a house – which, let’s face it, is just a pipe dream for many of us.

Well, one creative couple have used their loaf by converting an old bread lorry into their dream home – using just £20,000.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

Martin Hill, 38, and Iona Stewart, 27, said they use the five-tonne lorry while they are travelling, as it’s cheaper than most accommodation.

The couple, who met during a season in the French Alps, have no plans to settle down anytime soon, preferring instead to make their way around Europe in their old Hovis lorry.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

They’re used to using it every winter to snowboard abroad, but Martin has now also sold his house and bar in Nottingham, meaning their unique home will soon be used year-round.

They picked the old lorry up on eBay for just £3,600, before setting about renovating the 28-foot box.

Former landlord Martin said he has done most of the labouring for the project, while Iona – who is a chef from Scotland – has overseen designing the interior. Just £20,000 later (a bloody steal, in housing terms), and the lorry is now their happy home.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

Martin said: “About four years ago after a few too many beers I thought about buying a big American RV.

“We bought the lorry in May this year. We spent four months working on it full-time.

“We are really lucky to not have to work and we did everything ourselves.

“It’s amazing what you can do. We are not exactly slumming it.”

The couple shared photos from their incredible project on Facebook, where they’ve been liked and shared thousands of times by impressed social media users.

In the photos you can see how the couple have created a split-floor kitchen and living area, along with a bedroom and en suite bathroom.

Credit: SWNS
Credit: SWNS

The kitchen also has all the mod-cons – including an oven, hob and varnished wooden surface – and the living area has a comfy grey sofa and wood-burning stove, while a cosy bedroom sits just off the living room, with a fully fitted wardrobe and a storage unit.

To be honest, it looks nicer than any home I could ever dream of owning, so fair play to them!

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: NewsUk news

Raye Montague, the Navy’s ‘Hidden Figure’ Ship Designer, Dies at 83

During World War II, when Raye Montague was 7 and growing up in Arkansas, her grandfather took her to see a traveling exhibit of a German submarine that had been captured off the coast of South Carolina. She was enchanted.

“I looked through the periscope and saw all these dials and mechanisms,” she recalled years later. “And I said to the guy, ‘What do you have to know to do this?’ ”

His response: “Oh, you’d have to be an engineer, but you don’t have to worry about that.”

The clear implication was that as a black girl she could never become an engineer, let alone have anything to do with such a vessel.

She would go on to prove him very wrong.

The girl who faced racism and sexism in the segregated South, where she rode in the back of the bus and was denied entry to a college engineering program because she was black, became an internationally registered professional engineer and shattered the glass ceiling at the Navy when she became the first female program manager of ships. She earned the civilian equivalent of the rank of captain.

“Hidden Figures,” Margot Lee Shetterly’s best-selling account of the black female mathematicians at NASA who facilitated some of the nation’s greatest achievements in space. Their acclaim was amplified later that year when the book became an Oscar-nominated .

Like her counterparts in the space program, Ms. Montague faced enormous obstacles — or what she called challenges, since she believed she could always find ways to work around anything that stood in her way.

She grew up in Arkansas in the racially fraught 1950s, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., and Gov. Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas called up the National Guard to bar nine black students from the all-white Little Rock Central High School.

“Good Morning America.” “You’re female, you’re black and you’ll have a Southern segregated school education. But you can be or do anything you want, provided you’re educated.”

Raye Jean Jordan was born in Little Rock on Jan. 21, 1935. Her father, Rayford Jordan, was not in the picture for long, and her mother raised her on her income from a cosmetology business. Ms. Montague graduated from Merrill High School in Pine Bluff, Ark., in 1952.

A bright student who loved science and math, she wanted to study engineering at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. But because Arkansas colleges would not award such degrees to African-Americans in those days, she attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). She graduated in 1956 with a degree in business.

Still determined to become an engineer, she headed to Washington and secured a job with the Navy as a clerk-typist. She worked her way up, becoming a digital computer systems operator and a computer systems analyst in a male-dominated field.

“I worked with guys who had graduated from Yale and Harvard with engineering degrees and people who had worked on the Manhattan Project developing the atom bomb,” Ms. Montague told The Democrat-Gazette.

She took computer programming at night school and after a year asked for a promotion.

Her boss, by her account, told her that if she wanted a promotion, she would have to work nights. That was tough for her. There was no public transportation at night, and she didn’t have a car. In fact, she didn’t know how to drive.

But she went out and bought a 1949 Pontiac for $375 and had the salesman drive it to her house. She then taught herself to drive, leaving her house at 10 o’clock at night and creeping along the roads until arriving at work for the midnight shift. She got the promotion and returned to working days.

The project that would be her signal achievement seemed to be an impossible task when it was assigned — to lay out, step by step, how a Naval ship might be designed using a computer. That had never been done before.


Ms. Montague receiving a plaque in 2017 from representatives of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. She was publicly and nationally recognized only later in life.

CreditAB Forces News Collection/Alamy

Her boss (who didn’t like her, she said) gave her six months to complete the project, not telling her that his department had been trying to do it for years without success.

Ms. Montague learned the computer system on her own and then told her boss that to install her program she would have to tear down the Navy’s computer and rebuild it. And that would mean working at night, she said.

He told her she could work nights only if she had someone else with her, and then made it clear that he wouldn’t pay any of her colleagues overtime. She thought that his demand was frivolous and that he intended her to fail.

Not to be deterred, Ms. Montague brought along her mother and her 3-year-old son. Finally impressed by her determination, her boss gave her extra staff. She met the deadline and presented him with her computer-generated designs for a ship.

President Richard M. Nixon, who wanted the Navy to be able to produce ships at a faster pace, heard about her accomplishment and sent word for her to design a rough draft of an actual ship. They gave her all the staff she needed and an unlimited budget, her son said. It led to her designing the first Navy ship with a computer program, in less than 19 hours.

For that feat she received the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972. The Navy began using her system to design all its ships and submarines. Her achievement put her on the map, and she began advising other government agencies and the private sector, including the automobile industry. Her last Navy project was the nuclear-powered Seawolf submarine.

Along the way she was married three times, to Weldon A. Means in 1955, to David H. Montague in 1965 and to James Parrott in 1973. She had her only child, David, with Mr. Montague, who has since died. When her third marriage ended, she returned to using the name Montague. In addition to her son, she is survived by a granddaughter.

After she retired, Ms. Montague moved back to Little Rock to be near her family. There she took part in civic organizations; mentored young people, including prison inmates; organized clothing drives; gave motivational talks; and played bridge.

“She was busy opening doors for people and inspiring them,” her son said. “Her message was always the same: ‘Don’t let people put obstacles in front of you, but understand you also have to put in the work.’ She didn’t have any patience for people who weren’t willing to go the extra mile.”