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Personnel moves in Secretary Ryan Zinke's Interior Department raise troubling questions.
Personnel moves in Secretary Ryan Zinke's Interior Department raise troubling questions. (Matthew Brown / Associated Press)

Two recent high-level personnel moves in the Trump administration’s Interior Department could well spell trouble for fish, wildlife and national parks, and raise serious questions about the credibility of the department’s multiple investigations into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct and possible conflicts of interest.

First, the Trump administration has hired Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen, who has made a career of criticizing and filing lawsuits over Interior Department policies, to be deputy solicitor for the Interior Department, where she will be involved in shaping legal opinions over fish, wildlife and parks

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed

Was the president feeling especially truthful today? Or does he just not understand how commas work?

Raise your hand when you see it.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
An attendee at President Trump's rally Sept. 6 in Billings, Mont., holds up a sign quoting a key Trump slogan from the 2016 campaign.
An attendee at President Trump's rally Sept. 6 in Billings, Mont., holds up a sign quoting a key Trump slogan from the 2016 campaign. (Nichols Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

How many stories about politics these days open with an anecdote about some new line being crossed? 

At a televised debate Monday night between two Arizona congresswomen running to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Republican Rep. Martha McSally accused Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of supporting treason — a federal crime that carries the death penalty. Sinema’s offense? When appearing on a libertarian’s radio show 15 years ago, Sinema did not object when her host asked her how she’d feel if he joined the Taliban.

The striking thing is that McSally and Sinema are far apart on a wide range of real issues that matter to every Arizonan, including taxes, healthcare and immigration. They don’t need to mud wrestle; the contrast between the two couldn’t be more clear — McSally is campaigning as a Trumpist, and Sinema as a moderate Democrat. 

  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
  • We're All Doomed
Dinosaurs fell victim to mass extinction through an asteroid strike. Now human activity imperils Earth's species.
Dinosaurs fell victim to mass extinction through an asteroid strike. Now human activity imperils Earth's species. (Alexander Mitr / Dreamstime / TNS)

As bad as human-powered climate change might be — and it’s very bad — we often lose sight of the other sins our species has committed against the Earth. Plastics in oceans acidifying from pollution. Human overpopulation and an overdraw of natural resources. Habitat destruction. Fools hunting for animal trophies (how hard can it be to stop that?).

Last year, a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences described human impact on global flora and fauna as “biological annihilation.”

Canada will legalize recreational marijuana nationwide Oct. 17.
Canada will legalize recreational marijuana nationwide Oct. 17. (AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s another example of how the U.S. government’s failure to acknowledge the shifting politics and public opinion on marijuana is creating a mess: On Wednesday, Canada will legalize recreational pot nationwide. But Canadians who admit to using this now-legal product could be banned from entering the United States.

That’s right — one lawfully purchased pot brownie could get a Canadian traveler blocked at the border.

That’s because the U.S. government continues to treat marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, just like heroin. Last month the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced it would not adjust its border entry policies in response to Canada’s decision to liberalize its drug laws.

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President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday.
President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. (Michael Reynolds / EPA)

According to President Trump, the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul is even more dangerous than a country run by Democrats.

Talking to reporters on the White House grounds Monday, Trump said he’d spoken to Saudi King Salman about the disappearance of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the aforementioned consulate on Oct. 2. 

“The king told me that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are working hand-in-hand, very closely, on getting to the bottom of what happened” to Khashoggi, Trump said. “Maybe — I don’t want to get into his mind — but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers.”

  • Opinion
  • Guns and Ammo
This is the right way to shoot a leopard in Africa.
This is the right way to shoot a leopard in Africa. (African Travel Inc.)

The multiple photos of the wild animals in Africa that were slaughtered by one of Idaho’s top wildlife officials are almost too horrific to believe. Did Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer kill them legally in Namibia? Yes, apparently. (Disgusting.)  Of course, hunters do this all the time in African countries that are willing to sell them licenses to kill in exchange for huge sums of money. 

So, what Fischer got — and we got, because he proudly emailed them around — were photos of him grinning over the bodies of numerous animals, including a family of four baboons. He knelt, triumphantly, behind the baboons, their dead bodies clustered together. The smallest one was in front, with its head thrown back, blood on its chest.

There’s only one word for this: depraved. It doesn’t matter if it was legal. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he can justify it — as hunters have told me — as some primal urge to shoot things that move really fast, as some sport challenge. In the end, this guy did nothing less than massacre more than a dozen animals to amuse himself (and, apparently, his wife). Like I said, that’s depraved.

New documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross likely lied to Congress over the 2020 census citizenship question.
New documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross likely lied to Congress over the 2020 census citizenship question. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

So it looks like Wilbur Ross was being, how do I put this, less than truthful when he explained to Congress earlier this year how he came to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Big shrug, you say? Well, it’s true that lies from this administration come as regularly as the sunrise.

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Former California death row inmate Vicente Benavides Figueroa, who exonerated earlier this year.
Former California death row inmate Vicente Benavides Figueroa, who exonerated earlier this year. (Associated Press)

The Washington State Supreme Court got it exactly right when it ruled Thursday that the state’s death penalty, as it is applied, is unconstitutional because who gets killed has more to do with race, wealth and the predilections of prosecutors than it does with how heinous the crime was. Rather than executing the so-called worst of the worst, the nation’s capital punishment states tend to execute the weakest of the weak and, occasionally, the innocent.

There’s a reason why increasing numbers of political conservatives are working to abolish the death penalty. At the risk of sounding flip, if people don’t think the government can get anything right, why in the world would they expect it to get the death penalty right?

The federal government's online marketplace for Obamacare policies, HealthCare.gov, is shown on Dec. 15, 2017.
The federal government's online marketplace for Obamacare policies, HealthCare.gov, is shown on Dec. 15, 2017. (Jon Elswick / Associated Press)

In baseball, the winning pitcher is the one who was on the mound just before his team took the lead for good — regardless of how well he pitched. So a reliever who gets hammered, turning a three-run lead into a two-run deficit, nevertheless will get credit for the win if his teammates retake the lead the next time they’re at bat.

Keep that in mind whenever President Trump talks (or writes) about health insurance premiums for Obamacare policies, which are sold to people not covered by a large employer’s group plan.

The administration announced Thursday that the average premium for the “benchmark” Obamacare plan — the second-lowest-cost plan that covers 80% of the customer’s expected medical costs — will drop 1.5% in 2019 in the 27 states where the federal government operates the marketplaces (called exchanges) for Obamacare policies. That’s the first decrease since the program’s inception in 2014. Nationwide, analysts at Avalere Health project that average premiums will go up a little more than 3% — a far smaller increase than previously seen.