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US Agency Endorses Plan to Block New Mining Near Yellowstone

U.S. officials recommended approval on Friday of a plan to block new mining claims for 20 years on the forested public lands that make up Yellowstone National Park’s mountainous northern boundary.

Regional Forester Leanne Marten submitted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management endorsing the plan to withdraw 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) in Montana’s Paradise Valley and the Gardiner Basin from new claims for gold, silver, platinum and other minerals, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Marna Daley said.

A final decision is up to the office of U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who favors the withdrawal. Zinke said in a statement that it could be finalized in coming weeks.

The Trump administration’s support is notable given the president’s outspoken advocacy for the mining industry and his criticism of government regulations said to stifle economic development. The proposal has received bipartisan backing in Montana, with Democrats and Republicans alike eager to cast themselves as protectors of the natural beauty of the Yellowstone region.

The rocky peaks and forested stream valleys covered by the withdrawal attract skiers, hikers and other recreational users. It’s an area where grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife roam back and forth across the Yellowstone border — and where the scars of historical mining still are visible on some hillsides.

The Forest Service recommendation follows concerns among business owners, residents and local officials that two proposed mining projects north of Yellowstone could damage waterways and hurt tourism, a mainstay of the local economy. 

Those two projects would not be directly affected because the companies behind them have already made their mining claims, the companies have said. But others have said the new move could discourage investment into those project.

About 1.7 million people drove through the area last year, and withdrawing the land from new mining development would help protect the areas for wildlife and recreation, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

The withdrawal includes only public lands, not existing mining claims or exploration on private lands. It’s been in the works since 2016 under Zinke’s predecessor, former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell.

“I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to mine and places where it isn’t. The Paradise Valley is one of those unique places,” Zinke said.

Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said the areas covered by the withdrawal were “truly special places that deserve protection.” 

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, called on Daines to support legislation sponsored by Tester that would make the withdrawal permanent. Tester’s bill was introduced last year and is currently before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Daines is a member.

An identical bill sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is pending in the House.

The mining industry opposes putting the public land off limits. Backers of the withdrawal want it made permanent. 

Under the proposal, government officials have estimated that 81 acres (33 hectares) would still be disturbed by mining and 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) of new roads would be built, according to a Forest Service analysis completed in March. That compares to an estimated 130 acres (53 hectares) of land disturbed by mining and 7 miles (11 kilometers) of roads over 20 years if the withdrawal were not enacted.

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US Agency Endorses Plan to Block New Mining Near Yellowstone

U.S. officials recommended approval on Friday of a plan to block new mining claims for 20 years on the forested public lands that make up Yellowstone National Park’s mountainous northern boundary.

Regional Forester Leanne Marten submitted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management endorsing the plan to withdraw 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) in Montana’s Paradise Valley and the Gardiner Basin from new claims for gold, silver, platinum and other minerals, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Marna Daley said.

A final decision is up to the office of U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who favors the withdrawal. Zinke said in a statement that it could be finalized in coming weeks.

The Trump administration’s support is notable given the president’s outspoken advocacy for the mining industry and his criticism of government regulations said to stifle economic development. The proposal has received bipartisan backing in Montana, with Democrats and Republicans alike eager to cast themselves as protectors of the natural beauty of the Yellowstone region.

The rocky peaks and forested stream valleys covered by the withdrawal attract skiers, hikers and other recreational users. It’s an area where grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife roam back and forth across the Yellowstone border — and where the scars of historical mining still are visible on some hillsides.

The Forest Service recommendation follows concerns among business owners, residents and local officials that two proposed mining projects north of Yellowstone could damage waterways and hurt tourism, a mainstay of the local economy. 

Those two projects would not be directly affected because the companies behind them have already made their mining claims, the companies have said. But others have said the new move could discourage investment into those project.

About 1.7 million people drove through the area last year, and withdrawing the land from new mining development would help protect the areas for wildlife and recreation, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

The withdrawal includes only public lands, not existing mining claims or exploration on private lands. It’s been in the works since 2016 under Zinke’s predecessor, former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell.

“I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to mine and places where it isn’t. The Paradise Valley is one of those unique places,” Zinke said.

Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said the areas covered by the withdrawal were “truly special places that deserve protection.” 

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, called on Daines to support legislation sponsored by Tester that would make the withdrawal permanent. Tester’s bill was introduced last year and is currently before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Daines is a member.

An identical bill sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is pending in the House.

The mining industry opposes putting the public land off limits. Backers of the withdrawal want it made permanent. 

Under the proposal, government officials have estimated that 81 acres (33 hectares) would still be disturbed by mining and 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) of new roads would be built, according to a Forest Service analysis completed in March. That compares to an estimated 130 acres (53 hectares) of land disturbed by mining and 7 miles (11 kilometers) of roads over 20 years if the withdrawal were not enacted.

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Senate Panel Sets Deadline for Kavanaugh’s Accuser to Respond

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee says it will hold a vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday if no deal is reached by Friday at 10 p.m. on how Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault, will testify.

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told the lawyers for Ford that the panel “has been extremely accommodating to your client” and wants to hear Ford’s testimony

“I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening,” he said in the statement to Ford’s lawyers.

Lawyers for Ford have said she wants to testify before a Senate panel next week, but only if her safety is guaranteed. According to U.S. media reports, attorney Debra Katz said in an email to the Judiciary Committee that Ford wishes to testify “provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.”

Katz said her client has received death threats, and that Ford and her family had been forced out of their California home.

Grassley had scheduled the hearing for Monday for both Ford and Kavanaugh to appear to tell their stories. But Katz wrote that “Monday’s date is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”

Katz said Ford’s “strong preference” is that “a full investigation” be completed before she testifies. She had earlier called for the FBI to probe the charges against Kavanaugh.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the integrity of Ford, posting on Twitter that “if the attack … was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed” with police.

Trump also accused “radical left wing politicians” of attacking Kavanaugh, who Ford said sexually assaulted her at a house party 36 years ago.

​Late Thursday, the White House released a letter from Kavanaugh to Grassley in which he said he wanted to tell his side in the Monday hearing. 

“I will be there. I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible so that I can clear my name,” he wrote.

Media reports said Kavanaugh had also received what law enforcement officials said were credible death threats.

Trump chose Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

His approval by the Judiciary Committee and the Republican-majority Senate appeared to be a near certainty until The Washington Post published its interview with Ford, who is now a California psychology professor. 

She alleged a “stumbling drunk” 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party in 1982 when both were in high school. She said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her, putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream, before she managed to escape. 

Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the charges, saying he has never done any such thing to Ford or any other woman. 

Women who say they have known and worked with Kavanaugh throughout his legal career say he has been respectful and fair in dealing with them. Dozens of women who support Kavanaugh held a Washington news conference Friday.

Sara Fagen, who described herself as a friend and former colleague of Kavanaugh, said she and the other women at the news conference believe the allegation is untrue.

“The reason that we know that this allegation is false is because we know Brett Kavanaugh,” Fagen said.

Women who attended Holton-Arms High School in Bethesda, Maryland, with Ford signed a letter in support of her that was personally delivered Thursday to West Virginia Republican Senator and Holton-Arms alumna Shelley Moore Capito. Organizers said it was signed by more than 1,000 former students.

“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter said. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on Oct. 1 or, if not by then, ahead of the Nov. 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

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Senate Panel Sets Deadline for Kavanaugh’s Accuser to Respond

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee says it will hold a vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday if no deal is reached by Friday at 10 p.m. on how Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault, will testify.

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told the lawyers for Ford that the panel “has been extremely accommodating to your client” and wants to hear Ford’s testimony

“I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening,” he said in the statement to Ford’s lawyers.

Lawyers for Ford have said she wants to testify before a Senate panel next week, but only if her safety is guaranteed. According to U.S. media reports, attorney Debra Katz said in an email to the Judiciary Committee that Ford wishes to testify “provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety.”

Katz said her client has received death threats, and that Ford and her family had been forced out of their California home.

Grassley had scheduled the hearing for Monday for both Ford and Kavanaugh to appear to tell their stories. But Katz wrote that “Monday’s date is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.”

Katz said Ford’s “strong preference” is that “a full investigation” be completed before she testifies. She had earlier called for the FBI to probe the charges against Kavanaugh.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the integrity of Ford, posting on Twitter that “if the attack … was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed” with police.

Trump also accused “radical left wing politicians” of attacking Kavanaugh, who Ford said sexually assaulted her at a house party 36 years ago.

​Late Thursday, the White House released a letter from Kavanaugh to Grassley in which he said he wanted to tell his side in the Monday hearing. 

“I will be there. I continue to want a hearing as soon as possible so that I can clear my name,” he wrote.

Media reports said Kavanaugh had also received what law enforcement officials said were credible death threats.

Trump chose Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

His approval by the Judiciary Committee and the Republican-majority Senate appeared to be a near certainty until The Washington Post published its interview with Ford, who is now a California psychology professor. 

She alleged a “stumbling drunk” 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party in 1982 when both were in high school. She said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her, putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream, before she managed to escape. 

Kavanaugh has adamantly denied the charges, saying he has never done any such thing to Ford or any other woman. 

Women who say they have known and worked with Kavanaugh throughout his legal career say he has been respectful and fair in dealing with them. Dozens of women who support Kavanaugh held a Washington news conference Friday.

Sara Fagen, who described herself as a friend and former colleague of Kavanaugh, said she and the other women at the news conference believe the allegation is untrue.

“The reason that we know that this allegation is false is because we know Brett Kavanaugh,” Fagen said.

Women who attended Holton-Arms High School in Bethesda, Maryland, with Ford signed a letter in support of her that was personally delivered Thursday to West Virginia Republican Senator and Holton-Arms alumna Shelley Moore Capito. Organizers said it was signed by more than 1,000 former students.

“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter said. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”

Republican lawmakers are trying to win Senate confirmation for Kavanaugh ahead of the court’s start of a new term on Oct. 1 or, if not by then, ahead of the Nov. 6 nationwide congressional elections, to show Republican voters they have made good on campaign promises to place conservative judges like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

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Absent Deal With Accuser, Panel to Vote Monday on Kavanaugh

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said late Friday that if a deal on testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, could not be reached by 10 p.m. EDT, the panel would vote on his nomination Monday.

“I’m extending the deadline for response yet again to 10 o’clock this evening, the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “I’m providing a notice of a vote to occur Monday in the event that Dr. Ford’s attorneys don’t respond or

Dr. Ford decides not to testify.”

This is a developing story. See related stories on voanews.com for more details.

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Trump Stumps for Senator in Las Vegas

President Donald Trump is in Las Vegas stumping for Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who is in the fight of his career to keep his seat.

 

Trump is praising Heller as “a champion” of workers, veterans and families and says he has “no better friend.”

 

Heller, who once said he “vehemently” opposed Trump, has now allied himself with the president.

 

Trump says, “We started off slow, but we ended up strong.”

 

Heller is in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, a first-term congresswoman who stands to benefit from a wave of anti-Trump activism.

 

Trump is mocking Rosen as “Wacky Jacky.” 

 

Trump saved Heller from a costly primary earlier this year when he persuaded Danny Tarkanian to drop out of the Senate race and instead seek a House seat.

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Trump Stumps for Senator in Las Vegas

President Donald Trump is in Las Vegas stumping for Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who is in the fight of his career to keep his seat.

 

Trump is praising Heller as “a champion” of workers, veterans and families and says he has “no better friend.”

 

Heller, who once said he “vehemently” opposed Trump, has now allied himself with the president.

 

Trump says, “We started off slow, but we ended up strong.”

 

Heller is in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, a first-term congresswoman who stands to benefit from a wave of anti-Trump activism.

 

Trump is mocking Rosen as “Wacky Jacky.” 

 

Trump saved Heller from a costly primary earlier this year when he persuaded Danny Tarkanian to drop out of the Senate race and instead seek a House seat.

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Facebook to Drop On-site Support for Political Campaigns

Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it would no longer dispatch employees to the offices of political campaigns to offer support ahead of elections, as it did with U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2016 race.

The company and other major online ad sellers, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc., have long offered free dedicated assistance to strengthen relationships with top advertisers such as presidential campaigns.

Brad Parscale, who was Trump’s online ads chief in 2016, last year called on-site “embeds” from Facebook crucial to the candidate’s victory. Facebook has said that Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton was offered identical help, but she accepted a different level than Trump.

Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests to comment on whether they also would pull back support.

Facebook said it could offer assistance to more candidates globally by focusing on offering support through an online portal instead of in person. It said that political organizations still would be able to contact employees to

receive basic training on using Facebook or for assistance on getting ads approved.

Bloomberg first reported the new approach.

Shaping communications

Facebook, Twitter, and Google served as “quasi-digital consultants” to U.S. election campaigns in 2016, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Utah found in a paper published a year ago.

The companies helped campaigns navigate their services’ ad systems and “actively” shaped campaign communication by suggesting what types of messages to direct to whom, the researchers stated.

Facebook’s involvement with Trump’s campaign drew scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers after the company found its user data had separately been misused by political data firm Cambridge Analytica, which consulted for the Trump campaign. 

In written testimony to U.S. lawmakers in June, Facebook said its employees had not spotted any misuse “in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica” during the election.

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Facebook to Drop On-site Support for Political Campaigns

Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it would no longer dispatch employees to the offices of political campaigns to offer support ahead of elections, as it did with U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2016 race.

The company and other major online ad sellers, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc., have long offered free dedicated assistance to strengthen relationships with top advertisers such as presidential campaigns.

Brad Parscale, who was Trump’s online ads chief in 2016, last year called on-site “embeds” from Facebook crucial to the candidate’s victory. Facebook has said that Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton was offered identical help, but she accepted a different level than Trump.

Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests to comment on whether they also would pull back support.

Facebook said it could offer assistance to more candidates globally by focusing on offering support through an online portal instead of in person. It said that political organizations still would be able to contact employees to

receive basic training on using Facebook or for assistance on getting ads approved.

Bloomberg first reported the new approach.

Shaping communications

Facebook, Twitter, and Google served as “quasi-digital consultants” to U.S. election campaigns in 2016, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Utah found in a paper published a year ago.

The companies helped campaigns navigate their services’ ad systems and “actively” shaped campaign communication by suggesting what types of messages to direct to whom, the researchers stated.

Facebook’s involvement with Trump’s campaign drew scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers after the company found its user data had separately been misused by political data firm Cambridge Analytica, which consulted for the Trump campaign. 

In written testimony to U.S. lawmakers in June, Facebook said its employees had not spotted any misuse “in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica” during the election.

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