Thursday, February 28, 2019

Master Deal-Maker Shows His Stuff - Again

Washington Post HANOI — President Trump flew for 20 hours to this bustling Vietnamese capital determined to earn a place in history as the American statesman whose personal charm overcame decades of intransigence and erased the North Korean nuclear threat.

But the self-proclaimed master dealmaker left Hanoi on Thursday empty-handed and humbled by his inability to coax an erratic and reclusive dictator into giving up his arsenal.

Trump was so certain that he could broker an accord with Kim Jong Un, even if an incremental one, that the White House announced that it had scheduled a joint signing ceremony at which the two leaders would triumphantly conclude their two-day summit.

Result: NADA

Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Report: Clean energy could cut New England states’ $8.2B annual fossil fuel bills | Energy News Network

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Boeing’s autonomous fighter jet could arrive next year

Boeing's autonomous fighter jet could arrive next year
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

"New" EPA will allow more air pollution from big fossil plants

Quartz: Copenhagen's state-of-the-art power plant doubles as a ski slope

Quartz: Copenhagen's state-of-the-art power plant doubles as a ski slope.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

NYTimes: Detroit Automakers Bet Billions on China. The Bet Soured. AS ALWAYS

Detroit Automakers Bet Billions on China. The Bet Soured.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Ambitious New York City Bill Aims To Replace Gas-Fired Power Plants With Renewables | HuffPost - Peakers in the Cross-Hairs

Could Rikers Island rehabilitate New York City’s dirty energy grid? | Grist

Monday, February 25, 2019

Forbes: Under Trump's Tariffs, The US Lost 20,000 Solar Energy Jobs

Forbes: Under Trump's Tariffs, The US Lost 20,000 Solar Energy Jobs.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076 Graphite offers up new quantum surprise Graphite offers up new quantum surprise.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Reuters: Evidence for man-made global warming hits 'gold standard of 5 Sigma': Scientists

From Reuters News:

Evidence for man-made global warming hits 'gold standard': scientists

Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a "gold standard" level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said on Monday.

This service is not intended to encourage spam. The details provided have been used for the sole purpose of facilitating this email communication and have not been retained by Thomson Reuters.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Secretive Lobby Group gets their guy put in place atop the EPA by Trump

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bloomberg: El Nino's Taking the Wind out of Sales of U.S. Power Generators

Bloomberg: El Nino's Taking the Wind out of Sales of U.S. Power Generators.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Friday, February 22, 2019

Greentech Media News: Arizona Public Service Plans to Add Nearly 1GW of New Battery Storage and Solar Resources by 2025

Greentech Media News: APS Plans to Add Nearly 1GW of New Battery Storage and Solar Resources by 2025.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Despite everyone thinking solar is a mature industry, we are far from the deeper market yet

EIA Monthly Energy Report

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will issue its Monthly Energy Review, providing data on energy production, consumption, prices and trade. The United States has more than 2,500 utility-scale (larger than one megawatt) solar photovoltaic electricity generating facilities, most of which are relatively small and collectively account for just 2.5 percent of utility-scale electric generating capacity and 1.7% of annual electricity generation, based on EIA data through November 2018. Previous Report

Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

IHS Markit expects eight global solar market trends to watch in 2019 |

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

InsideClimate News: 100% Renewable Energy Needs Lots of Storage. This Polar Vortex Test Showed How Much.

InsideClimate News: 100% Renewable Energy Needs Lots of Storage. This Polar Vortex Test Showed How Much..
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reuters: SunPower seeking partner for its solar panel making business

Reuters: SunPower seeking partner for its solar panel making business.
Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

Everyone gets a win. Huge public lands bill shows how Congress is supposed to work.

Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
Tel: +1 646-402-5076

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Date: Wed, Feb 13, 2019, 10:19 AM
Subject: The Daily 202: Everyone gets a win. Huge public lands bill shows how Congress is supposed to work.
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Everyone gets a win. Huge public lands bill shows how Congress is supposed to work.
The sun sets last week on the Mojave National Preserve. A bill passed Tuesday by the Senate would connect the preserve with Death Valley National Park. (Jenna Schoenefeld for The Washington Post)

The sun sets last week on the Mojave National Preserve. A bill passed Tuesday by the Senate would connect the preserve with Death Valley National Park. (Jenna Schoenefeld for The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA: Politics doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. In this era of brinkmanship and braggadocio, when official Washington lurches from crisis to crisis, with shutdowns and smash-mouth politics, policymakers sometimes forget that one person does not need to lose for another person to win.

The Senate's 92-to-8 vote last night to advance the biggest public lands bill in a decade, maybe even a generation, amid divided government is a case study for how lawmaking is supposed to work. There were compromises that delivered a little something for everyone across the ideological spectrum, even if no one really got everything they wanted. Unlike so much legislation that gets drafted at the last minute and passed in the middle of the night, this circulated and percolated for years. There were hearings, markups and good-faith negotiations. When a handful of holdouts tried to insert poison pills during the amendment process to torpedo the bill, Republicans and Democrats stuck together. It was old-school and harked back to a time when Congress worked.

The result is that 1.3 million acres are poised to be newly designated as wilderness, 370,000 acres just outside two of the nation's national parks would be saved from mining, 620 miles of river in seven states would be protected from damming and development, and more than 380 species of birds would see their habitats protected through 2022. Amazingly, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the legislation would wind up saving money for taxpayers. The bill is expected to sail through the House after the Presidents' Day recess, and the White House has signaled support.

-- "It's a paradoxical win for conservation at a time when President Trump has promoted development on public lands and scaled back safeguards established by his predecessors," Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni report:

"Perhaps the most significant change the legislation would make is permanently authorizing a federal program that funnels offshore drilling revenue to conserve a spread of sites that includes major national parks and wildlife preserves, as well as local baseball diamonds and basketball courts. Authorization for the popular program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), lapsed months ago due to the partial government shutdown and other disputes. Liberals like the fact that the money allows agencies to set aside land for wildlife habitat. Conservatives like the fact that taxpayers don't have to foot the bill for it. Congress is now set to reauthorize the fund in perpetuity, though it will not make its spending mandatory. …

"A series of compromises won over advocacy groups representing hunters and anglers, conservationists, geologists, Native Americans, along with local officeholders and chambers of commerce. Utah's Emery County, for example, blessed the designation of 661,000 acres of wilderness, 300,000 acres for a national recreation area and 63 miles of protection on the Green River in exchange for more than 75,000 acres of land that it can develop elsewhere. … Bow hunters would be allowed to bring their weapons through national parks when trying to reach areas where it is legal to hunt. More important, it makes all federal lands open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless otherwise specified."

McConnell praises sweeping conservation bill

-- Logrolling has gotten a bad name in recent years. That's the political science term to describe the practice of exchanging favors. But, really, it's the lubricant that keeps the gears of government turning. There are more than 100 provisions in the 662-page bill, which helped win buy-in. Essentially all 92 senators who voted yes got something they wanted for their constituents.

"It touches every state," said Sen. Mitch McConnell. Indeed, the bill would create two new national monuments in the majority leader's home state of Kentucky: Camp Nelson, which served as one of the largest recruitment and training depots for United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, and Mills Spring Battlefield, where Union troops won a decisive early victory over the Confederates.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, got a provision so that Alaska natives who fought in Vietnam can apply for land allotments. The natives were critical to Murkowski's 2010 reelection when she had to run as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to a tea partyer.

"It took public lands to bring divided government together," said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who partnered with his Democratic counterpart Jon Tester to permanently block mineral extraction from 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land right outside Yellowstone National Park.

Mineral exploration would also be blocked in the Upper Methow Valley, which would protect the pristine water colors at North Cascades National Park in Washington state. Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks in California would both grow. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, termed it an "old-school green deal."

-- All politics is local. One reason politicians can vote for a bill like this is that they know they'll get positive news coverage back home. Here's a smattering of this morning's press clips in which lawmakers receive credit from their hometown papers and TV stations for their role in advancing the bill:

  • Seattle Times: "Senate passes bipartisan public-lands bill pushed by [Maria] Cantwell."
  • KDVR: "Senate backs massive public lands, conservation bill pushed by [Cory] Gardner."
  • Alaska Public Media: "Big win for Murkowski: Public lands bill passes Senate."
  • Salt Lake Tribune: "Senate passes public lands bill that Utah Republican leaders — except Sen. Mike Lee — pushed for."
  • KHON: "Senate passes legislation that will bring more federal dollars to Hawaii."
  • KTVZ: "Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., welcomed Senate passage of a bipartisan package … securing critical measures they achieved for Oregon."
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Funding for bird conservation and Ohio and Erie Canalway passes in Senate public lands bill."
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Prosecutors expect a life sentence without parole for 'El Chapo'


  1. Drug kingpin "El Chapo" was found guilty on all counts and could now spend the rest of his life in prison. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn spent months detailing how Joaquín Guzmán allegedly built an underground empire by funneling drugs to the United States, bribing Mexican officials and using assassins to carry out acts of terror against his enemies. (Mark Berman and Katie Zezima)
  2. The Federal Reserve reported that a record 7 million Americans are at least three months behind on their car payments. Economists warned the number of delinquencies, which is higher than after the 2008-2009 financial crisis, is a red flag that the economy is slowing. (Heather Long)

  3. Police officers shot and killed 998 people in 2018, marking the fourth year in a row the number of fatal shootings has hovered around 1,000. Public scrutiny has done little to change the statistics, and mathematicians say that may be because rare events in large populations tend to remain stable unless a significant societal change occurs. (John Sullivan, Liz Weber, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins)

  4. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called off two ambitious public works projects that his predecessor, Jerry Brown, championed. The new governor paused the construction of a $77 billion portion of the California bullet train project to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles and also announced the state will build just one water pipe instead of two. (Scott Wilson)

  5. A federal appeals court ordered the release of grand jury records related to a 1946 mass lynching in Georgia. Nearly 2,800 people were interviewed about the murders of two black couples, but no one was ever charged. (DeNeen Brown)

  6. A New York hedge fund that has bought more than 100 newspapers — and cut more than 1,000 jobs — has a series of affiliated real estate companies that have made a lucrative business out of selling the papers' offices. Industry experts have said the hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, has moved more aggressively than its media competitors to profit from underused facilities rather than working to stabilize its finances as the local news industry struggles. (Jonathan O'Connell and Emma Brown)

  7. A New York Police Department detective was killed by friendly fire while responding to an armed robbery. Brian Simonsen had served in the force for 19 years. (Wall Street Journal)
  8. It appears that Mars rover Opportunity's mission on the Red Planet has ended. The robot got caught in a dust storm in June, and NASA hasn't heard from it since. (Los Angeles Times)
  9. Whole Foods is raising prices again. Prices have gone up an average of 66 cents to cover shipping, packaging and other inflation-related costs two years after Amazon cut prices after acquiring the chain. (Wall Street Journal)

  10. A wire fox terrier named King won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. King defeated 2,800 dogs from 203 breeds to win the event's top prize. (Amy B Wang)

Trump 'not happy' with border funding deal


-- Lawmakers lined up behind a bipartisan border security compromise that Trump criticized but signaled he'll probably sign anyway, even though it gives him only a fraction of the $5.7 billion he demanded for a wall. Erica Werner, Sean Sullivan, Damian Paletta and John Wagner report: "With a shutdown deadline looming Friday at midnight, the president suggested he might be able to accept the deal, saying he could take other steps to fund his wall. … 'It's not going to do the trick, but I'm adding things to it, and when you add whatever I have to add, it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall,' Trump said. … As Trump warmed to the emerging legislation, the House prepared to vote on it as soon as Wednesday evening . ... One option White House officials have strongly considered is to accept the money Congress appropriates for the wall, then take additional steps using executive authority to redirect potentially billions of dollars more. …

"Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claimed that as a win — Democrats because the figure agreed to is much lower than Trump's original request, and Republicans because it does give Trump the ability to build some new segments of barriers. The barriers would be targeted for the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, a priority area for the Border Patrol. The deal also includes compromise language on funding immigrant detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency."

-- Last night, Trump adopted an upbeat tone on Twitter, praising GOP leaders for their negotiating efforts, which could make it difficult for him to turn around and reject the product of their work. But conservative media leaders Trump pays attention to remain critical of the compromise. Ann Coulter said Trump is not fighting for the wall. Fox's Laura Ingraham began her show "with a rhymed warning for the president: 'The border wall becomes a border stall.' 'I hate to tell you I told you so, but I told you so,' she said. 'When the White House and the GOP failed to act on the Trump immigration agenda in the first 100 days of his presidency, his pledge to build the wall would be jeopardized.'" (Isaac Stanley-Becker)

Trump suggests he supports border compromise, conservative media reacts

-- Meanwhile, a record number of migrant families crossed the border illegally as Trump rallied for a wall in El Paso. More than 1,800 Central American parents and children arrived illegally on Monday, the largest number of family apprehensions at the border recorded on a single day by Customs and Border Protection. (Nick Miroff)

-- Government workers are preparing for another shutdown anyway by working second jobs, maintaining GoFundMe campaigns or cutting expenses. Todd C. Frankel, Kimberly Kindy and Lisa Rein report: "Few [workers] were finding comfort in assurances that a deal would be reached. The pain of the last shutdown still stings. Little is back to normal. Some workers still have not been fully repaid … Some have continued to hedge their bets. Roger Ware still works 24 hours a week in construction on top of his full-time job at Hazelton Federal Correctional Complex in West Virginia. 'I'm not going to quit until I see what happens on Friday,' said Ware, 42."

-- The mere threat of another shutdown could inflict long-term harm on the federal housing voucher program, which is used by more than 2 million low-income Americans. Terrence McCoy reports: "Every shutdown, according to experts and landlords, erodes faith landlords have that the government will pay its share of subsidized tenants' rent, an outcome once considered inconceivable, but one that just came within weeks of reality. That uncertainty could make it less likely landlords will decide to rent to housing voucher recipients — the only way the program functions — exacerbating a housing crisis already unfolding in cities across the country."

-- A government audit showed that millions of Americans' questions to the IRS about their tax returns went unaddressed during the last shutdown. The New York Times's Jim Tankersley and Patricia Cohen report: "The audit, by the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, found that over five million pieces of mail went unanswered and 87,000 amended tax returns were not processed during the shutdown, when thousands of I.R.S. workers were furloughed or working without pay. … The problems continued even after the shutdown, the audit found. In the week that ended Feb. 2, shortly after agency employees returned to their jobs, less than half of the calls to the I.R.S.'s accounts-management lines were answered, compared with nearly 90 percent during the same week last year. The typical hold time for such callers increased to 17 minutes from 4 minutes in 2018."

Inside Paul Manafort's 2016 meeting with a Russian operative


-- Paul Manafort's meeting with Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik at a cigar bar in New York during the 2016 campaign is now at the center of Bob Mueller's investigation, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann revealed during a sealed hearing. Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report: "It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump's presidential bid. … There have long been questions about why Manafort would break away from his duties running Trump's campaign to meet with his Russian employee … Manafort was strategizing about how to use his prominent role with the Trump campaign to halt a personal financial spiral … Manafort viewed Kilimnik — his liaison to high-level Ukrainian politicians and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska — as key to leveraging his unpaid role as Trump's campaign chairman … One topic the men discussed was a peace proposal for Ukraine, an agenda item Russia was seeking as a key step to lift punishing economic sanctions."

-- A Swiss company with ties to the firm that crafted a social media strategy to help Trump win in 2016 has attracted the attention of Mueller's office. The Daily Beast's Erin Banco and Adam Rawnsley report: "Former employees of Psy Group said the FBI interviewed them in 2017 and asked detailed questions about the firm's business and ownership structure. … At the end of [Psy Group's financial structure] sits a Zurich-based financial-services group known as Salix Services AG, according to interviews with former Psy Group employees … Details about Psy Group's financials and its ties to Salix could shed new light on a pair of mysteries that could be key to this part of the special counsel's probe: Why did international business and influence-peddler George Nader pay Zamel $2 million after the election? And where did all that money go?"

Sen. Burr on Michael Cohen: 'We may help him go to prison'

-- Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed frustration with Michael Cohen after Trump's former attorney postponed a third planned interview with lawmakers. Karoun Demirjian and Rhonda Colvin report: "'Any good will that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone,' chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, reacting to a picture that Wall Street Journal reporter Christina Binkley posted to her Twitter account, showing that on Sunday, Cohen was having dinner with friends at L'Avenue restaurant — and was offering hugs. … Both Burr and House Oversight chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) have suggested they will pursue sessions with Cohen even if he is in prison. But as the panels plan for Mueller to release his eventual report, the Senate Intelligence panel is also beginning to think about writing its conclusions from its own two-year investigation. …

"Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee leaders announced the hire of two high-profile lawyers to serve as consultants: Norm Eisen, co-founder of government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Barry Berke, a partner at the New York law firm of Kramer Levin who is a well-known expert in corruption and criminal law. The additions signal that the committee plans to devote considerable attention to questions of ethics, corruption and possible obstruction of justice — particularly after [Mueller] concludes his investigation."

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is no longer urgently pushing for protections for Mueller and his investigation. Politico's Marianne Levine reports: "Graham said recently he isn't worried about the president, who continues to rage against a 'witch hunt' that has secured a growing set of indictments and convictions, including those of close Trump campaign associates. 'I see no indication that he is going to do anything untoward toward Mr. Mueller, none,' said Graham. His colleagues on the Judiciary Committee aren't so sure — and they're pushing Graham to act. … Now that he's Judiciary chairman, with jurisdiction over the Mueller bill, immigration, guns and more, he'll be judged on more than just his rhetoric."

Senate to vote on Green New Deal, says McConnell


-- The GOP is trying to embarrass Democrats running for president who endorsed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal before reading the fine print, and McConnell announced Tuesday that he plans a floor vote in a bid to force them to go on the record. Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey and Rachael Bade report: "Some potential 2020 contenders, however, are treading carefully, particularly after aides to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan's most prominent advocate, published and distributed a list of 'frequently asked questions' that included details not included in the resolution itself, such as ensuring economic security for those 'unwilling to work.' Her office later said it had inadvertently published an early version. ...

  • "Six of the seven senators who are seeking the Democratic nomination or seriously considering bids have signed on to a Green New Deal resolution from Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). … Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is considering a 2020 presidential bid from a state that has been shifting to the right, said Tuesday that elected officials ought to address climate change aggressively but stopped short of endorsing the specific resolution backed by Ocasio-Cortez and others. …
  • "'He's trying to bully the party, and he's banking on people not being courageous,' Ocasio-Cortez said of McConnell's plans. 'I think people should call his bluff.'"

-- Kevin McCarthy said it was all about health care, stupid. "Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader [McCarthy] squarely blamed Republican losses in last year's midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions — and in turn blamed his party's right flank," Mike DeBonis reports: "Looking toward the 2020 elections, McCarthy (R-Calif.) noted that several Freedom Caucus members lost and said that he was focused on recruiting candidates who would 'find a solution at the end of the day' — noting that he was already wooing doctors, Navy SEALs and a former CIA agent to run. 'You want to aim before you fire,' he said. 'Let's find the very best people that can do this job that knows the commitment of what they're doing to make sure that they're going to find a solution at the end of the day.'

"McCarthy's remarks about the Freedom Caucus threaten to renew an old rift between the top House Republican and the Freedom Caucus ... Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the Freedom Caucus chairman, said McCarthy's remarks were 'very troublesome' after a reporter described them. 'I hoped the us-versus-them mentality of the past was something that indeed was in the past,' he said."

Trump calls on Rep. Omar to resign

-- Trump said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) should resign or step down from the House Foreign Affairs Committee after her suggestion that U.S. supporters of Israel are motivated by money. Felicia Sonmez reports: "At Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Trump said that 'anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress' and called Omar's apology 'lame.' … 'What she said is so deep-seated in her heart that her lame apology — and that's what it was, it was lame, and she didn't mean a word of it — was just not appropriate,' he said. … In the wake of the controversy, Trump himself has come under scrutiny for comments he made to the Republican Jewish Coalition as a presidential candidate in 2015. 'You're not going to support me because I don't want your money. … But that's okay. You want to control your own politician,' Trump told the group at the time."

-- Years before she led the House, Nancy Pelosi had the tougher job of raising five children — an experience that sharpened her political skills. Ellen McCarthy writes a fun feature: "If a House speaker spent a decade of their early life as a football quarterback or Navy SEAL, those years would certainly be mined for meaning and relevance. Pelosi's leadership training took place inside her home, and the experience, she insists, fundamentally changed her. … Five babies in the span of six years meant that — out of necessity — Pelosi's organizing skills shifted into high gear. ... Even within their family, Christine [Pelosi] says, her mother practiced 'coalition politics' ... [and] learned how to marshal consensus. ... Nancy Corinne Prowda says her mom was always skilled at winning people over to her point of view."

'How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?': Trump on owning a dog


-- Trump is pushing a government agency to keep open an aging coal plant that buys most of its coal from a company that is owned by a major donor. Trump tweeted Monday night that the Tennessee Valley Authority "should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!" Steven Mufson reports: "The TVA board will meet Thursday to consider whether to close the 49-year-old plant, which ran only intermittently last year because it was no longer needed to supply steady uninterrupted power known as baseload. … As recently as 2013, Murray Energy had delivered 700,000 tons of coal to the Paradise coal plant. … Robert Murray, founder of Murray Energy and a major donor to Trump's 2016 campaign, has been pressing the president to help prop up coal-fired plants since the beginning of the administration."

-- The only appointed person left on the Merit Systems Protection Board is leaving the agency after the Senate failed to advance Trump's nominees. Lisa Rein reports: Mark Robbins's "departure as acting chairman of the Merit Systems Protection Board, which serves as a personnel court for federal employees, raises an existential question: Can the board still live and function with no one at the top? The answer could determine whether thousands of federal workers will have their grievances heard. Two of the board's three seats have been vacant for the entire Trump administration. [Trump] didn't nominate a new board for more than a year — and then a Senate committee deadlocked last year on his picks. Now, the third seat could be empty, too, unless the Senate can confirm the same three people."

-- The lobbyists who supported Trump's campaign have been elevated during his presidency, allowing them to promote their businesses by highlighting their ties to the White House. Rolling Stone's Andy Kroll reports: Elliott Broidy "set out to cash in on his connections to the new administration with breathtaking speed and audacity. In the aftermath of Trump's win, Broidy, who landed a coveted spot as a vice-chair for Trump's inauguration committee, used his ties to the president-elect to pitch his defense-contracting company, Circinus LLC, to foreign leaders. … The real prize for Broidy, however, was two of the richest countries in the world: Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Contracts with their defense ministries for his security company could be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions. For years, Broidy had tried to win business with the Emirati and Saudi royal families. But that was before Trump came along."

-- The president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump has repeatedly tried to persuade him to get a dog, a prospect Trump dismissed in El Paso on Monday night. He said during his rally: "Feels a little phony, phony to me. A lot of people say, 'Oh, you should get a dog,' 'Why?' 'It's good politically.' I said, 'Look, that's not the relationship I have with my people.'" ABC News's Meridith McGraw reports: "Trump was likely referring to his daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump, a dog rescue advocate. In recent weeks, she's pitched the president on adopting a dog while at the White House, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lara Trump was recently successful in advocating for the end of greyhound racing in Florida, a state that voted to end the sport by 2020."

Klobuchar enters the 2020 race

2020 WATCH:

-- New reports emerged that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) mistreated her employees. The latest: She has been known to grow irate at staffers who try to find work elsewhere, even going so far as to call their new employers to try to get job offers rescinded. Yahoo News's Alexander Nazaryan reports: One "former staffer said that Klobuchar 'has fully earned [a] reputation' as an exceptionally difficult boss 'independent of her gender.' She added that, given the behavior that she witnessed from Klobuchar, she could not vote for her in the Democratic primary … Many of those who worked for Klobuchar knew that when Klobuchar declared her intention to run for the presidency — something she has longed to do for years — they would be forced to decide about how much they should say about what they had witnessed while in her employ. … Speaking out could lead to retribution from Klobuchar, should she be able to identify them."

-- Klobuchar said she raised $1 million in the 48 hours after she announced. (AP)

-- Howard Schultz raised some eyebrows at his CNN town hall. During the prime-time event, Schultz said he doesn't "see color" when asked about the anti-bias training Starbucks employees had to complete after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia location last year. The independent candidate also didn't confirm whether he would drop out of the 2020 race if polls show that his participation favors Trump. (The Daily Beast)

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made a surprise appearance at the annual meeting of the National Congress of American Indians. HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery reports: "Warren received a standing ovation from tribal leaders and other Native attendees as she approached the stage. She called on Congress to take more action on Native issues, including 'the alarming number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls,' suicide rates among Native people, housing, health care and addiction. But most of her remarks were spent praising Native women, saying she was there to lift up Native voices."

-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is traveling to Iowa this week as he contemplates a White House run. The two-term governor has said he probably won't make any campaign announcements until this spring, but his team has already begun organizing in Iowa. (Politico)

-- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been recruiting former fighter pilot Amy McGrath to challenge Mitch McConnell in 2020. McConnell's team is already compiling opposition research on McGrath, who lost the 2018 election for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District to incumbent Rep. Andy Barr. (Politico)

-- Another failed House candidate in 2018 is actively considering challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in 2020. MJ Hegar, an Afghanistan war veteran, said she is not "closing the door on anything" and might run against Cornyn or once again challenge Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.). (Texas Tribune)

-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who could face a difficult reelection next year, defended her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh after the Supreme Court justice dissented in an abortion access case. "He said under oath many times, as well as to me personally many times, that he considers Roe to be 'precedent upon precedent' because it had been reaffirmed in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case," Collins said. "To say that this case, this most recent case, in which he wrote a very careful dissent, tells you that he's going to repeal Roe v. Wade I think is absurd." (CNN)

With their country at a crossroads, Venezuelans stage dueling rallies


-- Despite intense pressure from the Trump administration and massive protests, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has yet to leave office. Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga report: "Through strong U.S. sanctions, international isolation and street protests, the opposition and its foreign allies led by the Trump administration had hoped to rapidly achieve Maduro's ouster. But nearly three weeks after Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself the rightful president and became recognized by dozens of nations including the United States, Maduro's inner circle has showed little outward signs of cracking."

-- China has met with Guaidó's team to protect its oil investments in Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal's Kejal Vyas reports: "Chinese diplomats, worried over the future of its oil projects in Venezuela and nearly $20 billion that Caracas owes Beijing, have held debt negotiations in Washington in recent weeks with representatives of [Guaidó], according to people familiar with the talks. … The talks are a sign of the apprehensions building with creditors of Venezuela's leftist government."

-- Trump indicated he was willing to extend the March 1 deadline to reach a trade agreement with China. The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei and Bob Davis report: "Mr. Trump, asked whether the deadline for boosting U.S. tariffs to 25% on Chinese products would stay in place, said, 'If we're close to a deal … I could see myself letting that slide for a little while.' … While markets globally would welcome a cessation of trade hostilities, a partial deal could open Mr. Trump to criticism from both his conservative supporters and U.S. business groups that he has settled for too little and failed to push for the fundamental reform in Chinese industrial and technology policies that his administration has said are at the heart of the dispute."

-- The United States is pressing Saudi Arabia to hold Saud al-Qahtani accountable after the former official, who still serves as an informal adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was implicated in the murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Wall Street Journal's Dion Nissenbaum, Warren P. Strobel and Summer Said report: "Saudi Arabia, however, has resisted U.S. pressure to take decisive action against [Qahtani], who previously served in effect as the right-hand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, [U.S.] and Saudi officials said. U.S. officials said Mr. Qahtani's continued influence is a sign of what they see as Saudi Arabia's inadequate response to the death of Mr. Khashoggi."

-- Lawmakers and human rights groups are demanding that Apple and Google shut down a Saudi government app that allows men to restrict women's movement. Hamza Shaban reports: "In a letter sent to the tech giants Monday, [Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)] urged them to prevent their app stores from being used by the Saudi government to continue the 'abhorrent surveillance and control of women.' … Absher, an app that people can download on the Google Play store and Apple's app store, works as an e-government portal and general services software for the Saudi Interior Ministry. … Using Absher, Saudi men can restrict the travel of Saudi women by first allowing or disallowing them to leave the country, and the men can also limit the dates and places women are permitted to travel."

-- The second-largest lobbying firm in Washington, one of the Saudi government's most prominent lobbyists, met with a White House official amid the fallout over Khashoggi's murder. From the Colorado Sun's John Ingold: Lobbying firm "Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, working on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia, sought and ultimately obtained a meeting with a White House official … BHFS said the meeting had nothing to do with Khashoggi's killing. … [yet a] document appears to contain clear indications of lobbying that would have at least touched on the journalist's killing. … BHFS's contract specifies that the kingdom pay $125,000 a month for lobbying services — though filings show that the firm received $1.8 million in payments … The firm's lobbyists and its political action committee made nearly $170,000 in campaign contributions in the second half of 2018 ... That includes more than $45,000 made following Khashoggi's killing."

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May's chief Bre