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Biden poised to name NOAA leader to restore scientific integrity post-Trump

The White House is slated to name Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Filling the NOAA slot would complete the Biden administration's leadership on the climate and environment team. The agency, located within the Commerce Department, houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation's climate science research.


The intrigue: Spinrad is a NOAA veteran, having served a stint as its chief scientist during the Obama administration. He has also served as the head of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the National Ocean Service.

  • For the nomination, Spinrad would beat out several prominent scientists who would have been newer faces in NOAA leadership.
  • These include Marshall Shephard, a prominent University of Georgia meteorologist, along with Dawn Wright, chief scientist at Esri — an international supplier of geographic information system software — and Everette Joseph, who leads the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Context: Spinrad will need to work to restore confidence in NOAA's scientific integrity, after morale and public trust was eroded by a scandal in 2019.

  • Traditionally a controversy-free agency, NOAA was embroiled in a dustup in 2019 known as "sharpiegate" after agency forecasters seemed to correct President Trump's erroneous assertions that Hurricane Floyd would severely affect Alabama.
  • Under pressure from the White House, the agency criticized its own forecasters in an unsigned statement.
  • A series of investigations, including by the Commerce Department Inspector General's Office, concluded that officials at the cabinet agency as well as in NOAA leadership violated its scientific integrity policy.

What's next: Spinrad's nomination is expected to be announced Thursday or Friday, sources said.

  • In a clear sign the Biden administration wants to take NOAA in a different direction, the White House has asked Congress for the largest budget in NOAA's history, with total funding of $6.9 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion compared to the 2021 enacted level.

Liz Cheney says she regrets voting for Trump in 2020

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was ousted Wednesday as the third-highest ranking House Republican, told ABC's "This Week" that she regrets voting for former President Trump in 2020, although she could never have supported Biden.

Why it matters: Cheney, voted out of House Republican leadership over her repeated condemnation of Trump and his unfounded claims of election fraud, plans to challenge the former president for ideological dominance of the GOP.

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Blinken speaks with Associated Press CEO after Israeli airstrike destroys Gaza office

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt on Saturday after an Israeli airstrike destroyed the outlet's local media office in the Gaza Strip, which also housed the Al Jazeera office.

Why it matters: "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today" Pruitt said in a statement — as fighting between Israel and Hamas continues to bring more casualties.

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Fashion

Consumers and retailers alike are still trying to figure out what Americans will want to wear as they head back out into the world after a year at home, in sweatpants.

Why it matters: The choices people make about their post-pandemic wardrobes will help define what, exactly, our “new normal” is. They'll indicate how both work and socializing have changed, and will tell the story of how people expressed themselves in the aftermath of a year of massive transformation.

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UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Gaza as Netanyahu vows to continue strikes

The United Nations Security Council was preparing to meet Sunday, as the aerial bombardment between Israel and Hamas between entered a seventh day.

The latest: Four Palestinians died in airstrikes early Sunday, as Israeli forces bombed the home of Gaza's Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, per Reuters.

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In photos: Protesters rally across U.S. and the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

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Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

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The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.

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Colonial Pipeline resumes normal operations after ransomware hack

Colonial Pipeline resumed normal operations on Saturday after a ransomware attack forced the pipeline to shut down last week, the company announced.

Why it matters: The pipeline is now delivering fuel to states that had experienced gas shortages at the same capacities as before the extortion scheme hit the critical pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York and carries roughly 100 million gallons of fuel per day.

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