Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated
The Department of Interior's (DOI) inspector general wrote to Congressional Democrats Wednesday saying the office had opened an investigation into a real estate deal involving Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke and Halliburton Chair David Lesar, POLITICO reported.
"You expressed special concern about the reported funding by a top executive at Halliburton and assuring decisions that affect the nation's welfare are not compromised by individual self enrichment," Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote to Democratic Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and other Democrats, POLITICO reported. "My office opened an investigation into this matter on July 16."
The investigation will asses whether the deal, uncovered last month, violated conflict of interest law.
In June, POLITICO reported that a foundation started by Zinke and currently run by his wife granted a real-estate development backed by Lesar permission to build a parking lot on land originally donated to the foundation for a Veteran's Peace Park that has yet to be built. The development, in the Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, could increase the value of the land owned by their foundation.
"Secretary Zinke doesn't seem to take his responsibility to the public seriously," Grijalva said in a statement reported by POLITICO. "He's turned it into the Ryan Zinke show, which is more about waving his own flag above the building and doing personal business deals with his friends instead of protecting public lands and improving our environmental quality. This formal investigation is one of many he's managed to pile up in his short and undistinguished tenure, and I join my Democratic colleagues in seeking the transparency and accountability that Republicans have so far not provided."
The DOI investigation comes little over a week after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel started a case file on whether Zinke violated the Hatch Act when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing socks embroidered with Trump's face and "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan, CNN reported.
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activity.
Zinke has also been investigated for using chartered flights, speaking to a donor's hockey team and attending fundraisers, but investigators concluded he did not break any laws, POLITICO reported.
The deal with the Halliburton chair is especially significant for the environment because the company is one of the world's largest fracking and offshore drilling services companies and Zinke has repeatedly moved to open up federal lands and coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.
"There is no company that benefits more from Secretary Zinke's attack on fracking standards than Halliburton, and there is no company that has been more successful over the years in getting politicians—from Vice President Dick Cheney to Secretary Zinke—to weaken government oversight of their fracking operations," senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Matt Lee-Ashley told POLITICO.
Halliburton spokesperson Emily Mir, however, told Reuters by email that the deal with Lesar was unrelated to Halliburton's energy work.
"]Lesar's] personal investment in a small land development in Montana has nothing to do with Halliburton, and the company is confident that any actions of the Interior Department will not be influenced by (his) personal investment," she wrote.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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