FEMA strips mention of ‘climate change’ from its strategic plan

WASHINGTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency, responsible for dealing with the effects of disasters like hurricanes and floods, has stripped the words “climate change” from the document meant to guide its actions over the next four years.

FEMA on Thursday released its strategic plan for 2018-22. It replaces a version issued under former President Barack Obama that repeatedly cited the challenges caused by a changing climate, and the need for FEMA to incorporate those risks into its long-term plans.

By contrast, the new document doesn’t mention climate, global warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather or any other terminology associated with scientific predictions of rising surface temperatures and their effects.

“Disaster costs are expected to continue to increase due to rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience,” the plan states, without saying what might be causing that natural hazard risk to rise.

The document notes that hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 represented “historic disasters,” but it makes no mention of the conclusions by other federal agencies that such disasters are likely to get worse as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases.

— Bloomberg News

Trump aims to ‘top’ Kennedy by sending astronauts to Mars

Forget the moon, we’re going to Mars.

President Donald Trump wants to “top” President John F. Kennedy and send astronauts to the Red Planet.

“We’re looking at Mars, by the way,” Trump told lawmakers Thursday during a Friends of Ireland lunch on Capitol Hill.

Trump, who only days ago proposed an interplanetary “space force,” was applauding Kennedy’s vision of reaching the moon during the “space race” of the 1960s when he promised to go where no man has gone before.

“Trying to top (Kennedy),” Trump said. “We’re going to get there. It’s moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened … Way ahead of schedule.”

The U.S. became the first country to send a manned mission to the moon in 1969, six years after Kennedy was assassinated.

But Trump isn’t just competing against the past.

Reigniting a brand new “space race,” Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to beat the U.S. to Mars and said Moscow will launch a mission to Earth’s neighbor next year.

“Very soon, in 2019, we’re going to launch a mission toward Mars,” Putin said in a new documentary film that was posted on Russian social media Thursday.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday that the U.S. will make it Mars “very soon,” telling a crowd of Marines at the Miramar military base in California that he joked about creating another defense branch to deal with threats from the cosmos.

“Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said.

— New York Daily News

Driver in road rage incident that killed former NFL player Joe McKnight sentenced to 30 years

The 56-year-old driver convicted in a road rage incident that killed former New York Jet Joe McKnight was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

A Jefferson Parish jury convicted Ronald Gasser in December on a manslaughter charge for fatally shooting the former running back after a five-mile road race in December 2016.

He was initially charged with second-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.

Judge Ellen Shrier Kovach dubbed the killing senseless, noting both men could have de-escalated the situation had they chosen to do so, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

“This tragedy did not need to happen,” she said.

Defense lawyers argued he fired in self-defense when McKnight approached his car following the chase, which spanned the Mississippi River in New Orleans and ended in nearby Jefferson Parish.

Witnesses at the trial said McKnight was weaving in and out of traffic ahead of the shooting. Assistant District Attorney Seth Shute conceded he’d been “driving like a jerk,” but contended Gasser escalated the situation when he followed McKnight off the highway.

—New York Daily News

Saudi crown prince reportedly stashed his mom away in latest power grab

He’s the new international man of mystery — and even uses a code name.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has garnered international intrigue in the months since maneuvering to become next in line for the throne.

Part of that plan was seemingly to hide his mother away — fearing she would block his power grab last June.

The crown prince has kept his mother’s whereabouts a secret from his father, King Salman, for more than two years, NBC News reported Thursday.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington denied the report, which added the king was told his third wife was often away for medical treatment.

The crown prince has carved out a unique reputation over the last year, as a reformer with questionable methods — who also loves art.

Mohammed bin Salman came to power last June at 31, after serving as deputy crown prince and defense minister.

But he persuaded his father, now 82, to drop his cousin, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, as crown prince in favor of him.

Mohammed bin Salman has been credited with reforms such as allowing women the right to drive, and branching out to Silicon Valley.

President Donald Trump has applauded the work Mohammed bin Salman has done on behalf of his octogenarian father. He will also host him at the White House on Tuesday.

Trump backed Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts in November to go after corrupt Saudi officials — including members of the royal family.

—New York Daily News