The Edge Update: Offshore drilling, Trump cabinet appointments and seasonal Zika

The Obama administration has cancelled Arctic offshore lease sales through 2022. On Friday, the Department of the Interior released a plan for offshore drilling leases that eliminated two proposed arctic options. President-elect Donald Trump has expressed support for increasing US oil production, but it would take him at least of couple of years to undo the new plan. Since 2008, the department of the interior has consistently cancelled or withdrawn sales of Alaskan land for oil purposes, and in 2015, Shell announced it was shutting down its Alaska program after exploration yielded disappointing results. Alaska’s top officials expressed dismay at the decision-Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was “infuriated” that Barack Obama “has once again ignored” the voices of Alaskans who support offshore drilling”. Congressman Don Young and Governor Bill Walker have made similar statements. Environmental groups have celebrated the move, while pro-drilling advocates accused the president of being more interested in his own legacy than the economic needs of Alaskans. In its announcement, the Department of the Interior said that the decision was based on “the fragile and unique Arctic ecosystem” and “significant risks to sensitive marine resources and communities from potential new leasing in the Arctic.”

President-elect Trump has been busy selecting appointees for his cabinet. On Friday, he announce three new appointees — Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA director. Sessions was previously nominated by Ronald Reagan to a federal district court, but his appointment was later shot down by the Senate because of remarks he made that were deemed racially insensitive. Gen. Mike Flynn has made highly critical remarks about Islam. In August, he called the religion “a cancer.” Trump is expected to meet with Mitt Romney, once his harshest critic, over the weekend to potentially discuss the secretary of state position. In the past, Romney blasted Trump as a fraud, saying, “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” On that note, Trump agreed to pay 25 million dollars on Friday to settle the lawsuits regarding his university.The lawsuits all claim that Trump defrauded customers into thinking they were getting secret real estate insight from specially selected professors. Claimants later reported learning little and being coerced into spending thousands on additional classes. Trump also drew criticism for insinuating a judge assigned to the case was biased because of his Mexican heritage.

The World Health Organization has declared that the spread of the Zika virus no longer a global emergency — but don’t throw away your bug spray yet. The difference is in classification- the W.H.O. believes that because the virus has been shown to be a mosquito-borne disease, like malaria, it should be treated like those types of diseases usually are, that is, as an ongoing threat. Officials emphasized that they didn’t believe that the Zika crisis was over. In fact, they think Zika may be here to stay. The disease is seasonal and may return repeatedly to countries where the type of mosquito that carries it live. Since the W.H.O. declared a state of emergency on Feb. 1, the virus has spread to every country in the western hemisphere except Canada. Critics worry that the decision to reclassify the virus might slow international responses to the threat and lull people into a false sense of security.