— From wire reports

Cohen agrees to testify to Congress — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said Thursday he had agreed to testify under oath before a House committee next month and give “a full and credible account” of his work for Trump on national television. Cohen’s decision to appear before the Democratic-led House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7 sets the stage for a public hearing. “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired,” Cohen said in a statement. However, Cohen most likely would be barred by special counsel Robert Mueller from discussing matters related to Russia.

Attorney general nominee — William Barr tried Thursday to assuage Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats’ concerns that he might be too biased to oversee the special counsel’s Russia probe, but the lawmakers said they would need to see public proof to back up his closed-door assurances before they could consider backing his nomination. Barr begins his public confirmation to be attorney general in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings Tuesday. Barr has been facing questions from Democrats and Republicans about his previous public statements regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The GOP members of the committee who met with him Wednesday — including Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — emerged saying they were sure that Barr would allow Mueller to pursue his investigation without interference.

Ocean is warming faster — Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all of the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters. A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a U.N. panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years. “2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an author of the study.

Pompeo berates Obama in Mideast speech — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out his vision for America’s role in the Middle East on Thursday, telling a university audience in Cairo that “the age of self-inflicted American shame is over” and that the United States would pursue a more activist policy, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria. Pompeo’s prescription was short on specifics, beyond bolstering alliances with Arab autocrats loyal to Washington. He advocated a policy of containment of Iran’s power and excoriated President Barack Obama for “fundamental misunderstandings” about the region that “underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism.”

Mnuchin defends plan to lift sanctions — The Trump administration on Thursday defended its decision to lift sanctions on companies linked to billionaire Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, despite concerns from newly empowered House Democrats that the move was an effort by President Donald Trump to help an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. In a classified briefing with lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on three companies controlled by Deripaska. He said the White House played no formal role in the decision and denied that the Treasury Department’s political appointees overruled career officials, according to lawmakers who attended.

6 dead in the Alps — Heavy snowfall has paralyzed travel and tourism in parts of the Alps, leaving at least six people dead, Austrian officials said Thursday. Heavy snowfall and strong winds were projected to continue in Austria and southern parts of Germany until at least Friday, bringing at least an additional 20 inches of snow over 24 hours to parts of the Alps that have seen as much as 10 feet over the past week. Several regions have declared states of emergency as some roads, railways and ski resorts remain closed. Hundreds of tourists and residents are cut off in Austria because of avalanche risks.

China vs. Canada — China’s ambassador to Canada has said that “Western egotism and white supremacy” were behind calls for Beijing to release two detained Canadians, further straining relations between the countries after the arrest in Canada last month of a Chinese technology executive. Lu Shaye wrote Wednesday in an op-ed article for The Hill Times that Canadians were applying “double standards” to the cases. Some Canadians, he wrote, argued that their country was enforcing the law when it arrested Meng Wanzhou, finance chief of Chinese technology giant Huawei, but insisted Beijing was out of line when it detained two Canadians soon after.

Sanders apologizes for 2016 campaign treatment —For a second time in eight days, Sen. Bernie Sanders apologized to women on his 2016 presidential campaign, as he seeks to put behind him a series of damaging reports about the mistreatment of female staff members that threatens to undercut another possible White House bid. “It appears that as part of our campaign, there were some women who were harassed and mistreated,” Sanders said during a news conference Thursday about prescription drugs. “I thank them from the bottom of my heart for speaking out. What they experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign or any campaign should be about.”

22226625