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HOUSTON -- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told thousands of mostly oil and natural gas executives at an energy conference here Tuesday that wind turbines kill as many as 750,000 birds a year, repeating a criticism made by other Trump administration officials.

The bottom line: Zinke is exaggerating the figure beyond virtually all published estimates. But more importantly, turbines are a drop in the bucket when it comes to the human-related causes of bird deaths, context Zinke didn't provide.

Expand chart
Adapted from Loss, et al., 2015, "Direct mortality of Birds from Anthropogenic Causes", Johnson, et al., 2016, "Avian fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America: A comparison of recent approaches"; Note: The wind turbine value is an average of three estimates from Johnson's paper; Chart: Axios Visuals

Gritty details: Wind turbines are nowhere near the top of the list of human-related causes, according to all data, including from Zinke’s own agency. Conclusive data on exactly how many deaths wind turbines cause depends a lot on the type of turbine, methodology used and timeline. The most recent data available is from 2014, for example.

  • “The amount of installed wind energy has increased quite a bit in the last five years since those papers were published, so the actual mortality would be expected to scale up somewhat as well,” said Scott Loss, a professor at Oklahoma State University who tracks these issues. “Regardless of the estimate, wind turbines rank much lower than many other human-caused threats in terms of total birds killed.”

For the record: An Interior Department spokeswoman said a recent United States Geological Survey published in peer-reviewed scientific journals estimated the number could be as high as 689,000 bird deaths a year caused by wind turbines, not including Alaska and Hawaii. Including all 50 states and taking into account the growth of the industry as well as increased blade size, “the number could very reasonably be about 750,000,” a spokeswoman said. She did not provide an actual copy of that report.

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California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

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Facebook bans Myanmar military

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Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

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It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.