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U.S. Makes Major Changes to Endangered Species Act

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  • The Department of Interior announced upcoming changes to the Endangered Species Act, which are being criticized by environmental activists. 
  • Critics are afraid these changes could allow regulators to overlook climate change and factor in economic costs when determining if a species should be listed.
  • The Department of the Interior made a statement calling the changes effective.
  • But two states have vowed to take the Trump administration to court over the revisions.

Changes Made to the ESA

The Department of Interior’s changes to the long-standing Endangered Species Act are being met with criticism from environmental activists and Democratic leaders. 

Enacted in 1973, the ESA has been seen as an effective measure and is credited with saving the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and other species from extinction. The new regulations were approved by the Trump Administration on Monday and were released in part with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service. 

Some are afraid these changes will allow for the costs of protection to become a factor in deciding if a species should be listed as endangered or threatened. According to the release, a line in the ESA that stated these decisions would be made “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination”  will be removed. 

Instead, the update says, “the Act does not prohibit the Services from compiling economic information or presenting that information to the public as long as such information does not influence the listing determination.”

While it does include that the information should not “influence the listing determination” critics are upset the initial language was removed in the first place. They worry that any presentation of economic data could sway decisions no matter what. 

The changes also include a new definition for the term “foreseeable future.”

“The term foreseeable future extends only so far into the future as the Services can reasonably determine that the conditions potentially posing a danger of extinction in the foreseeable future are probable,” the revisions read. “The Services will describe the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis.”

The term is used in important elements of the ESA, such as the determination of threatened species and critical habitats. Many critics are concerned this revised definition will allow regulators to take climate change out of the picture when listing species since they can decide how far down the road they want to look on a case-by-case basis. Since the effects of climate change are not necessarily immediate, this could give them space to ignore its potential impacts. 

Another major change will rescind a blanket rule that gave threatened species the same protections as endangered species. This will only apply to newly listed threatened species. 

Support for Changes

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said these changes will make sure the ESA remains effective. 

“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal—recovery of our rarest species,” Bernhardt said. “The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation. An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

Bernhardt was not the only person to support the act. Several Senators, legislators, and leaders from multiple industries spoke in favor of it, including Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)

“These new rules will lead to more transparency, increased recovery of species greater conservation, and will help take the decision making powers out of the hands of radical activists in the courtroom,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) said in a statement with the Department of the Interior. “I applaud the administration for taking this action.” 

Lawsuits Against Changes

However, the criticisms of the changes have led to strong pushback from Democrats. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey released a statement announcing her plans to sue the Trump administration over them.

“By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country’s most successful environmental laws, the Trump Administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk,” Healey said. “We will be taking the Administration to court to defend federal law and protect our rare animals, plants, and the environment.”

Healey is not alone. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also plans to take these changes to court.

“As we face the unprecedented threat of a climate emergency, now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it,” he said in a statement. “Our precious wildlife and ecosystems are in critical danger. By rolling back the Endangered Species Act the Trump Administration would be putting a nail in our coffin – all for the sake of boosting the profits of those putting these species at risk in the first place. We’re ready to fight to preserve this important law – the species with whom we share this planet, and depend on, deserve no less.”

The changes to the ESA come just a few months after a U.N. report claimed that one million plant and animal species are currently at risk of extinction, with many facing that possibility in just decades. Right now, environmental groups see high stakes and a ticking clock when it comes to the matter. 

The regulations are set to go into effect in 30 days. Right now it is unclear if the planned lawsuits will block this.

See what others are saying: (WBZ Boston) (Sacramento Bee) (NPR)

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Woman Who Live-Streamed Her Sister’s Death Arrested Again, Weeks After Early Prison Release

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  • Obdulia Sanchez made national headlines in 2017 when she live-streamed a drunken car crash that resulted in the graphic death of her 14-year-old sister.
  • She was sentenced to six years in prison but was released late last month after serving a little over two years.
  • But just weeks after her release, Sanchez was arrested again after a short police chase and car crash.

Obdulia Sanchez Arrested Again 

The California woman who served time in prison for killing her sister in a drunken car crash on Instagram live was arrested again, just weeks after her early release. 

Obdulia Sanchez, now 20-years-old, was arrested in Stockton on Thursday after a short police pursuit. Local authorities said she refused to stop when officers attempted to pull her over at around 1:30 am. 

Sanchez eventually crashed her vehicle near a highway on-ramp where another male passenger in the car was able to run out. The male suspect managed to escape police, but Sanchez was arrested. She now faces traffic and weapons charges. 

Authorities said she was on parole and driving on a revoked license. Officers also say they found a loaded gun in the car. 

Stockton Police Department

Recent Release and Previous Crimes 

Sanchez was released on parole late last month after she served more than two years in prison for a previous crash.

In July 2017, Sanchez was drunk driving and live streaming on Instagram when she crashed her car, killing her 14-year-old sister Jacqueline Sanchez Estrada. and injuring another passenger. 

The graphic incident made national headlines. On the stream, Sanchez’s hands could be seen leaving the wheel before she swerved and then overcorrected. Her sister, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle.

“I fucking killed my sister, okay? I know I’m going to jail for life, all right?” Sanchez can be heard saying to her sister, who appeared to be already dead. “Ima hold it down. I love you, rest in peace, sweetie.”

Later reports explained that Sanchez had tested positive for alcohol and cocaine. Sanchez was heavily criticized online for continuing to stream after the crash, showing her sister’s dead body. 

In a public letter written from behind bars, she wrote, “I made that video because I knew I had more than 5,000 followers. It was the only way my sister would get a decent burial. I would never expose my sister like that. I anticipated the public donating money because my family isn’t rich.”

Sanchez was ultimately convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI and child endangerment. She was sentenced to six years and four months in prison with the possibility of parole after three years.

The state corrections office said Sanchez was approved for early release after earning credit for good behavior, for attending rehabilitation programs, and for time served in jail before she was sentenced. 

See what others are saying: (Sacramento Bee) (NBC News) (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times

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Chicago Teachers Strike Over Pay, Class Sizes, and More

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  • Around 25,000 teachers and educational staff members in Chicago began striking Thursday, leaving 300,000 kids out of class.
  • The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, as well as more nurses, social workers, counselors, and librarians. 
  • The city’s mayor and Chicago Public Schools have announced plans that include these demands, but the Union says the contract language does not hold CPS accountable enough for these terms.
  • While the strike continues, schools will be open even though classes are canceled. Principals and associate principals will still on campuses, and breakfast and lunch will sill be served.

Chicago Public School’s Plan

Around 25,000 teachers and educational employees in Chicago began striking Thursday morning, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more efficient staffing.

The strike was announced Wednesday night when Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union failed to reach a deal. Chicago is home to the third-largest school district in the country, which means close to 300,000 students have been left without classes to attend.

CPS’s announced a plan that would, among other things, raise teachers’ salaries by 16% over the course of five years. According to Fox Business, the starting salary for Chicago teachers is already the highest in the state of Illinois, coming close to $53,000 a year. By the end of this five-year time period, that salary would increase to $72,000. CPS Says that the average salary would be close to $100,000.

Their plan also included adding a nurse to every school by 2024 and doubling the number of social workers. 

What the Union Wants

CTU was not satisfied with the offer. First, they thought that CPS’s numbers were wrong and that the average salary would only get to $85,000. Raises were also not the only issue at stake for them. 

CTU is asking for a hard cap on class sizes and for teachers to receive a stipend if that cap is ever exceeded. They want support for hiring social workers, counselors, nurses and other positions at recommended ratios, as well as a librarian and restorative justice coordinator in every school.

Another priority for them is to make sure these positions, social workers in particular, have an appropriate workload. Some schools have counselors that only come in a couple of days a week but have around 100 cases to work on. So, when they are unavailable, teachers find that they end up acting as counselors themselves. 

While CPS’s plan did include increases for nurses and social workers, the CTU says it is not enough. They say that CPS is not putting the exact terms in the contract language allowing them to not be held explicitly accountable for these terms. Even when CPS added more to their plan in regards to these demands earlier this month, CTU still criticized the contract language. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s Role

On Thursday morning, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot held a press conference regarding the strike. She maintained that the union was being offered a good package and that she hoped for a deal to be reached.

We don’t have unlimited resources, but having said that, we put very generous offers on the table both for teachers and support personnel,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring them back to the table and resolve all the open issues.” 

Lightfoot is new to the role. She took office in May, making this one of the first hurdles she has had to face as mayor. 

The CTU is accusing her of not fulfilling campaign promises As far as staffing, they claim she fully supported hiring full-time nurses, social workers, and librarians, but that she has rejected contract language that would hold CPS accountable for this. 

The Union also claimed that she supported additional counselors. Now, however, she and CPS “want to issue tentative assignments for next year by June 15 instead of May 15, creating more uncertainty for educators.”

What Is Being Said at the Strike

Frustrations with Lightfoot were made clear during the strike, with reports saying participants chanted things like “Lightfoot Lightfoot, get on the right foot.” 

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter spoke to a teacher who mentioned Lightfoot. He said he was not looking forward to striking but added, “We’re teachers. Sometimes we’ve got to teach the mayor.”

CTU’s President, Jesse Sharkey, attended a strike outside of an elementary school and defended their demands.

“Our demands are significant, and we have real demands, but that’s because the needs are significant,” he said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  We ask for a lot because we give a lot. All of our schools here deal with real traumas, and we need support.”

Options for Students

Because of the strike, Chicago has to find something to do for the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have classes to attend. Lightfoot said that while classes are off, the schools will be open during their normal hours. Principals and Associate Principals will be on hand, and breakfast and lunch will still be served. 

Other camps and the YMCA are also offering programs, though unlike the schools, they will not be free. 

But not all students are taking the day off. Some are supporting their teachers and attending the strike. The Chicago Sun-Times spoke to Senior Jude Greneir who went to hand out snacks and beverages.

“My teachers are striking so everyone has equal resources,” she told them. “I hope the city understands. My school is very lucky, but every school needs a nurse and proper resources for their children.”

Another senior, Anthony Jordan, joined his teachers in a picket line.

“I want to support my teachers because they taught me everything I know,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Our class sizes are too large. We really do need more nurses. It’s worth being out here because it’s for a good cause. It will help us all in the end.”

Right now, it is unclear how long the strike will last. Lightfoot said a deal could be struck as early as today, but members of CTU do not anticipate that soon of an end. Schools will remain closed for class until further notice. 

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (Chicago Sun-Times) (Fox Business)

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The Forgotten Tribes: Truth About Federally Unrecognized Tribes in The United States…

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California has the most federally non-recognized tribes in the U.S. with over 50 throughout the state. If you’re not familiar with how American Indian tribes function, they’re classified as sovereign nations by the federal government, meaning they have certain rights as a group/nation. But when a tribe is not considered a sovereign nation by the federal government, then they are labeled as federally non-recognized.

Lack of federal recognition for a tribe can have a ton of repercussions for its citizens. One of the most noteworthy is that they are not legally considered American Indians by the federal government, regardless of ancestry, so members of these tribes can’t apply for American Indian scholarships because they’re only intended for federally recognized tribes.

There are also many other struggles federally non-recognized tribes face like not having financial resources to preserve their culture and lacking protection to keep their children in their tribal community under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Now, you’re probably asking yourself “why specifically does California have so many federally non-recognized tribes?”

Well, in this Rogue Rocket mini-documentary, we’ll look at how California’s history played part in it and deep-dive into the challenges tribes lacking federal recognition face. But we’ll be understanding this complex issue through the lens of one non-federally recognized tribe in San Fernando, California called the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.

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