The Trump administration has proposed a change to the Endangered Species Act that would reduce protections for imperiled animals, potentially putting more at risk as climate change upends ecosystems.
The proposal, obtained in advance by the Associated Press, will restrict what land and water areas can be declared as “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act for the first time.
The proposed definition says habitat includes “places that a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes,” such as breeding or eating.
It comes in response to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving a highly endangered Southern frog – the dusky gopher frog – in which a dispute arose after the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,500-acres (607-hectares) of land and ponds in neighboring Louisiana as critical habitat for the frog even though none lived there.
In the gopher frog case, a unanimous court said the government had to decide what constitutes suitable habitat for the frogs before it could designate some of those areas as “critical habitat” for the species, which survives in just a few ponds in Mississippi.
Trump administration officials said the proposal would apply to relatively few cases and provide “more consistency” and “more transparency” for private landowners, companies and states.
But environmentalists say areas where a species does not yet live should be protected for future habitats as climate change pushes endangered species to new spaces.
The recent proposal comes after Trump changed the Endangered Species Act in August 2019 to reduce protections for animals in danger of extinction. The rules, lauded by industry, would draw more attention to the economic impact of protecting a species.
A final decision on the proposal to define “habitat” is expected by year’s end.
A court on Friday upheld a decision ruling adult film star Stormy Daniels cannot sue Donald Trump for defamation over a tweet he published about her in 2018.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, accused Trump of defaming her after he publicly cast doubt on her claims she was threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot for attempting to go public with her affair with Trump.
Trump later retweeted a photo of a sketch she produced of the alleged strongman, saying he is “nonexistent” and that Daniels’ story was “a total con job, playing the Fake News Media for fools.” The court on Friday accepted arguments from Trump’s lawyers that “he was merely offering his opinion and not leveling any factual claims of his own”.
“Viewed through the eyes of an objectively reasonable reader, the tweet here reflects Mr. Trump’s opinion about the implications of the allegedly similar appearances of Ms. Clifford’s ex-husband and the man in the sketch,” the court said in its nine-page ruling.
In the ruling the judges also rejected Daniels’ claim Trump’s tweet was a denial of her underlying claim of the sexual encounter.
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to halt the Trump administration’s construction of portions of the border wall with Mexico as proceedings over its legality continue.
The vote means the wall will continue to be built until the judgement is heard, which could be until after the November election, and follows a recent lower court ruling that the administration improperly diverted money to the project.
The vote was split 5-4, with all four liberal justices dissenting, saying they would have prohibited construction while a court challenge continues, after a federal appeals court ruled in June that the administration had illegally sidestepped Congress in transferring the Defense Department funds.
“The Court’s decision to let construction continue nevertheless I fear, may operate, in effect, as a final judgment,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a brief dissent for the four liberals.
The case has its origins in the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of 2018. Trump ended the shutdown after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding, but that was far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking. Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.
The Supreme Court is on break for the summer but does act on certain pressing items. It will begin hearing cases again in October.
James Murdoch, British-American businessman and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, announced Friday he has resigned from the board of News Corp.
Murdoch was previously CEO of 21st Century Fox from 2015 until 2019. He cited “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions” as reasons for his resignation.
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from the hospital on Friday after her latest medical procedure, the court announced.
Ginsburg was hospitalized earlier in the week for a “minimally invasive non-surgical procedure” at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer City in New York City to revise a bile duct stent originally installed in August 2019. Stent revisions are routine, doctors said, and the procedure was low-risk.
“She is home and doing well,” the court said, according to CNN.
Hello, lovely readers. Kari Paul here in San Francisco to blog you through the news this afternoon. Stay tuned for updates.
It’s been a very lively day in US political news so far, dominated by the coronavirus crisis, where the US now has 4.5 million confirmed cases and a death toll of almost 153,000, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Congress has failed to reach a deal on continued federal unemployment supplements as economic aid amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the nation heads into a tense weekend in terms of public health and financial news.
My west coast colleague Kari Paul will take readers through the next few hours of events.
Here are the main events so far today:
- Not only is there a lack of a comprehensive national plan for getting the coronavirus pandemic under control in the US, there appears also to be no clear plan for how any successful vaccine will be distributed to Americans.
- There have been three arrests in the case of the giant Twitter hack earlier this month affected the accounts of prominent figures including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Kanye West, Elon Musk, others. The DoJ made an announcement.
- A federal appeals court overturned the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He will be sentenced anew for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260.
- Donald Trump is visiting Tampa, Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis plans to meet him to discuss next steps in tackling a surge in coronavirus that has seen four consecutive days of record deaths from the virus in the state.
As scientists and pharmaceutical companies work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, public health officials and senior US lawmakers are sounding alarms about the Trump administration’s lack of planning for its nationwide distribution.
The federal government traditionally plays a principal role in funding and overseeing manufacturing and distribution of new vaccines during pandemics, which often draw on scarce ingredients and need to be made, stored and transported carefully, Reuters reports.
At a congressional hearing this morning, top public health expert Anthony Fauci said the government was coordinating research and testing with the private sector players in the US.
There won’t be enough vaccine for all 330 million Americans right away, so the government also has a role in deciding who gets it first, and in educating a vaccine-wary public about its potential life saving merits.
Right now, it is unclear who in Washington is in charge of oversight, much less any critical details, some state health officials and members of Congress told Reuters.
Last week, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters that Operation Warp Speed, the White House vaccine task force was “committed to implementing the (vaccine) plan and distributing medical countermeasures as fast as possible.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes it will spearhead distribution of the new vaccine when (hopefully rather than if) a safe and effective one is approved.
Health officials and lawmakers say they worry that without thorough planning and coordination with states, the vaccine distribution could be saddled with the same sort of disruptions that led to chronic shortages of coronavirus diagnostic tests and other medical supplies.
Senator Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the health program funding committee, said a poorly-executed rollout would mean “we will be sitting here two years from now, three years from now, in the same economic and health position we are today,” she said.
Donald Trump insists everything is in place.
“We’re all set to march when it comes to the vaccine,” Trump said at a White House briefing on Thursday. The details of that plan, if there is one, are opaque.
Three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020, the US Department of Justice has announced.
Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer, federal prosecutors said.
One defendant is a juvenile. With exceptions that do not apply to this case, juvenile proceedings in federal court are sealed to protect the identity of the juvenile. Pursuant to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, the Justice Department has referred the individual to the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida, the DoJ statement said.
Also, Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, of Bognor Regis, in the United Kingdom, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer, the DoJ reports.
“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said US Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived. Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it. In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”
“The hackers allegedly compromised over 100 social media accounts and scammed both the account users and others who sent money based on their fraudulent solicitations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Weeks ago, one of the world’s most prolific social media platforms came under attack. Various political leaders, celebrities, and influencers were virtually held hostage as their accounts were hacked,” said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge of the Washington DC field office.
“The public was confused, and everyone wanted answers. We can now start answering those questions.”
The cyber crimes unit “analyzed the blockchain and de-anonymized bitcoin transactions allowing for the identification of two different hackers. This case serves as a great example of how following the money, international collaboration, and public-private partnerships can work to successfully take down a perceived anonymous criminal enterprise,” agent Jackson said.
The Guardian’s coverage of the hacking news.
A federal appeals court has overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld much of Tsarnaev’s conviction but ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of, Reuters reports.
A spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is reviewing the decision and will have more to say “in the coming days and weeks.” A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then tried to flee the city.
We’ll bring the details as they come, but here is the bare news item.
Donald Trump spoke to the reporting pool at the White House earlier, before he departed for a trip to Florida. In the Cabinet Room the president and vice president, Mike Pence, sat with leadership of the National Association of Police Organizations.
The leading theme on the agenda appeared to be partisan division. Federal law enforcement agents under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security are in the process of withdrawing from Portland, Oregon, after clashes with protesters.
They had been very controversially dispatched there by the Trump administration ostensibly to guard the federal courthouse but have been witnessed plucking protesters off the streets and into unmarked vehicles and behaving, in the words of the Oregon governor Kate Brown, like an “occupying force”.
In the Cabinet Room earlier, Trump said the federal agents in Portland had been “strictly defensive”, which many local witnesses will dispute.
“They’re not allowed to be offensive unfortunately,” Trump said. There has been some tension between Black Lives Matter core peaceful protests and unwelcome fringe agitators infiltrating in Portland, as my colleague Chris McGreal has reported.
But Trump ups the ante, saying in sweeping terms that any issues in Portland have been caused by radical anarchists, “in many cases professionals”.
He pledged that: “If it doesn’t clean up we’re going to do something very powerful … we have no choice” and referred to an “offensive force”.
He said “left wing extremists have spread mayhem throughout the streets of different cities”, said his rival for the White House, Joe Biden, supports defunding the police (which Biden has disputed) and is now further left than Bernie Sanders, which would be a surprise to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Trump mentioned New York, Seattle, Milwaukee, and said: “As a result of the outrageous attacks on law enforcement violent crime has surged in certain Democrat run cities.
He said Chicago is “far worse than Afghanistan” and contrasted these places with “well run cities” that he said are “largely Republican.”
Here’s McGreal’s report from today. Things have calmed down considerably in Portland now the feds are leaving. Protests there have been going on daily since George Floyd, a Black American man, was killed in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer in May.
This headline rings a bell from July 16.
Twitter hack: accounts of prominent figures, including Biden, Musk, Obama, Gates and Kanye compromised.
My colleagues Julia Carrie Wong and Kari Paul wrote at the time that:
Twitter suffered a major security breach on Wednesday that saw hackers take control of the accounts of major public figures and corporations, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Apple.
The company confirmed the breach Wednesday evening, more than six hours after the hack began, and attributed it to a “coordinated social engineering attack” on its own employees that enabled the hackers to access “internal systems and tools”. Twitter said it was “looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed” in addition to using the compromised accounts to send tweets.
The hack unfolded over the course of several hours, and in the course of halting it, Twitter stopped all verified accounts from tweeting at all – an unprecedented measure. The company had restored most accounts by Wednesday evening, but warned that it “may take further actions”. The company said that it had also locked the compromised accounts and “taken steps to limit access to internal systems and tools” while it continues its investigation.
Well now there have been three arrests. More details to follow, per DoJ.
Florida has seen four successive days of record deaths from coronavirus.
The state has reported yet another record for Covid-19 deaths — 257 listed on Friday’s pandemic data report. Nearly 100 of the victims were from Miami-Dade County, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
The state has now had four consecutive days of reporting a new high mark of coronavirus fatalities. These are people who died within recent weeks, but finally confirmed by authorities tracking the state’s deadliest infectious disease.
For the entire month of July, Florida has reported 3,362 deaths from Covid-19 complications. For all of 2019, there were 2,703 deaths attributed to the flu and pneumonia in the state, the paper notes.
Public health experts say Florida should slowly improve in August, as the number of new Covid-19 cases has remained under 10,000 for six straight days.
Parts of South Florida remain under hurricane watch, relating to Hurricane Isaias, which is approaching from the south-east.
The paper has published an editorial, meanwhile, calling on governor Ron DeSantis to take more action to tackle the raging outbreak, with the headline “Help us out, Governor DeSantis, we’re dying.”
Donald Trump is on his way to Florida, a down-and-back trip to Tampa.
He has an event with Florida sheriffs, participates in a roundtable on Covid response and storm preparedness (as a hurricane barrels towards the coast), and speaks at a fundraiser at a golf club in nearby Belleair.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis is on his way to meet the president to request authorization for more troop assistance in the Covid-19 crisis, which is affecting the state badly (so badly that Trump has canceled the Republican National Convention that he was going to hold in Jacksonville, Florida, after moving it from North Carolina, in a summer of chaos).
Is this a first?
Donald Trump has praised Jim Jordan and Anthony Fauci in the same tweet after the congressional coronavirus hearing this morning.
Jordan is one of the president’s favorite congressional attack dogs, as a Republican representative of Ohio, who kept trying to goad Fauci into saying people shouldn’t protest and/or that the government should stop people protesting, because of the risk of spreading Covid. Fauci declined to take the bait.
And Fauci, the top US infectious disease public health experts who has served six presidents so far, told the hearing that the US must not rush to reopen without following federal health guidelines (which many states have failed to do).
But also told the hearing he is cautiously optimistic about the progress of US public-private research towards a vaccine and that the US could still (six months in) get control of the pandemic IF Americans wore masks in public, practiced social distancing, avoided crowds (especially bars), washed their hands and health authorities did more testing and contact tracing and had a steady decline in new cases before reopening.
It’s been a very lively morning in US politics news and we haven’t even got to some of it yet, such as what the president has been saying about federal law enforcement and protests.
Donald Trump will be on his way to Florida shortly, where the coronavirus surge is having a terrible impact. More on all this shortly, stay tuned.
Here’s what else has happened this morning:
- The House special committee on the coronavirus crisis finished its hearing a little while ago without any sign that there is a comprehensive national plan to bring the pandemic under control in America.
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters asserted that the death from coronavirus of Herman Cain, a past Republican presidential candidate and active surrogate for Donald Trump, stemmed from his attendance at the president’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month, where crowds eschewed masks. There is not confirmation or publicly-available proof of this.
- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said there was no deal with congressional leaders about further federal coronavirus economic aid, chiefly legislation to continue the $600 weekly supplementary payments keeping more than 30 million Americans’ heads above water. Payments expire today.
- America’s top public health expert Anthony Fauci assured Congress that any approved US vaccine for coronavirus will be safe and made available to all who need it, with one hopefully emerging by the end of the year.
- James Clyburn, Democratic congressman from South Carolina, and chairman of the special coronavirus House committee, said the Covid-19 pandemic is still “raging out of control” in the US.
The US is no closer to an agreed national grand plan for tackling the Covid-19 outbreak that has killed more than 150,000 people in America and is still “raging out of control”.
After questioning the public health experts on the White House coronavirus task force for more than three hours today, there is no change from what the special coronavirus House committee chairman James Clyburn said at the start of the day, when he slammed the Trump administration saying it had “still not developed and implemented a national strategy to protect the American people” after more than six months of the outbreak.
The top public health expert, Anthony Fauci, has contradicted Donald Trump on many fundamental aspects of the crisis this month, from decrying the president’s false promotion of anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid to reiterating repeatedly that everyone should wear a face mask when out and about, and that the virus is not under control and is not going away.
And assistant health secretary Brett Giroir, who was pretty quiet at today’s hearing, said last night on CNN that it was not acceptable that some people in the US who needed coronavirus testing still can’t get it, despite the president both boasting about US levels of testing and musing inaccurately that there would be fewer cases if there was less testing.
Fauci spoke to that point as raised by New York Democrat Nydia Velazquez at the hearing.
California internal medicine specialist Dr Jorge Rodriguez told CNN after the hearing that he believed the gap between the White House and public health scientists was dangerous and that the experts should speak out more loudly about this and the lack of a comprehensive national plan to bring Covid-19 under control.
Clearly the measured tones we hear from people like Fauci (who Rodriguez said he has known for a long time), the CDC’s Robert Redfield, Giroir and coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx are not strong enough for Rodriguez, even though Fauci has made dire predictions in public about the pandemic’s trajectory in the US if urgent action is not taken, Birx has decried hydroxy on TV and Redfield said the pandemic has brought America “to its knees”.
“They need to step up [further],” Rodriguez told CNN. “They are being muzzled.”
Coronavirus hearing chairman James Clyburn, of South Carolina, along with representative Nydia Velazquez, of New York, both Democrats, have decried the hugely disproportionate impact of coronavirus on African American and Latino communities across US hotspots.
This intersects so many layers of society, with Clyburn commenting that “our Black and brown communities already faced health and wealth disparities before this crisis”.
He quoted the famous line from Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 letter from Birmingham jail.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
My colleague Kenya Evelyn has written several vital articles on the issues.
And her article today is a must-read: