Alaska's wildlife refuge could see some changes.
Yesterday, the Trump admin cleared the way for companies to drill for oil and gas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – overturning decades of protections there. As the largest stretch of wilderness in the US, the refuge covers 19 million acres and is home to wildlife like polar bears and caribou. Now, companies will be able to lease the land to drill for fossil fuels in about eight years.
Environmentalists and some Alaska Native groups are promising to sue, saying the changes pose a risk to wildlife and climate change. And several major banks have refused to finance the program. But the Trump admin says 'what we're doing is legal.' And that the move would help the US become energy efficient and potentially "create thousands of new jobs." Alaska's members of Congress are on board, too.
This move is the latest of the Trump admin's efforts to roll back at least 100 environmental rules. But while the admin says this will help workers and businesses, it appears to be headed toward a court battle. And it could become an issue on the campaign trail, since Joe Biden has called to permanently protect the refuge.
The Mauritius oil spill is getting worse.
Earlier this month, a stranded Japanese-owned ship began leaking fuel into the Indian Ocean, near the island of Mauritius. Since then, at least 1,000 tons of fuel have leaked into the sea – home to endangered wildlife. Mauritius has declared an environmental emergency and locals have tried to contain the spill with makeshift barriers. But recent satellite imagery reportedly shows the spill area has gotten more than eight times larger since the leak started.
Since the spill, officials pumped the remaining oil off the ship. And Japan said it's sending teams of experts to help clean up the waters. Last week, France also stepped in to help, sending a team of advisers and an aircraft to contain the spill.
Oil spills are known to endanger and kill wildlife, even a decade post-cleanup (remember the BP spill in 2010?). Mauritius depends heavily on tourism. And this spill could have a long-lasting impact on both the environment and on people's livelihoods, adding to the country's struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The DNC. Yesterday, it kicked off its four-day virtual convention. With lots of video montages. The message: unity amid a struggling economy, a global pandemic, and calls for racial justice. George Floyd's brothers led a moment of silence for Floyd and others "lost to hate and injustice." Democrats brought in supporters from across the political spectrum. That included Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – presumptive nominee Joe Biden's former rival – who appealed to progressives to "come together" with Biden. And Republicans – including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich – who said the US is (literally) at a crossroads. Former first lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote. She pushed voter turnout (including with her accessories) and called Trump "the wrong president for this country." On tap for tonight: The Dems' "rising stars" including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
...Oh and speaking of the DNC, Cardi B isn't waiting until Thursday to hear from (Joe) Biden so she gave him a ring.
The USPS. Yesterday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee next week about his controversial changes at the Postal Service. He's facing scrutiny for cutting overtime and changing delivery policies in the middle of a pandemic. That's led to mail delays in several states, and has ignited warnings of voter disenfranchisement ahead of the November election. DeJoy has said the moves are to save the agency money, but House lawmakers don't buy it. And are expected to vote on a bill as soon as this weekend to reverse the changes.
COVID-19. New studies show that having the coronavirus could lead to strong, lasting immunity – even in people who had mild cases. Scientists have found antibodies months after a person has recovered from the virus. And said it could be the reason there's been little evidence of recurring COVID-19 cases. Still, scientists say more research is needed. Meanwhile, students and teachers at UNC-Chapel Hill are saying goodbye to in-person classes...after just one week. At least 130 students have tested positive for COVID-19. Now, the university is saying 'see you on Zoom.'
Washington's NFL team. Yesterday, it welcomed former NFL running back Jason Wright as the team's new president, making him the first Black team president in the league's history. Dan Snyder – the team's owner – said Wright will "set new standards" for the organization after it's gone through some major changes this year.
Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Ellen Burke, Niven McCall-Mazza, Clem Robineau, and Julie Shain
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Feb 11 | Former President Trump's impeachment trial continues.
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