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Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301
Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for illegally delaying protection of the ashy storm petrel under the Endangered Species Act. The Service failed to make a 12-month finding on whether the ashy storm petrel, a rare California seabird imperiled by development and global warming, should be listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered. This decision was due by the agency on October 16, 2008.
"The ashy storm petrel is a barometer of the health of California's coastal waters," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity who has studied the ashy storm petrel as well as the effects of ocean climate change on California's seabirds. "The declines in its numbers and breeding success are indicative of the increasing stress to the coastal ocean from global warming, pollution, and development."
The ashy storm petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa) is a small, smoke-gray seabird that lives almost exclusively on the offshore islands and waters of California near San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. These waters are polluted and stressed by development, including offshore energy terminals, shipping traffic, commercial fishing, and oil spills, as well as by global warming. Faced with these multiple threats, the seabird has experienced sharp population declines in recent decades. The largest colony of ashy storm petrels decreased by 42 percent in 20 years, prompting the World Conservation Union and BirdLife International to list the species as endangered.
The marine ecosystem off the California coast is changing due to global warming, resulting in warmer, less productive waters with less food available for seabirds like the ashy storm petrel. Also, ocean acidification caused by the ocean's absorption of excess CO2 may lead to declines in the storm petrel's prey. Sea-level rise from global warming threatens to drown important breeding habitat for the bird in sea caves and on offshore rocks.
Fossil-fuel demand is also spurring the proliferation of proposed offshore liquefied natural gas terminals off California's coast, which not only increase pollution but also add artificial lighting at night. "Artificial light attracts nocturnally active seabirds such as the ashy storm petrel like moths to a flame, and the effects can be devastating," said Wolf. Instead of going about their natural foraging and breeding activities, storm petrels will continuously circle or collide with lighted structures at night, leading to exhaustion, injury, and even death.
The Endangered Species Act listing process was initiated by a scientific petition filed by the Center on October 15, 2007. On May 15, 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the ashy storm petrel may warrant listing and launched a full status review of the species. The next decision to determine whether the ashy storm petrel warrants listing was due on October 16, 2008.
"Protecting the ashy storm petrel under the Endangered Species Act will not only provide critical protections to this unique seabird," said Wolf, "but will also enhance the health of California's coastal ecosystem as a whole."
More information on the ashy storm petrel and a pdf of the petition are available at https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/ashy_storm-petrel/index.html
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.(520) 623-5252
On the heels of strike-authorization votes by American and Southwest pilots, United pilots protested at airports across the U.S. on Friday to tell management that "enough is enough."
Following what the Air Line Pilots Association called "more than four years of empty promises," 3,000 off-duty United Airlines pilots represented by the union protested at major airports across the U.S. on Friday, demanding the finalization of a contract with higher pay and humane scheduling practices.
"Thousands of United pilots are picketing coast-to-coast today to deliver management a message they cannot ignore: Enough is enough," Capt. Garth Thompson, chair of the United ALPA master executive council, said in a statement.
"United management needs to stop slow-rolling negotiations... and do the right thing for their pilots."
"We have been stuck with an antiquated scheduling system and a contract nowhere near industry-leading standards," said Thompson. "We want United to succeed as industry leaders, and every day that passes without an agreement is another day the best and brightest future aviators go elsewhere."
United pilots—joined by ALPA president Capt. Jason Ambrosi, fellow ALPA pilots, and union supporters—demonstrated in front of terminals at airports in 10 cities as well as outside the company's flight training center in Denver.
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president Sara Nelson was among those who participated in an act of solidarity.
"I am proud to stand here today to send United Airlines management a message that the airline's pilots have the full backing of their international union in their fight for the contract they have earned," said Ambrosi, who leads the 69,000-member union and joined a picket line in Chicago. "United management needs to stop slow-rolling negotiations that have dragged into their fifth year and do the right thing for their pilots."
Management has failed "to recognize the value pilots bring to the overall success of the airline," ALPA said. "United pilots were there for customers during one of the worst times for travel in recent history, and they also helped United Airlines emerge from the pandemic stronger than before."
Thompson, who called Friday's nationwide informational picket a "resounding success," stressed that "United pilots will always be there for our customers."
"Unfortunately," he added, "the same cannot be said about management, who seems to think that a last-minute cancellation of a United pilot's scheduled day off, or abrupt trip reassignments that extend into planned days off, is acceptable for a United pilot's family."
"This old pilot contract impacts our ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance," Thompson continued. "United pilots will deal with this adversity in our usual professional and safe manner. We will continue to work in 2023 despite staffing shortages in Air Traffic Control facilities, aggressive summer schedules, capacity constraints, and weather." However, he noted, "United pilots want the company and the public to know that the bold 'United Next' growth plans cannot work without an updated pilot contract."
"This old pilot contract impacts our ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance."
The action by United pilots comes in the wake of a pair of successful strike-authorization votes by pilots at other airlines.
On May 1, 95% of American Airlines pilots voted to authorize a strike. (Of the airline's 15,000 pilots, 96% participated, with 99% expressing support for a possible strike).
"We will strike if necessary to secure the industry-leading contract that our pilots have earned and deserve—a contract that will position American Airlines for success," said Capt. Ed Sicher, president of the Allied Pilots Association. "Our pilots' resolve is unmistakable. We will not be deterred from our goal of an industry-leading contract."
"The strike-authorization vote is one of several steps APA has taken to prepare for any eventuality and use all legal avenues available to us for contract improvement and resolution," Sicher noted. "The best outcome is for APA and management to agree on an industry-leading contract—achieved through good-faith bargaining—benefiting our pilots, American Airlines, and the passengers we serve."
On Thursday, 97% of Southwest pilots voted to authorize a strike. (Of the airline's 10,000-plus pilots, 98% participated, with 99% expressing support for a possible strike).
"This is a historic day, not only for our pilots but for Southwest Airlines," said Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. "The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point. Our pilots are tired of apologizing to our passengers."
Murray and other union leaders have attributed Southwest's meltdown last winter to executives' yearslong refusal to invest in much-needed technological upgrades despite benefiting from billions of dollars in federal aid during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We want our passengers to understand that we do not take this path lightly," Murray said Thursday. "We want our customers to be prepared for the path ahead and make arrangements on other carriers so that their plans through the summer and fall are not disrupted."
United's 14,000 pilots could be next in line to vote on strike authorization.
As The Associated Pressreported Saturday, "Pilots at all three carriers are looking to match or beat the deal that Delta Air Lines reached with its pilots earlier this year, which raised pay rates by 34% over four years."
"United has proposed to match the Delta increase, but that might not be enough for a deal," AP observed. Citing Thompson, the outlet noted that "discussion about wages has been held up while the two sides negotiate over scheduling, including the union’s wish to limit United's ability to make pilots work on their days off."
The nation's pilots "are unlikely to strike anytime soon, however," AP reported. "Federal law makes it very difficult for unions to conduct strikes in the airline industry, and the last walkout at a U.S. carrier was more than a decade ago."
"Under U.S. law, airline and railroad workers can't legally strike, and companies can't lock them out, until federal mediators determine that further negotiations are pointless," the outlet explained. It continued:
The National Mediation Board rarely declares a dead end to bargaining, and even if it does, there is a no-strikes "cooling-off" period during which the White House and Congress can block a walkout. That's what President Bill Clinton did minutes after pilots began striking against American in 1997. In December, President Joe Biden signed a bill that Congress passed to impose contract terms on freight railroad workers, ending a strike threat.
Regardless of the legal hurdles to a walkout, unions believe that strike votes give them leverage during bargaining, and they have become more common. A shortage of pilots is also putting those unions in particularly strong bargaining position.
Although Congress is highly unlikely to permit an airline strike, disgruntled pilots could still cause disruption through "work to rule," Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University, told AP.
"They could say, 'We're not working any overtime,'" said Wheaton. "I don't anticipate the pilots trying to screw up travel for everybody intentionally, but bargaining is about leverage and power... having the ability to do that can be a negotiating tactic."
The Honduran foreign minister said his government is in contact with the family of the teen who died and "has requested that ORR and HHS carry out an exhaustive investigation of the case... and, if there is any responsibility, apply the full weight of the law."
After the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday confirmed that a 17-year-old Honduran in the United States without a parent or guardian died in government custody earlier this week, CBS Newsrevealed another recent death.
"CBS News learned that a 4-year-old child from Honduras in HHS custody died in March after being hospitalized for cardiac arrest in Michigan," according to the outlet. "The child, whose death has not been previously reported, was 'medically fragile,' HHS said in a notification to lawmakers at the time."
Meanwhile, CNNobtained the congressional notice for the 17-year-old, who was under the care of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and placed at Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services in Safety Harbor, Florida, on May 5.
As CNN detailed:
The teen was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor Wednesday morning after being found unconscious. He was pronounced dead an hour later despite resuscitation attempts.
The minor's parents and sponsor have been notified, according to the notice. An investigation by a medical examiner is underway and ORR said it will continue to receive more information on the death from the care provider.
CBS News reported that a U.S. official said there was "no altercation of any kind" involved in the teenage boy's death.
Honduras' foreign minister, Eduardo Enrique Reina, wrote in a series of tweets Thursday night that his government "regrets and offers its condolences for the death of the 17-year-old," whom he identified.
The Honduran government "is in contact with the family and has requested that ORR and HHS carry out an exhaustive investigation of the case... and, if there is any responsibility, apply the full weight of the law," he said, adding that the death "underscores the importance of working together on the bilateral migration agenda on the situation of unaccompanied minors, to find solutions."
HHS said Friday that it "is deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our heart goes out to the family, with whom we are in touch."
The ORR Division of Health for Unaccompanied Children "is reviewing all clinical details of this case, including all inpatient healthcare records," which "is standard practice for any situation involving the death of an unaccompanied child or a serious health outcome," HHS continued. "A medical examiner investigation is underway. Due to privacy and safety reasons, ORR cannot share further information on individual cases of children who have been in our care."
\u201cAsked about the 17-year-old migrant child who died in U.S. custody in Florida, White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre says a medical investigation is underway:\n\n\u201cOur hearts go out to the family ... I haven\u2019t actually spoken to the president about this.\u201d\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1683917903
The Tampa Bay Timesreported that Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the District Six Medical Examiner Office, "said further details of the boy's death could not be released due to the ongoing investigation" while "the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office confirmed the active case and declined to release records."
The newspaper also noted that the death "is complicated by an ongoing dispute between the federal government and Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration, which in December 2021 announced that Florida will no longer license shelters that house migrant children."
DeSantis, a Republican expected to challenge former President Donald Trump for their party's 2024 presidential nomination, has gained national attention for his hostility toward migrants, from a widely condemned bill he signed into law on Wednesday to his role in flying South Americans to Martha's Vineyard last year.
Although the DeSantis administration's shelter decision enables Florida facilities "to operate without a license or state oversight," the Times explained Friday, HHS said that ORR still requires the sites to meet licensing standards and conducts its own monitoring and evaluation "to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care."
The newly revealed deaths are rare, relative to the number of unaccompanied minors that enter the country. According to CBS: "Over an eight-month span in 2018 and 2019, six children died in U.S. custody or shortly after being released, including a 10-year-old girl who died while in the care of ORR. Her death was the first of a child in U.S. custody since 2010, officials said at the time."
\u201cThis death of a migrant CHILD in federal custody always mattered to the public under Trump. Under this administration, it hardly registers. Shameful.\u201d— Aura Bogado (@Aura Bogado) 1683907979
Reporting on both Honduran children's deaths comes as the U.S. government rolls out controversial migrant policies in response to the expiration of Title 42, which was invoked by the administrations of both Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden to deport millions of asylum-seekers under the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After Biden's policies were announced last month, the International Refugee Assistance Project said that it "welcomes the expansion of family reunification parole programs and refugee processing in the Americas, but strongly opposes doing so as a trade-off for limiting the legal rights of people seeking asylum in the United States."
On Thursday, the ACLU, the civil liberties group's Northern California branch, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center filed a legal challenge to the asylum ban in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
"The Biden administration's new ban places vulnerable asylum-seekers in grave danger and violates U.S. asylum laws. We've been down this road before with Trump," said Katrina Eiland, managing attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "The asylum bans were cruel and illegal then, and nothing has changed now."
"All Californians should be relieved that this permit request has been withdrawn for the foreseeable future," said one Friends of the Earth project manager.
In what green groups on Friday called "a victory for environmentalists, scientists, and vulnerable agricultural communities across California," state officials announced a day earlier that a controversial release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Central Valley has been suspended.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) said Thursday that Oxitec, a U.S.-owned, U.K.-based biotechnology company that develops genetically engineered (GE) insects, withdrew a research authorization application to conduct a field pilot test of a new type ofAedes aegypti, a mosquito species that in its natural form can spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro and yellow fever viruses, and other disease agents.
Oxitec, which touts its GE mosquitoes as "an alternative to the use of conventional pesticides," planned to study the insects' efficacy at reducing the current Aedes aegypti population in Tulare County.
"The withdrawal of Oxitec's application is a victory for California residents and wild species," Rebecca Spector, West Coast director at Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. "This withdrawal is in line with leaders from our state Legislature who demanded a more comprehensive review of the impacts of these genetically engineered mosquitoes before the approval of this permit."
\u201cVICTORY: The @CA_PesticideReg announced yesterday the withdrawal of a permit request for a mass release of experimental #GE #mosquitoes in the Central Valley.\ud83e\udd9f\ud83d\udeab\nThe withdrawal halts the controversial proposed release of billions of GE insects. More \u2935\ufe0f\nhttps://t.co/kj7b76nFyx\u201d— Center for Food Safety (@Center for Food Safety) 1683922287
According to the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE), which opposed what it called a "risky insect mass release":
The withdrawal of the biotech corporation Oxitec's request halts the controversial proposed release of billions of genetically engineered insects. Scientists and other experts in the field have raised concerns about Oxitec's proposal to release genetically engineered mosquitoes due to inadequate scientific review and lack of appropriate and relevant regulations, pressuring the company to disclose data critical to assessing potential public health and environmental impacts...
In separate letters to DPR earlier this year, scientists and legislators urged DPR to deny the Oxitec permit because of concerns about risks posed to human health, wildlife, and vulnerable ecosystems, and the lack of regulations to control billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes released into an open-air environment.
"All Californians should be relieved that this permit request has been withdrawn for the foreseeable future," FOE senior project manager Dana Perls said in a statement. "Significant scientific research on genetically engineered mosquitoes is still needed to understand the potential public health and environmental threats associated with the release of this novel genetically engineered insect."
\u201c\u201cSignificant scientific research on genetically engineered mosquitoes is still needed to understand the potential public health and environmental threats associated with the release of this novel genetically engineered insect.\u201d\n\n#GMO \n\nhttps://t.co/5L6pftDfR0\u201d— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action)) 1683921661
Last November, California state Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-44)said that "there are too many unknown factors when it comes to how [GE mosquitoes] could affect our biodiversity in the long run, including how this might influence populations of birds, bats, fish species, and other insects."
An unusually wet winter and subsequent spring snow melt and flooding have led to elevated levels of standing water and ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes, leaving Central Valley officials worried about the spread of diseases.
\u201cThe recent flooding that has impacted most of California has created a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes. \nCal OES wants everyone to enjoy the warmer weather but also be aware of the dangers that may come from mosquitoes. To learn more visit: https://t.co/hOaFgGeanr\u201d— California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (@California Governor's Office of Emergency Services) 1683906472
"It's kind of unprecedented, the level of probably mosquito production we're gonna see this year with all the water," Michael Cavanagh, district manager of Kings Mosquito Abatement District, toldKFSN. "So there's a natural link, I think, to potential disease transmission, the West Nile virus and some of the other diseases that mosquitoes carry."