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Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682, x 308
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced new stock assessments for manatees that puts the population of Florida manatees at about 3,800 and a Puerto Rico population at 72. The stock assessment reports resulted from a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity that sought updated assessments, since the Service had flouted its duty under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to publish yearly reports for more than a decade.
Manatees are large marine mammals that live in estuaries, bays, and rivers. They require warm waters and tend to gather around warm springs or other sources of warm water. They grow to be about nine feet long and weigh about 1,000 pounds. They are slow-moving and gentle and graze for food along the sea floor and surface. Manatees are herbivores, eating aquatic plants such as sea grasses.
According to the Service's stock assessment report on the Florida manatee population, each year about 87 manatees are killed by humans in the state. This is more than seven times number of manatees that the Service estimates can be killed without impairing the species' recovery. Boats are the primary threat to manatees, which are frequently struck and killed or seriously injured by speeding vessels. Almost 90 percent of the manatees killed by humans were a result of such boat strikes. Manatees are also threatened by water diversion structures, such as dams, and entanglement in marine debris, including derelict fishing gear.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service's data shows us that boats are carelessly killing manatees," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "It is clear that there is too little being done to protect these endangered manatees in Florida."
While the threats to manatees are undisputed, the stock assessment reports are somewhat controversial. The Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the advice of the Atlantic Scientific Review Group, which reviews the manatee reports, that there should have been separate stock assessments for different Florida manatee subpopulations. Florida manatees are managed as four distinct regional management units: the Atlantic Coast, Florida Keys, lower St. Johns River, and upper St. Johns River. According to the Scientific Review Group, manatees in each of the regions are exposed to different threats, and some have different population trends; for example, the Florida Keys unit is declining, while other populations are stable or increasing.
"The one thing that everyone should be able to agree upon is that manatees in Florida and Puerto Rico need additional protections from boat collisions to provide the best possible conditions for the conservation and recovery of manatees," said Sakashita.
Stock assessments are required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are meant to be used as the basis for management decisions such as those permitting the killing or harassment of the animals by commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration, boating and shipping, and military exercises.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on the draft stock assessment reports until September 10, 2009.
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
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project."
California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday accused Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis of duplicitously sending a group of South American migrants to Sacramento in a bid to score "cheap political points."
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it," Bonta, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times. "The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work."
"It's DeSantis being exactly who he is and advertising to the world that he is petty, little... and full of political stunts that hurt, harm, and abuse and exploit people to try and get cheap political points," he added. "It's wrong."
Bonta's remarks were based on documents the 16 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were carrying that showed the chartered flight they took from New Mexico to Sacramento was coordinated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Vertol Systems has arranged similar flights in the past, including the September 2022 transportation of a large group of Venezuelan and Colombian migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
"Human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
According to the faith-based community organizing group PICO California, the 16 South Americans were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas by representatives of a private contractor who promised them jobs and other assistance. The group was bused from El Paso to New Mexico and then flown to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday night outside the city's main Catholic church.
"They were lied to and deceived," PICO campaign director Eddie Carmona told the Associated Press.
\u201cPICO CA ardently condemns the actions that led to 16 of our immigrant brothers & sisters being transported across the country under false pretenses. We are grateful to our Sac community @SacramentoACT for showing up with radical compassion. https://t.co/3mAyDzHde7\u201d— PICO California (@PICO California) 1685836583
Bonta told the Times that "they never intended to help them find a job but told them that they would do that so they could get on the plane and sign their documents and be transported to Sacramento."
"They completely exploited, abused, and manipulated these folks who were vulnerable and were hoping and dreaming of a job and told they would be helped finding that job only to be abandoned," he added.
Cecilia Flores, narrative and communications strategist at the multi-faith advocacy group Sacramento Area Congregations Together, toldKCRA that the migrants are "in shock."
"I think they're very exhausted," she added. "I think they are just trying to catch up with processing exactly what happened."
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told the Times that "the urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill."
"We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned," he added.
\u201cAn investigation is underway after over a dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento, CA by private jet with no prior arrangement or care in place and documentation \u201cpurporting to be from the government of the State of Florida."\n\nUsing people as pawns -- again.\nhttps://t.co/YJQj6uqrbf\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1685896011
Bonta and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newson said Saturday that they met with around a dozen of the affected migrants. Bonta said the California Department of Justice is investigating who paid for their flight and whether any laws were broken.
"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement. "We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings."
"California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience," he added.
\u201cToday I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place.\n\nWe are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California.\u201d— Rob Bonta (@Rob Bonta) 1685845344
Democratic Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also issued a statement Saturday asserting that "human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
"I urge the appropriate authorities to investigate how 16 vulnerable people were lured to travel from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento," he added. "Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?"
DeSantis, along with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey, Arizona's former GOP governor, have bused or flown more than 12,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities since April to protest what they falsely call the Biden administration's "open border" immigration policies.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has recently authorized $22 million for DeSantis' program of sending migrants to sanctuary states and cities.
"It's become apparent that no corporation or CEO is going to save local news, it's up to journalists to preserve our industry and our democracy," said unionized journalists at The Arizona Republic.
As shareholders gathered at the annual meeting of Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the United States following a 2019 merger, hundreds of unionized employees from across the country walked off the job on Monday to demand investors take action against what the journalists say is corporate greed at the top of the organization.
The journalists, who are represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America (CWA), say CEO and chairman Mike Reed has overseen the gutting of local newsrooms across the country at Gannett's more than 300 publications, jeopardizing readers' access to local news and threatening the livelihoods of reporters while Reed collects a multi-million-dollar salary.
With the walkout, the unionized employees are calling on shareholders to hold a no-confidence vote against Reed.
In a letter to investors last month, the NewsGuild-CWA argued that Reed has "failed shareholders" by taking on debt with high interest rates when Gannett merged with GateHouse Media in 2019.
While taking home a $7.7 million salary in in 2021 and $3.4 million last year, Reed has "maintained a compensation policy that is forcing many of our journalists to seek work elsewhere," the union wrote.
"From a shareholder perspective, these cuts to local news reporters and local news don't just weaken civil society, they diminish the future of that company in the community."
"He has reduced local content by relying on wire service and regional stories [and] cut newsroom staff," the NewsGuild said. "As a result, our communities are not being served and our employees are demoralized. Therefore, we believe it is time for a change in leadership: a clear vote of no-confidence in a guy who has weakened our company, forsaken the towns and cities where we have outlets, and impoverished shareholders."
In order to cut costs to service the company's debt, The New York Times reported Monday, Gannett has cut its workforce nearly in half since 2019. The Austin American-Statesman now has 41 newsroom employees, down from 110 before the merger. The Milwaukee Sentinel's staff has been cut from 104 to 83 in that time period; The South Bend Tribune's was cut from 45 to just 14 in South Bend, Indiana; and The Arizona Republic in Phoenix has cut its workforce from 140 to 89.
Gannett has also closed dozens of newspapers entirely, including six weekly publications in the Akron, Ohio area this past February and four papers in Northern Kentucky last year.
Cost-cutting measures have left readers of The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York without a business section; The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida without dedicated reporters focusing on the environment or city government; and just one reporter at TheAmerican-Statesman covering issues related to City Hall, Travis County, transportation, and public safety.
"We know what happens to communities when the light from news outlets dims,"
said the NewsGuild last month. "Political extremism can surge, corruption has fewer watchdogs, high school sports have fewer chroniclers, corporate misconduct has fewer witnesses, and municipal borrowing costs can rise. From a shareholder perspective, these cuts to local news reporters and local news don't just weaken civil society, they diminish the future of that company in the community."
The shareholder meeting and walkout come five months after Gannett laid of 6% of its 3,440-employee media division.
Richard Ruelas, a columnist at The Arizona Republic, organized a crowd-sourced fundraiser to support employees as they stage the walkout, which they plan to continue on Tuesday at the newspaper.
While cutting jobs across the company, said the
Arizona Republic Guild, Gannett officials have refused to provide remaining journalists with fair wages and working conditions.
\u201cGannett claims it's going to "save journalism." We're not sure how overworking and underpaying journalists accomplishes that goal.\n\nIt's become apparent that no corporation or CEO is going to save local news, it's up to journalists to preserve our industry and our democracy.\u201d— Arizona Republic Guild \ud83c\udf35 (@Arizona Republic Guild \ud83c\udf35) 1685630391
"After over three years of bargaining and repeated unfair labor practices, it's also become apparent that asking nicely isn't going to get us fair wages, benefits and protections for our newsroom, and that Gannett has no intention to bargain over these issues in good faith,"
said the union.
According to Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild, Reed oversaw a "complete farce" at the shareholder meeting on Monday, ending the conference after just eight minutes and refusing to take questions.
"What a complete joke. Mike Reed needs to go,"
said Schleuss. "He has no ability to lead Gannett and no ability to be accountable to journalists or shareholders."
"We are now at a crossroads between being an authoritarian and a democratic country," said one activist.
An estimated 500,000 people took to the streets of the capital Warsaw and other Polish cities on Sunday to protest the nation's far-right government, which has assailed reproductive freedoms, attacked the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and cracked down on critical civil society groups and media outlets.
Sunday's march against the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party—which has held power since 2015—was called by former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who is leading the Civic Platform opposition party into an expected October general election.
"Here's my pledge to you today: We are going to win this election and hold PiS accountable," Tusk told a crowd gathered in Warsaw.
The Associated Pressreported that "the passage of a contentious law last month seems to have mobilized greater support for Tusk."
The law, signed by right-wing President Andrzej Duda, "allows for the creation of a commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland," AP noted. "Critics argue that it would have unconstitutional powers, including the capacity to exclude officials from public life for a decade. They fear it will be used by the ruling party to remove Tusk and other opponents from public life."
Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, a lawyer and rights activist, toldThe Guardian ahead of Sunday's protests that the new measure "is against Tusk but we can all be targeted by this law, because they will not hesitate to use it against anyone."
"It is the culmination of the authoritarian system developed in Poland over the past eight years. We are now at a crossroads between being an authoritarian and a democratic country.”
\u201cPierwszym krokiem do zrzucenia niewoli jest by\u0107 odwa\u017cnym, aby by\u0107 wolnym. Pierwszym krokiem do zwyci\u0119stwa jest pozna\u0107 si\u0119 na w\u0142asnej sile.\n\nJeste\u015bmy tutaj dzisiaj, \u017ceby ca\u0142a Polska, ca\u0142a Europa, ca\u0142y \u015bwiat, \u017ceby wszyscy zobaczyli, jak jeste\u015bmy silni!\u201d— Donald Tusk (@Donald Tusk) 1685878134
Described as among the largest political demonstrations in Poland in decades, Sunday's march came amid growing alarm over the Polish government's ongoing assault on basic rights.
As Amnesty Internationalsummarized in its 2022 report on the country: "Access to abortion was further limited. Criminal charges were used to curtail freedom of expression. The authorities continued to erode the independence of the judiciary. Freedom of peaceful assembly was restricted. Violations of LGBTI rights persisted. Positive moves were made to accommodate between 1 and 2 million refugees from Ukraine, although official hostility continued towards refugees and migrants who arrived since 2021 via Belarus."