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Collette Adkins Giese, (651) 955-3821
More than 200 scientists sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today expressing support for an Endangered Species Act petition filed this summer by the Center for Biological Diversity and several renowned scientists and herpetologists, including E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Lannoo. The petition, the largest ever filed targeting amphibians and reptiles, seeks federal protection for 53 species of turtles, snakes, toads, frogs, lizards and salamanders found across 45 states.
"There's broad scientific consensus that amphibians and reptiles face a profound, human-driven extinction crisis," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer focused on protecting herpetofauna. "The surest way to ensure our country's rarest turtles, frogs and salamanders have a future is to give them Endangered Species Act protection."
The signatories to the letter -- which states that the petitioned animals deserve a Fish and Wildlife Service status review because they face threats like habitat loss, pollution, introduced predators and climate change -- are herpetologists, biologists, ecologists and other scientists with collective expertise on amphibians and reptiles.
The 450-page listing petition, filed July 11, asked the Service to provide Endangered Species Act protection for six turtles, seven snakes, two toads, four frogs, 10 lizards and 24 salamanders. It detailed their status and the threats to their survival.
"We will get serious -- scientists and general public alike -- about preserving the diversity of life on Earth only when we have precise knowledge of individual species like those in this petition," said Edward O. Wilson, a distinguished Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. "Future generations will think badly of us if, through ignorance and inaction, we let die this part of their natural heritage."
Although amphibians and reptiles have been around for hundreds of millions of years and survived every major extinction period, now, due largely to human impacts, they're dying off at up to 10,000 times the historic extinction rate. This loss is alarming because they play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems and are valuable indicators of environmental health.
Among the species in the petition are the alligator snapping turtle in the Southeast, the wood turtle in the Northeast, Florida's Key ringneck snake, the Illinois chorus frog, the Pacific Northwest's Cascade torrent salamander and California's western spadefoot toad. View an interactive state-by-state map showing where the petitioned species live and download photos for media use.
The Fish and Wildlife Service must determine within 90 days whether the petition has merit and make a decision about protection within a year.
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
"Right now, a Wall Street CEO who makes $30 million pays the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $160,000 a year," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Our bill puts an end to that absurdity."
As congressional Republicans threaten to cut Social Security and other key federal programs, progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren led a group of lawmakers Monday in unveiling legislation that would increase Social Security benefits by at least $200 per month and prolong the program's solvency for decades by finally requiring wealthy Americans to pay their fair share.
The Social Security Expansion Act, introduced by Sanders (I-Vt.) and Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate and by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Val Hoyle (D-Ore.) in the House, would put an additional $2,400 in beneficiaries' pockets each year and ensure the program is fully funded through 2096.
The bill would accomplish this by lifting the cap on the maximum amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax—a change that would not raise taxes on the 93% of U.S. households that make $250,000 or less per year, according to an analysis conducted by the Social Security Administration at the request of Sanders.
Currently, annual earnings above $160,200 are not subject to the Social Security payroll tax, which means that millionaires will stop contributing to the program later this month. The legislation proposes lifting this cap and subjecting all income above $250,000 per year to the Social Security payroll tax. If enacted, the bill would have raised more than $3.4 billion from the nation's top 11 highest-paid CEOs alone in 2021, including $2.9 billion from Tesla and Twitter executive Elon Musk.
"The legislation that we are introducing today will expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year and will extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 75 years."
"At a time when nearly half of older Americans have no retirement savings and almost 50% of our nation's seniors are trying to survive on an income of less than $25,000 a year, our job is not to cut Social Security," Sanders said in a statement.
“Our job is to expand Social Security so that every senior in America can retire with the dignity that they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need," the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions continued. "The legislation that we are introducing today will expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year and will extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 75 years by making sure that the wealthiest people in our society pay their fair share into the system."
"Right now, a Wall Street CEO who makes $30 million pays the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $160,000 a year," the Vermont Independent added. "Our bill puts an end to that absurdity which will allow us to protect Social Security for generations to come while lifting millions of seniors out of poverty."
As Sanders' office noted:
Before 1935, when it was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, about 50% of the nation's seniors were living in poverty, as well as countless Americans living with disabilities and surviving dependents of deceased workers. Nearly 90 years later, the senior poverty rate is down to 10.3% and in 2021 alone, during the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, Social Security lifted 26.3 million Americans out of poverty, including more than 18 million seniors.
Despite this long legacy of combatting poverty, more must be done to strengthen the program, not cut it. While the average Social Security benefit is only $1,688 a month, nearly 40% of seniors rely on Social Security for a majority of their income; one in seven rely on it for more than 90% of their income; and nearly half of Americans aged 55 and older have no retirement savings at all.
Schakowsky warned that "instead of working to protect Social Security, my Republican colleagues are plotting to cut benefits and raise the retirement age."
Contrary to the claims of GOP lawmakers who are clamoring to slash benefits and postpone eligibility, the latest annual Social Security trustees report showed that the program has a $2.85 trillion surplus in its trust fund, enabling it to pay 100% of promised benefits through 2035, 90% for the next 25 years, and 80% for the next 75 years.
"While House Republicans are willing to put Social Security on the chopping block, we are fighting hard to protect Americans' hard-earned benefits and expand coverage," said Hoyle. "With the rising cost of living, it's time to modernize and expand the program."
"While House Republicans are willing to put Social Security on the chopping block, we are fighting hard to protect Americans' hard-earned benefits and expand coverage."
In addition to lifting the tax cap to boost benefits by $200 each month for all recipients, the Social Security Expansion Act would increase Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments by adopting a more accurate measure of inflation, improve the Special Minimum Benefit to help keep low-income workers out of poverty, and restore student benefits up to age 22 for children of disabled or deceased workers.
Endorsed by 56 labor unions and progressive advocacy groups, the legislation is overwhelmingly popular among voters, who have consistently expressed opposition to cutting or privatizing Social Security.
According to polling results published Monday by Data for Progress, 78% of likely voters support the Social Security Expansion Act, including 85% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans. The survey, commissioned by Social Security Works, was conducted online from January 27 to January 30.
"Social Security Works is proud to endorse the Social Security Expansion Act," the group's executive director, Alex Lawson, said in a statement. "This bill is the answer to any politician or pundit who claims we 'can't afford' Social Security. It protects and expands benefits, and it is fully paid for by finally requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share."
"During the State of the Union, nearly every member of Congress stood and clapped for protecting seniors," Lawson noted. "They should prove it by passing this bill into law."
"I do not think we should accept it as 'normal' in our society that billionaires get massive tax breaks while teachers in this country have to work a second job just to make ends meet," said the senator.
"I do not think we should accept it as 'normal' in our society that billionaires get massive tax breaks while teachers in this country have to work a second job just to make ends meet," said the Vermont Independent senator. "We must pay all teachers in America at least $60,000."
Raise Teacher Pay NOWwww.youtube.com
Sanders will be joined by four public school teachers, National Education Association (NEA) President Rebecca Pringle, and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten at Monday evening's town hall.
The event, titled "Respecting our Teachers: A Town Hall on the Teacher Pay Crisis in America," will place at the U.S. Capitol and streaming at the senator's Twitter and Facebook pages, starting at 7:15 p.m. ET.
\u201cTONIGHT: Tune in at 7:15 p.m. ET for a livestreamed town hall on the teacher pay crisis in America. I will be joined by NEA President @BeckyPringle and AFT President @rweingarten, among other educators and teachers.\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1676309253
"In the richest country in the history of the world, each and every person must be able to get the education they need to fulfill their dreams," said Sanders. "That means we need the best education system in the world, and that means we need the best teachers. Teachers have one of the toughest and most demanding jobs, and we must stand up and support them."
A poll taken last year by the NEA found that more than half of teachers in the U.S. were considering leaving their profession—a statistic Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, called "unconscionable."
Every state across the U.S. is currently reporting teacher shortages, and the senator pointed to "the fact that mostschool districts and states do not provide teachers with a livable and competitive wage" as a key reason for educators' departures from the profession.
According to the NEA, teachers in the U.S. now make $2,150 less than they did a decade ago, adjusted for inflation. During the 2020-21 school year, starting teacher salaries were at their lowest level since the Great Recession.
"Research hasfound that teachers are one of the most important factors in improving students' outcomes, and our nation has much work to do to ensure all students are taught by fully qualified and well-compensated teachers," said Sanders' office in a press release.
Noting Sanders' new position chairing the Senate HELP Committee, Weingarten said ahead of the town hall that the senator "is in the perfect position to do great things for workers across the country."
"Young people in the U.S. are collectively experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act," reads the study.
Child development experts and other advocates said Monday that new federal data regarding the struggles of adolescents in the United States should serve as an urgent call to action, as teenage girls reported facing rising levels of sexual violence as well as suicidal thoughts and depression in a survey taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC's biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was given to 17,000 teenagers at public and private high schools across the U.S. in 2021, found that nearly 1 in 3 adolescent girls seriously considered suicide that year—representing an increase of 60% over the previous decade.
Thirteen percent said they had attempted suicide in the past year, while 7% of boys reported the same, and 57% of girls said they felt persistently sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row—"a possible indication of the experience of depressive symptoms," according to the CDC report.
"If you think about every 10 teen girls that you know, at least one and possibly more has been raped, and that is the highest level we've ever seen."
Among teenagers the CDC identified as LGBQ+, 69% reported feeling persistent sadness for at least two weeks in a row. The study did not specifically address the challenges faced by transgender students.
Twenty-two percent of LGBQ+ adolescents said they had attempted suicide.
Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, toldThe Washington Post that high rates of depression and suicidal ideation among teenage girls was "almost certainly" linked to another finding in the survey: 14% of girls reported that they had been forced to have sex—an increase of 27% since the last time the survey was taken in 2019.
The rate of sexual assault was even higher among LGBQ+ teenagers, with 20% reporting they had been forced to have sex.
Regarding the hopelessness and desperation evident among LGBQ+ teenagers, Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of adolescent medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital said he was "sadly" unsurprised, considering the wave of legislative attacks on transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans, including youths.
"When we legislate against LGBTQ+ teens & their families, they're listening, internalizing, and struggling," said Hadland.
\u201cNew CDC data out today: 1 in 5 lesbian, gay, bisexual teens attempted suicide in 2021. Rates in trans youth may be even higher.\n\nSadly, this doesn't surprise me. When we legislate against LGBTQ+ teens & their families, they're listening, internalizing, and struggling.\u201d— Scott Hadland, MD (@Scott Hadland, MD) 1676315621
Educator and advocate Cathy Davidson pointed out that depression, suicidal ideation, and increased sexual violence directed at girls all come amid "assaults on women's rights to their bodies" in state legislatures across the country. Dozens of abortion restrictions were imposed in 2021.
\u201cCould there really have been study of the huge rise in sexual violence, depression, suicidal thoughts by young girls without any mention of the Handmaid's Tale-esque assaults on women's rights to their bodies, via SCOTUS and state legislatures? Really? https://t.co/GeivkrtNuG\u201d— Cathy Davidson (@Cathy Davidson) 1676311563
The study did not include an accounting of what is behind the rise in sexual violence against teens, be it violence happening at home, at school, or in intimate relationships.
"It's really important to disentangle the relationships between the perpetrators and the victim-survivors to better understand the reasons why," Heather Hlavka, an associate professor of criminology and law studies at Marquette University, told The Post.
The CDC's recommendations focused on what policymakers and schools can do to better support teenagers, including implementing quality health education, improving school-based services for students who are struggling, and increasing school connectedness by providing "with social and emotional learning programs in early grades and youth development programs in middle and high school" and "professional development to educators on classroom management."
"These data make it clear," reads the report, "that young people in the U.S. are collectively experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act."