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At its 40th session this week, the United Nation's World Heritage Committee directed Mexico to take immediate action to save the imperiled vaquita porpoise, or risk "in danger" status for its "Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California" World Heritage site. The site was given World Heritage status in 2005, in part because it is home to the planet's last remaining vaquita porpoises, as well as the totoaba, a large, endangered marine fish. Just weeks ago scientists estimated that fewer than 60 vaquita survive and the species is on the precipice of extinction.
"As the international body responsible for World Heritage sites, the Committee has a duty to ensure that these ecologically and culturally important sites remain protected for future generations," said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. "For the vaquita, the decision of the Committee this week could determine whether the species survives or is permanently lost."
The World Heritage Committee called on Mexico to make permanent its existing two-year ban on gillnets in the vaquita's habitat and host a joint monitoring mission to the site by specialists from the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Mexico must report back to the Committee on those recommendations by February 2017, and then the Committee will consider whether to designate the site as "in danger" at its next meeting, to be held later that year.
When the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California site was inscribed on the World Heritage list, the critically endangered vaquita and totoaba were identified as part of the property's "outstanding universal value." However, after decades of ineffective conservation efforts by Mexico, the vaquita now risks extinction by 2022 if its decline continues. The species is threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, including illegal gillnets set to catch the totoaba. The totoaba swim bladder is in high demand in Asia, where it is believed to have medicinal properties and can reportedly sell for U.S. $5,000 to $14,000 per kilo.
"If we lose the vaquita, the Gulf of California World Heritage site loses one of its critical features," said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Mexico must permanently ban gillnets in the vaquita's habitat, step up enforcement, and stop endangering this incredible piece of the world's heritage."
In 2015 the Center and the Animal Welfare Institute petitioned the World Heritage Committee to list the Gulf of California site as "in danger." If the site is listed, U.N. funding could become available to assist Mexico in taking corrective actions to address threats.
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
"When I started striking in 2018 I could never have expected that it would lead to anything," Thunberg tweeted in a reflection on the Fridays For Future movement on the day of her graduation.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg—who launched a global movement when she began skipping school to protest in front of the Swedish parliament nearly five years ago–carried out her last school strike on Friday.
"School strike week 251," Thunberg tweeted. "Today, I graduate from school, which means I'll no longer be able to school strike for the climate."
\u201cSchool strike week 251. Today, I graduate from school, which means I\u2019ll no longer be able to school strike for the climate. This is then the last school strike for me, so I guess I have to write something on this day.\nThread\ud83e\uddf5\u201d— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg) 1686300230
Thunberg, who is now 20, first made headlines at the age of 15 when she refused to attend school during the three-week lead-up to September Swedish elections in an effort to persuade politicians to take action on the climate crisis.
Instead, she sat outside the Swedish parliament with a sign reading, "School strike for climate," in Swedish.
"We young people don't have the vote, but school is obligatory," Thunberg toldThe Local at the time. "So this [is] a way to get our voices heard."
"There are probably many of us who graduate who now wonder what kind of future it is that we are stepping into, even though we did not cause this crisis."
On the day of her final school strike, Thunberg took the opportunity to reflect on the movement she helped galvanize.
"When I started striking in 2018 I could never have expected that it would lead to anything," she tweeted. "After striking every day for three weeks, we were a small group of children who decided to continue doing this every Friday. And we did, which is how Fridays For Future was formed."
The movement went global "quite suddenly," Thunberg recalled.
"During 2019, millions of youth striked from school for the climate, flooding the streets in over 180 countries," she said.
Fridays For Future found a different way to protest during the coronavirus lockdowns by launching a #digitalclimatestrike.
"In a crisis we change our behavior and adapt to the new circumstances for the greater good of society," Thunberg wrote at the time.
However, one group that hasn't changed their behavior are the world leaders Thunberg has famously excoriated in a number of high-profile speeches. A study released Thursday found that greenhouse gas emissions rose to record levels in the last decade despite the promises of the Paris agreement.
"Much has changed since we started, and yet we have much further to go," Thunberg tweeted Friday. "We are still moving in the wrong direction, where those in power are allowed to sacrifice marginalized and affected people and the planet in the name of greed, profit, and economic growth."
Thunberg has spoken up for frontline communities recently. In January, she was detained while protesting the destruction of a German village to pave the way for a coal mine expansion, and in February, she joined with Norwegian Sami activists in opposing the placement of wind turbines on Indigenous land.
While graduation is typically a joyful occasion, Thunberg reflected on how the climate crisis has altered her generation's vision of the future.
"There are probably many of us who graduate who now wonder what kind of future it is that we are stepping into, even though we did not cause this crisis," she wrote.
Whatever Thunberg's future contains, climate activism will continue to be part of it.
"We who can speak up have a duty to do so. In order to change everything, we need everyone. I'll continue to protest on Fridays, even though it's not technically 'school striking,'" she promised.
"We simply have no other option than to do everything we possibly can," Thunberg concluded. "The fight has only just begun."
"This is as close to a recorded confession as you’ll ever see in a case like this," said a former federal prosecutor.
In an audio recording that is reportedly in the possession of federal prosecutors, former President Donald Trump admits he did not declassify secret military documents that he took from the White House after losing reelection and failing to overturn the results.
CNNobtained a transcript of the recording that shows the former president said, "As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't."
According to CNN, Trump was referring to a "classified Pentagon document about attacking Iran." Citing several unnamed sources, the outlet reported that the audio tape "captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document."
"Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this," Trump says in the recording, the transcript shows. "This was done by the military and given to me."
Fresh details on the contents of the recording, the existence of which CNN first reported last week, came hours after news broke that Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury on seven criminal charges stemming from the classified documents case. The federal charges reportedly include willful retention of military secrets and obstruction of justice.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti argued that Trump's comments on the audio tape, as reported by CNN, appear to be damning for the former president, who has repeatedly said he "declassified everything."
"This is as close to a recorded confession as you’ll ever see in a case like this," Mariotti wrote on Twitter.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, added that the transcript is "absolutely devastating."
"Just blows a hole in the defenses Trump had been putting out," Bookbinder tweeted.
\u201cAn apparent tape of Donald Trump, post presidency, saying that he had with him classified documents that he could have declassified as president but didn't is absolutely devastating. Just blows a hole in the defenses Trump had been putting out.\nhttps://t.co/296uLj4JYa\u201d— Noah Bookbinder (@Noah Bookbinder) 1686317432
CNN reported that in the taped meeting, which took place in July 2021 at the former president's New Jersey golf club, Trump was "complaining... about chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley."
The meeting, reportedly attended by Trump aides and two unnamed people working on the autobiography of Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, "occurred shortly after The New Yorker published a story by Susan Glasser detailing how, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, Milley instructed the Joint Chiefs to ensure Trump issued no illegal orders and that he be informed if there was any concern," according to CNN.
"He said that I wanted to attack Iran," Trump says of Milley in the recording. "Isn't that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. They presented me this—this is off the record, but—they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me, this was him."
Glasser reported that "Milley had been engaged in an alarmed effort to ensure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran as part of his quixotic campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in power."
"The chairman secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war," Glasser wrote.
In the audio tape, according to CNN, Trump tells his aides and others at the July 2021 meeting that he has "all sorts of stuff—pages long." The FBI seized nearly 200,000 pages from Trump's Florida residence during an August 2022 raid.
"Wait a minute, let's see here," Trump continues. "I just found, isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”
"Instead of trying to divide the country and undercut our legal system, congressional Republicans should respect the outcome of the special counsel's comprehensive investigation."
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin on Thursday warned his Republican colleagues against attempting to delegitimize the special counsel investigation that led to a federal indictment against Donald Trump after many GOP lawmakers did just that, rallying around the former president and echoing his condemnation of the probe as a "witch hunt."
"Instead of trying to divide the country and undercut our legal system, congressional Republicans should respect the outcome of the special counsel's comprehensive investigation and the decisions of the citizens serving on the grand jury," said Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
"Dangerous rhetoric about a 'two-tiered system of justice'—discriminating against the rich no less—in order to prop up the twice-impeached former president not only undermines the Department of Justice but betrays the essential principle of justice that no one is above the commands of law, not even a former president or a self-proclaimed billionaire."
A number of prominent Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), erupted in response to news of the indictment in the classified documents case, which makes Trump the first ex-president to face federal charges. Trump is widely seen as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Gaetz took to Twitter to decry the indictment as "an attempt to distract the American public" from "millions of dollars in bribes" that the Biden family, including the president himself and his son Hunter, has supposedly taken from "foreign nationals"—a claim that House Republicans have been pursuing for months without anything to show for it.
"This scheme won't succeed," Gaetz wrote late Thursday. "President Donald Trump will be back in the White House and Joe Biden will be Hunter's cellmate."
Jordan, who is currently seeking unredacted documents related to Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation of Trump, said after news of the indictment broke that "it's a sad day for America."
"God bless President Trump," added Jordan, who was recently sued by the Manhattan district attorney for interfering in a separate investigation that produced a 34-count felony indictment against the former president.
Other Republicans, including Trump's 2024 rival Ron DeSantis, offered similarly outraged reactions to the classified documents indictment before even seeing it, alleging "weaponization" of the Justice Department against Trump and claiming the former president is the victim of a "two-tiered system of justice."
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for his part, signaled that the congressional GOP will attempt to retaliate.
"House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable," McCarthy tweeted.
As The New York Timesnoted Thursday, "members of Congress have no power to stop criminal charges, but they can attempt to interfere with prosecutors through their legislative powers, such as issuing subpoenas, demanding witness interviews or documents, restricting Justice Department funding and using the platform of their offices to attempt to publicly influence the case."
Trump is reportedly facing seven total counts in the classified documents case, including willful retention of national defense secrets, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy—charges that could carry years in prison.
The former president said he's been instructed to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday. ABC Newsreported that the federal indictment against Trump "is expected to be a 'speaking indictment' that will lay out chapter and verse the government's case to the public."