Friday, December 02, 2016

Multi-state lawsuit takes aim at Endangered Species Act

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has taken point in a multi-state lawsuit challenging new federal rules he says would broadly expand the definition of “critical habitats” for endangered or threatened species in the United States. The ESA was intended to protect a number of plant and animal species that were faced with extinction at the time it was passed, and a critical component of the legislation dealt with the protection of areas deemed “critical habitat” for those species...However, in the late 1970s, amendments to the ESA were added after the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law resulted in the suspension of a federally funded Tennessee dam project Congress had already put more than $100 million into. According to the complaint, those amendments were “intended to reform the statute and provide limits to its reach” by adding specific definitions for critical habitat and any “adverse modifications” that could negatively impact those areas. As a result, critical habitat under the ESA was defined as a specific area “occupied by a species at the time [it’s] listed” as endangered. Such habitat must contain “physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species” that require special “considerations or protections.” It’s even more difficult to classify an area as “critical habitat” if it’s unoccupied by an endangered species, as it requires the federal services to prove those unoccupied areas are “essential for the conservation of the species.” However, in February, the services announced plans to amend those regulations, which among other things, would expand the definition “critical habitat” to include areas that might not even be used by a threatened species until some point in the “foreseeable future.” According to Strange, the rules would give the federal government “virtually unlimited power” to declare an area critical habitat for an endangered species regardless of whether the species occupies the area — even if that area is unable to sustain the species to begin with...more

Unbounded Lawlessness: Obama’s War on Energy from Federal Lands

by William Perry Pendley 

On energy, the Obama administration ends the way it began, with lawless placating of environmental extremists by warring against energy from federal lands.  Obama’s officials’ first efforts in 2009 in northwestern Pennsylvania failed; nonetheless, in their waning days, their mischief spreads to Colorado and Montana.  Whether they get away with it depends, not just on the incoming Trump administration, but on a federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Days ago, President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell skittered excitedly across America doing what made his administration infamous:  unilaterally plundering the rule of law.  In Denver she voided twenty-five contracts—all issued by the federal government to permit private lessees to search for, discover, and develop oil and gas from Colorado’s economically depressed western slope—that had incurred the wrath of “leave it [American energy] in the ground” radical groups.  The region is not a pristine wilderness, but the site of decades of drilling; it sits astride the geologically significant, energy-rich “Overthrust Belt.”  Alongside the cancelled leases are twenty-four producing leases Secretary Jewell affirmed and thirteen she subjected to confiscatory rules; all are atop trillion of cubic feet of natural gas.  “Imprudent,” “illogical,” and “arbitrary and capricious” spring to mind to describe Secretary Jewell’s decree, but most on point is “lawless.”

The fate that awaits the lessees, the energy they plan to produce, and the men and women of the region who yearn for high paying oil patch jobs is uncertain.  Their future may turn largely on what happens to an elderly Louisiana man who, like them, fell victim to one of Secretary Jewell’s edicts.  Sidney Longwell won an energy lease on federal land in Montana in 1982, and after ten years, four National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies, and four National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) reviews, obtained the right to drill on the lease (an application for permit to drill—APD).  Unfortunately, the Clinton administration suspended the lease and there it sat until 2013 when he sued demanding that federal officials allow him to exercise his property rights, pursuant to his government-issued contract.  On hearing of his forlorn plight, a federal judge called it “Kafkaesque” and ordered a prompt decision.  At long last, on March 17, 2016, the Obama administration ruled but instead of allowing him to do what he contracted for and was permitted to do, it cancelled his lease and voided his APD.       

At the end of this year, after months of legal filings and briefings, including numerous exhibits and lengthy appendices, the matter will be ready for a ruling by the judge following as yet unscheduled arguments in Washington, D.C.  To call Secretary Jewell’s decision—like so many other actions by President Obama—unprecedented is an understatement.  At no time in the history of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920—through which Congress authorized Secretaries to issue and oversee oil and gas leases, including the one held by Mr. Longwell, and which has been amended and updated over the decades—has an energy lease been cancelled, unilaterally, let alone one issued more than three decades earlier and subjected to a decade of intense, thorough, and painstaking review.  Stunningly, however, Secretary Jewell concedes that her cancellation of the 33-year-old lease is not based upon any express delegation of authority from Congress.  Instead, she argues she has an amorphous “inherent authority” under the Constitution’s Property Clause.  The argument takes one’s breath away.

The Property Clause reads: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States….”  It may be arguable, chiefly by westerners, whether that power is “without limitation,” however, one thing is clear:  the power over all federal lands belongs solely to Congress.  The Property Clause grants no authority, express or implied, to the Secretary.

Restoration of the rule of law, preferably by a court of law, cannot come soon enough.

William Perry Pendley is  president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has argued cases before the Supreme Court and worked in the Department of the Interior during the Reagan administration. He is the author of "Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan's Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today."


Alaskan for Interior?

The United States Department of Interior manages roughly 198 million acres of federally owned lands in Alaska, a block that is 10 percent larger than the entire state of Texas. So, it is only fitting that two Alaskans – Robert Gillam and former governor Sarah Palin – are being floated as contenders for secretary of Interior as President-elect Donald Trump builds his cabinet. “Over 50 percent of our nation’s federally protected lands are located in Alaska. This is why it makes so much sense for an Alaskan to lead the Department of the Interior and champion our great state while guiding our nation,” Gillam explained in a written statement explaining his interest in the job. While both of these candidates would likely be more open to access and development of federal lands in Alaska than current Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Alaska’s mining community would much rather see Palin take the job, or someone from outside of the state, than to have Gillam hold such a high post in the Trump Administration. While Gillam may not be a household name, as founder and CEO of McKinley Capital Management, an Anchorage-based advisory firm that manages roughly US$6.7 billion in investments, he is well known in Alaska business and political circles. Though Gillam has little in the way of political experience, he believes President-elect Trump’s endeavor to fill his cabinet with savvy American’s outside the typical Washington D.C. political circles provides him with an opportunity to cap his successful business career with a high-level political post...more

Rancher Might Try to Relocate Rather Than Kill Mountain Lion Blamed in Alpaca Deaths

The mountain lion believed to have killed more than 50 farm animals this summer and fall in the mountains above Malibu may be captured and sent to the Wildlife Way Station, instead of being shot, a lawyer for a rancher said Wednesday night. However, animal rights activists said putting P-45 into a cage for the rest of his life is a fate worse than being shot. An attorney for the ranch owner, Reid Breitman, said the animal would not be shot immediately, and his client Victoria von Turling wants P-45's life saved. "Victoria wants it relocated, and we've arranged for the Wildlife Way Station to accept the animal," Breitman said at a meeting called by the National Park Service...more

How the Trump administration can champion food and agriculture

The food and agriculture system underpins the wellbeing of our families and our nation, so it’s crucial for our president-elect to make American agriculture a priority. AGree stands ready to work with President-elect Trump and his administration. We are proud of our history of transcending political parties and offer the recommendations below based on years of listening, building trust, and developing innovative approaches to address the challenges facing American agriculture. These bipartisan recommendations are carefully crafted as an outgrowth of engaging more than 2,000 of the best minds in food and agriculture to identify key issues and opportunities. We invite the new administration to take advantage of our experience collaborating with both parties and facilitating respectful dialogue, which led to the following seven initiatives to improve the health of American families, the economy, farms, and our environment...more

If you want to see Inside the Beltway, politically correct bunk, then by all means read this. It is all there: "landscape-level actions", "Immigration reform", "Local food", "transformative change", "collaborating", etc., etc.

Proposed tax regulation threatens multigenerational cattle operations

The Internal Revenue Service hosted a public hearing today on a Department of Treasury proposed rule that would eliminate or greatly reduce available valuation discounts for family-related entities. Kevin Kester, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president, said the regulation would effectively discourage families from continuing to operate or grow their businesses and passing them on to future generations. Many cattle operations are family-owned small businesses, facing the same concerns as other small-businesses – making payroll, complying with numerous federal and state regulations, and paying bills, loans, and taxes. However, cattle producers face a number of unique challenges specific to agriculture. “Ranching is a debt-intensive business, making the U.S. livestock industry especially vulnerable to the estate tax,” said Kester. “Beef producers largely operate an asset-rich, cash-poor business model: a cattleman’s biggest asset is his land. In the event of the death of a principal family member, illiquid assets are often sold in order to meet the costs associated with the estate tax. As a result, many families are unable to keep their estates intact.” For more than two decades, livestock producers have utilized legitimate valuation discounts as a means of maintaining family ownership. These discounts, which accurately reflect the actual market value of minority ownerships in closely-held businesses, reduce the tax burden at death allowing agricultural operations to maintain family ownership from one generation of producers to the next. “Should the discounts be eliminated, a significant number of farmers and ranchers will face an even greater tax burden during the difficult task of transferring minority interests to the next generation,” said Kester. “Having dealt with the death tax on multiple occasions, I can assure you that it’s not easy to settle the estate of a loved one while coping with the loss of that loved one. To add insult to injury, the proposed rule will upend succession plans, halt planned expansion and growth, and require a majority of livestock operations to liquidate assets in order to simply survive from one generation to the next.” The proposed regulations under Section 2704 will have a profoundly negative impact on the business climate for farmers and ranchers, ultimately dis-incentivizing a new generation of cattle producers from carrying on the family business. For that reason, NCBA calls for the IRS to formally withdraw the proposed rule. NCBA

Mad Dog, as in ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis: The colorful history of a great American nickname

On Thursday, at a post-election victory rally in Cincinnati, President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick for secretary of defense.

“We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump said, as The Washington Post reported.

The Mad Dog in question was retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who for more than 40 years served in the Marine Corps. The 66-year-old general, called a “warrior monk” by his peers for his depth of knowledge and lack of family — he never married — is also known to turn a memorable phrase, including: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

And if the nickname Mad Dog gives you pause, well, the retired general does not like it much either, according to NBC. (For his part, Trump seems fond of it, also using the name in his sole tweet about Mattis.)

The nickname stuck to Mattis following the second battle of Fallujah, the hardest fight of the Iraq War. Here’s the Los Angeles Times, in a profile about the “confident, jaunty” general in April 2004, a few months before the battle: “Behind his back, troops call him ‘Mad Dog Mattis,’ high praise in Marine culture.”

A 1990 study of nicknames among 175 teenagers concluded that references to “strength, largeness, hardness, and maturity are typical of male nicknames,” listing “Mad-dog” as a masculine name along with “Bear Chaser, Billy Boy, Dave Atlas, Deerlegs, Dick …. Druggy Dougie, The Fox, GL Jim, Harpo” and “Lips.”

Though Mad Dog has a cachet among Marines, a quick run-down of historic and fictional characters who also bore the name indicates why some would be reluctant to embrace it. (In late 16th century pubs, a strong brew was a “mad dog.” As a verb, it is slang for glaring. And, of course, a four-legged mad dog is a rabid one.)

As far as the Library of Congress database is concerned, the first and most famous Mad Dog was Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll. Coll, a mafia enforcer in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, was so named by New York Mayor Jimmy Walker after the hitman fatally shot a five-year-old, struck by a wayward bullet in a mob fight.

That’s not to say celebrated Mad Dogs never lived. Sports players given the nickname Mad Dog may earn it through their athletic intensity but also because their surnames include “mad,” such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ Mark Madsen, Canadian hockey player John Madden, MLB pitcher Gregory Maddux and New Zealand rugby winger Joe Maddock.

Mad Dogs have appeared many times in fiction, in narratives as diverse as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the Indonesian martial arts film “The Raid: Redemption“; there have been multiple in comics, including a New York police sharpshooter in the Marvel universe and a DC Comics serial killer committed to Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum.

And then there were the real-life Mad Dogs who fell somewhere in the middle.

Edgar “Mad Dog” Ross, a professional boxer with a 50-fight undefeated streak in the late 1970s, was remembered as a complicated character. “Edgar was as tough a human being as I’ve ever seen, and fearless,” his friend Jimmy Montgomery told the Tuscaloosa News, after Ross’s death in 2012. But Ross was described by others as “too mean for football,” using boxing as an outlet for violence.

While incarcerated, Canadian bank thief Roger “Mad Dog” Caron wrote a memoir, “Go-Boy!”, which sold 600,000 copies and earned Canada’s distinguished literature award, the Governor General’s prize, in 1977. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau would go on to call Caron a “great Canadian,” according to the Telegraph, after the thief’s parole.


Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1742

It's time for a Country Roots feature on Ranch Radio and our selection today is Travelin' Blues by the legendary Jimmie Rodgers. The tune was recorded in San Antonio on January 1, 1931.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Trump’s First 100 Days: Environmental Policy and Public Lands

By Cally Carswell

...Donald Trump’s dark-horse finish in the presidential race last month is raising similar concerns: Is Barack Obama’s environmental legacy doomed? Trump hasn’t articulated a detailed environmental agenda, but what he has said has the fossil fuel industry celebrating and environmentalists girding for battle. And it’s given the Roadless Rule saga new resonance. When Bush took office, he delayed implementation of the rule and lengthy court battles ensued. But after more than a decade of litigation, the rule largely held up. It’s not always easy for a new administration to undo the work of the last. Nevertheless, Trump has said he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, rescind the Clean Power Plan, scrap a stream and wetland protection rule, and end a temporary moratorium on leasing of federal coal reserves. He’s also made broad promises to “lift restrictions” on energy development on public lands. Overall though, his ambitions are murky at best. “The current administration is more unpredictable than any administration that has ever come into office, at least within my lifetime,” says Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We are in uncharted waters.” Whether Trump can deliver on his pledges depends in part on how the Obama administration advanced its own agenda. The coal-leasing moratorium, for instance, can be reversed immediately, says Matt Lee-Ashley, a public lands expert with the Center for American Progress. Where coal seams underlie federal land, agencies within the Department of the Interior offer leases to mining companies, which then pay royalties on the coal they dig. Last January, current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell instituted a moratorium on new leases via a “secretarial order”—the cabinet members’ version of the president’s executive order. Trump’s Interior Secretary could perform the same move in reverse, with the stroke of a pen. Likewise, Obama’s State Department had authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to refineries and ports on the U.S. Gulf Coast. His administration rejected TransCanada’s application for a permit to allow construction across an international border. If the company resubmits its application, Trump could green-light it. The new Republican Congress can also ask Trump to overturn regulations finalized late in Obama’s term. The Congressional Review Act gives the House and Senate 60 days in session to scrutinize rules developed and finalized by executive branch agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In that time, Congress can pass a “joint resolution of disapproval” for a new rule. If the President signs the resolution, the rule is vacated. Because Congress takes so many breaks, rules finalized after May 30 of this year will likely be subject to congressional review, according to the Congressional Research Service. Trump’s options for erasing Obama’s earlier environmental achievements are more complicated. Take the stream and wetland protections known as the Clean Water Rule, issued by the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers...more

U.S. marshals explain why they grabbed Ammon Bundy's lawyer

According to an account written by Colin M. Fawcett of the U.S. Marshals Service, Mumford grew "increasingly agitated'' after learning that Bundy wouldn't be released from custody. "As Marshals moved forward to escort Bundy out of the courtroom, Mumford positioned his body so as to block the Marshals from taking Bundy into custody and began yelling in protest,'' Fawcett wrote. Deputy U.S. Marshal Erik Helsing instructed Mumford to "lower his voice and stand down,'' which Mumford didn't do, Fawcett wrote. Mumford became even more agitated, "flailing his arms and raising his voice even louder,'' so two other deputy marshals moved in to escort Mumford out of the courtroom, the statement said. Then, according to Fawcett, Mumford took a particular stance that in Fawcett's "experience as a police officer and a combat veteran'' signaled that the attorney was "preparing for a combative and physical altercation.'' Fawcett wrote that Mumford lowered his body, widened his stance and "brought his shoulders up toward his head.'' "These physical responses are pre-assault indicators, consistent with an individual preparing for a combative and physical altercation,'' he wrote. Deputy U.S. Marshal Erik Helsing instructed Mumford to "lower his voice and stand down,'' which Mumford didn't do, Fawcett wrote. Mumford became even more agitated, "flailing his arms and raising his voice even louder,'' so two other deputy marshals moved in to escort Mumford out of the courtroom, the statement said. Then, according to Fawcett, Mumford took a particular stance that in Fawcett's "experience as a police officer and a combat veteran'' signaled that the attorney was "preparing for a combative and physical altercation.'' Fawcett wrote that Mumford lowered his body, widened his stance and "brought his shoulders up toward his head.'' "These physical responses are pre-assault indicators, consistent with an individual preparing for a combative and physical altercation,'' he wrote. Two other deputies moved to grab Mumford's upper arm using a standard law enforcement grasp, but Mumford jerked his arm free. Mumford "then squared his body off'' with a deputy and "raised his clenched fists in what appeared to be a boxer's stance,'' Fawcett wrote. There's also no mention of the deputy marshals tackling Mumford, who is 5 feet six inches tall, according to his citation. Instead, the summary simply states that "a brief struggle ensued'' and that Mumford was taken into custody...more

Hey, all you buckaroos and buckarettes better be careful of what "stance" you assume around any federale.

More than 2,000 veterans expected to form human shield at ND pipeline protest

More than 2,000 U.S. military veterans plan to form a human shield to protect protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline project near a Native American reservation in North Dakota, organizers said, just ahead of a federal deadline for activists to leave the camp they have been occupying. It comes as North Dakota law enforcement backed away from a previous plan to cut off supplies to the camp -- an idea quickly abandoned after an outcry and with law enforcement's treatment of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters increasingly under the microscope. Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, a contingent of more than 2,000 U.S. military veterans, intends to go to North Dakota by this weekend and form a human wall in front of police, protest organizers said on a Facebook page. Organizers could not immediately be reached for comment. Former U.S. Marine Michael A. Wood Jr. is leading the effort along with Wesley Clark Jr., a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has said on Twitter she will join the protesters on Sunday...more

The wrong colored apple can put you in jail

What do cottage cheese, “extra fancy” apples, and chicken noodle soup all have in common? It’s a crime to sell any of them without meeting arcane federal regulatory standards. Heritage Foundation scholars James Gattuso and Diane Katz write in their 2016 report, “Red Tape Rising,” that the costs of federal regulations “have not been fully quantified,” but “many of the worst effects – the loss of freedom and opportunity, for example – are incalculable.” “The need for reform,” Gattuso and Katz write, “is urgent.” The potential risk of lost freedom and opportunity is greatest where federal agencies have attached criminal penalties to what previously had been considered innocent conduct.
‘Extra Fancy’ Apples
The administrative state also regulates the produce aisle, right down to the coloration of individual apples (7 C.F.R. § 51.305). Different varieties of apples must meet different color tests: McIntosh apples must be at least 50 percent red to be categorized as Extra Fancy; Red Delicious apples must be at least 66 percent red to receive the same Extra Fancy status. The Department of Agriculture provides an Index of Official Visual Aids with official color standards for everything from apple butter to olives. If an apple seller labels a McIntosh apple that is 49 percent red as Extra Fancy, that may run afoul of multiple federal statutes. First, if read literally, a federal statute on the secretary of agriculture’s regulatory duties (7 U.S.C. § 1622(h)(4)) could make a knowing violation of the color codes and other food regulations a criminal offense subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. Another layer of potential criminal liability is added by federal false statements law, which criminalizes telling a lie in connection with any matter that falls under the jurisdiction of an ever-expanding U.S. government. It imposes a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment for each lie. Former Justice Department official Stephen Saltzburg says the false statements law “is so vague that harmless misstatements,” not unlike the precise redness of an apple, “can be turned into federal felonies.”...more

Urban and rural America are becoming increasingly polarized

In what is likely the most divisive election in recent history, deep-rooted patterns in how the country votes have become more pronounced. The majority of counties with populations greater than 500,000 — where roughly half of Americans live — swung further to the left. In Los Angeles County, for example, about 71 percent of votes went for Hillary Clinton this year, compared with about 69 percent for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and 63 percent for John F. Kerry in 2004. That effect even spilled into neighboring Orange County, which before this election had not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Even in ruby-red Texas, the largest urban counties swung left. Take Harris County, home to Houston, as an example. Obama won this county by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in 2012, but Clinton beat Donald Trump there by more than 12 percentage points — a margin greater than George W. Bush’s in either of his presidential campaigns. Even Tarrant County — home to Fort Worth — swung to the left but was still carried by Trump. Outside these urban counties, the opposite is true. In counties with fewer than 100,000 people — which make up 80 percent of counties in the country but contain only about 20 percent of the population — 9 out of 10 voted more Republican than they did in 2004. Aside from the very urban and the very rural, the election was won and lost in America’s medium-size counties. Midwestern states, suburban counties and medium-size cities that voted for Obama in 2012 went for Trump, effectively handing him the presidency...more

Vilsack says Democrats need better message for rural America

No one listened to Tom Vilsack. As agriculture secretary during the entire Obama administration, the former Iowa governor has for years been telling anyone who will pay attention — farmers, members of Congress, even Hillary Clinton — that Democrats need a better message for rural America. And he's spent most of his tenure focusing on rural development, trying to revitalize areas that ultimately voted for Republican Donald Trump in this year's presidential election. "The Democratic Party, in my opinion, has not made as much of an effort as it ought to, to speak to rural voters," Vilsack said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "What's frustrating to me is that we actually have something we can say to them, and we have chosen, for whatever reason, not to say it." Vilsack is a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and was close to becoming Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate. She chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine instead. Clinton ultimately won Virginia but lost, deeply, in many rural areas of the country. Vilsack says he understands why party leaders chose a different path to try for electoral victory, focusing on expanding populations like Hispanics and African-Americans who had come out in large numbers to vote for Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, in 2008 and 2012. The problem, he said, is those groups represent around the same percentage of the population as rural voters. And he says Democrats didn't have enough of a counter argument to powerful Republican themes of less regulation and lower taxes. "There wasn't an overarching theme that a person in a small town could go, 'Oh, they're talking about me,' " Vilsack said. According to exit polls conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Research, about 17 percent of voters in this year's election were from small cities or rural areas, and 62 percent of them said they voted for Trump...more

Hey Vilsack. It's not the message - it's what you actually did.  Violating property rights, attempting to steal water, running ranch families off federal lands, etc., etc. is your problem. And the message was received.

Beef Production - McDonald's, Walmart and Subway Are Right at the Top of the List in Wrecking the World's Forests

Beef production is the primary contributor to tropical deforestation worldwide.The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently released a report, “Cattle, Cleared Forests, and Climate Change: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Deforestation-Free Beef Commitments and Practices.” The publication highlights how beef production is the primary contributor to tropical deforestation worldwide, predominantly occurring in South America. According to the report, consumer goods companies “have the power to help stop this destruction,” yet none of the 13 United States companies studied for sourcing South American beef had strong deforestation-free policies or procedures in place. The report advises that companies should work together with meatpackers, ranchers, and government to develop a comprehensive plan to end deforestation practices within the beef industry...more

 I'm sure this will go to the top of your holiday reading list.

Overwhelmed Border Patrol Agents Stuck Serving Burritos to Illegal Immigrants

Border Patrol agents are reporting that they are overwhelmed by a massive uptick in illegal immigration of unaccompanied foreign children, leaving some members of the force stuck serving food to kids and ordering various supplies such as baby wipes, according to Mark Morgan, chief of the Border Patrol, which operates within the Department of Homeland Security. Border agents have expressed shock at the menial tasks they’ve been required to perform following a massive flow of illegal immigrant children across the U.S. southern border, according to Morgan, who warned that the force is being strained as a result of this influx. During one recent trip to a border patrol outpost, “the supervisor in charge said, ‘Chief, we’re going to do whatever this country asks us to do, but I never thought in my 20 years that I would be, as part of procurement, ordering baby powder and baby wipes,'” Morgan recalled during Wednesday testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I just got from one sector,” Morgan continued, “where agents, one of their jobs during the day, is to actually make sure the food, the burritos we’re providing are being warmed properly. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to do this.” The number of unaccompanied children and families traveling from Central America to the United States has increased significantly during the past few years. The number crossing the U.S. border from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador has jumped to 46,893 in fiscal 2016, up from 28,387 in 2015, according to statistics provided by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), the committee’s chair. Morgan warned the committee that nearly all of the children and families apprehended on the border are released into the United States. “Basically 100 percent of those family units and [unaccompanied children] are released into the U.S.” Morgan said, expressing distress at the amount of border patrol resources now being “dedicated to being professional child care providers at this point.” Johnson offered statistics showing that just under 4 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended are sent back to their country of origin...more

Heinrich, Udall appeal to Obama on Dakota pipeline protest

New Mexico’s U.S. senators today wrote separate letters to President Barack Obama asking him intervene in a potential confrontation between Dakota Access Pipeline protesters and the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which has given protesters an early December deadline for dispersing from the protest site. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, urged caution in dealing with the protesters today. Udall is set to become the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in January. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has set a Dec. 5 deadline for American Indians and others to leave an encampment in North Dakota where they’ve been entrenched for months protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. In his letter, Heinrich asked Obama to “overturn” the date. “I question the decision to close the area to demonstrators on December 5, 2016,” Heinrich wrote. “This arbitrary date is certain to escalate an already volatile situation and I would urge you to overturn this decision by the Corps of Engineers. I ask that you seek a peaceful resolution to this conflict that respects the desire of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to protect their water and historic sacred sites.” “I am gravely concerned about the recent escalation of violence in North Dakota against members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and those standing in solidarity with them,” Heinrich’s letter said. Heinrich also decried “the brutality we’ve seen in recent days involving rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons” used against protesters by law enforcement. Udall also voiced worry about the Dec. 5 deadline...more

 Compare that to:

Heinrich: Armed Extremists At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Must Be Prosecuted

"I am concerned that the absence of federal prosecution after similar events in the past, such as the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada, may have emboldened these individuals to seize federal property in the Malheur standoff. There must be consequences for this sort of dangerous action. When the federal government does not fulfill its duty in prosecuting violations of the law, individuals are emboldened to further defy the law."

More Southwest border fencing needed, but it is not sole answer, chief says

More fencing is needed along the Southwest border to keep migrants from crossing illegally, but neither fences nor walls alone will solve the problem, the new border patrol chief told a Senate panel Wednesday. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan, who has been on the job about four months, was not asked directly about President-elect Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it. But Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked Morgan whether he believes that fencing works. "Do we need more fencing? Yes," Morgan responded. "Does it work? Yes. Do we need it everywhere? No. Is it the sole answer? No. It's part of an overall, multi-layered strategy." Johnson asked Morgan to work with the committee to install more fencing where it is needed along the nearly 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico, but the senator said he's not talking about erecting fencing along the entire length. Instead, he said better fencing is needed in some places. The U.S. government has already built fencing along about 700 miles of the border. "Fencing works," Johnson said. "A better wall works." Morgan said, "I agree." He cited the effectiveness of fencing in the Border Patrol's San Diego, Calif., sector at stemming the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally. He said Border Patrol officials were able to move 100 agents to more troublesome spots because they were no longer needed in the San Diego area. However, Morgan said fencing must be combined with more high-tech strategies, including sensors and drones that alert agents when people are crossing the border illegally. He also said the Border Patrol needs more horses and dogs and needs to share intelligence more closely with other U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to keep migrants from reaching the border. "If they've made it to the border, we've ... essentially already lost," he said...more

License To Kill Mountain Lion Has Animal-Rights Advocates In An Uproar

Animal-rights advocates didn’t hold back Wednesday night after learning the Department of Fish and Wildlife recently issued a 10-day permit to allow ranchers in the Santa Monica Mountains to shoot and kill the lion known as P-45. The permit was issued because authorities believe P-45 killed 10 alpacas on one property then a goat and alpaca on another property Thanksgiving weekend. It was a packed house at the meeting in Agoura Hills for livestock owners to find a solution to protecting their animals from hungry mountain lions. The only long-term solution to keeping the big cats in the wild around Los Angeles at bay is to erect mountain lion-proof enclosures for pets and livestock, according to the National Park Service. Relocating P-45 will not work since it will eventually come back to its home range, officials say. “They bring alpacas from South America to the middle of mountain lion country and mountain lion country goes for the alpacas, and now they want to kill the mountain lion?” activist Judy Mancuso of Social Compassion in Legislation asked. “No one wants anyone to shoot P-45.”...more

Friendly otter jumps onto kayak, joins birthday celebration

A friendly otter joined a couple celebrating a birthday in Northern California by jumping into one of their kayaks and making itself at home, rolling around and even nibbling on some shoes. Heather VanNes said Wednesday she and her husband, John Koester, were celebrating his birthday Monday in a slough near Moss Landing and had just gotten in the water when they spotted a raft of otters. They went by to watch them from a distance of at least 50 feet when one of the otters began swimming toward her husband’s kayak and jumped right onto it. Koester says the otter plopped into the front of the boat, rolled around, scratched his belly and ears and nibbled on rope and his shoes. He says it appeared the otter “was having a good time.” Koester says the otter was at least 80 pounds and stayed on the kayak for at least 10 minutes until. After he started paddling, the otter jumped back into the water. AP

Teen kills deer, finds a parachute in its antlers

Brady Hempen, 15, has killed nearly 50 deer since he started hunting when he was just 5 years old, but never one like the buck he shot recently at Fort Campbell, Ky. Hempen noticed the big deer earlier in the day with something he could not identify wrapped up in its antlers. Part of what was in the rack shined. It helped Hempen to track the deer. “At first I thought he had a dead deer in his antlers when I saw all that stuff in his rack,” said Hempen, who first spotted the buck from 50 yards. “It was pretty neat. I finally realized there was a shiny canister in there too.” The deer had a parachute and canister from a military flare, which had been launched at the army base, tangled in his antlers. Hempen, who is from Paducah, Ky., shot the deer from 25 yards using a muzzleloader during the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency youth hunt. Hempen was only able to score 11 points in the rack. The parachute was covering some of the points. Hempen decided not to remove the parachute and is having the head and rack mounted with it still in place...more