On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.
Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."
There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good."
President Trump, who has already delayed adding an endangered bumblebee to the endangered species list, is expected to sign any legislation that comes to his desk. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, activists hung a "Refugees Welcome" sign on the Statute of Liberty. "That's absolutely a lovely thought, but kind of redundant on the Statue of Liberty, isn't it?" Stephen Colbert asked on Wednesday's Late Show. "It's like taking a rainbow flag and adding 'We like the gays!' — it's not necessary." Or at least it wasn't. "But I guess that's where we are right now," he said: "You've got to say things out loud that before we just assumed we all agreed on."
That was Colbert's setup for President Trump's deep thoughts on slavery from his visit to the Museum of African American History and Culture, which reportedly included "Boy, that is just not good" and "That is really bad." "I haven't heard that kind of eloquent denunciation since the Civil War novel The Red Badge of Dang, That's Messed Up!" Colbert joked.
Trump is "a bit of a hothead, loose cannon, powder keg," Colbert said, after a dark joke about children in shackles, "which is why it's important for him to be counseled by people who are even-keeled. Unfortunately he's talking to some jerk named Alex Jones." For those unfamiliar with Jones — who, according to a new New York Times article, now serves as "occasional information source and validator for the president" and speaks with him on the phone — Colbert played a clip of the excitable conspiracy-monger, and then imitated him: "This is why you don't mix steroids with peyote, this is why!"
"Now, if you've been living underground for the last few years, you probably listen to Alex Jones," Colbert said. "But for the rest of you, he runs a conspiracy website called InfoWars." He played another clip. "Now obviously it's not fair to judge a guy on one, isolated, dumbass clip," Colbert said, pausing, "so here's a bunch of 'em." Jones was a surprisingly easy segue into a short riff about The Washington Post's new tagline: Democracy Dies in Darkness. "So The Washington Post has officially entered its goth phase," he said. "It's a strong message that they're going to hold Trump accountable, a message he will receive the minute Fox & Friends reports on it." Watch below. Peter Weber
Most of the remaining anti-Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrators left their protest camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota on Wednesday evening, as the federal deadline to evacuate the area passed, but police arrested about 10 people before nightfall, and some 50 protesters are believed to still be in the camp. Police said they will not enter the camp overnight. Some of the protesters drove off for home or other protest camps springing up on private land nearby, while others boarded busses to Bismarck, where they were offered clothes, bus fares home, and vouchers for food and hotel rooms, The Associated Press reports.
Earlier Wednesday, the protesters torched some of the wooden structures they called home during the yearlong fight against the pipeline, which will take crude oil from North Dakota to outside Chicago for refining. The protesters got a brief victory late last year when the Army Corps of Engineers, under former President Barack Obama, said it would review the environmental impact of the pipeline, but President Trump ordered the study to be dropped and construction to resume. Oil could be flowing through the pipeline now within weeks. The Army Corps said it ordered the camp dismantled because of the threat of spring floods.
You can see the remains of the camp, which once housed thousands of protesters, and learn more in the NBC News reports below. Peter Weber
An undocumented immigrant with a brain tumor was forcibly removed from hospital by ICE, her lawyers say
On Feb. 10, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador collapsed at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Texas, after complaining of headaches. She was brought to Texas Health Huguley Hospital in Burleson, where doctors concluded she had a brain tumor, the woman's lawyers tell The Daily Beast. During her only conversation with her mother, on Feb. 19, the woman, identified only as Sara, said she was bleeding heavily through her nose, convulsing, and suffering some memory loss. She has otherwise been barred from communicating with her family.
The lawyers said they were expecting doctors to operate on Sara soon, but on Wednesday she was reportedly forcibly removed from the hospital without treatment and returned to the Prairieland Detention Center. "She told us they tied her hands and ankles in her condition," Melissa Zuniga, a member of Sara's New Jersey-based legal team, tells The Hill. "She's complaining of a lot of pain." Zuniga said that the hospital "no longer wants to be in charge of her case because they’re getting hounded by calls and a potential lawsuit" — Sara's family said it might sue if she did not receive adequate care — but that doctors gave Sara a CD with her medical records and told her not to turn it over to ICE; it was taken from her as soon as she returned to the detention center.
Sara's sister and her lawyers were flying to Texas on Wednesday night to press for her release, The Hill reports. Sara was detained in 2015 after illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, and after she missed the deadline for filing for asylum, a judge cleared her for deportation in January 2016. She was in detention appealing the ruling when she collapsed. "You are bound to see more cases like this if ICE fulfills the government's orders and dramatically expands detention," Bob Libal, an Austin-based immigrants-rights advocate, tells The Daily Beast. "You are bound to see more stories where people have suffered these kind of medical tragedies in detention."
In the Associated Press video below, about another fraught immigration story in Texas, a member of Libal's organization, Grassroots Leadership, notes that former President Barack Obama deported more than 2 million undocumented immigrants in his two terms. "Obama built this machine, but he left it in the hands of Trump," says Cristina Parker, "and what we're seeing is what that means." Peter Weber
When Lena Draper, 10, needed someone to help her with a math problem, she decided the best person for the job was a police officer.
She messaged the Marion Police Department in Ohio on Facebook, and soon received a response from Lt. B.J. Gruber, who advised her to work within the parentheses first, moving from left to right. Draper's mother, Molly, saw the exchange between her daughter and Gruber, and told CBS News she was "happy, but not surprised" that someone from the department responded so quickly. "They are wonderful with their communication with the community." Molly shared on her own Facebook page the messages between Lena and Gruber, and even though his instructions weren't 100 percent accurate, Gruber hopes everyone remembers "it is truly the thought that counts." Catherine Garcia
Their classmates and teachers didn't think it could be done, but J.T. Nejedlo and Aidan Deaven proved them all wrong by building a working roller coaster in Deaven's Delafield, Wisconsin, backyard.
When Nejedlo was a sophomore and Deaven a freshman, they decided it "would be fun" to build a roller coaster, Nejedlo told TMJ4. After lots of trial and error — and assistance from a father who used to be a physics professor — the teens built a coaster that starts inside an old treehouse and weaves its way around the yard. "We had a work schedule," Deaven said. "We would get up at 7 a.m. in the summers and come and work on it."
In their college applications, the teens wrote about their massive undertaking, and it helped them gain admittance to the University of Wisconsin — Nejedlo is a freshman studying business, and Deaven will begin taking engineering classes next year. Catherine Garcia
President Trump is moving fast, if erratically, to fulfill his campaign pledges about kicking out undocumented immigrants and building a wall along the Mexico border in an attempt to keep them out. Seth Meyers said he's confused about the rationale for this push, because more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming in, and immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S. "And yet despite the reality about immigration, Trump is still moving ahead with his plans to ramp up deportations and build a border wall," he said on Wednesday's Late Night.
"Now, there are still many questions about Trump's wall, including who will build it," Meyer said. "And apparently before he even took office, Trump started reaching out to private developers to see if they'd be interested." One developer, Jorge Perez, a longtime friend and business partner of Trump in Miami, was underwhelmed by the offer he received to build the border wall, telling Bloomberg, "The wall is the most idiotic thing I've ever seen or heard in my life." "And for someone who has known Donald Trump for years, that's a high bar," Meyers said.
Then there's the shifting definition of what constitutes a "wall," with the barrier sketched out by Trump officials much different (and less solid) than the giant, "beautiful" wall Trump talked about during the campaign, and some Republicans, especially in Texas, are balking at Trump's wall plans. "So Trump wants to spend as much as $20 billion on a wall that even some Republicans think won't work, but don't worry, Trump adviser Stephen Miller said there's no need to worry about who will pay for the wall," because the wall will somehow pay for itself, Meyer said. "Look, these immigration policies are cruel, they're unnecessary, and ineffective — even many Republicans think so." He introduced a game called "douchebag charades" to illustrate what those Republicans and Democrats can tell Trump. Watch below. Peter Weber
Unable to reach their congressional representatives the old-fashioned way — by phone, email, and in person — Americans across the country are getting creative.
This week, Republican lawmakers like Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) have faced angry constituents who peppered them with questions about everything from repealing the Affordable Care Act to President Trump's ties to Russia. Some of these representatives might run away from their meetings as fast as humanly possible, but at least they're showing up — the same can't be said for House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and Rep. Paul Cook (Calif.), according to their constituents, who want to know why their congressmen aren't holding town halls or even letting people inside their offices.
In Wisconsin, the residents of Janesville are concerned over Ryan's whereabouts, so much so that they have placed a missing-person's ad in the Lost and Found section of the Madison Craigslist. "We had been planning on having an intervention at his recess town hall meetings, because he seems to be addicted to power, but he fled sometime in and around January 20, 2017, and hasn't been seen since," the ad states. To make sure people know who to look for, they included helpful photos of Ryan lifting weights while donning a backwards hat, a much different look than in this billboard in Wisconsin:
— John Lundin (@johnlundin) February 22, 2017
And last week, after a tussle at Rohrabacher's Huntington Beach office involving activists seeking a town hall meeting, one of his staffers, and a door, the California congressman accused the citizens of being "engaged in political thuggery, pure and simple." Here is an example of said thuggery on a local beach:
— Indivisible OC (@indivisible_oc) February 22, 2017
The search is also on in California's 8th District for Cook, who last appeared at an in-person town hall on Sept. 5, 2013. Anyone with any information is urged to visit www.WhereIsPaulCook.com. Catherine Garcia
— Where Is Paul Cook (@WhereIsPaulCook) February 20, 2017