Hunters in Alaska could soon be allowed to lure grizzly bears in the state’s national preserves using bait, including doughnuts and bacon, thanks to a rollback of Obama-era hunting regulations proposed this week by the Trump administration. Alaska has allowed grizzly baiting in the state since 2005. But the National Park Service banned the practice on federal preserves in 2015. The new plan, pushed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, would also remove restrictions on using spotlights to shoot mother bears and wolves hibernating in their dens. The Interior Department says the move is meant to bring federal policy into alignment with state law, but wildlife protection advocates and environmentalists decried it as inhumane. “Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves,” said Collette Adkins, a lawyer and biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Dramatic eruptions from Kilauea volcano continued to menace residents of Hawaii’s Big Island this week, as molten lava, ash, and toxic gas gushed from the crater. Lava flows are now threatening the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant, which provides about 25 percent of the island’s electricity. Officials also issued new warnings about toxic gas along the island’s southern coastline. Clouds of lava haze, also known as “laze,” are formed when molten rock boils sea water, generating billows of steam carrying hydrochloric acid and tiny shards of volcanic glass. So far, only one person has been seriously injured. Darryl Clinton of Kapoho was at home when he was hit by a bowling ball–size chunk of flying molten rock, shattering his leg. “It was a mean one,” Clinton said. “It could have hit anywhere else and it would have been all over.”
North Bend, Wash.
A mountain lion mauled a cyclist to death and seriously injured another on a remote trail east of Seattle last week, in Washington’s first fatal cougar attack in more than 90 years. Sonja Brooks, 32, was riding with a friend, 31-year-old Isaac Sederbaum, in the mountains near North Bend when they realized they were being stalked by a 100-pound male mountain lion. The pair made noise to frighten the animal, as recommended, and it initially ran away. But the cougar returned and pounced on Sederbaum, before releasing him and chasing after Brooks, who was later found dead in the animal’s den. Local authorities used hounds to hunt down the cougar, which was euthanized. An autopsy found the beast was emaciated. “Humans are not on the menu for cougars normally,” said Capt. Alan Myers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They normally want nothing to do with us.”
Demands on Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week demanded sweeping changes from Iran, including that Tehran abandon its nuclear program entirely and withdraw all of its military forces from Syria, in order to avoid punishing U.S. sanctions. In a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Pompeo unveiled a list of 12 requirements that he said Tehran must meet if Iran hopes to replace the 2015 nuclear accord, which the Trump administration pulled out of earlier this month. If Iran does not comply, Pompeo warned, it will face “the strongest sanctions in history.” Tehran swiftly rejected the ultimatums as a U.S. attempt at “regime change.” European diplomats, who are working with Iran to preserve the accord, dismissed the demands as unrealistic. Pompeo suggested that the Iranian people might overthrow the government in response to the struggling economy there. “The Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership,” he said.
East Lansing, Mich.
Michigan State University agreed last week to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits filed by 332 victims of sports physician Larry Nassar, who worked at the university for roughly 20 years despite multiple reports that he was sexually abusing patients. About $425 million will be paid to the women and girls who have already said Nassar abused them, with an additional $75 million set aside for victims who have yet to come forward. It’s the most an American university has ever paid to settle a sexual abuse case, dwarfing the $109 million settlement reached by Penn State University to settle claims with victims of assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The settlement is equivalent to nearly 37 percent of the university’s general fund budget of $1.36 billion for the current academic year. The university will have to pay the cost through a combination of insurance, student tuition, and taxpayer funding.
The Trump administration moved this week to cut off federal funds from health clinics that perform abortions or provide referrals to abortion clinics, a move that would deprive Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers of tens of millions of dollars a year. The White House’s proposal would make such clinics ineligible for federal Title X funding, which distributes about $260 million annually to health centers so that they can offer basic services such as birth control, pregnancy tests, gynecological exams, and screenings for cancer and STDs. Clinics that receive grants are currently allowed to provide abortion services and referrals using nonfederal funds. The new rule would create a “bright line” separating clinics that receive federal funding from those that provide abortion services. More than a third of the 4 million patients who receive Title X care are treated through Planned Parenthood, which would lose as much as $60 million a year under the new rule.