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
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was fired from the Justice Department on Friday, just two days before he was set to retire and receive his pension. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he'd dismissed McCabe "effective immediately," saying McCabe "lacked candor."
STATEMENT FROM AG SESSIONS on McCabe firing: pic.twitter.com/vj2C8FtW4x
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) March 17, 2018
McCabe had become a frequent target of President Trump because of his wife's congressional run as a Democrat, though most recently he was accused of an "unauthorized disclosure to the media," detailed in a yet-to-be released report that allegedly accuses McCabe of trying to hide a conversation he arranged between FBI officials and The Wall Street Journal. He was set to retire Sunday, at which point he would have been eligible to receive a pension after 21 years of service; it is unclear how the preemptive firing will affect that benefit.
McCabe defended his integrity after the news broke, telling The New York Times: "The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong." He additionally tied his firing to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign, saying in a statement: "The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized ... I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."
McCabe added that his dismissal is "part of [the Trump administration's] ongoing war with the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day." Read McCabe's entire statement — in which he fiercely defends his honor — below. Kimberly Alters
McCabe statement: pic.twitter.com/32vsbf6XWZ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 17, 2018
Black Mirror has come to life in China.
A bad social ranking could affect every aspect of someone's life, The Verge reports, thanks to the country's forthcoming "social credit" system. The system, set to launch in May, will allow the Chinese government to establish rules that will judge citizens' behaviors and financial backgrounds in order to determine Citizen Scores, which will affect a person's access to high-speed internet, restaurants, and travel. Citizens with low scores will also be banned from buying train or plane tickets.
The scores, on a scale of 350 to 950, ding people for failing to pay a phone bill on time, but get a boost if friends and acquaintances rate a social interaction positively, Rachel Botsman writes in her book Who Can You Trust?, published in part by Wired.
Travel restrictions are the newest addition to the burgeoning system, The Verge reports. Government documents show a plan to block poorly scored citizens from air or rail travel for up to a year, though perhaps less for minor infractions like leaving a bike parked on a footpath. More than 7 million citizens have already been blocked from travel, Human Rights Watch reports, for offenses like "insincere" apologies.
The big-data endeavor has already partially launched in China; volunteers have been participating in the program since 2014. But Botsman writes that by 2020 the social credit system will be mandatory, ranking and rating all 1.379 billion citizens of China. Summer Meza
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett didn't want to be best friends. They didn't even want to meet.
A Business Insider story details the friendship between Gates and Buffett — the second- and third-richest people in the world, respectively.
It all began when Gates' mother invited the late Washington Post reporter Meg Greenfield and Buffett to her home back in 1991. Gates didn't want to take a day off work, but he did want to meet the late Post publisher turned The Post movie subject Katharine Graham, who was coming as well.
Buffett simply recalled wondering, “How long do we have to stay to be polite?”
But after some small talk imagining how they would've built IBM if they were at the helm, Gates and Buffett stuck together.
Since then, the multi-billionaires have swapped books, tried out mattresses, and pledged to donate more than half of their fortunes via The Giving Pledge. You know, just your normal, everyday best friend things. Take a closer look at the pair's 27-year friendship at Business Insider. Kathryn Krawczyk
School shootings have become a national crisis, and students are fed up with political talk without action. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a plan to fix the problem, which she shared in a CNN op-ed published Friday.
In it, DeVos said she met with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and channeled their frustration into "real actions." President Trump is on board with all of them, she added.
Here are the five "constructive solutions" DeVos outlined in her op-ed:
1. Everyone "must acknowledge and address the growing alienation experienced by too many students,” and work to improve students’ emotional health.
2. The government must expand and reform mental health programs, something the president has pledged support for.
3. Background checks for purchasing firearms must be strengthened. States should be encouraged to adopt a law that allows law enforcement or family members to take away firearms from anyone who is a "demonstrated threat to themselves or others and to prevent those individuals temporarily from purchasing new firearms."
4. Qualified school personnel who volunteer should be trained to use firearms and properly respond to crisis situations. Veterans and retired law enforcement should be recruited into education jobs.
5. DeVos will chair Trump's Federal Commission on School Safety to produce more recommendations.
DeVos acknowledged that these aren't "one-size-fits-all" solutions, but said the commission will keep looking for answers to ensure that "this administration will not abandon America's children." Read the full plan at CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk
Marshall University earned its first-ever victory in the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday, upsetting Wichita State en route to the Round of 32. Even appearing in the game was an accomplishment for the Thundering Herd, who were playing in the Big Dance for the first time in 31 years.
A shocker in San Diego!
In its first tourney game in 31 years, Marshall takes down 4th-seeded Wichita State. pic.twitter.com/UqZJz2nQxE
— ESPN (@espn) March 16, 2018
The game between Marshall, a 13-seed, and Wichita State, a 4-seed, came down to the final minutes, as the teams traded buckets late. Herd freshman Jarrod West hit a 3-pointer to put Marshall up 74-70, which was followed by a steal and dunk by junior guard C.J. Burks to put the Herd up 78-72 with less than two minutes to go. Junior guard Jon Elmore poured in 27 points, while junior forward Ajdin Penava added 16 points — including a couple of late baskets — to seal the win.
"Marshall probably isn't as talented as Wichita State, but the Herd could make up for that disparity with sheer weirdness," SB Nation wrote, citing Marshall's lightning-quick pace. Wichita State's senior point guard Conner Frankamp hit six 3-pointers en route to 27 points to keep the Shockers close, but didn't receive much help from his teammates as the next-leading scorers were tied with 12 points.
Marshall's 81-75 victory means they will join No. 13 Buffalo — who upset No. 4 Arizona late Thursday — as the second 13-seed to triumph this year. The Herd will face the winner of the contest later Friday between No. 5 West Virginia and No. 12 Murray State. Kimberly Alters
The FBI has always had a diversity problem — and it appears to be getting worse.
A new article from ProPublica digs into the past, present, and future of the FBI and why its ranks are so persistently white, even as senior officials are fully aware of the problem.
From 1995 to 2014, black agents dropped from 5.3 to 4.4 percent of the FBI's special agents. That percentage is lower than it was when black agents sued the FBI for discrimination. Meanwhile, Latinos made up just 6.5 percent of special agents in 2014. (ProPublica wasn't given more recent numbers.)
Former FBI Director James Comey condemned the ever-growing whiteness, calling it a "crisis" that he "worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands." A senior official called the lack of diversity "a huge operation risk," as the agency misses out on perspectives necessary to identify and tackle threats.
But diversity isn't everyone's top priority, as President Trump seems more focused on criticizing the institution's integrity.
A diverse FBI starts with diverse recruits, but hiring is yet another longstanding issue within the FBI. ProPublica spoke to several retired agents who blamed field office recruiters, white interview panelists, and even current black agents for a failure to recruit diverse agents.
We've seen the future of selfies, and it's spooky. The new Skydio R1 ($2,499) is the first drone that can follow you wherever you go and record live video as it does so. Its groundbreaking artificial intelligence software is no joke: "The drone knows your face, your gait, and your clothing. It hovers persistently behind your back, moving when you move, stopping when you stop, resisting every effort to shake it." It's being sold as a way to capture special moments, and if given the chance to film your next heroic mountain ascent, "who's not going to do it?" For now, though, it'll only fly for 16 minutes at a time.