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October 7, 2019

With the Syrian Democratic Forces preparing for attacks by Turkish troops in northern Syria, fighters are being moved to the border, leaving a limited number of guards to keep watch over thousands of Islamic State prisoners, a commander told NBC News.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are the United States' Kurdish allies in the region, and General Mazloum Kobani Abdi told NBC News that the ISIS prisoners are now a "second priority," due to the White House's Sunday announcement that U.S. troops will "no longer be in the immediate area," paving the way for a Turkish operation. Mazloum said this is a "very big problem," as there are about 12,000 prisoners — 10,000 from Syria and Iraq, and 2,000 from other countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers Kurdish forces to be terrorists. Despite being the opposition, Mazloum told NBC News "one of the options that we have on the table" is to partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight against Turkey. He is hopeful that the American public will call on Trump to reverse course, so it doesn't have to come to this, saying, "The people who fought with you against international terrorism, against ISIS, are under risk right now and they are facing a big battle alone." Catherine Garcia

September 17, 2019

President Trump's border wall is putting archaeological discoveries at risk before they're even discovered.

Trump's border wall has jeopardized several government projects as he aims to drain military projects to fund its construction. It has raised protests from environmental groups who say it'll run through wildlife refuges. And as an internal National Park Service report obtained by The Washington Post reveals, it's likely to destroy or damage 22 unexcavated sites containing artifacts of the ancient Sonoran Desert peoples.

The sites in question are all within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 330,000-acre area of protected wilderness that sits along the Arizona-Mexico border. It has been home to "desert-dwelling peoples" for at least 16,000 years and contains well-preserved artifacts thanks to its arid environment, the Post reports. There's currently a five-foot vehicle barrier along that section of the border, but Trump plans to turn it into a 30-foot steel wall. Two miles of that wall surrounding a border crossing in Lukeville, Arizona have already been built.

In its report, the National Park Service says some archaeological areas have already been damaged as the Trump administration's amped-up enforcement measures lead border patrol agents to drive recklessly through Organ Pipe Cactus. If construction continues, experts warn damage could get even worse. The several salt springs in the monument area could also dry up if groundwater is pumped to build the concrete wall, NPS continued.

CBP said it looked at "most" of the archaeological sites in question and said just five are within 60 feet of the proposed border area, and that only one showed signs of artifacts buried nearby. Read more at The Washington Post, and find the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 21, 2018

Climate change and warm winds have caused some of the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic to break apart, The Guardian reported Tuesday, calling into question just how long the region's "last ice area" will withstand ever-rising temperatures.

In the sea off the north coast of Greenland, sea ice is frozen so thick that scientists thought it would be the last area in the North to melt away as climate change pushes temperatures higher and higher. But the region has endured unprecedented heat this summer, hitting a record high of 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit just last week. Warm winds left the ice "quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile," Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute explained, which has pushed the ice farther away from the coast than ever before.

When the sea ice blows around, it can be swept away into warmer waters where it melts for good, said Thomas Lavergne of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. "I cannot tell how long this open water patch will remain open, but even if it closes in few days from now, the harm will be done," he said. "The thick old sea ice will have been pushed away from the coast, to an area where it will melt more easily."

Scientists said that some of the ice will freeze again, but likely later in the winter than usual. While this gap in the Arctic sea ice is not the first one to form, the alarming temperatures and significant size of this gap in the "last ice area" have experts calling the most recent break "scary." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

August 24, 2015

This isn't a record Washington wanted to break: The wildfires burning in central Washington are the largest in state history, a fire official said Monday.

Five wildfires covering 256,567 acres — dubbed the Okanogan Complex fires — grew more than 26 square miles on Sunday, fire crew spokesman Rick Isaacson said. The fires are only 10 percent contained, and are threatening 5,000 homes. More than 1,250 firefighters are battling the flames, and Isaacson said the blazes could continue to burn for several more months. Catherine Garcia

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