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A hallmark conservation bill is passed by the Senate; charges against a former US Air Force intelligence agent.
A bipartisan win for Mother Nature
- In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act Tuesday. The landmark conservation act will protect 1.3 million acres of wilderness, establish new monuments, and expand some national parks. [The New York Times / Coral Davenport]
- The 92 to 8 victory comes as President Donald Trump openly doubts on climate change and rolls back environmental protections. The key to the bill’s success may be the benefits it confers on the states of nearly every senator who voted for it: Taxpayers are projected to save $9 million, parks will be expanded, new national monuments built, and mining claims near public land removed. [The Chicago Tribune / Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni]
- One of the package’s major winners is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will receive permanent authority to use offshore drilling revenue to pay for conservation sites at parks, preserves, and other public sites. [The Washington Post / Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni]
- Here’s one catch: Nearly half a million acres of federal land in Alaska will be privatized. The land will be redistributed among about 2,800 Native American Vietnam War veterans — however, not only are these veterans getting old, but there’s nothing prohibiting them from selling these rich allotments to developers. [The Washington Post / Christopher Solomon]
- The act also protects cultural history that’s tied to the natural environment. In California, 43,000 acres will be added to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks, and wilderness that is home to a historic trade route will be protected. [The Guardian / Cassidy Randall]
Former Air Force member helped Iran target US intelligence
- Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, was charged with espionage Wednesday for sharing classified information with Iran, including a Pentagon operation’s code name and mission. According to a Department of Justice indictment, the former US Air Force counterintelligence agent was simultaneously working for the elite Iranian paramilitary group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. [The New York Times / Adam Goldman]
- Witt speaks Farsi and had a top-secret clearance when she worked for the military from 1997 to 2008. She defected to Tehran in 2013, after attending conferences that promoted anti-American sentiments, and allegedly began working on the country’s behalf. [NPR / Ryan Lucas]
- While taking advantage of Iranian-provided housing and computers, Witt allegedly supplied the IRGC with “target packages” that helped the Corps track counterintelligence agents using false Facebook accounts and phishing emails, which gave Iran access to computer data. [CNN / Nicole Gaouette]
- In one 2012 article for Press TV, Witt is quoted criticizing a culture of sexual harassment in the US armed forces. Her last known contact was in 2013. [BBC]
- The charges come days after Iranians filled the streets to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution that began the current Islamic Republic. Demonstrators espoused frustration with the US and the Trump administration’s decision to reinstate sanctions after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal last year, but the day also revealed the uncertainty surrounding the nation’s future. [The Brookings Institution / Suzanne Maloney]
- Nearly 1,600 migrant children ages 13-17 live in dormitories in a “temporary influx facility” in southern Florida. With pizza parties and classrooms, the for-profit shelter is painting a different perspective than the traumatized accounts of kids living away from their families. [NPR / John Burnett]
- Diversity is the main focus for 2020 Democratic candidates looking to hire campaign staffers, as all-white and all-male teams no longer appeal to voters. [Politico / Laura Barrón-López and Alex Thompson]
- Wisconsin GOP lawmakers removed former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s name from a resolution honoring individuals for Black History Month. Republicans in the state legislature cited the need to select figures that “bring us together,” despite Kaepernick’s $25,000 donation to a Milwaukee NGO that benefits teens. [The Hill / Aris Folley]
- A BBC cameraman was attacked at a Trump rally on Monday, and the British foreign secretary condemned the assault. The BBC has called on the Trump administration to do more to protect the press. [Vice News / David Gilbert]
- Pressure to have more women in the boardroom is mounting for smaller companies, as investors increasingly prioritize boards with more diversity. [The Wall Street Journal / Kristin Broughton]
“If I run for president, one of the first things I would do is I would visit every world leader that this president has damaged in terms of our relationship and restore the trust and confidence in America, because we need them to go forward to establish America’s leadership.” [Potential 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz in a CNN town hall on Tuesday.]
Watch this: When forensic science fails
How “science” and “justice” failed Robert Lee Stinson. [YouTube / Joss Fong]
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