California Ranchers Revolt as the Feds Set Aside 2-Million Acres for a Frog

The US government has declared 1.8-million acres of California land (roughly three times the size of Rhode Island) as ‘critical habitat’ for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog under the Endangered Species Act.  A group of California farmers and ranchers, who expect to be regulated out of business by timber and grazing restrictions, are suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tiny frogs and toads used to swarm over the Sierra Nevada. Now, the government says nearly 2 million acres of land needs to be preserved to prevent them from going extinct.

California ranchers and logging groups say those protections are hurting their ability to make a living. So another conflict over the Endangered Species Act is going to court.

The California Farm Bureau and two ranchers’ associations sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, challenging a year-old decision to designate more than 1.8 million acres of rural California as “critical habitat” for three species of frogs and toads that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Loggers and ranchers who harvest timber or graze cattle on public lands worry the new restrictions on land use will eventually make it more difficult – if not impossible – to make a living in the Sierra, said Shaun Crook, a Tuolumne County cattle rancher whose family also owns a logging company.

“It has the economic impact of putting you out of business is what that reality could be,” said Crook, president of the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau.

Even though the designation was made a year ago, Crook said federal officials haven’t yet told him how the protections will affect his cattle, which graze on federal lands. But he said he and other ranchers worry that major tracts of land will be put off limits or they’ll be required to install fencing around protected areas.

The case affects a wide swath of the Sierra Nevada region, from Lassen to Inyo counties. It includes portions of Placer and El Dorado counties. Most of the land is owned by the government and is in designated wilderness areas, where the “highest level of conservation protection” on federal land is required, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The critical habitat designation subjects farmers “to substantial regulatory burdens that impose, among other things, study costs, risk assessments, mitigation fees, operational changes, permit fees, and consulting expenses,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “In some cases, these burdens put the rancher’s livelihood at risk.” The farm groups are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento nonprofit that fights for conservative and property-rights causes.

At issue is the fate of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and mountain yellow-legged frog, named for the yellow on the undersides of their legs and abdomens. The third species is the Yosemite toad, named for the national park where it was first discovered.

Both yellow-legged frogs were listed as “endangered ” while the Yosemite toad was listed as “threatened” in 2014 under the Endangered Species Act. Designation of critical habitat is typically the final step in the process of officially listing an animal as endangered.

Farm groups also opposed the 2014 decision, but environmentalists have long-argued that the frogs need extra protections in order to survive.

“Other habitat management, like livestock grazing in some areas, has an impact, and of course climate change and drought can impact them as well,” said Jenny Loda, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. If land is overgrazed, the vegetation might not hide the frogs from predators, she said.

Loda called the farm groups’ lawsuit “a mean-spirited attack against these really vulnerable frogs and the toad.”

A spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife couldn’t be reached for comment.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article164578712.html#storylink=cpy

Read full article here…




Hackers at Cybersecurity Conference Changed Output of 30 Voting Machines within 2 Hours

Professional hackers were invited to break into dozens of voting machines at this year’s annual DEFCON cybersecurity conference. They successfully hacked every one of the 30 machines within two hours. A professor of computer science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, was able, not merely to discover all the votes cast on the machines, but to manipulate the results.  Even paper ballots are at risk if they are counted by machines. [The only reliable method of preventing vote-machine fraud  is to use paper ballots counted by hand in public with many observers.]  –GEG

Hackers at a cybersecurity conference breached 30 voting machines in less than two hours.
The episode demonstrates the US’ continued vulnerability to electoral tampering by state actors.
Some believe that going back to paper ballots is the only way to guard against future cyberattacks from Russia or other foreign powers.
Professional hackers were invited to break into dozens of voting machines and election software at this year’s annual DEFCON cybersecurity conference. And they successfully hacked every single one of the 30 machines acquired by the conference.

The challenge was held at DEF CON’s “Voting Village,” where hackers took turns breaching ten sample voting machines and voter registration systems, Politico reported.

Carten Schurman, a professor of computer science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, was able to break into one voting machine in minutes.

“I could have done this in 2004, or 2008, or 2012,” Schurman told Politico. With access to the voting machine, Schurman had the the power not only to see all the votes cast on the machine, but also to manipulate the results.

DEF CON’s hacking exercise came as the US grapples with the fallout from Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which included attempts to tamper with voting systems.

Bloomberg reported in June that election systems in as many as 39 states could have been attacked by Russian state actors, though voting tallies are not believed to have been altered or manipulated in any way.

“In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data,” Bloomberg said. “The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database.”

Read full article here…




Trump Advocates Cutting Immigration in Half, Favors Skilled English-Speakers

President Trump announced his support for cutting in-half the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States while also moving to a ‘merit-based’ system based on English-language skills, education, high-paying job offers, and age.   Also, new immigrants would be prevented from collecting welfare, which is in bold contrast to the fact that 50% of all present immigrant households receive welfare and, for many of them, this is the primary reason for their immigration. –GEG

President Trump along with Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue have introduced a revolutionary immigration bill which would cut immigration numbers by half and favor highly skilled immigrants who can speak English.

The bill is modeled after other merit-based immigration systems like they have in Canada and Australia. The bill appears to be written in such a way that it may actually favor European immigrants for the first time since 1965.

From NBC News:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced his support Wednesday for legislation that would cut in half the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States while moving to a “merit-based” system of entry.

“That is why we are here today: Merit-based,” Trump said, joined at the White House Roosevelt Room podium by the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ar., and David Perdue, R-Ga.

The RAISE Act, which Cotton and Perdue introduced in February, would scrap the current lottery system to get into the U.S. and instead institute a points-based system for earning a green card. Factors that would be taken into account include English language skills, education, high-paying job offers and age.

New immigrants would also be prevented from collecting welfare, an issue Trump had spoken to in recent months.

“That’s a very big thing. They’re not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare,” Trump said.

Read full article here…




The US Has Declared All-Out Trade War on Russia

President Trump reluctantly signed what he described as  Congress’s ‘seriously flawed’ Russia-sanctions bill. The legislation severely limits his power to negotiate trade terms and will launch a virtual trade war.  The bill was passed almost unanimously, 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House, which places it beyond the President’s veto power. Both Republicans and Democrats continue to push the US toward total war with Russia. –GEG

Several hours after President Trump officially signed the new Russian sanctions into law – despite his reservations and his statement that while he favors “tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed” – Russia responded when moments ago Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on his FaceBook page that any hopes of improving Russian relations with the new US administration are dead, that the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence by transferring executive power to Congress “in the most humiliating manner”, and most notably, that the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia.

From Medvedev’s facebook page:

The signing of new sanctions against Russia into law by the US president leads to several consequences. First, any hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is over. Second, the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. This shifts the alignment of forces in US political circles.

 

What does this mean for the U.S.? The American establishment completely outplayed Trump. The president is not happy with the new sanctions, but he could not avoid signing the new law. The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated. At the same time, the interests of American businesses were almost ignored. Politics rose above the pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has turned into a key part of not only foreign (as has been the case many times), but also domestic US policy (this is recent).

 

The sanctions codified into law will now last for decades, unless some miracle occurs. Moreover, it will be tougher than the Jackson-Vanik law, because it is comprehensive and can not be postponed by special orders of the president without the consent of the Congress. Therefore, the future relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States will be extremely tense, regardless of the composition of the Congress or the personality of the president. Relations between the two countries will now be clarified in international bodies and courts of justice leading to further intensification of international tensions, and a refusal to resolve major international problems.

 

What does this mean for Russia? We will continue to work on the development of the economy and social sphere, we will deal with import substitution, solve the most important state tasks, counting primarily on ourselves. We have learned to do this in recent years. Within almost closed financial markets, foreign creditors and investors will be afraid to invest in Russia due to worries of sanctions against third parties and countries. In some ways, it will benefit us, although sanctions – in general – are meaningless. We will manage.

Separately, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia retains the right to impose new counter-measures, adding the US sanctions are short-sighted, and risk harming global stability. He concludes that and attempts to pressure Russia will not make it change course.

Read full article here…