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Pipeline Protesters Could Face Up To 20 Years In Prison Under New Trump Proposal

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Photo Credit: Common Dreams

Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Building on efforts by multiple states to crack down on those fighting the construction of climate-destroying fossil fuel infrastructure, the Trump administration unveiled a proposal on Monday that would criminalize pipeline protests at the federal level and hit demonstrators with up to 20 years in prison.

“Rather than focusing on shielding corporate polluters from public protest, the administration should be working to ensure that communities are protected from dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects.” —Kelly Martin, Sierra Club

The new proposal, released by Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, was immediately denounced by environmentalists as a serious threat to the First Amendment.

This dangerous proposal threatens to undermine Americans’ right to peaceful assembly and free speech,” Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fossil Fuels campaign, said in a statement. “It is a blatant attempt to intimidate those who would exercise their First Amendment rights to speak out against pipeline projects that put our clean water, communities, and climate at risk.”

Rather than focusing on shielding corporate polluters from public protest,” Martin said, “the administration should be working to ensure that communities are protected from dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects.”

As Politico reported Monday, the Transportation Department’s proposal would “treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country.”

The Trump administration, according to Politico, is “calling for Congress to expand a law that threatens fines and up to 20 years’ prison time for ‘damaging or destroying’ pipelines currently in operation. The expanded version would add ‘vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting, or inhibiting the operation of’ either existing pipelines or those ‘under construction.’

Elly Page, attorney for International Center for Not-For-Profit Law—an organization that has tracked anti-protest efforts by individual states—told Politico that the Trump administration’s “proposed penalty is far and away more extreme than what we’ve seen at the state level.”

When you combine provisions that vague to penalties that extreme,” Page said, “that creates uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.”

House Democrats signalled that they would oppose the measure, which comes just two weeks after the Texas state Senate passed a bill that would hit pipeline protesters with up to 10 years in prison.

A spokesperson for House Energy and Commerce chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told Politico that the congressman “has no intention of allowing a pipeline safety bill to be used as a vehicle for stifling legitimate dissent and protest.”

On Twitter, the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) warned that as “we grapple with the mounting climate catastrophe, the fossil fuel industry is holding nothing back in its attempt to silence its critics and those who assemble to protest their destruction of our shared climate.”

“We’re not giving in to the dirty fossil fuel industry’s bullying ways,” said NRDC.

This article (Pipeline Protesters Could Face up to 20 Years in Prison Under New Trump Proposal) was originally published at Common Dreams and is re-posted here under creative commons.

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Environment

Face Masks And Latex Gloves Have Become A New Environmental Problem

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Photo Credit: Opération Mer Propre

The Covid-19 pandemic may have given the planet a temporary, though not long-lasting, breather when it comes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also given Earth a new environmental scourge: latex gloves on beaches and sewers filled with face masks.

A number of organizations have raised concerns that oceans, rivers, and sewers are becoming increasingly swamped with disposable face masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, and other non-recyclable personal protective equipment (PPE) items as the world continues to grapple with Covid-19.

French ocean conservation group Opération Mer Propre regularly documents its ocean clean-up operations on social media and has reported seeing notably more pieces of PPE in the Mediterranean Sea.

Very worrying about the new waste related to Covid… We pick [this kind of pollution] up at every clean now, mainly latex gloves,” Opération Mer Propre posted on Facebook May 20.

This is the first disposable masks to arrive in the Mediterranean,” the group wrote after a clean-up operation on May 23. “It’s just the beginning and if nothing changes it will become a real ecological disaster and maybe even health [one].”

Image courtesy of Opération Mer Propre

It isn’t just Europe, or natural environments, that are feeling the burn. A number of city authorities in the US have also reported sewers and storm water pumping stations becoming clogged with latex gloves and facemasks, which they believe many people are flushing down toilets.

Although there’s no data on the scale of the problem yet, the Associated Press contacted 15 city authorities in the US and all reported they had had significantly more sewer clogs and drainage issues since the pandemic began. This might be related to people flushing PPE or, they say, it could be due to people flushing alternatives to toilet tissue amid the early-lockdown panic buying.

In light of this pollution problem, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a statement telling citizens to properly dispose of PPE. Advice included not putting used disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks, PPE, or any medical waste in recycling bins as they could be contaminated by pathogens and are considered a health hazard. A number of recycling organizations have urged people to dispose of discarded masks and gloves safely by putting them in general refuse. It should also go without saying that littering PPE is gross, inconsiderate, and dangerous, so be sure to safely put used PPE into the appropriate general refuse bin if you’re out in public.

No one should be leaving used plastic gloves or masks on the ground in a parking lot or tossing them into the bushes,” David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), said in a statement. “Discarded contaminated PPE on the ground increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and has negative impacts on the environment.”

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Animal World

Hummingbirds Turn Into Rainbows In Amazing Photos By Christian Spencer

Who knew hummingbirds’ wings turn into rainbows when photographed against the sun?

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Hummingbirds
Photo Credit: Christian Spencer

Australian artist and photographer Christian Spencer made an amazing discovery while standing on his verandah in Rio de Janeiro. When he photographed the black Jacobin hummingbird flying in front of the sun, a beautiful prism effect occurred.

At that very moment, the hummingbird’s feathers turned into a perfect rainbow of colours.

WINGED PRISM © Christian Spencer

Spencer has been following hummingbirds with his camera for years, and his film recording of the phenomenon was included in his 2011 short film, The Dance of Time.

The movie received 10 international awards and three best film honours. But that wasn’t the end of his fascination with the rainbow hummingbirds. Years later, Spencer returned to the subject.

THE ECLIPSE © Christian Spencer

I decided to try and photograph the same phenomenon with my camera,” he told Collective Spark. The resulting series, Winged Prism, reveal “a secret of nature that cannot be seen with our eyes.”

“Nearly all of the photos were taken in 2014. I have tried many times unsuccessfully to take similar photos but I think it depends on the atmospheric conditions and how much magic is in the air,” he added.

Despite the fact that we live in an age of post-production and image manipulation, these photos were never manipulated digitally. The visual affects you see here occur naturally.

WINGS OF LIGHT © Christian Spencer
WINGS OF LIGHT © Christian Spencer
CLOUD ANGEL © Christian Spencer
VITRAL © Christian Spencer
VITRAL © Christian Spencer
COSMIC ANGEL © Christian Spencer
HUMMINGBIRD GEOMETRY © Christian Spencer
HUMMINGBIRD GEOMETRY © Christian Spencer

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Animal World

These Guard Dogs Protect The World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)

When foxes discovered this small Australian island and its little penguin inhabitants, they nearly wiped the colony out. But a farmer came up with a novel way to protect the birds.

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These Guard Dogs Protect The World’s Smallest Penguins (Successfully)
Photo Credit: Nat Geo

The problem first became apparent in the year 2000 when the sea’s natural current led to increased sand build-up in the area. As a result, the local fox population on this island in Australia called Middle Island started to grow as there was an easy source of food around.

The penguins – the world’s smallest actually – faced being wiped out until a chicken farmer by the name Swampy Marsh (wow) came up with a plan. He suggested sending one of his Maremma dogs to protect the birds.

At low tide, and when sand builds up in the narrow channel, foxes can cross from the mainland barely getting their paws wet.

Red fox with a Little Penguin on Middle Island (photo courtesy of Middle Island Maremma Project) and Maremma sheepdog protecting a Gannet colony (seen in the background) (photo by L. van Bommel).

The dog, the first of several to be used on Middle Island, was called Oddball – and Oddball made quite an impact. Amazingly, since Oddball and his four-legged successors were introduced 10 years ago, there has not been a single penguin killed by a fox on Middle Island.

And there came the dogs. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project
Also known as ‘blue penguins’, ‘little blue penguins’ and ‘fairy penguins’, they are found in Australia and New Zealand and are the smallest of all known penguin species. Image Credit: Global Screen

By now, the fairy penguin population has gone back up to almost 200.

The current dogs patrolling Middle Island are Eudy and Tula, named after the scientific term for the fairy penguin: Eudyptula.

The dogs operate in penguin breeding season, usually from October to March, when they spend five or six days a week on the island.

Here we go. Image Credit: Middle Island Maremma Project

The project has been such a success that a movie called Oddball has been made about it.

Sources: Middle Island Maremma ProjectBBC

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Environment

This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World

Welcome to the most colourful river of the world. Rainbows are jealous of the beauty of Caño Cristales.

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This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World
Photo Credit: World of Travel

Caño Cristales is a vividly coloured river found in Colombia’s Meta region, in South America. It is commonly known as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and when you are first confronted with its breath-taking beauty, you immediately know that these names are by no means an exaggeration.

During the peak season, Caño Cristales sports vivid colours including black, blue, green, yellow and red, the last caused by Macarenia clavigera plants. The river is said to contain no fish, and it is situated in a mountainous region with nearby grasslands. The total length of Caño Cristales is 100 kilometres (62 miles) and it lies in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.

Image credit: Moterocolombia
Image credit: Moterocolombia

Caño Cristales is a fast-flowing river with many rapids and waterfalls. Small circular pits known as giant’s kettles can be found in many parts of the riverbed, which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall, increasing the dimensions of the pit.

Image source: World of Travel
Image credit: World of Travel
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The river is home to a wide variety of aquatic plants. Its water is extremely clear due to the lack of nutrients and small particles – which also explain the absence of fish. Almost unique is the bright red – pink coloration of riverbed after the rainy period in the end of June – November, caused by the endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera.

Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal
Image credit: Mario Carvajal

The colours of Caño Cristales reach their peak some weeks between June and December, and this is the best time to visit. The river is in a remote area and can only be accessed by aircraft, then boat, and even then, a hike is required.

Tourists were unable to visit Caño Cristales for 20 years, from 1989 to 2008, mainly due to guerrilla warfare in the area, but also because of the potential negative effect they would have on the habitat. However, visitors have been able to tour the area since 2009 with authorised tourism companies.

Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co
Image credit: canocristales.co

Caño Cristales is among the most beautiful rivers on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso), and yes, it is definitely true.

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