Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

A federal judge has ruled in favor of environmentalists who assert the Navy has vastly underestimated the threat to marine mammals posed by its use of sonar and explosives during training off Southern California and Hawaii.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway in Hawaii ruled Tuesday that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated environmental laws when it decided that the Navy’s training would have a “negligible impact” on whales, dolphins, other mammals, and sea turtles.

The ruling appears to set the stage for an appeal or for the Navy to resubmit its application to the fisheries service for a permit. Other options would be for the Navy to relocate its training or adopt greater safeguards to protect sea creatures.

The ruling was hailed by environmental groups, which have long asserted that the Navy is needlessly harming whales and other animals and has resisted making changes to train in less “biologically sensitive areas.”

“The court’s ruling recognizes that, to defend our country, the Navy doesn’t need to train in every square inch of a swath of ocean larger than all 50 states combined,” said David Henkin, the Earthjustice attorney representing several groups that filed the lawsuit.

“The Navy shouldn’t play war games in the most sensitive waters animals use for feeding and breeding,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Navy spokesman Mark Matsunaga said the service was studying the ruling and could not comment on its details.

“It is essential that sailors have realistic training that fully prepares them to fight tonight, if necessary, and (with) equipment that has been thoroughly tested before they go into harm’s way,” Matsunaga said.

“The Navy has been training and testing in the Hawaii and Southern California ranges for more than 60 years without causing the harm alleged by the plaintiffs in this case.”

The lawsuit was aimed at curtailing Navy training from Dana Point to San Diego, off Coronado’s Silver Strand, and in the area between various Hawaiian islands.

The Navy holds a major multinational exercise off Hawaii every two years. The next is set for 2016. The Hawaii exercise, called Rim of the Pacific, and exercises off Southern California allow sailors to train in using sonar to detect submarines in shallow water, not unlike the conditions in the Persian Gulf, the Navy has said.

Much of the judge’s ruling details with the dueling interpretations about how many animals over a five-year period of training would be hurt.

The Navy asserts that training will kill 155 whales over five years. The environmentalists say the number of those killed or crippled would be much higher.

In her 66-page decision, the judge conceded the difficulty in parsing the claims and counter-claims.

She wrote that she feels like the sailor in Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” who, while trapped on a ship in a windless sea, laments, “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

Photo: Official U.S. Navy Page via Flickr

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.