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Commoners’ Right To Hunt Under Threat

In Olde England, hunting was the privilege of the landed and the rich. The right to hunt depended on the number of acres owned or one’s income.

This inequity led English jurist William Blackstone to complain in the late 18th century that “50 times as much property (is required) to enable a man to kill a partridge as to vote for a knight of the shire.”

English colonists settling America wanted no part of the old country’s class-based rules. Anyone could hunt or fish in America.

But that is slowly changing, as the rich and politically connected employ new tactics to close off opportunities for hunting and fishing to the common folk. The most intense conflicts between the wealthy and locals are taking place in the American West — where there’s room for everyone, or so we thought.

First, a plea to non-hunting environmentalists to join sportsmen in the battle to preserve access to wildlife. Ordinary hunters seeking sport or food were not to blame for the near loss of the bison and the extinction of such species as the passenger pigeon, heath hen and Labrador duck.

The villains were commercial hunters who slaughtered wildlife for profit, shipping millions of hides, feathers and racks of game meat to American and foreign markets. Hunters started the American conservation movement over a century ago to stop the destruction.

Today, the biggest threat to wildlife is loss of habitat, a concern for all environmentalists. Another issue, the movement to privatize public lands, should also link hunters and vegan hikers in common cause.

Back to the politics.

In Montana, public access to the state’s wildlife now dominates the governor’s race. On one side, incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is fighting private efforts to close off hunting and fishing grounds that Montanans have enjoyed for generations.

On the other, Republican Greg Gianforte is seeking to empower big landowners (like himself) to limit such access. In 2009, he sued the state to remove a public easement that gave anglers, walkers and others access to the East Gallatin River via his property. He accused the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks of using “extortion” to keep that river path open.

Through much of the rural West, wealthy out-of-state buyers are amassing huge tracts of land to create their personal duchies. (Gianforte is a multimillionaire from New Jersey.) They often break with the neighborly ways of an older West where landowners didn’t fret much over locals’ crossing their property.

The North American Wildlife Conservation Model is clearly under threat. Formulated by a group of wildlife biologists about 20 years ago, it regulates hunting, protects habitat and defends the right of every citizen to hunt and fish.

Colorful misfits like rancher Cliven Bundy make headlines for occupying federal land, but of more concern are serious proposals to turn land owned by all Americans over to state politicians and allied moneyed interests. Calling this a “land grab” is not an exaggeration.

The 2016 Republican Party platform officially calls for handing federal lands to the states. That’s after Utah passed a bill in 2012 demanding that more than 20 million acres of federal land be transferred to state officials. Eleven Western states have considered 37 similar bills. Six of them got through.

Happily, there has been pushback. Lawmakers in Wyoming and Oregon turned thumbs down to the awful (and radical) idea. Colorado and New Mexico actually passed bills affirming support for national forests, parks and wildlife refuges.

The battles over public lands and access to wildlife will rage on — among mining companies, Native Americans, sportsmen and their fellow environmentalists. We must not let money determine the outcome.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached atfharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

The Brexit: What Just Happened?!

It was only in the last 24 hours before the Brexit vote that it began to hit home just how massive, and maybe insane, it would be if the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union.

The result was in doubt, not least because of the relatively large and growing numbers of undecided voters in those last few days. It is clear now where most of those undecided voters decided to go.

The results are in. The UK, or at least England and Wales, has decided decisively it no longer wants to be part of a huge, free market, free trade, free travel bloc.

A great deal of the international debate and analysis centered on the economic impact of leaving: On the UK, on other European countries, on the “market”, even on the United States. Rampant confusion has reigned.

But there are other elements to consider: nationalism, borders, sovereignty, and the question of whether the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland may even crack under the strain of leaving.

The debate, in England at least, was simply put. Those on the Leave side believed the country can stand alone, make its own, better deals on trade, and stay financially afloat.

And leaving will help keep those bloody immigrants out with nice, sturdy border controls, they said. They won’t even need a Trumpian wall; no-one has yet suggested, at least publicly, building one along what will be the country’s only land border with the EU, in Ireland.

Those on the Remain side believed this would be a complete disaster, including financially (they were right), while many were appalled at the idea of going it alone with such a large rump of jingoistic, nationalistic, anti-immigrant fellow countrymen and women.

But it is a fact that many feel betrayed at how the European Union has developed, and not just the Conservative Eurosceptics, or nasty far right nationalists. And not just in the UK, but across the EU.

This vote will encourage many others across the continent, both those of that often dark nationalist, deeply anti-immigrant, bent, but also those that believe there is a super elite running and rigging the game, caught in the thrall of the financial markets. Think a Trump-Sanders ticket: This is an anti-establishment vote, and nothing is more establishment, in the minds of Leave voters, than Brussels.

There is a real feeling among voters that countries have truly suborned much of their sovereignty, and much of their decision making, to Brussels, and that decisions are largely being made not by the European Parliament, but by the entirely unelected European Commission, and the European Central Bank, seen as the water carrier for the big European financial institutions.

Take Ireland, where the ECB, and particularly its former chairman, Jean-Claude Trichet, are reviled by many in the country.

In essence, taxpayers in the country were saddled with billions in extra debt after the Irish government — which had bailed out the country’s banks — was bullied and threatened into not burning bondholders. And the bondholders deserved to be burned, as many of them were big European financial institutions which had lent recklessly to Irish banks, allowing them in turn to carry out a manic lending spree of truly epic proportions.

Austerity, and lots of misery, followed. Then Trichet gave the metaphorical finger to a banking inquiry set up to look at the mess, by refusing to attend and answer its questions.

It is only one example, and Ireland will never exit the EU, minus a complete break up, but Europe is a deeply unhappy family.

Yet it is incredibly hard to believe that the UK will now leave it altogether, not least because the consequences are  unknown — financially, on trade, on its citizens not being able to travel freely through the EU, and on the country itself.

A tradesman in Boston, East Midlands — which posted a 75 percent Leave vote, the highest in the country — will find out somewhere down the line that his work options severely limited. He just voted to not be able to work freely in 27 other countries. He arguably voted against his own interests.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s SNP First Minister, who urged Scots to vote Remain, which they did with a large majority, has made clear her party will pursue independence. Further, she suggested that if Scotland became independent the party would enter “decisions and discussions” to join the Euro.

And then there is Northern Ireland, where it has been somewhat strange to follow what was an incredibly muted debate. It voted to remain, but not by a large majority. It and the Republic of Ireland are so meshed together now — through trade, travel, and otherwise — there will be consequences to this vote.

In the end, this was an English row. And it was England, with its Welsh appendage, that voted to leave, decisively.

Photo: A British flag flutters in front of a window in London, Britain, June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU BREXIT referendum.       REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

Djokovic Shatters Federer Dream To Win Third Wimbledon

By Dave James, AFP

London — Defending champion Novak Djokovic won a third Wimbledon title and a ninth Grand Slam crown on Sunday, ruthlessly shattering Roger Federer’s bid for a record eighth All England Club triumph.

World number one Djokovic won 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (10/12), 6-4, 6-3 to add this year’s Wimbledon title to the Australian Open he captured in January. It was a cathartic moment for Djokovic just a month after his heartbreaking French Open final defeat against Stan Wawrinka — a loss that denied him the only major title he has yet to win.

“It’s a big challenge playing against Roger. A lot of players of my generation have looked up to him and followed his lead,” said Djokovic who now has the same number of Wimbledon titles as coach Boris Becker who won his first 30 years ago.

“I knew coming on the court that Roger is going to play like he always plays, at his best when it matters the most. He makes you work hard every single point.”

For 33-year-old Federer, it was a bitterly disappointing end to his bid to become the oldest Wimbledon champion of the Open Era. The 17-time major winner has now gone three years since his last Grand Slam triumph, at Wimbledon in 2012.

“Novak played not only good today but the whole two weeks, the whole year, last year and the year before that,” said Federer.

“I had my chances in the first set. I got lucky to win the second, had chances in the third.

“But he was better on the bigger points. He was rock solid, I didn’t play badly myself. That’s how it goes.”

Federer had his opportunities but he could only convert one of seven break points in the match and as he pressed, he committed 35 unforced errors to Djokovic’s 16.

In a rollercoaster rematch of last year’s final, Federer was 4-2 up in the first set and had two set points. He then had to save seven set points in the second set before bravely leveling the contest.

However, Djokovic, five years Federer’s junior, stepped on the gas and raced away to the title. Sunday’s final was the pair’s 40th career meeting and 12th in the Grand Slams. Djokovic was playing in his 17th major final compared to Federer’s 26th.

Seven Set Points

But despite Federer’s majestic triumph over Andy Murray in the semi-finals, which suggested he was not ready for the retirement home just yet, Sunday’s reality check looks certain to leave the Swiss thwarted in his quest to add to his record 17 Grand Slam title collection.

In front of a Royal Box crammed with tennis and Hollywood A-listers, including Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Grant, and Bradley Cooper, Federer was in the early ascendancy.

He broke for a 4-2 lead but Djokovic hit straight back condemning the Swiss to just his second lost service game in 94 served up at the tournament. Federer then saw two set points disappear in the 12th game, both saved courtesy of back-to-back 120-mph serves.

Djokovic capitalized on his escape, racing through the tiebreaker with six consecutive points to claim the opener when Federer served up a double fault. The Serb committed just three unforced errors in the first set, a key statistic in what would always be a tight encounter. By contrast, Federer hit 11, the same as he suffered throughout his semi-final win over Murray.

Federer wasted two break points in the fifth and 11th games of the second set having saved a first set point in the 10th. That paved the way for a titanic tiebreak where the 33-year-old saved six more set points before leveling the final on his second set point.

At 12/10, it was the longest tiebreak in a Wimbledon final since 2000 when Pat Rafter faced Pete Sampras with the set taking 65 gripping minutes to complete. To his credit, Djokovic swiftly recovered, breaking for a 2-1 lead in the third set which became 3-2 when rain forced them off for 20 minutes.

The world No. 1 confidently wrapped up the set 6-4 with just two unforced errors even if the brief stoppage had dampened the fireworks of the second set. Djokovic was strangling the life out of Federer’s game and another break gave him a 3-2 lead in the fourth set.

The title was his on the stroke of the third hour with a sweeping forehand into an open court. As has become the Serb’s tradition, he celebrated by pulling out a piece of Centre Court grass and eating it.

Photo: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Switzerland’s Roger Federer during their men’s singles final match at Wimbledon on July 12, 2015. AFP/Adrian Dennis

Scotland Tense Ahead Of United Kingdom Elections This Week

By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

EDINBURGH, Scotland — With only a few days to go until the United Kingdom’s national elections, tensions were simmering in Scotland.

The heads of the two leading parties in Scotland — battered Labor and the ascendant Scottish National Party — took shots at each other Sunday night in their final debate before U.K. polls open Thursday, exposing how much bad blood has arisen between two parties that, in fact, agree on a number of key economic issues.

“(British Labor leader) Ed Miliband said he would rather see the Tories back in office than work with the SNP,” Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said, in one of several sharply worded statements. “I think that’s pretty appalling.” Sturgeon later called Labor “desperate.”

For his part, Scottish Labor leader Jim Murphy accused the SNP of reckless politics, saying it was “willing to bring down a Labor budget” to advance its own cause.

The campaign fight between Labor and the SNP in Scotland has highlighted a division that many thought was put to rest when a referendum on Scottish independence was defeated in September.

But the battle has larger implications. If the SNP gains many seats at Labor’s expense Thursday, it could play kingmaker in the new British government, since neither Miliband’s center-left Labor nor Prime Minister David Cameron’s center-right Conservative Party are expected to win a majority of seats on their own.

That means Scotland, despite accounting for only about five million of the U.K.’s 64 million residents, could swing an election that many believe will determine Britain’s future in the European Union and on the world stage for years to come.

The nationalist SNP has undergone a remarkable rise since the “Yes” movement it helped lead lost in September. Under Sturgeon, who took over from Alex Salmond after the defeat, the SNP has more than quadrupled its membership — fueled in part by a sense among Scots that post-referendum promises from London over greater autonomy have gone unfulfilled.

As a result, the SNP, which holds only six seats in the British Parliament, is forecast to win at least 50 of the available 59 seats from Scottish districts when final ballots are counted.

Meanwhile, Labor, which has long maintained a stranglehold on Scottish politics, has unraveled. Come Thursday, the party is expected to lose most if not all of the 41 British Parliamentary seats it holds in Scotland, according to TNS and other polling firms.

The new math has set off a political chess match.

In her bid to lure Labor supporters, Sturgeon has said the SNP wants to work with Labor (although not as part of a formal coalition).

But Miliband and Murphy have sought to put distance between themselves and the SNP, fearing that any association with a Scottish nationalist movement would hurt them with English voters. At Sunday’s debate, Murphy took aim several times at Sturgeon, seeking to pin her down on a five-year moratorium for a new independence referendum as Sturgeon equivocated.

Cameron and the Tories, meanwhile, have sought to capitalize with English voters on the rise of the SNP, telling them that, essentially, flipping the lever for Labor means voting for the Scottish nationalist group.

“The fact is that Labor cannot win a majority on their own. They can only get into Downing Street with the support of the SNP,” Cameron said in a campaign speech last month. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who remains personally popular in Scotland, even though her party is a non-factor, also hammered the point at Sunday’s debate.

Despite the “Better Together” unity campaign that won by a margin of about ten percentage points in September, the issue of Scottish independence remains at the fore. The fact was highlighted last week when the Scottish and English editions of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspapers atypically diverged on their election endorsement, with the former recommending the SNP and the English edition pushing for the Tories.

At a Labor rally in Glasgow on Monday, Murphy and the comedian Eddie Izzard, who supports the party, were heckled by a small number of nationalist supporters, forcing the pair to abandon the event early. Sturgeon condemned the hecklers.

On the streets of Edinburgh, there has been less fanfare than during the referendum vote, with fewer signs and overt campaigning. Still, the effects wrought by a post-referendum nationalist surge could be felt.

On Leith Walk, a main thoroughfare in the city’s northeastern neighborhood, candidates from the Liberal Democrats and other parties pumped hands with voters on the street, hoping to attract those fleeing Labor but unsure about the SNP.

And as bikers and joggers made their way through the city’s Hollyrood Park later in the evening, many said they were doing something they never expected a few months ago: looking toward the nationalists.

Lisa Webb, an environmental worker who was raised in Edinburgh, encapsulated the feelings of many Scots as she exercised.

“I voted no on the referendum, but I think might vote for the SNP now,” she said. “The way Labor has carried itself has really not appealed to me. And I’d never vote for the Tories.”

Photo: Lawrence OP via Flickr