This week, we brought you stories on conservationists' youngest ranks, the far-right's harassment campaign against progressive speech on university campuses, and Joshua Tree tourists' unwitting role in loving the desert to death.
We also rounded up some of our favorite stories of what it means to be American for July 4th, and we kept you up-to-date on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation and the agency's new acting director.
But we're a small team, and we can't cover everything. Here are a few more stories we've had our eye on this week.
The Two Men Charged in the Ghost Ship Fire Have Pleaded No Contest
Two men charged with involuntary manslaughter in the December 2016 warehouse fire that killed 36 people in Oakland, California, pleaded no contest on Tuesday. The deal means they won't have to go to trial, NPR reports. One defendant, the artist collective's manager, agreed to a nine-year sentence, and the other, who helped run the space, agreed to a six-year sentence. Both could end up serving only half of these terms depending on their behavior.
But there's more litigation in progress: A lawsuit filed by victims' families argues that entities including the warehouse landlord, the City of Oakland, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., are also responsible for the fire, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Seattle Is the First Major American City to Ban Plastic Straws
There's been a lot of hubbub over plastic straws recently. Now, Seattle has become the first major city in the United States to ban them, along with plastic utensils and cocktail picks. Food service businesses will now have to provide "compliant options" such as compostable straws or face fines, CNBC reports.
Last month, Pacific Standard rounded up some of our recent coverage of the staggering scale of plastic pollution.
Colorado Is Facing the Third-Largest Wildfire in the State's History
The Spring Creek Fire, which by Thursday had grown to over 100,000 acres, has led to widespread evacuations and destroyed over 100 residences. Several other fires, including the 416 Fire, also continue to burn in Colorado. In the case of the Lake Christine Fire near Aspen, two people were charged with arson for allegedly igniting the blaze at a shooting range, the Aspen Times reports.
This fire season is already shaping up to be a rough one in California, too, as Pacific Standard explained this week.