A rundown of five of our most important and timely stories from the past week.
- Back in 2012, Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of committing arson on federal lands, and sentenced to five years in prison. This decision ignited one of the most notable lands rights protests in recent years, when Ammon Bundy—of the now-notorious Bundy clan—led an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve in 2016. This week, President Donald Trump pardoned both Hammonds of their crimes and, in the process, handed a big win to ranchers like the Bundys. As Leah Sottile writes in her piece about this newest chapter in a long-running dispute, "To [fully] understand Trump's pardon, you've got to look back to one of the oldest fights in the American West—one that you could argue started in 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act." Read Sottile's piece here.
- Acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler gave his first speech to staffers since the resignation of embattled former administrator Scott Pruitt. Staff writer Francie Diep attended the event and says that Wheeler offered some hints as to how the EPA will be run under his leadership. Republicans on the Hill are in no rush to replace Wheeler as head of the agency, as it would likely set off another partisan fight in Congress prior to an already contentious mid-term election season. Read Diep's coverage here.
- On Thursday, a group of scientists sent an urgent letter to California Governor Jerry Brown beseeching the late-term politician to phase out oil and gas production in the Golden State, a move they say is essential in keeping with the state's sparkling environmental reputation. Staff writer Kate Wheeling spoke with Shaye Wolf, the climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity, who notes another driving factor behind the letter: "The state climate targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050 are not strong enough to meet the Paris Agreement's climate goals. California has to do more, and we have to do more fast." Read Wheeling's story here.
- Amazon, Google, Foxconn, and other large corporations have seen states and cities attempt to entice them to move their operations to friendlier locales via economic incentive deals. These agreements often include massive tax breaks, sweetheart development deals, and more. But are these financial outlays worth it? As contributing writer Dwyer Gunn notes, "Given the enormous sums of money involved in these incentive packages, it's striking how little faith economists have that these incentives actually work." Read Gunn's analysis here.
- "If Watts embodied the urban crisis of the 20th century, then Flint embodies that of the 21st." Journalist Anna Clark's new book about the Flint water crisis lays out what she calls "the American urban tragedy" in full, unflinching detail. Clark, who is a Michigan resident, spoke with contributing editor Leah Angstman about her book, aptly titled Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy, the human stories she collected to assemble it, ongoing flaws in emergency management, and more. Read Angstman's interview with Clark here.
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