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Dispatches: Five Essential Reads From the Past Week

A collection of some of our most important and timely stories, from a new cover story on efforts to reintroduce the grizzly to California to a FOIA-based investigation into the Department of the Interior's current priorities.
Grizzly bear skull, catalogued in 1926, California Academy of Sciences.

Grizzly bear skull, catalogued in 1926, California Academy of Sciences.

  1. Grizzly bears are an iconic species in California. A bear is featured on the state flag, they are the mascot for multiple state universities, and have a long lineage in the lore of California's native peoples. Yet, shortly after Europeans began flooding the state looking for gold and agricultural riches, the bear was hunted to extinction. Now, as writer Jeremy Miller reports in our June/July cover story, there are conservationists who believe it's time to return the proud animal to the wilds of California. Read Miller's story here.
  2. In another feature from our June/July issue, writer Ben Goldfarb joins the crew of the vigilante environmental justice group Sea Shepherd as they fight to save the small, shy vaquita porpoise from extinction. Goldfarb traverses the Gulf of California onboard the SSS Sam Simon witnessing local fishermen thumb their nose at conservation law and the sometimes non-existent response of the Mexican navy to these violations. In the end, the question remains: Does the vaquita have any hope of survival? Read Goldfarb's piece here.
  3. The Paris climate conference was received with much fanfare and excitement after it produced the world's first global climate agreement. But in the years since, many of the goals set by the accords haven't been met and the United States has pulled itself out of the accords entirely. Eric J. Lyman—who has been covering climate negotiations since 2000—asks if these negotiations are still effective means of enacting eco-friendly reforms. The message is a bit ominous. As the former top United Nations climate change official Yvo de Boer says to Lyman: "There's a curb of usefulness these things go through, and after a certain point they can lose their purpose." Read the story here.
  4. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by contributing writer Jimmy Tobias, Pacific Standard was able to obtain government records that reveal that a top official at the Department of the Interior had a hand in nixing a government-funded public-health study in Appalachia—after a series of meetings with some of the most powerful mining players in the country. Read Tobias' story here.
  5. This week saw two aggressive moves by the Trump administration to dissuade asylum seekers from coming to America. First: It enacted a rule change allowing the Department of Homeland Security to review the immigration status of potential sponsors of unaccompanied minors who enter the U.S. without papers—and to use that information to deport those people, possibly costing unaccompanied minors a place to stay. Second: Attorney General Jeff Sessions prohibited immigration judges from granting asylum status to domestic abuse and gang violence survivors. Contributing writer Massoud Hayoun reported on both of these issues this week, speaking with immigrant advocates and representatives from the government. Read the unaccompanied minors story here and the Sessions story here.

This dispatch originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of