26 January 2016

Obama Administration again confirms Puerto Rico's colonial status


Commonwealth officials are not happy about a legal brief the U.S. filed in a little-noticed Supreme Court case.

As the federal government's lead lawyer before the Supreme Court, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli has an important but relatively narrow role: By design, his views are intended to sway the justices and the justices alone.
But a brief Verrilli filed last week with the court -- for an under-the-radar case in which the U.S. isn't even a party -- made waves far beyond, eliciting a media maelstrom in Puerto Rico, impassioned responses from officials and even an appeal to the U.N. The controversy brings to the fore a longstanding debate about the island's political future, which is already at a tipping point thanks to Puerto Rico's ongoing debt crisis.
The reason for the uproar: Verrilli's brief stressed that Puerto Rico is still only a U.S. territory -- a non-sovereign with limited authority over its affairs.
In a telling passage, the solicitor general told the Supreme Court that Puerto Rico "could become" a sovereign, but "only if it were to attain statehood or become an independent nation."

The U.S. Military Could Wipe Out This Tiny Pacific Island Bird

John R. Platt covers the environment, technology, philanthropy, and more for Scientific American,ConservationLion, and other publications.

A planned Defense Department training site in the Northern Marianas threatens to destroy the Tinian monarch’s last bit of habitat.

In 2004, the United States government declared that a tiny and imperiled Pacific island bird called the Tinian monarch had pulled back from the brink of extinction and removed it from the endangered species list

A little over a decade later, that rare success story appears to be at risk. The new threat? The U.S. government. 

The Department of Defense has proposed a major new training site on Tinian, the 39-square-mile Mariana island on which the bird lives. If approved, the live-fire training complex—a place where the military could practice weapons targeting—would remove about 2,000 acres of Tinian monarch habitat and take over one-eighth of the island.