Orca protection at risk
A conservative legal foundation has won a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration review of endangered species protections for Puget Sound's beloved orcas. NOAA FIsheries said this morning that it had accepted the Pacific Legal Foundation's request that it study dropping the Endangered Species Act protection status of the Southern Resident killer whale population, which spends part of the year in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.
The agency said the petition from the foundation "presents new information about genetic samples, data analysis and interpretation." Pacific argued in August that the struggling population of orcas (there are fewer than 90) here shouldn't be protected as a distinct species but are part of a thriving, worldwide species of killer whales. The foundation filed petitions on behalf of two California farms affected by water restrictions meant to protect the orcas as they travel along the Coast.
In a Q&A on its site, NOAA said the review doesn't mean that it is likely that the protections will be overturned but that the petition raised a reasonable possibility that it merits overturning the endangered status of the killer whales. Comments will be sought and a decision made by August of next year.
Another damaging police video?
A Seattle attorney has filed a lawsuit demanding the Seattle Police Department release dash-cam video of an arrest made in October. It relates to a hit-and-run case, in which all charges have been dropped.
In a lengthy Slog story on today's filing, The Stranger's Cienna Madrid writes that attorney James Egan says he already has a copy of the video but the department is trying to bar him from releasing it to the public by claiming it was obtained as part of the criminal-discovery process for his now-cleared client in the case. The story quotes Egan as saying the video of the arrest by three officers "will make your jaw hit the floor."
The Washington Budget & Policy Center today posted a not-so-upbeat look at the jobs picture in Washington state for the long run, with a headline that pretty much tells the story: "A good job is hard to find."
The progressive group laid out data that shows most available jobs here do not pay a wage that will support a family. Looking at 2012 job openings:
Fifteen of the 20 occupations with the most job openings pay below what a family of four (two adults, two kids) needs just to meet basic needs, like having enough food, adequate housing and affordable child care and health care. Eighteen out of 20 pay less than what a single parent with two children needs.
The center posted graphics for both the current openings and its projections for 2019, which appear — at best — only slightly better. A summary of policies that the center believes could improve the picture is available in a recent policy briefing.
Babies and unhealthy air
Even modest amounts of air pollution can lower the birth weight of babies, according to a new study from Seattle Children's Research Institute. A posting on Children's blog this morning calls the study the "first in the United States to examine low level traffic-derived air pollutants" in relation to lower-than-typical birth weights.
The study was led by Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, who said that current regulations may not be protecting against the risk of small-for-gestational-age births. The blog reported:
“We found associations in the Puget Sound area between increased levels of nitrogen dioxide exposures and an increased risk of small for gestational age birth,” said Dr. Sathyanarayana. Small for gestational age babies are smaller in size than normal for the baby’s sex and for the number of weeks of pregnancy. It is not the same as a low birth weight baby.
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