Rose Hackman

Paying While Dating: Meet the Men Who Pick Up the Check (And Those Who Don't)

One recent evening, on a group ride back from the Bronx to Manhattan, a male friend voiced a controversial opinion: if we are really living in an age of aspirational gender equality, he said, why do women still expect men to open the doors for them, and why do we still have to pick up the bill on dates?

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Shell’s U.S. Arctic Drilling Will Harass Thousands of Whales and Seals

Royal Dutch Shell’s plans for exploratory drilling in the US Arctic this summer will involve the harassment of whales and seals by the thousands, an application document filed by Shell to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reveals.
    
Most notably, Shell estimates its Arctic activities will expose more than 2,500 bowhead whales, more than 2,500 gray whales and more than 50,000 ringed seals to continuous sounds and pulsed sounds, deemed damaging enough to constitute harassment.
    
The bowhead whale is listed under the US Endangered Species Act. By Shell’s own estimate, 13% of the overall population of bowhead whales still alive are potentially harassed.
    
The number of gray whales potentially harassed also constitutes 13% of the overall population, while the number of ringed seals potentially harassed amounts to 16%. Under the ESA, the ringed seal is classified as threatened.
    
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the government may allow for the “taking” or “harassment” of marine mammals, so long as the number taken is small and the impact on the species negligible.
    
But environmental groups argue the numbers affected by the Shell plans are not small, nor will the impact on species be negligible.
    
“The authorization that they [Shell] are seeking is a request to be able to harass that amount of animals. Shell has asked the government to authorize the taking of that amount of animals,” said Christopher Krenz, a scientist and Arctic campaign manager with Oceana.
    
As defined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, “harassment” refers to the pursuit, torment or annoyance of mammals, with the potential for injury, or with the potential for disturbing behavioral patterns including breathing, migrating, breeding, feeding, nursing or sheltering.
    
For whales, one of the biggest causes for concern is their hearing. Exploratory drilling, seismic testing and ice-breaking activities may expose whales to damaging sounds.
    
“If the noises happen and whales are caught within that zone, it can cause hearing damage,” Krenz said. “These whales talk to each other. Scientists think that it is very important for cows and calves to call out to each other as they migrate.”
    
With damaged hearing, bowhead whales would stop making such calls, something that could be lethal in the short or long term.
    
“Whales communicate through acoustic signals,” said Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace. “A deaf whale is a dead whale,” he added, referring to a study by Oceana from 2013.
    
Shell has argued it will monitor areas where loud and potentially damaging activities will be taking place and halt activities if whales are spotted within close vicinities. It has also argued that most of the whales will avoid the areas, thereby limiting any potential impact.
    
Modified migration patterns may not necessarily be a reassuring development.
    
“We have got to look at it from the context of the normal behavior of these animals,” Donaghy said. “It might not mean the death of them, but if they avoid their preferred areas for feeding, for breeding, that means fewer animals may be born, fewer animals may survive.”
    
Krenz said the cumulative impact of exploratory drilling, seismic testing and ice-breaking activities in the US Arctic on marine mammals, though not yet fully known, should be taken into account by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
    
He warned that the governmental agency had “not been on the side of caution” when it came to issuing permits in the past.
    
Arnold Brower Jr., executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, said subsistence whale hunting was “vitally important for our Arctic globes community”.
    
“We don’t have agricultural farming. We rely heavily on marine mammals to eat, this is our homegrown renewable resource,” he said.
    
But Brower said he was partially reassured that Shell would not be drilling during the spring hunting season, even if Shell operations would overlap with the fall migration routes of the whales.
    
Above all, the possibility of an oil spill had been of main concern, he said.
    
“That has been troubling our minds,” he said. “We really desire to see reassurance that this will not happen.”
    
The application for incidental harassment authorization for the non-lethal taking of whales and seals is one of the last permits Shell still needs to obtain before being formally allowed back into the Arctic.
    
On May 11, the Obama administration gave the effective go-ahead when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved Shell’s Exploration Plan for the Chuckchi Sea. Environmental groups described the move as reckless, and one that would likely lead to ecological disaster.
    
According to a study undertaken by the government itself and released this year, the likelihood of one or more spills occurring in the Arctic over the next 77 years if drilling for oil were to take place is as high as 75 percent.
    
Earlier this week, a dozen organizations filed a lawsuit in the ninth circuit court of appeals, challenging the approval of Shell’s US Arctic exploration plan.
    
If the authorization for harassment is rejected by the NMFS, Shell will not be allowed into the Arctic this summer.

Clean Water Could Take a Central Role in the 2016 Presidential Debates

Do Americans hold the core ideals of private property so high that they would be willing to give up on the idea of clean, drinkable water?
    
It depends on who you speak to.
    
Following the Obama administration’s “clean water rule,” which was introduced last week and seeks to protect around 60 percent of American water bodies from pollution, it seems many Republicans are taking that very bet.
    
Certain tweets, comments and press releases suggest Republican presidential hopefuls have made water the latest issue in a campaign to denounce government overreach, setting up good old H20 to play a role in the 2016 elections.
    
Barely a few hours after the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers introduced the clean water rule on 27 May, Jeb Bush – brother of George W Bush and a strong contender (if still unannounced) for the Republican nomination – tweeted his rejection of it.
    
“I want clean water but Obama Admin again oversteps with flawed reg on waters that hurts farmers & small business. #DitchTheRule,” Bush wrote.
    
The next day, governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, another strong, likely-but-not-yet-announced Republican presidential candidate, released a statement framing the clean water rule as economically and ethically unsound: a form of Washington power grab affecting individual Americans’ private lives and businesses.
    
“Just the latest version of the Obama administration’s costly and burdensome overreach into Americans’ livelihoods,” he wrote. “Washington’s inefficient, heavy-handed regulations are wreaking havoc on working families across the nation, from stifling small business growth to strangling the agriculture industry.”
    
In an op-ed in The Hill earlier this year, co-written with Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky senator Rand Paul described the rule, then in its proposal stage, as the “greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.”
    
“Virtually every property owner in the nation will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound and often Byzantine regulatory regimes of the EPA,” they wrote.
    
The Obama administration has argued that the rule does nothing new, and that it seeks to clarify the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which was designed to stop the discharging of toxic and non-toxic pollutants into America’s navigable bodies of water.
    
But in the last 15 years, two separate Supreme Court rulings have raised questions about whether small streams and wetlands – which are connected to larger navigable waters, but not large and navigable themselves – should be included in the act’s legislative and regulatory reach.
    
The clean water rule explicitly makes sure that they are, with the argument that smaller bodies of water that feed into larger ones provide drinking water to one in three Americans.
    
Streams and even some ditches – so long as they are considered “tributaries” that connect to larger bodies of water downstream– are considered “water of the United States” (also known as #WOTUS), and subject to regulation.
    
Democrats from states where the farm and energy industries represent large sections of the local economy have also spoken out against the rule and even signed initiatives to try to dismantle it.
    
Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, where the number one industry is agriculture, wrote in a statement that farmers and ranchers from her state see the rule as a cause for concern every time she speaks to them. The lack of adequate consultation by the EPA had led to “prairie potholes” – temporary wetlands – being regulated as part of the claimed waters of the United States.
    
At the end of April, Heitkamp introduced bipartisan legislation in the Senate to re-write the rule, with the backing of other Democratic senators, including Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, which produces around 15 percent of America’s fossil fuel energy according to the region’s department of commerce.
    
Not all environmental groups are happy with the rule, either. Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity, called the rule a win for big industry and Republicans, not Democrats, precisely because of the increased exemptions introduced to cater to critics.
    
“Without the full protection of the Clean Water Act, critical wetland habitats across the country will be degraded or destroyed, undermining the recovery of dozens of endangered species,” Hartl wrote in a statement.
    
The fact that there are efforts to weaken the rule further is a sign of emboldened Republicans and industry supporters, not of dissatisfaction, Hartl said in an interview.
    
“They are trying to see how much more they can get,” he said.
    
Mostly, the rule concerns large industries, with exemptions remaining and indeed expanding for farmers, ranchers and foresters, EPA officials have repeatedly stressed.
    
Unsurprisingly, the farming, manufacturing, oil and gas, and housing development industries have all been vocal in their opposition to the rule.
    
Gina McCarthy, who heads the EPA, said in a press call last week that her agency had found that 80 percent of small business owners supported the rule, as did a majority of those individuals and organizations who submitted public comments in the run-up to the rule’s introduction.
    
Whether or not the EPA’s own surveys can be trusted, the move by Republicans to denounce water regulation and pitch it as the enemy of the foundational American ideal of private property might not be a slam-dunk for the American right – even among their core supporters.
    
Anthony Leiserowitz, a research scientist at Yale University who directs the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, says that Americans consistently place water pollution at the top of the list of environmental issues they are concerned about, with his polling showing “overwhelming amounts of people” in support of government protection of water systems.
    
“It is an issue that is fundamental to people’s lives,” Leiserowitz says.
    
While convincing people that climate change is not a pressing issue for them is a feasible task, Leiserowitz says (“most people think it is far away in space and will affect polar bears”), water is much more difficult to brush to one side.
    
“It is what we drink every single day. We have a far more direct and visceral relationship with it,” he says.
    
With the ongoing drought in California, the recent killer flash floods in Texas and Oklahoma, and last year’s contaminated water incident that lead to freakishly green tap water in Toledo, Ohio, water is only set to become more crucial to people, Leiserowitz says.
    
Still, Republicans’ fiery rhetoric should not be underestimated when it comes to changing their own voters’ minds.
    
According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Republicans in favor of “stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment” was as high as 86 percent in 1992. By 2012, that had dropped to 47 percent, almost half of what it was two decades earlier.
    
For Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council Action Fund, which supported the rule, the biggest hurdle is making sure public debate centers around facts, not ideologies.

“Any time that the public has a meaningful conversation about the environment, we win.”

Global Carbon Dioxide Concentration Hit Record High in March

Global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a new record high in March 2015, soaring to surpass 400 parts per million, scientists revealed on Wednesday.

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Arctic Ice Melting Faster and Earlier as Scientists Demand Action

There was less ice in the Arctic this winter than in any other winter during the satellite era, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said on Tuesday.

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