Trump to shrink Utah monuments, riling tribes and environmentalists

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U.S. President Donald Trump announced big cuts to Utah’s sprawling wilderness national monuments on Monday, angering tribes and environmental groups that want to keep the areas off limits to development.

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Unlike national parks that can only be created by an act of Congress, national monuments can be designated unilaterally by presidents under the century-old Antiquities Act, a law meant to protect sacred sites, artifacts and historical objects.

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American public to President Trump: Leave our national monuments alone

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The comment period for the Trump administration’s national monument review has officially ended, and the administration if facing stiff public backlash over its attempt to downsize national monuments across the West.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April directing the Department of the Interior to review two decades’ worth of national monument designations in an effort to decide whether to rescind, modify, or maintain their designations. The review encompasses 21 monuments, mostly located in the Western United States, from New Mexico to Washington.

Image: Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

The review’s public comment period, which lasted for 60 days, elicited more than 2.5 million responses. According to a Center for Western Priorities analysis of the 654,197 comments that had been processed by Interior Department staff as of Monday morning, 98 percent were supportive of maintaining or expanding current national monument boundaries, while just 1 percent supported the idea of shrinking monuments.

Several recently-designated monuments have been the target of Republican lawmakers, primarily the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which President Obama designated in December of 2016. The designation, which was granted after a proposal from five indigenous tribes, meant that oil and gas companies would not be allowed to drill or mine for minerals in some 1.35-million acres of the state. On June 13, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a recommendation calling for Bears Ears to be downsized, which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a fierce opponent of the national monument, called “ an unquestionable victory for Utah.”

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Utah Teachers Get Free Gun Training in Wake of Newtown School Shootings

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Hundreds of teachers gathered in an indoor sports arena in Utah on Dec. 27 to participate in a free instruction course on the handling of firearms, the latest preventative measure taken to thwart future mass school shootings, such as the one in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
“If we have the ability to stop something, we should do it,” Jessica Fiveash told The Associated Press. Fiveash was one of the 200 teachers who gathered at the arena on Thursday to learn how to safely use a firearm.
The six-hour instruction course was organized by the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the state’s leading gun lobby, which told Reuters that in the past, annual training sessions have attracted an average of 16 teachers, but the recent shooting in Newtown produced so many applicants that the council was forced to cap attendance at 200 for its December session.
Although the turnout at Thursday’s instructional class proved massive, not everyone believes it is a good idea to equip school teachers with guns.
Critics contend that equipping a teacher with a gun introduces a new slew of risks, such as a disgruntled student using the teacher’s gun to harm others. They argue that, ultimately, the safest route is to allow only law enforcement officials to carry firearms.
“How would I keep that gun safe?” questioned Kerrie Anderson, a choir and math teacher at a junior high school near Salt Lake City.
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“I wouldn’t carry [it] on my person while teaching, where a disgruntled student could overpower me and take it. And if I have it secured in my office, it might not be a viable form of protection,” Anderson added.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, told AP that the purpose of arming teachers with guns is not so they can seek out the shooter, but rather the gun provides “one more option if the shooter” enters a classroom.
Aposhian contends that with a gun comes added responsibility.
“It’s going to be a hassle. It’s another responsibility. You can’t just leave your gun lying around, not for a minute,” Aposhian told AP.
Thursday’s class, which waived the usual $50 attendance fee, included instruction with plastic guns and allowed participating teachers the opportunity to register for a concealed-weapons permit.
Utah isn’t the only state offering the option of gun instruction to teachers.
In Ohio and Arizona, firearms groups and state legislatures are making moves to enable educators to carry concealed weapons, according to AP.
On the morning of Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 victims before turning the gun on himself. Police say Lanza also killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home before driving to the schoool.
The recent shooting, which was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history behind the Virginia Tech tragedy of 2007, has sparked a nationwide debate on stricter gun control laws in the country.
President Barack Obama called for change while speaking during a memorial service in Newtown on Dec. 16, saying,”We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change.”
Obama afterward appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a panel on suggesting gun law proposals in January 2013.
Still, some observers predict a fierce legislation battle regarding the imposition of stricter gun control laws, as many Americans believe it is their right to carry a firearm for their personal protection and point to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Additionally, while others call for fewer guns, pro-gun groups, such as the National Rifle Association, contend that more guns is the answer.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said in a press conference on Dec. 21, suggesting that Congress should do “whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

By Katherine Weber/Christian Post

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The Supreme Court, Bain Capital and Mitt Romney

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Image: Getty

  •  All eyes on SCOTUS: As early as today and as late as Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the federal health-care law. And there are essentially three outcomes: 1) everything gets upheld, 2) everything gets struck down, or 3) something in between.
  • Immigration decision is coming, too: Don’t forget: We’ll also get the court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law this week.
  • Bain gets more scrutiny: After the Washington Post reported on Friday that Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney’s leadership, invested in firms that outsourced jobs to China and India, other news organizations piled on Bain. Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote that even when Bain-controlled companies filed for bankruptcy and shed jobs, Bain and its executives still made money. “Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain’s funds.”
  • Romney’s weekend getaway: Here’s a thought exercise: Imagine if Obama had held a big retreat — say in Santa Fe, NM — with all of his big bundlers. The Hollywood types. The LGBT donors. The NBA stars. Would it have received more coverage than Romney’s retreat with his big bundlers in Utah over the weekend? Perhaps the most newsworthy part of the weekend: the attendance of the Super PAC-men. Not only was Karl Rove there (remember that he helped found American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS), but also spotted in the hotel lobby there was Restore Our Future’s Charlie Spies.

MORE  from NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Brooke Brower@ First Read Blog @MSNBC.

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