World and National News – Aug. 16, 2017

Race violence erupts in Virginia
White nationalist and other right-wing groups marched in protest of the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. The protestors were met by counter-protestors and violence erupted.
As local police converged to disperse the crowds, a car slammed into a group of the counter-protestors, killing one and injuring 19 others. Reports indicate at least another 15 people were injured in the violence.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The Southern Poverty Law Center described the event as possibly the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades.”

Bullock responds to federal Sage grouse report
Governor Steve Bullock today issued the following statement after reviewing the report presented to the U.S. Department of the Interior regarding possible plan and policy modifications to state efforts on Greater Sage-grouse conservation and protection.
“Here in Montana representatives from conservation, sportsmen, energy development, agriculture and ranching, tribes and local government came together to find real solutions to improve the management and conservation of the Greater Sage-grouse.
We have concerns the Department of Interior’s efforts to provide states greater flexibility could imperil the overall effort to prevent a listing of the Sage-grouse, but will continue to take an all-lands, all-hands approach to conservation while seeking opportunities to better align our work with federal partners where we can.
As we work with stakeholders here in the state, we will continue to encourage others across the West to respond to Secretary Zinke’s recommendations with an eye toward continuing the forward progress we have made.”​

Senate passes Tester’s travel card abuse bill
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed Senator Jon Tester’s bipartisan legislation to crack down on abuse of government travel cards.
Tester’s Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act will increase accountability and oversight across federal agencies on purchases made using federal government charge cards.  Tester’s bill would improve anti-waste and fraud analysis and would save taxpayer money by leveraging the government’s purchasing power when buying items in bulk.
“This bipartisan bill holds accountable all government employees entrusted with the responsibility of using taxpayer-owned travel cards by scrutinizing every penny and cracking down on abuse, fraud, and waste,” Tester said.  “This bill will put eagle eyes on how the government spends money to clean up Washington, cut wasteful spending and stop government bureaucrats from treating taxpayer money like their own personal piggy banks.”
Tester, a longtime champion of accountability and transparency, cosponsored the bill in June and secured its passage this week.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Gianforte praises Sage grouse plan
Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte responded favorably to a new report by the Department of Interior that recommends replacing misguided federal policy with more state control to improve sage grouse conservation and economic development on public lands.
“The Greater Sage-Grouse is not endangered, and state plans have increased the sage grouse population,” said Gianforte, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “Despite these facts, the Obama Administration enacted heavy-handed federal policies for the sole purpose of tying-up millions of acres of public land. I’m happy to see President Trump and Ryan Zinke focus on science and state plans for a more balanced approach.”
In 2015, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the Greater Sage-Grouse did not “face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.” Despite that decision, the Obama Administration used the threat of a listing to ram through de facto critical habitat management plans and proposed the withdraw of 10 million acres of habitat from future mining activity. More than 7,000 active mining claims were present in the withdrawal area, while a mere 0.1% (171,000 acres) was actual sage grouse habitat. Additionally, a recent report shows the bird’s population has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, largely under cooperative efforts taken by the states.

Tester slams DeVos over increased federal education bureaucracy
U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to tear down new bureaucratic barriers that are putting critical funding at risk for rural Montana school districts.
Tester, a former teacher, is calling on controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overturn her new requirements that force rural schools to complete additional paperwork to access their Small, Rural School Achievement Program grants.
“It is important educators spend their valuable time ensuring students get the best possible education, not battling federal paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops,” Tester wrote.  “Instead of dedicating precious time to wrapping up one school year and preparing for the next, rural schools were swimming through an alphabet soup of government acronyms just to understand what your Department is now requiring from them.”
DeVos created the new requirements earlier this year.  Montana superintendents have contacted Tester saying these additional application requirements and time restraints are wasting time and hurting students.

Crude prices drop amidst OPEC overproduction
U.S. crude oil prices took a 1 percent drop last week after an International Energy Agency report showed that major oil producers, such as OPEC, are failing to comply with production limits put in place last November. The limits were recently extended through March 2018.
The IEA, which monitors energy market trends for the world’s richest countries, said that compliance by OPEC countries dropped to a new low of 75% in July. The rate for non-OPEC producers was even weaker at 67%.
Within OPEC, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq were among the worst offenders, while Kuwait and de-facto cartel leader Saudi Arabia pumped within the allocated limit. Mexico was the only non-OPEC signatory in full compliance.
In total, the group produced 470,000 barrels a day more than agreed, CNN reports.

Colorado K-9 saves deputy
An Adams County, Colo., Sheriff’s deputy was being attacked by a suspect when his K-9 partner Lex unlatched a gate and came to the deputy’s aid.
The deputy responded to a trespassing call Aug. 5. He jumped over a fence in pursuit of the suspect, who then turned to attack him. The K-9 partner, Lex, saw the deputy in distress and unlatched the fence gate with his paw, allowing him to assist the deputy in apprehending the suspect.
The suspect was charged with attempted first degree murder and assault.

Police raise money to replace stolen college funds
Kristin Villanueva was her high school’s valedictorian and on her way to Cal Poly to study materials engineering when her plans were waylaid by a burglary. The thieves stole $2,000 Villanueva had earned by tutoring fellow students and was saving for her college expenses.
Officers from the El Segundo Police Department stepped in and set up a GoFundMe page for Villanueva, raising $5,000 in just nine days. The officers presented the check to Villanueva last week.

Lawsuit against former Flint official tossed
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former Flint official who claimed she was fired after discovering the mayor was trying to guide donors to a campaign fund instead of a charity for families with lead-tainted water.
U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of the lawsuit by former administrator Natasha Henderson. She sued in May 2016, claiming she was fired for being a whistleblower.
Henderson was hired when Flint was under state emergency management but was fired in early 2016 after a year on the job. Her attorney has said Henderson reported alleged wrongdoing by Mayor Karen Weaver to a city lawyer.