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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in danger of ‘becoming dumping ground’: WWF

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be “severely damaged” if the government does not completely ban the dumping of dredge waste in the World Heritage-listed waters, a report commissioned by conservation group WWF said Monday.

The Australian government in January ordered a ban on dumping dredge spoil in the marine park as part of a push to stop the United Nations declaring the site in danger.

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But the ban does not include most islands and ports as well as lakes and other waterways that fall outside the marine park but inside the slightly larger World Heritage Area.

Conservationists say dumping waste in reef waters damages it by smothering corals and sea grasses and exposing them to poisons and high levels of nutrients.

The report said port expansions within reef waters, which it noted could see some 51 million cubic metres (1.8 billion cubic feet) of the ocean floor dug up, would have “devastating impacts” on the natural wonder.

The report prepared by the consultancy Dalberg Global Development Advisors said there was no need for coal port expansions along Queensland state’s coast — where the reef is located — as the capacity at existing terminals was unused one-third of the time.

“These coal port expansions could increase the total coal port capacity of the region from 267 to 637 million tonnes per year”, the report added.

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“This would make the total capacity of the Great Barrier Reef’s coal ports just less than the overall capacity of the current largest port in the world: Shanghai, China.”

Australia has come under scrutiny from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over the reef’s health.

UNESCO threatened to put the reef on its World Heritage in danger list, but delayed taking action until the start of this month to allow Australia to submit a report on how it will protect the bio-diverse site.

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Environment Minister Greg Hunt said his government’s report to UNESCO “clearly demonstrates that the Great Barrier Reef does not warrant being listed as in danger”.

One of the measures implemented by the Queensland government includes the banning of dredging for new or expanded major developments outside priority port areas for a decade.

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“We know the reef is facing challenges but we are making significant progress. There is strong evidence that our efforts are working,” Hunt said in a statement last week.

“The report demonstrates that we have heard the concerns of the (World Heritage) committee and we have comprehensively addressed every one of them. We have also listened to the concerns of the community.”


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Carl Bernstein: There are 7-9 ‘wobbly’ Republicans who want witnesses but Mitch McConnell is trying to block them

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In a CNN panel discussion Wednesday, notorious Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein revealed that there are seven to nine Republican senators who are wavering after the compelling argument that the House has provided for the impeachment. The problem, however, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow any break from the party line.

"I think this is a hugely damaging narrative that was laid out today, and that Mitch McConnell understands, and has understood for a while that this hugely damaging narrative was going to affect his members," said Bernstein. "And that his strategy -- I've talked to some Republicans about this -- #MidnightMitch is to wear out his own members so that they don't vote for more witnesses because there are six, seven, eight, nine wobbly Republicans."

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Republican Kevin McCarthy gets taken down by former top GOP colleague

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was attacked by a former Republican colleague who alleged McCarthy and his fellow members of Congress have allowed the House GOP to become the official shill for the White House.

In a profile for the New York Times, former Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) shamed the GOP House for the way that a once-respectable institution has fallen.

“Congress no longer operates as an independent branch of government, but as an appendage of the executive branch,” said Davis. “He is made for that role.”

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Former senator reveals to Maddow how one brave Democrat can reveal key document in impeachment trial

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Near the end of Wednesday's impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that an agreement had been made to allow senators to read supplemental testimony from Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams.

The document will remain classified, despite claims that there is no classified material in the document, only evidence that is damning to the president.

"In terms of this document potentially being improperly classified, which is something that has been raised in writing by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and raised on the floor of the Senate tonight by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)," MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow noted. "Obviously, it was the vice president's office that said it was classified, they are getting publicly criticized for that. If it has been improperly classified and it should be something that the public can see, who adjudicates that?"

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