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Sharp drop in monarch butterflies wintering in California: researchers

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The number of monarchs wintering in California has dropped to a five-year low, despite more volunteers counting more sites in search of the orange-and-black insect that is arguably the most admired of North American butterflies, a report said on Friday.

The latest tally of 200,000 monarchs in forested groves in California’s central coast has dropped from the 1.2 million counted two decades ago, indicating the number of butterflies found west of the Rocky Mountains, or the so-called western population, continues to sharply decline, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation said in a report.

“It’s certainly concerning,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director for the Xerces Society.

Western monarchs are born on milkweed plants in such states as Arizona, Idaho, Utah and Washington before embarking on a seasonal migration to California.

The annual count in California, done at the end of autumn by dozens of volunteers and scientists, last saw a severe low in 2012, with 144,812 butterflies across 136 sites, she said.

In another troubling trend, the 200,000 butterflies found in the 2017 survey stemmed from monitoring of 262 sites, which were even more sites than were tracked the previous year when 300,000 monarchs were counted, Jepsen said.

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Factors that may have compounded monarchs’ plight in California in recent months include unseasonably warm temperatures, wildfires, smoke from wildfires and mudslides, all of which may have played roles in reports of monarchs migrating and breeding later than usual, she said.

While much is known about the decades-long population decline of monarchs in the eastern and central United States, which number in the tens of millions and which winter in Mexico before winging north in a famed mass migration, scientists have only recently been able to track the western variety due to new statistical models.

Scientists believe declines in both U.S. monarch populations are linked to human development that has seen the destruction of roosting trees in California and Mexico, climate change and farmers’ increasing use of pesticides that kill the milkweed plants butterflies depend on for reproduction and food.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding monarchs to the federal list of endangered and threatened species.

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A 2017 study funded by the agency found that the western population has a 63 percent chance of extinction in 20 years and an 84 percent chance in 50 years if current trends continue.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Wyoming; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Republican lawmakers ask judge to destroy smoking gun documents proving GOP’s white supremacy

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Republicans on Monday sought a court order to block damning documents from being used against them in a lawsuit.

"North Carolina Republican lawmakers on Monday asked a court to make sure the files of the now-deceased GOP strategist Tom Hofeller are destroyed, or at least kept secret, instead of being used in a high-profile gerrymandering lawsuit," the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

"The filing comes after the groups behind the lawsuit, including Common Cause, accused Republican lawmakers of making false statements in court in a previous gerrymandering case, when the state’s 2011 maps were ruled unconstitutional," the newspaper noted. "That blockbuster accusation made national headlines and was, it said, based on Hofeller’s files which had been secret until recently."

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Maddow slams Trump’s era of government officials ‘saving the country from the commander-in-chief’ with leaks

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Rachel Maddow on Monday worried about the pattern of government officials leaking to the press to stop President Donald Trump from sabotaging United States' interests to help Russia.

The MSNBC anchor broke down the key questions raised by the bombshell New York Times report that officials were keeping secrets from Trump to protect U.S. interests.

Maddow reminded of a June 2017 story by Michael Isikoff.

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Trump angrily demands newspaper reveal unnamed sources behind bombshell report on his Russia policy

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President Donald Trump on Monday evening again lashed out at The New York Times for reporting on his Russia policy.

"The story in The New York Times about the U.S. escalating attacks on Russia’s power grid is fake news, and the failing New York Times knows it," Trump argued in a tweet sent after 10 p.m.

"They should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phony," he continued.

"Times must be held fully accountable," he demanded.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1140804748423118848

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