A Southwest Airlines worker was hospitalized after a passenger punched her, Texas officials said. Arielle Jean Jackson, 32, had boarded a plane at Dallas Love Field when police said she got into an argument with an operations agent on Saturday, Nov. 13. After Jackson was told to get off the plane, she started arguing with another worker and hit her with “a closed fist (on) the head,” according to the Dallas Police Department. The worker was also an operations agent, someone who helps manage the plane’s weight and oversees the boarding process, according to the airline’s website. Police in a ne...
On Thursday, The Guardian reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland is vowing to prioritize prosecution of violent incidents from passengers on U.S. flights.
"Airlines and their unions have pressed the US government to push more aggressively for criminal prosecution," said the report. "Garland said in a statement that such passengers do more than harm employees. 'They prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel. Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard,' he said."
According to the report, airlines have reported over 5,000 of these incidents to the federal government, and roughly 3,600 of them involve arguments over COVID-19 rules requiring passengers to wear face masks in flight.
Several of these incidents have made national news. In May, a JetBlue passenger ordered to wear a mask hurled an empty bottle of alcohol and assaulted two flight attendants on a flight from the Dominican Republic to New York. In August, an Ohio man flying to Florida had to be duct-taped to his seat after groping flight attendants. And in September, an American flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, an intoxicated passenger gnawed on his mask and snarled like an animal after shouting racist abuse at an Asian woman.
The Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up enforcement against these incidents, including $500,000 in new fines. However, the FAA can only take civil action; the DOJ is the only agency with the power to pursue criminal prosecution of these incidents.
Scottish judge won’t force government to investigate Trump golf course — but he’s still not off the hook yet
A Scottish judge won't order the government to investigate Donald Trump's golf courses for possible money laundering, although the country's top prosecutor may decide to pursue the case.
Lord Sandison issued a 44-page judicial decision Thursday siding with the government, which argued against investigating financial irregularities at the Trump golf courses, and leaving the matter up to Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, who is essentially Scotland's attorney general, reported The Daily Beast.
"I wish to make it clear that I express no view whatsoever on the question of whether the [criminal law] requirements were or appeared to be met in the case of President Trump," wrote the judge, Craig Sandison. "Further, for aught yet seen the Scottish Ministers may still make a UWO application in relation to President Trump's Scottish assets."
That ruling leaves the door open to Scotland to ask a judge's permission to investigate Trump's finances.
New York-based watchdog nonprofit Avaaz asked the Scottish government to investigate how Trump came up with $60 million in cash to buy Trump Turnberry, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon placed responsibility for that probe on the country's top prosecutor.
The watchdog sued earlier this year under the new "unexplained wealth order" tool to uncover money laundering, which would force Trump to reveal where he got the money or risk having it seized."The law may have been clarified, but a cloud of suspicion still hangs over Trump's purchase of Turnberry," said Nick Flynn, legal director for Avaaz. "By any measure, the threshold to pursue a UWO to investigate the purchase has easily been crossed. The Lord Advocate should take urgent action in the interest of the rule of law and transparency, and demand a clear explanation of where the $60m used to buy Turnberry came from."
In the Wasatch Mountains of the western US on the slopes above a spring-fed lake, there dwells a single giant organism that provides an entire ecosystem on which plants and animals have relied for thousands of years. Found in my home state of Utah, “Pando" is a 106-acre stand of quaking aspen clones.
Although it looks like a woodland of individual trees with striking white bark and small leaves that flutter in the slightest breeze, Pando (Latin for “I spread") is actually 47,000 genetically identical stems that arise from an interconnected root network. This single genetic individual weighs around 6,000 tonnes. By mass, it is the largest single organism on Earth.
Aspen trees do tend to form clonal stands elsewhere, but what makes Pando interesting is its enormous size. Most clonal aspen stands in North America are much smaller, with those in western US averaging just 3 acres.
Aerial outline of Pando, with Fish Lake in the foreground.
Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando, Author provided
Pando has been around for thousands of years, potentially up to 14,000 years, despite most stems only living for about 130 years. Its longevity and remoteness mean a whole ecosystem of 68 plant species and many animals have evolved and been supported under its shade. This entire ecosystem relies on the aspen remaining healthy and upright. But, although Pando is protected by the US National Forest Service and is not in danger of being cut down, it is in danger of disappearing due to several other factors.
Deer are eating the youngest 'trees'
Overgrazing by deer and elk is one of the biggest worries. Wolves and cougars once kept their numbers in check, but herds are now much larger because of the loss of these predators. Deer and elk also tend to congregate in Pando as the protection the woodland receives means they are not in danger of being hunted there.
Well-disguised deer eating Pando shoots.
Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando, Author provided
As older trees die or fall down, light reaches the woodland floor which stimulates new clonal stems to start growing, but when these animals eat the tops off newly forming stems, they die. This means in large portions of Pando there is little new growth. The exception is one area that was fenced off a few decades ago to remove dying trees. This fenced-off area has excluded elk and deer and has seen successful regeneration of new clonal stems, with dense growth referred to as the “bamboo garden".
Diseases and climate change
Older stems in Pando are also being affected by at least three diseases: sooty bark canker, leaf spot and conk fungal disease. While plant diseases have developed and thrived in aspen stands for millennia, it is unknown what the long-term effect on the ecosystem may be, given that there is a lack of new growth and an ever-growing list of other pressures on the clonal giant.
The fastest-growing threat is that of climate change. Pando arose after the last ice age had passed and has dealt with a largely stable climate ever since. To be sure, it inhabits an alpine region surrounded by desert, meaning it is no stranger to warm temperatures or drought. But climate change threatens the size and lifespan of the tree, as well as the whole ecosystem it hosts.
Although no scientific studies have focused specifically on Pando, aspen stands have been struggling with climate change-related pressures, such as reduced water supply and warmer weather earlier in the year, making it harder for trees to form new leaves, which have led to declines in coverage. With more competition for ever-dwindling water resources (the nearby Fish Lake is just out of reach of the tree's root system), temperatures expected to continue soaring to record highs in summer, and the threat of more intense wildfires, Pando will certainly struggle to adjust to these fast-changing conditions while maintaining its size.
The next 14,000 years
Yet Pando is resilient and has already survived rapid environmental changes, especially when European settlers began inhabiting the area in the 19th century or after the rise of 20th-century recreational activities. It has dealt with disease, wildfire, and grazing before and remains the world's largest scientifically documented organism.
Pando has survived disease, hunting and colonisation.
Lance Oditt / Friends of Pando, Author provided
Despite every cause for concern, there is hope as scientists are helping us unlock the secrets to Pando's resilience, while conservation groups and the US forest service are working to protect this tree and its associated ecosystem. And a new group called the Friends of Pando aims to make the tree accessible to virtually everyone through 360 video recordings.
Last summer, when I was visiting my family in Utah, I took the chance to visit Pando. I spent two amazing days walking under towering mature stems swaying and “quaking" in the gentle breeze, between the thick new growth in the “bamboo garden", and even into charming meadows that puncture portions of the otherwise-enclosed centre. I marvelled at the wildflowers and other plants thriving under the dappled shade canopy, and I was able to take delight in spotting pollinating insects, birds, fox, beaver and deer, all using some part of the ecosystem created by Pando.
It's these moments that remind us that we have plants, animals and ecosystems worth protecting. In Pando, we get the rare chance to protect all three.
This article was updated on November 24 to correct a typo: Pando is estimated to weigh 6 million kilograms not 6 million tonnes. It now reads “6,000 tonnes".