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Judge Trump Targeted as 'Mexican' to Hear Environmental Case on Border Wall

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U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge that Donald Trump attacked for his ethnicity, will hear a case on whether the president can waive environmental laws to build his controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The case, scheduled for Feb. 9 in U.S. District Court in San Diego, is a consolidation of three separate lawsuits filed by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), conservation groups and the state of California.


McClatchy, which first reported Curiel's assignment, noted that Trump disparaged the judge during the 2016 presidential campaign over a lawsuit involving Trump University. Trump called the judge a "Mexican"—even though Curiel was born in Indiana—in an attempt to paint the judge as "totally biased" over Conservative immigration policies and the border project.

"Look, he's proud of his heritage, OK? I'm building a wall," Trump said of Curiel in a June 2016 interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico."

McClatchy further reported:

"Curiel never publicly responded to Trump's taunts, and colleagues say he has a record of impartiality that will guide his handling of the case. Still, the litigation is sure to put Curiel in the spotlight again and the outcome will be closely watched by border wall opponents and advocates, including the president himself."

According to the Washington Post, the groups are challenging waivers that were granted back in 1996 and 2005 to allow the federal government to bypass some federal, state and environmental laws over border security issues.

The case is significant because if Curiel sides with the Trump administration, it could allow the government to proceed with building the wall in other border states.

The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the litigants, filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Trump administration's use of an expired waiver to build replacement walls south of San Diego. The complaint called the move an unconstitutional delegation of power to the Department of Homeland Security, adding that the wall violates the Endangered Species Act.

"The Trump administration is stopping at nothing to ram through this destructive border wall," said Brian Segee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's divisive border wall is a humanitarian and environmental disaster, and it won't do anything to stop illegal drug or human smuggling."

The Center for Biological Diversity added:

"Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity."

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Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

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SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.