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Potential Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Status

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Some of the corals here are already bleaching, losing their color, which is a sign that they're being stressed by heat or acidity. The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey/Richard Vevers

Deteriorating health status puts the Great Barrier Reef’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status in jeopardy. Despite this, Australia rejects recommendations by the United Nations to consider the Reef coral “in danger”.

What We Know:

  • The Great Barrier Reef received World Heritage status in 1981, an honor designating it invaluable to humanity for its cultural, historical, and scientific contributions. There are 1007 other places across the globe deemed worthy of this status, including the Grand Canyon, Egyptian pyramids, and Greece’s Acropolis.
  • The reef is home to 1,625 species of fish, more than 600 species of coral, 133 shark and ray species, and 30 species of whales and dolphins, among many others. 25 percent of all known aquatic species reside in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • On Tuesday, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) committee warned that urgent protection is needed to preserve remaining coral following three major coral bleaching events. Coral bleaching is caused by changing water temperatures and heat stress.

Dead coral found at lady Elliot island. In the quest to save the Great Barrier Reef, researchers, farmers and business owners are looking for ways to reduce the effects of climate change.
JONAS GRATZER/LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

  • A UN report claims the Australian government neglects reef health, especially in terms of negating climate change effects. The report found that the Australian government failed to meet water quality and land management targets as well as greenhouse gas reduction goals. According to the report, “The long-term outlook for the ecosystem of the property has further deteriorated from poor to very poor,” with deterioration that “has been more rapid and widespread than was previously evident.”
  • Australia’s Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and Foreign Minister Marise Payne oppose UN claims, stating that $3 billion is allocated to protect the reef. Ley explains, “The Great Barrier Reef is the best-managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the Reef first hand and without the latest information.”
  • Tourism in Australia relies heavily on visitations to the Reef, bringing in $6.4 billion annually and 64,000 jobs. Any changes to Reef designations could harm the travel industry fueled by snorkelers and beachgoers.

Next month at UNESCO’s meeting in China, the committee will vote on continuing or revoking the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status.

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Coronavirus

Biden Calls Out DeSantis’ Refusal on Mask Mandates

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President Joe Biden told reporters that Governors Ron DeSantis’s decisions against mask mandates would eventually have results that will affect constituents.

What We Know:

  • Biden’s message comes after DeSantis declared he would not impose mask mandates in Florida. DeSantis also said he would withhold funds from any schools that attempt to place guidelines on wearing masks. Currently, Florida faces a severe spike in cases due to the Delta variant and lower vaccination rates.
  • Because of this, Biden gave his stern commandment. The President stated the country needs leadership from everyone, and if some governors do not want “to do the right thing” to beat the pandemic, they should allow businesses and universities to do so. Pres. Biden further reminded the governors that they hold the power to save lives.

 “But if you are not going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing,” said Biden.

  • DeSantis believes the spike in cases is just a pattern, similar to those seen last year despite the President’s pleas. In addition, the Florida governor downplayed the state’s surge in hospitalizations; according to DeSantis, COVID patients only “represent a fraction of the overall hospital beds.”
  • Furthermore, DeSantis responded to Biden’s comments at an August 4th press conference. He claimed the President was singling out Florida over the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, DeSantis stated Biden did not live up to his promise to end the virus’ spread, as he allows the United States to have a “wide open southern border.” DeSantis stated that until Pres. Biden secures the border, he wishes not to hear anything about COVID from him.

On August 5th, Florida saw 20,133 new COVID-19 cases. On July 31, the state recorded 21,683 cases, the highest number since the pandemic’s beginning; August 5th’s results were only 1,550 test results lower.

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Senate Prepares to Move Forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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On Monday, the Senate pushed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after its legislative language was completed and unveiled. Senators who created the proposal expect it to clear the upper chamber in the following days.

What We Know:

  • Senate negotiators completed the 2,702-page bill on Sunday night. The bill, known as H.R. 3684, aims to provide $550 billion to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and public transit systems.
  • Since then, the Senate began taking up two amendments to the proposal. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed three bipartisan amendments for consideration. Currently, it is uncertain how many amendments the Senate will consider. However, Schumer wants to vote on amendments quickly; he also noted that the first three “constitute only the first tranche of potential amendments.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented that H.R. 3684’s text lays out “a good and important jumping point for what needs to be a robust and bipartisan process” on the Senate floor. McConnell added that an “artificial timetable” must not affect the Senate’s “full consideration” of the bill.
  • On July 28, the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House reached an agreement on H.R. 3684’s details. Officials also voted 66-28 on the deal, which opened the package to potential changes during the amendment process. After this, Senators worked throughout the weekend to hammer out the legislative language.
  • If the Senate passes H.R. 3684, it will be a significant victory for President Joe Biden. A key proposal in his economic agenda, Biden boasted on the impact H.R. 3684 will hold on the nation. On Sunday, he tweeted that the deal is the most important investment in America’s public transit history. He additionally stated the bill will impact the U.S. just as much as the invention of the Amtrak 50 years ago.

If Congress approves H.R. 3684, it will ensure that Democrats may begin work on a $3.5 trillion proposal that focuses on Biden’s plans for childcare, healthcare, education, the environment, and possibly immigration. Doing so will ensure another success on Pres. Biden’s behalf.

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Coronavirus

Disneyland and Disney World to Require Masks Indoors Again Regardless of Vaccination Status

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The new policy follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)‘s recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in places such as California and Florida.

What We Know:

  • As of July 30, the Walt Disney Company requires all park visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face-coverings indoors at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California. The only guests who are exempt from these rules are children under the age of two.
  • On July 27, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings declared a local state of emergency due to a spike in coronavirus cases; according to Demings’ executive order, the county in which Disney World is located saw the 14-day rolling positivity rate go over 15%. Orange County also saw a new record of 1,371 cases, the highest number since the pandemic’s beginning, a day prior to the mayor’s announcement.
  • The CDC further ruled Orange County an area with high transmission levels; officials added that the virus “continues to pose a public health threat.” In addition, Anaheim, the location for Disneyland, is facing “substantial” levels of community transmission. On the week of July 30, the city saw a seven-day positivity rate of 6.33%.
  • The influx in cases comes as the Delta variant runs rampant across the country. Currently, the more contagious version of the virus accounts for approximately 83% of cases in the U.S. The more frequent occurrences of COVID-19 also stem from the fact that vaccination rates have slowed down significantly. Disney Parks might continue to enact these mandates until cases stabilize once more.

Last March, the Walt Disney Company closed down all of its parks worldwide as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Walt Disney World in Florida became the first U.S. park to reopen in July 2020. Disneyland opened its gates nine months after Disney World in April 2021.

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