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A chaotic campaign helped save Rhode Island’s House speaker in 2016. Now it threatens to end his political career

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“I used to joke with people, ‘Are you sure you want to be seen with me? Because the speaker could be watching.’” Frias recalled in an interview last week.

Turns out, even that was true.

Last week’s criminal trial of former Mattiello campaign consultant Jeffrey T. Britt was meant to determine whether Britt laundered $1,000 to help pay for a postcard mailer designed to boost Mattiello during that 2016 campaign. But it also offered a rare glimpse into the win-at-all-costs culture of politics, as witness after witness detailed the strategies employed to help defeat Frias.

Those tactics included surveillance conducted on Frias by a semi-retired private investigator who was seeking a state job, a mail-ballot operation run by a veteran operative who had previous tours of political duty with some of the state’s most corrupt politicians, and the mailer that Britt orchestrated to try to convince a handful of Republicans to back the Democrat in the race.

In the end, Mattiello won the race by 85 votes, a razor-thin margin where almost any maneuver could have tipped the scales in the speaker’s favor.

Now, with early voting scheduled to begin Wednesday, Mattiello’s back is against the wall again as he faces a serious challenge from Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, the Republican wife of Cranston’s popular mayor, who is eager to capitalize on the seedy details that came out during last week’s trial.

But Mattiello, who was never charged, testified that he knew nothing about the controversial mailer until it hit mailboxes in his district, and a key campaign aide described the mailer as “Jeff Britt’s project.”

The judge has said he won’t issue a ruling for five to seven weeks. So that means voters will render their decision first, in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I think it clearly crossed a

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Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says

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Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says
Climate change threatens Coachella Valley, Palm Springs tourism, study says

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is one of the most famous music festivals in the world and is also amongst the most profitable, grossing an impressive $114.6 million in 2017, which set a record for the first recurring festival franchise to earn over $100 million. Coachella, Stagecoach and the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament are attractions that have drawn millions to the Coachella Valley over the years, but scientists warn that this could change as extreme heat becomes a dangerous reality.

The Coachella Valley is a desert region in southern California with virtually zero annual rainfall and an annual average temperature of 22.8°C, which makes it a desirable destination for those seeking year-round warmth. While this region hosts world-renowned events and is unlikely to lose popularity anytime soon, a study warns that rapidly rising temperatures are threatening the thriving tourism industry.

The study was published in the journal Climatic Change and found that in the Coachella Valley, the number of days above 29.4°C between November and April will increase up to 150 per cent by 2100. The researchers say that weather and climate are important factors that tourists consider, so they divided their findings of future impacts to the region’s tourism industry into three categories: winter snowbird season, outdoor tourist attractions, and annual festivals.

“Although tourism is a significant economic driver [in the Coachella Valley], little is known about how global warming will affect tourism at these locations,” the study states. Tourism is the primary source of revenue for the Coachella Valley, which is why the study’s projections are particularly foreboding.

coachella wikimedia commons credit: Jason Persse
coachella wikimedia commons credit: Jason Persse

Sunset over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 21, 2012. Credit: Jason Persse/ Wikimedia Commons.

HOW HOT WILL

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Funding crisis threatens zoos’ vital conservation work

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Zoos’ vital conservation work is being put at risk by a Covid-related funding crisis.

Breeding programmes to rescue rare species may have to be cancelled, with many zoos facing the biggest cash crisis in their history.

The body that represents British zoos says a government rescue package is inaccessible for most of its members.

Only one zoo has claimed successfully, the BBC has learned.

Zoos face huge income losses due to lockdown and reduced visitor numbers. Ultimately, this will impact on their ability to care for species which are the last of their kind on Earth, and now found only in zoos.

“The extinct-in-the-wild species are absolutely dependent on human care,” said Dr John Ewen of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

“It’s our decision about which way to go forward that determines extinction or recovery.”

The scimitar-horned oryx is regarded as a conservation success story
The scimitar-horned oryx is regarded as a conservation success story

BBC News has discovered that just one zoo out of around 300 in England has successfully made a claim from a £100m government recovery fund.

The trade body that represents Britain’s zoos and aquariums, Biaza, says the way the government’s bailout fund is structured means it is virtually impossible for most of its members to claim.

They need to be 12 weeks from bankruptcy to qualify and by that time any responsible animal park would already be trying to find new homes for its residents, the association says.

It warns that many international breeding programmes, designed to ensure the survival of rare species, may have to be cancelled and without government help some big UK zoos face closure.

The government says its rescue package was designed to provide a safety net if zoos got into really serious financial difficulties.

Zoos are one of the largest funders of conservation work around the world, particularly large,