White House Embraces Herd Immunity in Latest Push to End COVID-19 Lockdowns

White House Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in support of law and order on the South Lawn of the White House on October 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump invited over two thousand guests to hear him speak just a week after he was hospitalized for COVID-19.
Samuel Corum/Getty

The White House is doubling down on its push to reopen the economy, now openly embracing a herd immunity strategy at the urging of some health experts.

Two senior advisers told Newsweek and other media outlets on Monday that the Trump administration supports the Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial document that argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of schools, businesses and other entities, while protecting people deemed vulnerable to the virus because of age or other risk factors.

“I think Americans should be cautiously optimistic about what’s going on here,” one of the officials said.

The officials were not authorized to speak on-the-record about the matter, but both defended the decision to move toward a broad-scale reopening, even though at least 5,900 people in the United States died with COVID-19 last week.

The coronavirus has contributed to the deaths of more than 214,000 people in the U.S. since the pandemic began earlier this year.

Experts have argued that approaching “herd immunity”—essentially allowing more people to contract COVID-19 in the hopes that they would quickly recover and create a mass immunity—would likely result in many more deaths and illnesses.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a virtual press briefing on Monday that such an approach would be “unethical.”

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said.

President Donald Trump has mentioned the idea in the past, mistakenly referring to it as “herd mentality,” and the idea has been pushed by some of the president’s favorite conservative personalities, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.

The Great Barrington Document, released last week, was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University. Thousands of additional scientists have signed onto the open petition, though media outlets have reported some fake names on the list.

“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” the open letter reads. “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

Trump, who has said that he believes a COVID-19 vaccine will be developed by the end of the year, revealed in the early morning hours of October 2 that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He was briefly hospitalized but the White House physician has since cleared him for public activities. He is scheduled to hold a rally in Florida on Monday, followed by rallies in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Iowa on Wednesday.

The White House official described the Great Barrington Declaration as focusing

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House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo’s political speeches

House Democrats are widening an investigation into whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump COVID-19 result raises pressure on Pompeo GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi tests negative for COVID-19 MORE is illegally campaigning for the president ahead of the November election. 

Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelDemocrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Overnight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military’s eighth COVID death identified Democrats warn Turkey over involvement in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCalls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive Democrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Disinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election MORE (D-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter Monday to the State Department demanding the agency’s legal guidance over at least three recent speeches Pompeo delivered in the U.S. 

This includes speeches to the Wisconsin state legislature and a church in Texas in September and a speech Saturday at an event for the anti-abortion advocacy organization the Florida Family Policy Council.

Pompeo was originally expected to deliver his remarks in person, where attendees paid upward of $10,000 for tickets to secure a personal visit with the secretary, CNN reported.

Pompeo rescheduled his remarks, delivering them remotely from Washington out of an abundance of caution following President TrumpDonald John TrumpQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight White House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms White House says ‘appropriate precautions’ were taken for Trump’s outing to see supporters MORE’s positive diagnosis of COVID-19. 

But his participation in the event one month before the election is adding to outrage from congressional Democrats with oversight of foreign affairs. Trump is trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight CNN anchor confronts senior Trump campaign adviser after motorcade: Trump’s ‘downplaying the virus’ Biden again tests negative for COVID-19 MORE in Florida, according to the most recent poll published by Siena College and The New York Times. 

“It is concerning that the Secretary is suddenly crisscrossing the country at taxpayers’ expense to speak with state legislators and private groups and that these events appear to be increasing in frequency as the November 3rd election approaches,” Engel and Castro wrote in the letter.

It was sent to Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao and acting Legal Adviser Marik String, two close allies of Pompeo.

The documents requested by House Democrats builds on an investigation launched in August over whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering pre-recorded remarks to the Republican National Convention while he was on diplomatic travel in Israel. 

The Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from using their government positions for partisan political activity. In June,

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House Reports Push for More Focus on China by Intelligence Agencies

WASHINGTON — The United States could fall behind in its global competition with China without additional resources to develop better intelligence on the Chinese government, and spy agencies must focus more on the challenge of pandemics and trade, according to a report by the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released Wednesday.

The warnings in the report, the result of a classified two-year study of American intelligence agencies’ work, were similar to the conclusions of a Republican study on China also released Wednesday. While that report, by a task force of House Republican lawmakers, has a wider focus, it too called for a more aggressive stance toward China and better defenses against Chinese theft of intellectual property and efforts to influence American politics.

While there is a bipartisan consensus on China, the failure of Democrats and Republicans in the House to work together on the issue was another sign of the partisan dysfunction that has gripped Washington and that could be a hurdle to revising American policy on China despite the agreement.

The House Intelligence Committee report, primarily the work of the panel’s Democratic majority, calls for a “significant realignment of resources” to help the United States compete with China. The report calls for a broader look at national security threats, including climate change and pandemics, while trying to collect intelligence on China.

“Absent a significant and immediate reprioritization and realignment of resources, we will be ill prepared to compete with China — diplomatically, economically and militarily — on the global stage for decades to come,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee. “The good news is that we still have time to adapt.”

China has been a growing challenge for the United States. President Trump has said without evidence that the coronavirus pandemic originated at a Chinese laboratory, a conclusion the intelligence community has not backed up. China has also been accused by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of stepping up its efforts to interfere in the November election.

The House report recommends a broader approach for the role of intelligence in the United States government, saying agencies’ insights need to be accessible to agencies outside the traditional confines of the national security establishment, like the Commerce Department and public health agencies.

The report also highlights the challenges laid bare by the pandemic and discusses tensions between Beijing and local government that hampered China’s initial understanding of it. The report says the emergence of the pandemic highlights the “continued potential for devastating and destabilizing global events originating in China.”

“The stakes are high. If the I.C. does not accurately characterize and contextualize Beijing’s intent, America’s leaders will fail to understand the factors that motivate Chinese decision-making,” the report said, using an abbreviation for the intelligence community.

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Parents jumping on New World Little Garden bandwagon push full set price over $70

The New World Little Garden collection craze has taken root.

The supermarket chain began the six-week promotion on September 7, giving away vegetable, herb and flower seedling kits with every $40 spent – so you’d have to spend $960 over six weeks to collect them all.

The going rate for a full set of New World Little Garden seedlings at auction is currently about $70.

Stuff

The going rate for a full set of New World Little Garden seedlings at auction is currently about $70.

Kiwi parents committed to collecting the full catalogue have adopted a ‘work smarter not harder’ approach and founded numerous community Facebook groups to trade and on-sell excess seedlings of one type in exchange for the plants they don’t have.

Trade Me spokesperson Millie Silvester said the individual seedlings and sets are selling for “big bucks” online.

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“There is currently a full set of Little Garden seed pots onsite with a leading bid of $67.80,” she said. 138 people have saved the auction to their watchlist and it’s not due to close for another two days.

Just after New World launched Little Garden people began to search for the various seedlings in online marketplaces.

Last week, a full set of Little Garden seedlings sold for $72 after racking up almost 8,000 views. Interest in the promotion seems to be gaining momentum.

“In the last seven days we’ve seen 3,000 searches for Little Garden, that’s up 76 per cent on the week prior,” said Silvester.

“We typically see the number of listings for these items surge each time New World or Countdown release a new collectables range.”

New World’s Little Garden promotion is back, after a three-year break.

Stuff

New World’s Little Garden promotion is back, after a three-year break.

When the first round of the promotion was nearing its end in 2016, full sets of the seedling kits were fetching more than $200 on Trade Me. The top price achieved was $210.

For context, the same set of plants could be purchased for just over $40 from a garden centre.

There are currently over 110 listings for the branded seedlings on Trade Me and the forces of free market capitalism are on full display.

Individual plants are being listed between $1 and $8 and others have been grouped into sets of three or 10 for varying prices between $10 and $20.

“Pester power is alive and well and it looks like many parents are willing to take the shortcut to fill their kid’s (or their own) seedling set,” said Silvester.

Four-year-olds Rosemary Millar and Myla Olszewski pictured at Just Us Kids Preschool with their New World Little Garden pots in 2016.

Piers Fuller/Stuff

Four-year-olds Rosemary Millar and Myla Olszewski pictured at Just Us Kids Preschool with their New World Little Garden pots in 2016.

New World head of marketing and customer experience Pippa Prain said millions of the seedling kits have been given away and the promotion is “more popular

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Democrats Narrow Gap in Washington District Trump Won by 7 Points Amid Push to Expand House Seats

As Democrats look to push House Republicans further into the minority, the Democratic challenger in a Washington state House race has narrowed her deficit against the Republican incumbent to make it a virtual neck-and-neck contest, according to an internal Democratic poll provided to Newsweek.

Despite President Donald Trump winning Washington state’s 3rd Congressional District in 2016 by more than seven points, Democrat Carolyn Long is trailing Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wa.) by just two points, within the survey’s margin of error. In 2018, Herrera Beutler bested Long by roughly 16,400 votes, or 5.4 percent, and is serving her fifth term.

Long is one of 37 candidates that House Democrats hope will help them expand their majority in the lower chamber.

The poll, conducted by the progressive firm GQR, shows Long at 47 percent and Herrera Beutler at 49 percent. Four percent of voters in the longtime Republican district, which is located in the southwest region of the state, remain undecided.

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Abby Olmstead, Long’s campaign manager, said of the race, “the stakes have never been higher.”

Olmstead said the choice between the candidates is clear.

“In 2020, we face the choice between reelecting a career politician who has spent a decade staying silent, who is never available to her constituents and who is continuously working with Trump to dismantle access to healthcare,” Olmstead said. “Or Carolyn—who will be a hard-working, present, accountable, representative that always puts the people of Southwest Washington first.”

Democrat Carolyn Long
A new internal poll by Democrats shows challenger Carolyn Long, a Democrat, trailing the Republican incumbent for Washington state’s 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler by two points.
Courtesy of the Carolyn Long campaign

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Long enjoys a net +11 favorability rating, compared to Herrera Beutler’s net +5 rating. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is nearly tied with Trump in the district: 47 percent to 48 percent, with 6 percent undecided. A separate poll conducted last month showed Long was four points down.

The Herrera Beutler campaign questioned the legitimacy of the poll and accused Long of being “desperate.”

“This is the time of year when desperate campaigns try to convince reporters to write about outlying polls from outlying pollsters with outlying results,” spokesperson Parker Truax told Newsweek in a statement. “Jaime is going to win.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) also questioned the poll’s credibility and said Democrats’ spending habits in the district conflict with their suggestion that the race is virtually tied.

“If Carolyn Long were only down two points, the Democrats would be spending here like it’s nobody’s business,” NRCC spokesperson Torunn Sinclair told Newsweek in a statement. “They’re not, they currently have no money reserved, this is a fake poll and Carolyn Long is going to lose again.”

Herrera Beutler’s campaign did not respond to Newsweek‘s request for comment.

Though the internal polling suggests a public shift toward Long, election forecasters aren’t buying it.

Cook Political Report still rates the contest as likely Republican,

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White House, Trump campaign push unusual DOJ announcement about 7 ‘discarded’ military votes

The Trump campaign on Thursday accused the Democrats of “trying to steal the election” after seven military ballots cast in favor of the president were found “discarded” in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania — despite no immediate allegations of any malfeasance.

“BREAKING: FBI finds military mail-in ballots discarded in Pennsylvania. 100% of them were cast for President Trump. Democrats are trying to steal the election,” Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, tweeted Thursday afternoon, linking to a press release from David Freed, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Freed said his office had begun “an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.”

“At this point we can confirm that a small number of military ballots were discarded. Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. All nine ballots were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the statement said.

Freed’s office put out a revised statement hours after the first saying the number of Trump ballots was actually seven.

“Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown,” the updated statement said.

Both statements were highly unusual as U.S. Attorneys typically do not publicly announce they’ve opened an inquiry. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to give further comment about the probe, except to say the general election ballots were improperly opened by county staff.

The second statement noted that Freed’s office had been investigating the case with the FBI since Monday at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Salavantis is a Republican, and Trump won the county by almost 20 points in 2016. Salavantis was told about the find last week by the county’s elections director, the county solicitor said in a statement.

While the nature of the inquiry, including whether there’s a criminal component, is unclear, the Justice Department’s 2017 guidelines for “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” says that, “Because the federal prosecutor’s function in the area of election fraud is not primarily preventative, any criminal investigation by the Department must be conducted in a way that minimizes the likelihood that the investigation itself may become a factor in the election.”

In the evening, DOJ released a letter Freed sent to the county board of elections, reporting his initial findings — including that at least part of the problem appeared to be bureaucratic.

“The FBI has recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by your elections staff, and had the ballots removed and discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation,” the letter said.

It noted, “the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened” until Election Day, but that some elections staffers said

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House Democrats push to renew efforts for second round of $1,200 stimulus checks

  • A second set of $1,200 stimulus checks was one move both Republicans and Democrats agreed on until discussions fell apart.
  • In order to get something done, Senate Republicans pushed for a smaller bill that excluded those checks. 
  • House Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to sending that relief in a hearing on Tuesday. It will require both parties to compromise before Americans would receive any of that money.



a person standing in front of a sign: People gather outside of an apartment complex with the intention to stop the alleged eviction of one of the tenants in Mount Rainier, Maryland, U.S., August 10, 2020.


© Provided by CNBC
People gather outside of an apartment complex with the intention to stop the alleged eviction of one of the tenants in Mount Rainier, Maryland, U.S., August 10, 2020.

The stimulus stalemate has left lawmakers at odds over how to get more relief to millions of Americans who need it.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans attempted to get a smaller bill through Congress as the standoff between both parties continued.

But that relief bill did not include a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, a measure that both parties had all but signed off on. The bill failed to get the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Still, House Democrats pushed back on the stimulus check exclusion on Tuesday during a congressional hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“The economic impact payments must be made because the rent must be paid,” said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.

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“If we do not do this, we will put persons at risk of being evicted at a time when we are having a pandemic that is still taking lives in this country,” he said.

Green also said a new Government Accountability Office report that found the Treasury Department does not have adequate data on the number of people who qualify for the first stimulus checks, but who have not yet received them, is cause for concern.

The number excluded, including gig workers, could be in the millions, he said. The IRS is in the process of mailing letters to about 9 million Americans to notify them that they may be eligible for the money.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also spoke out about the prospect of a second round of payments, asking Mnuchin, “Yes or no, do you believe another stimulus check could help stabilize the economy?”

Mnuchin: Administration does support another stimulus payment

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“I do,” Mnuchin said. “The administration does support another stimulus payment.”

The likelihood and timing of that money still remains unclear. House Democrats and Senate Republicans had both put forward proposals that included a second round of direct payments. Other issues, however, have made it impossible for both sides to come to an agreement, at least for now.

“We obviously can’t pass a bill in the Senate without bipartisan support,” Mnuchin said. “Our job is to continue to work

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Stimulus checks are back in play as Trump move closer to Pelosi in economic relief push

Now the California Democrat faces a crucial decision: Does she try to negotiate an agreement with a White House that suddenly seems ready to deal or continue to hold her ground and make Trump, facing his own election woes, swallow the sweeping $2.2 trillion bill she has long demanded?

Early signs suggest Pelosi is still not ready to budge.

“Great, call me when he’s at $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a private call Wednesday, referring to Trump, according to two people with knowledge of her comments who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay them.

Holding her ground with Trump may be the easy part. It also means facing down an insurrection from the very members she has long tried hardest to protect, the swing-seat Democrats whose victories in GOP-leaning districts returned Democrats to the House majority last year.

These centrist Democrats, fearful of constituent blowback, are pushing Pelosi to return to the negotiating table and strike a deal with Trump on an expansive relief package — even if she can’t get the $2.2 trillion she wants. Congress has already approved roughly $3 trillion in emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and Pelosi has called for much more. The latest Republican offer, the one Trump dismissed, was closer to $300 billion.

There’s a palpable fear among Democrats that voters will blame them on Election Day should they appear to be putting their own reelections ahead of what’s good for Americans.

“We should have that same level of urgency that we had when we were dealing with this in March and April,” said Rep. Andy Kim, who flipped a GOP district in New Jersey last election. “And I don’t really get that sense that that type of just timeliness and that urgency is underlying what everybody here is feeling right now.”

The infighting has created an odd situation whereby Pelosi’s centrist members have applauded the position of a president they voted to impeach just months ago. Some of these moderates offered kudos for Trump on Wednesday after he praised a $1.5 trillion bipartisan coronavirus deal put forward by the Problem Solvers Caucus — a group of 50 pragmatic-minded Republicans and Democrats in the House — and tweeted that his own party should consider “much higher numbers,” signaling his openness to a deal.

“The tweet that Trump just sent out saying that he was open to more resources for the American people is a good thing because they need more resources,” said Blue Dog Coalition leader Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). “We can argue about what the specifics of a plan should look like, but the important thing is that we get back to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that can be passed into law.”

Pelosi, meanwhile, had dismissed the Problem Solvers pitch, and her top policy chairmen put out a statement saying the proposal “falls short” and “leaves too many needs unmet.”

The diss by senior House Democrats infuriated many frontliners eager to

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Moderate Democrats in the House push Pelosi to find deal with Republicans on COVID-19 relief

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hearing increased complaints from Democratic lawmakers who want passage of a COVID-19 relief package after talks with the White House hit a deadlock.

On a conference call Tuesday with the New Democrats Coalition, a group of moderate members, several implored Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to keep the House in sessions until more COVID-19 relief is passed.

Pelosi had already announced she would not send lawmakers home without a deal. Traditionally, the House recesses for the month of October ahead of an election to allow lawmakers to campaign.

The frustration is coming largely from Democrats in competitive races who are having to face voters without recent success providing aid as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage. Some are concerned that voters will penalize them for failing to produce another round of assistance while the pandemic continues to suffocate the economy. The boosted unemployment payments that Congress approved in the spring expired in July.

In August, more than 100 House Democrats signed on to an effort to get Pelosi to vote on a bill that would only extend unemployment, an effort to gain enough Republican support to renew the program.

The prospects are not good that an agreement can be reached before the November election.

House Democrats have approved new relief legislation but talks between Pelosi and the White House produced no resolution to allow legislation to pass the Senate. Both sides have accused the other of refusing to bend.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a freshman Democrat from a Republican-leaning district in Virginia, said that she is hearing from constituents every day begging for Congress to help.

“My conviction is to actually do my goddamn job and come up with a solution for the American people,” Spanberger said, in response to another lawmaker urging members not to “give in” to Republicans, according to two people familiar with her comments.

Pelosi’s told the moderate members that the Senate has refused to take seriously the needs of the nation, according to a person on the call. But vulnerable members remain worried that blaming the Senate won’t satisfy voters, who are dealing with dual health and economic crises. The conference call was first reported by Politico.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wears a protective mask as she departs a television interview at the Russell Senate Office Building on Sept. 8, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pelosi continues to insist she won’t budge to Republican demands that an aid bill be smaller than she has proposed, but acknowledged in an interview Wednesday on Morning Joe that some in her caucus grow unhappy.

“Welcome to my world. I have a beautifully diverse caucus,” she said.

Pelosi announced earlier Tuesday on a separate conference call with all Democrats that the House would stay in session until a deal is reached. But Pelosi has not laid out a clear strategy for how

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FOIA documents reveal Interior’s 2018 push to manage Yellowstone bison like cattle | Outdoors

“I am feeling a lot like Phil Connor (Bill Murray’s character in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’), and that makes today February the 2nd. I am a bit numb from seeing this proposal so many times I don’t know how to respond now.”

Yet progress on a new bison management plan has stalled.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s fight for the park documents began in 2018. 

“This threat of domestication has been hovering over buffalo for many years,” he said.

Yellowstone is home to one of the most iconic bison populations in the nation. The story of a small herd’s survival, when thousands of other plains bison were eliminated during the 1800s, is a success story for wildlife conservation.

As the bison population has grown in the park, with the herd numbering more than 4,800 animals at last count, Montana officials and lawmakers have been able to force the Park Service to annually cull and slaughter hundreds of animals every winter.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s website says that 12,575 Yellowstone bison have been killed and another 540 have been captured since 1985. The purpose of the capture and slaughter program is to keep bison from migrating into Montana.

Last winter, 442 bison were removed from the park through the capture and slaughter program. Another 105 were isolated for quarantine to see if they can be eventually transferred alive to Indian tribes. About 280 were killed, mostly by tribal hunters exercising their treaty rights.

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