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Illinois, Florida, California saw largest increase in abortions in first 15 months after Roe v. Wade

Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Illinois, Florida and California had the largest total increases in the number of abortions performed in the first 15 months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to data gathered in the WeCount report released by the Society of Family Planning on Wednesday.

Researchers estimate that more than 120,000 people were not able to get abortion care from a provider in their state in the first 15 months after Roe was overturned, according to Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, WeCount co-chair and professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Illinois had more than 28,000 more abortions than expected in the first 15 months after Roe was overturned, compared to data prior to the Supreme Court decision. In June 2023 alone, Illinois saw a 45.4% increase in the number of abortions compared to April 2022.

Florida had over 15,000 more abortions than expected in the first 15 months after Roe was overturned. In June 2023 alone, Florida saw a 48.2% increase in the number of abortions performed in the state compared to April 2022, before Roe was overturned.

California had over 12,000 more abortions than expected in the first 15 months after Roe. The state saw an 11.2% increase in the number of abortions performed in June 2023 alone, compared to April 2022.

While the majority of the surges in the number of abortions were in states that bordered bans, the report also found increases in states distant from bans including New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the report found that there were only 10 abortions performed in Texas in June 2023, a sharp 99.7% decline when compared to April 2022.

In the 14 states that have ceased nearly all abortion services, there were over 120,000 fewer abortions compared to before Roe was overturned. The states with the greatest decline in abortion volume include Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama, according to the report.

The report highlighted that 16% of all abortion care provided nationwide was provided via Telehealth. In September 2023 there were 13,770 Telehealth abortions.

"For people who are not able to travel from a state with an abortion ban some have gotten medication abortion through mail, as described in the telehealth data. Others have been forced to remain pregnant against their will," Upadhyay said.

"We don't know from our WeCount data, what happens to the people who can't get out of their states and don't get pills by mail, or how many of them are forced to stay pregnant," Upadhyay said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Person of interest images released as police investigate explosive left at Alabama attorney general's office


(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Authorities on Wednesday released images of an unknown person of interest as they investigate an explosive device left outside the Alabama attorney general's office.

The device was detonated outside the AG's office in Montgomery at about 3:42 a.m. Saturday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.

No injuries or damage was reported and the area was deemed safe, the agency said.

The ALEA, FBI and Alabama Attorney General’s Office are now asking the public to help them identify a person of interest who they say "may have information related to this crime," the ALEA said in a statement Wednesday.

While a motive has not been released, the incident came one day after Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he wouldn't prosecute in vitro fertilization providers or families in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos should be considered children.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit information online here.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why the Texas Panhandle is seeing such explosive wildfires right now

Texas A&M Forest Service via Getty Images

(AMARILLO, Texas) -- Multiple fires are impacting the Texas Panhandle, including what has quickly grown to become the second-largest wildfire in Texas history.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster declaration for 60 counties on Tuesday due to "widespread wildfire activity throughout the state." The largest of the blazes -- the Smokehouse Creek Fire -- has burned an estimated 850,000 acres since initially reported on Monday and was 3% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The massive blaze is the second-largest wildfire in the state's history, with Texas A&M Forest Service records going back to 1988. The largest fire in the state's history is the East Amarillo Complex of 2006, which burned 907,245 acres.

The Texas A&M Forest Service is also monitoring several other wildfires in the region. They include the Windy Deuce Fire, which is an estimated 90,000 acres and 25% contained as of midday Wednesday, and the Grapevine Creek Fire, which is an estimated 30,000 acres and 60% contained as of Tuesday night. The agency alerted the public about both fires on Monday.

Several factors came together to produce an extreme wildfire event in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

Tough terrain with fuel to burn

The Smokehouse Creek Fire began in the Canadian River Valley, more rugged terrain than the flat area of the Texas Panhandle that is harder to access, according to Mike Gittinger, head meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Amarillo.

"The initial fire attack by firefighters was delayed due to the topography," Gittinger told ABC News. "Also, that area has more vegetation, since it's near the river, not just grassland, hence more fuel for burning."

Wet conditions over the spring and summer last year means more fuel to burn now, Gittinger said.

"Parts of the Texas Panhandle received up to 13 inches of rain in just 30 days -- this was months worth of rain for the area," Gittinger said. "Due to this factor, vegetation was able to grow and be available to burn with this fire."

Hot, dry, windy conditions

February is shaping up to be one of the top-10 warmest on record for Amarillo. The temperature on Monday in Amarillo hit a record 82 degrees -- helping dry things out more and enhance the fire.

Winds gusted to 50 mph on Monday and 70 mph on Tuesday in the Amarillo area, along with very low relative humidity, which also helped the fire spread.

Climatologically speaking, the Texas Panhandle is entering the peak of its wildfire season -- March and April. At this time of the year, the vegetation was dormant, due to the earlier winter freeze, so it was extra dry.


As the Smokehouse Creek Fire burns largely out of control, the next 48 hours are expected to see improving conditions -- including lighter winds with increased humidity and a chance for rain and snow.

By this weekend, winds are expected to increase once again -- gusting 30 to 45 mph -- and temperatures are expected to return into the 70s, well above the average of 59 degrees. However, overall fire weather conditions are forecast to not be as critical.

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Death chamber glitch halts execution of serial killer Thomas Creech

Giles Clarke/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech, Idaho's longest-serving death row inmate, was spared from death on Wednesday after the medical team assigned to administer a lethal injection failed to establish an IV line, preventing the execution from proceeding, officials said.

The 73-year-old was to be executed at Idaho Maximum Security Institution near Boise about an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last-minute request to stay his execution.

"Mr. Creech will be returned to his cell and witnesses will be escorted out of the facility," the Idaho Department of Corrections said in a statement. "As a result, the death warrant will expire. The State will consider next steps."

The surprise twist came after Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan issued a decision Wednesday morning denying Creech's request for a stay of execution, clearing the way for prison authorities to carry out the ultimate punishment.

Around 10 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, a six-member prison team escorted Creech, who was on a gurney, into the execution chamber and transferred to a hospital bed and strapped down.

Josh Tewalt, director of the Idaho Department of Corrections, said at a news conference that the medical team initially conducted a physical assessment of Creech and expressed confidence that they would be able to establish an IV to administer the lethal injection.

But once the execution began, the medical team quickly ran into problems.

"The team attempted eight times through multiple limbs and appendages to establish IV access, consistent with IDOC policy," Tewalt said.

One of the problems was a "vein quality issue" with Creech that prevented the medical team from establishing an IV line, prompting the execution to be called off, according to Tewalt.

"This is a team of competent medical professionals," Tewalt said, adding it would be a mistake to describe their efforts to place an IV into Creech as a failure.

He said there is no timeline has been established on when the state will attempt to execute Creech again.

Attorneys for Creech had filed a certiorari petition that the High Court halt the execution to give the panel time to review the decision by the Idaho Supreme Court denying Creech's appeals.

"The application for a stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court is denied," the ruling said. "The edition for a write of certiorari is denied."

Days before the execution, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he had "zero intention" of halting the execution at Idaho Maximum Security Institution near Boise.

"Thomas Creech is a convicted serial killer responsible for acts of extreme violence," Little said in a statement issued on Jan. 29. "His lawful and just sentence must be carried out as ordered by the court. Justice has been delayed long enough."

In the petition to the Supreme Court, Creech's attorneys argued that his due process rights were violated by the Idaho Supreme Court.

"Mr. Creech has identified a substantial need for guidance from the Court on an issue of great national importance and he has brought a strong vehicle for it to do so," Creech's attorney wrote in the petition, asking for "clarity on [the] question of when a state's post-conviction regime affords little meaningful review to legitimate federal constitutional claims that it violates due process."

The petition added, "There are strong reasons to suspect that at least some states have gone too far in limiting post-conviction review, thus calling for the Court's intervention."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco also denied Creech's latest appeal in a ruling issued Saturday, prompting attorneys for the condemned man to take their argument to the Supreme Court.

Prior to the death chamber glitch, the Idaho Department of Corrections issued a statement Wednesday morning saying it is prepared to move forward with Creech's execution.

"Last night, Mr. Creech visited with his wife throughout the evening. Additionally, his religious advisor spent an hour with him this morning. Mr. Creech had fried chicken, mash potatoes with gravy, corn, rolls, and ice cream for his last meal. Mr. Creech has remained cooperative in the days leading up to the execution," the corrections department statement read.

Creech, according to prosecutors, has been convicted of five murders in three states, including three committed in Idaho.

In a 1993 opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court denying an appeal filed by Creech, late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, "Creech admitted to killing or participating in the killing of at least 26 people."

"The bodies of 11 of his victims -- who were shot, stabbed, beaten, or strangled to death -- have been recovered in seven states," she said.

The last murder Creech pleaded guilty to occurred in 1981 at an Idaho maximum security prison when he killed 23-year-old David Dale Jensen, a disabled fellow inmate, by beating him to death with a sock filled with batteries, according to prosecutors. At the time of Jensen's slaying, Creech was serving two life sentences for a double murder he committed in Idaho and had been convicted of murders in California and Oregon.

Creech argued in his recent appeal that his due process rights were violated by the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole and the Ada County, Idaho, Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

At the commutation hearing in October, Ada County deputy prosecutor Jill Longhurst told the commission that Creech is a "sociopath" who has "utter disregard for human life."

"Mr. Creech is a serial killer, and in 1981 said he would kill again, and he did," Longhurst told the commission. "Thomas Creech is the most prolific serial killer in Idaho."

Creech's execution came despite pleas to spare him from the most unlikely advocates -- prison staffers who have cared for him behind bars.

A former prison nurse, a former prosecutor, prison guards and even the judge who sentenced Creech to death all filed declarations backing his request for clemency, which was denied in a 3-3 vote on Jan. 29 by the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole.

Judge Robert Newhouse of the Fourth Judicial District Court in Boise, who sentenced Creech to death in 1983, said in his declaration to the commission that Creech should serve the rest of his life in prison and that executing him would "just be an act of vengeance."

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'Devastating' Texas wildfires spark disaster declaration, nuclear plant partial evacuation

Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

(AMARILLO, Texas) -- "Devastating" wildfires in Texas have prompted a disaster declaration for dozens of counties and evacuation orders in parts of the Texas Panhandle.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster declaration for 60 counties on Tuesday due to "widespread wildfire activity throughout the state." The largest of the blazes -- the Smokehouse Creek Fire -- is the second-largest wildfire in Texas history.

The declaration will ensure that fire response resources are quickly deployed to "areas in the Texas Panhandle being impacted by devastating wildfires," Abbott said in a statement Tuesday.

The Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo has paused operations until further notice and evacuated nonessential personnel as a precaution due to the wildfires, according to an internal situation report from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency obtained by ABC News.

"All special materials are safe and unaffected," according to the report.

The facility is located approximately 13 miles from the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, one of several fires being monitored by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

"Several large wildfires ignited under warm, dry and windy conditions across the Texas Panhandle," the Texas A&M Forest Service said on social media Tuesday. "Today, strong winds will likely impact these wildfires and the potential for new ignitions remains."

Fires continued to impact mainly the central and eastern portions of the Texas Panhandle on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire in Hutchinson County has grown to an estimated 850,000 acres and is 3% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

There was "extreme fire behavior" associated with the wildfire on Tuesday, with wind gusts up to 60 mph and flames as high as 20 feet, a spokesperson for the agency told ABC News.

The fire has crossed into northwestern Oklahoma, affecting several state and local highways and resulting in the evacuation of a hospital and nursing home in Shattuck, according to the DHS/CISA report.

The Windy Deuce Fire has burned an estimated 90,000 acres and was 25% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, fire officials said.

"Fire behavior continues to be very active under the influence of high winds," the Texas A&M Forest Service said on social media Tuesday.

More than 40 houses were damaged in Fritch, a city located in Hutchinson and Moore counties, since Monday, the city said. Parts of the city have been evacuated.

Mandatory evacuations were issued for several towns and communities in the Amarillo region on Tuesday. Several have since been lifted, including in Canadian and Skellytown.

Several school districts were closed Wednesday due to the wildfires.

Abbott warned that the wildfires could grow in the coming days as high temperatures and windy conditions continue.

"Texans are urged to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe," he said Tuesday.

President Joe Biden has been receiving updates on the wildfires and White House officials are in "close contact" with state, local, and federal officials, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Forest Service and National Interagency Fire Center are providing assistance to the state, she said.

"We urge everyone in the affected area to remain vigilant and heed the warnings of local officials, especially those who have been ordered to evacuate," Jean-Pierre said.

ABC News' Josh Margolin and Amanda Maile contributed to this report.

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FirstNet outage concern for some law enforcement leaders

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- When FirstNet, the emergency communications network, went out of service last Thursday morning, some law enforcement officials who spoke with ABC News said they feared it would be impossible to communicate with first responders in a crisis.

Born out of 9/11, the First Responder Network Authority was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012 and offers a single "interoperable network" for public safety.

The system is run off the AT&T network, which went down Thursday because of a software update gone wrong, the company said.

"To have this develop -- and it wasn't just five- or 10-minute outage, as a corrected minor problem -- it was for several hours that AT&T was not working," Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald of Story County, Iowa, told ABC News. "And that just can't be done."

Sheriff Fitzgerald helped develop what is now FirstNet, which was codified into law in 2012, and he served on the FirstNet board for two years after the authority was signed into law.

He called the FirstNet outage "unfathomable" and said there should be federal oversight to figure out what happened and ensure a situation like Thursday never happens again.

The First Responder Network Authority is an independent agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and is made up of a board that includes the Homeland Security secretary, the U.S. Attorney General, local sheriffs and fire chiefs among others.

"The First Responder Network Authority is working with its nationwide network contractor, AT&T, to conduct a thorough assessment of the outage and its impact on public safety operations," FirstNet Authority said in a statement to ABC News. "Following the outage, AT&T took immediate action to prioritize restoration for public safety users of FirstNet, and service is currently running normally across the FirstNet network.".

Charleston County, South Carolina, Sheriff Kristin Graziano, who sits on the FirstNet board said while her department wasn't impacted by the outage, they had redundancies.

"One of the things I'll be doing is personally reviewing the after action reports, we've had extensive conversations, and we'll be overseeing as a board member next steps," Sheriff Graziano said. "All I can tell you is as a result of what happens regardless if it's an outage, we look at things worst case scenario and and and plan for the worst. And luckily though, this was not the case. It was not one of the worst case scenarios. It wasn't a cyber attack that affected us, but we plan for that. The system is designed not to fail. It's designed to be resilient. And I think that's exactly what you saw with this particular outage."

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Jim McMahon told ABC News that the LAPD had no adverse impact because of the FirstNet outage and said the partnership between FirstNet and law enforcement has been "positive."

"It's been a great partnership and this example and how they've responded to things that will happen with technology," he said.

In a statement to ABC News, AT&T said service was restored by about 6 a.m. Eastern time.

"The FirstNet networked was restored by around 5:00 a.m. CST on Thursday, Feb. 22 – about 3 hours since service was initially affected for some FirstNet subscribers across the country," an AT&T spokesperson told ABC News. "Initial review of the cause indicates it was due to the application and execution of an incorrect process, and we took immediate action, prioritizing restoration of public safety's communications. We are committed to identifying key learnings and have already implemented changes to prevent this from happening again."

Prior to getting the contract, AT&T said it conducted several years of "outreach" to the first responder community.

"While network outages are uncommon, we understand our mission and is committed to taking the actions and applying the learnings to ensure continued mission-critical and highly reliable service for America's first responders. The contract requires it, and public safety demands it."

The Smith County, Texas, Sheriff's office said sheriffs' deputies were not allowed to make phone calls on their county issued cellphones for an hour and 15 minutes, and that FirstNet is installed on those devices.

"Fortunately, it happened early in the morning when our call load isn't near as heavy as it is during the day," Larry Christian, the Public Information Officer for the Smith County Sheriff's Office said. "So that would have been a blessing in and of itself."

Athens, Georgia, Deputy Chief Keith Kelley told ABC News that they did have some outages in the early morning hours.

"Well, it's very impactful. So, for example, our mobile data terminals are what police officers are using to take police reports and push them through our record system. It's how they get computer aided dispatch information," Kelley said. It's very important that those systems are up and running and that they are reliable. It can affect our operations from a reporting standpoint, and it can affect officers getting calls."

Kelley said when systems go down, they need to be restored quickly and that is what FirstNet did in this case.

"FirstNet is built for public safety. It is very important to us that when there's network congestion or issues that are that are occurring in the network, as far as call loading, that our public safety responders have priority within that network, and that's been our experience with FirstNet."

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the police department's computers inside their police cars were down for about one hour, according to the police chief there.

"It's always a concern when you disrupt anything that puts emergency services in touch with our community and our citizens because, sometimes that's the lifeline that seconds can save lives," Chief Johnny Jennings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told ABC News. "And we want to make sure that that we're always having that open line so that we can be reached whether that's whether network goes down or whether we're having people on hold or anything we take that very seriously."

Jennings said his 911 call center was not impacted, but was concerned that many citizens could not reach 911 if they had AT&T as a wireless carrier.

John Cohen, former head of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, said that adversaries have taken note of what occurred and "could potentially leverage it" down the road.

"Any interruption in vital communication capabilities is a problem the longer that outage last, the more the higher with risk is that any interruption in communications is a problem," Cohen, now an ABC News contributor, said. "But a widespread, long lasting outage, is highly dangerous and can lead to officer safety and public safety issues impacting entire communities."

The federal government pays millions of dollars to AT&T to contract out the network, and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration cannot share any information about independent audits of FirstNet, including whether any vulnerabilities discovered have been fixed - due to a nondisclosure provision in the contract it negotiated with At&T.

"While the outage last week was apparently caused by human error, I remain deeply concerned about the security of FirstNet and its vulnerability to hacks by foreign governments. It is a disgrace that there are still no minimum federal cybersecurity standards for the phone companies, including FirstNet operator AT&T," Wyden said in a statement to ABC News. "Instead of acting to protect U.S. critical infrastructure, as our ally the United Kingdom has done by mandating cybersecurity standards for phone companies, U.S. government agencies like the FCC are asleep at the wheel."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prosecutors allege sham safety school gave bogus certifications to thousands of NYC construction workers

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(NEW YORK) -- A company and six of its executives were charged Wednesday in New York with allegedly operating a sham safety school that said it certified thousands of construction workers as properly trained when, in fact, it had not, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors said the alleged fraud cost at least one worker, Ivan Frias, his life in 2022 in a fall from the 15th floor of a job site on the Upper West Side.

According to the indictment, Valor Security and Investigations purported to have trained 20,000 construction workers between December 2019 and April 2023, claiming the workers were fully trained in "safety training, safety inspections, safety plans and security services" after 40 hours of instruction.

Instead, Valor allegedly issued "thousands and thousands of safety certificates and cards without providing any training at all," according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, charging between $300 and $600 for a bogus site safety training card.

"New York City construction workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the city," Bragg said Wednesday. "Fraud has dire consequences. Fraud can mean life or death."

Construction workers have been required by law to receive safety training since 2017.

Valor, its president, Alexander Shaporov, and five other employees are charged with enterprise corruption, according to the indictment. Nineteen alleged brokers, including two master plumbers, were charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument. The plumbers’ licenses have been suspended.

The defendants were all arrested Wednesday morning and are expected to appear in court later the same day. It was not immediately clear whether any had obtained lawyers.

Prosecutors said they obtained text messages and emails that quote Shaporov allegedly telling his employees on one occasion to "make one up" for 40 purported trainees who lacked the requisite safety cards.

Frias died in November 2022 when he fell from the 15th floor of a construction site on West End Avenue. According to the indictment, Valor allegedly falsely certified that Frias had completed 10 hours of safety training, including eight hours of fall protection.

"I think every New Yorker has a right to be a little disgusted," New York City Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said Wednesday, adding the department would consider revoking Valor's license to issue safety cards.

Oddo said any construction worker who received a card from Valor should seek retraining.

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Arthur Engoron, judge in Trump civil fraud case, received envelope with powder, police respond to courthouse

Jefferson Siegel via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The New York City judge who oversaw former President Donald Trump's civil fraud trial received an envelope containing a powdery substance Wednesday morning, prompting emergency services to respond to the courthouse, officials said.

The envelope was addressed to Justice Arthur Engoron, who imposed a nearly half-billion dollar judgment against Trump.

Preliminary testing showed the powder was "negative for hazardous substances," a spokesperson for the New York State Unified Court System said. Additional tests are being done out of an abundance of caution, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The letter was received in the operations office of the downtown Manhattan courthouse, and affected staff members were isolated until the powder was tested, the spokesperson said.

Engoron was never exposed to the substance, the spokesperson said.

Additionally, a white powder envelope was received Tuesday at the Albany, New York, office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the civil case against Trump that Engoron oversaw, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The substance inside the envelope tested negative for anything hazardous and nobody was hurt, the source said.

Engoron received multiple threats before, during and after Trump's civil fraud trial, including a bomb threat at his Long Island home on the day of closing arguments.

Engoron imposed a limited gag order on Trump's statements to protect court staff.

A similar gag order is being sought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for Trump's criminal trial, which is set to begin next month at a courthouse two blocks away.

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Florida lawmakers, advocates march in protest of anti-transgender legislation

Carl Juste/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(TALLAHASSEE) -- Hundreds of transgender and nonbinary Floridians and allies are expected to march through the state capital in Tallahassee Wednesday in opposition to years-long legislative efforts targeting gender-diverse communities.

"As we march through the streets of Florida, let our collective voice echo: We will not be erased, legislated against, or silenced,” said Cielo Sunsarae, executive director of the Queer Trans Project.

Sunsarae continued, “To those who seek to strip away our rights, remember this: our existence is non-negotiable, our power unstoppable, and our unity unbreakable.”

The “Let Us Live March” is taking place as lawmakers in the Florida House prepare to consider HB 1639, which would require transgender people to have their sex assigned at birth listed on their driver’s licenses and ID cards, instead of listing their gender identity.

The bill would also require health plans to cover what critics call "conversion therapy," the text of the bill says “therapeutic services to treat a person's perception that his or her sex is inconsistent with such person's sex at birth by affirming the insured's sex."

The bill also would force health plans that cover gender-affirming care to cover “detransition” procedures.

“It removes it from that subjective issue that is going on socially to something concrete medically,” said Rep. Douglas Bankson, the bill’s sponsor, according to local news outlet Bay News 9. “If someone were to be incapacitated or unable to communicate, it’s important for first responders for when seconds matter to know the underlying characteristics of their physiology.”

Critics say the ban on changes to gender markers could lead to confusion, harassment, and discrimination against transgender people. For example, they say if records list a trans person as a gender they don’t live by, it could be difficult to identify them.

“Politicians are not only trying to censor and erase the very existence of trans individuals, but they are also forcing individuals to choose between their gender identity or lawfully driving,” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.

Local legislators State Sen. Shevrin Jones and House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell will be among those criticizing the state’s actions in Wednesday’s march and rally.

"Real leaders look out for the safety and well-being of ALL people, not just some," said Jones in a May 2023 statement on anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state. "The people of Florida are looking for results and action from their elected officials, not division and attacks on our freedoms."

In a 2022 ABC News/Ipsos poll, 62% of those surveyed opposed "legislation that would prohibit classroom lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school."

Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials have continuously implemented legislation and policies that impact the LGBTQ community in the administration’s self-proclaimed war against "woke" beliefs.

This includes the 2022 Parental Rights in Education which restricts the inclusion of LGBTQ content in schools, bans on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, a trans bathroom ban and more.

DeSantis signed the legislation to allow "kids to be kids."

"I feel very strongly as governor but also just as a dad of a 6, a 5, and a 3-year-old that we need to let our kids just be kids and we have a very crazy age that we live in -- there's a lot of nonsense that gets floated around. And what we've said in Florida is, we are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy," DeSantis said.


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Trump plans to post $100 million bond, asks for stay of 'punitive' $464M judgment in civil fraud case

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(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are seeking to pause the enforcement of the penalties in his civil fraud trial, telling the court that he intends to post a bond of only $100 million -- well short of the $464 million judgement ordered by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron.

Engoron's judgment ordered Trump to pay a $355 million fine, plus interest, and blocked him from running any New York-based company, including his own, for three years.

In a court filing Wednesday, Trump's lawyers argued that the penalties are "unprecedented and punitive."

"The exorbitant and punitive amount of the Judgment coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond," defense lawyers wrote in the filing. "Appellants nonetheless plan to secure and post a bond in the amount of $100 million."

In the filing, Trump's lawyers said that posting a bond to cover the entire judgment would not only be impossible but also unnecessary given the preexisting oversight provided by the Trump Organization's independent monitor. According to the filing, the current oversight coupled with the $100 million bond ensures that New York Attorney General Letitia James could collect the judgment if needed.

"Those assets are not going anywhere, nor could they given the oversight of the Monitor and the practical realities of the existence of the very public Judgment," the filing said.

In their motion for a stay, defense attorneys Clifford Robert and Alina Habba called Engoron's order "draconian" and said the punishments would unfairly impede Trump's family real estate business.

"The extraordinary relief Supreme Court has granted is punitive, patently improper, unsupported by the evidence, and/or unavailable under the Executive Law, and is premised upon claims this Court ruled are time-barred," the motion said.

The filing cited "the Attorney General's public threats that she will seize Appellants' real property forthwith to satisfy the Judgment," a reference to remarks New York Attorney General Letitia James made during an interview with ABC News.

"If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets," James told ABC News last week.

"Supreme Court's staggering $450 million judgment not only ignores this Court's controlling decision in this very case, but also violates the Excessive Fines and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and New York Constitutions," the defense motion said.

"This untenable Judgment therefore threatens the entire New York business community, as it will render profitable, arms-length transactions between sophisticated commercial parties meaningless and subject to arbitrary, post hoc review by the Attorney General and the courts," the motion argued.

Engoron, in his ruling earlier this month, found Trump, his adult sons, and two former Trump Organization executives liable for a decade of fraudulent business activity in which they used "numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation" to inflate Trump's net worth in order get more favorable loan terms. He ordering the defendants to pay a total of $464 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest.

Trump's attorneys requested the stay pending their appeal of Engoron's ruling, which they filed Monday.

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Tornadoes reported in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio as storm barrels through Midwest

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(NEW YORK) -- At least nine tornadoes were reported across Illinois, Michigan and Ohio as a storm barreled through the Midwest overnight.

Wind gusts reached 82 mph near Chicago, and hail was larger than golf balls in DuPage County, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

On Wednesday morning, the severe thunderstorm threat is ongoing for the Ohio Valley, West Virginia and Kentucky, where a few thunderstorms are possible.

By Wednesday afternoon, the strong thunderstorms and gusty winds will move east, stretching from the Tennessee River Valley to the Northeast.

Up to 3 inches of rain is forecast for West Virginia and New England.

The heaviest rain will reach the Interstate 95 corridor Wednesday evening.

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University of Georgia murder sparks finger-pointing over immigration

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(NEW YORK) -- The New York Police Department is pushing back after an official from Immigration and Customs Enforcement claimed the Venezuelan suspect arrested for Laken Riley's murder was previously arrested and released by NYPD in 2023.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, obstructing an emergency call and concealing the death of another.

"There is no arrest on file with the name provided in 2023," NYPD said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was denied bond during an initial court appearance on Saturday and is being held at the Clarke County Jail.

NYPD's Tuesday release came in response to a statement on Sunday from ICE, which said Ibarra had been arrested on Sept. 8, 2022, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "after unlawfully entering the United States near El Paso, Texas."

"He was paroled and released for further processing," ICE said. "On Sept. 14, 2023, [Jose] Ibarra was arrested by the New York Police Department and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation," the statement continued.

"He was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued. On Feb. 23, 2024, ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Atlanta encountered Ibarra pursuant to his arrest by the University of Georgia Police Department and being charged with murder and other crimes. ERO Atlanta lodged a detainer."

An ICE spokesperson on Tuesday stood by the agency's record keeping, but could not explain the dispute. ICE first said Ibarra was arrested and released by NYPD before federal officials could ask for his detention.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the Athens-Clarke Chamber of Commerce on Monday, calling Riley's death "preventable."

"First of all, [the family is] devastated. They are heartbroken. Marty and I both can understand. Our daughters are at the University of Georgia, and they work out in that same area [as Laken Riley]," Kemp said. "They're also mad like I am that this happened. It was preventable because we just have a nightmare in this country with mass migration and then have people that are here illegally breaking our laws and they're not telling anybody and reporting this to us."

The 22-year-old nursing student was found in a wooded area on campus on Thursday with "visible injuries," the university said. She died from blunt force trauma, according to University of Georgia Police Department Chief Jeffrey Clark.

Police do not believe he knew the victim and do not have a motive, according to the chief.

"I think this was a crime of opportunity, where he saw an individual and bad things happened," Clark said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

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Footage of 'Rust' armorer Hannah Gutierrez's interviews with sheriff's office shown to jurors

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(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- Jurors in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Hannah Gutierrez saw footage of the "Rust" armorer being interviewed by law enforcement hours after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the set of the Western.

"I wish I would have checked it more," Gutierrez said of the Colt .45 revolver while being questioned at the Santa Fe Sheriff's Office in New Mexico on Oct. 21, 2021, in footage shown to jurors Tuesday on the fourth day of her trial.

Actor Alec Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw in a church on the set when the gun fired a live round, striking Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury.

Gutierrez told investigators she was "flabbergasted" by the shooting and that she had checked all six rounds in the prop gun, which was a fully functioning firearm.

"I do check the dummies," she said. "I check all of them. They all showed that they were not hot, I guess you could say."

Gutierrez told investigators that she had spent the morning loading prop guns with dummies. After lunch, she was outside the church due to COVID-19 restrictions when she said she heard one shot go off inside.

She said she went inside and was "yelled" at, so ran out. She said she checked the gun, and one round was missing, but the "rest were fine."

"One of the dummies had somehow been discharged," she told investigators in the footage.

One of the investigators showed Gutierrez a photo a deputy had texted her from the hospital of the projectile removed from Souza's shoulder.

"They were thinking it could be an actual live round at this point," the investigator told Gutierrez.

"Does that look like it would have been a live round to you?" she asked the armorer.

"That looks like a blank one," Gutierrez initially responded, before later saying, "That might be a regular live round, though."

"That's what they were thinking -- it could be a live round," the investigator said.

"Holy f---," Gutierrez responded.

Gutierrez contended that she had checked the six rounds in the firearm to see if they rattled -- indicating they were dummy rounds.

"If it didn't rattle, I wouldn't have put it in," she said. "I checked all six of them for a rattle."

Santa Fe Sheriff's Office Cpl. Alexandra Hancock testified on the stand Tuesday that one of the dummy rounds in the firearm had a hole on the side to indicate it was a dummy.

"It would not have rattled, which is contrary to her statement of, if it wouldn't have had rattled, I wouldn't put it in," Hancock said.

Hours before the shooting, several members of the camera department walked off the set in protest of poor working conditions. When asked about that during the interview, Gutierrez said the set was "toxic" but didn't think anyone was "that malicious."

"I feel like this is a really f---ed-up accident," she said, the footage showed.

Asked where the ammunition for the set came from, Gutierrez told the investigator they got boxes of dummies from Seth Kenney, owner of PDQ Arm and Prop in Albuquerque.

During a second interview with the sheriff's office in November 2021, Gutierrez "disclosed" that she and another supplier also provided ammunition for the set, Hancock testified.

During the November interview, part of which was shown to jurors on Tuesday before breaking for the day, Gutierrez said she brought in "loose dummies" she had from a prior film set that had been in her car for two weeks.

Ammunition from PDQ did not match any of the live ammunition found on the "Rust" set, Hancock testified.

Gutierrez, 26, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence charges. Prosecutors allege she handed off a small bag of cocaine after her interview with law enforcement following the shooting. The defense has argued there is no proof that cocaine was in the bag and that she was charged with the offense "in an effort to cause unfair prejudice" to the defendant during the trial.

Prosecutors have claimed that the armorer did not always adhere to "essential" safety procedures on set and unwittingly brought the live bullets onto the set.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said during opening statements last week that the production and state have made Gutierrez a "scapegoat" in the tragic shooting.

"Just because there was a tragedy does not mean that a crime was committed," he said.

He claimed that the production created a "chaotic scene" by giving Gutierrez props duties that took away from her job as lead armorer. He said she wasn't given sufficient time to train the crew on the firearms, including Baldwin, whom he argued was inappropriately handling the gun by pointing it at the crew, and has denied that she brought the live bullets on set.

Baldwin has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins' death. He has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier Tuesday, firearms expert Lucien Haag testified for the state that for the revolver to fire, the hammer would have needed to be fully cocked and the trigger pulled -- matching testimony from FBI firearms expert Bryce Ziegler on Monday.

Baldwin has said he did not pull the trigger on the gun.

His trial has been scheduled to start in July.

"We look forward to our day in court," Baldwin's attorneys, Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel, said following his indictment in January.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hunter Biden interview marks pivotal moment for GOP-led impeachment inquiry

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(WASHINGTON) -- Hunter Biden will come face to face this week with the Republicans lawmakers he once accused of trying to kill him to harm his father's political career in a highly anticipated face-off that could be a pivotal moment for the sputtering GOP-led impeachment inquiry.

Members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees will interview President Joe Biden's son on Wednesday during a closed-door session on Capitol Hill.

Republicans hope to elicit revelations that could justify moving forward with their inquiry, whose credibility suffered a blow with the recent indictment of an ex-FBI source who is accused of falsifying the allegations of bribery involving both Bidens that were once a central tenet of the GOP impeachment narrative.

Hunter Biden, who in January abruptly relented his efforts to testify at an open hearing, will likely continue to deny his father had an involvement in his overseas business endeavors. The president has forcefully denied having any role in his son's work life.

Republicans are also expected to ask him about the ethical implications of his art career and his relationship with Kevin Morris, his friend, attorney, and patron.

A source familiar with his planned testimony said Hunter Biden will also acknowledge mistakes he made during the years he spent in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction, but that he will forcefully push back on assertions made by the committee and seek to highlight shortcomings in the credibility of some of their key witnesses.

But Hunter Biden might otherwise be limited in what he can tell the committee about any matters related to the two federal criminal indictments he faces, a person familiar with his preparations told ABC News.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to tax-related charges in California and gun-related crimes in Delaware.

Wednesday's hearing will come after months of public and private wrangling over the nature and extent of Hunter Biden's cooperation with a congressional subpoena, which Oversight Chairman James Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan first issued in November 2023.

Hunter Biden appeared on Capitol Hill not once, but twice, to challenge Republicans to allow him to testify in public. Republicans declined his overtures, arguing that his initial testimony should take place behind closed doors, as they say is done with all other witnesses. Comer at one point threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Hunter Biden ultimately acquiesced. But a person familiar with the matter said his legal team negotiated conditions for the interview that satisfied their concern that Republicans on the panel would cherry-pick or mischaracterize his testimony.

Notably, the committees agreed to share a transcript of the complete interview to Democrats and Republicans on the committees simultaneously -- and subsequently made public as quickly as possible -- and that his interview would not be videotaped.

The committees have already interviewed scores of witnesses and reviewed thousands of bank records belonging to Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, who last week told lawmakers that the president had no involvement in the family's business dealings.

At least nine other key witnesses interviewed as part of the impeachment probe have shared similar exculpatory accounts that undercut key tenets of Republicans' accusations against the president.

Republicans are nonetheless expected to press Hunter Biden on his role in allegedly selling the Biden "brand" to score lucrative business deals abroad; his proclivity to invoke his family name in business negotiations; and whether any of the millions of dollars he earned from foreign business entities benefitted his father personally.

Those claims are central to Republicans' accusations against President Biden, even though no concrete evidence has emerged to suggest the president made policy decisions based on his son's business dealings when he was vice president or at other times or accepted any payments through family members.

Even so, some witnesses have testified that Joe Biden had a more active role in his son's work than he or the White House have otherwise acknowledged, even if those interactions did not amount to direct financial involvement.

Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter and James Biden, said Joe Biden attended at least two dinners with their foreign business partners, although "nothing of material was discussed."

Archer, who sat with Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm, also testified that Hunter Biden would often put his father on speakerphone while in the presence of business associates, but said those discussions were often about the weather and other benign subjects.

Notably, Archer said he was not aware of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden.

For his part, Hunter Biden has acknowledged at least one instance in which he and his father discussed his business activities. In an interview with the New Yorker in 2019, Hunter Biden recalled a conversation they had about his appointment to the board of directors of Burisma: "Dad said, 'I hope you know what you are doing,' and I said, 'I do,'" Hunter Biden recalled.

In a statement Tuesday, Comer said the Republican probe will continue -- despite Wednesday's outcome.

"Our committees have the opportunity to depose Hunter Biden, a key witness in our impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, about this record of evidence," he said. "This deposition is not the conclusion of the impeachment inquiry. There are more subpoenas and witness interviews to come. We will continue to follow the facts to inform legislative reforms to federal ethics laws and determine whether articles of impeachment are warranted.”


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King salmon populations are dying, simultaneously affecting orcas and local Alaskan communities

ABC News

(SITKA, Alaska) -- Tad Fujioka always had great problem-solving skills. After studying and working as an engineer, he left the field 14 years ago to become a troll fisherman based in Sitka, Alaska.

"If you’re good at solving problems in one environment, that translates directly to another environment,” he told ABC News, adding that there are other benefits to the job. “I love the freedom to follow my instincts, I don’t have to report to a boss, I love being out on the water in a beautiful country."

Today he’s the chairman of the Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka, Alaska, and supports his family by troll fishing on his 31-foot boat, the Sakura. One of the most important types of fish he reels in is king salmon -- the largest and most expensive species of salmon in the Pacific.

But now, Fujioka is facing a new problem. The fish, which are also known as Chinook, are vital to the state’s rural economy but are also the primary prey for a group of starving orcas in the Salish Sea known as the southern residents. It’s a recipe for disaster that has Southeast Alaska’s troll fishery caught at the heart of a legal showdown that could potentially stop the king salmon harvest in an effort to help the endangered killer whales.

The case is still working its way through the courts, and has left the small communities on both sides of the issue waiting on a result that will impact their culture, economy and way of life.

"To lose access to the king salmon resource would have turned a marginally poor season into a disastrous season,” said Fujioka, who estimates that these fish accounted for two thirds of his income. “It has a direct effect on rural southeast Alaska."

In 2019 the federal government acknowledged that Southeast Alaska’s limits for king salmon troll fishing didn’t allow for enough fish to migrate south to southern resident territory.

A year later, the Wild Fish Conservancy, a conservation group in Washington State, filed a lawsuit against the government alleging that it had violated environmental law by continuing to allow the king salmon troll fishery to operate. The government did have a plan to introduce hatchery fish to mitigate the damage, but had not proven that it would be successful and leave enough for the whales.

"If we keep doing what we're doing, these populations will eventually not exist, and these whales may not exist," Emma Helverson, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, told ABC News.

In May 2023 a judge ruled in the WFC’s favor, and granted its request to close the fishery while the government determines if a harvest can continue without harming the orcas. But a circuit court panel later reversed this decision, citing a potentially “disastrous” economic impact, after hearing from the Alaska Trollers Association and other parties.

"There’s this perception that Alaska is catching all of their fish -- we are viewed as ‘big, bad Alaska,'" said Dani Evenson, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We all share the responsibility of conservation, but people like to point fingers. Everybody wants a silver bullet."

King salmon is vital to small communities in Alaska
King salmon trolling, which is a style of fishing involving small boats and individual fishing lines dragged through the water, has an estimated economic impact of $85 million in Southeast Alaska. In 2022, king salmon caught in Southeast Alaska were valued at just over $16 million, according to data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

In cities like Craig, which has just over 1,000 residents, many families rely on the fishing industry — even the mayor is a commercial troller. He told ABC News the city’s population could decrease by half if king salmon fishing were halted indefinitely. He was also keen to counteract campaigns for consumers to stop eating the fish.

"You’re going to break a bunch of fishermen. You’re going to destroy some communities in Alaska. You’re going to put a bunch of kids out of work or out of school," he said. "Is that what you want to do by not eating king salmon?"

Julie Yates, who lives in Craig, worked alongside her father on his troll boat for years before becoming a commercial fisherman.

"It’s been the dream to follow in his footsteps and continue this," said Yates, who has also been teaching her son Bear about the family business and is concerned about the uncertainty the lawsuit has brought.

"It’s hard to even think about what the future looks like," she said.

The salmon also serves as a food source for locals, which is especially valuable as grocery prices continue to increase. A 2023 report named Alaska the fifth most expensive state in the U.S. in terms of cost of living.

Members of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, for whom king salmon is a traditional food, have also weighed in on the lawsuit, filing an Amicus brief in October last year.

"Salmon -- a foundational food source for Southeast Alaska Indigenous communities—are particularly revered. Trolling for Chinook salmon is a traditional, respectful, and sustainable method of harvesting this culturally significant food,” the brief reads, adding that the groups "do not support blunt measures that place the heaviest burdens on the Indigenous people who depend on the Chinook troll industry for both their individual and community wellbeing."

Clinton Cook Sr., President of the Craig Tribal Association, who was involved in filing the brief, said it’s a common misconception that people in Alaska prioritize industry over the environment.

"That’s about as wrong as it gets," he said. "We’re the indigenous people of the southeast, we’ve been here for generations. We’re stewards of the land and the water -- that’s been our history for thousands of years."

"We’ve always protected our environment, our fish are sacred to us," he added. "When people try to take that away, it’s not ok."

Fates of chinook salmon and orca whales are intertwined
Decades ago Chinook were able to survive in the wild for more than nine years, which allowed them to grow to larger than 100 pounds. Today they reach less than a third of that size on average, and their population is decreasing. The total amount being caught or returning to rivers in the Salish Sea has fallen from just over 800,000 in the 1980s to just over 400,000 in 2018, according to data from the Pacific Salmon Commission. Two species of Chinook are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This is a problem for the ocean’s ecosystem as a whole, but specifically for the southern resident killer whales, officials said. A group of 74 whales made up of three pods whose territory usually extends from the waters around Vancouver Island to the Salish Sea. They have been dubbed "icons of the West coast."

The whales evolved over hundreds of years to feed specifically on Chinook salmon. After losing a large amount of their population to marine parks in the 1970s and 1980s, and were listed as endangered in 2005. Today they face a multitude of challenges including high levels of toxins in their water and increased noise from boat traffic -- both of which are exacerbated by the fact that their primary prey is rapidly declining.

Biologists estimate that 69% of pregnancies among the southern residents fail, largely due to a lack of food.

"They are basically in a constant state of hunger the southern residents go and there's one fish that they’re trying to share between three or four family members," said Deborah Giles, science and research director of Wild Orca, who has spent decades studying the whales. "Just in one whale’s lifetime, we have completely changed their ability to survive."

Whale watching communities need healthy salmon population
Meanwhile, 640 miles southeast, the livelihood of another small island community depends on the ocean as well -- but in a different way. Friday Harbor, Washington, is a town of about 2,500 people in the picturesque San Juan islands, where whale watching represents 13% of total employment in the region and brings in half a million visitors every year, officials said.

"It’s one of the peak life experiences to see whales in the wild, especially out here," said Jeff Friedman, a marine naturalist and owner of a whale watching company based in Friday Harbor, noting the island has people coming from as far away as Australia and Europe to see the southern residents and other groups of whales. "Obviously our businesses are dependent on that, as well as the hotels and restaurants and other island businesses that people support when they’re out here."

These whales are particularly beloved among tourists and residents.

"The southern residents are probably the best known population here,” Amy Nesler, Communications and Stewardship Manager at the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, told ABC News. “We end up with newspaper articles every time they have a new calf, or we’ll have a memorial of the ones we lose in a year."

They used to be a common site on whale watching tours, but have become much more rare in recent years.

"We don’t see them in the inland waters like we used to, because they don’t have salmon," Friedman said, noting that he and other operators follow a strict set of guidelines prohibiting boats from getting too close to the group to prevent damage from boat noise.

"We have impacted their world," he said. "I think it gives us not just a sense of responsibility, but a desire to do something right for them and make sure they have the environment to thrive."

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