After 16 years of negotiating between the United States and Canada, a joint committee between the two nations adopted a plan Thursday that would allow water levels of Lake Ontario to fluctuate more naturally, with hopes of eventually restoring wetlands and protecting shorelines from erosion. The plan, which cost $20 million to develop and involved several interests including commercial shipping and waterfront residents, will deviate from a 1950s-era policy that kept lake levels even throughout the year. While shoreline property owners preferred this policy, which relied on the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River in between Ontario and New York, it wrecked havoc on coastal wetlands and the wildlife that thrive on water levels that fluctuate depending the season. Officials hope this new plan will restore 64,000 acres of wetlands. By allowing water level rises in the spring and fall season, Lake Ontario’s maximum level will rise 2.4 inches.
—John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 who went onto become a Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio, has died in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 95. More here
—Heroin-related deaths surpassed the number of gun homicides in 2015. More here
—The United States and Canada adopted a plan Thursday that would allow water levels of Lake Ontario to fluctuate more naturally, with hopes of eventually restoring wetlands and protecting shorelines from erosion. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
The U.S. and Canada Adopt a Plan to Save Lake Ontario's Wetlands
Heroin Deaths Surpass Gun Homicides, CDC Finds
In addition to a decrease in life expectancy in the United States for the first time since 1993, new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday found that heroin-related deaths surpassed the number of gun homicides in 2015. As the Washington Post reports, heroin-related deaths increased by more than 2,000 cases in 2015 to 12,989 deaths, surpassing the number of deaths caused by traditional opioid painkillers. The new figure just barely surpassed the number of gun homicides (12,979 deaths) in 2015, marking the first time heroin deaths have exceeded gun homicides in recent history. The increase follows a larger trend of overdose-related deaths surpassing deaths caused by firearms. A 2015 study by the Drug Enforcement Administration found that overdose-related deaths exceeded deaths caused by car accidents and firearms every year since 2008, with overdose-deaths caused by prescription drugs and heroin reaching “epidemic levels.”
John Glenn, Astronaut, U.S. Senator, Dies at 95
John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 who went onto become a Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio, has died in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 95, Governor John Kasich announced Thursday. A veteran of World War II and Korea, Glenn was selected in 1959 as one of the United States’s first seven astronauts, a group immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff. On February, 20, 1962, Glenn flew on the Friendship 7 mission to become the fifth person—and first American—to orbit the Earth. After retirement, he entered politics, becoming the U.S.senator from Ohio, serving from 1974 to 1999. He unsuccessfully sought the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, and was embroiled—but ultimately exonerated—in the Keating Five scandal. Glenn is survived by Annie Glenn, his wife of more than seven decades. For more on Glenn, go here.
Canadian Banknotes Feature Civil-Rights Pioneer Viola Desmond
Viola Desmond , the Canadian civil-rights pioneer, will be the new face of the $10 banknote, the government announced Thursday, making her the first woman (aside from Queen Elizabeth II, Canada’s head of state) to be immortalized on the country’s currency. Desmond, dubbed the “Rosa Parks of Canada,” made history on November 8, 1946, when at the age of 32 she defied Nova Scotia’s segregation laws by sitting in the main floor of a movie theater—an area considered off-limits to black people, who at the time were only allowed balcony seats. Desmond was thrown in jail and charged with tax evasion for failing to pay a one-cent tax difference between main floor and balcony tickets. Though Desmond attempted to reverse the charge in a case that was eventually taken to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, she did not live to see the conviction reversed. She was granted a posthumous pardon in 2010, more than four decades after her death. In February, Desmond became the first woman of color to be featured in Heritage Minute, a series documenting important moments in Canadian history.
1 Million Mexicans RSVP to a Quinceañera and Now the Mexican Police are Involved
“Hello, how you doing? We invite you on December 26 to our daughter Rubi Ibarra García’s quinceañera party.” That was how a video made by a Mexican family began, meant to invite locals in the town of La Joya, in the state of San Luis Potosi, to their daughter’s 15th birthday party. It ended with the father saying, “everyone is cordially invited.” The invitation worked, because now the Mexican police will be deployed to work security after 1.2 million people said they’ll attend. The Ibarra family had attached the video to a Facebook event, and somehow the masses on the internet got ahold of it and it has now been shared more than 800,000 times. In the video, the girl, her mother and father, all stand beside each other, while the father lists several local bands set to perform at the party, the food that will be prepared, and says there will be a $500 prize to the winner of a horse race. The father has not retracted his open invitation, though he has said it was meant only for locals. The mother said she found the memes created for the party funny, especially one with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump shaking hands, while a TV anchor says, “Breaking news: Deal reached so Mexicans can attend Rubi’s 15th and return to the U.S.” Rubi is reportedly “very excited.”
Aleppo Victory Won't End the War, Syria's Assad Says
The Syrian government’s recapture of most of eastern Aleppo from rebel forces is considered a “big gain” for Syrian forces, but President Bashar al-Assad said it won’t necessarily mean the end of the country’s more than five-year civil war. “Terrorists are present elsewhere,” Assad told Al Watan, the state-owned newspaper Thursday. “Even if we finish with Aleppo, we will continue our war against them.” Assad’s comments come a day after Syrian government forces regained full control of the old city of Aleppo, considered the rebels’ last major stronghold, in an offensive that resulted in the deaths of at least 11 civilians, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. Though the rebels have called for a five-day ceasefire to allow for the evacuation of civilians in eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 200,000 people remain, Assad dismissed the prospect as “practically nonexistent,” adding the rebels have “no cards left to play.”
The Pilot of the Pakistan International Airlines Flight Issued a Mayday Call Before Crashing
The pilot of the Pakistani airplane that crashed into a mountain and killed 47 people made a mayday call just before the plane went down, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said Thursday. The pilot reportedly told flight controllers of engine trouble, though investigators have yet to make any concrete determinations as to what caused the crash. The plane left the mountainous resort region near Chitral Wednesday afternoon, headed for the country’s capital, Islamabad. At about 4 p.m. local time, the pilot issued the emergency call to flight controllers, and likely spared further destruction and loss of life by steering into the unpopulated mountain area where he plane went down, PIA said. The airline’s chairman, Muhammad Azam Saigol, said the plane had undergone regular maintenance inspections: “I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft.” But PIA has a history of technical failure, including a crash in 2006 that killed 44 people.
Greg Lake, Guitarist for King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Dies at 69
Greg Lake, the guitarist who was a founding member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, two of progressive rock’s most iconic bands, has died in London at the age of 69. The cause was a “stubborn battle with cancer,” Stewart Young, the U.K.-born musician’s manager, wrote Thursday on Facebook. Robert Fripp and Lake founded King Crimson, whose 1969 debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, set the standard for prog-rock albums for years to come. Lake left the band to form Emerson, Lake, and Palmer with Keith Emerson, the keyboardist, and Carl Palmer, the drummer. The band became one of the best-known progressive-rock acts of the 1970s. Lake’s death Wednesday comes less than a year after Emerson, his ELP bandmate, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
U.S. Life Expectancy Declines for the First Time in Two Decades
New data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show life expectancy in the United States has fallen for the first time since the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1993. For men life expectancy declined from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 in 2015; for women from 81.3 to 81.2. Preliminary data show a rise in deaths from heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in 2014, as well. Death from Alzheimer’s disease showed a 15-percent increase in 2015 over 2014; the infant-mortality rate from unintentional injuries rose 11.3 percent from 29.1 infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014 to 32.4 in 2015. You can read the report here.
News From the Trump Transition
President-elect Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma’s attorney general as the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency. As my colleague Robinson Meyer notes, Scott Pruitt is not only a climate-change skeptic, he also sued the federal government to prevent rules about air and water pollution from taking effect. Separately, Trump criticized Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers 1999, who questioned the actual number of jobs being saved at the Indiana Carrier plant, which Trump has touted as a facility where his personal intervention saved 1,100 jobs.
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016