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Member since: Tue Dec 29, 2015, 02:16 PM
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Demonstrators confront self-styled militia groups in Louisville

On Thursday night at 7:15 p.m., a large group of protesters from Jefferson Square Park descended upon a nearby Hampton Inn where more than two dozen members of several self-styled militia groups, including the Oathkeepers, were staging for the night. As men readied long guns and donned tactical vests, the man leading the group of protesters, Chris Will, 34, of Milwaukee, led activists into the parking lot where they berated mostly silent armed men in fatigues. A handful of arguments ensued, and one of the Oathkeepers said a lawn chair of his was stolen.


Developing story

What's killing Botswana's elephants? Here are the top theories.

More than 280 elephants are dead and officials are still trying to unravel the cause.

THEY WALK IN circles and appear dizzy before suddenly dropping dead, sometimes face-first. No one knows why. Over the past several months, hundreds of elephants have died in Botswana, some with these symptoms.

The bizarre behavior and sheer number of deaths suggest to experts that it’s unlikely that diseases known to afflict wild elephants, such as tuberculosis, are to blame. The elephants’ tusks aren’t missing, which rules out poaching for ivory. Yet the death toll keeps growing. Government officials say they’ve verified that 281 elephants have died since March 2020; conservation NGOs in the area say the death toll is even higher.

“From a population perspective this is not serious, even though many elephants have died,” says Markus Hofmeyr, a wildlife veterinarian and former head of veterinary services at Kruger National Park. “It is, however, important that there is a diagnosis made to make sure no foul play is at hand—that would be a problem for the population if it is not dealt with.”

Botswana, with an estimated 130,000 savanna elephants, is one of the species’ last strongholds in Africa, where ivory poaching has been responsible for reducing their numbers to roughly 350,000. The dying animals in Botswana lived in a roughly thousand-square-mile tract in a remote area northeast of the Okavango Delta, where an estimated 18,000 elephants, 16,000 people, and 18,000 cattle live.

According to veterinarians and wildlife experts interviewed by National Geographic, as well as an examination of past elephant die-offs, possible causes include: ingestion of toxic bacteria in water, anthrax poisoning, poisoning by humans, viral infection from rodents, or a pathogenic microbe. Then, too, it could be some combination of these causes—especially if environmental factors have played a part, such as this year’s late heavy rainfall after years of drought.


Ringling's retired circus elephants to move to conservation center

The Asian elephants, which have been at the center of a long debate over performing animals, will get a 2,500-acre, state-of-the-art habitat.

THE RETIRED ELEPHANTS of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be moving to a spacious new home at a Florida conservation center next year, concluding a journey that began in 2015 when the circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, first announced it would be phasing out its use of performing elephants.

White Oak Conservation’s purchase of 35 Asian elephants from Feld Entertainment, announced today, creates what will be the largest community of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere, according to the organization. Construction has begun on a 2,500-acre (four-square-mile) habitat that is slated for completion in 2021.

The new refuge will let the animals choose among different landscapes—including wetlands, grasslands, and woodlands—and will be speckled with 11 waterholes, each big enough for the elephants to wade in.

“It is a chance for us to let them return to just being elephants in a situation that is as close to the wild as we can make,” says Michelle Gadd, who leads global conservation efforts for Walter Conservation. (White Oak, owned by businessman and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and his wife Kimbra, is part of Walter Conservation, a division of the family’s philanthropic work dedicated to conserving wildlife.)

These elephants—a species whose lifespan in captivity averages about 45 years—range in age from a few years to more than 70 years. Having lived mostly in captivity, the elephants cannot be returned to the wild. But this move is a step in the right direction, says Ed Stewart, the president and co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a California-based nonprofit that takes in abandoned, abused, and retired performing animals. “It looks like it’s going to be very good captive welfare, some of the best captive welfare that you can have,” he says.


F.D.A. to Release Stricter Guidelines for Emergency Vaccine Authorization

The new guidelines underscore the fact that a vaccine is highly unlikely before the election. The Food and Drug Administration plans to soon issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, adding a new layer of caution to the vetting process even as President Trump continues to contradict his own scientific experts and promise that a vaccine will be available as early as next month. The guidelines, which may be formally released as early as this week if approved by the White House, would lay out more specific criteria for clinical trial data and recommend that the data be vetted by a committee of independent experts before the F.D.A. authorizes any vaccine, according to several people familiar with the draft. The guidelines would be the most detailed description yet by the federal government about how the vaccine vetting process will proceed. With the election just six weeks away, Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised that the nation’s problems will soon be solved with a vaccine, although no vaccine has yet been proven to work. His own scientific experts continue to counter his statements, telling Congress that it will likely be the middle of next year, if not later, before a vaccine is readily available to most Americans.

Drafted by a small group of career scientists at the F.D.A., the guidelines state that participants in late-stage trials should be tracked for a median of two months after receiving the final dose before an emergency authorization can be considered. Two companies with vaccine candidates in active Phase 3 trials — Pfizer and Moderna — both require two doses. Vaccine regulators have been concerned that a vaccine may only induce short-term immunity. The two-month threshold would make it easier to predict whether a vaccine can produce long-term responses, one person familiar with the guidance said. The draft guidelines also call for a more thorough safety follow-up with participants who would receive a vaccine under emergency authorization. The guidelines ask the sponsor — such as the drugmaker or Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s crash vaccine program — to present such a plan. They also call for at least five cases of severe infection in the placebo group of a vaccine trial, as a way to assess whether participants who do receive the vaccine are at lower risk for more complicated cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Because approximately 10 percent of cases tend to be severe, this threshold of five would correspond to about 50 total cases of Covid-19 in the placebo group. And the guidelines recommend standards for manufacturing and testing vaccines seeking emergency authorization, enabling the F.D.A. to determine that a vaccine manufactured after an emergency approval will be as safe and effective as the materials tested in clinical trials.


Louisville grand jury indicts 1 of 3 officers in fatal Breonna Taylor police shooting

Source: Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Jefferson County grand jury has indicted one of three Louisville officers in the March 13 fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.

But the charges are for putting Taylor's neighbors in danger, not for killing her.

The grand jury's decision Wednesday:

Former detective Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was not indicted.
Detective Myles Cosgrove was not indicted.
A wanton endangerment charge is a class D felony and carries a penalty of one to five years in prison. The charges read by Judge Annie O'Connell on Wednesday said that Hankison "wantonly shot a gun" into adjoining Apartment 3.

The occupants of that apartment were identified by initials. None of victims identified in the indictment was BT — Breonna Taylor.

Read more: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/breonna-taylor/2020/09/23/what-we-know-about-breonna-taylor-case-announcement/5415646002/

The wanton endangerment charges were for the shots that went into the neighbors apartment--not for killing Taylor. The other shots were self-defense because her boyfriend pulled a gun on people busting down his door in the middle of the night.

KY AG on CNN right now

Holding forth about the indictment of the cop, saying it was not a no-knock warrant, and that they did announce themselves. That someone upstairs heard knocking. But NY Times reporter said she interviewed 12 other people there, and no one else heard that. Answers to questions, nonscense.

Taylor family is rightfully incensed that he wasn't charged with manslaughter. Expect Louisville about to become one of trump's terrorist cities.

Ancient Python Lays Eggs, Apparently Without Male Help

The snake, which is about 62 and hasn’t had contact with a male python in at least 15 years, surprised zookeepers at the St. Louis Zoo.

It’s been about two months since zookeepers at the St. Louis Zoo found a ball python believed to be about 62 years old coiled around a clutch of seven eggs she had laid. But the surprise has not worn off.

Not only had the snake not had contact with a male python for at least 15 years; it also had already outlived its life expectancy by more than two decades.

It’s rare but not impossible for ball pythons, one of the smallest python species, to reproduce asexually. But Mark Wanner, zoological manager of herpetology at the St. Louis Zoo, said that snakes typically live only about 30 or 40 years. It’s “kind of crazy” the python made it past 60, he said, let alone laid eggs.

“It’s not normal to see a snake live to that age,” he said. The oldest snake ever documented in a zoo was a 47-year-old ball python at the Philadelphia Zoo, Mr. Wanner said, making the St. Louis Zoo’s python now the oldest snake ever recorded. “That makes it even more incredible that she laid a clutch of eggs.”

Two of the eggs, which she laid on July 23, are being used for genetic sampling, which will help determine whether the python reproduced sexually or asexually. Snakes are also known to store sperm from an earlier encounter for delayed fertilization, though Mr. Wanner said that was unlikely in this case, as the longest snake sperm storage documented was seven years.

Of the remaining eggs, three are in an incubator at the zoo’s herpetarium, which houses its snakes, lizards, frogs and other amphibians. The two others did not survive.

Dr. Jonathan Losos, a professor of evolutionary biology at Washington University in St. Louis who specializes in reptiles, said scientists had known for a while that there were some species of snakes and lizards in which no males exist and females reproduce asexually.

“What we didn’t realize until relatively recently is that there are some species who normally are sexual — that is, require a male and a female to reproduce — that can occasionally reproduce without any sperm,” Dr. Losos said. Komodo dragons, for instance, have been known to lay eggs asexually, a process called facultative parthenogenesis.

The ball python in St. Louis, which is between four and four and a half feet long and does not have a name, arrived at the zoo in 1961 through a private owner. It was estimated to be about 3 years old at the time. The zoo also has a male ball python that is about 31 years old. They are kept side by side in the zoo’s herpetarium, out of public view, but never come into contact.


Snakes are so fascinating. I was mowing along the edge of our woods on Sunday, and saw a beautiful little bright green garter snake, about 2 ft. long, sunning himself on a branch. Unfortunately, I did not see him when I came back through, and he was cut in many pieces.

I Teamed Up With a Bunch of Strangers to Save Animals From the Oregon Wildfires.

I Teamed Up With a Bunch of Strangers to Save Animals From the Oregon Wildfires. Here’s What I Witnessed in the Face of Tragedy

Pigs aren’t meant to be hoisted overhead by teenage girls and goats aren’t meant to be shoved through open windows, but when fire’s eating its way out of the woodlands into pastures and beasts balk at the barn door, proper loading protocol be damned. You get them into that horse trailer by any means necessary.

My neighbors and I wrangled livestock under a blood-red sky for four days and nights, skin glowing orange as sweaty shirtsleeves got shoved up after chasing down herds of horses, cattle and sheep that resisted containment. The rescue crew I ran with was a makeshift band of girlfriends-turned-cowgirls who hitched up trailers and raced into fire zones when the first plea for help came from a friend of a friend.

The four-day stretch of frantic statewide evacuations began late on Monday night, September 7, when an uncommon summer wind drove 50 mph gusts through forests baking in 90-degree heat, forests where for decades aggressive fire-suppression techniques had saved houses but left underbrush unburnt. Kindling awaiting a match.

On the mountaintop where I live a blaze sparked when the gale toppled a tree into a transformer that exploded in a fizzling, crackling spectacle. In the wee hours of morning, carrying flashlights and screaming instructions over the howling wind, my daughter and I assembled kennels in our barn: this one for the rabbits, this one for the chickens. As a neighborhood scout texted an update – “Tree down across the road east, head west if necessary” – I grabbed a can of spray paint to counter the deadly math: with only a single two-horse trailer, I’d never get all our big animals out. No farm could; no one was equipped to flee with whole barnyards simultaneously. If the evacuation order came and I had to abandon my beloved donkeys and llamas, I would paint my phone number on the animals’ backs, open the gates and chase them out in the hope that they’d keep running and I might find them later.

But Tuesday morning dawned lucky for our neighborhood, our relatively small conflagration one of the few firefighters managed to fully suppress. We were safe; we could stay put. Yet the tower of smoke whirling over towns in the valley portended disaster for too many others. In an emergency, churches and shelters open doors to people but not to household pets, and certainly not to livestock. Only we whose farms had been spared could provide for other evacuees both passage and pasture to keep their animals safe.

That is why we raced not from the flames but toward them, two neighbors per vehicle, one driving, one manning phones from the passenger seat: fielding calls for help, passing information to others gathered around kitchen tables outside the evacuation zone, using social media and an ad hoc dispatch system to connect volunteers with endangered farms, the horse trailer I wound up not needing transformed into the rescue transport someone else prayed for. All told, thousands of Oregonians, from grade-schoolers to grandmas, joined together to rescue an estimated 20,000 animals.

I don’t know the names of the people I toiled alongside: The man who wrestled a frightened horse into a trailer, walked away with a broken nose and a cracked tooth and responded, “Sh-t happens. Horse got loaded and no one else got hurt,” before asking where he was needed next. The single mother of four who agreed to take in 13 dogs and put their owner up in the travel trailer in her driveway. The man who spent two sleepless days and nights rescuing animals before going home to find his own house ablaze, who “in an effort not to feel sorry for myself” got back in his truck and started delivering donated hay to the folks sheltering the animals he’d saved. And the legions of anonymous people – many of whom had squared off against each other nightly for months in Portland’s ongoing protests – all driving toward danger because strangers needed help.

It is the most desperate our communities have ever been, and the most kind. There are 69 extra animals now grazing in my smoky pasture, a dozen volunteers tending to them, households along my road collecting donations for their owners, and construction workers and farmers already coordinating to raise for them new houses and barns. We have witnessed a munificence in the face of tragedy that borders on holy. From these ashes, beauty also rises.


I know a lot of people think--why bother saving animals when there are people in trouble. But when you have a bunch of fur kids, and it happens, its terrifying to think of losing them in such a horrible way.

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Are Spreading Rapidly

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Are Spreading Rapidly—and They're a Public Health Risk All Their Own

Public health crises have spawned conspiracy theories as far back as when the Black Death ravaged Europe in the 1300s, as people desperately try to make sense of the chaotic forces disrupting their lives. While modern science offers a better understanding of how diseases infect people and how to contain them, COVID-19 conspiracy theories are spreading rapidly via social media, unreliable news outlets and from our own political leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump. The result: many Americans now believe pandemic-related conspiracy theories—and, alarmingly, those same people are less likely to take steps to prevent the virus from spreading.

In a University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center study published Monday in Social Science & Medicine, researchers surveyed a group of 840 U.S. adults—first in late March, and then again in mid-July—to determine how Americans’ beliefs and actions regarding the pandemic changed over time. Overall, they found that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are not only commonplace, they’re gaining traction. Back in March, 28% of people believed a debunked rumor that the Chinese government created the coronavirus as a bioweapon; that number rose to 37% by July. About 24% believed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exaggerated the virus’ danger to hurt Trump politically despite a lack of evidence; by July, that figure rose to 32%. And in March, about 15% of respondents said they believed that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales—another unfounded theory—compared to 17% in July.

Whether or not someone thinks NASA hired Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing has little bearing on the world beyond that person. But in the case of a pandemic—which requires people to follow public health guidance in order to keep one another safe—conspiratorial thinking can have disturbing consequences. Indeed, the Annenberg study found that only 62% of people who were most likely to believe the coronavirus conspiracies said they wear a mask every day when they’re around other people away from home, compared to 95% of non-believers. Furthermore, people who believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories were 2.2 times less likely to say they wanted to receive a vaccine in March; by July, they were 3.5 times less likely to want to be vaccinated.

“Belief in pandemic conspiracy theories appears to be an obstacle to minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dan Romer, Annenberg Public Policy Center research director and a study co-author, in a statement.


Red Ants vs Black Ants

Pretty fun!
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