Sea turtles appear to fly as they swim beneath ocean waves. With long, gray-green flippers that move like slow wingbeats, they glide through the water as birds do through the sky. Actually flying through the air, though, at 10,000 feet above the ground, the reptiles seem anything but graceful.
Inside the airplane, 120 sea turtles, 118 of which are juvenile Kemp’s ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), shift uncomfortably among beach towels inside stacked Chiquita banana boxes, their crusty eyes and curved pearlescent beaks peeking through slot handles. The windowless metal cabin vibrates with the sound of propellers as the pilots work to keep the plane aloft and the internal air temperature at a turtle-friendly 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s December 2020, and outside, the cold air above New England slowly gives way to balmier southern temperatures. The pilots are taking the turtles on a 2,900-kilometer (1,800-mile) trip from Massachusetts to Texas’s Gulf Coast.
Eight hours later, they’re nearly there. “We’re coming into Corpus Christi,” says Mike Looby, a pilot with a sea turtle rescue organization called Turtles Fly Too, as airport runways come into view among the sprawling buildings below. Looby and co-pilot Bill Gisler, both from Ohio, will visit four different locations in Texas to offload the animals. This is the largest number of turtles the organization has transported to date.
Charles Yanke, a volunteer pilot with Turtles Fly Too, helps load boxes of recovering sea turtles onto his plane in Marshfield, Massachusetts, for transport to rehabilitation centers outside the state.
Once the plane is on the tarmac, staff and volunteers from several aquariums and marine rescue facilities crowd around. The pilots gently slide each box of turtles toward the cargo door, and the group lines up to carry them to vans parked nearby.
“What happened to these guys?” someone asks.
“They were found stranded on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts,” says Donna Shaver, chief of the division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore, as she grabs a box.
In the summer months, the waters in the Gulf of Maine where Cape Cod is located are warm, calm, and full of food, serving as a natural nursery for 2- to 4-year-old Kemp’s ridleys, the smallest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. Migrating loggerheads (Caretta caretta), green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), and the occasional leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) also visit Cape Cod Bay. But as water temperatures plummet in November, December, and January, the cold-blooded turtles must migrate out or perish. Many lose their way and wash up, cold-stunned, on the inside edge of the hook-shaped Cape, which curls into the ocean like a flexing arm, forming what some locals call “the deadly bucket.”
The phenomenon is the largest recurring sea turtle stranding event in the world. While it’s natural — local records of sea turtle bones date back centuries — the scale is new and may, paradoxically, be a product of successful efforts to recover Kemp’s ridley populations, in addition to the effects of climate change.
The hook at the outermost tip of Cape Cod spirals back into the bay toward the cape’s southern coastline, creating a challenging obstacle for young sea turtles seeking the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico when fall temperatures plummet. Photo made possible by LightHawk
“This area is increasing in water temperature faster than 99 percent of water bodies in the world,” says Kate Sampson, sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who helps coordinate turtle transport. “Because of that, it seems like it’s drawing more sea turtles.”
Fortunately for the turtles, hundreds of volunteers and several staff members organized by the nonprofit Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary stand at the ready to patrol every inch of the 105-kilometer (65-mile) stretch of beach lining the inner Cape, twice a day, from November through December, no matter the weather. When they find a turtle, the animal begins a logistically complex journey from rescue to rehabilitation and, eventually, to release. Saving each flight’s worth of little lives involves approximately five vans, 1,000 miles, four organizations, and 50 people. Without this monumental collaboration across North America’s Eastern Seaboard, other efforts to save the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle from extinction might be futile.
Why turtle strandings are on the rise
Three weeks before Looby and Gisler’s departure with their precious herpetological cargo, Nancy Braun and her border collie Halo walked a stretch of Great Hollow Beach, near Cape Cod’s outermost tip. The unrelenting wind blew hard and Braun’s cheeks were rosy with cold, her hair frantically trying to escape from beneath a fuzzy winter hat. Every so often, she raised binoculars to her eyes to scan the sand and any promising-looking lump of seaweed. A resident of nearby Truro and a Mass Audubon volunteer, Braun was on the lookout for turtles.
Walking quickly, she passed small cottages in the dunes with window shutters closed tightly against the elements. Brightly colored beach chairs lined the shore like memorials to summers past. Along the way, Braun saw a group of people gathered around something in the distance, and she broke into a run in their direction, Halo bounding by her side. When she arrived, there they were: four sea turtles, clearly in need of care. As the group waited for the arrival of a Mass Audubon vehicle to take the turtles for initial processing, Braun and the others covered them with seaweed to protect against the wind chill.
Truro resident Nancy Braun, her dog, and a few others stand watch over four stranded sea turtles on Great Hallow Beach on Cape Cod in November.
“This is so cool,” said Richard Lammert, a visitor from New York. “We were just walking the beach and came across these turtles. I had no idea that sea turtles even came up this far. I’ve never seen one up close, let alone helped to rescue it.”
While the mood was light, there was also a sense of urgency among the group. “I called Mass Audubon to let them know what we found,” said Michael Weinstein, another Truro resident. That’s exactly the type of response turtle rescuers hope for and why rescuers prioritize educating the community in addition to recruiting and training volunteers, according to Carol “Krill” Carson, president and founder of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance and a volunteer with Mass Audubon. Without a clear understanding of why the turtles are stranded in the first place, some well-intentioned people might think they should throw the animals back into the ocean. “Anyone can walk the beach and find a sea turtle,” Carson says. “It’s what that person does when they find a turtle that is critical.”
Former director of Mass Audubon Bob Prescott started the sea turtle rescue program back in 1979. At the time, Prescott says he would find only a handful of turtles each year. The number has since skyrocketed. In 2014, volunteers found a record-breaking 1,242 turtles stranded on Cape Cod beaches. In 2020, there were 1,045, the second-highest number on record.
Carol “Krill” Carson, president and founder of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance and a volunteer with Mass Audubon, drags a sled as she searches for stranded sea turtles along a Cape Cod beach near her home.
The most common species found is Kemp’s ridley, which nests in only two places in the world: a stretch of beach in Mexico and one in Texas. Between the late 1940s and the mid-’80s, Kemp’s ridley populations plummeted from more than 40,000 nesting females to fewer than 300, due to entanglement in fishing gear and the harvesting of adults and eggs for human consumption. Today, Kemp’s ridleys still face a wide variety of threats, including habitat loss, coastal development, ship strikes, plastic waste, and climate change. With so few ridleys left, “every life counts in the survival of this species,” says Prescott, which makes the turtle rescue effort that much more important. “It’s all hands on deck.”
Connie Merigo, executive director of the National Marine Life Center, in Bourne, Massachusetts, agrees. “You hear a lot in biology, ‘Why are you interfering? Shouldn’t you just let nature run its course?’ In this case, a lot of these threats are not under control. So, if we let thousands of these turtles die every year in a cold-stunning event, the population is that much smaller.”
Interestingly, though, the success of ongoing conservation efforts is likely one of the factors driving the increased need for rescues. That’s because there are simply more turtles around to strand. Conservation efforts on nesting beaches in Mexico, strict regulations on pollution, and new technological advancements in fishing equipment have all helped, as have new nest sites developed in Texas since the 1970s. Today, there are an estimated 5,500 Kemp’s ridley females nesting in Mexico and 55 in Texas.
Although this is a good sign, the current population is still critically low. According to NOAA, the number of nests grew steadily until 2009 but has fluctuated since then, underscoring the importance of ongoing monitoring and conservation. “Endangered species recovery is the long game,” says Shaver, who leads the Kemp’s ridley nesting program in Texas. “It’s so heartwarming to work with people who have the same mission at heart to try and give back to preserve and sustain this population.”
Boxes of cold-stunned sea turtles sit in a cool room at Mass Audubon in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Rehabilitators slowly bring the turtles’ body temperatures back up to normal to avoid shocking the animals.
The other likely factor contributing to turtle strandings is the warming of the Gulf of Maine. Climate change has caused the water here to warm earlier each year and to stay warm for longer, keeping young Kemp’s ridleys in the fertile shallows of Cape Cod Bay later each fall. But the temperatures of the outer Cape and the North Atlantic still plunge as summer comes to a close. When fall arrives and the turtles attempt to navigate northward around the cape’s hook, they hit a disorienting wall of cold and turn around in search of the warmer water of their southerly ocean habitats.
This leads them back to the shallow flats inside the bay, where they encounter land instead of the open ocean. When the waters inside the cape reach a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit, any turtles still there will become hypothermic and eventually die unless they get help. Given the compounding factors, there’s no obvious end in sight to the trend.
“We are going to continue to see an increase of cold-stuns on Cape Cod,” says NOAA’s Kate Sampson.
New England Aquarium interns Kristen Luise, right, and Lauren Jaeger listen to the heartbeat of a hypothermic Kemp’s ridley sea turtle at the aquarium’s rehabilitation center in Quincy, Massachusetts.
That increase has only heightened the need for collaboration. In 2010, the New England Aquarium built a sea turtle rehabilitation facility in Quincy, Massachusetts, to meet demand. And with the high stranding numbers in 2020, breaking the record for live admitted turtles at 754, and limited staff due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, Massachusetts, also opened its doors to help with triage of incoming turtles, on top of the rehab services it already provided.
In addition to being hypothermic, Kemp’s ridleys usually arrive at these facilities with pneumonia or develop the condition within the first week or two of their arrival. Turtles also sometimes show up with traumatic injuries like broken bones and cracked shells from ocean waves tossing their bodies repeatedly into rocks, jetties, and seawalls when the animals are too cold to swim out of the surf.
Initially, when the turtles arrive, the goal is simply to assess their injuries through physical examinations and X-rays and to stabilize them. Rehabilitation staff members give the turtles fluids to rehydrate them and antibiotics to treat infections. They also work to slowly bring the animals’ internal body temperatures back up.
Gabbie Nicoletta, a coordinator at the National Marine Life Center, watches a previously stranded sea turtle as it continues its recovery in a tank at the rehabilitation center in Bourne, Massachusetts, in December.
Still, the two Massachusetts facilities can only care for so many turtles. At some point, the animals, including those that Braun and the others found on Great Hollow Beach, must be transported to other aquariums and facilities to complete their rehabilitation and ready them for release back into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In total, 29 additional rehab facilities are prepared to take in sea turtles for long-term rehabilitation. And flying, it turns out, is the fastest, least stressful, and safest way to transport the animals. That’s where Turtles Fly Too and its team of dedicated volunteer pilots come in.
The first — and only — US operation permitted to airlift sea turtles
On a frigid, clear December day, the early morning sun peeks over the horizon as four vans pull onto the tarmac at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts. Yawning, their breath turning into clouds before them, Kate Sampson of NOAA, Connie Merigo of the Marine Life Center, and a handful of other turtle rescuers from the New England Aquarium, pour out of the vehicles to meet with pilots Looby and Gisler. They strategize about the loading process to get dozens of turtles into the air as quickly and safely as possible. And that’s just one phase of the process.
Among the myriad details that must be worked out are how many turtles the rehabilitation facilities need to move, what planes are available and their capacity, where the pilots are coming from, where they’re going, and who will be on hand for pickup — all right up to the moment when the turtles arrive at their destination.
Adam Kennedy, a biologist at the New England Aquarium, closes the lid on a container holding one of many previously stranded sea turtles bound for rehabilitation facilities outside New England.
The service that Turtles Fly Too provides is unique. Besides the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has the authority to move any endangered animal, “we have the first and only permits in the nation to fly sea turtles,” says Leslie Weinstein, the organization’s president. Turtles Fly Too got its start in 2014, the record-breaking year of strandings. Weinstein was running an aviation parts manufacturing company full time and had just transported a green sea turtle successfully to a facility in Dubuque, Iowa, that summer. In November, when cold-stranded sea turtles began washing up, turtle rescuers put Weinstein in touch with Sampson and Merigo, who was then directing the New England Aquarium’s Rescue Rehab Program. And thus, Turtles Fly Too was born.
Weinstein found the organization’s first pilot through a volunteer group called Pilots N Paws that transports domestic animals. A full-time dentist in New York, Ed Filangeri’s assignment was to fly eight turtles from Massachusetts to Baltimore, Maryland. Filangeri was immediately hooked, and the two joined forces. These days, Filangeri doesn’t hesitate to cancel dental appointments, because, he says, “the turtles can’t wait” and the clients understand. The organization now counts more than 350 pilots among its ranks and provides emergency transport to other species too, including sea otters, pelicans, and seals.
The flights vary in cost from $1,500 to $100,000 depending on the plane used, the number of drop locations, and the number of turtles on board. According to Weinstein, the average ticket price comes in at about $1,000 per turtle. Public contributions to Turtles Fly Too help cover that, as do airfields that waive landing fees or provide discounts on fuel. One Christmas Eve, when Filangeri had a mission to Virginia, he showed up in a Santa hat, and he and the crew named each of the eight traveling turtles after a flying reindeer. “I thought it was funny that they were flying with a man with a white beard on Christmas Eve,” Filangeri laughs. But, joking aside, “We do what’s necessary. We are the turtle movers,” adds Weinstein. “You can’t put a value on one Kemp’s life.”
After months spent healing from injuries, being treated for their illnesses, and regaining their strength, the turtles that Looby and Gisler transported in December are ready for release. “These guys come in chronically ill, and it takes time to get them healed,” says Joe Flanagan, senior veterinarian at the Houston Zoo. On the appointed day in March 2021, the beaches of Galveston, Texas, are warm, and the spring sun reflects off the light-colored sand. Boxes filled with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles gathered from the New England coastline sit in the shade of a small tent. Several beach-goers line up behind strips of bright pink tape wafting in the wind, marking a safe corridor for the turtle parade. Aquariums and rehabilitation centers coordinate with each other to combine their releases and allow the public to attend. “We’ll probably not see these guys ever again, I hope. But if we do it would be nice to see them nesting,” says Flanagan.
A rehabilitator with the Sea Life Aquarium holds one of approximately 85 endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles released at Galveston Beach in Texas in March.
Staff and volunteers carefully grasp the small Kemp’s ridleys just behind their front flippers and carry them one by one down the sandy strip toward the ocean. The people gathered to watch cheer, clap, take selfies, smile, and wave as the animals complete the final leg of their strange, human-assisted migration. “Goodbye, little one! Good luck!” someone yells. “Look at how cute they are,” says another bystander. The sea turtles seem equally enthusiastic, waving their flippers wildly as if in anticipation of the swim, longing for the embrace of warm water, at last, eager to once again fly beneath the waves.
“Oh my god, he is so ready to go!” says one of the turtle rehabilitators as she places a small pale-green Kemp’s, named Hagrid, slowly into the water. With several fast pumps of his flippers, the young turtle disappears into the Gulf of Mexico.
This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and solutions powered by the California Academy of Sciences.
A Florida sheriff’s office is naming a new K-9 after a sergeant who was killed while on duty last year.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office named the K-9 Roy, which is Sergeant Brian Lavigne’s middle name. His Daughter, Caitlin LaVigne, is a deputy at the sheriff’s office and said that the dog will keep her dad’s spirit alive.
“My dad was tough as nails, just like the dogs are, so it’s nice to know that he’s still kind of out here with us,” LaVigne said.
A press release from the sheriff’s office noted that Sergeant LaVigne was only one shift away from retirement on Jan. 11, 2021, when a suspect intentionally crashed his car into the marked patrol vehicle that Sergeant LaVigne was in.
He died because of the injuries sustained in the crash.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said that it’s an honor that the LeVigne family allowed the office to use his name for the K9.
K-9 Roy is being named after a fallen sergeant (Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)
“This tribute to Sgt. Brian LeVigne is one that will be ever present to anyone that comes into contact with K-9 Roy. While we continue to heal as an agency after losing Sergeant LeVigne, I know that K-9 Roy will be a constant reminder of the life that was cruelly taken from us,” Chronister said.
The K-9’s handler is Deputy Sarah Ernstes, who is a close family friend of the LaVignes.
“For me, it was just a hope that it would give them some kind of peace and joy despite everything that they’ve been through that in this past year. I just hope that Roy and I can honor them and honor him in some way that they’ll be proud of us,” Ernstes said.
Sheriff Chad Chronister with Deputy Sarah Ernstes and K-9 Roy (Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office) ( Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)
K-9 Roy is a Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd mix who is 1-years-old and specializes in searching for narcotics.
Pope Francis, 85, had some choice words for the childless at the Vatican on Wednesday. In remarks to a general audience, the Catholic Church head called out couples who have chosen not to have children and opted to have pets instead.
“Today we see a form of selfishness,” the pope said, according to Fox News. “We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have … dogs and cats that take the place of children.”
“How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them,” the pope went on. Pope Francis gave a speech about parenthood on Jan. 5 at the Vatican.Getty Images
“It is a risk, yes: Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption,” the Argentina-born leader said. “But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual.”
The pope made the controversial remarks while speaking about Joseph, the biblical “foster father” of Jesus. He said Joseph’s role was the prime example of one of the “highest forms of love” that someone can receive. “Today we see a form of selfishness,” the pope said. “We see that some people do not want to have a child.”
Corbis via Getty Images
He went on to suggest that there might be something wrong with people who have chosen not to have children.
“A man or woman who do not develop the sense of fatherhood or motherhood, they are lacking something, something fundamental, something important.”
The pope’s controversial comments come at a time of a steep decline in population in the West. According to UPI, the United States saw a 7% decline in its childbirth rate in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crude birth rate in Italy dropped by 9% last year and Spain saw an 8% decline. Crude birth rate refers to the number of births that occur during the year.
While Pope Francis doesn’t have any dogs or cats at his Vatican home, his predecessor, Benedict XVI, housed felines as pets. The pope chastised couples who opt to house cats and dogs rather than children in his speech. Getty Images
Francis appears to be thinking a lot about parenthood so far in 2022. In his earlier New Year’s Day sermon, he called for an end to violence against women for the sake of motherhood.
“How much violence is directed against women! Enough! To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity, not through an angel, not directly, but through a woman,” the pope said earlier this week.
“And since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world (together), let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” he said.
Conservations warn horseshoe crabs could go to extinct because their blood is being used in Covid vaccines and for drug testing: Up to 30% of the crustaceans have already been killed off in the US
By Stacy Liberatore For Dailymail.com 12:44 EST 17 Dec 2021 , updated 16:42 EST 17 Dec 2021 +7
Horseshoe crabs have bright blue blood that is a natural source of Limulus polyphemus
This is used to test vaccines, including those for COVID, and drugs for dangerous bacterial toxins before the products hit the market
The horseshoe crabs are drained for up to eight minutes and returned to the ocean
However, data shows up to 30% of the marine creatures die shortly after
Horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years, surviving mass extinctions and several ice ages, but conservationists say the creatures could soon go extinct because their bright blue blood is vital to pharmaceutical companies.
The blue blood has immune cells, known as Limulus polyphemus (LAL), which are sensitive to toxic bacteria and can be used to test vaccines and drugs for dangerous bacterial toxins before products hit the market. null
The coveted blood has been used for nearly 20 years and has been vital tool in testing the coronavirus vaccines currently on the market.
Scientists drain the horseshoe crabs of their blood and return them to the ocean, after which most of the creatures die – one South Carolina lab says crabs are drained for up to eight minutes.
‘As it is now, the entire supply chain for endotoxin testing of drugs rests upon the harvest of a vulnerable or near extinct sea creature,’ Kevin Williams, a scientist who manufactures synthetic LAL told The Washington Post.
Convationists fear the Atlantic horseshoe crabs could go the way of the Asian horseshoe crab that is extinct in Taiwan and disappearing in Hong Kong, as a result of mainly biomedical testing.
While the US horseshoe crab is not currently endangered – they are near threatened – data shows up to 30 percent of the crabs harvested for their blood die when returned to the ocean.
Ryan Phelan, co-founder and Executive Director of Revive and Restore, a wildlife conservation group based in California that lobbied for the synthetic, told Yahoo News: ‘You’ve got a very large, biomedical bleeding industry with a vested interest in keeping those horseshoes crabs coming in and basically protecting this monopoly.’
‘In the US, 525,000 horseshoe crabs per year were captured during 2013 to 2017 and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates short-term bleeding-induced mortality to be 15 percent (4 percent to 30 percent), resulting in mortality of approximately 78,750 horseshoe crabs annually in recent years comprising a minor portion,’ according to a study published in Frontiers.
The Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission also estimates that in 2019 US labs extracted blood from 640,000 horseshoe crabs.
According to The Verge, horseshoe crab blood has become a $500 billion industry – it can bring as much as $15,000 per quart – and a South Carolina lab that still clings to the old practice is worth $13 billion because of it, The State reports.
Representatives from Charles River previously said that more than 80 million LAL tests are performed each year .
Dr James Cooper, who founded the Charleston facility in 1987, wrote in a company publication last year: ‘The horseshoe crab blood donation is similar to human blood donation.
‘The crabs are bled for a few minutes and returned to sea unharmed.’
A Charles River representative told The State: ‘Eight minutes is unofficially recognized as the maximum bleeding time across the industry.’
Research conducted at the College of Charleston shows that half of the horseshoe crab’s blood can be drained within those eight minutes and this much harvested can the creatures to move slower when returned to the ocean.
Never mind the stress of being captured, hours spent out of the water and mishandling in the lab – all of which experts say contribute to their deaths. null
A 2011 study conducted by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), conservation officers responsible for enforcing the environmental and conservation laws and policies, found 20 percent of the crabs died, according to records obtained by The State.
YUMA, Ariz. — The illegal immigrants had been waiting by the gap in the border wall by Morelos Dam all day on Wednesday. No Border Patrol transportation, or even an agent in a pickup truck, had come by to take them away, so they decided to walk to the Border Patrol station about 9 miles into town.
The group of around 100 walked into Yuma’s city limits, passing by neighborhoods, with some making a quick pit stop at a local McDonald’s. Frank, a local contractor, pulled over on his way to dinner to talk with me in astonishment, saying he had never seen something like this in Yuma before.
“How did they get past Border Patrol?” he asked.
“Because there is no Border Patrol over there,” I replied.
Some of the illegal immigrants were given rides by local residents or taxis and dropped off at Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector Headquarters. Others completed their journey by walking the whole way. Once at the station, they walked up to a gate and banged on it to let the agents know they were outside. Agents would come out and let them in to be processed.
Group of illegal immigrants got tired of waiting for Border Patrol and left the area by the border wall to go to the BP station. The group is now within Yuma’s city limits. Never seen this happen before. pic.twitter.com/yq6pFPT1JC— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) December 9, 2021
This scene in Yuma on Wednesday was the result of Border Patrol being unable to patrol the border because most of the sector’s agents were processing more than 3,000 illegal immigrants who were already in custody, meaning they were unable to intake the hundreds of other illegal immigrants who crossed that morning, resulting in them waiting for hours to be picked up.
Because people have waited for hours for Border Patrol to pick them up, they’re making tents out of blankets. Cocopah police are watching them. Lots of small children are here. pic.twitter.com/evRnfp7qRp— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) December 8, 2021
Border Patrol had transport vans near the U.S.-Mexico border, but a source explained to me they were told not to pick people up unless told to by their supervisors. I saw one transport van sitting in between two popular crossing points along a levee road but did not go to pick anyone up. The same source said Border Patrol told local law enforcement they would be relying on them to do actual patrolling along the border since they didn’t have the manpower to do it.
The large influx of people crossing into Yuma has presented a challenge to local farmers, whose fields sit right behind the levee and the now-incomplete border wall system.
Alex Muller, the chief operations officer for Pasquinelli Produce, told me there are E. coli concerns because illegal immigrants walk through their fields of leafy greens and relieve themselves in the fields or along the roads.
“They’re taking baths in the irrigation canals. If we had auditors drive here, we’d lose a lot of money,” Muller said. “I’m blown away [by the groups]. There’s little kids, pregnant ladies, I don’t know what the plan was.”
A group of Haitians had been waiting by one of Pasquinelli Produce’s fields all day for Border Patrol to pick them up only to leave to look for the police.
“It’s very easy for our government to fix [the crisis]. You know where they’re crossing, it’s very easy to shut it down. It’s become very political right now. It seems like the powers that be want it to be political, I don’t know, but it would be very easy for them to solve this,” Muller added.
The 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire created a mosaic burn pattern from unburned to high severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The Capital Press, an Agricultural emphasis newspaper, recently ran a story about the 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire and the influence of forest management on the fire’s impact upon trees. In particular, the 26 Nov 2021 issue story titled Lessons from Disaster: What The Bootleg Fire Reveals About Forest Managementfeatures quotes from people representing The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Klamath Tribe, ranchers, and forestry professors.
Blackened stumps indicate this area was thinned prior to the Bootleg Fire but with no effect on fire severity. Photo George Wuerthner
The basic theme of the Capital Press article is how thinning and prescribed burning reduced the Bootleg fire’s intensity and the mortality of trees in a thinned and prescribed burned area owned by TNC. The article’s photos show treated areas with limited mortality and nearby untreated areas with blackened snags. Proponents of thinning have cited this article in favor of more forest manipulation. The article has been republished in other areas like the Deschutes River Conservancy website.
If one did not know much about wildfire ecology, the photos accompanying the article might persuade you that thinning and prescribed burning should be widely applied to our forests.
However, there is much unstated in the article. For instance, there is abundant evidence from numerous high severity blazes around the West that “fuel reductions” typically fail. Of course, not all fuel reductions fail, but most do not significantly alter the outcome of fires.
The blackened stumps are trees that were “thinned” prior to this fire in the Scratchgravel Hills near Helena, Montana. The density of the remaining trees is lower than most “thinning” projects, but still burned severely in this wind-driven blaze.” George Wuerthner
Like in nearly everything in science, there are anomalies, what I call the 99-year-old grandmother exception. Everyone has heard about people who might smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and live to be 99 years old. Some point to such people to “prove” that smoking cigarettes doesn’t cause cancer or reduce your life expectancy.
However, science is about statistical averages. And statistically, if you smoke, you are more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.
This map shows the perimeter of the Bootleg Fire, and all the bright colors indicate past “fuel reduction”. Map by Bryant Baker.
And this is where the TNC “proof” needs context. I have no idea why the fuel treatments on TNC lands appeared to reduce fire severity, but I can say that it was an exception in the Bootleg Fire. A review and map of the Bootleg Fire Perimeter showed that nearly 75% of the area had previously been “treated” by various “fuel reductions.”
TNC logging advocates would likely respond and say not all “fuel treatments” are equal, which is true. The best treatments involve thinning smaller trees, followed by prescribed burns.
The 2007 Jocko Lakes Fire in Montana severely burned an area that had been previously logged/thinned. Photo George Wuerthner
Nevertheless, I have visited dozens of large wildfires and seen many areas that had been thinned and treated by prescribed burn where the fire spread and tree mortality was unaffected by such fuel reductions. Nearly all large wildfires have burned through landscapes with significant acreage of “fuel reductions.”
More than 19,000 structures were burned in the Camp Fire which raced through Paradise, California. Note the green trees above the burned-out foundations of a gas station. Photo George Wuerthner
For example, the Camp Fire, which charred the community of Paradise, California, was surrounded by clearcuts, hazardous fuel reductions (FS euphemism for logging), and even several recent wildfires—none of which prevented the rapid spread of the blaze.
Holiday Farm Fire burned the western slope of the Cascades in a region with extensive logging. Map Oregon WIld
Similarly, the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire, which raced across the western slope of the Cascades in Oregon, burned through a landscape dominated by past commercial logging, including numerous clearcuts.
Map of the 2021 Dixie Fire in northern California where bright colors indicate past fuel reductions. Map Bryant Baker.
The 2021 900,000 acres Dixie Fire blazed across a heavily logged landscape in northern California also failed to alter the fire progress.
A previously thinned area on the Dixie Fire near Chester, California. Photo George Wuerthner
A 2016 review of 1500 fire found that fire severity was higher in areas treated by fuel reductions compared to wilderness and parks where no logging is allowed, and presumably, fuels are higher.
All of these examples are robust because they don’t focus on the exceptions, but provide a statistical test of the idea that fuel reductions can reduce large blazes.
NOT ALL BURNING IS UNIFORM
Some of the variability in fire burn patterns is due to weather, timing, and topography. For example, the wind has an enormous influence on fire spread. Wind effect is exponential. Wind gusts can push a fire through any fuel reduction or toss embers over any treatment. Conversely, if the wind dies down, fires will shift to the ground surface and often muddle along.
Slope also influences fires. A fire racing up a hill burns hotter because of the “preheating” of the fuels above by the fire below. Conversely, a fire “backing down” a slope tends to burn at a lower intensity.
Finally, most fires tend to burn at a lower intensity at night due to higher humidity and lower air temperatures.
An area that had been thinned and treated just two years previously with a prescribed burn on the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon. The robust regrowth of grass now makes this more vulnerable to fire and should be burned again. The requirement for continued “management” makes the idea of doing extensive forest-wide treatment a pipe dream. Photo George Wuerthner
Even to the degree that thinning/prescribed burning might reduce fire severity, its effectiveness wears off over time. Thus, any fuel reduction treatment must be continuously “maintained” by additional logging and burning—all of which is disruptive to the forest ecosystem, wildlife, and soils.
The people quoted in the Capital Press article attribute the larger fires across the West to “excess fuels.” However, nearly all studies show that climate/weather is the driving force in high severity large blazes. The West is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in a thousand years does not seem to enter the discussion with the “fuels are the problem, logging is the solution” crowd.
For one thing, the idea that “fire suppression” contributed to fuel build-up ignores the role of climate. Large blazes had always occurred with the right weather/climate conditions long before any “fire suppression” and even with Indian burning.
The decades in the middle of the last century (in blue) were cool and moist and the area burned was significantly less than the decades before or after which were warmer and drier. Nature was “effective” at fire suppression.
During the middle of the last century (approximately 1940-the 1980s), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a periodic shift in Pacific Ocean currents, brought cooler and moister weather to the West. During this period, there were far fewer ignitions and limited acreage burned. Interestingly glaciers also grew in the PNW during this period due to the increased moisture and cool temperatures.
Glaciers in the PNW grew during the cool PDO in the mid-1940s-1980s. Photo George Wuerthner
Fire suppression proponents point to this period as the time of “successful” fire suppression, but in reality, Nature was good at suppressing fires.
Then starting in the late 1980s and continuing to the present, the PDO shifted, and warmer, dryer weather has prevailed. That shift in climate, along with human Greenhouse Gas Emissions, has led to much warmer conditions, as well as extensive drought. It is these weather conditions that are the main factor in large blazes.
Proponents of logging like TNC and forestry professors tend to discount the harmful effects of logging on forest ecosystems. However, the snags resulting from high severity fires are not ecological disasters but critical to healthy forest ecosystems.
Dead trees killed by the Dixie Fire are critical to healthy forest ecosystems. They store carbon, provide habitat for many plants and animals. Photo George Wuerthner
Therefore, high severity fires are essential for “healthy forest ecosystems. Some studies suggest that biodiversity in the snag forests resulting from high severity burns is the highest of any habitat type. For instance, nearly 50% of all birds depend on the snags resulting from high severity fires, whether for nesting, roosting, or feeding. In addition, down logs and snags store considerable amounts of carbon.
Episodic fires are the source of snags that fall into streams creating some of the important habitats for fish and aquatic insects. George Wuerthner
And many ecosystems depend on the periodic input of large dead trees for ecological stability. For instance, the input of large trees into rivers may only occur every couple of hundred years, but that input of large snags is critical to healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Logging along the Santiam River, Oregon. Logging is a major contributor to GHG emissions which creates climate warming that promotes more wildfires. Photo George Wuerthner
Another issue downplayed or ignored in the Capital Press piece is that even dead trees store carbon for significant amounts of time. While logging releases carbon immediately. Studies in Oregon show that 35% of the annual GHG emissions result from logging and wood processing.
Thinning and new logging road on Willamette National Forest, Oregon. Logging roads are a major source of sedimentation in streams. Photo George Wuerthner
Other impacts associated with logging include sedimentation of streams resulting from logging roads, the spread of weeds, disturbance of wildlife, and changes in age and genetic structure of forest stand (resulting from thinning), compaction of soils, and other well-documented impacts associated with any logging operation are all typically ignored or dismissed.
I have often gone on field trips with thinning proponents and asked them to indicate which trees in the stand are genetically resistant to drought, fungi, mistletoe, or bark beetles. Thinning can reduce the genetic variability in a forest stand; all I get is bewildered stares as if my question is crazy.
Ironically, the proponents of massive thinning across the forested landscape are among the first to point out that the active “fire suppression” policy was a failure; few of them appear to question their promotion of a similar west-wide forest manipulation in the name of fire reduction.
An even more critical question seldom entertained is whether efforts to reduce fire severity and spread is even a wise policy. There are continued references by proponents of thinning that the forests are burning differently than in the historical past, without acknowledging that the current climate/weather conditions are different. We are experiencing one of the worse droughts in a thousand years. Under different climates, you would expect different responses by vegetation. Perhaps large blazes in some forested stands are a way for the planet to adjust to extreme drought and high temperatures.
TNC and the Forest Service’s response to wildfire is based on an Industrial Forestry Paradigm that sees dead trees as undesirable and failure to see the forest ecosystem through the trees. Even if thinning/prescribed fire reduced wildfires, translating that into a general policy of forest manipulation across the landscape might be a disaster for forest ecosystems.
Foundation of a burnt-out house near Fort Klamath. Treating the area from the home outward is the best way to protect communities. Photo George Wuerthner
Promoting fuel reductions from the home outward for a hundred feet or so can help protect communities, but beyond this distance, fuel reductions typically have little influence when extreme fire weather conditions prevail.
About The Author
George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology Visit Authors Website → If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it!
”At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour.”
President Biden may release more oil from the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve — even though a similar move from the administration had a negligible effect on gas prices.
Amos Hochstein — the White House’s Senior Advisor for Energy Security — told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble that releasing oil from the reserve “is a tool that was available to us and will be available again.”
“Remember, this was not a 50-million-barrel release, 30 million barrels were an exchange where companies and traders can take the oil now and return it over a scheduled period of time. That means the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be replenished,” Hochstein explained. “And therefore, we have more flexibility to be able to do this again in the future if the need arises. I think we wanted to do something that was impactful for the market and that also had the ability and the flexibility to allow us to do that again should the need arise for the American economy.”
Amid rising gas prices, the Biden administration announced plans last week to tap 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve. Biden said that 32 million “will be an exchange over the next several months, releasing oil that will eventually return to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the years ahead,” while the other 18 million would be authorized for sale via Congress.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, however, the United States consumed roughly 18.19 million barrels of petroleum per day in 2020 — meaning that the release of 50 million barrels would only equate to 2.5 days’ worth of consumption. As Reuters explained, “Analysts have warned an SPR release would only produce a short-term effect in the market, as it would not increase U.S. production capacity.”
Nevertheless, Democratic leadership — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — praised the President’s move.
“President Biden’s announcement is good news for American families and will strengthen our economy,” he said. “Tapping the SPR will provide much-needed temporary relief at the pump and will signal to OPEC that they cannot recklessly manipulate supply to artificially inflate gas prices. Of course, the only long-term solution to rising gas prices is to continue our march to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and create a robust green energy economy.”
Indeed, prices have risen over the past week following volatility stemming from the omicron coronavirus variant.
“Oil prices rose on Monday, following the biggest one-day pullback since April last year late last week,” CNBC reported. “International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $74.60 a barrel on Monday, up more than 2.5% for the session, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $70.62, around 3.6% higher.
After the Biden administration authorized the release of reserve oil, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm failed to demonstrate knowledge of the American economy’s daily oil consumption.
“How many barrels of oil does the U.S. consume per day?” asked a reporter during a press briefing.
“I don’t have that number in front of me,” Granholm responded.
Events: Sunday, November 28, 13.00pm – 17.00pm, approximately 5,000-10,000 demonstrators are expected to gather on the Bundesplatz, awaiting the results of the vote (COVID – Law). The local police will be out in large numbers and blockades will be set up. Traffic will be disrupted around the Bundeshaus during the given hours and following the election results.
Actions to take:
· Exercise vigilance and heightened situational awareness over the coming days · Stay alert in public places, including schools, hospitals, churches, tourist locations, and transportation hubs · Be aware of your surroundings · Keep a low profile · Be prepared for potential traffic and public transportation disruptions. · Monitor local media:
. Maintain social distancing, follow hygiene requirements, and follow the Swiss crowd limitation requirements · Avoid groups that are not following the security requirements and/or local laws · Review your personal security plans
A couple hundred pebble-size diamonds, plucked from Brazilian mud, sit inside a safe at Northwestern University. To some, they might be worthless. “They’re battered,” said Steve Jacobsen, a mineralogist at Northwestern. “They look like they’ve been through a washing machine.” Many are dark or yellow, far from the pristine gems of jewelers’ dreams.
Yet, for researchers like Jacobsen, these fragments of crystalline carbon are every bit as precious — not for the diamond itself, but for what is locked inside: specks of minerals forged hundreds of kilometers underground, deep in Earth’s mantle.
These mineral flecks — some too small to see even under a microscope — offer a peek into Earth’s otherwise unreachable interior. In 2014, researchers glimpsed something embedded in these minerals that, if not for its deep origins, would’ve been unremarkable: water.
Not actual drops of water, or even molecules of H20, but its ingredients, atoms of hydrogen and oxygen embedded in the crystal structure of the mineral itself. This hydrous mineral isn’t wet. But when it melts, out spills water. The discovery was the first direct proof that water-rich minerals exist this deep, between 410 and 660 kilometers down, in a region called the transition zone, sandwiched between the upper and lower mantles.
Since then, scientists have found more tantalizing evidence of water. In March 2018, a team announced that they had discovered diamonds from Earth’s mantle that have actual water encased inside. Seismic data has also mapped water-friendly minerals across a large portion of Earth’s interior. Some scientists now argue that a huge reservoir of water could be lurking far beneath our feet. If we consider all of the planet’s surface water as one ocean, and there turn out to be even a few oceans underground, it would change how scientists think of Earth’s interior. But it also raises another question: Where could it have all come from?
Without water, life as we know it would not exist. Neither would the living, dynamic planet we’re familiar with today. Water plays an integral role in plate tectonics, triggering volcanoes and helping parts of the upper mantle flow more freely. Still, most of the mantle is relatively dry. The upper mantle, for instance, is primarily made of a mineral called olivine, which can’t store much water.
But below 410 kilometers, in the transition zone, high temperatures and pressures squeeze the olivine into a new crystal configuration called wadsleyite. In 1987, Joe Smyth, a mineralogist at the University of Colorado, realized that wadsleyite’s crystal structure would be afflicted with gaps. These gaps turn out to be perfect fits for hydrogen atoms, which could snuggle into these defects and bond with the adjacent oxygen atoms already in the mineral. Wadsleyite, Smyth found, can potentially grab onto lots of hydrogen, turning it into a hydrous mineral that produces water when it melts. For scientists like Smyth, hydrogen means water.
Deeper in the transition zone, wadsleyite becomes ringwoodite. And in the lab, Jacobsen (who was Smyth’s graduate student in the 1990s) would squeeze and heat bits of ringwoodite to mimic the extreme conditions of the transition zone. Researchers doing similar experiments with both wadsleyite and ringwoodite found that in the transition zone, these minerals could hold 1 to 3 percent of their weight in water. Considering that the transition zone is a roughly 250-kilometer-thick shell that accounts for about 7 percent of Earth’s mass (by comparison, the crust is only 1 percent), it could contain several times the water of Earth’s oceans.
These experiments, however, only gauge water capacity. “It’s not a measurement of how wet the sponge is, it’s a measurement of how much the sponge can hold,” said Wendy Panero, a geophysicist at Ohio State University.
Neither were the experiments necessarily realistic, since researchers could only test lab-grown ringwoodite. Apart from a few meteorites, no one had ever seen ringwoodite in nature. That is, until 2014.
While soccer fans converged on Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, a small group of geologists headed to the farmlands around Juína, a city almost 2,000 kilometers west of Brasilia. They were on the hunt for diamonds that had been panned from local rivers.
As diamonds form in the heat and high pressure of the mantle, they can trap bits of minerals. Because diamonds are so tough and rigid, they preserve these mantle minerals as they’re blasted to the surface via volcanic eruptions.
The researchers bought more than a thousand of the most speckled, mineral-filled crystals. One of the scientists, Graham Pearson, took several hundred back to his lab at the University of Alberta, where, inside one particular diamond, he and his colleagues discovered ringwoodite from the transition zone. Not only that, but it was hydrous ringwoodite, which meant it contained water — about 1 percent by weight.
“It’s an important discovery in terms of plausibility,” said Brandon Schmandt, a seismologist at the University of New Mexico. For the first time, scientists had a sample of the transition zone — and it was hydrated. “It’s definitely not crazy, then, to think other parts of the transition zone are also hydrated.”
But, he added, “it would also be a little crazy to think that one crystal represents the average of the entire transition zone.” Diamonds, after all, form only in certain conditions, and this sample might come from a uniquely watery place.
To see how widespread hydrous ringwoodite could be, Schmandt teamed with Jacobsen and others to map it using seismic waves. Due to convection, hydrous ringwoodite can sink, and as it drops below the transition zone, the rising pressure wrings water out, causing the mineral to melt. Just beneath the transition zone where mantle material is descending, these pools of molten minerals can abruptly slow seismic waves. By measuring seismic speeds under North America, the researchers found that, indeed, such pools appear common below the transition zone. Another study measuring the seismic waves under the European Alps found a similar pattern.
Abundant mantle water got yet another boost in March when a team led by Oliver Tschauner, a mineralogist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, discovered diamonds that contain actual pieces of water ice — the first observation of freely existing H2O from the mantle. The samples might say more about the wet conditions that formed the diamond than the existence of any ubiquitous reservoir. But because this water — a high-pressure form called ice-VII — was found in a variety of locations across southern Africa and China, it could turn out to be relatively widespread.
“A couple years from now, we’ll find ice-VII is much more common,” said Steve Shirey, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “It’s telling us we have the same story that hydrous ringwoodite is telling us.”
But if the story is that the mantle is brimming with water, the cliffhanger leaves us wondering how it all got there.
According to the standard tale, Earth’s water was imported. The region around the sun where the planet formed was too hot for volatile compounds like water to condense. So the nascent Earth started out dry, getting wet only after water-rich bodies from the distant solar system crashed into the planet, delivering water to the surface. Most of these were likely not comets but rather asteroids called carbonaceous chondrites, which can be up to 20 percent water by weight, storing it in a form of hydrogen like ringwoodite.
But if there’s a huge stockpile of water in the transition zone, this story of water’s origin would have to change. If the transition zone could store 1 percent of its weight in water — a moderate estimate, Jacobsen said — it would contain twice the world’s oceans. The lower mantle is much drier but also voluminous. It could amount to all the world’s oceans (again). There’s water in the crust, too. For subduction to incorporate that much water from the surface at the current rate, it would take much longer than the age of the planet, Jacobsen said.
If that’s the case, at least some of Earth’s interior water must have always been here. Despite the heat in the early solar system, water molecules could have stuck to the dust particles that coalesced to form Earth, according to some theories.
Yet the total amount of water in the mantle is a highly uncertain figure. At the low end, the mantle might hold only half as much water as in the world’s oceans, according to Schmandt and others.
On the high end, the mantle could hold two or three times the amount of water in the oceans. If there were much more than that, the additional heat of the younger Earth would have made the mantle too watery and runny to fracture the continental plates, and today’s plate tectonics may never have gotten started. “If you have a bunch of water in the surface, it’s great,” said Jun Korenaga, a geophysicist at Yale University. “If you have a bunch of water in the mantle, it’s not great.”
But many uncertainties remain. One big question mark is the lower mantle, where extreme pressures turn ringwoodite into bridgmanite, which can’t hold much water at all. Recent studies, however, suggest the presence of new water-bearing minerals dubbed phase D and phase H. Exactly what these minerals are like and how much water they might store remains an open question, Panero said. “Because it is a wide-open question, I think that the water content in the mantle remains open for debate — wide open.”
Measuring Earth’s interior water storage isn’t easy. One promising way is to measure the electrical conductivity of the mantle, Korenaga said. But those techniques aren’t yet as advanced as, say, using seismic waves. And while seismic waves offer a global view of Earth’s interior, the picture isn’t always clear. The signals are subtle, and researchers need more precise data and a better understanding of the properties of more realistic mantle material, instead of just ringwoodite and wadsleyite. Those two minerals constitute about 60 percent of the transition zone, the rest being a complex mix of other minerals and compounds.
Finding more diamonds with hydrous minerals would help, too. In Jacobsen’s lab, that job falls to graduate student Michelle Wenz. For each diamond, she uses powerful X-rays at Argonne National Laboratory to map the location of every mineral speck, of which there may be half a dozen. Then, to identify the minerals, she blasts X-rays onto each bit and measures how the rays scatter off its crystal structure. Of the hundreds of diamonds in the lab, all from Brazil, she’s gone through about 60. No water yet.
Water or not, she said, these capsules from the deep are still amazing. “Each one is so unique,” she said. “They’re a lot like snowflakes.”
Marcus Woo is a science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jupiter is well-known for being the biggest planet in our solar system, and it’s also home to the biggest storm. It’s called the Great Red Spot, an enormous vortex that has been swirling for centuries. It’s bigger than our own planet, and yet we don’t know much about it. Until now, scientists could only observe the spot from afar. But thanks to a NASA spacecraft launched a decade ago, we’re finally getting a look inside Jupiter’s storm.
The Great Red Spot is like a storm here on Earth, but supersized. “It’s basically clouds,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. Really, “it’s not all that dissimilar to the kinds of things we know as cyclones or hurricanes or typhoons on Earth.”
At 10,000 miles across, the Great Red Spot is the largest storm in our solar system and has been continually observed for around 200 years, but it’s been around for much longer. (Compare that with big storms on Earth, which generally last a few days or weeks at most.)
“We believe this thing is really old,” says Scott Bolton, principal investigator of NASA’s Juno mission. “How it lasts that long is a mystery.”
Before Juno, scientists could only observe the storm from afar. Even from a distance, they noticed it was changing shape and actually shrinking.
This illustration depicts Juno in an elliptical, polar orbit around Jupiter. NASAhide caption
This illustration depicts Juno in an elliptical, polar orbit around Jupiter.
NASA’s Juno mission launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida back in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in 2016. In 2019, the spacecraft changed course slightly and passed over the Great Red Spot twice.
Bolton and his team used microwave sensors to slice into the depths of the storm, getting the first 3D model of the Great Red Spot. “It’s a pancake, because it’s so wide at the top. But the depth of that pancake is much thicker than what we would have anticipated.”
The microwave observations show these storms on Jupiter, called vortices, extend below the cloud deck of the planet. In the case of the Great Red Spot, it extends at least 200 miles into the clouds of Jupiter, beyond the depths of where clouds form and water condenses.
“That’s very different than the way we think Earth’s atmosphere works, which is largely driven by water, clouds, condensation and sunlight,” says Bolton. “How that works is going to require new models and new ideas to explain.”
Measuring the Great Red Spot’s gravity
During its 2019 pass over the Great Red Spot, the Juno spacecraft buzzed the planet at a blistering 130,000 miles per hour. The storm is so massive that its gravity field actually jostled the spacecraft during its flyby.
“The local gravity tends to pull and push away the spacecraft as it flies over the vortex, and this creates sort of like bumps in the road for Juno,” says Marzia Parisi, a Juno scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of a paper in the journal Science on gravity overflights of the Great Red Spot.
Scientists here on Earth could see the effect of these gravitational “bumps.” That’s because every time they jostled Juno, they nudged the spacecraft closer to or farther from Earth. That changing distance caused the radio waves sent back to Earth some 400 million miles away to be subtly squeezed and stretched, a phenomenon known as a Doppler shift.
Using this effect, the spacecraft could pick up tiny jostles as small as 0.01 millimeters per second.
“The precision required to get the Great Red Spot’s gravity during the July 2019 flyby is staggering,” says Parisi. The findings from the gravity observations complemented Bolton’s earlier microwave measures, concluding the storm penetrates some 300 miles into Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Juno is taking a closer look at this phenomenon. “What we’re doing is seeing up close what’s happening while that shrinking has happened,” says Bolton.
The spacecraft is observing flecks of the storm getting caught up in neighboring clouds. The storm itself also appears to be trapped by powerful conveyer belts of wind on the planet that are stabilizing the storm.
“I don’t think the theory is very far advanced to the sense where we can connect all of that to the changes in the size,” said Bolton.
Data from Juno will help scientists predict what could possibly happen to the Great Red Spot.
“Understanding what’s happening with the storm now allows scientists to make much more sophisticated models to simulate what we see and then make predictions for what will happen in the future, including up to perhaps when the Great Red Spot may eventually go away,” says planetary scientist Paul Byrne.
Understanding other Jupiter-like planets
The findings from the Juno spacecraft are shedding light on the early formation of giant planets like Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and even planets beyond our own solar system.
“When we get up close, and this is the first planet we’ve actually been able to open up and look inside, this is going to tell us a lot about how giant planets work throughout the galaxy,” says Bolton.
The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures a Jovian cyclone known as a barge type in polar jet stream called “Jet N4.” NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BYhide caption
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY
The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures a Jovian cyclone known as a barge type in polar jet stream called “Jet N4.”
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY
To date, astronomers have identified thousands of exoplanets — planets that orbit a star other than our sun. These planets are far away, with the closest one around 10.5 light-years from Earth. That makes observing what’s happening on the surface difficult.
Around 1,400 of these exoplanet candidates are thought to be gas giants, much like Jupiter. Understanding what happens on Jupiter can help scientists get a better sense of what’s happening beyond our solar system.
“By understanding the physics and the processes that go into shaping Jupiter,” says Byrne, “we’ll get a better better understanding of not just Jupiter, but of these kinds of worlds.”
Winter the dolphin, known for her usage of a prosthetic tail, has died.
According to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she had been held in captivity for close to 16 years, Winter had been suffering from intestinal abnormalities. Despite the facility’s efforts, on the evening of November 11, during preparation for a procedure, Winter’s behavior and vital signs began to decline, resulting in her passing.
“We are saddened to learn of Winter’s passing. She could have greatly benefitted from the construction of a seaside sanctuary in the Florida sunshine instead of living in a concrete tank, inside a building. Winter could have retired in peace and dignity, and enjoyed a more normal environment – the great outdoors, the changing tides, and the sounds and rhythms of the sea. From my experience, this is where the healing process begins. While Winter will never get this opportunity, we encourage facilities such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to build ocean water sanctuaries for their rescued dolphins and other whales.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
In December 2005, the three-month-old bottlenose dolphin, after being freed from a crab pot in the waters near Cape Canaveral, Florida, was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dolphin’s resilience prevailed – while her grievous injuries resulted in the loss of her tail – she regained her strength and survived.
One year later, in 2006, the Hanger Clinic began work to create a prosthetic tail. After eighteen months, she was fitted with the device. In a blog post written by the clinic, the technology used to fit the prosthetic on Winter resulted in the development of a gel liner, called WintersGel, which is now benefitting human patients.
A necropsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of Winter’s death. A heart attack is suspected.
Featured image: Winter the dolphin, Clearwater Aquarium. Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; Flickr; Author: Paul
Since August, Biden and his top White House officials have repeatedly asked OPEC and Russia for more oil and gas as energy prices have skyrocketed. But oil prices surged again Friday after foreign producers ignored the Biden request.
U.S. crude oil surpassed $80 per barrel while the lead foreign index broke $81 per barrel, both increasing 1.5% today, according to the latest data.
The Middle Eastern cartel Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its Russian counterpart, collectively known as OPEC+, denied the Biden administration’s Thursday request and chose not to alter any previously announced plans.
The Biden Administration’s request to increase productions to boost output and resolve global shortages is futile. Why would they want to do that and cut their profits and assist the United States?
On Tuesday Biden told reporters, “If you take a look at, you know, gas prices and you take a look at oil prices, that is a consequence of, thus far, the refusal of Russia or the OPEC nations to pump more oil.”
According to Reuters, Senior Wall Street energy analyst Edwards Moya said on Thursday, “OPEC+ had an easy and quick meeting Thursday, barely even considering Biden’s repeated requests.” Moya added, “At no point did OPEC+ consider changing their output strategy, which was completely the message they had.”
Republican lawmakers have revved up their attacks on the president’s energy policies, saying his decision to hamstring American oil and gas firms is negatively impacting American Consumers. In fact, about 20 Republican senators wrote to Biden on Friday, urging him to take immediate action to ease the burden on Americans paying more at the pump.
But a separate group of GOP senators released a comprehensive climate action plan on Wednesday countering Democratic climate and prioritizing U.S. energy independence.
The administration has taken steps to increase the hurdles for U.S. producers to increase domestic output. Instead, from day one Biden gave up U.S. energy independence Trump had accomplished, by canceling pipeline contracts and producing contracts of U.S. oil companies.
“There’s nothing that’s becoming more expensive than gasoline today,” house Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a recent roundtable on Capitol Hill. “And it doesn’t have to be the case. When gasoline becomes more expensive, the people that it truly hurts are those that are less fortunate.”
Look up to the night sky tonight for a view of the Taurid Meteor Shower! 🌠 Best viewing time for the peak of the meteor shower will be after midnight TONIGHT. If you miss this one, the next meteor shower will be the evening of Nov 11 into the early hours of Nov 12 #PAwx#tauridspic.twitter.com/on6IX6Ufcu
(Amy Coney Barrett: Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters; Brett Kavanaugh: Jabin Botsford/Reuters)
They joined Roberts and the Court’s progressives in declining relief to Maine health-care providers, who must now be vaccinated against their beliefs or lose their jobs.
NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE L ate Friday, Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court’s three progressives in denying a preliminary injunction to a group of medical professionals who sought to be exempted from Maine’s vaccine mandate because of their religious convictions.
Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a compelling dissent in the case, John Does 1-3 v. Mills, joined by his fellow conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The dissenters stressed that, besides being likely to win on the merits, the religious objectors were merely asking to maintain the status quo — to keep their jobs despite being unvaccinated — while the Court decided whether to grant a full review of their case. In turning them down, Barrett and Kavanaugh dodged the weighty civil-rights issues, seeing the case, instead, as an opportunity to gripe about the Court’s emergency docket.
Maine now requires certain health-care workers to be vaccinated or face the loss of their jobs and medical practices. Unlike many such mandates, Maine’s does not provide an exemption for religious objectors. The plaintiffs are medical professionals who object to the vaccine, and thus the mandate, based on their Christian faith. Specifically, because fetal tissue from terminated pregnancies was used in developing the approved vaccines, the plaintiffs see immunization as an implicit endorsement of abortion, in violation of their religious beliefs. The sincerity of those beliefs is not in dispute.
The plaintiffs made an emergency application for a preliminary injunction. In his dissent from the 6–3 majority’s refusal to grant that application, Gorsuch explained that the main issues on such an injunction request are whether the applicants are likely to succeed on the merits and, if so, whether they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction. Gorsuch proceeded to make a strong case that the claimants would prevail on both issues.
Religious liberty is fundamental, expressly protected by the First Amendment. Under currently controlling precedent (which, as I’ve previously detailed, is disputed), a law that impinges on religion may survive if it is both neutral (i.e., not hostile to religion) and generally applicable (i.e., imposed on everyone equally). Maine’s vaccine mandate does not meet this standard because it provides for individualized exemptions. Though medical professionals are not excused from compliance based on their religious beliefs, they needn’t comply if they get a note from a health-care provider claiming that, in their cases, immunization “may be” medically inadvisable.
As Gorsuch elaborates, this medical exemption is remarkably lax. There is no requirement that the note explain why the health-care provider believes vaccination would entail medical risk; nor is there any limitation on what qualifies as a valid “medical” concern. As Gorsuch tartly observes, “It seems Maine will respect even mere trepidation over vaccination as sufficient, but only so long as it is phrased in medical and not religious terms.” (Emphasis in original.)
Even if a law fails to qualify as neutral and generally applicable, it can still survive a First Amendment challenge if it satisfies the Court’s “strict scrutiny” tier of review — the most demanding for state action to meet. Generally, strict scrutiny requires a state to show that (a) its law furthers a compelling government interest, and (b) the conditions imposed by the law are the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
The dissenters were willing to stipulate that Maine has a compelling interest in halting the spread of COVID-19, but only for argument’s sake. Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito point out that much has changed for the better since the Court presumed a compelling state interest nearly a year ago (in Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo), there now being not one but three approved vaccines, as well as greatly improved therapeutics, with more on the way. The dissenters are skeptical about the specter of “indefinite states of emergencies,” by which state power imperils civil liberties regardless of changed circumstances.
On the second test, Gorsuch demonstrated that Maine appears to fall woefully short of meeting its burden. Many states that impose a comparable mandate provide an exemption based on religious objections. The state has already exceeded the 90 percent level of vaccination compliance at designated health-care facilities that it originally claimed was necessary; even putting aside that the state never backed up this goal with evidence, forcing religious objectors to be vaccinated would not help if the goal already has been achieved. Maine, moreover, allows unvaccinated workers who have been exempted on claimed medical grounds to take other precautions, such as protective gear and regular testing, in lieu of being immunized. Clearly, there is no reason that these same alternative measures would be any less effective for workers whose exemptions were based on religious scruples instead.
Ergo, Gorsuch aptly concludes, “Maine’s decision to deny a religious exemption in these circumstances doesn’t just fail the least restrictive means test, it borders on the irrational.”
Moving on to other injunction factors (besides the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits), the dissenters pointed out that the denial of religious liberty amounts to irreparable harm under the Court’s precedents — quite apart from the fact that the medical workers are also losing their livelihoods. By contrast, the public interest would not be harmed by granting religion-based exemptions, any more than it is harmed by the health-related exemptions that the state provides.
Therefore, Justices Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito saw no justification for refusing to grant a temporary injunction. After all, that would merely maintain the status quo until the Court could decide whether to grant review (known as certiorari) and fully consider the case on the merits.
As for the six-justice majority, it is to be expected that the Court’s three progressives (Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) would elevate state authority over religious liberty. Nor is it surprising that Chief Justice Roberts would subordinate religious liberty to a draconian state mandate. He has a track record in COVID cases of deferring to the judgment of elected officials — no matter how arbitrary that judgment or how fundamental the rights at stake — on the rationale that they, unlike politically unaccountable judges, answer to the voters and have more institutional competence. (See, e.g., his dissent in Cuomo and his upholding of California’s restrictions on attendance at religious services in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.)
What is stunning, and will be troubling for conservatives, is the decision by Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh to side with the progressives and turn a blind eye to a state government’s suppression of a fundamental freedom that the Constitution is supposed to protect. And equally troubling: the thin gruel they offer as a rationale.
Barrett filed a one-paragraph opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, concurring in the Court’s refusal to grant injunctive relief. She explained that she “understands” the weighing of an injunction applicant’s likelihood of success on the merits to include “a discretionary judgment about whether the Court should grant review in the case.” Discretion in this context means the justices’ power to choose to ignore a claim that should be heard, rationalizing that to entertain it could potentially undermine the Court’s institutional protocols.
Barrett and Kavanaugh have apparently been seized by anxiety over potential abuse of the Court’s so-called emergency docket — a hobby horse among legal academics, particularly now that (a) the Court has a conservative majority, and (b) critics of progressive federal and state administrations are turning to the courts for relief from sundry mandates and decrees.
The emergency docket entails cases that arise in exigent circumstances and must be addressed expeditiously, often by injunction applications, on schedules far tighter than what might generously be described as the Court’s customary pace of a hobbled snail. Barrett frets that when the Court takes the “extraordinary” step of entertaining such a case, the justices are put to the unwelcome burden of providing a “merits preview” — a forecast of how the case is likely to be decided if fully reviewed. This is said to be less than optimal because the Court must proceed “on a short fuse without benefit of full briefing and oral argument,” when, if they’d had more time to think it through, the justices might not grant review of the case at all.
Cue the violins.
Justice Barrett’s temporizing is overwrought. The Court should only grant preliminary relief — which, again, simply freezes a matter in place, but doesn’t decide it with finality — if (a) the moving party plainly appears likely to win on the merits, (b) the failure to act would truly cause irreparable harm (e.g., there is no irreparable harm if money damages would eventually make the harmed party whole), and (c) there is not some consequential public interest that an injunction would undermine. That is a very small universe of cases, especially for a tribunal that, on a yearly basis, is not exactly overtaxed. (Last term, the justices issued opinions in just 67 cases out of the approximately 8,000 in which review was sought, continuing the Roberts Court trend of historically low output; in the early 1980s, by comparison, the Court typically decided over 150 cases per term.)
Furthermore, who cares if the Court has to give a merits preview? It is a fact of life that emergency circumstances occasionally arise, forcing us mere mortals to do the best we can, ruefully realizing we could do better if only there were time for calm deliberation. Why should the Supreme Court, the last bastion for safeguarding our fundamental rights, be spared that burden? If it turns out that, upon further consideration of a fully developed record, the justices would not have taken the emergency case in the first place, the “merits preview” does no harm. To the extent it has precedential value, it is understood to be a preliminary decision based on an incomplete factual record.
Most significantly, even if their reservations had persuasive force, Barrett and Kavanaugh are prioritizing the Court’s airy model for conducting appellate litigation over its principal duty to defend the fundamental rights of Americans against government overreach.
At issue here is a flesh-and-blood dispute, not an abstraction. Medical professionals are being stripped of their religious freedom and their jobs because of a state mandate that capriciously discriminates against them. Yet rather than take action, Barrett and Kavanaugh basically say: Let’s just wait a year or three, so we can have an exacting record and full briefing. And mind you, granting a preliminary injunction would not deprive the justices of their coveted full briefing; it would just mean that the unvaccinated medical professionals got to keep their jobs until the Court finally decided to either deny full review (in which case the injunction would lapse) or grant review and then rule on the merits.
Presumably Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh appreciate that when they exercise their “discretionary judgment” to duck a case, it doesn’t mean the case goes unresolved. There is still a winner and a loser. Here, overbearing government prevailed, and the loser was the Constitution.
The King Vulture is a clownish-looking bird with a serious mission: In most of its extensive tropical range, this species is the largest scavenging bird. The King’s smaller, more plentiful relations, including Black and Turkey Vultures, depend upon this heavy-billed bird to tear into larger carcasses first. The King only plays second fiddle to the Andean Condor in a few areas, such as northern Peru, where both species live side by side.
At 6.5 feet, the King Vulture’s wingspan is certainly impressive, but it doesn’t match up to those of the condors: The Andean Condor, wingtip to wingtip, can reach 10.5 feet; the California Condor is only slightly smaller.
Top of Their Line
Despite having larger cousins, the King deserves its royal moniker for at least three reasons: As mentioned before, it outranks other vultures of the Americas in size in most of the remote lowland forest and environs where it occurs. And its size, including its hefty bill, puts it at the top of the “picking order” — able to muscle its way into feeding frenzies and dig deeper into carcasses than other species sharing its habitats.
The King Vulture also wins the “beauty” prize for most colorful vulture. Adults sport multicolored, featherless heads that are a hodge-podge of peach-orange, yellow, red, and pink, all framed nicely by a charcoal feather neck ruff. Another eye-catching accent: the bird’s piercing white eyes, which are outlined by cherry-red orbital rings. These birds are striking in flight as well: Adult King Vultures can be easily identified from great distances, thanks to gleaming white backs, underparts, and underwing coverts fringed by black flight feathers. (At a distance, soaring Wood Storks are the birds most likely to cause confusion.)
Widespread but Generally Scarce
King Vultures occur from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and northern Uruguay. This range includes most of Brazil. In Central America, distribution is now spotty, with this majestic bird most frequent in remaining wilderness areas. For example, in Costa Rica, King Vultures are most reliably found in the remote Osa Peninsula in the south and the San Carlos River region near the border with Nicaragua.
King Vultures are mostly found in forested lowlands, but in the southern Andes they can occur at elevations up to 6,000 feet. The species is thought to be nonmigratory, but individuals travel long distances in search of food. While most frequently encountered in or over humid and semi-humid forest habitats, the King Vulture also occurs in regions with dry forest, usually where large areas of habitat remain. Although associated with forest, these birds also soar over and forage in open areas.
King Vultures have been documented emitting at least a half dozen harsh vocalizations at nest sites. Most are from nestlings and some by adults attending the young. These include growls, groans, screeches, and a noise like a cutting saw. Otherwise, while out and about, this bird is not known to vocalize.
Late to the “Party”
King Vultures cover large areas and tend to occur in low numbers, especially compared to some of their smaller relatives. But they have a special “seat at the table” at carcasses. For a study published in 1987 in the journal The Auk, researchers observed the goings-on at 217 animal carcasses in northern Peru, where five scavenging bird species vied for the spoils. These feeding assemblages might seem chaotic, but the study revealed a certain order that likely helps explain how these species coexist: Turkey Vultures, which likely have among the best olfactory senses in the family, often showed up first at carrion, holding sway over arriving, smaller Black Vultures, unless their numbers exceeded dozens. The Crested Caracara, not a vulture but an opportunistic follower, cautiously skirted the edges of the frenzies, visiting for leftovers after the main feeding. Arriving last were the largest birds — the King Vulture (which may not have a good sense of smell) and the even-larger Andean Condor. These birds brought their superior cutting equipment — their heavy bills — which allowed them to tear open large carcasses the other birds could not. For these larger meals, the smaller early arrivals had to wait on the sidelines until the giants had their fill.
King Vulture in flight by Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock
Although King Vultures are best known as scavengers supreme, feasting on a wide variety of dead creatures from fish to monkeys to livestock, they have also been seen eating maggots, and also palm fruits. In addition, there are reports that these birds sometimes kill small lizards, wounded animals, and newborn livestock.
King Vulture pairs, like those of the Laysan Albatross, put all their energy into a single egg. Incubation and feeding duties are taken on by both female and male. King Vulture breeding remains rather poorly understood, in good part because the birds are stealthy nesters often in remote areas. The egg is laid in a secluded spot. Locations have included a simple scrape on the ground, a rotting stump or tangle, a large tree hole, a cliff ledge, and even in Mayan ruins. Parents incubate the egg for almost two months, and then the hatchling remains at the nest site until it fledges, after between two to three months, or longer.
Not only do King Vultures have only one shot at success — it takes them a long time to reach breeding age. Female Kings don’t reach adulthood for four to five years; males take longer, at five to six.
Saving Room for the King
Although still found in 20-plus countries and ranked as “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the King Vulture is declining in many parts of its range. Causes of decline likely include habitat loss and persecution, including unregulated shooting, capture, and poisoning. Along Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts, the northern extent of this species’ range shrank dramatically over recent decades, and it has become scarce in many other regions with extensive forest clearing, including western Ecuador and southeastern Brazil.
LONDON — Britain is increasingly feeling like a hostile place for women.
There have been multiple reports of “needle spiking” — which involves an injection being administered to someone without their knowledge or consent, usually in a nightclub or bar setting — as opposed to the more commonly known method of contaminating alcoholic drinks.
Zara Owen, a 19-year-old student in Nottingham, central England, said she woke up after clubbing with a “sharp, agonizing pain in my leg” and “almost zero recollection” of the night before. She walked with a limp for the remainder of the day, she wrote on social media, before finding a “pinprick” and realizing that she had been “spiked” by a needle that had pierced through her jeans.
Thankfully, she added, her friends — who had noticed her behaving strangely — helped her to return safely home.
“The fact that this form of spiking is happening is horrifying, with the memory loss it brought me,” Owen told The Washington Post. “What is supposed to be a fun night leads us to almost fear the unknown.”
The Nottinghamshire police said this week that it had received a total of 15 reports of alleged spiking with a sharp object since Oct. 2, with the majority of reports made by women, in venues across the popular university town. Two men had been arrested so far on “suspicion of conspiracy to administer poison with intent to injure, annoy or aggrieve,” the police added on Friday.
The reported needle-spiking incidents come aftertwo high-profile murders of women on the streets, which have left Britain stunned. The overall number of reported needle-spiking incidents remains far below the number of drink-spiking incidents thought to occur, and the incidents not yet been linked to other crimes such as rape or theft, but police chiefs have been asked to urgently assess how widespread the attacks are around the country, while the home secretary has also expressed concern.“We need to make sure that we earn back the trust and confidence particularly of women and girls. And that takes an approach that isn’t just the police’s problem, but all of our problem… I think misogyny should be a hate crime, and we’re lobbying the government to make sure that harassment in a public place is a criminal offense.” (Washington Post Live)
In September, a U.K. watchdog called violence against women “an epidemic” and said authorities should treat it with as much urgency as fighting terrorism. On average, a woman is killed by a man in the United Kingdom every three days, it said.
The reports of needle spiking were “deeply worrying” said Melissa Green, general secretary of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. The cases “again remind us that our public spaces are not truly safe for women,” Green told The Post.
Police have also been criticized for their approach — including their advice to women, following the death of Everard, to shout or wave down a bus if they encounter a lone police officer they do not trust — which some said continued to place the onus on women.
“The W.I. does not agree that it is the responsibility of women to educate themselves or alter their behavior to try and keep themselves safe. … What is actually needed is action from the whole of society,” Green added.
The needle-spiking cases have also prompted a public petition urging politicians to enact tougher laws to search guests on arrival to nightclubs. As of Saturday, it had garnered more than 165,000 signatories, which will trigger the British parliament to consider the petition for a debate.
Meanwhile, from Wales to Birmingham, female students across the United Kingdom are hosting a “Girls Night In” public campaign over the next two weeks to boycott nightclubs and draw attention to the issue of needle spiking and women’s safety.
Owen told The Post that she would “like to see more change in nightclubs,” including better searches before people enter.
Meanwhile Nia Gallagher, 20, has been using her TikTok platform — where she has almost 300,000 followers, to spread awareness about spiking incidents and personal safety.
Gallagher said she had her drink spiked when she was 18, after she left her drink briefly unattended while out in a Dublin nightclub. The spiking of her drink left her severely unwell for over a week and wiped her memory, she said, although she made it safely home and was not attacked.
“I let my guard down and that’s why it happened to me,” she told The Post, adding that news of the latest attacks was “really upsetting.”
“A lot of people turned 18 over lockdown so it’s their first time going to nightclubs … so I just wanted to warn people,” she said.
It’s unclear what exact drugs are being administered in the syringes. However, Shirin Lakhani, a cosmetic doctor and former anesthetist, said needles and prescription drugs, such as pain killers and opium-based medicines, are extremely easy to get hold of online and assailants would require little knowledge of how to inject under the skin.
“Needles have gotten really fine now and you can get needles as fine as hairs, so it’s possible not to notice, especially in a club environment with the noise,” she told The Post.
Lakhani said images on social media suggested the attackers were targeting hands in particular, with bruises taking some time to manifest.
“It’s appalling that we have to look after ourselves in this way,” said the doctor and mother of two girls. “It’s another way to carry out misogynistic attacks.”
Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais this week doled out a message to the youngsters in Generation Z: you can never be “woke” enough, and there will come a day when you get eaten by your increasingly strict and bizarre standards.
Joining Sam Harris on his podcast “Absolutely Mental,” Gervais mocked Gen Z, “I want to live long enough to see the younger generation not be woke enough for the next generation.”
“It’s going to happen,” the “After Life” star promised. “Don’t they realize that it’s like, they’re next? That’s what’s funny.”
“We kicked out the old guard. We did it,” Gervais said. “There’s only so woke and liberal you can get and then you start going the other way. But it’s inevitable.”
Fox News noted that Gervais in December similarly took a swing at progressivism and cancel culture.
“The scary thing is being canceled if you say the wrong thing and suddenly Netflix can take you off their platform,” he told the “SmartLess” podcast.
“You could be the most woke, politically correct stand-up in the world at the moment, but you don’t know what it’s going to be like in 10 years time,” the 60-year-old argued. “You can get canceled for things you said ten years ago.”
“The misunderstanding about cancel culture is some people think you should be able to say anything you want without consequences, and that’s not true because we’re members of society and people are allowed to criticize you,” Gervais continued. “They’re allowed to not buy your things, they’re allowed to burn your DVDs, and they’re allowed to turn the telly off. What they’re not allowed to do is to bully other people into not going to see you.”
Notably, there have been increasing calls from some on the Left to de-platform comedian Dave Chappelle from Netflix. His crime is telling jokes concerning transgenderism and, ironically, the hateful backlash people get for daring to disagree with the leftist ideology.
Gervais, again, made politically incorrect noise in 2020 when he hosted the Golden Globes and took Hollywood leftists to task. The Daily Wire reported at the time:
Gervais [roasted] the liberal Hollywood elite for their woke posturing while living degenerate lives, highlighting friendships with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to shady business deals with communist China.
“If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a political platform to make a political speech,” Gervais told Hollywood. “You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God — and f*** off, okay?”
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An Afghan refugee has been charged with the rape of a woman in Missoula, Montana, the state’s governor said Thursday – and he called for the Biden administration to halt all refugee resettlements until assurances are made about the vetting process.
Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office said in a statement that an Afghan male placed in Montana by the U.S. State Department was charged with sexual assault.
The Missoula Police Department told Fox that Zabihullah Muhmand was arrested after they received a 911 call from the victim and a local motel about concerning behavior. Muhmand, 19, is now being held at the Missoula County Jail on charges of sexual intercourse without consent and the case is being investigated by detectives – but did not confirm his evacuee status. The local court told Fox News that there is a federal hold on Muhmand.
The victim says she met Muhmand, who asked her to go back to her hotel room, but she said she did not want anything to happen, court documents reviewed by Fox News show. The victim was later seen in the lobby visibly upset and called 911, according to those documents. Authorities found the victim’s bra and socks in Muhmand’s room. The man said the incident was consensual.
Zabihullah Muhmand is charged with sexual intercourse without consent. (Missoula Police Dept.)
The incident was first reported by local outlet KGVO.
In a statement, Gianforte said that while he welcomes “full-vetted Afghan allies to Montana, this situation and others across the country raise serious concerns about whether the Biden administration is meeting its obligations to fully vet Afghans prior to resettlement.”
“I’m calling on President Biden to immediately halt resettlements to Montana until federal agencies provide me with adequate assurance that Afghans coming to Montana are fully-vetted in accordance with federal law,” he said.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said the suspect was admitted to the United States and placed in Montana under humanitarian parole, and backed stopping resettlements.
“The fallout and consequences from President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan continue,” he said in a statement. “While I support assisting our fully-vetted Afghan allies who served alongside our armed forces, President Biden has failed to provide answers as to who has come into the country or if they have been fully vetted according to what’s required by law. I’ve spoken to Gov. Gianforte about this situation, and I stand with him in calling on President Biden to stop all Afghan resettlements to Montana until we get answers.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who has expressed concerns about the vetting of nationals for weeks, and has introduced legislation on the matter, said the national was paroled into the country without proper screening. The Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing Operation Allies Welcome, did not immediately return a Fox News request for comment.
“These unvetted Afghans do not share our culture and our values, and as this horrific incident shows they represent a serious risk to our communities,” said Rosendale. “We cannot allow this administration to continue to jeopardize the safety of our communities and the security of our nation in the name of empathy.”
He also urged a halt to the resettlement of nationals, and called on Biden to “begin to remove Afghan evacuees that have been resettled from the United States.”
The Biden administration has been bringing tens of thousands of Afghan nationals into the country in the wake of the U.S. drawdown. It has said the process is multilayered and officials say screening and security are conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials from multiple agencies.
“We screen and vet individuals before they board planes to travel to the United States and that screening and vetting process is an ongoing one and multilayered,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month.
But Republicans have raised concerns about the vetting process, and pointed to a number of cases in which Afghans have been accused of serious crimes – although administration officials have noted that they are still relatively few considering the numbers that have come in.
A female soldier at Fort Bliss in New Mexico reported being assaulted on Sept. 19 by a group of male evacuees – an incident being investigated by the FBI. That was after Bahrullah Noori, a 20-year-old Afghan evacuee, was charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person, along with three other counts of engaging in a sex act with a minor, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
Another evacuee at Fort McCoy, 32-year-old Mohammad Haroon Imaad, was charged with assaulting his wife by choking and suffocating her on Sept. 17.
As cognitive dissonance goes, this is a classic. President Biden’s explicit policy goal is to reduce U.S. oil and gas production, limiting the global supply of fossil fuels in the name of fighting climate change. Yet his Administration is now imploring the OPEC oil cartel to pump more oil so U.S. gasoline prices don’t rise more than they already have on Mr. Biden’s watch.
Oil prices climbed to a six-year high on Tuesday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia failed to agree on increasing production quotas. Last spring OPEC slashed production quotas after crude prices plunged to $20 per barrel amid economic lockdowns and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
But energy demand has snapped back in much of the world as Covid-19 vaccines roll out, governments ease lockdowns, and freight shipments surge. U.S. petroleum consumption is now roughly where it was at this time in 2019. OPEC estimates that oil demand in industrialized countries will increase by 2.7 million barrels a day this year.
In early June OPEC modestly raised production quotas, but demand is still rebounding faster than supply. The upshot is that crude prices are averaging around $74 a barrel, up 45% or so this year. OPEC countries naturally want to take advantage of the pandemic recovery to boost production and generate more petrodollars to fund their governments.
But a squabble between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over quotas is blocking an agreement, sending U.S. gasoline prices to a near seven-year high. Enter the Biden Administration. A White House spokesperson on Monday said it is urging OPEC and its allies to quickly come up with a compromise “that will allow proposed production increases to move forward.”
The Administration is worried that higher gas prices could undermine Mr. Biden’s climate agenda and spending plans. Republicans have been linking his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline with higher gas prices. The two aren’t directly related. But no Keystone does mean that more crude from Canada and the northern Bakken Shale will have to move by rail to U.S. refiners.
This is contributing to higher freight demand and prices, as well as supply-chain bottlenecks, all of which are adding to inflationary pressure. Consumers feel the pain at the pump and on their utility bills as natural gas and propane prices have also surged. Rising energy costs are also feeding into the higher price of goods more broadly.
Mr. Biden knows surging prices for gas and other goods hurt middle-class Americans and could undermine his Presidency. This is one reason he refused a proposal to pay for the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal by increasing the gas tax.
But note the irony that Mr. Biden is now urging OPEC to open its taps even while his Administration is pursuing policies with the goal of shutting down U.S. oil and natural gas production. His Administration has sought to halt new leases on federal land, suspended leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and is expanding endangered-species protections to limit oil production on private land, among other policies designed to punish fossil fuels.
But reducing U.S. production means reduced global supply even as demand surges. This means more pricing leverage for OPEC and Russia—and for Iran if Mr. Biden lets Tehran escape sanctions on its oil exports as part of a renewed nuclear deal. So Russia and Iran will benefit from Mr. Biden’s fossil-fuel disarmament while Americans pay more for energy.
The way out of such contradictions would be to let U.S. producers respond to higher prices without new political obstacles. He can tell the climate lobby it beats political defeat.
WSJ Opinion: Meet Joe Biden’s New Entitlement State
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“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard