Browsing articles from "June, 2017"

A Total Eclipse Will Sweep The U.S. In August, And People Are Going Nuts For It

Jun 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on A Total Eclipse Will Sweep The U.S. In August, And People Are Going Nuts For It

The small town of Madras, Ore., is expected to be a prime viewing location for a total solar eclipse on August 21, and authorities there are girding for a huge influx of tourists. Above, an ad for campsites in Madras on June 13.

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The small town of Madras, Ore., is expected to be a prime viewing location for a total solar eclipse on August 21, and authorities there are girding for a huge influx of tourists. Above, an ad for campsites in Madras on June 13.

Gillian Flaccus/AP

On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will be visible across America. The last time the contiguous United States saw a total eclipse was 1979, and it will be the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years, reports the Associated Press.

A partial eclipse will be visible throughout the United States, according to NASA. But within a band the agency is calling the “path of totality” stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, viewers will witness a total eclipse. And in many of those places, an eclipse industry is already booming.

'Ring Of Fire' Eclipse Set To Blaze In Southern Skies

The mayor of Hopkinsville, Ky., says his town has spent more than half a million dollars preparing for the event since learning 10 years ago that it would be in the path of totality.

The town even has an eclipse coordinator.

“It’ll look like twilight outside. You’ll be able to see stars. Four planets will be visible – Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. You’ll notice the temperature drop about 5 to 10 degrees,” the coordinator, Brooke Jung, told the AP. “You’ll notice that animals will get a little disoriented. Birds will think that it’s nighttime and go in to roost. Some of the flowers and plants that close up at night will close up.”

“If it’s cloudy, then we’ll just have to deal with that reality as best we can and help people get to other locations,” Mayor Carter Hendricks told the AP. “But, if somehow we overprepare and we’re underwhelmed by the crowd size, that’s a big concern for me.”

A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

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A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.

NASA

Homes on Airbnb that are being rented specifically for the eclipse are renting for thousands of dollars a night – like this one, in Casper, Wyo.

Perryville, Mo., is on the path of total eclipse. “We don’t normally rent out our house because this is not normally a tourist destination,” the town’s public works director, Mark Brown, told the St. Louis-Post Dispatch. He said he had listed his house on Airbnb for $2,500 a night during the eclipse, with a three-night minimum.

Super Blood Moon Eclipse Wows Viewers: Here's Proof

“We don’t want to give up our house,” he told the newspaper, “but everybody’s got a number.”

The Charleston Post and Courier reports that a million people are expected to visit South Carolina for the eclipse. Like other places on the path, Charleston’s visitors bureau has set up a website listing area viewing events and hotel packages. Total eclipse will occur there at 2:48 p.m. ET, according to NASA.

“Highway 17 will be gridlock,” College of Charleston astrophysicist Laura Penny told the newspaper. “If you’re in the path of totality, you’re better off watching it right where you are. But if you’re in an area where the sun is even 99.9 percent covered, it won’t be the same thing. You have to get inside the path of totality to experience the phenomenon of darkness in the middle of the day.”

Oregon will be a major hot spot for eclipse-watchers. Viewers there will experience the total eclipse first, with Salem and Corvallis in the path of totality at 10:18 a.m. PT.

Like South Carolina, the state is bracing for a massive influx of visitors. Up to a million people are expected to travel to Oregon for the event, the AP reports, and the area around the small town of Madras is expected to draw 100,000 people – with the potential for out-of-this-world traffic jams.

“Bring extra water, bring food. You need to be prepared to be able to survive on your own for 24 to 48 to 72 hours, just like you would in any sort of emergency,” Dave Thompson, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, told news service. “This is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s really worth seeing. But you’ve got to be prepared or you won’t enjoy it.”

Authorities in the state worry that if it gets foggy, people will decide to head east at the last moment, creating chaos on the roads.

The Oregonian reports that all of Oregon’s reservable campgrounds within the path of totality have already been booked. The state released an extra 1,000 campsites in April – those, too, were booked within 90 minutes.

As a result, people without reservations may start showing up at the state’s non-reservable campgrounds two weeks early, the paper reports:

” ‘Don’t just assume that your favorite spot is available,’ Traci Weaver, a fire communications specialist for the forest service and [Bureau of Land Management], said. ‘Don’t just have a plan, but have a plan A, B, C and D.’

“Weaver said her worst case scenario is campers losing patience and getting into verbal or physical altercations over campsites – a situation that could be exacerbated by the August heat. Unprepared travelers are also a concern, especially considering most of the non-reservable campgrounds are remote, and often don’t provide drinking water or toilets.

“‘I keep hoping this will be like Y2K,’ [BLM district manager Don] Gonzalez said — a big bust after months of concern. ‘We want everybody to get along … just enjoy your federal lands.’ “

Travel website Atlas Obscura is organizing a festival around the eclipse in eastern Oregon – though, akin to the ill-fated Fyre Festival, it isn’t revealing exactly where. While it’s clear that scores of people will flock to areas of total eclipse across the country, Atlas Obscura is spinning its fest as a rare chance: “The Path of Totality—where you can experience the eclipse in full—is quite narrow, and our campsite in Eastern Oregon’s high desert is one of the few places in the country with a history of clear weather and where full viewing is anticipated. As a result, existing lodging in this desirable region is already scarce.”

But, it adds, “we obviously can’t guarantee the weather, and no refunds or exchanges will be possible under any conditions.”

And in case you were wondering: yes, there will be glamping, and no, it won’t be cheap. The Deluxe Canvas Bell Tent for 2 will run you $1,500, not including admission fees.

In Madras, a town of 6,500, local event planner Lysa Vattimo has been hired to be the city’s eclipse planner. She told The Oregonian that the town will spend at least $100,000 to manage the throngs eclipse-chasers.

“We had to manage this from a safety standpoint,” she said. “The people were coming. We couldn’t stop them.”

Dispatch On World Cafe

Jun 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Dispatch On World Cafe

Dispatch performs at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

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Dispatch performs at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Emma Silverstone/WXPN

With Dispatch’s new album, America, Location 12, the three main members of the New England jam band — Brad Corrigan, Pete Heimbold and Chad Urmston, who first got together while attending Middlebury College in Vermont — have recommitted themselves to the band that has been part of their lives since the early 1990s. But the single most resonant moment of Dispatch’s career has been the love its fans showed when the band broke up in 2004 — over 150,000 people showed up at its free farewell concert, “The Last Dispatch.”

So why did Dispatch break up anyway? We’ll get the story straight from the band, which performs live in this session. Listen in the player above, and watch the members of Dispatch bring back a song that every one of their fans can recite by heart, “The General,” in the performance video below.

Wildlife Activists Plan Lawsuits To Protect Yellowstone Grizzlies

Jun 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Wildlife Activists Plan Lawsuits To Protect Yellowstone Grizzlies

A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., in 2011.

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A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., in 2011.

Jim Urquhart/AP

Advocates for Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bears filed notice Friday that they’re prepared to sue to reverse the bears’ recent removal from the endangered species list.

Grizzlies have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, when only 136 of them lived in the Yellowstone region, The Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last week that the park’s population of about 700 of the iconic carnivores would no longer receive federal protections.

AP says the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States and WildEarth Guardians are among the groups that have filed a 60-day notice of intent to block the move by suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That step is required under the Endangered Species Act and is intended to give the agency a chance to address the groups’ concerns before they file a lawsuit.

WildEarth Guardians said in a statement the delisting decision “prematurely removes vital federal safeguards from one of the nation’s most cherished species … handing over the bears’ fate to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho—each of which plans to permit grizzly trophy hunting.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “This irresponsible decision ignores both science and the majority of Americans who want our wild animals protected.”

Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society wrote in a blog post Friday that “the delisting rule ignores the ongoing existential threat posed to these bears by habitat loss, disappearance of staple foods like whitebark pine and cutthroat trout, and continuing challenges associated with human-wildlife conflict.”

The debate over the grizzlies’ fate has been long debated, The New York Times reports, “despite the bear’s increasing population in areas where it had not been seen in decades.” The paper says, “The Fish and Wildlife Service tried to delist the bear in 2007 but was ordered by federal court decisions to reconsider because of a decline in white bark pine, an important bear food source decimated by insects as the region’s temperatures have risen.”

Pro-hunting groups have advocated for the delisting, which effectively allows hunting of the bear. Sportsmen’s Alliance President and CEO Evan Heusinkveld called the move to remove the endangered species act protections “one of the greatest conservation stories in North America.”

And the shooting sports news site Ammoland.com writes:

“The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears has surpassed recovery goals in both population benchmarks and duration of time meeting those goals, proving that the population is not just recovered, but stable and growing.

“Moreover, more than 100 grizzly bears have been killed for depredation of livestock or attacks on humans in the last two years – a significant number indicative of the population having reached social tolerance levels within the available habitat.”

Chibok Girls And Trump Appear In Unannounced Photo Op

Jun 30, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Chibok Girls And Trump Appear In Unannounced Photo Op

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka flank Chibok schoolgirls (left to right) Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu. At far left is Doug Wead, president of the school the girls attend, and his wife, Myriam. Two of his daughters are at the right. This White House “Photo of the Day” was taken on June 27.

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Shealah Craighead/White House

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka flank Chibok schoolgirls (left to right) Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu. At far left is Doug Wead, president of the school the girls attend, and his wife, Myriam. Two of his daughters are at the right. This White House “Photo of the Day” was taken on June 27.

Shealah Craighead/White House

The White House usually picks a photo of the day. On June 28, the image they chose showed two girls from Nigeria who were abducted in 2014 by Boko Haram but managed to escape: Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu. They’re flanked by President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump. The photo had been taken the day before.

Trump is giving a thumbs up.

The meeting was not publicized in advance. NPR’s White House correspondent Tamara Keith says the administration didn’t notify the press corps about it, it didn’t appear on the White House daily schedule and it was not discussed in any of that day’s briefings.

How did these two girls get to the White House? Doug Wead, who is also in the photo, was the point of contact.

He’s the president of Canyonville Christian Academy, the Christian boarding school in Canyonville, Ore. that the girls just graduated from.

Wead was an assistant to President George H.W. Bush and has published many books, including Game of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton’s Failed Campaign and Donald Trump’s Winning Strategy. He told NPR that Ivanka Trump reached out to him after his appearance on a BBC program about presidential children. The two got in touch via email and kept in contact.

Wead asked her if she wanted to meet the girls because of her concern about human trafficking. She said “absolutely,” Wead says.

Wead said the girls had some issues they wanted to discuss privately with the president, but neither he nor the girls would share details about what was said during the ten-minute meeting. Bishara did note that Ivanka hugged her and the President Trump smiled and said, ‘God bless you, too.”

And she and Pogu got a White House tour.

“I enjoyed [the visit], it was wonderful,” she says. “Her [Ivanka’s] work is a really good one, at least she’s helping people around the world who have been hurt,” Bishara says.

That Amazing Moment When 82 Chibok Girls And Families Reunited

R. Evon Idahosa is a New York City-based organizer with Bring Back Our Girls, a campaign to free the captured Chibok girls. She says the purpose of the visit isn’t clear. “The administration has taken an America-first approach. I’m not exactly sure what the intent of the meeting was,” Idahosa says.

Idahosa is also the founder and executive director of the PathFinders Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization.

She hopes the visit to the White House will raise awareness about the 113 Chibok girls in Nigeria still held captive by Boko Haram.

Pogu and Bishara were two of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok captured by the extremists. They escaped by jumping off a moving truck that the extremists were using to transport them, the girls told People in an interview.

The Chibok kidnappings drew international attention and sparked the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Former first lady Michelle Obama backed the campaign.

Boko Haram released 82 of the Chibok girls in May after more than three years of captivity. The group also released 21 of the abducted schoolgirls in October 2016. One student escaped with her baby in May 2016.

Pogu and Bishara began attending Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Va., in 2014. They had been connected to the Virginia school through the Jubilee Campaign, an organization based in Fairfax, Va., that promotes human rights and religious liberty for ethnic minorities in countries that include Nigeria.

Wead says that in 2016, the U.S. government asked Canyonville Christian Academy to take the girls in and cover all their expenses. The school granted them a full scholarship, including room and board.

At the academy, Pogu and Bishara “would study nonstop,” says the school’s CEO, Corinne Burkhert.

Pogu struggled to sleep at times because of “bad dreams” she says.

The girls plan to start college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. this fall on full scholarship, spokeswoman Dana Davis said in an email. The university is reaching out to local churches and individuals to raise more money for the girls. Three of Wead’s children attended Southeastern, according to Davis.

The girls are temporarily staying in Haymarket, Va., with Doug Wead. They say he’s like a father to them.

They hope to spend most of the summer in Nigeria with their families. To raise money for summer living expenses and plane tickets to travel home, Bishara and Pogu started a GoFundMe account on June 8. So far they’ve raised more than $5,800. The girls aren’t sure how much money they’ll need in total, but the goal is set to $35,000, covering tickets that they say will cost about $3,000 and travel expenses within the country to reach their families.

Canyonville Christian Academy currently manages the girls’ fundraising account and states that all donations “in their entirety” will go to the girls.

‘Not On My Watch’: MLB Umpire Helps Save Woman On Pittsburgh Bridge

Jun 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on ‘Not On My Watch’: MLB Umpire Helps Save Woman On Pittsburgh Bridge

Baseball umpire John Tumpane consoles a woman he had seen step over a railing on the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday. Tumpane grabbed her arm and held onto her until help arrived.

Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette viaAP


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Baseball umpire John Tumpane consoles a woman he had seen step over a railing on the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday. Tumpane grabbed her arm and held onto her until help arrived.

Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette viaAP

Major League umpire John Tumpane is used to making quick calls under high pressure – about foul balls, strikes and home runs. But on Wednesday afternoon, the stakes were much higher when he saw a woman climb over the railing of Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente Bridge, far above the Allegheny River.

Tumpane rushed toward the woman and hooked his arm around hers, according to The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.

He told the newspaper that the woman said, “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.” Tumpane said he told her, “I’m not going to let you go.”

Tumpane got his other arm around the woman and held tight, even as she dangled both feet off the edge of the bridge.

“It was just kind of pure instinct,” Tumpane said at a press conference Wednesday. “At times when she just wanted to go the other way, I just was like, ‘Not on my watch. Please.'”

Other bystanders stepped in to help, The Post-Gazette reports. One man gripped an arm. Another pinned the woman’s ankles to the bridge.

Tumpane and the others held tight until emergency workers arrived and got the woman back over the railing. But Tumpane still didn’t walk away.

“I went up to her, because, you know she said, ‘You’ll just forget me after this.’ And I said, ‘No, I’ll never forget you.'”

The woman was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Tumpane, his arms shaking, called his wife, reports MLB.com. “Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody’s life,” he recalled.

After trying to rest for a while at his hotel, the 34-year-old from Chicago headed off to work at PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates were taking on the Tampa Bay Rays. Tumpane was working behind home plate.

After being touted as a hero for stepping up to help, Tumpane reflected on the incident.

“This isn’t about me,” he said at the press conference. “This is just for her and that people care about her and I’m just glad that this is a positive story and not a sad story.”

Tumor Test Helps Identify Which Breast Cancers Don’t Require Extra Treatment

Jun 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Tumor Test Helps Identify Which Breast Cancers Don’t Require Extra Treatment

Mammography has helped increase the early detection of breast tumors. Now, researchers say, the goal is to discern which of those tumors need aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.

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Mammography has helped increase the early detection of breast tumors. Now, researchers say, the goal is to discern which of those tumors need aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.

Chicago Tribune/Getty Images

For years, doctors have focused on detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible moment after a tumor develops so treatment can start right away. But more and more studies are showing many small, early tumors don’t present a danger.

So, when is it safe to remove a tumor but skip additional treatments like tamoxifen, chemotherapy and radiation?

A study published Thursday in JAMA Oncology suggests that it may be possible to distinguish fairly precisely between “ultralow-risk” tumors that are unlikely to cause problems and those that are more aggressive and likely to spread — thus allowing some patients to avoid unnecessary treatments.

Study Of Breast Cancer Treatment Reveals Paradox Of Precision Medicine

Researchers in the U.S. and Sweden used a diagnostic test called MammaPrint to measure a tumor’s genomic “fingerprint” and compared it with survival time after a tumor was removed. They say they were able to pinpoint patients who had a very low risk of death from breast cancer — even up to 20 years after the first diagnosis.

“You can really say to someone, ‘You’re not going to die of this disease. And we don’t have to be aggressive upfront and treat you with everything, just in case,’ ” says the lead author of the study, breast cancer specialist and surgeon Dr. Laura Esserman, of the University of California, San Francisco. “There are breast cancers that pose little or no systemic risk.”

The results build on findings of a 2016 report using the same test that showed 46 percent of women with certain genetic profiles could actually skip chemotherapy with little consequence to their long-term survival.

Esserman says the new study provides the first evidence that it’s possible to run a diagnostic test at the time of a breast cancer diagnosis and identify very low-risk tumors. From this study and others, Esserman says, it appears that about 20 to 25 percent of tumors being diagnosed today “may be ultralow-risk” and not require treatment after surgery.

The UCSF study used breast tissue collected from postmenopausal women in a large Swedish trial, for which there was extensive information about the women’s treatment and long-term survival. The study, known as Stockholm-3, was started in 1976 and was among the first to compare the effects of the estrogen-blocker tamoxifen with a placebo. Tamoxifen has since been shown to suppress subsequent tumor formation, and is in common use.

Samples were available from 652 patients. Most (79 percent) had undergone a mastectomy — or lumpectomy plus radiation. About half got no further treatment and half got tamoxifen. Tumors in the study were small – 3 centimeters or less in diameter. And all the women had “clean” lymph nodes, meaning the cancer had not spread.

When Genetic Tests Disagree About Best Option For Cancer Treatment

The tumor test was performed on these samples and 15 percent (98) were classified as ultralow-risk. These women had an “excellent prognosis,” the researchers found, whether or not they took tamoxifen or whether they received radiation or not. Their rate of survival, 20 years out, ranged from 97 percent with tamoxifen, Esserman says, to 94 percent without.

Other studies, she says, have shown that women with ultralow-risk tumors do well without radiation.

“We can tell [these] women that they are highly unlikely to die of their cancers and do not need aggressive treatment,” Esserman says. “This is an important step forward” for personalizing care for women with breast cancer, because it allows doctors to “tailor treatment for each individual based on the aggressiveness of the tumor they have.”

Other oncologists agree. “We’re allowing our science to help us understand that sometimes less treatment is effective,” says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society.

“That’s an emerging theme in cancer treatment,” he says. “We used to think every cancer we found was a bad cancer and had to be treated aggressively. It’s taken a long time for us to be able to understand and adopt principles that we can treat less and still be effective — and not harm women [who have] breast cancer.

MammaPrint is a genomic test that looks at a set of 70 genes in a tumor, showing how the genes are controlling the production of the proteins that drive a tumor’s growth. A genomic test of the tumor, which measures how genes are functioning, differs from other genetic tests that determine someone’s hereditary risk of cancer.

The tumor test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007 to predict whether an existing cancer has the ability to spread. It’s priced at $4,200 and is covered by some insurance plans in the U.S.

One of the co-authors on the paper — UCSF molecular biologist Laura van ‘t Veer — developed the MammaPrint test. She’s a co-founder and chief research officer of Agendia NV — the company that holds the license to MammaPrint.

White House Panel Asks States For Their Voter Rolls

Jun 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on White House Panel Asks States For Their Voter Rolls

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at a news conference earlier this month. His letter on behalf of the White House’s voting security commission has drawn criticism from some state officials.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at a news conference earlier this month. His letter on behalf of the White House’s voting security commission has drawn criticism from some state officials.

John Hanna/AP

A letter from Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of a new White House commission looking into voter fraud and other irregularities, is drawing firing from some state election officials. The letter was sent Wednesday to all 50 states, and requests that all publicly available voter roll data be sent to the White House by July 14, five days before the panel’s first meeting.

The information requested includes the names, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded), last four digits of the voter’s Social Security Number, and which elections the voter has participated in since 2006, for every registered voter in the country.

Kobach, who is also Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State, did not say how the commission plans to use the data other than to help it “fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.”

However, Kobach has long advocated comparing state voter rolls to other government databases to identify non-citizens or other illegitimate registrants. Voter advocacy groups say such comparisons are prone to error and worry that the effort will lead to purging legitimate voters from the rolls.

The bipartisan commission — chaired by Vice President Mike Pence — was established by President Trump after he made his widely dismissed allegations that as many as five million people voted illegally last November. Its stated purpose is to recommend ways to improve the public’s confidence in the integrity of elections.

Despite Little Evidence Of Fraud, White House Launches Voting Commission

But in response to Kobach’s letter, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Thursday that he would not provide sensitive voter information to the commission. “California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach,” Padilla, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill also released a statement, saying that she would share publicly available data with the commission, but complaining about a “lack of openness” about what the panel is looking for. Merrill cited past legal challenges to Kobach’s efforts to clean up voter rolls in Kansas, which have led to some eligible voters being removed from registration lists.

“Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission,” said Merrill, a Democrat and outgoing president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

A spokeswoman for the association said the secretaries will almost certainly discuss Kobach’s controversial request at their summer conference next week in Indianapolis.

The commission, which has yet to meet, has been viewed with suspicion from the start by civil rights groups, which think it will be used to justify measures — such as strict ID requirements — that will make it more difficult to vote.

Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department during the Obama administration, said in a tweet that the letter confirms that “Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain simple.”

However, Kobach’s letter also seeks recommendations from state officials on other issues, including how to prevent voter intimidation and disenfranchisement. It also asks how the commission can help with information technology security and vulnerabilities, a growing concern after reports of widespread Russian efforts to hack into U.S. election systems last year.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, one of four Democrats on the commission, told WMUR reporter John DiStaso Wednesday that he was impressed that Vice President Pence made clear in a phone call with panel members earlier in the day that they would work on a bipartisan basis “with no preconceived notion and we should search for the facts.”

After that call, the White House released a statement saying that Pence told commissioners: “The integrity of the vote is a foundation of our democracy; this bipartisan commission will review ways to strengthen that integrity in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote.”

Pesticides Are Harming Bees — But Not Everywhere, Major New Study Shows

Jun 29, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Pesticides Are Harming Bees — But Not Everywhere, Major New Study Shows

Researchers monitored the health of these wild bees, from the species Osmia bicornis. They nest inside small cavities, such as hollow reeds.

Courtesy of Centre for Ecology Hydrology


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Researchers monitored the health of these wild bees, from the species Osmia bicornis. They nest inside small cavities, such as hollow reeds.

Courtesy of Centre for Ecology Hydrology

In the global debate over neonicotinoid pesticides, the company that makes most of them has relied on one primary argument to defend its product: The evidence that these chemicals, commonly called “neonics,” are harmful to bees has been gathered in artificial conditions, force-feeding bees in the laboratory, rather than in the real world of farm fields. That company, Bayer, states on its website that “no adverse effects to bee colonies were ever observed in field studies at field-realistic exposure conditions.”

Bayer will have a harder time making that argument after today. (Although it still has another argument in its quiver. We’ll get to that later.)

This week, the prestigious journal Science reveals results from the biggest field study ever conducted of bees and neonics, which are usually coated on seeds, like corn and soybean seeds, before planting. Scientists monitored bees — honeybees and two types of wild bees — at 33 sites across Europe, in the United Kingdom, Germany and Hungary. At each site, the bees were placed near large fields of canola. Some of the fields contained canola grown from seeds that were treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, along with a standard fungicide. Other fields were planted with canola treated only with fungicides.

At most sites — specifically in Hungary and the United Kingdom — bees feeding on neonic-treated canola fields generally fared worse than bees that got to live around untreated canola. At those sites, wild bees and honeybees had more difficulty reproducing, and fewer honeybee colonies survived the winter.

The scientist who led the experiment, Richard Pywell, from the Centre for Ecology Hydrology in the U.K., called the results “cause for concern.”

But the experiment also revealed a complicated picture, because results were very different in Germany. There, honeybee colonies seemed to prosper, whether or not they were living near canola fields treated with neonicotinoids. In fact, honeybee colonies near neonic-treated fields produced more eggs, and more larvae. (Fewer colonies survived the winter, but the difference wasn’t statistically significant.)

Pywell doesn’t seem bothered by this discrepancy. “We think this is a really interesting result,” he says. “We believe that this goes some way toward explaining the inconsistency of previous [research results].”

Apparently, the local environment plays a big role in whether bees are harmed by neonics. “We believe that other factors interact with neonicotinoid exposure to cause negative effects on honeybees and wild bees,” Pywell says.

Pywell doesn’t know exactly what those “other factors” might be — his experiment wasn’t set up to examine them. But it did yield some clues.

Researchers from the Centre for Ecology Hydrology in a field of oilseed rape, or canola, in the United Kingdom.

Courtesy of the Centre for Ecology Hydrology


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Researchers from the Centre for Ecology Hydrology in a field of oilseed rape, or canola, in the United Kingdom.

Courtesy of the Centre for Ecology Hydrology

Honeybees in Germany managed to find a much wider variety of flowers to feed on. In Hungary and the United Kingdom, 40 or 50 percent of the pollen collected by honeybees was from canola; in Germany, it was only about 10 percent. In Hungary, Pywell says, the bees were surrounded by huge fields of canola, and in the U.K., “because of modern farming, we’ve lost many of our wild flowers, so the crops are pretty much all that’s there in the springtime.”

Also, honeybees in Germany were relatively free of parasites, compared to bees in the U.K. and Hungary.

Pywell suspects that bees are particularly vulnerable to neonic exposure when they’re highly dependent on pesticide-treated crops for food, and when they already are weakened by disease.

This is what Jeffery Donald, a Bayer spokesman, highlighted in an email to The Salt. He wrote that “the study shows that when hives are healthy and relatively disease free and when bees have access to diverse forage, neonics do not pose a danger to colony health.”

Interestingly, this study was funded in part by Bayer and another neonic manufacturer, Syngenta, but Pywell says his team of researchers “operated very independently.”

In a separate field study, also published this week in Science, a team of Canadian researchers measured the levels of neonicotinoid pesticides that honeybees were exposed to at several sites in Ontario and Quebec. They compared colonies located close to corn fields with those that were farther away.

“The first surprise was that bees were bringing in pollen that was contaminated with neonicotinoids for most of the growing season — three or four months,” says Amro Zayed, a professor of biology at York University in Toronto. “The next surprise was that most of the pollen, 99 percent of the pollen, was from wild plants. Not corn, and not soybeans.”

Zayed says that apparently, neonic residues in farm fields get dissolved in groundwater, and some are taken up by the roots of wild plants.

Zayed and his colleagues didn’t monitor bee health in the field, but they tried to replicate this field exposure to neonics in experiments with laboratory bees. What they found: Bees exposed to neonicotinoids didn’t keep their hives as clean and lost their queens more often.

Nigel Raines, a specialist on bees at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, says that these experiments have helped to fill in details of a picture that scientist still don’t fully understand. “The story for honeybees is complicated, but these two papers, taken together, are kind of the first field-level evidence that there can be measurable impacts on important aspects of colony development and colony survival in the field,” he says.

The European study, he says, shows just how complicated the picture is. It shows that pesticides like neonicotinoids affect bees, but also reveals the importance of other factors, too.

“We shouldn’t just focus on insecticides. They’re part of the problem, but if we focus on that and then just say, ‘OK, we understand that now, the problem’s fixed,’ I don’t think that’s right,” he says. “We need to be clear about how we’re managing landscapes, both agricultural and urban and more natural landscapes, to support healthy biodiversity of pollinators,” he says.

European regulators have imposed a partial moratorium on neonicotinoid use.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency is taking a closer look at neonics, but it hasn’t proposed any new restrictions on them.

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones Are Fading, But Proposed EPA Cuts Threaten Success

Jun 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones Are Fading, But Proposed EPA Cuts Threaten Success

Billy Crook’s commercial crabbing boat, Pilot’s Bride. He says it’s looking like it’s going to be a good year for crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Billy Crook’s commercial crabbing boat, Pilot’s Bride. He says it’s looking like it’s going to be a good year for crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

Drive east from Washington and eventually you run smack into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the massive estuary that stretches from the mouth of the Susquehanna River at Maryland’s northern tip and empties into the Atlantic 200 miles away near Norfolk, Va.

The Chesapeake is home to oysters, clams, and famous Maryland blue crab.

It’s the largest estuary in the United States.

And for a long time, it was one of the most polluted.

Decades of runoff from grassy suburban yards and farm fields as far north as New York state, plus sewage and other waste dumped by the hundreds of gallons, made the Chesapeake so dirty that by 1983, the crab population had plummeted to just 2 percent of what Capt. John Smith saw when he explored the bay in the 1600s.

For years, people tried to clean it up. States and the federal government spent millions of dollars. The first effort began in 1983 — officially launched by President Ronald Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union Address.

And each time, the cleanup efforts failed. The bay’s health wasn’t getting much better.

By 2009, when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to get the EPA to do more to clean up the bay, the Chesapeake’s dead zone was so big it often covered a cubic mile in the summer.

Map showing the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which extends from Virginia north to New York

Credit: Leanne Abraham and Alyson Hurt/NPR

Dead zones form when the water becomes too concentrated with nitrogen and phosphorus — allowing algal blooms to grow and block out sunlight from reaching beneath the water and causing populations of fish and crabs to plummet.

Then, last summer, scientists recorded no dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay. And wildlife was returning, too. The EPA’s new plan seemed to be working.

“When I first heard that spawning sturgeon were back in the bay, my reaction was, ‘Yes! We can get this done,'” says Will Baker, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president. “It’s really exciting. You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time.”

Scientists and advocates for the bay say that success is fragile. And it may be even more so now. The Trump administration’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the program’s $73 million in funding.

“I think if we saw the federal government withdraw, you would see the Chesapeake Bay revert to a national disgrace right as it’s becoming a great national source of pride,” Baker says. “Things are going in the right direction, but nature can turn on a dime and I don’t think it’s a scare tactic to say within the next eight years, we could see the last 35 years of effort go down the tubes and start to change direction.”

And that could have implications not only for the future of the bay cleanup, but for any other states hoping to clean up some of the country’s other most polluted waters — from Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico.

Out on the Chesapeake Bay

Eric Young, Matthew Gaskins, and Steve Hinks went out crabbing for fun, and caught five blue crabs on their first run of the day. Gaskins says so far it’s shaping up to be a good year for crabbing on the Chesapeake.

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Eric Young, Matthew Gaskins, and Steve Hinks went out crabbing for fun, and caught five blue crabs on their first run of the day. Gaskins says so far it’s shaping up to be a good year for crabbing on the Chesapeake.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

Locals like 22-year-old Matt Gaskins say the difference in the bay’s health is noticeable.

He’s on a boat with two of his friends. A handful of blue crabs click in a bucket resting in the middle of his small boat. Gaskins says he can tell how the bay’s doing by how many crabs he’s catching. He was out on the South River the day before.

“Everyone pretty much around the whole river has been doing really well,” he says. “The rockfish are doing really well this year, and also the crabs are doing really well.”

Scientists from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation say that’s proof the cleanup efforts are making a difference.

“The trend is for a smaller volume of the dead zone over time, which is really encouraging. For the last two years, they never measured water that had zero oxygen, which is the first time that it had ever happened in the history of collecting data,” says Beth McGee, a scientist with the foundation.

Beth McGee, director of science and agricultural policy at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, rides on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay. The foundation conducts regular tests on the water.

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Beth McGee, director of science and agricultural policy at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, rides on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay. The foundation conducts regular tests on the water.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

But why is the cleanup finally working now, after all those years of trying?

In 2009, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the EPA, trying to compel the agency to enact a tougher cleanup plan. In the past, a group of six states that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed — Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and New York, plus the District of Columbia, had put in place various pollution control plans to limit the fertilizer and sewage they released into the bay.

But without sufficient funding or any real consequences for states that didn’t meet benchmarks, things didn’t really improve.

The Obama administration needed to change that. To do it, the administration came up with a novel interpretation of the Clean Water Act of 1972, which gives the federal government the power to require that states write a “pollution diet” for any body of water the feds declare polluted. States have to calculate how much of each pollutant a body of water can take on, and then figure out how to hit those numbers.

But actually making the reductions had always been voluntary. Only one in five of these pollution diets had actually been implemented, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation wanted to ensure states followed through. The Obama administration would use its powers under the Clean Water Act to compel states to take action — by withholding funding from states that didn’t follow through on implementing their cleanup plans.

Baker says that’s part of the challenge — cleaning up the Chesapeake requires cooperation not just from the places that have the bay in their backyards — but also from states in the whole watershed whose rivers and streams feed into the bay.

“The critical role of the EPA has been to be the glue that holds the six states and the District of Columbia together — working in concert to save the Chesapeake Bay system,” Baker says.

How do you convince states without that tangible tie to make sacrifices for a bay they don’t even border?

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Questions Basic Facts About Climate Change

“The Chesapeake Bay is a system of six states, 64,000 square miles,” Baker says. “And when you work in Pennsylvania for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay, you’re really working for clean water in Pennsylvania.”

The EPA’s plan was controversial from the start. The American Farm Bureau Federation sued over it. As attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt signed an amicus brief supporting the Farm Bureau’s position. He’s now running the EPA — the agency that is tasked with administering it.

The Supreme Court declined to take up the case — letting a lower court’s ruling stand that upheld the program.

Farm to bay

Chip Bowling‘s farm sits on banks of the Wicomico River in southern Maryland. The Wicomico flows into the Potomac River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

He farms 1,600 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat on land that’s been in his family for seven generations.

Chip Bowling is a Maryland farmer and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association. He farms on land that’s been in his family for seven generations.

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Chip Bowling is a Maryland farmer and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association. He farms on land that’s been in his family for seven generations.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

“When we got our work done, we literally would jump out of our work clothes and put a pair of shorts on and T-shirt, and run down here, and either swim, fish, get on the boat,” he says.

He’s been doing that more than 50 years.

“If you walked at the end of this pier when I was a kid, you’d see aquatic grass growing,” Bowling says. “You actually had a hard time walking through it because the grass was so lush underwater.”

That lush grass provided a habitat for crabs and fish. Now, it’s beginning to return.

Agriculture was a big focus of the cleanup plan. As chairman of the National Corn Growers Association, Bowling and his organization joined the lawsuit. In Maryland, for example, the state imposed regulations as part of the cleanup that required farmers to write pollution diets for their farms.

Bowling’s farm in Southern Maryland is on the banks of the Wicomico River, which eventually flows in to the Chesapeake Bay.

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Bowling’s farm in Southern Maryland is on the banks of the Wicomico River, which eventually flows in to the Chesapeake Bay.

Sam Gringlas/NPR

The federal government provided money to help, like funds for planting buffer strips between cropland and waterways that feed into the bay. States wrote their own plans to meet federal benchmarks and the federal government could withhold funding from states that didn’t comply.

That upset farmers, who felt the EPA was going too far.

But Bowling has come around.

“Nobody likes rules,” he says. “Nobody really likes regulations. But you also know that you have to have both.”

What changed? The plan appeared to be working.

Bowling, who once joined a lawsuit to rule the program unconstitutional, is fighting for the program’s survival.

“It was a struggle to get there,” he says. “I was critical in the beginning. What we do know now is that working together, we have figured out a way — with funding — to get those programs in place and to get the bay on track.”

But the big part of that, at least for Bowling, is funding. And the Trump administration has proposed cutting it entirely from the federal budget — from $73 million to zero.

Billy Crook has crabbing been on the Chesapeake Bay for 41 years. He says a healthy bay can have a positive impact on his family’s finances.

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Billy Crook has crabbing been on the Chesapeake Bay for 41 years. He says a healthy bay can have a positive impact on his family’s finances.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

For Billy Crook, a commercial crabber who makes runs on the Chesapeake, a healthy bay can have a big impact on his family.

“I got a bunch of little kids. I had a good year last year, so they got a trip to Disney World,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean he gives the EPA credit.

“The EPA — they do some good, but mostly, they do a lot of talk,” he says, leaning over the side of his boat. “They always talk about putting money in the bay. We never see the physical evidence of them doing much.”

Bowling may support the Chesapeake Bay’s cleanup program, but that doesn’t mean he’s clamoring for a similar program elsewhere — such as in the Mississippi River watershed. Runoff into the rivers and streams there feed the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone — predicted this year to cover an area the size of New Jersey.

“I can guarantee you, they’re not going to ask for one like the Chesapeake Bay,” Bowling says. “Hopefully we won’t have a mandate nationwide. In my opinion, knowing what we’re doing, I think that voluntary is a great way to start. The mandate made us do it, but I can guarantee you we would still change the way we farm.”

Lauren Lurkins, director of natural and environmental resources for the Illinois Farm Bureau, says farmers in her state have increasingly prioritized water cleanup over the last few years, but that a Chesapeake-like program would be a step too far for states bordering the Mississippi River.

“It’s a huge land mass that is covered and it gets really complicated and it makes for a bigger effort that is pushed down from the federal government,” Lurkins says. “(Illinois farmers) don’t have the ability to help shape or start to engage in a plan that covers 31 states or even half of that. It’s just something that’s brought down on top of them.”

Even EPA officials under the Obama administration — and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation — have refrained from touting the bay cleanup as a program ready for adoption elsewhere.

The beach at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters in Annapolis, Md. “You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time,” says Will Baker, the nonprofit’s president.

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The beach at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters in Annapolis, Md. “You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time,” says Will Baker, the nonprofit’s president.

Selena Simmons-Duffin/NPR

“We’re not talking about cleaning up the waters of the world. We’re talking about one iconic national treasure. If others can use the protocols that have been put in place here so successfully, go for it,” Baker says.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who’s been advocating for the Chesapeake cleanup for decades, is more confident the plan can be employed in other places. Even so, he acknowledges adopting the plan elsewhere won’t likely happen in the near future.

“I think this model will expand and be used in other parts of the country,” he told NPR. “There’s no question that if we had a different administration that put a higher priority on the environment, that it would be more aggressive in using this type of model in other places in the country.”

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt told Cardin he promised to preserve the program. The EPA did not respond to a request from NPR for an interview.

But Cardin says he’s optimistic about the Chesapeake cleanup’s future. White House budgets are just proposals — and almost every federal program has an advocate somewhere in Congress.

“I’ve talked to my Democratic and Republican colleagues and they’re very supportive of the federal role in the Chesapeake Bay program,” he says. “It’s in everyone’s interest to preserve this unique body of water. It’s not of one state or one region, but a national treasure.”

Bowling is also confident the funding won’t disappear.

“We think that when the new administration figures out what they’re going to cut and how they’re going to cut it, that there’s still going to be funding left for programs like environmental cleanup,” Bowing says. “I can guarantee you we’re doing something in D.C. today to make sure that we pass on to the administration and Administrator Pruitt what we’re doing works and we need funding to get there. I don’t think they’re going to allow something that’s come so far to go away.”

But funding for new programs? That will be a tough sell.

A couple of years ago, environmentalists outside the watershed may have looked eagerly to the Chesapeake Bay as a model cleanup they could adopt in their own backyards.

But now there’s an even more basic worry — whether the model plan itself will continue.

Selena Simmons-Duffin produced and Jolie Myers edited this radio story.

Federal Appeals Court Paves Way For Ohio To Resume Lethal Injections

Jun 28, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Federal Appeals Court Paves Way For Ohio To Resume Lethal Injections

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility’s death chamber has been unused since January 2014, when executions in the state were put on hold after problems putting an inmate to death.

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The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility’s death chamber has been unused since January 2014, when executions in the state were put on hold after problems putting an inmate to death.

Kiichiro Sato/AP

A federal appeals court paved the way on Wednesday for Ohio to resume executions by lifting a lower court’s decision to halt the state’s lethal injection process.

It was a contentious decision that split the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges in an 8-6 vote.

In the case brought by death row inmates, the judges focused on the effects of the sedative midazolam, one of the three lethal injection drugs used by Ohio.

As The Two-Way has reported, the drug has been “used during multiple botched executions in Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma and Alabama.”

Arkansas Readies For 8 Executions, Despite Outcry Over Pace, Method

Authorities used it in Ohio during the Jan. 16, 2014, execution of Dennis McGuire, who took 24 minutes to die. As we’ve reported, a witness said he appeared to be gasping and choking. Since then, executions in the state have been on hold.

Death row inmates Ronald Phillips, Gary Otte and Raymond Tibbetts say that executing them using midazolam would violate the Eighth Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

A federal judge ruled in January that midazolam is not sufficiently humane and blocked the upcoming executions. In that decision, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Merz stated that the “use of midazolam as the first drug in Ohio’s present three-drug protocol will create a ‘substantial risk of serious harm’ or an ‘objectively intolerable risk of harm.’ “

The state appealed Merz’s decision, which the 6th Circuit’s majority opinion described as “seriously flawed.”

The judges say the district court applied the wrong standard. The proper legal question, they say, is not whether the use of midazolam in the protocol presents a “substantial risk of serious harm,” but whether it is “sure or very likely to cause serious pain.”

Federal Judge Blocks Ohio's Lethal Injection Protocol

The court concluded that the plaintiffs “have fallen well short” of proving this, even though they “have shown some risk that Ohio’s execution protocol may cause some degree of pain, at least in some people.” Ultimately, the court states, the Constitution “does not guarantee ‘a pain-free execution.’ “

McGuire’s dose of midazolam was 10 milligrams, the judges say, far smaller than the 500-milligram dose in the state’s current lethal injection protocol.

6 Major Supreme Court Cases That Would Have Been Different Without Scalia

Six of the judges disagreed with the majority, writing that the plaintiffs “should not be executed before a trial on the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution method.”

Allen Bohnert, a public defender representing death row inmates, told The Associated Press that Wednesday’s judgment does not constitute “a decisive ruling on the constitutionality of the three-drug method.” According to the wire service, Bohnert says he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are currently 139 people sentenced to die in Ohio.

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