USDA closes Tiger King zoo for animal welfare violations

August 25, 2020 by  
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This week brought more drama involving the human cast of the popular “Tiger King” series but hopefully some peace for the tigers themselves. Time is up for the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Garvin County, Oklahoma, which is now officially closed to the public after the USDA cited multiple animal welfare violations. The park became infamous when Netflix debuted its “Tiger King” documentary series in March. The show’s behind-the-scenes look at big cat owners was wildly popular, garnering 34.1 million views in the series’ first 10 days after release. “Tiger King” introduced the viewing public to Joe Exotic, former owner of the park, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for killing five tigers, abusing other animals and trying to hire somebody to assassinate Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Related: “Tiger King” drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in the U.S. But in April, a month after “Tiger King” rocketed to fame, the Humane Society of the United States released footage showing that Exotic’s successor at Greater Wynnewood, Jeffery Lowe, was also abusing tigers. Federal judge Scott L. Palk responded by revoking Lowe’s exhibitor license and giving him 120 days to remove the tigers and vacate the premises. That 120 days is up this week. Palk also granted Baskin control of the 16 acres of land that housed the infamous zoo as part of a $1 million trademark dispute Baskin had filed against the Greater Wynnewood Development Group. Lowe denied any wrongdoing. On a Facebook post, he accused the USDA of “false accusations” against him. He claimed the agency was “folding to pressure” from PETA . “The ‘Tiger King’ phenomenon has definitely changed our lives in many ways,” Lowe said . “It has brought us more attention than any human deserves, good and bad. It has and probably will continue to make us a target of every nutjob and animal rights loon in the world, but we are prepared.” Via VegNews and Yahoo! Image via Capri23auto

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USDA closes Tiger King zoo for animal welfare violations

How to make a mask with fabric to wear or donate

April 20, 2020 by  
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Crafters began making fabric masks when the public learned that COVID-19 was causing a major shortage of personal protective equipment. But since the CDC changed its recommendation on April 3 to urge that everyone wears a mask when leaving the house, sewing machines around the world have been working harder than ever. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to make fabric masks to wear or to donate. “The efforts of home sewers are a beautiful expression of the desire to help our community and contribute their special skills,” said Erum Ilyas , board-certified dermatologist and founder of Montgomery Dermatology, LLC in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. However, textiles are not tightly woven enough to fully protect against the virus. “They are primarily designed to block bacterial spread given the risks these present in wounds during surgical procedures. Viral particles are much smaller than bacteria and simply escape through these textiles quite easily.” So while masks are a useful additional precaution against coronavirus , crafters should know upfront that cloth masks are insufficient for first responders, who need N-95 masks. Still, many medical professionals are wearing cloth masks over the N-95 masks. Everybody else should wear cloth masks in combination with social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Masks for donation Before you rev up your sewing machine and start stitching masks, figure out where you’re going to donate your finished products. Organizations of all sizes have popped up around the country to give home sewers guidance on materials, designs and delivery. Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 “I got involved with Mask Match after my classmate heard about it on a podcast,” said Briana Corkill, a medical student in Phoenix. “It seemed like a great way to be helpful from home, especially since all of my clinical volunteer work has been put on hold.” Mask Match is a volunteer-run organization that accepts donations of high-filtration masks (N95, P95, R95 and KN95), surgical masks and fabric masks and delivers them wherever they are needed in the U.S. and Canada. If you want to donate homemade fabric masks, you must follow Mask Match’s guidance on materials and design. Other efforts are more localized. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is accepting hand-sewn masks, but only if people can deliver them in person in Nashville. However, its guidelines for making masks for children and adults are useful to people everywhere. Heide Davis, an Oregon-based artist, joined a Facebook group called Crafters Against Covid-19 PDX, which collects masks from home sewers. The group donates the masks to the Multnomah County Health Department, which distributes the non-medical grade masks to nursing homes, care homes and hospitals (for patient use). Davis, who collects secondhand and vintage fabric, pondered her choices. “I was a little unsure about what fabric I had that would be suitable,” she said. Fortunately, she heard that local couture designer Sloane White had started a mask production line. “She’d already cut out the masks and needed help sewing them together,” Davis said. “She gave me a bag of fabric that was already precut, washed, everything. And some elastic. And it was very lovely and generous and saved me from having to find the fabric.” Davis donated nearly 50 masks to the Multnomah County Health Department, plus another 15 for friends and family. Working with precut, partly sewn fabric, it still took about 8 hours for Davis to sew her donated masks. “You should know how to use your machine,” she said. “But it doesn’t take any more than basic sewing skills.” Making a simple mask Choosing the right fabric is an important decision. Ilyas referred to a 2013 Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness study that evaluated different household materials to determine how much each could filter particles and block the spread of influenza. “This study showed that cotton /polyester blends tend to be the most effective out of household materials while still maintaining breathability,” Ilyas explained. “This type of textile can be found in most T-shirts or pillowcases around the house. Despite rating the best in terms of blocking viruses and still maintaining comfort, these materials still only block about 70% of viruses. This makes them ideally suited for community and low-risk settings while still maintaining social distancing. It’s an added level of security to help minimize the risk of viral spread.” What if you lack a sewing machine but you want a mask for your own use? “Simple is best here,” Ilyas said. “This does not have to be complicated and should not be a reason to go to the store while we are urging everyone to stay home. I tend to recommend taking an old T-shirt or pillowcase and cutting a strip of fabric about 3-4 inches wide. Take two rubber bands and pull one along each side. Fold the fabric in and pull the rubber bands over your ears to hold in place.” Rubber bands are probably not the most comfortable thing to hold your mask in place, but they will do in a pinch for short jaunts to the store. You can also use yarn for a more comfortable fit if you have it on hand. The CDC posted several options on its site, including one for people who sew, a no-sew mask made from a T-shirt and a simple bandana mask. If possible, Davis recommends machine-sewing over hand-sewing . “ Machine stitches probably would hold up in the wash a little bit better than hand-done stitches. Because you want to be able to wash this thing a lot when you’re using it.” Wearing and caring for your mask Wearing a mask takes some getting used to and may feel uncomfortable or irritating. “Remember that when you use a mask, every time you manipulate it, touch it, move it around, your hands come close to your face and mouth,” Ilyas said. “Sometimes when people wear a mask, they find themselves touching their face far more frequently than normal. If you wear glasses, there is a lot of getting used to when it comes to wearing a mask as your glasses are sure to get foggy. Practice wearing your mask around the house first to get a sense of how you feel in it.” Ilyas suggested a gentle skin cleanser and nightly moisturizer to offset the effects of wearing a face mask for long periods of time. Related: How to properly dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more Whenever you go outside your house, your mask is accumulating additional germs. Frequent washing is important. “If you are using a fabric with a cotton/polyester blend, it should not be a problem to machine wash and tumble dry,” Ilyas said. “The key is to use the hot water setting on your washing machine, as viruses do require high temperatures to be killed in the water environment.” Ilyas mentioned the creepy fact that some viruses can live on the walls of your washing machine. To be extra careful, she recommends running an extra rinse cycle with just bleach to clean the washing machine walls after washing any clothes that are high risk for viral particles. Despite expert opinions that masks provide only a little extra protection from the virus, they still serve as an excellent visual reminder to stay a safe distance from others, leave the house only as necessary and stop touching your face. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat, Pixabay and Unsplash

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How to make a mask with fabric to wear or donate

It’s time for Silicon Valley to start buying electric commuter buses

January 14, 2020 by  
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Many big Bay Area companies such as Facebook and Genentech use large fleets of private commuter buses. This year more of these vehicles will run on batteries.

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It’s time for Silicon Valley to start buying electric commuter buses

It’s time for Silicon Valley to start buying electric commuter buses

January 14, 2020 by  
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Many big Bay Area companies such as Facebook and Genentech use large fleets of private commuter buses. This year more of these vehicles will run on batteries.

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It’s time for Silicon Valley to start buying electric commuter buses

Hey big tech, history is watching you

September 19, 2019 by  
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While Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Google are progressive on some fronts, their overall corporate strategies to avert climate change have sketchy.

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Hey big tech, history is watching you

Police seize over 10,000 animals in global crackdown on wildlife trade

July 12, 2019 by  
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What do 4,300 birds, 1,500 reptiles, 10,000 turtles and tortoises, 23 primates, 70 truckloads of timber and 30 big cats all have in common? No, they’re not the residents of a new zoo — all of these critical plants and animals were seized in a major international operation that cracked down on wildlife smuggling. Throughout the month of June, international police and customs authorities united for ‘Operation Thunderball’ and rescued an astonishing number of dolphins, sharks, lions, tigers, birds, tortoises, parakeets, finches, ivory and rhino horns. The operation was carried out in more than 100 countries and hopefully dealt a serious blow to the $19 billion dollar illegal wildlife trafficking industry. Over 600 suspects have been identified, with 21 arrests in Spain and three arrests in Uruguay. Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, said Operation Thunderball “underscores why international cooperation is so important to addressing this deadly criminal activity.” Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife Wildlife trafficking is a major industry that not only hurts the environment and targets endangered species , but it also supports a far-reaching, violent criminal network. Much of the illegal wildlife trade has shifted online to an internet-based black market. For example, in April of this year, Indonesian police officers detained smugglers who admitted to using Facebook for selling Komodo dragons. International animal rights advocates, police and conservationists agree that Operation Thunderball was a massive success for the fight against the illegal animal trade. But some argue that national authorities now need to pick up where the international authorities left off and fully prosecute the detained criminals. This will help set an example and further debilitate the illegal network. Susan Lieberman, vice president for international policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “This massive disruption of criminal networks is key to saving endangered wildlife across the globe, but seizures and arrests are only the first step — governments now must follow up with strong, meaningful prosecutions.” + Interpol Via New York Times Images via © INTERPOL

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Police seize over 10,000 animals in global crackdown on wildlife trade

Facebook is now the proud owner of a massive solar farm

May 31, 2019 by  
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The deal represents another new twist in the corporate renewables movement.

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Facebook is now the proud owner of a massive solar farm

Food security is a huge threat to Singapore — is urban farming the answer?

May 31, 2019 by  
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The island-state imports most of its food, but is threatened by crop yields and policy changes around the world.

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Food security is a huge threat to Singapore — is urban farming the answer?

Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

May 16, 2019 by  
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At least 15 states have passed or proposed bills that further criminalize trespassing on fossil fuel infrastructure, a trend that environmental and free speech advocates argue unnecessarily targets pipeline protesters and indigenous leaders. In 2018, Louisiana passed a bill that makes trespassing on so-called “critical infrastructure” a more serious offense than existing trespassing laws. While trespassing has long been considered a misdemeanor, the law now specifies that the same act on particular private property is now a felony. Throughout the country, trespassing laws have been edited to define ‘critical infrastructure’ as fossil fuel facilities, including proposed pipeline routes where there is no existing infrastructure yet. Related: For the first time in 86 years, environmental activists in the UK sentenced to jail “These are people saying, ‘let’s make sure we have something left for future generations’ … and for that we were charged with felonies, we were beaten, we were stepped on, I was choked,” Cherri Foytlin, a pipeline protester in Louisiana,  told the press . Similar laws have passed in Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Indiana and Iowa. The backlash is largely due to the massive 2017 protest of a pipeline at Standing Rock , led by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Bi-partisan supporters of the states’ new legislation argue that the intent is to dissuade acts of terrorism; however, many opponents feel the existing trespassing laws were sufficient. For many environmental activists, these new laws are further proof of the government’s allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, and they believe threats of felonies, jail time and high fines will discourage other activists from voicing their opinions against pipeline development. Across 15 states, possible consequences include 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Those who do not trespass themselves but merely support activists verbally or financially are also liable before the law. This month, the Natural Resources Defense Council published an alarming blog post inquiring if merely “liking” a Facebook post about a pipeline protest could be considered illegal under South Dakota’s newest legislation. In Indiana’s Bill 471 , so-called “conspirators” can also be fined up to $100,000. Via Grist Image via Luke Jones

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Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

Sean Parker’s wedding violations result in new app for California coastline

January 4, 2019 by  
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What started out as a high-profile beachside wedding turned into a useful and long-term solution to beach access issues along the California coastline. When Napster founder and original president of Facebook Sean Parker started planning his 2013 beachfront wedding to then-fiance Alexandra Lenas, he had no idea that he was breaking land usage rules. With a redwood grove in mind, he simply leased the space from the hotel that fringed the area. He then spent months having the perfect set built. It included a 20-foot high fence, Roman pillars, bridges, a faux cottage and rock walls. Things were shaping up for the idyllic wedding when the California Coastal Commission (CCC) showed up and shut down progress. A little known agency, the CCC is responsible for maintaining access to over 1,200 miles of coastline. Enforcing a 1972 voter mandate, the organization aims to regulate the coast so that it is accessible to more people in a responsible way. So when the CCC heard a report of Parker’s construction, it came in with some harsh news — the hotel that Parker was leasing from did not have permission to lease him the space. Not only that, but the site of the wedding was supposed to be a public camping area that had been closed by the hotel six years earlier due to water quality issues without permission from the CCC. Related: California approves rule to require solar panels on new houses Fines for limiting beach access run high, and even though it wasn’t Sean’s fault, he sat down with the CCC to figure out a solution. According to the Coastal Act, violators can be fined $1,000 to $15,000 per day that they are in violation. That added up to a whopping $2.5 million dollars, which Parker agreed to pay on behalf of the hotel. Instead of going to the CCC, however, the funds were used to create hiking trails, fund field trips, reopen the campground, fix the water issues and otherwise promote public access to the Big Sur area. But the story doesn’t stop there. During conversations that eventually resulted in the CCC allowing the wedding to continue at the site, representatives mentioned the idea of developing an app where iOS users could find information about the 1,563 access points up and down the California coastline. Parker jumped on board and agreed to develop the app. Unveiled in December, the YourCoast app spent five years in development with teams from both sides working together. Parker’s team brought the technology to the table and received the decades of detailed information collected by members of the CCC. In the past, the constantly updated spreadsheet of information gathered about each access point was published in a book every few years and was periodically updated on the CCC website. Now, each access is shown on a map within the app, with additional information about each one when you click on it. With the financial and technological resources Parker provided, the public now has up-to-date data on closures, access points and photos of each path. The app also delineates amenities of each beach, such as whether there is wheelchair access, restrooms, off-street parking, lifeguards or fishing . Many of the access points are well disguised by natural overgrowth or less-than-helpful neighbors. Some are merely a small sign, fence or alley access, so without the YourCoast app, most people never know about them. Others are falsely marked with “No Parking” or “No Beach Access” signs to further discourage visitors, which is in direct violation of the Coastal Act. The CCC has a huge responsibility for such a small organization. The creation of the app has brought the commission from an era where it still doesn’t have Wi-Fi in the main office to an online resource available to any iOS user. Plans are in the works to also make the app accessible to Google and other Android users. Related: Southern California is losing its clouds, increasing the risk of more intense wildfires While the information is now front and center to the public, there is still the ongoing problem of policing businesses and residents along the coast who actively restrict access to the beach. In fact, the six- to 10-person violations team has a backlog of thousands of cases. The app allows users to report violations and submit pictures of their own, so that they can help with the problem. Some areas of the coastline are very remote, and with that much territory to cover, it’s difficult for the CCC to monitor it all. For those users that visit the more remote regions, YourCoast allows them to download information for use without cell service. Although it was an unusual course of events that brought Parker and the CCC together, both parties are happy to have found a creative solution that brings great value to the public and facilitates the goals of the CCC in promoting access to state coastlines. Additional sections of the settlement agreement required Parker to safely remove all the infrastructure used in the wedding, and he must produce an educational video for the public and ensure that it goes viral. + YourCoast Via LA Times Images via USFWS , James Smith and Inhabitat

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