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Elephant Seals Took Over This California Beach During the US Shutdown and Won’t Give It Back

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Elephant Seals
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An unexpected effect of the recent 35-day U.S. government shutdown was a major win for a boisterous group of elephant seals and somewhat of a loss for local beachgoers about 30 miles north of San Francisco, California.

One of the most viral topics to emerge as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ran its course, was the unfortunate reality that the nation’s national parks were severely understaffed while also being taken advantage of by parkgoers of at the same time. In short, it was a recipe for disaster.

According to reports, people were pooping in ditches, leaving trash everywhere except inside of the appropriate trash receptacles, taking the old adage “the road less traveled” a little too far by making brand new roads where there shouldn’t be any roads at all, toppling trees in Joshua National Park, and much much more.

It turns out, humans weren’t the only ones taking advantage of this unique situation. The massive under-staffing of national parks in the U.S. paved the way for an equally unexpected, though far less destructive, situation than the one mentioned above.

Around 100 female elephant seals and their pups, along with a few males weighing in at three-tons each, took pack Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. Not only has the rowdy group taken over the beach – the seals are in the parking lot and under the picnic tables, they’re crushing man-made things like wooden railings, and they’ve rendered the beach off-limits to humans.

Elephant seals, which can weigh up to 4,000 pounds, are currently fighting extinction, making a scene including such a massive number of them taking over a California beach a welcome sight to those in the know. They were hunted to near extinction with the first sighting of seals occurring in the late 1970s and the first pup being born in 1980 at Point Reyes after a 150-year absence.

They’re at a critical time: the pups have been born there, they’re nursing. We’re not going to disrupt that process,” said John Dell’Osso, head of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes.

Due to the popularity of Drakes Beach, park staff typically discourage the presence of the seals using what they call harmless “hazing” techniques like shaking a blue tarp in their direction. It turns out this is more to keep humans from bothering the seals than to keep the seals from bothering the humans. “We don’t want visitors disturbing or harming elephant seals, and we don’t want elephant seals harming visitors, either,” said Dave Press, a wildlife ecologist.

But, thanks to the government shutdown, the staff normally available to shoo the seals away at Drakes Beach weren’t there. Point Reyes National Seashore is typically staffed by about 85 people but the shutdown reduced that number to about a dozen. Reports of the presence of pregnant seals on the beach were first made around January 10th and there just weren’t enough hands on deck to respond adequately.

At almost one month after the initial reports, the crowd of boisterous seals persists, doing what they do best: soaking up the sun, making loud noises and wiggling around the seaweed. The most recent count included 53 cows, 10 males and 52 pups included in the colony.

Staff plan to reopen the road to the beach this weekend, with groups of visitors chaperoned by rangers and other staff getting to peek in on, but not disturb, the colony. These special glimpses onto the beach commandeered by the elephant seals will likely continue every weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. into April when the pups will be weaned, grown, and ready to move on with the others.

This is a great opportunity for folks to see ‘em up close. We want to take advantage of that, but also keep the seals the pups safe,” said ranger Carlo Arreglo.

Despite our desire to meddle, natural processes don’t often require human intervention and positive outcomes can come from the most unlikely of places. Dave Press said it best:

If you just get out of the way, wildlife will find their way in.”

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Corruption

Man Who Spent Decades in Prison Gets $6 Million After Cop Found to Have Faked Evidence

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A North Carolina man who spent decades in prison was awarded $6 million in damages by a federal jury after it was found that he was wrongfully convicted thanks to evidence fabricated by a detective.

Darryl Howard languished in prison for over 20 years on double murder and arson charges in 1995 for killing a woman and her teen daughter in 1991. Last Wednesday, a jury in Winston-Salem found that former Durham police detective Darryl Dowdy simply faked the evidence that resulted in his conviction.

In 2016, Howard’s 80-year sentence was stricken down by a Durham County judge who cited the misconduct of police and prosecutors. The $6 million award was the result of a 2017 federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Howard, reports the News & Observer.

Dowdy, 65, denied the accusations in the lawsuit. The former detective was a 36-year veteran of the Durham Police Department before he retired in 2007.

Howard and his legal team have expressed satisfaction that the jury recognized the grave injustice he faced, but are disappointed that the $6 million is a mere fraction of the $48 million in damages they requested.

Attorney Nick Brustin, who represented Howard, said that Dowdy’s defense attacked Howard for his past gunshot wounds and history of selling and using drugs.

“I think to some extent the racist defense that they have been implementing since the beginning of the ligation has in some ways succeeded,” Brustin said. “I think the verdict doesn’t value the suffering that Darryl went through.”

Howard himself noted that the heavy damage dealt by his long incarceration have completely altered his life.

“I am happy about the verdict, but I am kind of upset about the damages,” Howard told the News & Reporter.

“Just imagine, 23 years I stayed in prison,” he added.

Brustin also highlighted the systemic nature of the injustice his client suffered as a result of Dowdy’s police work.

“The kinds of misconduct are pattern misconduct,” he noted, adding that Durham police need to review other cases handled by the crooked cop.

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Happy Holidays? Billionaire CEO Fires 900 Workers in Zoom Call

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The boss of an online mortgage lending company has come under fire as callous and heartless after he unceremoniously fired about 900 staff members in the run-up to the holidays – all on one single Zoom call.

Vishal Garg, the chief executive of New York-based mortgage firm Better.com, didn’t mince words in the call, telling employees:

“This isn’t news that you’re going to want to hear … If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

Adding that he did “not want to do this,” he explained that “this is the second time in my career I’m doing this … The last time I did it, I cried.” 

While the 43-year-old CEO claimed that the mass sacking was a painful ordeal, he also noted that the “market has changed” and the company required streamlining to deal with the cool-off in the recent housing boom.

However, Garg neglected to mention that the company recently received $750 million from investors just last week.

According to Fortune, the chief executive also was the anonymous author of a blistering blog post to professional network Build that put his own employees on blast.

“You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system?” Garg wrote, adding that “they were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.”

Garg also has come under fire for his poor management approach and history of abusing workers after an email he sent to employees was published by Forbes last year.

“You are TOO DAMN SLOW,” the CEO wrote. “You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS… SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

Regardless of his personal frustrations with employees, social media users were stunned by news of the mass firing, calling the move “cold,” “a horrible move,” and “harsh” – especially with Christmas around the corner.

Employment law and business experts have also lambasted Garg’s actions, noting that such mass firings run counter to the law in most countries, and are not only abusive but destructive toward morale, despite being perfectly legal in the United States.

“Existing employees will look to how the company treats people as a signal to how it will treat them in the future,” Gemma Dale of the Liverpool John Moores University in the UK told the BBC.

“There are ways to do these things which, even in difficult conditions, are empathetic and decent,” she added. “There is a right way to do these things both morally and legally.”

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Environment

China Was Just Caught Literally Changing The Weather For Communist Party Celebration: Study

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In recent years, China has made a number of head-turning and downright dazzling technological advances. Now, according to a new study, the East Asian giant has successfully managed to literally change the weather.

According to a recent report from the South China Morning Post, scientists at Tsinghua University say that during the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Party of China, authorities succeeded in modifying the weather in Beijing to clear the sky and improve air quality for the masses gathered to celebrate the party’s centenary in Tiananmen Square.

The large-scale operation involved lacing the clouds above the capital with chemicals to usher in rainfall over suburban parts of Beijing before the July 1 centennial event. According to the Tsinghua researchers, eyewitnesses report rockets being launched from mountains outside the city in the run-up to the event.

The Beijing researchers claim that the artificial rain managed to reduce the level of PM2.5 air pollutants by over two-thirds, bringing air quality to “good” conditions from “moderate” levels per World Health Organization Standards.

The use of chemicals to modify weather conditions is a practice that dates back to at least the 18th century, when European states used gunfire to shoot at storms in hopes to prevent hail from harming crops.

By the turn of the 20th century, dozens of hail cannons were deployed for commercial purposes despite the unproven nature of such primitive geo-engineering methods.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and the People’s Republic of China has reportedly invested vast resources into weather modification programs that will be tested in a region spanning 5.5 million square miles by the year 2025. The impact of such geo-engineering efforts could lead to regional tensions with China’s increasingly nervous neighbors.

Meanwhile, as the potential for a new cold war with the people’s republic continues to grow, professional China skeptics have stoked fears that the ruling Communist Party could use its newfound ability to manipulate the weather for military purposes. However, it’s worth noting that the United States military has been hoping to weaponize the rain since at least 1967.

However, with arid conditions and extreme drought threatening the food security of populations across the globe, the ability to literally make rain fall may not be as frightening as some make it out to be.

Additionally, some researchers have claimed that geoengineering could play a role in mitigating the impact of rampant climate change. However, it remains far too early to know the long-term impact of lacing skies with chemicals on a widespread, regular basis.

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