Posts made in November 2021

Brotherly love? Big sisters are best if you are an elephant

December 1, 2021

It’s always great to have an older sibling looking out for you. And researchers have found that’s particularly true for elephants, reports Treehugger.

A study of elephants in Myanmar in Southeast Asia has found that having older siblings increases calves’ long-term survival. And the young animals seemed to benefit more from having older sisters than older brothers. The results were published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

“Sibling relationships in animals have traditionally been investigated in the context of negative effects looking at competition effects—for instance in wolves, or in humans,” study co-first author Sophie Reichert of the University of Turku in Finland recently told Treehugger.

“However,” she says, “sibling interaction can also result in beneficial effects, through cooperation effects (to share food or provide protection). For instance, in highly social and cooperative breeders, such cooperative behaviors from helpers—which are often offspring born in previous years—have positive effects on juveniles growth, reproduction, and survival.”

The researchers were fascinated by the relationships between, and the impact of older and younger siblings for several reasons.

“We were particularly interested to study these siblings’ effects in Asian elephants, because associations between siblings may be particularly complex in social species with high cognitive capabilities, but have been little-studied to-date,” Reichert says.

“During one field trip to Myanmar, we noticed how youngs were interacting, which gave us the idea to use our long-term demographic database to investigate sibling costs and benefits on the life trajectories of younger offspring.”

However, it is difficult for researchers to study the long-term effects of having siblings in animals that live long lives. There are challenges to conducting field studies that follow animals for their entire lives.

Researchers overcame that obstacle in this study by following a semi-captive group of Asian elephants in Myanmar. The animals are owned by the government and have thorough history records.

The elephants are used during the daytime for riding, transportation, and as draft animals. At night, they roam in the forest and can interact with wild and tame elephants. Calves are raised by their mothers until they are about fivw years old, when they are trained to work. A government agency regulates the daily and annual workload of elephants.1

Because the elephants spend so much time in their natural habitats with natural foraging and mating behaviors, there are many similarities to wild elephants, the researchers say.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 2,344 calves born between 1945 and 2018. They looked for the presence of older siblings and studied the effect on the animals’ body mass, reproduction, sex, and the survival of the next calf.

They found that, for female elephants, those raised with older sisters had better long-term survival rates and reproduced about two years earlier on average, compared to elephants with older brothers. Generally, elephants that reproduce earlier have more offspring during their lifetimes.

They found that male elephants that were raised with older sisters had lower survival rates but higher body weight, compared to elephants that had older brothers. The positive increase early on in body weight could end up costing the elephants in survival later on in life.1

“Older siblings are pivotal for the lives of the subsequent calves. Their effects depend on their sex, their presence during weaning and the sex of the subsequent calf,” study co-first author Vérane Berger of the University of Turku tells Treehugger. “We showed that elder sisters improved females’ survival and are associated with earlier age at first reproduction. Moreover, the presence of elder sisters increased males’ body mass.”

The researchers expected some of the outcomes but were surprised by others.

“As expected, we showed that elder sisters have a beneficial effect on the subsequent calf and especially in females,” Berger says. “While, we expected a negative effect of elder brothers, we actually did not detect it.”

The findings are key because it shows that it’s important to include the effects of having siblings when analyzing survival, body, condition, or reproduction, the researchers point out.4

Berger adds, “Our results also show in elephants that family members should be kept together which could be interesting in the field of zoo conservation.”

Research contact: @Treehugger

Club Med will open its first five-star resort in Utah

December 1, 2021

Home to some of the greatest snow on earth, Snowbasin—located about a half hour from Salt Lake City–will welcome a new all-inclusive resort with the opening of Club Med Utah, scheduled for December 2024, reports Forbes.

The ribbon-cutting will celebrate the brand’s first ‘Exclusive Collection’ Five-Star resort in the United States, as well as the brand’s first new resort in the USA in more than 20 years.

“Club Med is known for pioneering new destinations, and we are eager to introduce Snowbasin to travelers as well as bring the very first luxury all-inclusive mountain resort to the U.S.,” Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean said in a statement.

While the architecture and decor is said to be inspired by the area’s natural surroundings, the 320-room resort will combine American luxury with Club Med’s trademark all-inclusive experience.

In addition to lift tickets, all day dining and nightly entertainment, the resorts direct ski-in, ski-out access—as well as ski and snowboarding lessons—will be a big part of the draw for guests who stay here.

During the warmer months guests will have the opportunity to explore area’s 3,000 acres of peaks and valleys through guided activities like hiking through national parks, mountain biking, and Club Med’s trademark circus activities.

“Continuing our 70-year legacy, Club Med Utah will give travelers additional opportunities to discover Utah’s natural beauty and welcoming communities through a transformative mountain getaway experience,” Doyon said.

The announcement comes on the heels of the opening of Club Med Quebec which will officially open its doors to the public this month.

Research contact: @Forbes

Mark Meadows knuckles under; agrees to cooperate with House January 6 Select Committee

December 1, 2021

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has agreed to cooperate with the House Select Committee in charge of investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection, the panel said on November 30, according to a report by Axios.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson confirmed the news with the following statement: “Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition. The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.”

With the capitulation of Meadows, the committee has achieved a major win; and Meadows, himself, has possibly staved off prosecution. After rejecting a subpoena to appear for a deposition before the panel, it was believed that Meadows could face contempt charges.

Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel earlier this month, is believed to have insight into former President Donald Trump’s role in efforts to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win.

According to Axios, Meadows became the second person to defy the committee’s subpoena, following former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who was taken into custody on November 15 on charges of contempt of Congress.

Research contact: @axios

YouTuber MrBeast recreates ‘Squid Game’ with $456,000 top prize

November 30, 2021

Hundreds of cash-strapped “Squid Game” fans recently competed in a real-life recreation of the dystopian smash-hit Netflix series for a $456,000 cash prize, reports the New York Post.

Popular YouTuber MrBeast, who boasts 81.5 million subscribers, said he spent US$3.5 million on the elaborate reenactment, in which 456 contestants battled for the jackpot.

The social media star, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, said on Twitter that it cost him around $2 million to build and produce, while he spent around $1.5 million on prizes.

In addition to the six-figure first prize, Donaldson doled out $2,000 to every competitor and $10,000 to the runner-up.

The recreation included the same Korean children’s games played in “Squid Game,” such as Red Light, Green Light; marbles and tug-of-war —played within huge sets that took weeks to construct.

However, there was one major difference from the real-life show: No contestants were harmed.

Instead, players were rigged with “wireless explosives” packed with fake blood that burst open when a player was eliminated. In the tug-of-war and glass bridge challenges, losing contestants fell into a foam pit rather than plummeting to their deaths.

Yet, true to form, the real-life “Squid Game” contestants were seen in footage of the game trembling as they tried to carve shapes out of honeycomb in the “dalgona challenge.”

According to the Post, the “Squid Game” reenactment isn’t the first time Donaldson has pulled off an extravagant stunt like this for his YouTube channel. Donaldson is famed for offering outlandish prizes to his online followers willing to compete in absurd challenges, such as when contestants stood in a circle for 12 days for $500,000 cash.

The social media sensation was the second-highest paid YouTube star in 2020—earning about $24 million and garnering some 3 billion views, according to Forbes.

But his latest video has attracted harsh criticism from viewers who slammed Donaldson for reenacting a game about rich people exploiting the poor for their macabre viewing pleasure.

Finally, in the latest, stunning development kickstarted by the original Netflix series, the stunt video was released just a day after a smuggler who sold copies of “Squid Game” in North Korea was sentenced to death by firing squad.

Research contact: @nypost

Jack Dorsey steps down as CEO of Twitter

November 30, 2021

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down, effective immediately, reports CNBC. Parag Agrawal, the company’s chief technology officer, will take over the helm, the company said on Monday, November 29.

Dorsey, 45, was serving as both the CEO of Twitter and Square, his digital payments company. Dorsey will remain a member of the board until his term expires at the 2022 meeting of stockholders, the company said.

Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor will become the chairman of the board–-replacing Patrick Pichette, a former Google executive, who will remain on the board as chair of the Audit Committee.

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said in a statement, although he didn’t provide any additional detail on why he had decided to resign.

Agrawal will have to meet Twitter’s aggressive internal goals. The company said earlier this year it aims to have 315 million monetizable daily active users by the end of 2023 and to at least double its annual revenue in that year.

Agrawal, who has served as CTO since 2017, has been with Twitter for more than a decade. He had been in charge of strategy involving artificial intelligence and machine learning; and he has led projects to make tweets in users’ timelines more relevant to them.

Agrawal also was previously tasked with finding a leader for Project Bluesky, a research project Twitter launched to establish open and decentralized standards for social media platforms.

Dorsey had previously said  that Bluesky will help social media companies collaborate on how posts are promoted to users and will give users more control over the content they see. Bluesky also could make it easier for the social networks to enforce restrictions against hate speech and other abuse—essentially helping them share the load at a lower cost.

Dorsey said in an email he published on Twitter that Agrawal has been his choice to lead the company “for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs.”

Dorsey faced an ousting last year when Twitter stakeholder Elliott Management sought to replace him. Elliott Management founder and billionaire investor Paul Singer had wondered whether Dorsey should run both of the public companies. Singer called for Dorsey to step down as CEO of one of them before the investment firm reached a deal with Twitter’s management.

Dorsey, who co-founded the social media giant in 2006, served as CEO until 2008 before being pushed out of the role. He returned to lead Twitter in 2015 after former CEO Dick Costolo stepped down.

Research contact: @CNBC

On Omicron, former WH doctor Ronny Jackson says, ‘Here comes the MEV—the Midterm Election Variant!’

November 30, 2021

A Republican lawmaker who previously served as White House doctor under former presidents Trump and Obama claims Democrats seems to be using the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, to help the GOP cheat in the midterm elections, reports The Hill. 

The World Health Organization (WHO)  classified the new coronavirus strain as a “variant of concern” on Friday, November 26—due to preliminary evidence suggesting it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants. WHO officials said the new variant poses a “very high” risk worldwide, but noted that there is still much to learn about the strain.

Representative Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) spoke out on news of the variant of concern Saturday, November 27—saying the strain would serve as a pretext for absentee voting, which Democrats would use to somehow cheat in the 2022 midterm elections.

“Here comes the MEV—the Midterm Election Variant!” Jackson tweeted.

“They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election—but we’re not going to let them!” he added. 

Jackson was appointed as a White House physician during the George W. Bush administration; and shot to national prominence in 2018, when he gave former President Donald Trump a glowing medical evaluation.

A March report from the Pentagon’s inspector general found that Jackson carried out “inappropriate conduct” during his time as White House doctor. The report said Jackson disparaged, belittled, bullied and humiliated subordinates, creating a toxic work environment. It also found that he used alcohol while on duty.

Jackson has explicitly denied the report’s findings.

Research contact: @thehill

How long are Thanksgiving leftovers safe to eat?

November 29, 2021

If your turkey lurks for just a little too long in your refrigerator, is it still okay to eat it? And what about stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, and all your other holiday favorites?

All cooked leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours after preparation, according to the Food and Drug Administration. And as a general rule of thumb, leftovers should be eaten or thrown out four days after refrigeration. If you freeze your food, it can last from two to six months, reports HuffPost.

In addition to taking food safety into account, these recommendations also consider the quality of your food. In other words, leftover turkey tastes pretty rank after a week, even if it doesn’t give you food poisoning.

If you’re craving more specifics besides “no longer than four days,” here’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests:

  • Discard any turkey, stuffing, or gravy that’s been left out at room temperature for longer than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy within three to four days.
  • If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality. Turkey, specifically, will last for four months in the freezer.

As for desserts, in general, fruit, pumpkin, pecan, custard, and chiffon pies can be safely stored in the refrigerator for three to four days, according to FDA guidelines. But many pies ― especially fruit ― are best eaten within just a couple of days.

Essentially, you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to enjoy your delicious leftovers from the fridge. After that, chuck ’em.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Peloton sues Lululemon in dispute over new apparel line

November 29, 2021

Peloton Interactive, the exercise bike company, has sued Lululemon Athletica after the athletic apparel maker threatened its own lawsuit over Peloton’s new apparel line, reports Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday night, November 24—just 2-1/2 months after Peloton launched its apparel brand following the end of its five-year co-branding relationship with Lululemon, a break Peloton characterized as amicable.

Peloton said Lululemon’s claims that five of its women’s bra and legging products – Strappy Bra, High Neck Bra, Cadent Peak Bra, Cadent Laser Dot Bra and Cadent Laser Dot Leggings—infringed on six Lululemon design patents “lack any merit.”

The new apparel line could help New York-based Peloton rely less on its bikes and treadmills, after sales growth slowed because more people received COVID-19 vaccines and stayed home less.

In a November 11 letter, Lululemon’s lawyer said the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company would sue Peloton unless it stopped selling its new apparel.

But Peloton said its products and Lululemon’s designs are easy to tell apart, and Lululemon’s designs are too “obvious” to deserve patent protection.

“On top of the numerous clear and obvious differences in design, Peloton and Lululemon’s brands and logos are also distinctive and well-recognized, making confusion between products a virtual impossibility,” Peloton said.

Peloton wants a court declaration that it has not infringed Lululemon patents and trade dress, and that Lululemon’s patent claims are invalid.

“At Lululemon we are known for our product innovation and iconic design,” Lululemon said in a statement on Friday, November 26. “We will defend our proprietary rights, to protect the integrity of our brand, and to safeguard our intellectual property.”

In late morning trading, Peloton shares were up $1.76, or 4%, at $45.68, as investors worried that a new coronavirus variant would spread and keep more people at home longer.

The case is Peloton Interactive Inc v Lululemon Athletica Canada Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-10071.

 Research contact: Reuters

Steve Bannon files motion to request that all documents in his contempt-of-Congress case be made public

November 29, 2021

Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser, has filed an opposition to the U.S. district court’s standard protective order for discovery, which prohibits either side from releasing documents or evidence publicly, reports The Washington Post.

.Bannon, 67, pleaded not guilty on November 17 to contempt-of-Congress charges, and his legal team previously argued that the case would be more complicated by agreeing to the prosecution’s protective order for discovery.

“Members of the public should make their own independent judgment as to whether the U.S. Department of Justice is committed to a just result based upon all the facts,” said a statement provided to The Washington Post on behalf of Bannon.

“In the opposition filed today, Mr. Bannon asked the judge to follow the normal process and allow unfettered access to and use of the documents.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn has said that there are “less than 20 documents” to be provided, but Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran told reporters that there was probably going to be a need for the defense to locate more documents and witnesses.

Bannon’s legal team argued that the government offered little reason the documents should be withheld from public view, adding that many of the documents that would be restricted by the proposed protective order in this case are already public.

“The Government offered no reason why it wanted to limit Mr. Bannon’s attorneys in their use of the documents to prepare a defense,” Bannon’s statement said. 

Bannon has refused to comply with an order from the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol to provide records and testimony about his actions leading up to the attack. The committee is interested in questioning Bannon about activities at the Willard InterContinental Washington Hotel in the week leading up to January 6.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Study: Climate crisis pushes albatross ‘divorce’ rates higher

November 25, 2021

Albatrosses, some of the world’s most loyally monogamous creatures, are “divorcing” more often—and researchers say global warming may be to blame, The Guardian reports.

In a new Royal Society study of the large oceanic birds found mainly in the North Pacific, researchers say climate change and warming waters are pushing black-browed albatross break-up rates higher. Typically, after choosing a partner, only between 1% and 3% would separate in search of greener romantic pastures.

But in the years with unusually warm water temperatures, that average consistently rose, with up to 8% of couples splitting up. The study looked at a wild population of 15,500 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands over 15 years.

For seabirds, warmer waters mean fewer fish, less food, and a harsher environment. Fewer chicks survive. The birds’ stress hormones increase. They are forced farther afield to hunt.

As some of the most loyal partners of the animal kingdom, the love lives of albatrosses have long been a subject of scientific study. “There are all these things we think of as being super-duper human,” says Dr. Graeme Elliot, principal science adviser at New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, who has been studying albatrosses in the country’s waters for three decades.

The birds lend themselves to anthropomorphism: Living for 50-60 years, they have a long, awkward teen phase, as they learn how to seduce a mate through dance; and take years-long trips away from home as they mature. They usually to mate for life, and loudly celebrate when greeting a partner after a long absence.

But now, they increasingly share another rite of passage that may sound familiar to young humans: Under stress from the climate crisis, working longer hours to eat, and faced with the logistical difficulties of a traveling partner, some are struggling to maintain relationships.

Francesco Ventura, researcher at University of Lisbon and co-author of the Royal Society study, said the researchers were surprised to learn that warmer waters were associated with unusually high rates of albatross couples splitting up, even when the lack of fish were accounted for.

Albatross divorce was usually predicted by a reproductive failure, Ventura said. If a pair failed to produce a chick, they had a higher chance of splitting up. Less food for birds could lead to more failures. But the researchers were surprised to find that even when they accounted for that, higher water temperatures were having an extra effect—pushing up divorce rates even when reproduction was successful.

Ventura floated two possible reasons—one that warming waters were forcing the birds to hunt for longer and fly further. If birds then failed return for a breeding season, their partners may move on with someone new. Added to that, when waters are warmer and in harsher environments, albatross stress hormones go up. Ventura said the birds may feel that and blame their partners.

​ “We propose this partner-blaming hypothesis—under which a stressed female might feel this physiological stress and attribute these higher stress levels to a poor performance of the male,” he says.

What’s more, dropping population numbers have changed the birds’ mating patterns in other ways, Elliot said, with more homosexual couplings appearing. “We’re getting male-male pairs amongst the birds on Antipodes Island, which we haven’t had before,” he said. “A few percent of the boys are pairing up with another boy because they can’t find a female partner.”

Now, Elliot hopes that some of the sympathies people have for albatrosses could motivate changes in behavior, to address the environmental threats the birds are facing—particularly climate change, and tuna fishing. “We kind of need an international campaign to save these birds,” Elliot says. “If we don’t turn it around, they’ll go extinct.”

Research contact: @guardian