Posts tagged with "Associated Press"

Rare white buffalo at Yellowstone National Park fulfills Native American prophecy

June 13, 2024

A rare white buffalo has been born in Yellowstone National Parkfulfilling a prophecy of one of the largest Native American tribes, reports The Express.

The white calf was spotted on June 4 in the Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the park.  of Kalispell, Montana, who was visiting the park with her family, took several shots of the calf after spotting it among a herd of bison across the Lamar River.

Traffic was brought to a standstill while the herd crossed the road, which prompted Braaten to take out her camera and photograph it.

“It was pretty amazing,” Braateen told USA Today. “It just seemed really odd for it to be there and we got stuck in traffic. And so I took my camera out and looked back and saw that it was actually a white bison calf that had just been born.”

After the bison left the roadway, Braaten and her family turned their vehicle around and found a spot to watch the calf and its mother for more than half an hour.

Bratten told the Associated Press that, while she could not find the white calf after coming back to the same spot in the next two days, she was “totally floored” to bear witness to the arrival.

While the birth of the calf has not been confirmed by Yellowstone National Park officials, a naming ceremony is set to be held by members of the Lakota Sioux tribe to celebrate the calf’s birth at Buffalo Field Campaign headquarters in West Yellowstone.

Research contact: @theexpress

Bernie Sanders calls on Biden to block U.S. funding for Netanyahu’s ‘war machine’

March 12, 2024

On Sunday, March 10, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called on President Joe Biden to deny Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more U.S. funding for his “war machine” unless Israel allows for more humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza, reports HuffPost.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Sanders said the ongoing offensive—which already has killed over 31,000 Palestinians and displaced millions, according to local officials, cannot be allowed to continue with the blessing of the USA.

“We are looking at the possibility of hundreds of thousands of children starving to death,” Sanders said. “The United States of America cannot be complicit in this mass slaughter of children.”

Health officials in Gaza have said 20 people, including children, have died of malnutrition, according to The Associated Press, with many warning the situation is likely to deteriorate even further.

Taking a harsher stance toward Netanyahu to pressure him to take into account the suffering of innocent Palestinians, Sanders added, would be both the moral thing to do and “good politics” for Biden.

“The truth is, whether you’re a conservative Republican or a progressive, you do not want to see children in Palestine starve to death,” Sanders said.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is planning to expand his country’s offensive to the southernmost city of Rafah, where millions of Palestinians have sought refuge during the conflict, appearing to ignore calls from the USA to back away from that plan.

Sanders warned attacking Rafah would be an “unmitigated disaster,” adding, “My view is, of course, we cannot support an attack of that kind on Rafah,” Sanders told CBS’s Margaret Brennan. “Bottom line is, though, Netanyahu has got to be told no more money for his war machine, unless there is humanitarian aid coming in to feed the people.”

Biden has warned Netanyahu against going ahead with a Rafah offensive—but said, ultimately, even if Israel did proceed with its plans, he wouldn’t pull U.S. funding for the country.

“It is a red line, but I’m never going to leave Israel,” Biden told MSNBC. “The defense of Israel is still critical. So, there’s no red line where I’m going to cut off all weapons so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them.”

But Netanyahu told Axel Springer his only “red line” is to make sure Israel never goes through another attack like the one his country experienced on October 7—when Hamas killed 1,200 people in Southern Israel and took hundreds of hostages, some of which still remain in its custody.

So far, cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt, Qatar, and the USA , despite earlier hope for a pause to hostilities by the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.

Research contact: @HuffPost

The New York Times sues OpenAI and Microsoft for ‘training’ their AI using its articles

December 28, 2023

The New York Times has sued Microsoft and OpenAI for using its content to help develop artificial intelligence services, in a sign of the increasingly fraught relationship between the media and a technology that could upend the news industry, reports Fortune Magazine.

The technology firms relied on millions of copyrighted articles to “train” chatbots like ChatGPT and other AI features—allegedly causing billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages, according to a lawsuit filed in New York City on Wednesday, December 27. The Times didn’t specify its monetary demands.

Representatives from Microsoft and OpenAI didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

OpenAI has faced criticism for scraping text widely from the web to develop its popular chatbot since it debuted a year ago, and this is the first lawsuit by a major media organization challenging the practice. The startup has sought licensing deals with publishers, much like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Meta Platforms’ Facebook have done in recent years.

In July, OpenAI signed an agreement with the Associated Press to access some of the news agency’s archives. OpenAI cut a three-year deal in December with Axel Springer SE to use the German media company’s work for an undisclosed sum.

The Times lawsuit said the publisher reached out to Microsoft and OpenAI in April and could not reach an amicable solution.

OpenAI has faced multiple lawsuits from content producers complaining that their work has been improperly used for AI training. The company faces class actions from cultural figures—including comedian Sarah Silverman, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon.

The cases are still in their early stages and could take years to fully resolve. A judge in San Francisco earlier this month hinted at trimming Silverman’s copyright lawsuit against OpenAI. The judge had already narrowed a similar Silverman suit against Meta.

OpenAI is currently in talks with investors for new financing at a $100 billion valuation that would make it the second-most-valuable U.S. startup, Bloomberg News reported last week.

Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest backer and has deployed the startup’s AI tools in several of its products. In the lawsuit, The New York Times alleged that Microsoft copied the newspaper’s articles verbatim for its Bing search engine and used OpenAI’s tech to boost its value by a trillion dollars.

“If Microsoft and OpenAI want to use our work for commercial purposes, the law requires that they first obtain our permission,” a New York Times spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “They have not done so.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Threats to employees prompt Target to pull some LGBTQ-themed goods from the shelves

May 25, 2023

Target is removing some LGBTQ-themed merchandise from the shelves after threatening behavior by some customers ahead of Pride Month in June, which honors lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, reports Bloomberg.

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month,” the company said in a statement released on Wednesday, May 24. “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work.”

The threats and the company’s reaction are thrusting Target into U.S. culture wars around same-sex relationships and transgender people, which have roiled social media websites and corporate boardrooms. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Bud Light brand lost sales after engaging with a transgender influencer to promote the beer.

What’s more, Walt Disney is locked in a feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) after opposing legislation barring discussion of sexual identity in the state’s schools.

Target didn’t say which items it will remove. One product that generated criticism on social media was a “tuck-friendly” swimsuit with “extra crotch coverage” that could be used by transgender people, the Associated Press reported. While some posts on social media said the bathing suit was for kids, Target said it’s only available in adult sizes, according to the AP.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Who is Zooey Zephyr, the transgender lawmaker banned from her own House in Montana?

April 28, 2023

State Representative Zooey Zephyr became a lawmaker to make a difference, she said. Specifically, she wanted to stop House legislators in Montana from passing anti-LGBTQ bills, reports The Washington Post.

Now, the Montana legislature has voted to discipline her for her conduct on the floor of the House earlier this week. Republicans banned her from the actual House —she can only attend sessions remotely until this legislative session concludes next week.

House leadership and Zephyr have been locked in a battle since April 18, when Zephyr made a fervent plea to her GOP colleagues to reject a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender children in Montana. Republicans, who passed the bill and sent it to Republican Governor Greg Gianforte to sign, protested, saying the words Zephyr chose were “hateful.”

Since then, House leaders have not allowed Zephyr to speak in the chamber, which led to protests there on Monday, April 24.

The bill under debate, Senate Bill 99, titled the Youth Health Protection Act by its Republican sponsors, would ban several kinds of gender-affirming care for transgender children, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery needed to treat minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

The bill also would threaten gender-affirming care providers with a year-long suspension and potential legal liability. It would prohibit the state’s Medicaid program from paying for any surgical procedures or medication needed for gender-affirming care for transgender children. The state health department said earlier this year that Montana’s Medicaid program had spent nearly $1.4 million since 2015 to cover medication treatment for gender dysphoria for children, averaging about $173,000 a year, according to the Associated Press.

 Zephyr, 34, was elected in 2022—making her the first openly transgender person to be elected to the state legislature in Montana. She has said she wanted to become a lawmaker in 2021 when the Montana legislature passed three bills that restricted LGBTQ rights in one week.

 One of the bills prevented transgender people from updating their birth certificates without undergoing gender-affirming surgery. It passed narrowly (26-24).

She told The Washington Post earlier this year that she remembers thinking that if she had been in the room when the bill passed, “I could have changed that heart. I could have been the difference there.”

That was the day she tweeted that she would be running for office.

Before she was elected, Zephyr managed the curriculum and program review process at the University of Montana. The lawmaker also teaches the Lindy Hop, a swing-era dance, in Missoula. She used to play on intramural soccer teams at the university.

Zephyr told the Post that the legislation in Montana did not reflect her own experience in Missoula, where she has been embraced by her community.

“[Missoula] took care of me when I was going through my transition,” she said. “The sense of community here is magical.”

If the governor signs Senate Bill 99 into law, it would take effect on October 1.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

In races for governor, few states change control

November 10, 2022

Gubernatorial elections resulted in few changes of control on Election Day, as Democrats held off challengers in several races that polls showed could be close—including Wisconsin, New York, and Michigan—while Republican incumbents won decisively in Florida and Texas, according to the Associated Press.

Democrats also prevailed in the only two states to flip, Maryland and Massachusetts, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In Maryland, The New York Times notes, Wes Moore, a celebrity author and nonprofit executive, is projected to take back the governor’s office for Democrats after eight years under Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who has reached his term limit. Moore, who will become the first Black governor of his state, faced up against Dan Cox, a far-right state delegate.

In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey, with more than 63% of the vote as of Wednesday morning, November 9, has fended off gubernatorial candidate Republican Geoff Diehl (with 35%), the Times reports.

One of the most hotly contested races in the nation was in Wisconsin, where incumbent Democrat Tony Evers is projected to have fended off Republican businessman Tim Michels. Evers ran on a platform of investing in education and infrastructure—opposing gerrymandering and supporting abortion access—while Michels said he would do more to fight crime and touted his support from former President Donald Trump.

In New York, incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, according to the AP. Zelden gained on her in recent polls, which gave Republicans hope he could become the first candidate from their party to win statewide office in two decades as he focused on voter concern about rising crime. Hochul campaigned on her record from her year in office, including new gun-control laws, COVID-19 pandemic management, and rebate checks for taxpayers. She will become the first woman elected as governor in New York history.

Robust victories for Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott put the two men into strong positions as they both prepare for possible presidential runs in 2024, according to political analysts.

Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer defeated conservative political commentator Tudor Dixon, who criticized the incumbent for the length of COVID-19 shutdowns and pledged to expand the state’s economy and stop the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Whitmer focused on her record repairing roads and increasing education spending.

New Mexico Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, a Republican, according to the AP, in a race focused on issues including crime and abortion access.

In Maine, Democratic Governor Janet Mills won re-election over former Republican Governor Paul LePage. LePage hammered the incumbent over energy costs, while Mills touted her efforts to diversify the state’s energy sources.

Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro beat Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano in the gubernatorial race, according to CNBC. After focusing his campaign on law-and-order issues and protecting abortion access, Shapiro will succeed departing Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp defeated former State House minority leader Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, according to TIME magazine. Kemp largely ignored attacks from Trump over President Joe Biden’s win in the state in 2020 and focused on his efforts to promote business development, loosen gun laws, and open the state quickly following COVID-19 lockdowns.

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom easily won re-election, NBC reports, in the nation’s most populous state, after a campaign in which he spent much of his time feuding with Republicans and promoting liberal positions on such issues as climate change and abortion access.

Races that were too close to call in the early-morning hours on Wednesday, November 9, included Kansas and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents sought to keep their seat; and Alaska, where a Republican governor is campaigning for reelection.

Research contact: @WSJ

ADL: Hundreds of police and military officers, and public officials are members of the Oath Keepers

September 8, 2022

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials, and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released on Wednesday, September 7, reports HuffPost.

 The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies—including as police chiefs and sheriffs—and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

 It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or serving in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

 The data raise fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the USA. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

 “Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

 The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police, and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties, and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

 More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers—including Rhodes—have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

 Among the elected officials whose names appears on the membership lists is South Dakota state Representative Phil Jensen, who won a June Republican primary in his bid for reelection. Jensen told the AP he paid for a one-year membership in 2014, never received any Oath Keepers’ literature, attended any meetings, or renewed his membership.

 Jensen said he felt compelled to join because he “believed in the oath that we took to support the U.S. Constitution and to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic.” He wouldn’t say whether he now disavows the Oath Keepers, saying he doesn’t have enough information about the group today.

 “Back in 2014, they appeared to be a pretty solid conservative group, I can’t speak to them now,” he said.

 ADL said it found the names of at least ten people who now work as police chiefs and 11 sheriffs. All of the police chiefs and sheriffs who responded to the AP said they no longer have any ties to the group.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Snakes in the grass: Florida python hunt attracts 800 competitors, seeking thousands in prize money

August 9, 2022

So far, more than 800 competitors have signed on for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge in  the Florida Everglades, which began on Friday, August 5 and will continue through 5 p.m. (EDT) on August 15. The entrants are in search of invasive Burmese pythons, which they hope will bring them thousands of dollars in prize money, reports Fox News.

According to the National Park Service, Burmese pythons now are established in the park, due to accidental or intentional release of captive pet animals. Pythons eat many different kinds of animals, and studies show that pythons are probably the main reason that mammals have declined very sharply in number in Everglades National Park.

Even though pythons are large snakes, their coloring and behavior allow them to blend into the environment. Since they are so hard to find in the wild, estimating the number that reside in the park is nearly impossible. A female python can lay as many as 100 eggs a year.A

“This is significant because every python removed is one less invasive species preying on our native birds, mammals, and reptiles,” Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis told the Associated Press.

Since 2000, when the event began, more than 17,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades ecosystem, according to a news release.

Cash prizes of up to $2,500 are available in both the professional and novice categories for those who remove the most pythons, officials said. There are additional prizes for the longest python in each category. Each python must be dead, with hunters facing disqualification if they kill them inhumanely or kill a native snake.

So far, the registered hunters represent 32 states and Canada. Registrations are being accepted throughout the competition. It costs $25 to register and participants also must  complete an online training course.

Research contact: @FoxNews

‘Squid Game’ season 2 is ‘in discussions, but not confirmed yet,’ Netflix says

November 11, 2021

Netflix is eyeing a season two for its series “Squid Game”—which premiered in September and almost immediately enthralled the American audience, as well as viewers worldwide—but has yet to confirm production, reports CNBC.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday, November 9, that creator Hwang Dong-hyuk said the series would continue on the streaming platform during a screening of the show in Los Angeles on Monday.

I almost feel like you leave us no choice,” he told the news service. “There’s been so much pressure, so much demand and so much love for a second season.”

A Netflix spokesperson told CNBC that a second season of the show is “in discussions, but not confirmed yet.”

Hwang did temper expectations while speaking with reporters. He said that while he plans for lead actor Lee Jung-jae to return as the main character Seong Gi-hun, he did not know when production would begin for the project.

“It’s in my head right now,” Hwang said. “I’m in the planning process currently. But I do think it’s too early to say when and how that’s going to happen.”

The basis of “Squid Game” came from Hwang’s own family’s struggles in 2009, after the global financial crisis. The series follows 456 players, all of whom are in deep financial debt, as they risk their lives to play a series of deadly children’s games for a large cash prize.

In its first 28 days on Netflix, “Squid Game” was viewed by 111 million users for at least two minutes, the most of any other series during that time frame. The previous record-holder was “Bridgerton,” which was viewed by 82 million subscribers for at least 2 minutes during its first 28 days on the service.

Research contact: @CNBC

Carville blames ‘stupid wokeness’ for Democratic losses

November 5, 2021

Democratic political strategist James Carville blamed his party’s recent losses and weak performance in state elections on “stupid wokeness” on Wednesday, November 3, The Hill reports.

PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff asked Carville what went wrong for the Democratic Party in the Virginia gubernatorial race—in which Republican Glenn Youngkin beat former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

“What went wrong is just stupid wokeness. Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Wash. I mean, this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools. I mean that—people see that,” Carville said.

“I’s just really — has a suppressive effect all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a ‘woke’ detox center or something,” he added. “They’re expressing a language that people just don’t use, and there’s backlash and a frustration at that.”

Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy narrowly eked out a reelection victory on Wednesday—first declared by the Associated Press—another indication of Democrats’ diminishing strength in state elections.

Carville said that suburbanites in Virginia and New Jersey “pulled away” from such “wokeness.” He pointed out that Youngkin never ran any ads against President Joe Biden and suggested that the Republican candidate had simply allowed Democrats to “pull the pin and watch the grenade go off.”

“We got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws,” Carville said. “These faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what. … They’re not working.”

Carville has decried “wokeness” in the past, telling Vox’s Sean Illing earlier this year that it was a “problem.”

“Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It’s hard to talk to anybody today—and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party—who doesn’t say this. But they don’t want to say it out loud,” said Carville.

Research contact: @thehill