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Is this a sign of the big one?
Parts of the Northwest are experiencing earthquake swarms. CNN's Dan Simon explains what the are, and what they mean.
Beatle's daughter: Blessing or curse?
Stella McCartney says having famous parents opened doors for her, but she still had to carve out her own brand.
Rare Shakespeare's First Folio found
A librarian in northern France made what may be the discovery of his lifetime when he uncovered a rare Shakespeare's First Folio in his library's collection.
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Obama uses ‘executive action’ to pardon turkey
In front of an audience at the White House Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama pardoned the sixth turkey of his presidency. The annual tradition honored two lucky birds spared from the dinner table. This year’s “free birds” are Mac and Cheese. Only Cheese was on hand for the ceremony.
“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked about executive action this month,” the president said. “Today I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority … to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.”
Both were raised at Cooper Farms in Ohio. The birds will get to live out the rest of their days on a Virginia estate.
The annual tradition has been formally taking place for the last 25 years.
The post Obama uses ‘executive action’ to pardon turkey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
8 things you didn’t know about manatees
November is Manatee Awareness Month. Celebrate by learning eight facts about the gentle sea cows. Illustrations by Ruth Tam
Manatees are the slow, lumbering, gentle giants of the aquatic ecosystem. Every November, the West Indian manatee, native to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, makes its way to Florida’s warmer waters for the winter.
The U.S.’s manatees are an endangered species floating close to extinction. Prior to 2010, there were steady gains in population over the years. Then, in 2010, a devastating number of more than 700 died. In 2013, the population winnowed down again, as 830 manatees died. With a population around 5,000, that’s nearly 20 percent of the entire species, wiped out in a single year.
In 1979, then-Florida Governor Bob Graham designated November as Manatee Awareness Month. Every governor of the state since has renewed the proclamation.
1. Manatees can swim as far north as Cape Cod.
While most manatees spend the summer months in the Gulf of Mexico, some vacation all the way up in Cape Cod waters.
In 2009, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s manatee rescue coordinator Andy Garrett airlifted a manatee from the Jersey Shore down to Florida’s warmer waters. With water temperatures dropping, the scientists worried that the manatee wouldn’t make it far enough south to survive. Although manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, their general speed is a slow putter at three to five miles an hour. “They move like a dolphin in slow motion,” said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.
Photo courtesy of Save The Manatee Club
2. They use power plant outflows to stay warm
As marine mammals, manatees need a temperate environment to survive through the winter. Despite weighing 1,000 pounds or more, manatees do not have a continuous layer of blubber like whales to stay warm. When aquatic temperatures drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, they seek higher temperatures.
In the past, manatees sought out warm water springs. Now, many rely on a more mechanical force for heated water: municipal and private power plants. The plants pump out warm water into surrounding canals or ponds, and up to 60 percent of manatees now spend their winters clustered around power plant outflows, Garrett said.
While power plants have extended the manatees’ range of wintering spots farther north, researchers worry about the impact if those plants go offline. Manatees usually return to the same spot every winter, and could return to an inactive power plant, only to die of cold in unheated waters. Human development has also blocked the entrance to some natural springs, making it difficult for them to reach other warm waters. Garrett said that spring renourishment projects are working to restore the natural flow of water, which would provide manatees wintering sites independent of humans.
A West Indian Manatee rests in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s gulf coast. Manatees Photo by USFWS Endangered Species
3. Alligators give manatees the right of way
In Florida’s aquatic highways, “even the big 12-foot alligator will give way to the manatee,” Rose said. What does this look like? If a manatee wants to get through, it swims up to gators in its way and bumps or nudges them to move.
Unfortunately, the same tactic doesn’t work with motorboats. Nearly 60 manatees have died this year alone after being hit by boats. Although 18 Florida counties have manatee protection zones prohibiting boat access or requiring sailors to slow down, watercraft collisions are still a threat to the manatee’s survival.
4. They grow new teeth their whole lives
Manatees spend six to eight hours a day eating sea grass and other aquatic vegetation. Their food has tiny granules of sand in it, which gradually wears down their teeth. Eventually, those teeth fall out.
But you won’t see any manatees sporting a gap-toothed smile. They constantly grow molars in the back corners of their mouth. As the front teeth grind down and eventually fall out, the molars fully emerge, pushing new teeth forward.
Manatees are also anatomically incapable of using their teeth to attack. “I’ve had to have my hand in a manatee’s mouth,” Rose said, “and you have to put your whole hand in before you reach the manatee’s teeth. They’re just not capable of any form of aggression.”
5. Elephants are their closest relative
Let’s backtrack for a second. Manatees actually have enough unique evolutionary adaptations to be classified in their own order, sirenia. This classification includes one species of dugong and the three species of manatees: West Indian, African and Amazonian. The West Indian manatee lives in the United States.
But on land, the manatee’s closest living relative is the elephant. Manatees have three or four tiny nails at the end of each flipper, similar to an elephant’s toenails. They also have prehensile upper lips, a very shrunken version of an elephant’s trunk, that they use their lips to grasp and pull food into their mouths.
“It’s like two little hands in the upper lip on each side,” Rose said.
6. Speaking of relatives, the now-extinct Steller’s sea cow was the size of a small whale
The Steller’s sea cow was discovered by humans on the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea in 1741. By 1786, only 27 years later, the fur hunters living in the frozen north Pacific had hunted the sea cow to extinction. This species was part of the dugong family. They could grow up to 30 feet long, about the size of a small whale. Unlike their modern relatives, they had no teeth at all and feasted on kelp. They also could survive in cold water, which is deadly to the modern manatee.
Howard University professor Daryl P. Domning recently discovered Steller’s sea cow fossils in the sand of St. Lawrence Island. More than 30 species of sea cows have been discovered since 1977; half of those species were discovered and named by Domning and his team.
“We’re really living in a golden age of discovery of marine mammals,” Domning said. “Every year, strange new creatures are dug up.”
7. Manatees regulate their buoyancy with their lungs
Manatees’ lungs run along their spines on the top of their body. Their lungs are “like a flotation tank running along the backside of the animal,” Domning said. Using their rib cage muscles, they can compress their lung volume and make their bodies more dense.
They use this mechanism to come to the surface to breathe instead of actively swimming up and down. Even while they sleep, their rib cage muscles will relax, expanding their lung volume and gently carrying them to the surface. After they breathe, the muscles contract and the manatee effortlessly sinks back under water.
8. Humans are the biggest threat to their survival
Manatees have no natural predators or enemies. Humans can injure or kill manatees with their boats. Humans have also degraded their habitat by blocking natural springs and building up the coastline. People have also accelerated sea grass loss — now, both manatees and the environment they live in are classified as endangered.
“They’re the most docile, defenseless creature there is,” Rose said. “Man is the only real enemy the manatees have ever had. So now it’s up to us to literally save them from ourselves.”
Can’t get enough manatee? Tune in to a manatee livestream.
The post 8 things you didn’t know about manatees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Business leaders disappointed over items left out of immigration action
Many business leaders say they are disappointed President Obama’s executive action didn’t include items such as making allotted but unused green cards available for foreign workers.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration left out some of the business community’s top priorities, disappointing business leaders who might have stepped up to defend his policies in the face of Republican attacks.
Months of lobbying by high-tech businesses failed to persuade the administration to make allotted but unused green cards available for foreign workers — probably the top item on the executive action agenda for business.
And the administration only partially answered pleas to increase the length of time foreign students can stay in the U.S. before or after graduating to work in their fields. The administration announced plans to expand the program at some point in the future, but it offered no details on timing or scope.
Business lobbyists contended that these and other “asks” were fairly modest to begin with, since all acknowledged that the big-ticket items on their agenda — such as increasing the number of high-tech visas available for foreign workers — could only be done by Congress. Even so, they were deflated to find their priorities overlooked as Obama announced plans to curb deportations for 4.5 million people in the country illegally and make them eligible for work permits.
“We didn’t ask for the moon to begin with. There’s just not an opportunity for the administration to deliver the moon for us — that’s a congressional action,” said Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, which represents high-tech companies including Google, Intel and Microsoft. “But we asked for some terrestrial things, things within reach, and we didn’t see the detail we hoped for.”
A White House spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who represents the Silicon Valley, said Obama was constrained by the legal advice he received.
“There’s what you want, and what’s possible to do, and people do understand that what you might want him to do is constrained by the law,” Lofgren said.
Lofgren had been among those saying Obama could take executive action to allow businesses to “recapture” permanent resident green cards that had been authorized by Congress but never issued. Obama can’t issue green cards on his own, but business officials say that more than 200,000 that have already been authorized by Congress never have been distributed, and the administration could redistribute them.
The administration did not take that step. Instead, Obama directed the secretaries of the State and Homeland Security departments to come up with recommendations within 120 days to ensure that all the green card visas allotted by Congress get used.
A senior administration official briefing reporters on the announcement last week said the White House and Homeland Security Department had looked at the green card recapture issue but determined that the time period for issuing the visas had passed. The official said the administration hasn’t given up on taking action on the issue in the future.
With congressional Republicans vowing to try to overturn Obama’s executive actions, full-throated backing from the business community could have provided some insulation for the administration. But instead, a number of business leaders were lukewarm in their public remarks. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said in a statement that “executive actions cannot adequately fix our broken immigration system, and they raise important legal and constitutional questions.”
Among the other business-specific changes the administration made:
—Directed expanded use of a “national interest waiver” that allows green cards to foreigners with exceptional abilities.
—Announced a new program to allow inventors, researchers and startup founders to stay in the U.S. in a provisional “parole” status.
—Announced plans to make it easier for people in the U.S. on high-tech work visas to change jobs.
—Renewed previously announced promises to allow work authorization to spouses of high-tech visa holders.
In some cases, such as the planned expansion of a program allowing foreign students and graduates to work in the U.S. for a year or more, business buy-in will depend on the details of what the administration ends up announcing.
“It’s still not at a fully baked stage so I can’t say they delivered for business, but they still could,” said Bob Sakaniwa, associate director for advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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