Drones to unleash vaccine-laced M&Ms over Democratic National Convention to save struggling ferrets

well, it’s actually Montana…

In a plot that would make Willy Wonka proud, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is deploying autonomous flying gumball machines loaded with candy to save one of North America’s rarest mammals.

When trading ships from Asia came to San Francisco to bring goods to the States in the late 1800s, they also brought something else. Rats. And unfortunately, rats with fleas bearing Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for sylvatic plague.

Over the years the bacteria has spread eastward and proven devastating to prairie dog and black-footed ferret colonies. Sylvatic plague can cause close to 100 percent mortality of prairie dogs and is 100 percent fatal in black-footed ferrets (pictured above).

Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes, “ferrets” from hereon) and prairie dogs have had a hard time of it – the plague has been bad, as well, shooting and habitat loss have taken their toll on population numbers. In 1981, ferrets were thought to be extinct. If it weren’t for the breeding of seven remaining animals in captivity, they would be gone. At present there are only 300 ferrets remaining in the United States, making them one of the rarest animals in the country.

Prairie dogchadh/flickr/CC BY 2.0
With only 300, it’s conceivable to vaccinate them individually against sylvatic plague – but alas, the ferrets are completely dependent on prairie dogs (above) for food and shelter. So the onus is to protect both animals from disease – no easy task as prairie dog colonies are spread over vast areas.

Unless, of course, one deploys candy-spraying drones to unleash a rain of vaccine-covered M&Ms. Which is exactly what the US Fish and Wildlife (FWS) is planning to do.

The specially designed drones will be able to spit out M&Ms in three directions at once and will be aimed at prairie dog population at the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana, reports The Guardian.

“We dropped the vaccine out of a bag while walking around, but that’s very hard to do over thousands of acres,” says Randy Machett, a FWS biologist. “Spraying burrows with insecticide to kill the fleas is also labor intensive and not a long-term solution. So we are working with private contractors to develop equipment to drop the vaccine uniformly across an area, rather than one hog getting to eat a big pile of them.”

The M&Ms are smeared with vaccine-laced peanut butter, which Machett says the prairie dogs find “delicious.” (Prairie dogs aren’t stupid.)

After the trials in Montana, colonies in Arizona and Colorado will also be treated to showers of the laced candy.
“It is the fastest, cheapest way to distribute the vaccine,” Machett says. “We are hopeful this oral vaccine will be used to mitigate plague sites and treat tens of thousands of acres each year. This is what the Endangered Species Act is all about – saving species, particularly those affected by human actions.”

Tags: Animals | Diseases | Montana


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Ralph Nader to Jorge Ramos: Bernie’s endorsement set Hillary up for ‘political betrayal’

While many Democrats breathed an enormous sigh of relief when Bernie Sanders took the stage earlier today to finally endorse Hillary Clinton, his speech left many questioning the authenticity of his support. Was Sanders really finally backing the presumptive nominee? It often sounded like he was touting the success of his own campaign more than he was showing support for Clinton.

In an interview with Jorge Ramos, political activist and author Ralph Nader suggested there was, in fact, a strategy behind Sanders’ endorsement, and called the speech “brilliant.”

Nader said that listing off the many promises Clinton has made on issues like student aid, immigration reform, and minimum wage, Sanders was actually making a self-serving move.

“He set her up for political betrayal, which would allow him to enlarge his civic mobilization movement after the election and after she takes office,” Nader told Ramos. “So I think it’s a very astute endorsement.”

But don’t expect him to vote for Clinton come November 8. He called her a “deeply-rooted corporatist” and “militarist” in terms of her foreign policy.

“She’s never seen a weapons system or a war she didn’t like,” Nader told Ramos.

The five-time presidential candidate (he ran once as a write-in candidate, twice as the Green Party nominee, and twice as an independent) told Ramos there’s practically no chance for a third party run at this stage of the game, and said he will likely vote for the Libertarian or Green party nominee.

“I always believe, Jorge, in voting your conscious,” Nader said. “Not tactical votes, not least-worst votes. If you do tactical, least-worst votes, you lost your bargaining power over the candidates. They never look back when you basically say to them, ‘Well I don’t like either candidate but you’re not as bad as the other one.’”


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8 grandma-approved beauty habits to adopt now

by Melissa Breyer

Behold the spunk, simplicity, and sustainability of granny wisdom..

In the book “Food Rules,” Michael Pollan writes, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” and honestly, it’s advice well suited for any number of our modern habits. Take personal care. The last few generations have seen such a deluge of synthetic ingredients in our beauty products – things that wreak havoc on our health and that of the planet. Not to mention all of the packaging, waste, transportation requirements and other assorted collateral damage that comes along with modern merchandise. So why not wind back the clocks to simpler times and heed the advice of the women who paved the way before us? It’s time to roll up the sleeves and embrace your inner granny.

1. Eat yourself beautiful

This is one of those things that sound too good to be true … but most skincare experts seem to agree with the grandmotherly directive to eat for beauty: what you eat is crucial when it comes to the look of your skin. “I tell my patients that what they put in their mouths is as important as the products they apply on their skin,” Dr. Jessica Wu, dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face tells Forbes. “Foods get digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin. If you crash diet or eat highly processed foods, your skin won’t be as strong and supple as it could be. For example, if you don’t eat enough protein, you are depriving your skin of the amino acids that go into making collagen (which makes your skin strong) and elastic tissue (which makes it supple).”Those on the “eat for your skin” bandwagon suggest eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts), vitamin C (bell peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, kale and broccoli) and vitamins A and E (almond butter, swiss chard, wheat germ, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots and cantaloupe). Plus these: 5 foods that will make your skin beautiful

2. Put a hat on it

How simple is this? Wear a hat. Protect your hair and face from sun and wind without having to slather on a lot of extra sunscreen (although you should always use sunscreen, too, says grandma).

3. Give your hands a hand

The 20th century saw a lot of women wearing gloves – from the ubiquitous dish gloves donned by decades of housewives to gloves for gardening and glamour gloves. And what a boon to hands that was; our hands are tools and sometimes it’s easy to neglect them, but putting some effort into protecting them will pay off when it comes to their more youthful appearance as you age. So, embrace gloves. Another smart tip when it comes to hands is one my grandmother taught me: Treat your hands like your face. When applying facial moisturizer, get your hands too – same goes with sunscreen.

4. Treat your face with food

Legend has it that Cleopatra owed at least some of her beauty to bathing in milk and honey. And while the practice would seem scandalously wasteful now, the idea of using small dabs of foodstuffs for cleansing and treatment is not a bad idea. While some may bemoan the idea of using food in any other way than feeding people who are hungry, the benefits of avoiding the deleterious effects of modern products can work to balance things out in the big picture. So: Oatmeal mask? Yogurt facial? Almond and brown sugar exfoliant? Yum. Also: 3 superfood smoothies to treat your skin.

5. Curl your hair with rags

In a world of blow-outs and perms and all kinds of gadgets to manipulate our hair, it’s hard to imagine what generations of women did before electronic appliances to style their locks into submission. Well, welcome to the world of rag curls. This nifty method of creating long ringlet-y curls requires no heat and the curls have enduring oomph. Watch the tutorial below.

6. Soothe your eyes with things from the kitchen

Your grandmother did not spend $100 on a small vial of miracle potion to relieve her eyes of dark circles and puffiness. Rather, she likely went to the kitchen and tried one of the old-school folk remedies that women have been using for ages. Try shredding raw potato and using it, squeezed out and chilled, as a poultice under your eyes. Also try slices of cold cucumber or chilled dampened tea bags, aloe vera and even cold spoons – no food – can work.

7. Don’t beat your brows

Many a grandma recommends a light touch when it comes to thinning the brows, and with good reason. With enough plucking or waxing, your brows may stop growing because of damage to the follicles. While this may not seem like the end of the world in your youth, eyebrows naturally thin as you age and it may be prudent to hold on to what you’ve got while you can.

8. Practice power flower

People have been employing flowers in beauty formulas for thousands of years, and while not every grandmother has necessarily foraged in her garden for petal remedies, it nonetheless feels like a solid granny habit to embrace. There is something undeniably lovely about plucking posies from the outdoors and creating concoctions that rely on the properties of flowers rather than a mix of chemicals stirred up in a lab.Good places to start? DIY Rose and chamomile face scrub and lavender deodorant. So very granny!

And the bonuses, because no good grandma advice would be complete without a few extra nuggets: Drink plenty of water, get plenty of fresh air, take a walk, and don’t forget to smile.

Tags: Beauty Treatments | Natural Remedies


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Why do dogs like to ride in cars?

It may be the wind in their hair or they could feel like they’re hunting.

dog looking out car window in a parade

Imagine the sights and the smells! (Photo: Daniel Ramirez/flickr)

The jangle of car keys or the mere sound of the word “ride” can send some dogs into paroxysms of happiness. There’s frantic dancing and joyful bouncing until the car door opens, then an ecstatic leap inside for a ride of what must seem like pure euphoria.

There doesn’t appear to be a lot of research about why so many dogs enjoy car rides, but many dog owners have witnessed the glee firsthand. Experts surmise it may have to do with things like the smorgasbord of smells or simply who’s in the car with them.

Stanley Coren, dog behaviorist and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, points out that dogs have 225 million olfactory receptacles in their noses, compared with the mere 50 million we have.

“If you crack the window,” Coren tells the Globe and Mail, “a dog gets a kaleidoscopic view of the world through his nose, as the scents are changing all the time. We [humans] are visual animals … A dog lives through his nose.”

Imagine the smells he’s picking up as you zip out of your neighborhood, past parks and restaurants, schools and businesses, and places where lots and lots of other dogs have been.

“I’m not sure they’re getting a high, per se,” Dr. Melissa Bain, a veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, tells Car and Driver. “But they are getting a lot of input at higher speed.”

Plus, it may just feel good.

dog sticking head out the truck windowSome dogs may just like the wind in their hair. (Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr)

But it may not be just the smells that dogs like when they’re in the car.

Vermont dog trainer Kevin Behan believes dogs like being in the car because it stirs up feelings of being on the hunt.

When your dog is in the car with his “pack” — the people he’s bonded with — and you’re all swaying and moving together and facing the same direction, this synchronized motion can give your dog the feeling that he’s part of a group that’s on the hunt, Behan says.

Behan explains that some dogs are so overtaken by this urge that they think the animals and objects they see outside the window are prey. Once they get out of the car, they need to get rid of all that energy:

“For some dogs the feeling can grow so strong that when their emotional or carrying capacity is exceeded, they strike at things going past. This is when the prey instinct, an automatic, hardwired reflex, takes over in order to make the kill. (We need to remember that it’s only in our mind that a dog on a sidewalk is motionless relative to the dog in the moving car. For the dog in the car, the dog on the sidewalk is moving 30, 40 or 50 mph and that’s a pretty fast prey animal.) Some dogs have a higher carrying capacity and can retain a feeling of arousal for the potential moment in the future when they will be let out of the car so as to express the internalized energy in a concrete way, such as running around, rolling on the ground, playing Frisbee or going for a hike with their owner.”

Although there could be serious hereditary instincts kicking in when your pup vaults into the backseat, the explanation might be simpler, says Dr. Brian Hare, Duke University associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Your pup likely has figured out that a car ride usually means you’ll end up somewhere interesting.

At the very least, he tells Car and Driver, “dogs associate the car with a good outcome: ‘When I get in this thing, good things happen.’ At the most they understand that they’re going somewhere.”

But the other good part? They’re just happy to be going somewhere with you, Hare says.

“If you give dogs a choice between being with a person or with other dogs, dogs prefer to be with ­people.”


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‘Welcome to Jupiter!’ NASA’s Juno space probe arrives at giant planet

By Amanda Barnett, –


NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally reaches Jupiter 01:31

Story highlights

  • Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter
  • It was launched five years ago to study the planet’s composition
  • Juno is a spinning, robotic probe as wide as a basketball court

Jet Propulsion Lab, California (CNN)NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

Welcome to Jupiter!” flashed on screens at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.
The Juno team cheered and hugged.
“This is phenomenal,” said Geoff Yoder, acting administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second).
“NASA did it again,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator.
“We’re there, we’re in orbit. We conquered Jupiter.”
“Through tones Juno sang to us and it was a song of perfection,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno Project Manager, referring to the audio signal the probe sent to indicate it was in orbit.
The Juno team celebrates at Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter’s composition andevolution. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. Galileo was deliberately crashed into Jupiter on September 21, 2003, to protect one of its discoveries — a possible ocean beneath Jupiter’s moon Europa.
“Preliminary looks are that the spacecraft is performing well ,” said Guy Beutelschies, Director of Interplanetary Missions at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the company that built the spacecraft.
Steve Levin, Juno Project Scientist, looked ahead to turning on the probe’s instruments again, after they were turned off in preparation for the tricky orbit maneuver.
“What I’m really looking forward to is getting up close and personal with Jupiter,” he said.

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The Plan to Make California Wet By Spreading Beavers Up and Down the State

 by Alissa Walker –
photo by Daniel Rose

Ending the drought in the West will require rain—not too much rain—and smarter ways to collect and store that water. But something else that can keep things moist? Believe it or not: Beavers.

According to a story in Water Deeply, a group of ecologists have a plan to help repopulate the Central Coast of California with Castor canadensis, the large beavers which once roamed the state in great numbers. (Not to be confused with their ancestors, giant beavers that were seven feet long.) The idea is that beavers are nature’s hydrologists, engineering the way that water travels through the landscape:

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.

Beavers were nearly eradicated by humans because they were interfering with our logging and fishing industries. But that’s exactly why beavers need to return. Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animals and making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.

Not everyone is a fan of the Bring Back the Beaver campaign. Ecologists can’t agree where beavers originally lived, for one, so they aren’t sure where they should be reintroduced. And they don’t want to end up with an invasive species, which is what happened in South America. But some scientists aren’t waiting around for a consensus. The Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program is taking matters into its own hands, hiring humans to build their own beaver-like structures to mimic the rodents’ beneficial environmental impact. You can join a Facebook campaign for the plan here. It sounds like a dam good idea.




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Why cereal just doesn’t do it anymore for Millennials

by Katherine Martinko

bowl of dry cereal

CC BY 2.0 Minato

We’ve outgrown the cereal marketers, in knowledge and in taste. What once appealed no longer satisfies us for a number of reasons.

There was a time when Millennials loved breakfast cereal, and that was when we were small. It was the perfect combination of sugar, crunch, and cold milk, and it was easy for little hands to prepare while parents slept in on weekend mornings – our first fond memories of culinary independence. The arrangement of boxes on the dining table made a cozy, private fort in which to eat one’s cereal in peace while examining the pictures and indecipherable ingredient lists.

Cereal, however, has lost its appeal in recent years. Millennials are no longer racing to the cereal aisle, despite now being free to buy whatever garishly colorful box they wish. According to Mintel, a global market research company, sales declined from $13.9 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2015 (via New York Times).

So what’s going on?

On one hand, we’ve got people up in arms over the fact that Mintel’s report also revealed that 40 percent of Millennials surveyed claimed cereal was “an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it” – as in, they’d rather throw something in the garbage than wash a bowl and spoon. Yes, that’s pathetically lazy and embarrassing, but surely there’s more wrong with cereal than just that.

On the other hand, we’ve got a product that just doesn’t cut it anymore as people become more aware of the importance of good nutrition. I don’t buy cereal (other than the occasional box of Cheerios for my infant to practice picking up), nor do I feed it to my kids, and it’s not because I’m too lazy to wash dishes. No, there are other reasons why cereal has fallen off my radar while grocery shopping, some of which are listed in Kaitlin Flannery’s article, “This Is Why Millennials Actually Don’t Eat Cereal,” and to which I can relate:

First, it’s not healthy enough.

It’s loaded with sugar, it’s highly processed, it contains ingredients I don’t recognize. It doesn’t fill me or my kids up sufficiently. Inevitably, after eating a bowl of cereal, we’re starving an hour later. It’s better just to eat a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal that will carry us through the morning much longer.

Second, it’s expensive.

For the big family-sized boxes, it can cost upwards of $8-10 for something that tastes like puffed air and sawdust. When that aforementioned box of Cheerios comes home for baby, it disappears in a flash because the older siblings can’t keep their hands off it. To my frugal mind, that $8 could go a lot further toward filling their tummies in the form of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, or whole wheat bread.

Third, it has too much packaging.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I pull out a finished plastic bag, shake the remaining crumbs into the compost, and cram the bag into the garbage can. The local recycling facility won’t take it, so it goes to landfill. I prefer my zero-waste breakfast options like granola (made from local oats in paper bags and maple syrup), yogurt (homemade in reusable glass jars), buttermilk pancakes, and my loaves of slow-rise bread transformed into toast with jam made from local berries picked straight into my own reusable containers.

Finally, cereal is just plain boring.

Honestly, it takes minimal effort and planning to have a far more delicious breakfast than cold cereal – and I think that’s what a lot of Millennials are discovering. (Although, in order to enjoy some of those healthier, tastier options, some of my fellow Millennials will have to get their hands wet in the sink occasionally, which may be slightly traumatizing.)


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