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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 164)

Trump’s private calendar shows him at place of alleged sexual assault of former Apprentice contestant

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Clinton ally Blumenthal sought to stop publication of Russia probe book: source

Westlake Legal Group sidney-blumenthal Clinton ally Blumenthal sought to stop publication of Russia probe book: source Ronn Blitzer fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5cc549bc-0426-57c2-bdda-e187a1fc4067

Clinton family associate Sidney Blumenthal has made legal threats to the publisher of a forthcoming book featuring allegations against Democrats in connection with the Russia investigation in an attempt to stop publication, Fox News has learned.

A source familiar with the matter told Fox News that Blumenthal claimed the book – “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History,” by Lee Smith – was defamatory.

DURHAM’S PROBE INTO POSSIBLE FBI MISCONDUCT EXPANDED BASED ON NEW EVIDENCE, SOURCES SAY

“Blumenthal tried to stop it from being published,” the source told Fox News, saying the Hillary Clinton confidant sent threatening letters to Smith and publisher Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group.

Fox News reached out to Blumenthal, who did not immediately respond.

The book, which is scheduled for release Oct. 29, includes allegations about the origin of the Russia probe and the involvement of Democratic operatives with the unverified anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. The source said that the publisher’s legal team found Blumenthal’s legal claim “meritless,” and they intend to release the book as planned.

Center Street has not responded to Fox News’ request for comment.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“The Clinton machine wanted to intimidate Lee,” the source said.

Smith himself would not discuss any purported legal threats, but acknowledged opposition to the book from those in the Clintons’ orbit.

“People in the Clinton world are keen for this book not to come out,” Smith said.

Blumenthal has been linked to the Russia investigation in the past, as former Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., implied in a 2018 Fox News interview that the Clinton confidant was a key link in the chain of information that helped create the Steele dossier.

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group sidney-blumenthal Clinton ally Blumenthal sought to stop publication of Russia probe book: source Ronn Blitzer fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5cc549bc-0426-57c2-bdda-e187a1fc4067   Westlake Legal Group sidney-blumenthal Clinton ally Blumenthal sought to stop publication of Russia probe book: source Ronn Blitzer fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5cc549bc-0426-57c2-bdda-e187a1fc4067

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Make no mistake: Medicare for All would cut taxes for most Americans — Not only would universal healthcare reduce taxes for most people, it would also lead to the biggest take-home pay raise in a generation for most workers

Westlake Legal Group RQDjFIq7pmGCXx87xueiqoxTS5ratOlieR_S9Zt_dVo Make no mistake: Medicare for All would cut taxes for most Americans — Not only would universal healthcare reduce taxes for most people, it would also lead to the biggest take-home pay raise in a generation for most workers r/politics

Thanks for sharing this. I always thought I’d probably be a little worse off for his plan because me and my husband are doing pretty well and also I have excellent health insurance with my employer. I don’t give a shit. Medicare for all baby!

I used this for my current situation and also for a situation after I start a family. Both cases had me negative without the deductible. -$1800 currently and -$450 with a family. With the deductible it shows positive for both. I take this to mean that if I’m not going to the doctor then my expenses with this would be more. Right now I am healthy and haven’t needed to go to the doctor for anything

I don’t care at all. Public healthcare is the right move for this country. Not to mention tomorrow I could absolutely have any number of things wrong with me and have crazy insane bills. My parents are getting older and still have good health now but when my mom needs to go to the doctor and can’t because she doesn’t have money that would be a bill for me or her just not going. We need this.

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The week in pictures, Oct. 19 – Oct. 25

Westlake Legal Group 01_AP19295810448506 The week in pictures, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25 fox-news/world fox-news/us fox news fnc/world fnc article 6c291e42-385b-51ee-b9f7-f47206ed1340

https://a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2019/10/918/516/06_AP19295837478547.jpg?ve=1&tl=1

A man attends a Catholic Mass after a march called by religious leaders to show solidarity with the plight of Haitians in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 22, 2019. 

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

https://a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2019/10/918/516/06_AP19295837478547.jpg?ve=1&tl=1

Westlake Legal Group 01_AP19295810448506 The week in pictures, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25 fox-news/world fox-news/us fox news fnc/world fnc article 6c291e42-385b-51ee-b9f7-f47206ed1340   Westlake Legal Group 01_AP19295810448506 The week in pictures, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25 fox-news/world fox-news/us fox news fnc/world fnc article 6c291e42-385b-51ee-b9f7-f47206ed1340

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Behind The Scenes Of CDC’s Vaping Investigation

Westlake Legal Group cdc_vape-1_custom-558fcb8524f5be3039076037323a3916efdac247-s1100-c15 Behind The Scenes Of CDC's Vaping Investigation
Westlake Legal Group  Behind The Scenes Of CDC's Vaping Investigation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has mobilized more than 140 scientists and other staffers to investigate the causes of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths.

Will & Deni McIntyre/Science Source

When the first cases of vaping-related lung injuries came to the attention of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer, they knew this was a potential curveball.

Disease detectives, more accustomed to stopping food-borne illnesses or tracking the annual influenza cycle, realized that they’d need a unique approach to take on a health crisis that has so far sickened 1,604 and killed 34.

“I think it’s pulling on everyone’s heartstrings,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, during an interview in Atlanta, “because many of the individuals are previously healthy. A lot of them are young. Half of them are under 25 years old and some of them are dying.”

Given the scope and the mysterious nature of the illness, the CDC set up an incident command center to coordinate its response. In elevating an issue like this, Schuchat says the CDC has directed about 140 scientists and other staff to step away from their normal work and give their full attention to the crisis.

They are deploying “epidemiologists, communications experts and laboratory staff and our disease detectives to work on this issue, which six months ago, they were not focused on,” Schuchat says.

The CDC uses this high-profile approach to take on major new outbreaks, such as Zika, SARS and the 2001 anthrax attacks. In fact, an incident team responding to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is still at work at CDC headquarters, inhabiting the main emergency response center.

The CDC has set up a separate command center at its Chamblee campus to deal with the vaping injuries, six miles from CDC headquarters. It’s headed by Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, who is not actually an expert on tobacco or vaping.

“I’m an obstetrician-gynecologist,” she says, “so it is not about the expertise in the particular field.”

The CDC tapped her because she’s run four other emergency responses, including one for the Zika viral outbreak, which caused birth defects in the children of some infected mothers. That incident command center ran for a year and a half.

She operates out of a conference room filled with laptop computers, and her team’s mission is clear. The first step is to be aware that something unusual is afoot, “and then quickly we need to establish whether it’s happening elsewhere,” Meaney-Delman says.

In the case of vaping lung disease, that played out quickly over the summer. The first cases came to the attention of public health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin. Soon there were reports from across the country.

The next question on her agenda: What’s causing this outbreak of lung injuries?

“We’ve narrowed this clearly to THC-containing products that are associated with most patients who are experiencing lung injury,” Meaney-Delman says. “The specific substance or substances we have not identified yet, but even when we do that’s not necessarily going to help with public messaging.”

Informing and warning the public are the most potent tools at the CDC’s disposal. They can be effective even in the absence of many details. For example, the CDC was able to help people avoid AIDS even before doctors knew a particular virus was causing the disease.

As the messages about vaping hazards are getting out, the incident’s chief data scientist, Macarena Garcia, has the unenviable job of gathering data about the outbreak. Garcia has worked overseas where countries have a single health ministry to gather and collate disease information. But it’s a different story here in the United States, where data gathering happens state by state.

“It’s a very diplomatic type of experience,” she says, “because you have to have to negotiate with all the? state partners and territories to access data in a way that can be meaningful when you aggregate it nationally.”

After nearly two months of late nights spent struggling to harmonize these critical data, Garcia says the CDC is starting to get a streamlined system. It may seem like a wonky detail, but it matters a lot when it comes to understanding the details and homing in on actionable information.

Meanwhile, a team of physicians has been working to define the disease. So far, there’s no specific blood test or other clinical sign that clearly identifies people with vaping-related lung disease. That fuzziness will become more of an issue as flu season approaches and doctors will need to distinguish vaping-related lung disease from viral infections.

“Certainly, if the cause or causes of the lung injury are identified, that would advance that effort a great deal,” says Dr. Ram Koppaka, a lung specialist at the CDC who is leading the medical part of the response team.

If scientists can track down the chemical or chemicals responsible for the injury, “there might be a way to detect them in the lungs or in the blood or in the tissues or whatever,” he says.

To that end, the CDC has just started testing the fluid from the lungs of people who have suffered injury after vaping. The CDC lab will run more than a dozen tests on these lung fluids, looking for suspicious chemicals.

Westlake Legal Group vape_test-1_custom-5cfd1ede37f894b7875d071416cdb4de025d710b-s1100-c15 Behind The Scenes Of CDC's Vaping Investigation

CDC’s Dr. Jim Pirkle holds an e-cigarette attached to test base. Richard Harris/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Richard Harris/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Behind The Scenes Of CDC's Vaping Investigation

CDC’s Dr. Jim Pirkle holds an e-cigarette attached to test base.

Richard Harris/NPR

“That gives us kind of a sampling of what’s on the inside surface of the lung,” says Dr. Jim Pirkle, who is the director of the laboratory sciences division at CDC’s National Center on Environmental Health. “That’s actually very important, because we think that’s where the problem is.”

The tests are looking for a variety of natural and synthetic oils that have been observed in some victims’ lungs, as well as a class of natural compounds called terpenes. Pirkle explains that these impart flavor to the THC oil from marijuana, and may be manipulated by people who are tinkering with the products. (Some terpenes are found in turpentine).

Lab results from people who fell ill will be compared with samples from the lungs of healthy individuals, including people who vape and who smoke, to see if anything sticks out, Pirkle says.

At the same time, the CDC will put e-cigarettes and other vaping devices into their automated smoking machines, which isolate and identify the chemicals in the gases and vapor. “We’re smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes all the time,” Pirkle says, “maybe not what you’re classically thinking CDC is doing.”

While the Food and Drug Administration’s lab is is examining unused vape fluid, Pirkle notes that the fluid can undergo reactions when it is heated in an e-cigarette, and that process may be producing other chemicals, which will be detectable in the CDC tests. His labs stated the first of those tests last Friday.

“It took a while to get all those methods developed, all that interpretation stuff figured out,” Pirkle said. But, “we’re chugging on it. We’re out at 60 miles an hour.”

Schuchat, the CDC’s deputy director, says the science part of this investigation is not the biggest challenge.

“Some of the underlying factors that have brought us here are going to be very difficult to deal with,” she says. If this were simply a case of contaminated food, the CDC could identify the product and recall it from the shelves. It’s very different to intervene in an outbreak “that we believe is due to behaviors that may be quite common and products that, for whatever reason, seem to be quite risky.”

The suspicious vapes are not only risky, but hard to quit, and likely illicit if not downright illegal, depending on the state. That’s part of why she and her colleagues are reluctant to say just how long it will take to bring this frightening situation under control.

You can contact NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris at rharris@npr.org.

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Redskins moniker comes under fire before Washington’s game: ‘We are not your mascot’

Hundreds of protesters took to the Minneapolis streets Thursday before the start of the NFL game between the Vikings and Redskins at U.S. Bank Stadium to blast the name and mascot of the Washington-based football team.

The demonstrators spoke out against the Washington franchise, decrying its Native American-derived moniker as racist and degrading. The protesters chanted: “We are not your mascot!”

COWBOYS GET BENNETT FROM PATS FOR LATE-ROUND PICK

Westlake Legal Group NFL-Redskins-protest Redskins moniker comes under fire before Washington's game: 'We are not your mascot' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nfl/washington-redskins fox-news/sports/nfl fox news fnc/sports fnc article a46e9f13-a6da-52f4-9c60-5f230b13aa4c

Protesters march from Peavey Park to US Bank Stadium to protest the use of “Redskins” in the name of the Washington NFL football team, and the names of some other pro sports teams, before Washington’s game against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Minneapolis. (Star Tribune via AP)

The mascot “dehumanizes our people,” Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan told the crowd. Flanagan is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

“Let me tell you, I wouldn’t talk to [Redskins ownwer] Dan Snyder — I would make him talk to my 6 1/2-year-old little girl, who would tell him how inappropriate and racist it is to have this Washington team name,” she said. “This racial slur that he profits off of is not right.”

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Min., also denounced the nickname.

MYLES GARRETT KNOWS WHAT BROWNS HAVE TO DO TO BEAT TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS: MAKE SURE THEY’RE ‘SEEING GHOSTS’

“It’s long past to change the name,” she said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Westlake Legal Group NFL-Redskins-protest2 Redskins moniker comes under fire before Washington's game: 'We are not your mascot' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nfl/washington-redskins fox-news/sports/nfl fox news fnc/sports fnc article a46e9f13-a6da-52f4-9c60-5f230b13aa4c

Protesters, including Marcy Hart of the White Earth Nation, march from Peavey Park to US Bank Stadium to protest the use of “Redskins” in the name of the Washington NFL football team, before Washington’s game against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Minneapolis. Protesters also had signs about the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves. (Star Tribune via AP)

The Redskins name has been a subject of controversy for several years. Snyder has defended the nickname, saying it shows honor and respect to Native Americans.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM

David Glass, the president of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, said the name is an offensive racial slur. Glass is a member of the White Earth Nation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group NFL-Redskins-protest Redskins moniker comes under fire before Washington's game: 'We are not your mascot' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nfl/washington-redskins fox-news/sports/nfl fox news fnc/sports fnc article a46e9f13-a6da-52f4-9c60-5f230b13aa4c   Westlake Legal Group NFL-Redskins-protest Redskins moniker comes under fire before Washington's game: 'We are not your mascot' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/nfl/washington-redskins fox-news/sports/nfl fox news fnc/sports fnc article a46e9f13-a6da-52f4-9c60-5f230b13aa4c

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Revenge porn is being used to smear and discredit a sitting Congresswoman — Katie Hill may not be a perfect victim, but posting a naked photo of her in retaliation is a rightwing smear campaign

Westlake Legal Group Mm7AaEgQuvp-kMso8tT4KKwYQTWqYW8LUZ74QP-JgP4 Revenge porn is being used to smear and discredit a sitting Congresswoman — Katie Hill may not be a perfect victim, but posting a naked photo of her in retaliation is a rightwing smear campaign r/politics

Here’s another view. I know her work fairly well and she’s an incredibly impressive politician. But she’s lost my confidence. While I don’t care about anyone’s sex life, I do care about people exploiting their interns, and I do care about whether they tell the truth.

The allegations involved 2 affairs with young staffers. Neither are proven but one looks awfully close to being proven. That’s a deal breaker for me.

Then came her initial denial which was strong, and gave me hope this was all just another idiotic right wing hoax. However now she’s issued an apology with fuzzy wording that seems to admit one of the affairs with a junior employee. That’s two strikes.

From what I’ve seen there certainly is a possibility one of the lovers or her husband are smearing her, and if there’s a crime there I hope they’re punished appropriately.

But unfortunately it being a smear and it being true can both be true.

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MLB umpire apologizes for tweet threatening to buy AR-15 to defend Trump in new civil war

Major league Baseball umpire Rob Drake apologized Thursday for a threatening tweet in which he promised to by an AK-15 in hopes to defend President Trump from an impeachment inquiry.

Drake’s Twitter account was suspended after the threatening tweets were sent. When the account was unlocked, he wrote his apology in a series of messages.

MLB UMPIRE THREATENS CIVIL WAR OVER TRUMP IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY, PROMPTS INVESTIGATION

“I never intended to diminish the threat of violence from assault weapons, or violence of any kind,” Drake tweeted. “I know that I cannot unsay the words, but please accept my apologies.”

Drake, a 50-year-old full-time MLB umpire, posted the remarks Tuesday before deleting them. His account was deactivated Wednesday. According to ESPN, his tweet read: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL [sic] WAR!!! #MAGA2020.”

Drake was apparently reacting to the Democratic-led House closed-door impeachment proceedings.

Westlake Legal Group MLB-Rob-Drake MLB umpire apologizes for tweet threatening to buy AR-15 to defend Trump in new civil war Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox news fnc/sports fnc f7d0a223-96a8-53f0-9c96-437305925284 article

In this Sept. 13, 2019, file photo, umpire Rob Drake stands on the field during a baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals in Washington. Commissioner Rob Manfred says Major League Baseball will look into a politicized tweet by Drake that referenced a rifle and criticism of President Donald Trump.  (AP)

TRUMP SAYS HE PLANS TO ATTEND GAME 5 OF WORLD SERIES, IF IT GOES THAT FAR

He said in an initial tweet: “You can’t do an impeachment inquiry from the basement of Capital [sic] Hill without even a vote! What is going on in this country?”

“We have a political party trying to overthrow a president by lying, hiding, creating and manufacturing crimes. Where do we live? This is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! This isn’t Russia, Venezuela, Cuba,” Drake also wrote, according to separate unverified screenshots of his account activity posted by a Twitter user. The screenshots also showed that Drake retweeted messages promoting the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.

The umpires’ union released a statement on the matter.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM

“Rob is a passionate individual and an outstanding umpire,” the statement read. “He chose the wrong way to convey his opinion about our great country.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league would investigate.

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group MLB-Rob-Drake MLB umpire apologizes for tweet threatening to buy AR-15 to defend Trump in new civil war Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox news fnc/sports fnc f7d0a223-96a8-53f0-9c96-437305925284 article   Westlake Legal Group MLB-Rob-Drake MLB umpire apologizes for tweet threatening to buy AR-15 to defend Trump in new civil war Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox news fnc/sports fnc f7d0a223-96a8-53f0-9c96-437305925284 article

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Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Westlake Legal Group _dsc2653_custom-d74879a9574cc5ea03cf4b92d4b9ea9a26e92560-s1100-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

There are two kinds of elephants in Africa: the forest elephant and the savanna elephant (above), photographed this past spring in Liwonde National Park in Malawi. The Great Elephant Census found that Africa’s savanna elephant population decreased by about a third in the seven years between 2007 and 2014. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

There are two kinds of elephants in Africa: the forest elephant and the savanna elephant (above), photographed this past spring in Liwonde National Park in Malawi. The Great Elephant Census found that Africa’s savanna elephant population decreased by about a third in the seven years between 2007 and 2014.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

A few years ago, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, published the results of something called the Great Elephant Census, which counted all the savanna elephants in Africa. What it found rocked the conservation world: In the seven years between 2007 and 2014, Africa’s savanna elephant population decreased by about a third and was on track to disappear completely from some African countries in as few as 10 years.

To reverse that trend, researchers landed on a technology that is rewriting the rules for everything from our household appliances to our cars: artificial intelligence. AI’s ability to find patterns in enormous volumes of information is demystifying not just elephant behavior but human behavior — specifically poacher behavior — too.

“AI can process huge amounts of information to tell us where the elephants are, how many there are,” said Cornell University researcher Peter Wrege. “And ideally tell us what they are doing.”

There are two kinds of elephants in Africa: savanna elephants, which were counted by Allen’s census, and forest elephants, which the census couldn’t account for because that elephant lives beneath a thick rainforest canopy. Even at the level of the jungle, Wrege says, losing a forest elephant is easy to do. “Sometimes you see them, let’s say, 15 meters [16 yards] away from you and then they move 5 meters into the forest and you can’t see them,” he said. “Somehow they just disappear.”

Researchers at Cornell University have been studying the forest elephant for years, trying to figure out — like Allen did with the savanna elephant — how many there are and how fast they are being killed. Given how stealthy the forest elephants are, Wrege began to think that rather than look for them, maybe he should try something a little different: Maybe he should listen for them.

To do this, Wrege had 50 custom audio recorders made. He divided the rainforest into a grid and headed to Central Africa. His team hung the custom recorders every 23 feet to 30 feet in the treetops, just a little higher than an elephant could reach with its trunk while standing on its hind legs. And then they hit record. Three months later, they would return to the forest, locate the recorders, change the batteries, put in new audio cards, and start all over again.

As the months wore on, the recorders were collecting hundreds of thousands of hours of jungle sounds, more than any team of graduate students could realistically listen to — which meant Wrege had another problem: How could he sort through all these recordings to find the elephant voices he wanted?

Westlake Legal Group _dsc2265_custom-0f4196d370461c2408b79a254255d8c061fc8559-s1100-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

The Shire River is the largest river in Malawi. A 17-mile section of the palm-tree-lined waterway runs through the heart of Liwonde National Park. At dusk, the river becomes a gathering place for animals in the park. The river looks peaceful, but it has the dubious distinction of being one of the most crocodile infested bodies of water in Africa. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

The Shire River is the largest river in Malawi. A 17-mile section of the palm-tree-lined waterway runs through the heart of Liwonde National Park. At dusk, the river becomes a gathering place for animals in the park. The river looks peaceful, but it has the dubious distinction of being one of the most crocodile infested bodies of water in Africa.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

“In AI circles this is known as the ‘cocktail party problem,’ ” said computer scientist Josephine Wolff, who is now a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “At a party with a lot of background noise, the human brain can focus on a specific person’s voice and amplify that above all the other voices. AI can do the same thing.”

Westlake Legal Group infrasound_custom-0dcd1c215fabffc26fb914dac5fe9e8d374e4507-s800-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

To analyze sound, a subset of artificial intelligence known as a neural network needs a visual representation of a sound wave called a spectrogram. The graphic above is a spectrogram of two elephants communicating through low-frequency rumbles. The white line is the upper boundary of infrasound, about 20 hertz, below which humans can’t hear. Courtesy of the Elephant Listening Project hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of the Elephant Listening Project

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

To analyze sound, a subset of artificial intelligence known as a neural network needs a visual representation of a sound wave called a spectrogram. The graphic above is a spectrogram of two elephants communicating through low-frequency rumbles. The white line is the upper boundary of infrasound, about 20 hertz, below which humans can’t hear.

Courtesy of the Elephant Listening Project

In fact, there’s a subset of AI — something called a neural network — that is very good at this. A neural network is essentially a group of algorithms, or mathematical equations, working together to cluster and classify information and find patterns humans wouldn’t necessarily see. It is particularly good at working with images, so Wrege ran the audio through a software program that turned the recordings he had collected into spectrograms — ghostly little pictures of sound waves. He then had a company in Santa Cruz, Calif., called Conservation Metrics build him a neural network that could sort through the cacophony of jungle sounds and find elephants.

“Basically each of these ‘neurons’ in the network is determining how likely one piece of the spectrogram is to belong to an elephant call,” Wolff explains. “Neurons in the first layer have just the spectrogram to consider, and so will likely recognize things like pitch and other things it sees as defining characteristics of elephant calls.” Then the next neuron recognizes something else relatively simple, building on what has come before it, and so on.

When the network thinks it has what it needs, it makes a statistical calculation; essentially asking itself, what’s the likelihood that the pattern I see is an elephant? 50%? 80%? Until it finally gets what it wants, that elephant. The neural network started producing files with lots and lots of isolated elephant sounds.

But then an interesting thing happened — Wrege and his team at the Elephant Listening Project heard something else they weren’t expecting in all those recordings: gunshots.

Assuming the gunshots were a pretty good proxy for poaching attempts, Wrege decided to ask Conservation Metrics to build another neural network, this time to look for the sounds of gunshots. He hoped it would provide additional information about where the forest elephants were being killed and perhaps even stop poachers before they fired.

Westlake Legal Group _dsc2080_custom-854dffbf9e534d524bf6666acf5707b020c033e3-s1100-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Rangers at Liwonde have filled an entire room at their headquarters with snares, traps and machetes found inside the reserve. Traditionally, the weapons are destroyed. But at Liwonde they provide important data — the locations where the weapons were found are logged into a park management system called EarthRanger, which allows officials to identify poaching hot spots in the park. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Rangers at Liwonde have filled an entire room at their headquarters with snares, traps and machetes found inside the reserve. Traditionally, the weapons are destroyed. But at Liwonde they provide important data — the locations where the weapons were found are logged into a park management system called EarthRanger, which allows officials to identify poaching hot spots in the park.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

A technology solution

Wrege wasn’t alone in trying to find ways to marry cutting-edge technology with conservation and poaching prevention. Four years ago, a park manager named Craig Reid was navigating a slow-motion crisis at Liwonde National Park in Malawi. The wildlife reserve was on the verge of collapse: Infrastructure was crumbling, roads were washed out, people came in and out of the park to hunt, poaching was endemic, and elephants were terrorizing nearby villagers.

“I would describe Liwonde when we found it as being in a state of terminal decline,” he told me during a recent visit to the park. “Effectively what would have happened had we not intervened would be a total elimination of all wildlife over the 10-year period following.”

So Reid stole a page from big-city policing and decided to use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to see whether it could help him manage the park. He thought technology could help him uncover the secret rhythms of the place, anticipate poaching, and create an environment where the animals could safely be animals.

“When we were rugged rangers in the bush down in South Africa we would talk about the day when we’d sit behind our desks and manage the park from behind a computer screen,” Reid told me. “And that really is exactly what has happened.”

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Park manager Craig Reid works for a nonprofit called African Parks, which partnered with the Malawian government to take control of Liwonde. It was a failing park when he arrived, and poaching was endemic. “Effectively what would have happened had we not intervened would be a total elimination of all wildlife in the park over the 10-year period following,” he says. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Park manager Craig Reid works for a nonprofit called African Parks, which partnered with the Malawian government to take control of Liwonde. It was a failing park when he arrived, and poaching was endemic. “Effectively what would have happened had we not intervened would be a total elimination of all wildlife in the park over the 10-year period following,” he says.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

As fate would have it, the resurrection of Liwonde was happening right around the time that Allen, who died in 2018, was wrapping up that Great Elephant Census. If Allen learned anything from that project it was that actionable information was the key to saving the elephant and better managing parks. So his company, Vulcan Inc., created EarthRanger: an analytics program turbocharged with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

“EarthRanger was entirely customer-driven, and when I say customers here, it’s essentially the park rangers,” said Pawan Nrisimha, the director of product management at Vulcan, which Allen founded to tackle a host of these kinds of problems. “They are the ones who said, ‘OK, we are logging all our reports on paper. We need a technology solution.’ And that’s where we started.”

The idea was to take all the information park managers like Reid had both in their heads and in their daily field reports and then make it smarter.

They started by creating a real-time visualization program that would allow managers to see all the park assets on one screen: rangers, animals, helicopters and information from sensors and security cameras were all brought together in one place, just a mouse click away. The second part was providing park managers with the analytics tools they needed to manage their patrols better.

“We have things like heat maps that tell about problem areas, where there are snares and animal traps happening, where there are fence breaks,” said Nrisimha. “That allows them to respond to security problems in the park much more quickly.” The program actually produces an animation that allows operators to run incidents back, like a real-life interactive video game.

Finally, there is an artificial intelligence component. “We are trying to see how we can build artificial intelligence or predictive analytics to proactively tell the park management how to do the patrols and manage the security effort better,” Nrisimha said. The program ingests all the information and then essentially learns the rhythms of the park to offer suggestions for how to run it most efficiently.

Westlake Legal Group _dsc2954_custom-94cf45a4b30770080a0495a5e8468d59fe340764-s1100-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Liwonde field operations manager Lawrence Munro uses the EarthRanger program, which gives enforcement officials a visual representation of snares found in the park over the past month. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Liwonde field operations manager Lawrence Munro uses the EarthRanger program, which gives enforcement officials a visual representation of snares found in the park over the past month.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

At Liwonde, the EarthRanger program is housed in an innocuous-looking brick building behind the main ranger station. There are rangers in camouflage uniforms sitting at computer screens and manning the radios. It looks like the command center of a medium-size-city police department. There are flat screens on the wall, closed circuit television monitors, and two long tables with a series of computers analyzing and categorizing information coming into headquarters and running it through the EarthRanger program.

Lawrence Munro is the park’s operations manager. A key part of his job is to plan, schedule and deploy ranger patrols. EarthRanger is helping him work out the best way to do that. To get an idea of what it looks like, the screens on the wall are showing a real-time satellite image of the park. There are little elephant icons tracking GPS location signals from collared elephants and little rhino icons that track the rare black rhinos kept in a special sanctuary deep inside the park.

Munro and the park’s enforcement chief, Paul Chidyera, are moving back and forth between a whiteboard at the back of the room and the EarthRanger monitor at the front. They are focused on two specific datasets on the screen before them: the concentration of snares that have been found in the park in the past month and footprints that rangers recorded coming in and out of the park over the same period.

One of the rangers clicks a mouse, and EarthRanger moves through an animation of suspicious activity in the park over the last moon phase. The concentration of snares populates the screen: They look like little lassos and dot the area off a main road traversing the park. Munro points them out and thinks for a minute. “Let’s set up a checkpoint there,” Munro says, pointing to the intersection of two roads.

Westlake Legal Group _dsc2071_custom-41d11a92e9fc3795118ee5fa4ed89f2208dc60e5-s1100-c15 Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Paul Chidyera, head of law enforcement at Liwonde, is surrounded by some of the snares his team picks up in the park. Snaring an animal involves using a simple piece of steel wire with a loop in the middle, hung between two trees. Typically, Chidyera says, poachers will use branches to block off a regular worn path through the savanna so animals make a detour into the snare. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Paul Chidyera, head of law enforcement at Liwonde, is surrounded by some of the snares his team picks up in the park. Snaring an animal involves using a simple piece of steel wire with a loop in the middle, hung between two trees. Typically, Chidyera says, poachers will use branches to block off a regular worn path through the savanna so animals make a detour into the snare.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

“The old system was a map on the wall,” Munro said. “I still have it in my office and it’s a similar type process but you wouldn’t be able to see exactly where all your assets are,” he said, referring to the men, planes, jeeps and helicopters he has at his disposal to police the park. “You have to rely a lot more on memory, a lot more radio traffic. Here, you can do a lot more preemptive stuff because you can see the picture.”

Preemption is about anticipating where a poacher might appear, in the same way that police departments might beef up patrols in a high-crime area. While this is standard practice in policing, it really hasn’t been a focus in conservation until relatively recently. Part of the issue is one of expanse — animals, particularly elephants, roam across great distances — and rangers can patrol only a small area at a time. That tension, researchers believe, may be resolved by analytics and AI.

In Liwonde, EarthRanger’s analytics have helped Reid and his team find patterns in poaching behavior that they might have missed. It turns out that after chewing through two years of data, EarthRanger — not unlike Wrege’s Elephant Listening Project — has helped tease out a number of factors that at first blush wouldn’t have intuitively occurred to Reid’s team as playing a role in the calculus of poaching.

Weather patterns and animal movements are things they have watched for some time, but they have also found that religious holidays and government paydays have a correlation with an uptick in criminal activity in the park. Why? Bush meat is considered a delicacy in Malawi, so it stands to reason that people will put in orders for the expensive meat right after they get paid and then hunters go into Liwonde to fill the orders.

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Zione Mzakwacha, a parks and wildlife assistant at Liwonde, receives information from rangers via radio. Before EarthRanger was employed, knowing precisely where ranger teams were required a lot of back and forth on the radio. Today, managers can see where their teams are in near real time. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Zione Mzakwacha, a parks and wildlife assistant at Liwonde, receives information from rangers via radio. Before EarthRanger was employed, knowing precisely where ranger teams were required a lot of back and forth on the radio. Today, managers can see where their teams are in near real time.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

“We pick up trends; we pick up patterns,” Munro said. “It used to take a month to start to see these kinds of things emerge because everything was on paper. Now we study it intently every Wednesday because we want to deploy our guys accordingly. But you could do it daily. That’s the difference. It’s basically the speed at which you can strategize.”

Just how well this is working came into stark relief earlier this year when Chidyera, the head of law enforcement at the park, got an unexpected alert on his phone. A sensor linked to EarthRanger had detected some suspicious movement in the eastern part of the park; so he and his team set up a poacher cam — a small, motion-activated camera with a special algorithm inside that helps the camera determine whether whatever is going past has a human shape or an animal one. A few days later, the camera snapped a picture of someone coming into the park and sent it to EarthRanger and Chidyera’s cellphone with GPS coordinates.

The photo was good enough to allow Chidyera to go to a nearby village and identify the trespasser. It turned out he was a well-known poacher in the area. “When he was arrested and was confronted, he revealed all he [had] been doing,” Chidyera said. Back at the park, rangers scrolled back through the EarthRanger database and found other pictures of the same man entering the park with weapons and snares. Those photographs were submitted as evidence at trial. “He was even wearing the same clothes in some of the photographs, so it was clear he was the same guy,” Chidyera said. “He got 27 years as a repeat offender.”

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Impalas are seen in one of the savannas of Liwonde. The park, once in peril, now has some 12,000 large mammals and almost 400 different bird species. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Impalas are seen in one of the savannas of Liwonde. The park, once in peril, now has some 12,000 large mammals and almost 400 different bird species.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

It is still early for assessing Vulcan’s analytic solution for wildlife parks, but the numbers from Liwonde so far are encouraging. In the past two years, poaching in the park has plummeted. Reid says it hasn’t lost a single high-value animal in 30 months.

While all this has been going on, EarthRanger’s machine learning algorithm has been training. By the end of the year, the program will have ingested enough data to start its next phase, something called “Pre-Bang Enforcement,” Nrisimha from Vulcan predicts.

“Post-bang is you see a poacher come in and fire the shot and then you hear it, maybe because you have some sensors there,” he said. “You might be successful in that case to intercept the poacher but the animal would have been hurt.” Pre-bang is about intercepting poachers before they have a chance to do any harm.

Conservationists hope it will fundamentally change poaching as we know it.

Unraveling long-held elephant mysteries

Wrege’s use of artificial intelligence in the rainforest has been less dramatic, but no less important. The neural networks on which his forest elephant count depends are still training, so he doesn’t have a precise forest elephant count yet. He has found that trying to count forest elephant trunks depends on myriad variables: weather, where in the forest they’re listening, the season. But the AI has uncovered some unexpected things.

For example, it appears that elephants don’t go to some parts of the forest during specific times of the year. That’s important to know because it can inform the way park managers deploy their forces. “You can say OK, we know that elephants are not using this huge part of this park for these seven months,” Wrege said. “We don’t need to send any anti-poaching teams there because no poachers are going to find an elephant anyway.”

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Elephants approach a road at Liwonde. Reid says the park hasn’t lost a single high-value animal in 30 months. Thoko Chikondi for NPR hide caption

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Thoko Chikondi for NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Elephants Under Attack Have An Unlikely Ally: Artificial Intelligence

Elephants approach a road at Liwonde. Reid says the park hasn’t lost a single high-value animal in 30 months.

Thoko Chikondi for NPR

AI is also helping Wrege unravel some other long-held elephant mysteries — like whether they have a language and how sophisticated it might be. Researchers agree that elephants, like humans, are very intelligent. They have observed their complicated social systems and how they maintain long-term relationships throughout their lives. And researchers believe elephants communicate in a sophisticated way, too.

“When you look at some of the pictures of these rumbles elephants are doing, it looks very much like the picture for humans saying vowels,” Wrege said. “When you look at the spectrogram, you can see that the energy is changing from one call to the next and those very well could be different words.”

Translating those words is another natural job for a neural network. Wrege envisions a time when it will be able to distinguish the sounds of distress or danger in the calls recorded in the forest. Eventually maybe they’d be able to send out authorities in real time as soon as they hear from the elephants themselves. That may be some years away, but if you ask Wrege whether he thinks AI will save the elephant, he is unequivocal.

“I actually do,” he said. “It is definitely going to be our salvation.”

NPR’s Adelina Lancianese contributed to this report.

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Trump border wall funding plan countered by Democrat’s $3.6B reversal bill

Westlake Legal Group Budget-Battle_Latino Trump border wall funding plan countered by Democrat's $3.6B reversal bill fox-news/us/us-regions/west/washington fox-news/politics/senate/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/senate fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 1acc6a24-e690-58ca-bb0e-59d7d42bd8ba

A senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a bill Thursday seeking to reclaim $3.6 billion in emergency funds the Trump administration reallocated to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

TRUMP TOUTS BORDER WALL PROGRESS AS PENTAGON SIGNS OFF ON FUNDING TRANSFER

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the Stopping Executive Overreach on Military Appropriations Act (SEOMA) would reinstate funding for 127 military projects in 26 states and territories, including an $89 million naval base project within her home state of Washington.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last month signed off on $3.6 billion in Defense Department construction funds for 175 miles of wall on the border.

“The President’s decision to use a phony emergency declaration to take money away from our service members and their families is a gross abuse of executive power that hurts military families in my state and others, and puts our nation’s security at risk,” Murray said in a statement.

“We’re taking action to not only reverse President Trump’s reckless decision to ransack funds for critical military priorities and infrastructure projects that help keep our country safe, such as the pier and maintenance facility at Naval Base Kitsap in my home state of Washington, but also to make sure no President going forward can take reckless, harmful steps like this one.”

In August, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the government to use about $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds after that money had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit was proceeding. Trump had directed $155 million to be diverted to border facilities from FEMA disaster relief.

Co-sponsors of Murray’s bill were Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. The proposed legislation would also direct the Office of Government Ethics to review all current and future contracts related to the border wall to determine if the president, his family, or his top allies would personally profit from such contracts, or if there is any conflict of interest, the news release said.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ALL-NEW FOXBUSINESS.COM

Murray acknowledged the bill would likely not pass in the GOP-controlled Senate, but told the Kitsap Sun that there were lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who were interested in halting the border funding and redirecting it back toward the military projects. 

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group Budget-Battle_Latino Trump border wall funding plan countered by Democrat's $3.6B reversal bill fox-news/us/us-regions/west/washington fox-news/politics/senate/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/senate fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 1acc6a24-e690-58ca-bb0e-59d7d42bd8ba   Westlake Legal Group Budget-Battle_Latino Trump border wall funding plan countered by Democrat's $3.6B reversal bill fox-news/us/us-regions/west/washington fox-news/politics/senate/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/senate fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Danielle Wallace article 1acc6a24-e690-58ca-bb0e-59d7d42bd8ba

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