Oregon Standoff Ends

People await the end of the Oregon standoff.

Thomas Wagner waved a flag near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday. Credit Rebecca Boone/Associated Press/The New York Times

After 41 days, an armed standoff at a wildlife refuge in Oregon has ended. The last four anti-federalist militants turned themselves over to the custody of FBI agents after an emotional negotiation with them that lasted over an hour and was broadcast live on YouTube. David Fry, Jeff Banta, Sean Anderson, and Sandy Anderson, the last of the militants, have all now been taken into custody.

Anderson, Anderson, and Banta were the first to leave; Fry came an hour later, shouting about a lack of marijuana, “drone strikes in Pakistan, leaking nuclear plants, and ‘chemically mutating people.” The militants were taken by the FBI without incident. The group had been protesting the arrests of two Oregon ranchers for arson.

Fry proved the least willing to surrender, vacillating between thoughts of suicide and activism. “Fry said the government was refusing to listen to his grievances, which include the fact that he believes his tax dollars are funding abortions. At one point he said he had a gun to his head and was feeling suicidal; at other times, he said he needed promises of protection, and a way to control how his tax dollars were spent, before he turned himself in,” reports NPR.

Fry’s surrender, live-streamed on the internet, garnered 30,000 listeners. It was a fitting end for the militants’ endeavor, after five weeks of staying at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The militants believe that the federal government does not adhere to its own Constitution; they often referred to themselves as “patriots” or “Constitutionalists.”

The surrender was executed by Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and evangelical leader Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. On Thursday morning as the group was preparing to negotiate, Fiore called for peace, and checked to make sure the occupiers had eaten breakfast and had water. Fiore encouraged them to “lead by example,” to “stay alive so they can tell their stories.”

No one was injured in the surrender, though fellow militant LaVoy Finicum, the other occupier who was shot and killed in an altercation with the police at the end of last month.

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Man Throws Alligator Through Drive-Up Window

A large alligator on a white background.

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A Florida man was arrested this week after he was accused of tossing a 3.5 foot alligator into the drive-through window of a Wendy’s restaurant. Joshua James, 24, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill for throwing an alligator through the window in October 2015. He is also charged with illegal possession of an alligator and petty theft. James’ bail is set at $6,000, and he has been ordered not to have any contact with animals.

South Florida wildlife officer Nicholas Guerin reported that James drove a truck up to the window after 1 in the morning on October 11th. After a Wendy’s employee handed James a drink, James threw the reptile through the window and drove off. No injuries were sustained, and the alligator was captured and released.

James has admitted to throwing the alligator, which he claims to have found on the side of the road and picked up. The reptile is suspected to weigh between 20 and 30 pounds—so while it is not the largest of its kind, a person could certainly have been knocked over if the alligator had hit them. The bite of a small alligator is like that of a dog—some damage is possible, but a bite would not be life-threatening.

“He does stuff like this because he thinks it’s funny,” said James’ mother, Linda. She believes he meant no one any harm and said that he had no problem turning himself over to police. James was charged in October, but he was not arrested until this week.

“Just a stupid prank that he did that’s now turning into this. Stupid,” Linda James added.

James was also told that while he can interact with his mother’s dog, he is to limit contact with it. He is also to undergo a mental health evaluation and he is not allowed to possess any weapons.

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Atlantic Expedition Brings Back Lots of Useful Data

An illustration of the earth as seen from space.

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A scientific expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has brought back some pretty interesting finds, which could have impacts on our understanding of the beginnings of life on Earth, the search for life on other planets, and even climate change. The goal of the mission was to learn more about how rocks from the Earth’s mantle (the layer below the crust) are brought up to the ocean’s floor where they interact with salt water. The team is currently studying the samples they brought back.

The cycle of those rocks coming the “surface” of the ocean floor brings hydrogen and methane, which some microbes can “eat” for energy. This is how the expedition might help us understand abiogenesis, or the beginning of life on Earth, as the region is completely devoid of sunlight, something which otherwise forms the backbone of the food web.

Because it’s so dark and because of the pressure and other factors that make life so difficult down there, studying these samples might lead us to some ideas about how life could develop on other planets in the universe. The search for extraterrestrial life often assumes that life would only develop on planets like Earth, but the world as we know it is very different than it was when life first began.

The team is also very interested in how carbon fits into the reaction between seawater and mantle rocks. That’s because a lot of carbon ends up in the ocean, too much at the moment, but throughout the planet’s life, the oceans have sequestered carbon. So, it stands to reason, this new data might provide us with previously unknown information about how carbon sequestration works, information which might help us design better techniques and develop better policies to handle the problem of global warming.

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What People Around the World Think of the U.S. Presidential Race

A hand places a white ballot into a ballot box painted like the American flag.

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The run for the presidential office in the United States often causes quite a ruckus not just in the United States, but around the world. As one of its largest and most powerful countries, any political change or turmoil in the U.S. is likely to affect other countries. It comes as no surprise then that people around the world are watching the presidential race closely—and they have plenty of thoughts about how the race is going.

“I am happy that Trump suffered a defeat—let’s hope that this will downsize his chance, because he is dangerous…he is dangerous because someone who wants to kick out foreigners, and treats women as inferior…is unsuitable to be a president,” said Virginia Vicario, a resident of Rome.

Another Italian citizen, Velia Dipietra, said, “I like and support Clinton, but I think she is a bit outdated, partly because she is the wife of a former president, and also a woman.”

The message from the U.K. was slightly more pointed. David Lloyd, a Londoner, said, “How dangerous it would be, how appalling it would be if someone like [Trump] because president of the United States…the most powerful country in the world, in the hands of someone like that.”

Lloyd’s sentiment was echoed by another commenter, Robert Cull of Suffolk, who added, “I think unfortunately Trump could win but think it’s going to be very damaging to America’s image abroad. I think most British people would be viewing him as a bit of an extremist.”

Canada, our northern neighbor, watches nervously. “America is a friend, in other words. Even left-leaning Canadians politicians such as Justin Trudeau will tell you as much. But the face that this friend has shown us during the current presidential campaign — of naked religious bigotry, of race paranoia, of curdled nostalgia for mythologized “greatness” — is not a face we recognize or appreciate,” wrote Jonathan Kay for CNN.

Even as far away as Japan, people do not endorse Trump. “What is troubling is the way [he] and other candidates have tried to stoke people’s fears about other nations and their people as a way of collecting votes,” said Koya Ozeki. “Trump may be the most explicit and controversial in doing so, but he is by no means the only one, at either end of the political spectrum, to suggest America should be scared.”

We’ll see what the end of this year brings to the U.S. government, but the rest of the world is watching just as closely.

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Holland Considers Using Eagles to Take Down Illegal Drones

A golden eagle spreads its wings and opens its claws as if to attack.

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Dutch police are working with a bird training company called Guard From Above to see if eagles can be trained to take down drones that are operating illegally. The project is currently in a testing phase, but if the birds can be effectively trained and utilized, there’s a real chance of this super-cool tactic becoming a common practice in the country.

“For years, the government has been looking for ways to counter the undesirable use of drones,” said Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, founder and CEO of Guard From Above. “Sometimes a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem is more obvious than it seems. This is the case with our specially trained birds of prey. By using these birds’ animal instincts, we can offer an effective solution to a new threat.”

A new video from the Dutch National Police shows an eagle expertly taking a drone out of the air, without getting hurt. The raptors are being trained to identify drones and to knock them right out of the sky, taking them somewhere away from the public. Using eagles to combat illegal drones could very well be more effective than current technology, in which either the drone’s sensors need to be jammed, or it needs to be knocked down with physical force. Not so great, and certainly less majestic.

The eagle program does pose some challenges: the birds could get hurt if they catch a drone the wrong way, and knowing when and where to release them is tricky. But because eagles seem to be able to get the drones quickly and easily and whisk them away, using them in this way might be the easier, safer method in the long run.

Though they could still be injured, eagle handlers suggest that their legs and feet should give the birds enough protection in most cases. Their long, sharp talons should help give the birds enough of a grip that they can stop a plastic drone propeller. It would still be a wise endeavor to develop some other layer of protection for the raptors.

Dutch police will continue testing the eagle program for several months before any official decision on its implementation is reached.

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