Tag Archives: Texas

Should People Be Outraged By A Texas Tech Cheerleader Hunting Big Game In Africa? (Poll)

Don’t forget to voice your opinion by answering the poll questions at the end!

Kendall Jones is a 19-year-old from Cleburne, Texas, a small town about 45 minutes southwest of Dallas. When she was nine, she started following her father on his big game hunts in Africa.

Kendall quickly took a liking to the hunts, and at the age of 13, she shot her first animal: a White Rhino. From her Facebook:

“Although I had many other opportunities to shoot animals I wanted to save it for the Big 5, so the first animal I ever shot was a White Rhino with a .416 Remington!!”

Kendall poses with her White Rhino. Click to enlarge

The Big 5 Kendall mentions refers to the five African animals coveted most by hunters: the rhino, the elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the lion.

Since then, she has checked off the other four, as you can see in the pictures below.

Kendall with a Cape buffalo. Click to enlarge
Kendall, who describes her hunts as “fair chases”, with the near threatened African leopard. Click to enlarge
Kendall poses with a male lion. Click to enlarge
When this photo of Kendall with a large bull elephant sparked outrage, she defended herself by pointing out that the meat helped feed hundreds of families. Click to enlarge

Kendall’s “About” section on her Facebook page says that she’s, “looking to host a tv show in January 2015” about her hunting adventures through Africa.

Ironically, she has gained the public spotlight because of a recent online petition that has asked Facebook to, “Remove the page of Kendall Jones that promotes animal cruelty!” The petition, posted just over a week ago, has already garnered over 45,000 signatures (its goal is 50,000).

Another petition, posted to the website change.org a few days later, calls her out for using her hunting to expand her social media influence and adavance her entertainment career and asks that she be banned from hunting in Africa completely. It has nearly 3,500 signatures.

Kendall with a white springbok. She captioned this photo: “Another harvest for today. White springbok, it’s 1 of the 4 color shades of this animal! And let me tell you it’s one of my favorite kinds of meat so far!”

In her defense, Kendall argues that her hunting is about conservation. She writes,

“Controlling the male lion population is important within large fenced areas like these… Funds from a hunt like this goes partially to the government for permits but also to the farm owner as an incentive to keep and raise lions on their property.”

So while many may find what she’s doing distasteful, it’s actually not illegal. Big game hunters pay the government’s of African countries for special permits which allow them to hunt the animals.

These permits are often auctioned off, with a large portion of the proceeds supposedly going to help wildlife conservation efforts in the region. I say “supposedly” because anyone who knows Africa knows that a lot of money never gets where it’s supposed to go.

One of the biggest problems with illegal poaching is that many wildlife agents, customs officials, and government leaders are already being paid-off by wealthy and powerful mafia-style poaching rings, so it would be extremely surprising if this corruption doesn’t also exist in the extremely lucrative permit auctions.

Satao, one of the world’s most iconic elephants who was recently poached for his massive tusks. Click this image to read that story

Personally, I think killing any animal (especially one as rare and majestic as the great beasts of Africa) so you can pose with it for social media attention is a pretty selfish thing to do. Sure, certain populations (like feral hogs in Texas, for example) do a lot of damage to the environment and ought to be controlled.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people wanting to document their kills for themselves, but parading the dead bodies of some of our most threatened species doesn’t send a message of conservation and protection, in my opinion.

However, as I said earlier, it’s perfectly legal. And I’m not sure whether people being offended by the pictures is a good enough reason to remove them from Facebook (which is full of offensive content), let alone ban her from Africa.

Let me know what you think by answering the three poll questions below.

Read the original story from the Daily Mail here.

If you’re interested in knowing just how threatened these different animal species are, you can look them up on World Wildlife Federation’s Endangered Species Directory.

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Sophisticated Spacecraft: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Reusable Successful Test Flight (Video)

Last month, on May 2, SpaceX conducted a test flight of their new Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) spacecraft. Check out the video below to see it in action.

The “rocketcams” in the video feature a shot from the nose of the rocket followed by video footage from the ground. The test flight took place in McGregor, Texas under a FAA Experimental Permit.

*The coolest part is the landing in my opinion*

This was a successful 1000m test flight of the F9R, a developing spacecraft that will have the ability to carry astronauts to and from space.

The “steerable fins” included on this spacecraft are unique and allow the rocket to carefully maneuver in mid-air to facilitate a smoother landing. These types of steerable fins have been used on smaller spacecraft by SpaceX earlier this year, but they are now incorporating them on their more important and larger crafts, like the F9R.

The successful testing of the F9R means that SpaceX may soon be sending U.S. astronauts to the ISS (right now we’re contracting Russian shuttles to launch them into orbit). Rocket development and the growth of the space industry are truly in full steam.

New Study Finds That Fake News Websites Have Made Americans 50% Dumber Since 2010

I’m really sorry to disappoint you but there’s no real study. I made it up because I thought the headline would make you more likely to read this. It’s a trick being used more and more often lately, but most websites won’t admit the lie straight off the bat like I just did.

If you use Facebook fairly regularly, chances are you’ve been conned at least once by a “satirical” website. I put satirical in quotes because what these sites do is a dagger in the side of all the real satirists out there.

The Onion, founded in 1988 in Chicago, was the first major satirical news outlet. Their stories were clearly fake, but they gained readers because the writing was clever and genuinely funny.

This shit is not the Onion. Excuse my French but it’s my job as a journalist to tell the truth as I see it, and the truth is, what these sites are doing is shit. They are exploiting ill-informed, gullible yet passionate people by intentionally generating “news” designed to take advantage of our most powerful emotions.

One of the largest of these new websites is The Daily Currant, a site that refers to itself as “The Global Satirical Newspaper of Record”.

This completely joke-free “satire” website got famous after a fake article they wrote about a New York pizzeria owner refusing Mayor Michael Bloomberg a second slice of pizza (because of his proposed ban on large sodas) made it onto the front page of the Drudge Report.

Another great example of this sleazy fake journalism is this recent story published by the website National Report. The headline: Texas to Pass “Name Your Fetus” Bill.

The article talks about a new law passed by the Texas legislature that forces women getting abortions to,

“…not only hear their fetus’ heartbeat, but must also come up with male and female baby names, speak with at least one faculty member from the local school district, and examine no fewer than 30 baby photos.”

The article also claims that any woman who gets an abortion will have to write a letter to a judge explaining her reasons for getting it, and that the judge could recommend her name and photo be published in an online abortion registry.

To a well-educated person who keeps up with government and politics, this article throws up a number of red flags pretty quickly, but to someone who is passionate about this issue and simultaneously ill-informed on it, these red flags are almost a welcome sight: they are confirmation of the belief that the Texas legislature (and conservatives in general) are waging a draconian war on women’s rights.

These political devils and male chauvinists must be exposed! This information must be shared with the world! And just like that, the lie spreads. That article is only two weeks old and already has over 3,000 shares and over 14,000 comments on Facebook.

The worst part is the 112 responses on the actual article. The moderators made sure to censor any comments revealing that the story is fake, and passionate people from both sides clash in an insane series of conversations which includes tidbits like this one:

…and this one:

These conversations may sound ridiculous to you, but go read the rest of the comments for yourself. Real people are having real conversations, feeling very real feelings of anger and hate towards one another, all based off of a fake piece of news.

There are other examples, like Empire Sports recent trolling of UFC fans, when they claimed longtime announcer and former Fear Factor host Joe Rogan would be stepping into the ring.

Just last Thursday, Empire News (Empire Sports’ parent site) posted a story with the headline: Obama Signs Bill Forgiving All Student Loan Debt.

Despite the fact that this headline may seem pretty fake to most, Empire News (like most of these sites) combines good, journalistic-sounding writing with a total lack of humor to make gullible readers mistake these supposed “satire” sites for reliable news sources. The student debt article is at 24,678 shares and 44,177 likes on Facebook already.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking, ‘Hey, if people are dumb enough to believe those fake stories, that’s their problem.’ Well, the fake sources are getting more sophisticated, and even intelligent people are falling for the trap.

Recently an article entitled “Big Hospital Finally Telling the Truth About Cancer” claimed to have obatined a “Cancer Update” e-mail from world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital. The supposed update made a number of false claims about cancer (like “everyone has cancer cells”), but cleverly mixed in some legitimate elements of holistic treatment, like carefully monitoring your diet.

The result? 634,366 likes, 474,147 shares and 335,023 comments on Facebook, as well as 6,012 shares on Twitter and 6,416 on Pinterest (the website has since removed the article).

And this doesn’t account for the hundreds of sites that re-posted the fake information on their own pages. I even considered posting about it on here until I read all of the overly bold claims it made.

It took a snopes.com debunking and an open letter on Johns Hopkins official website to stop the infection, though a lot of damage has already been done.

With more and more people gaining access to modern technology, we get an increasingly large amount of our information from social media, relying on others to share good, reliable stories so we don’t have to find them ourselves.

Worsening the problem, a Washington Post survey from March found that,

“roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week.”

Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat (which measures realtime traffic for sites like Upworthy), recently added,

“We’ve found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading [the content].”

Image courtesy of The Guardian

These websites know that most people never even put in the time to read an article, let alone investigate its accuracy, so they design their articles specifically to push our most sensitive buttons.

The admins of some of these sites are making $100,000+ a year selling ad space on their sites, and the minimal amount of writing they do is all, quite literally, a bunch of made up shit.

Social media has been great in terms of increasing the voice of the individual and helping to break some of the media monopoly that was built during the rise of television, but it has also had the unintended consequence of increasing the amount of false info out there.

So how do we fight this growing monster of lies and targeted misinformation? Well, there’s a few things we have to stop doing on Facebook.

First off, if a headline catches your eye because it seems unbelievable, chances are it probably is. Don’t let your desire for the story to be true override your logic and skepticism.

If you are skeptical about a claim, try searching key phrases from the article on Google, adding the word “fake” or “satire”. People call out these stories for being false pretty early on, but you usually won’t find the debunkings on social media.

But by far the single most important thing you can do is to STOP sharing, commenting on or even liking links unless you are willing to vouch for what is in them. Don’t let others judge credibility for you.

With major media outlets become increasingly more like the tabloids in their sensationalist journalism, it’s going to be up to us, the individuals, to demand credibility and accountability from our news sources.

Otherwise, we may soon live in a world so saturated with falsehoods that the truth will become virtually impossible to extract.

NOTE: All of the specific stats on social media shares came from sharedcount.com. You can use this site to check the total number of shares for any public web address.

Brilliant New Treatment Uses Targeted Nano-Particles to Blow Up Cancer Cells and Deliver Drugs

Two years ago, researchers at Rice University began working on an innovative, unique way to treat particularly aggressive forms of cancer (like head, neck or brain cancer), which are often resistant to both drugs and chemotherapy.

To make the problem worse, cancerous tissue is often interlaced with healthy tissue, making it difficult to remove all of the cancer through surgery.

Rice professor and researcher Dmitri Lapotko

So a team of researchers, led by Biochemistry and Cell Biology professor Dmitri Lapotko, designed an ingenious 3-step treatment that will allow doctors and oncologists to treat these difficult cancers in a new way.

The process is known as quadrapeutics because of its use of four components: encapsulated drugs, colloidal gold nanoparticles, short laser pulses and X-rays. The success of the new procedure’s first preclinical trials was recently published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The quadrapeutics logo

In the first step, a proven cancer drug is encapsulated and then tagged with an antibody that specifically targets cancer cells. Because of this antibody, the drugs will cluster around the cancer cells.

The second step involves colloidal gold nano-particles. A colloidal is basically a liquid or gel which allows the microscopic gold particles to travel smoothly through the bloodstream.

These nano-particles are also tagged with cancer targeting antibodies, so when a cancerous cell is found, the antibody on the colloidal will latch onto the cell and inject the envelope of gold nano-particles into it, as is illustrated below.

In the third step, infrared laser pulses are delivered to the tumor. This laser pulse causes the colloidal gel that encases the gold nano-particles to rapidly evaporate and expand into a tiny bubble known as a plasmonic nanobubble. This bubble then bursts, creating a mini explosion inside the cancer cell.

The explosion blows an opening in the cell wall, allowing the drugs that accumulated around the cell in the first step to rush inside of it.

Cancer cell with a colloidal nanobubble in it
Cancer cell with a plasmonic nanobubble in it
The same cell, after the bubble burst
The same cell, after the nanobubble burst

The final step is to aim a very low dose of X-ray radiation at the tumor. The gold nano-particles, which are still in the cancer cells, amplify the effect of the radiation within the cells, allowing the treatment to deliver high doses of radiation to the cancerous cells while exposing healthy cells to only very low doses of radiation.

The combination of all of these methods and technologies led to,

“…a 100-fold amplification of the therapeutic strength of standard chemoradiation in experiments on cancer cell cultures,”

according to Lapotko. The method was so effective that the treatment only required between 2-6% of the typical clinical doses of drugs and X-rays.

The video below explains the process more and also has awesome footage of the treatment at work. The second video delves a bit deeper into the technology of nanobubbles and gold nano-particles which allows chemotherapy to be brought into the actual cancer cells.

(h/t IFL Science)

Astronomers Just Witnessed A Massive Cosmic Explosion… 12 Billion Years After It Happened

Supergiants are massive stars with huge amounts of energy, which causes them to expand rapidly. However, all stars eventually reach a limit, after which the gravity of the core is no longer able to hold the star together.

The explosion that follows is known as a supernova (or sometimes a hypernova, if it’s big enough). As the outer portions of the star explode off, the core collapses upon itself.

Nebulas are the remnants of a supernova explosion. This is the Crab Nebula. Click to enlarge

If a star is large enough, the extreme amount of energy produced by this inward collapse forces the star’s core to release high-energy gamma particles. These gamma bursts are the most powerful event so far discovered in the universe. But just how powerful is that?

Well, in just 10 seconds, these gamma ray bursts release more energy than our Earth’s sun will during the entire 10 billion years of its expected lifespan.

On April 19th, in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, the ROTSE-IIIb telescope (owned by Southern Methodist University in Dallas) detected the rare phenomenon in a corner of the sky.

Click to enlarge

The gamma ray burst, classified as GRB 140419A by NASA’s Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, came from a supernova that happened 12.1 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang (estimated to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago).

Gamma ray burst have only recently been observed. Not only are they at extremely high frequencies, but they also have the shortest wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, making them more difficult to detect. It wasn’t until the 90s that we created a telescope with the technology to detect gamma radiation.

The discovery was published in Science Daily earlier this month. You can read the full story here.

NOTE: The feature image is an artist rendering of a gamma burst. It is, however, based on detailed scientific study of the event.

According to Scientists, China’s Air Pollution Is Causing A More Erratic Climate in The United States

A team from Texas, California and Washington recently published research which found that pollution from Asia (the bulk of which is from China), is causing more intense tornados and increased precipitation levels in the United States as well as an increase in the amount of warm air in the mid-Pacific.

This air is part of a weather system known as the Pacific storm track- many storms that end up on the United States’ west coast originate in this weather system. The warmer air being fed into the Pacific storm track due to the air pollution increases the potential for storms originating there to be larger and more violent.

A large storm in the Pacific storm track headed for the US west coast (from 2011)

Here’s Ellie Highwood, climate physicist at the University of Reading:

“Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US … The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.”

The pollution problem in China is widespread. Just last moth, their environmental ministry reported that 71 of the 74 cities monitored by the government failed to meet air quality standards.

The city of Shanghai on a smoggy day (Aly Song/Reuters)

The government does seem to finally be taking the issue seriously, however. Just yesterday, Beijing’s leadership announced that very soon, major revisions would be made to the country’s environmental protection laws, including giving environmental protection authorities power to,

“Shut polluting factories, punish officials and restrict industrial development in some areas.”

After years of rhetoric, it will be the first real change to the environmental protection law since 1989.

Read more from the Guardian here.

Highlights from Snowden’s FIRST LIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW at SXSW (+Full Video)

As part of the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival which kicked off this past weekend in Austin, Texas (my current home), organizers set up a video skype conference with NSA mass-surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden

Snowden is currently in Russia, where he was granted asylum from the US government.

Here’s a few notable quotes from that interview. The full video is at the end.

  • Snowden told attendees that they were “firefighters”, saying,

“The NSA … they’re setting fire to the future of the Internet…The result has been an adversarial Internet.”

  • Discussing the nature of the surveillance:

“It’s nothing we asked for…It’s not something we wanted.”

  • He dismissed the idea that his revelations have threatened our national security, saying,

“These things are improving national security. We rely on the ability to trust our communications.”

  • He also said that the mass monitoring actually made threat prevention less effective:

“We’ve actually had tremendous intelligence failures because we’ve been monitoring everybody’s communications rather than suspects…What did we get from bulk collections? We got nothing.”

  • He said that the checks on the power of our national intelligence community are ineffective:

“We have an oversight that could work. The overseers aren’t interested in oversight.”

  • When asked if he would do it again, he replied,

“Would I do this again? The answer is absolutely yes. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and I saw that the Constitution was violated on a massive scale.”

Here’s the full video.

Read more from Yahoo! News here.