Danish zoo kills giraffe to prevent inbreeding

inbreeding, indeed,  shame on them they should have their name of Zoo removed from them.




COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Saying it needed to prevent inbreeding, the Copenhagen Zoo killed a 2-year-old giraffe and fed its remains to lions as visitors watched, ignoring a petition signed by thousands and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal.

Marius, a healthy male, was put down Sunday using a bolt pistol, said zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions.

Marius’ plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. Before the giraffe was killed, an online petition to save it had received more than 20,000 signatures.

But the public feeding of Marius’ remains to the lions was popular at Copenhagen Zoo. Stenbaek Bro said it allowed parents to decide whether their children should watch what the zoo regards as an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.

“I’m actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn’t have had from watching a giraffe in a photo,” Stenbaek Bro said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

He said the zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, followed the recommendation of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to put down Marius by because there already were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organization’s breeding program.

The Amsterdam-based EAZA has 347 members, including many large zoos in European capitals, and works to conserve global biodiversity and achieve the highest standards of care and breeding for animals.

Stenbaek Bro said EAZA membership isn’t mandatory, but most responsible zoos are members of the organization.

He said his zoo had turned down offers from other ones to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for 500,000 euros ($680,000).

Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of EAZA membership is that the zoos don’t own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can’t sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn’t follow the same set of rules.

He also said it is important for the breeding programs to work.

Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo’s scientific director, said it turned down an offer from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Britain, which is a member of EAZA, because Marius’ older brother lives there and the park’s space could be better used by a “genetically more valuable giraffe.”

Yorkshire Wildlife Park said it called the zoo on Saturday with a last-minute offer to house Marius in a new giraffe house with room for an extra male. It said it was saddened by the killing of Marius, but “without knowing the full details it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Copenhagen Zoo also turned down an offer from a zoo in northern Sweden, because it was not an EAZA member and didn’t want to comply with the same high standards, Holst said.

“I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don’t think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don’t think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig,” said Holst.

Copenhagen Zoo doesn’t give giraffes contraceptives or castrate them because that could have unwanted side effects on their internal organs, and the zoo regards parental care as important, said Holst.

EAZA said it supported the zoo’s decision to “humanely put the animal down and believes strongly in the need for genetic and demographic management within animals in human care.”

However, the organization Animal Rights Sweden said the case highlights what it believes zoos do to animals regularly.

“It is no secret that animals are killed when there is no longer space, or if the animals don’t have genes that are interesting enough,” it said in a statement. “The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos.”

“When the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up, they are not as interesting anymore,” said the organization.

Elisa Allen, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the U.K., said Marius’ case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who “still harbors the illusion that zoos serve any purpose beyond incarcerating intelligent animals for profit.”

She said in a statement, “Giraffes rarely die of old age in captivity, and had Marius not been euthanized today, he would have lived out his short life as a living exhibit, stranded in a cold climate, thousands of miles away from his true home.”

Malin Rising reported from Stockholm, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil2015-11-08 09.44.52

On Winter Olympics’ first full day, Sochi problems aren’t gone but are partially forgotten

By Dave Sheinin February 8, 2014, 3:57

SOCHI, Russia — Suddenly, Saturday morning, there was something to do in this picturesque resort town besides compile gripes about unfinished hotel rooms. Suddenly, the venues of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the gleaming arenas along the Black Sea and the shimmering ski slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, filled with the sounds of skates scraping against ice and boots crunching on snow. Suddenly, and all through the day and night, snowsuited daredevils were flying off ramps, sequined pixies were spinning over ice and wooden sticks were slapping disks of vulcanized rubber past goalkeepers.

After so much talk of stray dogs, shower surveillance and toilet curiosities — not to mention terrorism and human-rights concerns — the attention turned, as it almost always does the day after the Opening Ceremonies, on the traditional first full day of competition, to the athletes and the games. Goodbye, #sochiproblems. Hello, #sochiolympians.

Well, actually, hold off on that goodbye.

By the end of Saturday, even as American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg was coming out of nowhere to become the unlikely first gold medalist of the 2014 Games and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were putting the U.S. within medal range with a strong performance in the first-ever Olympic team ice skating competition, Sochi’s problems proved to be alive and well.

It wasn’t merely the occasional half-emtpy arenas or the latest figure-skating scoring controversy — the latter considered by Olympics connoisseurs, with tongue in cheek, to mark the true if unofficial start to any Winter Games — that defined the first full day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s $50 billion extravaganza. There was also more bathroom humor.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Feds to Extend New Benefits to Same-Sex Couples: Eric Holder

By Pete Williams

The Justice Department on Monday will extend a new package of federal benefits to same-sex couples that Attorney General Eric Holder said will give “lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law.”

In remarks prepared for a speech Saturday night to the Human Rights Campaign in New York, Holder said the new benefits will apply to gay couples who are legally married, even to those who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

The moves are the latest in a series of actions following the US Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had barred the federal government from recognizing legally valid same-sex marriages.

As a result of the new measures announced Saturday, “our nation moves closer to its ideals of equality and fairness for all,” said Chad Griffin of Human Rights Campaign.

Under the new directive, government lawyers will operate under the assumption that same-sex spouses should have the same rights in federal courts as opposite-sex couples, such as declining to testify against a spouse. That rule will apply in federal criminal and civil cases, Holder said, “even in states where same-sex marriages are not recognized.”

Same-sex couples will also receive federal death benefits and educational payments given to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic injuries or die in the line of duty.

“The federal government should stand by that hero’s spouse — no matter whether that spouse is straight or gay,” Holder said.

Inmates in federal prison who have same-sex spouses will be given the same benefits as those in opposite-sex marriages, including visitation rights and eligibility for compassionate release or reductions in sentences based on the incapacitation of a spouse.

And the Justice Department will take the position that same-sex couples should be treated equally in federal bankruptcy proceedings.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

How A Ruling On Gay Jurors Could Have A Huge Effect On The Gay Rights Movement


In the next few weeks, AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company that produces an important AIDS drug, will make a decision that could have a far-reaching effect on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, and not just those with HIV.

If the company appeals a recent court ruling and wins, it will come as a blow to those who hope to see states around the country topple the remaining barriers both to same-sex marriage and to laws that protect gay people from discrimination.

The case did not initially concern gay rights at all, but was instead a fight between two pharmaceutical giants. In 2007, a drug company called SmithKline Beecham Corp. sued a rival drug producer, Abbott Laboratories. Abbott, which later spun off its drug research activities into a new company, AbbVie, had quintupled the price of its popular AIDS drug, a move that ended up hurting SmithKline’s bottom line.

Predictably, Abbott’s decision to raise the price of its drug sparked anger and protest from AIDS activists. Still, the case may have never come to the attention of the broader gay rights community if not for an attempt by Abbott to tilt the jury’s makeup in its favor: In 2011, a lawyer for Abbott dismissed a potential juror who had revealed he was gay and had friends with HIV. SmithKline argued that the removal was discriminatory, and last week the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

In the unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel called the exclusion of gay jurors unconstitutional. The reach of this ruling goes beyond gay jurors, however, because it touches on one of the most significant legal questions concerning gay rights today: Should laws related to sexual orientation be subject to “heightened scrutiny”?

Over the last several decades, the Supreme Court has developed a three-tiered system for classifying alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which says that states can’t deny people equal protection of the laws. When the Court classifies a case as deserving of “heightened scrutiny,” it falls to the state to prove that its laws serve an important state interest. Until recently, the court has reserved this level of scrutiny for cases involving race and gender. But that’s changing.

In Nevada, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently reviewing a lawsuit that aims to strike down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. And it’s not looking good for opponents of same-sex marriage, thanks to the court’s recent decision in the Abbott case. As Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto acknowledged in a statement last week, the state’s earlier arguments for banning same-sex marriage may not hold up in a court that applies heightened scrutiny and requires the state to justify its laws.

“After careful review,” Masto’s statement read, “these arguments are likely no longer tenable.”

The state has not yet indicated whether it plans to pull out of the case entirely and refuse to defend the law, as the Obama administration did last year when the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. But this week, Alan Glover, an official in Carson City who was named in the lawsuit for denying the plaintiffs a marriage license, appears to have done just that.

“We don’t feel that we have a legal argument to meet the heightened scrutiny,” Neil Rombardo, the District Attorney for Carson City, told The Huffington Post.

Similar marriage lawsuits are underway in Oregon, Idaho and Arizona, all of which fall under the 9th Circuit’s domain, and gay rights advocates are closely watching these cases too. But the battle over heightened scrutiny is far from settled. AbbVie has until the beginning of March to announce whether or not it will appeal the ruling in its case.

If it does, it would be asking the 9th Court not only to rule that it is acceptable to exclude gay citizens from jury service, but also to make it more difficult to challenge anti-gay laws.

“If such an anti-gay assault by Abbott were successful, the drive for LGBT equality will still proceed, but Abbott would have made it a much more steep hill to climb,” said Jon Davidson, the legal director at Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy group handling the case against Nevada’s gay marriage ban.

AbbVie declined to comment on whether it would take these issues into account when making its decision about appealing the ruling. “We are reviewing the opinion and evaluating our options,” said Adelle M. Infante, a representative for the company.

AIDS activists have long protested AbbVie for raising the prices of its immunodeficiency drugs, but if the company seeks an appeal there may be a stronger and more widespread blowback from the LGBT community.

Brian Moulton, the head of the legal team of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, said he was keeping a close eye on AbbVie’s actions. Each year, HRC puts together a widely read index that ranks companies on LGBT issues. “One of the criteria in that rating system is whether or not a company takes a position in litigation that’s adverse to the LGBT community,” Moulton said.

If AbbVie does appeal, and succeeds, Moulton says, “it would be tremendously problematic.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Problems at Sochi Reflect Problems in Russia

By David Francis
The Fiscal Times
February 7, 2014

The 2014 Olympic Games began in Sochi yesterday, with athletes taking part in preliminary heats in snowboarding, skiing and figure skating. But ahead of today’s opening ceremonies, the majority of attention is not on the athletes, but on Sochi itself.

Olympic host cities are always under scrutiny. The 2012 Summer Games in London were thought to be unsafe because of security failures, but they turned out to be among the most successful in history. The problems that Sochi has already revealed, however, go far beyond grumblings.

Related:  The Ruthless Terrorists Targeting the Winter Olympics

Hotels are unfinished; stray dogs are roaming the streets; ski and snowboard jumps are too steep and have already caused one participant to injure himself in a crash that forced him to withdraw; venues aren’t finished; and plumbing in some sinks and toilets isn’t working.

Russian officials, for their part, are in denial over the problems, going as far as to blame Western media for the problems.

“We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparation, told a Wall Street Journal reporter Wednesday, but was pulled away before he could be asked why there are surveillance cameras in hotel rooms.

Vladimir Yakunin, president of the national rail operator Russian Railways, the company that build much of Sochi’s infrastructure, also blamed the West.

Related:  Olympics – How Safe Will American Athletes Be at Sochi?

“I’m very offended that the closer we get to the opening of the Olympics, the more hysteria around Russia becomes inflamed in the Western media,” Yakunin wrote in a blog post Thursday, defending his firm’s work. “There’s not a word about the quality of the Olympic facilities, about the fact that the level of readiness of the Olympic infrastructure has no analogues in the world.”

The games are supposed to announce Russia’s return to superpower status and cement President Vladimir Putin’s legacy as one of Russia’s great leaders. Instead, the problems already uncovered in Sochi reveal many of Russia’s weaknesses. They are the same problems that plague Russia; a flashy, new exterior meant to project power but hiding an array of underlying problems.

Massive Corruption: Russia spent $50 billion on the games, making them the most expensive in history (to put that in perspective, 8 of the 14 former Soviet republicans – Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Latvia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan – all have GDPs smaller than that amount). Yet evidence is mounting that the companies paid to work on Sochi, which was a small resort town before the investment, didn’t do what they were paid to do. A lot of the money disappeared due to corruption. According to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, some $25-30 billion of the $50 billion spent has lined the pockets of Putin’s pals.

The same fleecing has been happening in Moscow since Putin rose to power. His friends got rich through the oil business, while his opponents were jailed, exiled or worse.

Related:  U.S. Nukes – Our Turn to Catch Up to the Russians

Income Inequality: There are numerous reports on Sochi residents being displaced due to construction for the games. According to one report, a 58-year-old woman from outside of Sochi is now living in an aluminum shack because problems related to construction for the games caused her house to collapse. There are also reports of workers from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina being deported without being paid.

In Putin’s Russia, these people are second-class citizens. In a country of 144 million, just 110 people own 35 percent of household wealth in Russia. And the vast majority of this wealth is held in Moscow and St. Petersburg, while the rest of the country lives close to poverty.

Human Rights Abuses: Putin has a long record of human rights abuses, from squashing political dissent to jailing rivals. But Russia’s homophobic culture is going to be front and center during the Olympics.

Under Russian law, it’s illegal for adults to educate children about homosexuality (what this means is open to interpretation). Russian authorities have used this law in the past to target gay rights groups, often with violence. The United States is sending gay athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow as part of its official delegation to the games, putting Putin’s homophobia in the media spotlight. Speaking of the media…

No Freedom of the Press: There is no free press Russia. Outlets that oppose Putin are harassed, shut down by the government, or kicked out of the country. Some have even died under mysterious circumstances.

Unfortunately, Putin is not going to be able to limit the media at the Olympic games. Every part of the games, including Putin, the man who came up with the plan to use them as a showcase of Russia power, will be under scrutiny. If the news is bad, Putin will be powerless to stop it, and his plan to project Russian power could turn into an embarrassment.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Winter Olympics 2014: Sochi protesters arrested over banner citing Olympic Charter’s words against discrimination

Prominent LGBT activist among group censured for highlighting perceived conflict with Games’ rules
Fireworks go off over the Olympic Park at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium
By Lewis Smith

Friday 07 February 2014

One of Russia’s leading gay activists was arrested on Friday while taking part in a protest shortly before the opening ceremony of the £30bn Winter Olympics.

Anastasia Smirnova was one of four activists detained in St Petersburg on the opening day of the Sochi Games as the group photographed a banner citing the Olympic Charter’s words against discrimination. Further arrests were later made in Moscow where 10 people were arrested, two of them believed to be Swedish.

The arrests came amid international concern at Russia’s treatment of gays, especially newly enacted laws which make gay “propaganda” among minors and offence.

Calls to boycott the Games have largely been ignored but some athletes are understood to be planning to hold up six fingers when the cameras are on them to bring attention to the Olympic Charter’s Principle 6, which describes discrimination as “incompatible with the Olympic movement”.

The four protestors arrested in St Petersburg, one of them a pregnant woman, were on Vasilyevsky Island with the banner which they planned to hang from the Belinskiy Bridge when they were arrested by police.

Ms Smirnova, who last year accused the authorities of conducting a pogrom against the lesbian, gas and transsexual communities, expressed derision at her arrest.

Writing on her Facebook page while in detention she said: “Can’t write much as phones are not permitted, and they are now calling us to sign papers. Cosmic hugs to you from our police station! PS. Detention for a photo with a banner – isn’t it an amazing way to celebrate the Opening of the Games?”

The Russian LGBT network said in a post: “The activists were making photos with a banner “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter” to support the company held today all over the world.”

Ms Smirnova was later released from custody and said: “Everyone is feeling right and strong, and the support that we have is truly heartwarming.”

President Vladimir Putin defended Russia’s stance last month when he said: “We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors.”

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the Games to Russia has been widely questioned but it has insisted it has received assurances that gays will not be subjected to discrimination.

Later Turkish special forces seized an airline passenger suspected of making a bomb threat and trying to hijack a passenger plane, while demanding to go to the Winter Olympics venue of Sochi.

They said the suspect was taken away for questioning after the Pegasus Airlines plane from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov arrived in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Google takes a swipe at Russia’s ‘anti-gay’ law with rainbow-coloured doodle

Story by Sam Adams
Alongside the doodle Google ran a passage from the Olympic Charter stating that every individual should be able to practice sport “without discrimination”
Sports: Sochi Winter Olympics Google Doodle

Google has celebrated the launch of the Sochi Winter Olympics with a special doodle which takes a swipe at Russia’s controversial laws on homosexuality.

The doodle – in rainbow colours – features figures taking part in some of the Winter Games’ most high profile sports, including skiing, ice hockey, bobsleigh, and ice skating.

The rainbow flag has become a symbol of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in many countries across the world.

Underneath the search box is a quote from the Olympic Charter reading: “”The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

The Sochi Games are being held under unprecedentedly tight security in the Russian resort – while President Vladimir Putin has come under fire ahead of the opening ceremony for the country’s controversial laws on homosexuality.

Russia has banned the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality – widely seen as an attack on gay rights.

Protesters have called on politicians and athletes to boycott the Sochi Games.

Russian security services are already on high alert for radical Islamic terrorists who have launched a campaign of suicide bombings in the area in recent weeks.

America’s Department of Homeland Security has even issued a warning to all US airlines with direct flights to Russia that bombs could be hidden in toothpaste and make-up carried by passengers.

The department did not say what had triggered the alert but the warning is believed to have been issued based on new information ahead of the start of the Olympics.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Person in Custody After Trying to Climb White House Fence

By Kristen Welker

According to an official with the United States Secret Service, an individual attempted to climb the White House fence Friday afternoon, prompting a lockdown.

The person was taken into custody by Park Police and Secret Service Officers.

An all-clear has been issued.

The Secret Service official said the climber had two bags in his possession. Officers on scene declared the bags “suspicious” and called the Metro Police Deptartment’s Explosive Ordinance Division to screen them.

The security official tells NBC News that there is nothing that suggested the bags were dangerous but that this process is normal protocol.

President Barack Obama is traveling today in Michigan, where he signed the new farm bill.
First published February 7th 2014, 12:18 pm

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil

Google makes statement about Russian anti-gay law

Associated Press 1:35pst February 7, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With the Winter Games underway in Sochi, Google Inc. quietly but vibrantly added its voice Thursday to the chorus of U.S. companies speaking out against Russia’s law restricting gay-rights activities by updating its iconic search page logo to depict illustrations of athletes skiing, sledding, curling and skating against a rainbow-colored backdrop.

The company declined to comment on the new Google Doodle that appeared on its home pages worldwide, saying it wanted the illustration to speak for itself. But the logo clearly was meant as a show of support for gay rights and a rebuke of the law that bans pro-gay “propaganda” that could be accessible to minors: below the updated logo appears a two-sentence section of the Olympic charter that reads, in part, “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind.”

“Google has made a clear and unequivocal statement that Russia’s anti-LGBT discrimination is indefensible,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, whose Washington-based group has been lobbying American corporations, especially those sponsoring the Games in Sochi, to condemn the law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. “Now it’s time for each and every remaining Olympic sponsor to follow their lead. The clock is ticking, and the world is watching.”

Although Google is not an Olympics sponsor, its action came a day after three sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee — AT&T, DeVry University and yogurt maker Chobani — issued statements explicitly speaking out against the Russian law.

Google typically updates its themed daily Doodles at midnight Eastern time, but the Olympics-gay pride version made its debut in the late afternoon. While Google is not as popular in Russia as it is in the U.S., the timing meant it would be seen in Russia on Friday, when the Games’ opening ceremonies will be held. The local time in Sochi is 12 hours ahead of California, where Google is headquartered.

Google and its founders have been outspoken supporters of gay rights since 2008, when the company got involved in the campaign to defeat a gay marriage ban on the California ballot. In 2012 it launched a global workplace safety campaign, called “Legalise Love,” that it described as a call to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world. The company also recognizes gay pride season each year by customizing search boxes to turn rainbow-colored when terms like “gay” and “gay pride” are entered.

I hope we can agree or agree not to agree any to case let’s keep it all civil