California’s Wildfires

Staff & Wire Reports

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2018 file photo, firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ladoga, Calif. A nationwide telecommunications company that slowed internet service to firefighters as they battled the largest wildfire in California history says it has removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the West Coast. Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says the service restrictions were removed as of Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, and include Hawaii, where emergency crews have rescued people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2018 file photo, firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ladoga, Calif. A nationwide telecommunications company that slowed internet service to firefighters as they battled the largest wildfire in California history says it has removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the West Coast. Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says the service restrictions were removed as of Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, and include Hawaii, where emergency crews have rescued people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Verizon slowed internet speed for first responders to fire


Associated Press

Friday, August 24

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A nationwide telecommunications company promised changes Friday as state lawmakers said they were shocked to learn that Verizon slowed Northern California firefighters’ internet service while they battled what became the state’s largest-ever wildfire.

Verizon said it removed all speed cap restrictions for emergency workers fighting wildfires on the West Coast and for those in Hawaii, where emergency crews were rescuing people Friday from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane. The company promised to lift restrictions on public safety customers and provide full network access when other disasters arise.

The announcement came hours before the state Assembly’s Select Committee on Natural Disaster, Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding was set to hold an informational hearing on the incident.

“Californians who depend on first responders to protect their lives and property were shocked to learn that a cellular service provider could use its pricing policies to hinder the efforts of firefighters in the early hours of the Mendocino Complex Fire,” the committee’s leaders, Democratic Assembly members Marc Levine of San Rafael and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara said in a joint statement.

They planned to examine cellular providers’ so-called “data throttling” policies and whether they imperil public safety.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department says Verizon slowed its internet communications at a wildfire command center three weeks ago, crippling the emergency communications truck’s data speeds and forcing firefighters to use other agencies’ internet connections and their personal cellphones.

The county disclosed the problem in a court filing last week supporting a lawsuit brought by 22 state attorneys general seeking to restore net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission. The filing alleges that the slowdown was caused by the FCC’s action, which allows telecommunications to slow Internet speed to selected customers.

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would require internet companies to restore net neutrality in California, requiring equal data access to all customers.

But Verizon said in a statement that “this situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court.”

Rather, the county had used up its monthly data capacity under an internet plan that allows Verizon to significantly slow service. The department bought a government high-speed wireless data plan that provides an unlimited amount of data at a set monthly cost, but the company reduces speeds if the buyer exceeds its monthly allotment until the next billing cycle.

Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden said Verizon restored full speeds only after the department subscribed to a more expensive plan.

That shouldn’t have been immediately necessary, Verizon said, because the company’s policy is to immediately remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. It blamed a miscommunication with a company representative, who instead told the county to upgrade to a more expensive package.

“We didn’t live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line, battling a massive California wildfire,” Mike Maiorana, a Verizon senior vice president, said in a statement Friday. “For that, we are truly sorry. And we’re making every effort to ensure that it never happens again.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan conference committee could advance compromise legislation Friday to reduce the threat posed by wildfires. After weeks of negotiations, lawmakers have ruled out a controversial proposal backed by California Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce liability for electric utilities when their equipment causes wildfires, but their plan could include cash to remove dead trees or other measures to make fires less frequent and less severe.

Opinion: Trump Should Plan for the Worst With North Korea

By Arthur Rizer and Jonathan Haggerty

In what has now proved to be a premature declaration, President Trump recently tweeted, “There is no longer a nuclear threat” regarding North Korea. However, satellite imagery has since revealed an expansion of a missile-manufacturing site in North Korea, and the secretary of state recently acknowledged to Congress that Pyongyang is still producing bomb fuel.

With bated breath, the world will continue to watch Secretary Mike Pompeo and Trump negotiate with Kim Jong-un. But in the event that Pyongyang’s nuclear program continues to expand, policymakers should develop a prudent defense policy that will prepare the U.S. homeland for the worst.

One such policy would be upgrading our missile defense systems — particularly ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) systems, which are designed to intercept intercontinental warheads in space after the rocket burns out. But some critics allege GMD is unreliable, and a recent report from the Government Accountability Office criticized the Missile Defense Agency for a “troubling pattern” of awarding large development contracts that do not include final costs or quantities, thereby exposing “the government to increasing amounts of risk.”

The system also “failed to deliver either of its two most recent packages of integrated capabilities on time,” and suffers from cyber vulnerabilities that place operations in “certain geographic areas at risk.”

It’s true, U.S. missile defense systems are imperfect and financially costly — the planned improvements to the GMD system would make it the Pentagon’s fourth most expensive weapons system. But the stakes — protecting potentially millions of Americans from a nuclear attack — are too high to neglect defense priorities in a world of nuclear actors. That our missile defense systems are costly and still have kinks to work out is not an excuse for failing to protect Americans from a nuclear strike.

The reality is that GMD systems currently constitute our best defense against the types of missiles North Korea would use to attack American territory.

Despite the challenges that GMD systems face, the GAO report also pointed to substantial successes. The system conducted its first successful flight test of an improved interceptor last year “when it successfully intercepted a target representative of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”

The program also upgraded its battle management and discrimination in addition to a preliminary design review for a hit-to-kill warhead, executing all of these actions “while also maintaining 24/7 availability of the system to the warfighter during a heightened period of North Korean missile testing.” Even considering these successes, there is much more work to be done.

Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) advised increasing the number of deployed Ground-Based Interceptors, the missile components of the GMD system. While the government report highlighted the missile defense system met a goal by increasing the number of interceptors from 30 to 44, it is estimated that North Korea may have up to 60 nuclear warheads with plans to increase that number. Further complicating things, multiple GBIs may need to be expended for each incoming warhead so more will need to be deployed across the United States. (The NDAA recommended deploying up to 104 GBIs at two locations in Alaska and California.) Going forward, the Trump administration should further beef up this system.

Other improvements to our missile defense systems are necessary as well.

Developing a Multi-Object Kill Vehicle would allow a single interceptor missile to destroy multiple incoming warheads instead of just one. This would drastically bolster our defense capabilities.

Still, the focus shouldn’t be exclusively on intercepting missiles during their midcourse phase (when they’re at their highest trajectory), which is aptly described as trying to “hit a bullet with a bullet.” It’s better to take out a missile on take-off. Targeting the boost phase (the period from launch until the boosters burn out) has the advantage of intercepting missiles when they are moving at slower speeds and before the warhead has separated. Options for boost-phase interceptors include air-to-air missiles on fighter planes or drones, cyberattacks or laser-mounted drones.

Future peace talks with North Korea are to be lauded, and we should all hope for an outcome of successful disarmament on the Korean Peninsula. But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Kim’s commitment to giving up nuclear weapons, and it would be a mistake to let our guard down out of optimism. Despite the challenges GMD and other missile defense systems present, policymakers should prioritize upgrading and expanding our missile shield.

In the next round of negotiations, Trump should work tirelessly for peace but prepare for the worst.


Arthur Rizer is a former police officer, a retired U.S. Army military police officer, and R Street Institute’s national security and justice policy director. Jonathan Haggerty is R Street’s justice policy manager. They wrote this for

Washington Examiner Magazine

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Trump calls for ending fentanyl shipments through postal system

by Robert King

August 20, 2018

President Trump called on the Senate Monday to take up a bill to curb shipments of illicit fentanyl through the U.S. postal system, and also drew attention to the outsize role that the powerful painkiller is playing in overdose deaths.

“It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “We can, and must, END THIS NOW!”

Who is Paul Manafort and what’s going on with him?

Trump then highlighted the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act that aims to crack down on shipments of illicit fentanyl from overseas.

Fentanyl has become a key contributor in the opioid epidemic. Of the 42,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016, more than half were due to fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin.

A recent congressional probe found that it is incredibly easy to buy illicit fentanyl from overseas. The vendors of the product solely use the U.S. postal service because it allows them easily to avoid detection and seizure, the probe found.

The STOP Act would require the postal service to install the same tracking delivery system used by private shippers like FedEx to try to identify and halt shipments of fentanyl. The bill would require foreign shipments to send electronic advance data on who and where the shipment is coming from and going to before the shipment crosses into the U.S.

“Having this information in advance will enable Customs & Border Protection officials to better target potential illegal packages and keep these dangerous drugs from entering the U.S.,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, back in March. Portman is the lead senate sponsor of the bill alongside Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

The House passed the STOP Act in June as part of a large collection of bills aimed at combating the opioid crisis.

It now awaits action in the Senate, where Trump said senators should take it up without delay.

The Conversation

Genoa bridge collapse: the mafia’s role

August 21, 2018

Anna Sergi

Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Essex

Disclosure statement

Anna Sergi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Essex provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

At least 43 people died, more than 600 were evacuated and 15 ended up in hospital in a critical condition, when a 200 metre portion of the A10 motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa, Northern Italy on August 14, 2018. The Italian government has declared a 12-month state of emergency in the region, with €28.5m (£25.5m) allocated to support those affected by the disaster.

Investigations into the collapse will look at different possible causes, including wear and tear, heavy traffic, structural flaws and other problems. The 51-year-old structure, known as “Italy’s Brooklyn Bridge”, was designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi. It has been criticised by experts who have, at different times, called for serious maintenance and risk assessments to be performed. Commentators have argued that this disaster is going to be an Italian parable, a tragic illumination of the failure of a political system.

As the usual political inferno between parties and private firms rages on, the phantom threat of mafia involvement in Italian construction has resurfaced. The region of Liguria sadly scores quite high in the assessments of mafia infiltration. In the area, Calabrian mafia clans of the ‘ndrangheta – Italy’s most powerful mafia today – have heavily invested in the construction sector, in public tenders and in the exploitation of the port of Genoa and the roads to France and to the rest of the Italian north, for the purposes of illegal trafficking.

The ‘ndrangheta in Liguria is strong and well organised. And in the Genoa disaster, there are three potential issues linked to mafia activity. First, there are doubts over the quality of the materials used for the construction of the bridge. Back in the late 1960s, when the bridge was built, the ‘ndrangheta (among other criminal groups) was already present in the territory, and already investing in the construction sector.

Corruption in construction

Since then, construction has become the core business of the Calabrian clans in Liguria, and in Genoa as well – a fact confirmed by anti-mafia prosecutors in one of the most recent investigations in the region, called Operation La Svolta (“the turning point”), which ran from 2014 to 2016.

There is no evidence that Società Italiana Condotte D’Acqua Spa – a construction group based in Rome, which built the Morandi bridge and coordinates construction and maintenance of several roads and railways across Italy – used sub-standard materials, or was mafia-infiltrated at the time when the bridge was built. But future investigations will seek to understand whether some of the maintenance works on the motorway and the bridge were assigned to disreputable contractors and sub-contractors.

Yet further anti-mafia operations have given cause for concern; specifically Operation Bellu Lavuru in 2012, which led to trials against members of the ‘ndrangheta involved in construction of an important road in Calabria. The operation also established recent and problematic connections between some managers of Società Italiana Condotte D’Acqua Spa and clans of the ‘ndrangheta, during the construction of roads.

Società Italiana Condotte D’Acqua Spa holds 31% of the association of companies managing the construction of the Terzo Valico – a high-speed railway service between Genoa and Milan, aimed at improving movements between the port of Genoa and the railways of northern Italy and the rest of Europe.

Arrests were made in connection with the Terzo Valico project, because of ‘ndrangheta clans’ alleged influence over sub-contracts in Liguria in 2016. And in March 2018, the president of the Società Italiana Condotte D’Acqua Spa was also arrested on a charge of corruption. He remains under house arrest, awaiting trial in November this year, and has since stepped down as president of Società Italiana Condotte D’Acqua Spa, which went into receivership at the beginning of August 2018.

The emergency business

Large-scale disasters can also present the mafia with opportunities to profit from crises and states of emergency: this is known in Italy as “the emergency business”. Over the past few decades, for example, mafia groups have frequently been involved in reconstruction.

When the government declares a state of emergency, it typically allocates extra funds to support the people and places affected. But in order to speed up relief efforts, the control mechanisms for reviewing bids for public contracts can be lax, which opens the door for mafia groups to become involved in the process. The mafia has also infiltrated relief systems and support funds linked, for example, to migration centres.

Given that the region of Liguria, and the city of Genoa itself, have already experienced the interference of mafia-run businesses in construction, there’s a high risk of mafia involvement in relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of the Genoa bridge collapse.

As is often the case in Italy, blaming mafia infiltration for the failure of the system poses very difficult questions related not just to crime, but also to accountability, transparency, ethics and corruption in politics. Of course, it’s easy to insinuate that the mafia contributes to risks in Italian infrastructure. But these claims are difficult to prove, and can be leveraged for sensationalist speculation and political propaganda. Nevertheless, history teaches us that the influence of the mafia must be considered when trying to make sense of disasters in the region.

BLACK VIOLIN Brings Its Classical Boom Tour to the Ohio Theatre October 8

Black Violin is a blend of classical, hip-hop, rock, R&B, and bluegrass music performed by classically trained string instrumentalists Wil Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester. Accompanied on stage by their incredible band, featuring ace turntable whiz DJ SPS, Black Violin perform as many as 200 shows a year, showcasing their distinctive sound that melds hard-hitting beats with the lush sounds of strings.

CAPA presents Black Violin at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.) on Monday, October 8, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $25-$60 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. Includes two acts and an intermission.

In December 2017, Black Violin was announced as the Turnaround Artist for Mary B. Bethune Elementary School in their hometown of Broward County, FL. Turnaround Arts, a national education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, infuses arts into struggling schools to support overall reform efforts. Founded by President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2012, the program partners schools with music instrument grants, arts supplies, professional development, musicals, and pairs each school with an artist to provide mentorship, inspiration, and support for the school’s journey in the program. Turnaround Artists include Elton John, Ed-ward Norton, and Yo-Yo Ma, among other highly acclaimed members of the arts community.

Black Violin has served as the house band for ESPN’s Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation for two years, and their track “Stereotypes” was used to promote the US Open tennis tournament.

Black Violin is currently writing and recording their next studio album, due out in 2018. The band’s most recent release, Stereotypes, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Crossover Chart and #4 on the Billboard R&B Chart. NPR praised the album and band, saying “their music will keep classical music alive for the next generation.”

Black Violin is composed of classically trained violist and violinist Wil B. and Kev Marcus, who combine their classical training and hip-hop influences to create a distinctive, multi-genre sound that is often described as “classical boom.” Black Violin has shared stages with top names, including Kanye West, Aerosmith, and Tom Petty, and has creatively collaborated with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Wyclef Jean, and Alicia Keys.

The duo composed music for the television series “Pitch” which debuted on FOX in 2016, in addition to appearances on HBO’s “Ballers,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Wendy Williams Show,” and “The Ellen Show.”

In addition, Black Violin has performed for more than 100,000 students throughout North America and Europe in the past year. The band is endorsed by Yamaha Music, and has partnered with the National Association for Music Manufacturers (NAMM) to continue their advocacy for accessible music education.



Monday, October 8, 7:30pm

Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Black Violin is a blend of classical, hip-hop, rock, R&B, and bluegrass music performed by classically trained string instrumentalists Wil Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester. Accompanied on stage by their incredible band, featuring ace turntable whiz DJ SPS, Black Violin perform as many as 200 shows a year, showcasing their distinctive sound that melds hard-hitting beats with the lush sounds of strings. Tickets are $25-$60 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000.

The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. CAPA also appreciates the generous support of the Barbara B. Coons and Robert Bartels Funds of The Columbus Foundation and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

About CAPA

Owner/operator of downtown Columbus’ magnificent historic theatres (Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Southern Theatre) and manager of the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, Lincoln Theatre, Drexel Theatre, Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (New Albany, OH), and the Shubert Theater (New Haven, CT), CAPA is a non-profit, award-winning presenter of national and international performing arts and entertainment. For more information, visit

What the grieving mother orca tells us about how animals experience death

August 24, 2018

Jessica Pierce

Professor of Bioethics, University of Colorado Denver

Disclosure statement

Jessica Pierce does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

For many weeks, news of a mother orca carrying her dead infant through the icy waters of the Salish Sea captured the attention of many around the world. Keeping the infant afloat as best she could, the orca, named Tahlequah, also known as J35 by scientists, persisted for 17 days, before finally dropping the dead calf.

This has been one of the most protracted displays of marine mammal grieving.

The grieving orca.

Among scientists, however, there remains a prejudice against the idea that animals feel “real” grief or respond in complex ways to death. Following reports of the “grieving,” zoologist Jules Howard, for example, wrote, “If you believe J35 was displaying evidence of mourning or grief, you are making a case that rests on faith, not on scientific endeavor.”

As a bioethicist, I’ve been studying the interplay between science and ethics for more than two decades. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the idea that nonhuman animals are aware of death, can experience grief and will sometimes mourn for or ritualize their dead.

You can’t see when you don’t look

Animal grief skeptics are correct about one thing: Scientists don’t know all that much about death-related behaviors such as grief in nonhuman animals. Only a few scholars have explored how the multitude of creatures with whom humans share the planet think and feel about death, either their own or others’.

But, I argue, that they don’t know because they haven’t looked.

Scientists haven’t yet turned serious attention to the study of what might be called “comparative thanatology” – the study of death and the practices associated with it. This is perhaps because most humans failed to even entertain the possibility that animals might care about the death of those they love.

Awareness of mortality has remained, for many scientists and philosophers alike, a bastion of human-perceived uniqueness.

Animal grief

Nevertheless, a growing collection of anecdotal reports of grieving and other death-related behaviors in a wide range of species is helping researchers frame questions about death awareness in animals and figure out how best to study these behaviors.

Elephants, for example, are known to take a great interest in the bones of their deceased and to mourn for dead relatives. One of these vivid ritual explorations of bones was caught on video in 2016 by a doctoral student studying elephants in Africa. Members of three different elephant families came to visit the body of a deceased matriarch, smelling and touching and repeatedly passing by the corpse.

Chimpanzees have also been repeatedly observed engaging in death-related behaviors. In one case, a small group of captive chimpanzees was carefully observed after one of their members, an elderly female named Pansy, died. The chimpanzees checked Pansy’s body for signs of life and cleaned bits of straw from her fur. They refused to go to the place where Pansy had died for several days afterwards.

In another instance, scientists documented a chimpanzee using a tool to clean a corpse. In 2017, a team of primate researchers in Zambia filmed a mother using a piece of dried grass to clean debris from the teeth of her deceased son. The implication, according to the scientists involved, is that chimpanzees continue to feel social bonds, even after death, and feel some sensitivity toward dead bodies.

Magpies have been observed burying their dead under twigs of grass. Ethologist Marc Bekoff, who observed this behavior, described it as a “magpie funeral.”

In one of the most fascinating recent examples, an 8-year-old boy caught video footage of peccaries, a species of wild pig-like animal found in parts of the U.S., responding to a dead herd-mate. The peccaries visited the dead body repeatedly, nuzzling it and biting at it, as well as sleeping next to it.

Do animals mourn their dead?

Crows have been seen forming what scientists call “cacophonous aggregations” – mobbing and squawking in a big group – in response to another dead crow.

These are just a few of the many examples.

Some scientists insist that behaviors such of these shouldn’t be labeled with human terms such as “grief” and “mourning” because it isn’t rigorous science. Science can observe a given behavior, but it is very difficult to know what feeling has motivated that behavior. A 2011 study published in Science that found evidence of empathy in rats and mice was met with a similar kind of skepticism.

It’s about how animals grieve

I agree that a large degree of caution is appropriate when it comes to ascribing emotions and behaviors such as grief to animals. But not because there is any doubt that animals feel or grieve, or that a mother’s anguish over the loss of her child is any less painful.

The case of Tahlequah shows that humans have a great deal to learn about other animals. The question is not “Do animals grieve?” but “How do animals grieve?”

Beehive fences and elephants: Tanzanian case study offers fresh insights

August 21, 2018

Katarzyna Nowak

Fellow at The Safina Center, University of the Free State

Disclosure statement

The Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (STEP), with which Katarzyna Nowak is affiliated, has received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Conservation Fund including for the beehive fence initiative. The first 50 beehives were funded by the Fauna and Flora International Rapid Response Facility; subsequent hives had support from Raleigh International. Katarzyna Nowak is currently a fellow with The Safina Center, a research associate in Zoology and Entomology at the University of the Free State (Qwaqwa campus) and on contract with the Wildlife Conservation Society-Americas Program.


University of the Free State provides support as an endorsing partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

When people cultivate food crops on or near wild lands it can be assumed that wild animals will eat them – what’s known as crop-raiding. Farms in the vicinity of protected areas can expect to be visited by a range of wild animals including birds, rodents, and large mammals like monkeys, bush pigs and elephants.

Because of their size, elephants are the most conspicuous crop-user and may, in addition to eating crops, trample farmers’ fields and break fences. Using nonlethal ways to deter elephants from farms is the most humane and effective defence long-term. But elephants are still being shot and killed, particularly if they threaten people or property.

Given that elephant numbers are dwindling, creative solutions need to be found to reduce crop losses and improve the chances of elephants and people coexisting.

Over the past eight years we have been trying to do just that. We have been collecting data on elephants – their consumption patterns and their impact on crops at a forested site in southern Tanzania. And we’ve been working with farmers to try and design ways of keeping elephants at bay.

After some failures, we imported an idea from Kenya – beehives. After five years of study we’ve published our results which show that there is indeed merit to installing fences made up with beehives to keep elephants from eating, and destroying, farmers’ crops.

What failed, what worked

One method farmers tried to adopt involved collecting and soaking elephant dung in buckets of water and spreading the fibrous mixture across their fields. The basis of this interesting idea was that elephants are coprophobic – they don’t like their own poo – and will avoid eating crops covered in their own dung.

We were unable to test the effectiveness of this approach because Udzungwa Mountains National Park introduced new rules in 2011 that banned people from collecting firewood as well as non-timber products such as elephant dung from the park.

Farmers then tried chili-oil. Cloth, soaked in used motor oil and powdered chilies, was then attached to rope fences. But heavy rains in the Udzungwa Mountains meant that the mixture had to be reapplied regularly.

Beehive fences can help reduce elephants’ damage to crops. Author supplied

Next we looked to our neighbours for a solution – beehives. These were being used in elephant conservation field programmes in Kenya and the practice was spreading to other African countries and also to Asia.

Using beehives at our site involved installing a fence between the park boundary and farms. The beehives are connected with a wire. When elephants attempt to enter fields they disturb the wire which causes the hives to swing. This in turn disturbs the bees inside the hives. Our initial short 500m fence of 50 hives was eventually extended by 600m and 87 hives four years ago.

Our findings after five years of study show that there’s promise in the approach.

Our findings

Our main finding was that the probability of elephants damaging crops was less with the construction of the short beehive fences, and even lower when the fence was extended.

We also found that as more hives making up the fence were inhabited by bees, the more elephants stayed away.

Beehive fences and elephants.

A few factors affected the success of the beehive fences. These included:

Elephants breaching the fence where hives were empty. Of the 133 fence breaches, nearly 70% were between empty hives.

Not mending damaged fences promptly.

Elephant bulls visiting farms at night, when bees are relatively less active.

The beehive fence didn’t completely eliminate elephants entering farms. But it did reduce the number of elephant visits and was well-received by farmers.

Another indicator of success was that farmers stopped calling game officers to shoot problem elephants. Farmers also formed and registered a cooperative group to manage the beehive fence and honey harvests.

The beehive fence method is spreading

The use of beehive fences is beginning to spread across southern Tanzania. And government has recently advised that beehives be used to deter elephants from crops around the Serengeti, in northern Tanzania.

Next steps should involve standardising how sites employing this method are monitored and evaluated. This could help determine the minimum effective fence length and optimal placement of beehives.

Other lessons could be learnt that might be replicated in new sites. For example, unoccupied – or dummy hives – have been shown to be effective but presumably only if elephants have already developed a negative association with occupied ones.

Finally, researching the differences in the relative nighttime activity of both elephants and honeybees across sites could also help explain differences in outcomes and inform best deterrent approaches and improvements.

Our programme has already pioneered the use of camera traps to monitor elephant activity and identify crop-using individuals in the vicinity of beehive fences. These could be used at other sites too.

Governor orders all flags in state lowered for John McCain

Sunday, August 26

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s governor has ordered all flags at public buildings and grounds in the state be flown at half-staff to honor the life and service of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.

Gov. John Kasich on Sunday evening ordered the flags lowered effective immediately through the day of McCain’s interment. The six-term senator, Vietnam War hero and prisoner of war died Saturday at his Arizona ranch after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. The date for his burial hasn’t been released.

McCain’s office website has said he will lie in state and have funeral services in Arizona and Washington. A private funeral and burial is planned at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

In a statement Saturday, Kasich described McCain as “an iconic American hero, patriot and statesman without compare.”

Labor Day Travel

More Ohioans Planning Labor Day Weekend Getaways

COLUMBUS, Ohio (August 27, 2018) – More Ohioans are planning Labor Day getaways this year, according to AAA Ohio booking data. The number of Ohioans departing during the Labor Day holiday period, Thursday, Aug. 30 to Monday, Sept.3, will be 8.2 percent higher than last year.

“More Ohioans will be wrapping up this busy summer travel season with quick weekend getaways and some longer vacations,” said Zach Fisher, director, Travel Sales for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “This will make for some crowded airports and roadways, so if you’re traveling this holiday, make sure you plan ahead and pack your patience.”

Longer, More Expensive Getaways:

Travelers will be soaking up every minute of the five-day holiday period, and some even taking extended vacations. On average, Ohioans plan on spending nearly 6 days on vacation this year, which is on par with the 2017 Labor Day weekend.

However, Ohio travelers will be spending more money on their Labor Day trips. Based on the average spend per booking, travelers will spend nearly 6.2% percent more in 2018 than during the 2017 holiday period.

Labor Day Drive Trips:

Despite higher gas prices, the majority of Labor Day travelers will drive to their destinations this weekend. Historical data shows about 85 percent of Labor Day weekend travelers drive to their destination. With most schools back in session, most holiday road trips will take place within Ohio or along the East Coast.

“We’re seeing a lot of trips to Sandusky, Ohio, which means Cedar Point, and to Cincinnati to King’s Island,” said Bill Nicol, director, Auto Travel Services for AAA Ohio Auto Club.

Other poplar Labor Day road trip destinations for Ohio travelers include:

· Nashville, Tenn.

· Myrtle Beach, S.C.

· Virginia Beach, Va.

· Hilton Head Island, N.C.

· Chicago, Ill.

· Gatlinburg, Tenn.

· Washington, D.C.

Ten Labor Day Hot Spots:

Those taking larger trips will be traveling to destinations across the U.S. and abroad. Overall, AAA Ohio booking data shows the top 10 destinations for those departing during Labor Day weekend include:

· Florida

· New York, NY

· Caribbean Cruises

· Las Vegas, NV

· Ireland

· Seattle, WA

· Canada

· Dominican Republic

· France

· Chicago, IL

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at

ICYMI: Washington seeks to mimic DeWine model for clearing rape kit backlog

Immediately after taking office, Attorney General Mike DeWine took aggressive steps to clear the backlog of untested rape kits that were sitting on police department evidence room shelves, untouched for years. After increasing capacity at the state’s crime lab, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), DeWine put out a call for all law enforcement agencies to submit their untested kits to the state for testing at no charge to the municipality. Over 12,000 old kits were tested while keeping up with the demand of an additional 2,000 newly-submitted kits (read more).

The DeWine initiative has made Ohio a model for the nation in clearing backlogs and establishing new procedures for ensuring testing is done in a timely manner so justice can be sought for survivors.

Below is a new article from K5 News in Seattle documenting Washington’s attempt to establish the DeWine-Ohio model in their state.


A Washington lawmaker and team from Washington State Patrol traveled to Ohio this month to learn more about how that state cleared its rape kit backlog.

Natalie Brand | K5 News Seattle, August 23, 2018

As Washington state struggles to work through its rape kit backlog, estimated at 10,000 older kits, State Representative Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines and a team from Washington State Patrol traveled to Ohio this month to learn more about how that state cleared its rape kit backlog.

“Seven years ago, we literally had a call for all untested rape kits,” said Tom Stickrath, superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “They began flooding by the thousands, to the point where ultimately we tested 14,000 kits.”

Stickrath met with the team from Washington state last week, including Orwall, Captain Monica Alexander of Washington State Patrol and four scientists from WSP’s crime labs.

He explained a three-pronged approach contributed to Ohio’s success, a strategy that included adding lab staff, using additional robots and technology, as well as conducting a detailed analysis of how to boost efficiency.

“We brought private sector experts in and public sector experts in, and we literally analyzed step by step how we did forensic biology and DNA,” said Stickrath.

“The scientists came back to (Ohio) Attorney General DeWine and me and said ‘we can do this faster without sacrificing quality; we can reduce the number of steps, we can reduce the number of decision points, we can reduce the number of handoffs,’ and so we embarked on that mission,” said Stickrath.

Since then, Ohio has not only made headlines for its rape kit testing, but it’s also become a model for Washington state where it’s still taking more than 500 days to test lower priority kits, and several months to test high priority cases, according to WSP.

“I just know the urgency of having the kits tested, and I think the hope I bring is there’s a model that will allow us to process all kits within three weeks, that’s the ideal,” said Orwall, referencing the estimated 25 days it takes Ohio to currently process its new kits.

“They’ve really found a way to work in these team models using newer equipment to really expediate analyzing DNA including for sexual assault kits,” said Orwall who noted lab staff in Ohio specialize in mastering specific duties.

“They do one component of a sexual assault kit, and they get very effective at that,” she said.

Currently, in Washington state, lab staff are trained on all components of DNA testing, a process that can take two-and-a-half to three years to complete.

“They found a way through the team model to bring people on within months,” Orwall said.

“The Washington State Patrol is now working to put together an action plan of how to apply other states’ success here. Ultimately that will turn into a proposal put before the state legislature next session.

“I think, again, we need to look at what would we need to purchase, what tools would the lab need to make these changes, and how do they fit into our model,” said Orwall. “But, it is so urgent, we have so many sexual assault kits to test and we really need to find new ways of doing things.”

Orwall says part of the long-term solution could include expanding the Vancouver crime lab in Southwest Washington. She estimates investing in new equipment and staff could cost several million dollars, money that would need be approved by the legislature.

In Ohio, efficiency in the lab has meant more successful prosecutions and justice for victims of sexual assault.

According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, 300 serial offenders were linked by DNA to around 1,127 crimes in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database used by the FBI.

Stickrath recalled one suspect being linked to more than a dozen rapes following DNA testing.

“We know there’s a serial nature to this crime. We’re having a very high rate of hits with the FBI system, so this is about getting dangerous offenders off the streets, and it helps all crimes,” said Orwall.

Washington State Attorney’s General is currently working to assess a more accurate estimate of the older rape kit backlog, based on inventory information from 176 law enforcement agencies in the state. New numbers could come out as early as next month.

The Conversation

Civil lawsuits are the only way to hold bishops accountable for abuse cover-ups

August 21, 2018

Timothy D. Lytton

Distinguished University Professor & Professor of Law, Georgia State University

Disclosure statement

Timothy D. Lytton is a member of the American Bar Association, the American Law Institute, and the American Association for Justice.


Georgia State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Last week, a Pennsylvania grand jury documented 70 years of concerted efforts by Catholic bishops in that state to conceal more than 1,000 cases of child sexual abuse by priests – including rape, sadomasochism and producing child pornography.

These revelations are shocking but not surprising given the history of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.

Since 1984, similar disclosures from around the country have made national headlines and brought shame to the church.

Yet the few criminal prosecutions of church officials for such cover-ups have either been dropped or resulted in small fines or, in one case, probation.

Civil lawsuits – legal claims brought by abuse victims for money damages – have consistently been the only effective way to make Catholic church officials publicly and concretely accountable for their decades long cover-up of unspeakable crimes. I argued this in my 2008 book, “Holding Bishops Accountable.” It is still true today.

But victims seeking justice for abuse that in many cases occurred decades ago face a significant legal impediment to mounting such lawsuits – statutes of limitation that limit the number of years that a victim has to file a lawsuit.

Unless lawmakers across the country pass reforms to extend or suspend the statute of limitations in their states, I believe that the church will never provide a full accounting of the scandal.

Philip Gaughan, center, sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2011 alleging clergy covered up sexual assault allegations against a Roman Catholic priest who molested him in the 1990s. AP/Matt Rourke

A brief history of the scandal

Church files around the country contain complaints of child sexual abuse by priests dating back to the 1930s. By the 1970s, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the development of programs within the church specifically designed to treat priests who sexually abused minors.

From the 1960s to the 2000s, when victims complained to church authorities, bishops quietly referred priests to treatment programs and then transferred them to other parishes where congregants were unaware of the danger that they posed. Church officials also admonished victims not to voice their complaints to anyone else lest they bring scandal on the church.

In 1984, a Louisiana lawyer successfully sued the Lafayette diocese on behalf of a 10-year-old boy and obtained a million-dollar verdict. The boy was one of dozens of victims molested by Father Gilbert Gauthe.

The lawsuit revealed that church officials moved Gauthe and other priests from parish to parish for more than a decade whenever victims complained.

Subsequently, state authorities prosecuted Gauthe for his crimes, and he went to prison. Additional lawsuits brought on behalf of abuse victims against the Lafayette diocese for covering up similar crimes forced the diocese to pay those victims more than US$22 million.

Prior to civil lawsuits like those in Louisiana in the 1980s, public officials, including police and prosecutors, typically refused to investigate or prosecute perpetrators because they were unwilling to confront powerful local Catholic bishops eager to conceal crimes by priests.

By contrast, trial lawyers, motivated by a mix of righteous indignation and the prospect of lucrative contingency fees, filed a growing number of civil lawsuits against church officials.

The Gauthe case in 1984 set off a slow and steady chain reaction. Litigation generated media coverage. Media coverage emboldened increasing numbers of victims to come forward. As an increasing number of victims realized that they had not only been abused by priests but betrayed by bishops, they filed new lawsuits.

Successive waves of litigation pushed the scandal into national headlines in the mid-1980s, again in the mid-1990s and, most dramatically, in 2002.

The media coverage of clergy sexual abuse during these periods of heightened attention to the scandal was based primarily on documents from lawsuits. The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight Team, as the movie about their work makes clear, relied heavily on the pioneering work of trial lawyers in their reporting on the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Boston archdiocese.

As media coverage stoked growing public outrage, grand jury investigations and criminal prosecutions eventually followed, starting with a 2002 Westchester County, New York, grand jury report that documented efforts by church officials to cover up sexual abuse of children by priests.

Pope Francis failed to establish a Vatican tribunal to hold bishops accountable for clergy sex abuse cover-ups. Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

‘A few bad apples’

Catholic bishops and other church defenders have consistently attempted to blame the scandal on “a few bad apples” in the priesthood. They have offered periodic public apologies and instituted a series of reforms. However, only five U.S bishops have resigned for their active concealment of clergy sexual abuse.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling for a Vatican investigation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who stands accused of molesting children and young seminarians for decades.

This focus on McCarrick’s crimes is a new version of the bishops’ “bad apples” strategy of deflection. The real issue is not the abusers but the church officials who provided them refuge from prosecution and, in the process, enabled them to abuse thousands more victims with impunity.

Bishops are also again offering public displays of contrition and promises of reform. In many cases, they have apologized for the misdeeds of their predecessors and peers, emphasizing that much of the abuse alleged in the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report is from decades ago and that church reforms have dramatically reduced the incidence of abuse.

But this misses the point. Although the abuse in many cases took place long ago under the watch of prelates who have since died or retired, the cover-up continues today. It has taken 35 years of civil litigation, investigative journalism and grand jury probes to uncover what appears to be merely a small portion of an ongoing conspiracy at the highest levels of the church to conceal crimes.

In 2014, Pope Francis appointed a special commission to advise him on responding to the scandal. But the pope has failed to implement its recommendation to establish a Vatican tribunal to hold bishops accountable for their misdeeds. In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope offered an apology but no concrete plans to further investigate the cover-up or sanction the bishops responsible for it.

Civil lawsuits

I believe that civil lawsuits remain the most effective way to hold the bishops accountable.

The Vatican remains unable or unwilling to sponsor a credible investigation and to punish bishops who continue to conceal sex crimes. Criminal prosecution is not an option because in most cases the statute of limitations has expired and cannot be retroactively extended due to a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

As they have in the past, more civil lawsuits filed by victims could compel bishops to disclose additional information still hidden away in secret diocesan archives and to answer questions under oath in recorded depositions.

Moreover, civil lawsuits would continue to provide a platform for ongoing media coverage and would likely provide hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for victims.

Statutes of limitation

Civil litigation has been most effective in a handful of jurisdictions where state legislatures have passed laws extending or temporarily suspending the civil statute of limitations.

This allows victims who come forward decades after their abuse to file lawsuits. To be sure, there are valid concerns about the difficulties of obtaining reliable evidence decades after an event. Nevertheless, I believe these concerns are outweighed by the need for full disclosure and accountability.

Church leaders, however, have led successful lobbying efforts to defeat such legislation, including in Pennsylvania.

Whether the Pennsylvania grand jury report will generate the necessary pressure to convince legislators to extend or suspend the statute of limitations and open up the door to more civil litigation is not clear. But the only realistic path to holding bishops accountable is through that door.

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2018 file photo, firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ladoga, Calif. A nationwide telecommunications company that slowed internet service to firefighters as they battled the largest wildfire in California history says it has removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the West Coast. Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says the service restrictions were removed as of Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, and include Hawaii, where emergency crews have rescued people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File) – In this Aug. 7, 2018 file photo, firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire near Ladoga, Calif. A nationwide telecommunications company that slowed internet service to firefighters as they battled the largest wildfire in California history says it has removed all speed cap restrictions for first responders on the West Coast. Verizon Senior Vice President Mike Maiorana says the service restrictions were removed as of Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, and include Hawaii, where emergency crews have rescued people from areas flooded by Hurricane Lane. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Staff & Wire Reports