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24 May 10:48

Yale commencement includes first ROTC graduates since 70s

by wtopstaff

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter handed out commissions to the Yale’s first ROTC graduating class in more than four decades.

Carter, a Yale alumnus, on Monday awarded 18 commissions, 14 to Yale students and four to others who trained at the Ivy League school. The military ceremony followed the awarding of more than 3,600 degrees at Yale’s 315th commencement.

ROTC programs left Yale and the campuses of several other prominent universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the fervor of student protests against the Vietnam War.

They were kept away until 2012, after the military ended its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had banned gays from serving openly in the armed services. The universities had said the policy violated nondiscrimination rules for campus organizations.

Carter said he is gratified to be leading the defense department in an era when society admires the military. He told the ROTC students they were bridging a divide in the campus community that had persisted for too long, and providing other Yale students with a new perspective.

“People think differently about the world when a former roommate is managing the nuclear reactor on a submarine, or a former organic chemistry classmate is serving as a combat medic, or a fellow programmer is defending our nation’s cybersecurity,” he said in his prepared remarks.

The return of the ROTC renewed a long military tradition at Yale. David Bushnell, an inventor, is credited with creating the first submarine ever used in combat while studying at Yale in 1775, and one of the original six Naval ROTC units was established at the university in 1926.

Yale conferred 3,628 degrees on Monday. It also presented honorary doctorates to nine people, including former Yale and Dallas Cowboy football star Calvin Hill, Tony award winning actress and singer Audra McDonald and author Haruki Murakami.

As is tradition, Yale kept the names of the honorees secret until just before the commencement ceremony.

The post Yale commencement includes first ROTC graduates since 70s appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 13:03

Lawsuit accuses Domino’s Pizza of ‘rampant wage violations’

by wtopstaff

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state’s attorney general has sued Domino’s Pizza Inc., affiliates and three franchisees alleging they underpaid workers based on payroll reports generated by the parent company’s computer system.

“We’ve uncovered rampant wage violations at Domino’s franchise stores, and intensive involvement by Domino’s headquarters that caused many of these violations,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday. “At some point, a company has to take responsibility for its actions and for its workers’ well-being.”

Schneiderman said the company knew since at least 2007 that its PULSE system’s payroll software undercalculated gross wages while still encouraging franchisees to use it.

The suit filed Monday night in state Supreme Court in Manhattan alleges the three franchises and the company, as joint employers, underpaid workers at least $565,000 at 10 New York stores. It also seeks to determine full restitution owed to workers, a court finding that Domino’s defrauded its franchisees and violated state law, and a monitor to ensure future compliance.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company called Schneiderman’s lawsuit disappointing, saying it “disregards the nature of franchising and demeans the role of small-business owners.” The company said it has worked with his office for three years trying to help franchises comply with New York’s complex wage laws.

Domino’s is the largest pizza delivery company in the U.S. and gets most of its sales and profits — $272.8 million in fiscal 2015 revenues — through its franchise stores, the lawsuit said. “Yet, while the employees who deliver pizza from Domino’s franchise stores are the linchpin of Domino’s business, Domino’s and the franchisee respondents systematically failed to pay delivery workers all of their hard-earned and lawfully owed wages.”

Violations included failure to pay delivery workers the legal minimum wage and overtime rates and adequately reimburse their expenses, the suit alleges. In a new twist in the attorney general’s wage theft cases, which have returned $26 million to nearly 20,000 workers since 2011, it says the franchisor is liable as a joint employer “because it exercised a high level of control over employee conditions at its franchise stores and because of its role in causing the wage violations at issue.”

Robert Cresanti, president of the International Franchise Association, called the attempt to assign joint responsibility a politically motivated attack on the franchising business model to pay back special interests that have spent millions of dollars trying to unionize workers.

Schneiderman countered that they are standing up for the rights of small-business owners against a parent corporation that disregarded their rights.

The attorney general’s office has settled cases with 12 other Domino’s franchisees, who collectively own 61 stores and have agreed to pay about $1.5 million. The company has 136 franchisee-owned stores in New York, along with 54 owned by Domino’s itself.

“The attorney general now wants the company to take steps that would not only deprive our independent business owners of the opportunity to make their own employment decisions, but could impact the viability of the franchise model, the many opportunities it offers to those looking to start their own businesses, and the millions of jobs those franchised businesses create,” Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre said.

In a March letter to Terri Gerstein, chief of the attorney general’s Labor Bureau, a lawyer for the company wrote that its standard franchise agreement requires complying with all laws and regulations and that the company agreed that every employee not paid the legal wage “should be made whole.” The company would be willing to fund the cost of a monitor and franchise management training on complying with New York’s wage and hour laws, attorney Eric Corngold wrote.

___

This story has been corrected to show the lawsuit was filed Monday, not Tuesday.

The post Lawsuit accuses Domino’s Pizza of ‘rampant wage violations’ appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 11:41

34-year-old orangutan dies at Columbus Zoo

by wtopstaff

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A 34-year-old orangutan named Sally has died at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The zoo says Sally died while undergoing treatment for pneumonia. Zoo officials say she had a chronic respiratory disease, which she had been treated for several times in recent years.

Officials say the respiratory disease made Sally more susceptible to pneumonia. She died Saturday.

The Sumatran orangutan arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2006 from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Zoo officials say the median life expectancy for a Sumatran orangutan in a North American zoo is 28 years.

The zoo’s Facebook page says Sally’s animal-care team described her as a “sassy princess” with a feisty personality.

The Sumatran orangutan is a critically endangered species with fewer than 15,000 found in their native habitat.

The post 34-year-old orangutan dies at Columbus Zoo appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 13:43

The Latest: Lobbyist says his firm handled Hubbard payments

by wtopstaff

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — The Latest on the Alabama House speaker’s trial (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

A lobbyist says his company acted as a conduit for what prosecutors called illegal payments from the Alabama Republican Party to indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Tim Howe was the second prosecution witness as testimony began Tuesday in Hubbard’s felony ethics trial.

Howe says the Alabama GOP routed money through his firm, which in turn wrote checks to one of Hubbard’s company in return for a 5 percent cut. Hubbard was party chair at the time.

Howe says he didn’t perform any other service, and he’s not sure why the deal was handled that way.

But prosecutors suggested in opening statements that the payments were structured to make it less apparent the party was paying a company owned by its chairman at the time.

___

4:05 p.m.

A former director of Alabama’s Republican Party was the first witness in the ethics trial of GOP House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

John Ross testified that Hubbard directed party business to a company he partly owned, Craftmaster Printers. Ross says Hubbard explained that the company would save the party money and provide good service.

Prosecutors say Hubbard illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company while party chairman, violating state ethics laws.

But Ross testified under defense cross-examination that much of that money went to postage. And he says the party used Craftmaster even before Hubbard became chair.

___

3 p.m.

A lawyer for indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard says there’s no evidence he took any official actions in exchange for what prosecutors say were illegal payments.

Defense attorney Bill Baxley told jurors Tuesday that the powerful legislator asked friends for business contacts and had consulting contracts with several companies.

But Baxley says Hubbard was careful not to do anything illegal. Baxley says Hubbard even asked Alabama’s Ethics Commission for written guidance.

Prosecutors say Hubbard took in more than $2 million in illegal payments while serving both as speaker and chairman of the Alabama GOP.

The judge says witness testimony could begin later Tuesday.

_____

12:40 p.m.

The defense is denying prosecutors’ claims that Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wrongfully made more than $2.3 million off his powerful legislative position.

Hubbard attorney Bill Baxley told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Hubbard has done nothing wrong.

Baxley says a 23-count felony indictment against Hubbard is “mumbo jumbo.” And he says Alabama’s ethics law contains exemptions that cover things like normal business dealings and friendships.

The state claims Hubbard used his elected office and former position as state GOP chairman to illegally receive contracts, investments and business totally nearly $2.3 million.

Hubbard’s trial comes at a tough time for Alabama Republicans. Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

___

11:25 am.

Prosecutors are laying out their case against indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutor Matt Hart told jurors that Hubbard took contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars each month from companies that wanted to influence legislation. Hart said Hubbard needed the money because he was losing a job with the company that broadcasts Auburn University sports, and his printing company was failing.

Hubbard denies any wrongdoing. Defense lawyers will talk to jurors later Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard’s trial comes as Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

___

9:55 a.m.

A judge says he’s ready to begin the felony ethics trial of indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker says opening arguments will begin Tuesday morning after he swears in jurors.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers each say they need about an hour to lay out their cases for the jury.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard’s trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

___

8:35 a.m.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has arrived at a county courthouse for the start of his trial on felony ethics charges, which could result in his removal from office.

Hubbard walked past cameras as he entered the Lee County courthouse in Opelika on Tuesday morning. A judge told jurors to be in court later in the morning for the start of the trial.

Hubbard engineered the Republican Party’s takeover of the Alabama Statehouse in 2010. Now he’s charged with 23 felony ethics violations. Conviction on even one would result in his ouster.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used both his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard’s trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

___

4:35 a.m.

The speaker of Alabama’s House of Representatives is going on trial on felony charges that could result in his removal from office.

A judge told jurors to be in court Tuesday morning to begin the trial of Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Hubbard engineered the Republican Party’s takeover of the Alabama Statehouse in 2010. Now he’s charged with 23 felony ethics violations. Conviction on even one would result in his ouster.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used both his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard’s trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

The post The Latest: Lobbyist says his firm handled Hubbard payments appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 13:58

Louisiana firefighter electrocuted while horseback riding

by wtopstaff

BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) — Authorities say an off-duty Louisiana firefighter has been electrocuted while riding a horse.

Bossier City’s fire chief says George William Chambers IV came in contact with a low-hanging power line while riding Sunday morning in a field in that northwest Louisiana city.

The statement released by Chief Brad Zagone also says the horse was electrocuted.

Chambers, a fire truck driver, was a 20-year veteran of the city’s fire department.

The post Louisiana firefighter electrocuted while horseback riding appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 14:30

Mississippi man released from jail in daughter’s death

by wtopstaff

GRENADA, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man whose daughter died after he left her in a hot car was released from jail without bail Tuesday, with the possibility that the second-degree murder charge against him could be reduced.

Grenada Municipal Judge Rusty Harlow ordered the release of 25-year-old Joshua Blunt on his own recognizance after city prosecutor Jennifer Adams requested the move and a friend and a police detective testified he wasn’t a flight risk.

Blunt wept as he emerged from the Grenada County jail a few minutes later, embraced by relatives and friends who had offered support during the brief court hearing.

Adams told Harlow that Grenada officials want to reduce the charges against Blunt from second degree murder, punishable by up to life in prison, to culpable negligence, a felony punishable by up to a year in prison.

However, Harlow said he wanted to hear from Grenada County District Attorney Doug Evans, who prosecutes felonies in the county, before making that decision.

Blunt’s lawyer, Carlos Moore, has said he will fight that lower-grade felony charge.

Janette Fennell, founder and president of the Kansas-based KidsAndCars.Org, said that between 1990 and 2015, charges were brought in 45.5 percent of cases involving the deaths of children in hot cars in the U.S.

The group’s figures show there were 706 cases of children dying in hot cars for those 25 years. Some cases involved multiple deaths.

The district attorney was present for Blunt’s hearing but didn’t participate. Evans later told The Associated Press that the correct procedure would be for city officials to drop the original murder charge and enter a new culpable negligence charge. Then he said the district attorney could decide whether to present the case to the grand jury.

Evans said he has seen some information from the investigation, but couldn’t comment on whether he believed Blunt knew the child was in the car.

Shania Caradine, Blunt’s daughter, died Thursday after she was left in her father’s car outside the 333 Restaurant in Grenada. Blunt’s lawyer says she was there for about four hours. The lawyer said Blunt and a co-worker found the infant in the car, took Shania inside the restaurant and put cool towels on her to await an ambulance that took her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada. Grenada County Deputy Coroner Jo Morman said physicians at the hospital tried unsuccessfully for hours to revive the baby.

She was the second Mississippi child to die from heatstroke in a vehicle within two weeks. No charges have been brought against a parent in the other case.

Supporters and family members erupted in claps and cheers in the courtroom after Harlow ordered Blunt’s release, with one person shouting, “Oh yes!”

John Archer, who said he’s Blunt’s brother-in-law, said he and his wife, Patricia Archer, helped raise him.

“We think it was fair because he’s working two jobs and he’s never been in trouble,” John Archer said. “He’s just trying to support his family. It’s just an accident.”

Archer said Blunt was called in to work Thursday on a day he had been scheduled to be off. Archer speculated that the change in routine distracted Blunt from dropping off his daughter at the home of Shanice Caradine’s mother.

Shanice Caradine is the child’s mother and Blunt’s girlfriend.

Among supporters present Tuesday was Allyson Worsham, who owns the 333 Restaurant. She called Blunt a good worker who had been “so proud” when his daughter was born.

“This has been a horrible tragedy,” Worsham said. She thanked a jail guard for watching Blunt, saying he had voiced thoughts of suicide after his daughter’s death.

“Shanice sent a message to me that she loves him and that she and Shania forgive him,” Worsham said.

___

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

___

This story has been corrected to refer to Blunt planning to drop off the child at the home of his girlfriend’s mother and to show that Blunt wept upon leaving jail.

The post Mississippi man released from jail in daughter’s death appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 14:38

Train engineer isn’t legally allowed to drive motor vehicles

by wtopstaff

NEW YORK (AP) — An engineer is operating trains along the nation’s third-largest commuter railroad even though his driver’s license has been suspended for 10 years because of a history of driving while intoxicated.

New Jersey Transit engineer Thomas Broschart’s license was suspended in 2007 for a decade, and he has someone pick him up from work because he isn’t legally allowed to drive a car, according to an investigation by WABC-TV in New York (http://7ny.tv/1NJoUA8). But federal law doesn’t require him to have a motor vehicle driver’s license to operate a train.

“You don’t need a driver’s license,” Broschart said. “One has nothing to do with the other.”

NJ Transit said it’s following the law but would welcome stricter regulations.

“Federal law governing engineers sets forth specific regulations in dealing with DWI cases involving engineers and we are obligated to follow those Federal Railroad Administration rules,” NJ Transit said in a statement Tuesday. “The code was strictly adhered to and the engineer is certified to operate locomotives according to federal law.”

When asked whether his supervisors know that his driver’s license was revoked, Broschart responded, “Absolutely. Everybody knows.”

In 1995, Broschart’s license was suspended for two years because he refused to have his blood-alcohol level tested, the TV station reported. In 1999, his license was suspended for a year for driving while intoxicated, and in 2001, his license was suspended for not complying with a mandatory alcohol program.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said it was “pretty alarming” that Broschart can transport commuters but can’t legally drive to and from work. The New Jersey Democrat has asked his staff to contact the Federal Railroad Administration to determine whether a law needs to be changed.

NJ Transit said, “Anything that could be done to strengthen those federal rules and protect our customers and employees would be welcome.”

___

Information from: WABC-TV, http://www.7online.com

The post Train engineer isn’t legally allowed to drive motor vehicles appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 14:56

Mom charged with child abuse for letting son, 11, drive cart

by wtopstaff

BALD HEAD ISLAND, N.C. (AP) — A woman says she was arrested, charged with child abuse and detained for hours for letting her 11-year-old son drive a golf cart during a family vacation on a North Carolina beach resort island.

Julie Mall tells The Charlotte Observer (http://bit.ly/1TshWfT ) her son asked to drive the cart two blocks back to their rented cottage on Bald Head Island on July 26. Mall says a police golf cart pulled them over and an officer accused her of being drunk, which she denies. She says more officers showed up and she was arrested. Video shows a screaming Mall on the ground being handcuffed by an officer with a knee on her back.

The charges were later dismissed.

Village manager Chris McCall says it will be reviewing public safety policies and procedures.

The post Mom charged with child abuse for letting son, 11, drive cart appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 15:41

Father, son indicted on charges of chaining girl in basement

by wtopstaff

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A father and son in Ohio have been indicted on charges accusing them of chaining a teenage girl in their basement as punishment.

Timothy and Esten Ciboro (SIH’-bohr-oh) were indicted Tuesday on kidnapping and child endangering charges.

The pair was arrested last week by Toledo police after the girl ran from the home.

The girl is a relative of the two men and told police she used a spare key to unlock herself.

Timothy Ciboro told media outlets that the allegations aren’t true and that the girl wasn’t mistreated. But he wouldn’t answer questions on whether he had chained her.

Ciboro also said the girl wanted to be away from the house and with people who weren’t good for her.

His 27-year-old son has not responded to requests for comment.

The post Father, son indicted on charges of chaining girl in basement appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 15:54

House measure supports shippers on ballast water dumping

by wtopstaff

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A plan gaining support in Congress would set a nationwide policy for treating ballast water dumped from cargo ships. The shipping industry favors it, but environmentalists say it would open the door to more invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels.

The provision was added to a defense bill the House approved last week. It was sponsored by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who says it’s designed to simplify a patchwork of state and federal rules that confuses shippers and hampers interstate commerce.

Opponents say the measure would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of power to regulate ballast discharges and remove any financial incentive for the industry to improve technology for cleansing the water.

Shippers say existing standards are succeeding.

The post House measure supports shippers on ballast water dumping appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 20:36

The Latest: Trial reveals problems within Baltimore police

by wtopstaff

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died a week after he was critically injured in police custody (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The trial of an officer cleared of charges in the arrest of a young black man didn’t yield a conviction, but it did reveal deep systemic problems within the Baltimore Police Department.

Testimony showed that officers are inadequately trained and routinely ignore rules and regulations designed to keep people safe.

The police commissioner acknowledged the failings on Tuesday and announced a new program to help make sure officers read and understand general orders and policies.

Commissioner Kevin Davis’ announcement came less than 24 hours after a judge acquitted Officer Edward Nero of assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct charges in the arrest of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was critically injured in police custody and died a week later.

Critics who believe prosecutors were overzealous with charges against six police officers say the state is using the individual officers as a way to indict an entire police department.

___

12:40 p.m.

Baltimore police say the department will use web and smartphone applications to help make sure officers read and understand new rules.

The issue of officers not being aware of new or updated policies was raised in the trials of an officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was injured in police custody and died a week later.

Commissioner Kevin Davis announced Tuesday that officers will access new policies through the apps and must take a quiz before signing off. The department launches the system July 1.

Davis made the announcement one day after Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of charges stemming from Gray’s arrest. Nero said he wasn’t aware of an updated policy requiring officers to seatbelt prisoners.

Gray died in April 2015, a week after his neck was broken in a police van while he was not restrained by a seatbelt.

___

3:20 a.m.

Baltimore’s top prosecutor is facing criticism that she moved too quickly to file charges against six officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died after suffering injuries in police custody.

A judge acquitted Officer Edward Nero on Monday of all charges in the April 2015. Legal experts say the acquittal in the racially charged case could be seen by some as a confirmation of criticism that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby rushed to file charges.

Gray died a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police van, where he was shackled, handcuffed but unrestrained by a seat belt. His death prompted calls for justice, and rioting followed Gray’s funeral.

The post The Latest: Trial reveals problems within Baltimore police appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 20:48

Warren: Let Harvard grad assistants form bargaining units

by wtopstaff

BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has urged Harvard University to let graduate students who work as research and teaching assistants form collective bargaining units.

Warren and fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Markey sent a letter Monday to Harvard President Drew Faust, saying the students have helped make Harvard an academic world leader. They said giving students the right to collective bargaining will help them continue their work.

“University administrators worldwide look to Harvard as a model for their own universities,” the letter states. “If Harvard welcomes graduate research and teaching assistants who desire to organize for improved workplace policies, a new standard of care may emerge.”

Warren is a former Harvard Law School professor.

A university spokeswoman said Harvard believes the relationship between graduate students and a university is fundamentally about education, not employment — and that their graduate students are “engaged, valued, and supported as a critical part of the learning, teaching, and research” that takes place at Harvard.

“We will continue to encourage an open conversation about graduate student unionization because it could profoundly affect both graduate students and the University’s educational mission,” added Anna Cowenhoven, director of communications for Harvard.

The National Labor Relations Board is considering arguments that graduates assistants are not just students, but also school employees.

In the letter, Warren said that universities already have the option of recognizing collective bargaining units formed by graduate assistants, but that some — like Harvard — have opted to delay that recognition until after the NLRB decision.

Democratic Reps. Michael Capuano and Katherine Clark also signed the letter.

Efforts to unionize graduate students at private universities have been gaining momentum.

A union for teaching assistants is in place at New York University, after the administration gave its blessing in 2013.

Since then, organizing campaigns have gained momentum at other major northeastern universities, including Yale, Harvard and Columbia.

Students and schools are watching the NLRB following a decision to reconsider its decade-old ruling that graduate students at private schools are not entitled to collective bargaining.

Public universities are governed by state labor laws, and tens of thousands of graduate students have been unionized at schools, including the University of California, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut.

At private universities, covered by the National Labor Relations Act, the road to collective bargaining has been blocked by a 2004 ruling in a case involving Brown University in which the NLRB said students cannot unionize.

The post Warren: Let Harvard grad assistants form bargaining units appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 21:52

Use of parasitic wasps to fight ash borer grows to 24 states

by wtopstaff

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Millions of tiny wasps that are natural parasites for the emerald ash borer have been released into wooded areas in 24 states as the battle against the tree-killing borer is now biological.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has researched and approved for release four species of parasitic wasps that naturally target the larval and egg stages of the ash borer, which has killed an estimated 38 million ash trees in urban and residential areas. The estimated cost of treating, removing, and replacing the lost trees is $25 billion, according to a report written by USDA and U.S. Forest Service entomologists earlier this month.

On average, federal and state resource managers spend more than $29 million per year to manage ash borer populations.

The tiniest of the wasps looks like a pepper flake on a white surface. It lays eggs inside ash borer eggs, preventing them from hatching. Three other wasps, one the size of a gnat, lays eggs inside ash borer larvae halting development into adult beetles.

They were identified in China in 2002 and studied for several years before scientists concluded they could be safety released in the United States to fight the ash borer.

The wasp release program is in 24 of the 26 states where the ash borer has been found, said entomologist Ben Slager, the manager of the laboratory in Brighton, Michigan, producing the wasps run by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a USDA agency. Plans are to also distribute wasps to Texas and Georgia, the final two states not yet in the program.

“This isn’t going to save anybody’s tree in their yard or in the city. What we’re working to do is to protect the next generation coming up,” Slager said Tuesday. “It’s really a long-term management strategy.”

Ash was the most commonly planted tree species used to replace elm trees decimated from the 1920s through the 1980s throughout North America by Dutch elm disease.

Scientists believe the ash borer was accidentally introduced into North America in the 1990s, most likely in wooden shipping crates from Russia, China, Japan or Korea. The ash borer feeds on tree tissue beneath the bark, destroying the ability to move water and nutrients to branches.

Iowa, the latest state to introduce the wasps, will begin distribution in the next few weeks in a 133-acre timber near Fairfield, about 100 miles southeast of Des Moines. The ash borer was found there in 2013 and continues to spread, said Mike Kintner, the ash borer program coordinator for Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Iowa has about 52 million rural ash trees and about 3.1 million more urban areas, the USDA Forest Service said.

___

Follow David Pitt on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davepitt

The post Use of parasitic wasps to fight ash borer grows to 24 states appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 22:37

Canceled weddings are more common than you think

by Omama Altaleb

WASHINGTON — It’s wedding season, and while some couples are prepping for the joyous occasion, others are calling it quits.

According to a 2013 study by The Wedding Report, about a quarter-million engagements don’t end in marriage.

“It’s probably even higher than that because lots of people, when they get engaged, you don’t necessarily know about it,” said Amy Sohn, The New York Times contributor who wrote the article “You’ve Canceled the Wedding, Now the Aftermath.”

Sohn told WTOP that while one person in the couple usually has the jitters, the other person isn’t really expecting it.

But if the couple doesn’t cancel 90 days before the wedding, they have to deal with a lot more than heartbreak.

In its annual Real Weddings study, The Knot found that the average wedding cost for American couples reached $32,641 in 2015, with thousands of dollars spent on the venue, caterer, band, photographer and more.

So how can ex-couples get their money back?

Sohn suggests asking the vendors whether they are willing to convert the deposit money into a credit.

“See if they’ll cooperate with you. In a lot of cases they won’t and you’ve signed a very clear contract preventing you from getting money back, but maybe you can argue with them and say, ‘look, if you can fill the day, if I can help find someone to fill the date, can I get some of my money back?’”

The post Canceled weddings are more common than you think appeared first on WTOP.

25 May 00:41

BWI control tower evacuated briefly after fire alarm

by wtopstaff

LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) — An official says the air traffic control tower at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was evacuated briefly after the fire alarm went off.

Airport spokesman Jonathan Dean said in an email that the airport’s fire department responded to a report of a fire alarm at the tower about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday and investigated. He says firefighters didn’t find smoke or fire.

Dean said late Tuesday that a water flow alarm went off as a fire suppression system was coming back on line after a construction project. He says corrective measures have been taken.

Dean says tower functions were suspended briefly but personnel returned to work about 15 minutes later.

Dean didn’t know how many flights were delayed, but he says the overall effect was minor.

The post BWI control tower evacuated briefly after fire alarm appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 13:34

Toyota Adds 1.58M Airbags To Takata Recall List

by Ashlee Kieler

Weeks after federal regulators increased the scope of the recall for shrapnel-shooting Takata airbags by up to 40 million safety devices, Toyota has announced just how many of its vehicles are covered by the expansion: 1.58 million.

Toyota expanded its recall of vehicles with front passenger Takata airbags on Monday in order to comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recent order to get more affected vehicles off the road.

The recall, which affects 1.58 million vehicles in the U.S., covers model year 2009 to 2011 Corolla and Matrix, model year 2006 to 2011 Yaris, model year 2010 to 2011 4Runner, model year 2011 Sienna, model year 2008 to 2011 Scion, model year 2007 to 2011 Lexus ES, model year 2010 to 2011 Lexus GX, and model year 2006 to 2011 Lexus IS.

The carmaker says that owners of the affected vehicles will be notified by mail and depending on the model, dealer will replace the airbag inflator or airbag assembly.

In all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recalled up to 68 million airbags. Of those, 4.7 million are Toyota vehicles.

Takata airbags have been at the center of a years-long worldwide recall of millions of vehicles from 14 automakers. The safety devices can explode with enough force to spray pieces of metal into passengers and drivers.

Researchers determined earlier this year that three factors contribute to the explosive airbags: the use of propellant ammonium nitrate, manufacturing issues, and prolonged exposure to humidity work together to cause the airbag ruptures

So far, the issue has been linked to ten deaths in the U.S. — 11 worldwide — and hundreds of injuries.

24 May 13:24

TSA Replaced Security Head While You Were In Line At The Airport

by Mary Beth Quirk

The Transportation Security Administration has been busy while Americans have been stuck waiting in super long lines at our nation’s airports, starting out the work week by axing the head of security and giving someone else the job.

According to an internal memo cited by NBC News and the House Oversight Committee, Kelly Hoggan was removed from his post as assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations.

The panel points to TSA security vulnerabilities in the recent past — like missing fake bombs and banned weapons slipped in through security checkpoints by undercover investigators — while pointing out that Hoggan received $90,000 in bonuses in the last 13 months.

He’ll be replaced for the time being by by Darby LaJoye, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said in the internal memo, and will instead be reassigned to new duties.

The move comes amid an increasing, constant chorus of criticism from lawmakers, airports, airlines, and of course, travelers who have been stuck in seriously long lines at TSA security checkpoints recently. Like in Chicago, where 450 American Airlines passengers were recently stranded overnight because of major delays at security checkpoints.

And it’s only going to get worse once the summer travel season heats up, pun totally intended.

TSA has already outlined some changes it plans to implement to ease those wait times, including more security personnel — including at Chicago’s airports — more bomb-sniffing dogs, and a renewed push to enroll travelers in the PreCheck system.

Neffenger said in the memo Monday that a new leadership team has also been put in place at O’Hare, with screening experts from airports across the country helping out.

The agency has also created a National Incident Command Center at its headquarters near Washington, D.C. Its mission is to track the daily screening operations and will have the power to move officers and other resources around depending on passenger demand.

“These adjustments will enable more focused leadership and screening operations at critical airports in the national transportation system,” Neffenger said.

TSA Replaces Head of Security as Airport Lines Keep Getting Longer [NBC News]

24 May 15:17

It’s Official: Twitter Won’t Count Usernames, Links, & Photos Against 140-Character Limit

by Ashlee Kieler

Twitter isn’t ready to ditch its long-standing 140-character limit, but it is officially ready to revamp what counts against that boundary. To that end, photos, usernames, links, quoted Tweets, and other attachments will no longer count against the pre-Tweet allotment.

Twitter announced Tuesday that “in the coming months” it would allow users to express more on the site by simplifying what counts toward the character restriction.

“So for instance, @names in replies and media attachments — like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls — will no longer ‘use up’ valuable characters,” Todd Sherman, senior product manager for Twitter, said in a blog post.

Among the upcoming changes, Twitter will no longer count usernames against the limit when users are replying to other Tweets.

Additionally, media attachments, such as photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, will no longer count as characters.

“This will make having conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward, no more penny-pinching your words to ensure they reach the whole group,” Sherman said.

The 140-character limit was first used by Twitter because that was the limit for a single mobile text message. Tweeting by text was popular back in the pre-smartphone era of 2006, when the social media company first launched.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey previously said the 140-character limit will live on because it’s “too iconic” to get rid of.

“It’s staying. It’s a good constraint for us,” he said in March. “It allows for of-the-moment brevity.”

In other revamps announced Tuesday, the company says it is simplifying some Tweeting activity to ensure it reaches a wider audience.

The company will enable users to Retweet their own messages and will allow users to begin Tweets with usernames without the “.@“ first in order to broadcast the message widely.

Currently, Tweets that begin with a username are only visible to users who follow both the person Tweeting and the person receiving the message.

In addition to the changes outlined above, Twitter says it plans to help users get more out of their Tweeting experience.

“We’re exploring ways to make existing uses easier and enable new ones, all without compromising the unique brevity and speed that make Twitter the best place for live commentary, connections, and conversations,” Sherman said.

24 May 16:35

I Know My ID Thief’s Name & Address, But Police Won’t Do Anything About It

by Chris Morran

When you think of an identity thief, you probably envision some squirrelly jerk in a third-world country selling your data on the black market. He’s untraceable and living someplace where the police don’t care. However, that ID thief could be only miles away from you, living an otherwise normal life… in a police where police also don’t really care.

Today’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune has the first-person account of St. Paul resident Austin, who has spent the last decade dealing with myriad problems caused by a man who lives only a few towns over, but who has been misusing Austin’s Social Security number to buy cars, open lines of credit, and even get health insurance.

In fact, he claims that when his employer tried to put him on the company health plan in 2014, the insurer denied him at first — not for any of the usual, byzantine reasons offered up by insurance companies, but because this ID thief was already covered by this insurer.

The ID thief has a different name than Austin, but he’s been able to open up multiple lines of credit — at the same bank Austin uses — with Austin’s SSN.

As a result, he claims that the bad actions of the ID thief prevented him from purchasing his first home, and eventually resulted in him having to pay more for mortgage insurance, along with the horrible toll it’s all taken on his family and private life.

While banks and other companies — 25 in all, according to Austin — have apparently had no problem opening up various new accounts for this other person (dubbed “Frank” in the essay) without alerting the real Austin, they immediately blame him whenever Frank does something wrong.

“[H]e’s having an easier time proving he’s me than I am,” writes Austin. “These companies make me jump through more hoops than Frank — for if they did, they would have known he’s not me.”

Austin says that he has copies of credit applications signed by this guy using the stolen SSN, that he knows this other man’s name, address, place of employment, phone number, and birthday, yet this stranger “turns out to be as untouchable as a comic book supervillain.”

He claims that his attempts to get local law enforcement to care have been fruitless, even when police were presented with a folder containing several years’ worth of evidence and a definitive paper trail.

According to Austin, a St. Paul Police Dept. sergeant told him, “The only way we can really do anything is if you capture him on video using your card.”

He says he’s hoping this essay will spark some local media attention in his case and help him finally do something about the ID thief who lives only 20 miles from his family.

24 May 16:54

“Mosquito Shield Band” Maker Must Pay $300K, Stop Claiming It Protects Against Bites

by Ashlee Kieler

With the Zika virus spreading across tropical regions of South and North America, consumers are likely looking for ways to ensure they aren’t bitten by disease-carrying mosquitos as summer approaches. But there’s one option they should stay away from: so-called mosquito shield bands. 

A year after federal regulators determined the bands from Viatek Consumer Products Group — which supposedly used mint oil to create a 5-foot mosquito-free zone — don’t actually work as they’re advertised, the company has been ordered to pay a $300,000 fine and stop marketing the products.

Viatek, along with company owner and president Lou Lentine, agreed this week to settle charges the company made deceptive claims in order to sell the mosquito shield bands.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] filed against the company in Feb. 2015, Lentine and Viatek marketed Mosquito Shield Bands, wristbands containing mint oil, directly to consumers and through retailers, including the home shopping channel HSN, Walmart, and Home Depot, claiming the wristbands would protect users from being bitten by mosquitos.

The bands, which can still be purchased at retailers, were marketed as being able to create a “vapor barrier” that shields persons within five feet of the product from being bitten and provides users with 96-120 hours of protection.

The FTC alleged that the company did not have competent and reliable scientific evident to back up these claims.

“Defendants do not possess, and did not possess at the time they made the representations, competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate” what they claimed in advertisements the bands were able to do, the FTC wrote in its complaint.

In addition to taking on the company’s marketing of its mosquito shield bands, the FTC claims that Viatek and Lentine of violating a 2003 order [PDF] that prohibited the owner from marketing product claims without proper evidence.

Back in 2003, a predecessor company of Viatek was found to have marketed a different pest control device by making inaccurate claims in its advertising.

Under the FTC’s proposed order [PDF] settling the case, Viatek and Lentine agree to have competent and reliable scientific evidence for future claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any pest control product, and to have appropriate substantiation for similar claims made about any product they sell.

They are also prohibited from violating the 2003 order and must pay $300,000 to the Commission.

“With Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the news, consumers might be looking for products that protect them from mosquitos,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The defendants took advantage of those concerns, and peddled a product without having scientific support that it effectively prevented mosquito bites.”

If you are preparing for an evening in the great outdoors free of mosquitos, our colleagues at Consumer Reports put together a list of options.  

24 May 18:01

Monsanto Says $62 Billion Bayer Merger Offer Is “Financially Inadequate”

by Chris Morran

A day after aspirin king Bayer officially offered $62 billion to acquire Missouri seed and pesticide giant Monsanto, the deal already appears troubled, with Monsanto’s board of directors saying the offer isn’t sufficient.

More precisely, the Monsanto board unanimously dubbed the Bayer offer as “incomplete and financially inadequate,” though the deal is not yet dead.

The Missouri-based company says it remains open to “constructive conversations to assess whether a transaction in the best interest of Monsanto shareowners can be achieved.”

In a statement, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant — no, not that Hugh Grant, though that would be awesome — acknowledged that there are benefits to be seen from combining Bayer’s significant CropScience division with Monsanto’s existing properties, thereby creating the world’s largest player in the seed and agricultural chemicals business, but contends that the current proposal “significantly undervalues our company and also does not adequately address or provide reassurance for some of the potential financing and regulatory execution risks related to the acquisition.”

Both Monsanto and Bayer are under pressure to consolidate, following recent similar mega-mergers by Dow and DuPont, and China National Chemical Corp.’s $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta — a company that Monsanto unsuccessfully tried to buy in 2015.

24 May 18:10

How Government-Backed Flood Insurance Failed Superstorm Sandy Victims When Their Homes Actually Flooded

by Laura Northrup

It’s difficult to think of natural disasters as a business, but ultimately they are. More than three years ago, Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy hit heavily populated parts of the East Coast. We’re a wealthy country, though, with a robust national flood insurance program, plenty of disaster aid, and a can-do spirit. All of the people driven out of their homes have rebuilt or received settlements and moved on, right? No.

In the days and weeks after the storm, you might have seen politicians promising to cut red tape, and President Obama giving hugs and assurances to victims. People whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged still don’t have their homes back, and PBS’s Frontline and NPR reporter Laura Anderson investigated why this is, and who made money from it.

You’ll be able to hear stories based on their reporting on NPR’s All Things Considered starting this afternoon, and the hour-long Frontline documentary will air on local PBS stations tonight. You should check their stories out to meet some interesting people and shake your head at some terrible incompetence, but here’s some of what we learned about what went wrong

There was a reason why they called it a “Superstorm.” You may remember that the governors of affected states insist that the tropical storm never reached land as a hurricane, which means that higher insurance deductibles for hurricanes shouldn’t apply. Unfortunately, much of the damage to homes was caused by flooding, which means it would have been covered by government-underwritten flood insurance.

Yes, the government underwrites flood insurance policies. People who live in flood-prone areas have additional flood insurance from a program backed by the federal government, the logically-named National Flood Insurance Program. When losses from any one flood are too great and the total goes over the amount paid in premiums, taxpayer money kicks in to cover the rest.

“Insurance companies don’t have any risk in the program,” explained J. Robert Hunter, head of the program in the ’70s. “The risk is all the taxpayer’s.”

Under Hunter, the flood insurance program found that insurance companies were collecting government money but not paying valid claims, and the government ended its relationship with more than 100 insurance companies that handled flood policies. Instead, a single company administered the program.

The government partnered up again with insurance companies in 1984, and that’s when the program of private insurance policies underwritten by the federal government that we still have began. More than 80 insurance companies are part of the program.

The National Flood Insurance Program’s deep debt affected how claims from Sandy were processed. Serious storms in the mid-aughts, particularly Hurricane Katrina, sent the program almost $18 billion in debt.

One homeowner went over the numbers with NPR’s Laura Anderson. He explained that he has to still pay the mortgage and insurance (yes, even the flood insurance) on his house that was destroyed in the flood. He received an insurance settlement of $90,000, but it would cost over $250,000 to actually rebuild his house. He appealed the decision to FEMA, which agreed with the insurance company’s assessment.

The real problems showed up when lawyers got involved. Engineering firms that took part in evaluations of flood-damaged properties have been accused of fraud, with employees claiming that managers who never visited the properties altered their reports to minimize storm damage. The state attorneys general in New York and New Jersey are still investigating those engineering reports. Insurance adjusters also spoke out about the pressures on them after Sandy to low-ball homeowners’ claims to save money.

No one knows how much of a profit insurance companies make from the program. They take about 1/3 of the premiums collected as fees, but how much of that is actual “profit” isn’t something that FEMA actually tracks. However, Frontline and NPR were able to obtain information about the insurance companies’ expenses from state regulators, and compare that with how much the program paid insurance companies in fees.

Their calculations showed that from 2011 to 2014, the around 80 insurance companies in the program collectively earned about $325 million in profit from administering flood policies.

When you watch or listen to the

Business of Disaster [Frontline]

FURTHER READING:
Red Cross Raised More Than $300 Million After Hurricane Sandy: How Did They Spend It?

24 May 18:57

Be On The Lookout For Cheaper Packaged Coffee Prices In The Near Future

by Mary Beth Quirk

If you’re cruising for a pick-me-up in store aisles soon, you might notice that certain brands are a bit cheaper than before: because the price of coffee beans has fallen lately, the parent company of Folgers and Dunkin’ Donuts brand packaged coffees has decided to pass on the savings to consumers.

J.M. Smucker Co. says it’ll cut prices on its U.S. packaged coffee brands by an average of 6% per item — except for coffee pod products, reports International Business Times.

“For the last several quarters, lower green coffee costs were reflected in promotional pricing for the majority of our packaged coffee products, and we do not anticipate those prices changing significantly,” said Steve Oakland, who heads up Smucker’s U.S. food and beverage business.

It’s not the first time Smucker has slashed prices — in July 2015, it took 6% off, on average, on the majority of its coffee brands as well.

“This list price decrease provides an opportunity for consumers to benefit from lower pricing on an everyday basis.”

Folgers Coffee Maker JM Smucker Co. (SJM) Slashing Prices In The US [International Business Times]

24 May 19:15

Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller’s $107B Merger Passes Major Hurdle, Gains European Approval

by Ashlee Kieler

When you’re trying to combine a Belgian-Brazilian beer giant (that loves to pass itself off as American) with a huge London-based beer company whose roots trace back to South Africa and Wisconsin, you’re going to need to shed some overlapping businesses to get all the approvals you need. It looks like Anheuser-Busch’s plan to sell off some SABMiller brands overseas has helped gain approval from European Union regulators who have given the green light to the $107 billion merger of the two companies.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the European Union gave its blessing to the beer behemoths as long as AB InBev continues to shed more of SABMiller’s European assets.

“Today’s decision will ensure that competition isn’t weakened in these markets and that EU consumers are not worse off,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said.

So far, ABInBev has agreed to sell the Peroni and Grolsch brands to Japan’s Asahi Group for $2.9 billion.

It also pledged to sell SABMiller’s eastern European business in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia for $8 billion. However, the company has yet to announce a buyer for those assets, which include brands like Pilsner Urquell in Czech Republic and Dreher in Hungary.

By selling off SABMiller’s assets, AB InBev will continue to have a small presence in Europe.

The betrothed companies previously reached a deal to sell SABMiller’s stake in the Miller/Coors brand to Molson Coors for $12 billion. The massive deal between the companies must still receive regulatory approval in the U.S. among other areas.

Here’s a look at the brands that are currently being sold off to pave the way for the merger:

Brand Owner Buyer Price
Miller/Coors SABMiller Molson Coors $12 Billion
CR Snow (Chinese brand) SABMiller China Resources $1.6 Billion
Peroni, Grolsch, & Other European Brands SABMiller Asahi Group $2.9 Billion
Eastern European Brands (Pilsner Urquell, Dreher, and others) SABMiler To Be Determined ~$8 billion

EU Clears AB InBev’s $108 Billion SABMiller Takeover [The Wall Street Journal]

24 May 20:00

Meatless Burger That Bleeds Pulverized Beet Juice Debuts At Colorado Whole Foods

by Mary Beth Quirk

Biting into a burger and having the juices drip out of it has, until recently, been an experience only enjoyed by meat eaters. Vegetarians might join them soon, with a new meatless burger for sale at Whole Foods that bleeds beet juice instead of beef juice.

Ahead of its debut yesterday at Whole Foods in Boulder, The New York Times compared the Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat to the “holy grail” of alternatives to animal proteins: a plant burger that even the most dedicated meat eater won’t kick out of bed, culinarily speaking.

The Beyond Burger has 20 grams of vegetable protein per patty, most from peas, and contains no gluten or soy.

The blood is actually pulverized beet juice, in an effort to make the burger look, smell, and feel like the real thing.

There’s some competition out there for Beyond Meat, including a meatless burger from Impossible Foods that, its creators say, also bleeds.

So far the Beyond Burger appears to be appealing: it sold out in one hour on the first day it was available at Whole Foods, the company said in a Tweet on Monday:

The burgers cost $5.99 for two patties — a bit higher than real meat, The NYT notes — and will be available in Denver and Washington, D.C., soon, as well other locations this summer.

Plant-Based, the Beyond Burger Aims to Stand Sturdy Among Meat [The New York Times]

23 May 23:00

The Easiest Way to Skin and De-Bone a Fish Fillet

by Heather Yamada-Hosley

Filleting, skinning and de-boning your own fish is easy if you know the right technique. Gordon Ramsay demonstrates how to quickly skin and de-bone a large fillet so it’s safe to cook.

Read more...

24 May 12:23

This Bluetooth Speaker Floats Like a Death Star, and You Can Save $45 On Yours Today

by Shep McAllister

This little Bluetooth speaker floats—literally floats—and spins above your desk like a tiny Death Star, and it can be yours for an all-time low $105 today, or about $45 less than usual.

Read more...

24 May 00:00

How to Breed Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons have an easy-going personality, are a reasonable size, and have an attractive appearance, all of which make them very popular to keep as pets.[1] Bearded dragons that are kept as pets can be bred year-round, so you can breed your dragons at any point during the year. Ensuring a successful breeding will take a lot of time and preparation, so make sure that you have a full understanding of the entire process before breeding your dragons.

EditSteps

EditPreparing to Breed Your Bearded Dragons

  1. Determine the sex of your bearded dragons. There are several physical characteristics that will help you tell your male and female dragons apart. The male bearded dragon’s head is larger than that of a female. In addition, his abdominal girth will be smaller and he will have larger pores in his anal region.[2]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • Another way to determine the sex is to look at the hemipenile bulges. To do this, hold your bearded dragon on his back in your hand and gently bend his tail toward his back at a 90-degree angle; be careful not to damage the vertebrae in his tail when you bend it. Two hemipenile bulges on either side of the tail indicate a male; one centered bulge or no bulge at all indicates a female.[3]
  2. Take your bearded dragons to your veterinarian. It is essential that your bearded dragons are in optimal condition prior to breeding. Your veterinarian can give them a thorough physical exam and let you know if they are in good health or are in need of treatment. He or she can also test your dragons for atadenovirus, which is very contagious among dragons and can cause serious disease.[4]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Bearded dragons should not be bred if they test positive for atadenovirus, since it can be passed from mother to baby.[5]
    • Keep in mind that a bearded dragon that has the virus may not be shedding it at the time of the test, leading to a false negative result. For this reason, it would be good to have your dragons tested repeatedly before breeding.[6]
    • Have your veterinarian check your bearded dragons’ ages, lengths, and weights. For optimal breeding, the male should be at least 18 months old and the female should be at least 24 months old.[7] They should both be at least 18 inches in length from snout to tail. [8] The female should weigh at least 350 grams.[9]
  3. Supplement your female bearded dragon’s diet. Your female will need a daily supplement that contains calcium and vitamin D. This will help ensure that her eggs will be adequately calcified and that she will not suffer from a calcium deficiency after laying her eggs. She will also need a general multivitamin.[10]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • Your female should receive this supplementation at least several weeks before breeding.[11] Talk with your veterinarian if you have questions on how to incorporate these supplements into your female bearded dragon’s diet.
  4. Prepare the breeding habitat. Although your female and male bearded dragons will only temporarily live together in the same enclosure, it is important that the enclosure is set up for an optimal breeding situation. First, the enclosure should be large enough to comfortably house two adult bearded dragons; your local pet store can help you determine the exact enclosure size that you will need.[12]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • Glass aquariums are very popular enclosures for bearded dragons, but other types are also available, including melamine cages and PVC cages. Using a screen lid cover will keep your bearded dragons from escaping and will allow for fresh air circulation.[13]
    • Use a thermometer to maintain the overall temperature at 77 to 88 degrees Farenheit during the day and the mid 70’s at night.[14]
    • Place a basking light (available at your local pet store) outside of the cage to provide a focal basking spot in the cage at a temperature of 105 degrees Farenheit.[15][16]
    • Position full-spectrum light bulbs (UVA and UVB) above the enclosure, about one foot from where your dragons will likely spend most of their time. The UVA and UVB rays from the bulbs will help keep your bearded dragons healthy by helping them produce vitamin D.[17][18]
    • Places branches and rocks in the enclosure. The branches will give your bearded dragons something to climb on, and the rocks will give your dragons opportunities to rest and hide from each other.[19]
  5. Prepare the lay box. The lay box is where your female dragon will lay her eggs. The lay box should be an eight to ten-gallon plastic container with a secure lid that allows for air circulation. Fill the box with about eight inches of either topsoil or potting soil, along with sand.[20]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • The soil mixture should be damp enough so that it lightly clumps together and is easy to dig in. The soil should not be so dry that it would cave in when she tries to bury her eggs.[21][22]
  6. Purchase an incubator. The eggs will need to be removed from the lay box and incubated. It would be best to purchase a pre-made incubator at your local pet store to reduce the likelihood of malfunction. The Hovabator is a commonly used incubator for bearded dragon eggs.[23]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Fill small containers with either vermiculite or perlite (available at your local gardening store) and place them in the incubator. Press your thumb in each container to make a depression where the egg will go, and cover the container with a lid that allows for air circulation.[24]
  7. Prepare your bearded dragons for brumation. Brumation is the process of decreasing the temperature and photoperiod (lighting schedule) for your bearded dragons. When the male and female are in their separate cages, decrease the temperature to 80 degrees Farenheit during the day and 60 degrees Farenheit at night. Decrease their exposure to light: 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness.[25]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • You will probably notice that your dragons will eat less and hide more during brumation. They probably will not bask as much either. After brumation, they will want resume their usual diet.[26]
    • Brumation should last at least two to three months before breeding.[27]

EditBreeding Your Bearded Dragons

  1. Place your bearded dragons in the breeding enclosure. Your dragons probably will not mate right away, and will need some time to adjust to their new surroundings. Making this enclosure ready for them beforehand will get them more comfortable. When the male is ready to breed, his beard will darken to black.[28]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 8 Version 2.jpg
  2. Observe the courtship behavior. Your bearded dragons will exhibit courtship behaviors before the actual mating. Both your male and female will start bobbing their heads; the female may also start waving one of her arms to indicate her receptiveness to be bred. Your male may also stomp his feet and chase your female around the enclosure.[29][30]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 9.jpg
    • Your bearded dragons may also twitch their tails as a courtship behavior.[31]
  3. Observe the mating behavior. To mate, your male will quickly climb on the back of your female and bite her neck; biting her neck keeps her from running off before the mating process is complete.[32] Your male will then press his cloacal region against that of your female.[33] The entire mating process only take a few minutes.
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 10.jpg
  4. Return your bearded dragons to their separate cages after one week. It is recommended to leave your dragons together for about a week after mating. After this one week, place them in their separate cages for one week. Put them together for another week for another mating session. You may need to do this several times to ensure a successful mating.[34]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 11.jpg
    • Continue to feed your female her supplements after the mating. Increasing her exercise and keeping her well hydrated after mating will help her be better prepared to lay her eggs.[35]

EditLetting Your Female Dragon Lay Her Eggs

  1. Observe her in her separate cage. Your female will demonstrate behavior that shows that she is ready to lay her eggs. She may start pacing her cage and looking a little anxious. She will also eat less and frantically dig in her cage.[36] When she is exhibiting this behavior, gently move her to the lay box so that she can lay her eggs.
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 12.jpg
    • You will also be able to easily see that her belly is full of eggs. You will be able to see the outlines of the eggs, which will look like small marbles.[37]
    • Egg laying typically occurs about four to six weeks after mating.[38]
  2. Allow your female dragon to lay her eggs in the lay box. You will see her digging in the enclosure to create an area to lay her eggs. It may not be easy to tell when she has laid her eggs, especially if you didn’t see her do it. If this is the case, you will know that she has laid eggs when you see that her belly looks more deflated and flat.[39] Remove her from the lay box after she has laid her eggs.
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 13.jpg
    • If you do not think that your female has laid all of her eggs, take her to your veterinarian immediately.[40] She may be suffering from egg binding, which is a serious medical condition that would keep her from laying her eggs.
    • Female bearded dragons typically lay their eggs in the afternoon or early evening. You may want to start watching her around this time of day to see if she looks ready to lay her eggs.[41]
    • Females usually lay between about 24 eggs at a time, but can also lay as few as15 and as many as 50.[42][43] A group of eggs is called a clutch.
  3. Remove your female bearded dragon from the lay box. After she has laid her eggs, she should be placed back in her original cage. In general, female bearded dragons are not very maternal. Also, captive female bearded dragons tend not to guard their eggs.[44]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 14.jpg

EditIncubating the Eggs

  1. Place the eggs in the incubator. To do this, lift the eggs with your hands or a spoon. It is important to be extremely gentle when you are transferring the freshly laid eggs from the lay box to the incubator. As best you can, keep them in the same orientation as you found them in the lay box. It may be helpful to mark the top of the egg with a pencil to keep you from accidentally turning it upside down when placing it in the incubator.[45]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 15.jpg
    • Place each egg in an individual container in the incubator. The egg should fit snugly within the thumb depression that you made earlier. Make sure that the egg is not covered with the vermiculite or perlite and place the lid on the container.[46]
  2. Maintain the incubator temperature at 82 to 86 degrees Farenheit. Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature. If the temperature gets too hot within the incubator, the embryos could die inside the eggs.[47] The incubator should be in a room that is cooler than the temperature inside the incubator; a warmer room would increase the incubator’s temperature, which puts the embryos at risk.[48]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 16.jpg
    • The incubator’s humidity should be maintained at around 80%. Placing a bowl of water within the incubator will help to maintain the humidity level. Refill the water as needed.[49]
    • Check the temperature daily and the humidity about twice a week.[50]
  3. Monitor the eggs on a regular basis. Pay close attention to see if the eggs look wet or overly dry. Condensation on the eggs can be deadly to the embryos, so it is very important to make sure that the eggs do not have any moisture on them. If they look wet, take the lid off the incubator for 24 hours to release the excess humidity and let the vermiculite or perlite dry.[51]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 17.jpg
    • If the eggs look dimpled or look like they’re about to collapse, they may be too dry. Use room temperature water to dampen the vermiculite, making sure not to make it so damp that the egg gets wet.[52]
    • Healthy and fertile eggs will increase to about twice their original size and turn chalk white. Eggs that are yellow, pink, or green may not be fertile.[53]
    • Eggs with mold on them may or may not be fertile. Talk with your veterinarian if you are unsure what to do with the moldy eggs.
    • The eggs will begin to hatch in about 60 to 70 days.[54]

EditHatching and Caring for the Bearded Dragon Babies

  1. Observe changes in the egg’s appearance. Just prior to hatching, the eggs may begin to deflate and develop water droplets. These changes are completely normal and should not be confused with signs that the egg is infertile. You will also see a slit in the eggs exterior, which is caused by a baby bearded dragon’s egg tooth on the tip of their snout. The baby will make a slit large enough to fit its snout and head through, and will rest with its head out for about one day.[55]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 18.jpg
  2. Avoid helping the baby bearded dragons emerge from their eggs. Let the babies hatch on their own, which will typically take about 24 to 36 hours. You will probably notice that all of eggs will hatch within a day or two of each other.[56]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 19.jpg
    • Keep the babies in the incubator for their first 24 hours of life to help them adjust to their new environment.[57]
    • Remove any babies that did not survive.
  3. Group the baby dragons together according to size. Line their enclosure with moist paper towels, which will help keep them hydrated during their first few weeks of life. You can also lightly mist them with water until they begin drinking water on their own. In terms of food, the yolk from their individual eggs will provide them with nutrition for a few days, so you can wait until around day 3 to feed them real food (crickets, chopped greens).[58]
    Breed Bearded Dragons Step 20.jpg
    • You will need at least a 20 gallon tank to hold the baby dragons. They will need larger tanks as they grow older.[59]
    • Provide the babies with plenty of food so that they do not begin nipping at each other’s toes or tails. [60]
    • Place the larger and more dominant babies in a separate enclosure so that the smaller ones can eat. [61]

EditRelated wikiHows

EditSources and Citations


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24 May 01:30

Prince George’s County firefighters to get ballistic vests

by Kate Ryan

WASHINGTON — When he went to work on Monday morning, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor did something he thought he’d never have to do: try on a bulletproof vest.

His goal is to make them part of the standard equipment for his members.

“It’s kind of a sad commentary,” Bashoor said. “After the situation with Firefighters Ulmschneider and Swain taking bullets — even though they were just in the normal execution of their duty — it’s just the point we’re at now.”

The move comes the month after a shooting that killed one of Bashoor’s firefighters and injured a second. Referring to the death of 37-year-old John Ulmschneider and the wounding of 19-year-old Kevin Swain, Bashoor said, “It definitely puts a new challenge and twist on recruitment.”

Bashoor added that both the police and the fire departments lost members in fatal shootings while recruit classes were in session and that it had a direct effect on recruiting efforts.

“We did have a couple of recruits on the fire side that pretty shortly after the event decided this is not something that they wanted to do.” He’s referring to the call to a Temple Hills, Maryland area home where Ulmschnieder and Swain were shot as they arrived to fight a fire.

Bashoor referred to the vests as “ballistic protection.”

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, assistant to the general president in charge of operations and research at the International Association of Fire Fighters, explained that the vests defend wearers from large scale emergencies like active shooter situations that have become more common across the country.

“These are not for shrapnel or things you would see in a military-type event,” said Moore-Merrell. “We will be at some point in the near future outfitting our folks with ballistic protection. Kind of a sad commentary on where we are today,” she said.

Monday morning, Bashoor tweeted photos of himself trying on a ballistic vest. “It was an opportunity for me personally and my staff to try it on and get a feel for what kind of weight we’re talking about adding,” said Bashoor. “We already put 75 pounds on a firefighters’ back when they’re going into a burning building,” he said.

The additional weight of a vest, which can add up to 4-5 pounds, could cut into the amount of time firefighters are allowed to battle a fire since the heavy gear, extreme temperatures and physical work can quickly deplete a firefighter’s energy.

Bashoor said there are a lot of issues to figure out including what kind of fit the department wants, wear and tear on crew members, and whether the vests stay on trucks or whether each crew member has a vest of their own as part of their standard gear.

Bashoor also said the next step is to sit down with what he called “internal stakeholders” — paramedics, volunteers and members of the firefighter’s union — about how the vests will be fitted, deployed and used.

When it comes to financing the new equipment, Bashoor explained that there are 900 paid firefighters and 1500 volunteers, which means that there would be upward of 2,400 vests that would have to be purchased.

To fights the costs, Bashoor said that the department could simply put them on firetrucks and ambulances so that whoever is working can wear them. Right now, his department is working with other departments where the vests are typically used on how it’s working for their members.

The post Prince George’s County firefighters to get ballistic vests appeared first on WTOP.

24 May 11:29

Debate over J.E.B. Stuart High School name change continues

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — In a packed room at J.E.B. Stuart High School, in Falls Church, on Monday night, Fairfax County Public Schools officials listened as parents, students and alumni debated whether the school’s name should be changed.

Controversy over the school’s name has been going on for months. Those favoring the name change say it’s disrespectful to honor the Confederate leader.

“It should be changed to something that would better fit the values at Stuart,” said Anna Rowan, a senior at the school.

On Monday, community members broke into small groups to discuss the pros and cons of changing the name.

Rowan said that learning that her high school was named after the Confederate leader as a symbol of resistance against school integration in the late 1950s made her want to speak up.

Alumnus Paul Clark said there were more important things that need the public’s attention than the school’s name.

“When you start changing names and revising history just because somebody doesn’t like that particular name I think you can run into some real trouble,” Clark said.

In a survey that aimed to take the pulse of the community, 56 percent said the name should not change.

“Hopefully they’ll leave the name the way it is,” Clark said.

Fairfax County officials say the change would cost just under $700,000.

WTOP’s Keara Dowd and Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

The post Debate over J.E.B. Stuart High School name change continues appeared first on WTOP.