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Jury gets Pittsburgh synagogue gunman death penalty case

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PITTSBURGH — A jury is set to deliberate whether to impose the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole on a man who spewed antisemitic hate before fatally shooting 11 worshippers at a synagogue in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

The same jurors who convicted 50-year-old Robert Bowers in June on 63 criminal counts listened to closing arguments Monday in the penalty phase of his federal trial, held nearly five years after the truck driver from suburban Baldwin perpetrated the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

The extent to which mental illness and Bowers’ difficult childhood played a role in the massacre dominated the lawyers’ arguments for and against capital punishment. The jury is expected to get the case and begin deliberations Tuesday.

Speaking for the government, U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said Bowers was clearly motivated by religious hatred when he entered the Tree of Life synagogue Oct. 27, 2018, and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, shooting everyone he could find.

The gunman raved incessantly on social media about his hatred of Jewish people — using a slur for Jewish people some 400 times on a platform favored by the far right — and remains proud that he killed Jews, the prosecutor reminded jurors.

“Do not be numb to it. Remember what it means. This defendant targeted people solely because of the faith that they chose,” Olshan said.

He added: “This is a case that calls for the most severe punishment under the law: the death penalty.”

Bowers’ lead defense attorney, Judy Clarke, acknowledged the horror of his crimes but urged jurors to opt for mercy and a life sentence.

Bowers’ attorneys have argued that he has schizophrenia, a serious brain disorder whose symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, and that Bowers attacked the synagogue out of a delusional belief that Jews were helping to bring about a genocide of white people by coming to the aid of refugees and immigrants. On Monday, Clarke recounted Bowers’ history of psychiatric hospitalizations, including an extended stay in a residential juvenile mental health program.

The defense also presented evidence of Bowers’ difficult childhood.

“What has happened cannot be undone. We can’t rewind the clock and make it that this senseless crime never happened. All we can do is make the right decision going forward. We are asking you to make the right decision, and that is life,” Clarke said in her closing argument.

A life sentence would mean that “prison is where Mr. Bowers will die in obscurity, not as a hero and not as a martyr,” she said.

Olshan, the prosecutor, disputed the defense experts’ diagnosis of schizophrenia, asserting that Bowers was not suffering psychosis but had chosen to believe white supremacist rhetoric. And while acknowledging that Bowers was a depressed, neglected child, Olshan downplayed the significance of it, noting that Bowers had held jobs, paid bills and was an otherwise functioning adult.

“He was not a child, he was a grown man. He was responsible for his actions, not his family and things that happened decades earlier. He was, he is responsible for his actions,” Olshan said.

Clarke retorted that “childhood matters.”

“It defies reality to say he got better, he’s fine, he’s just an evil guy. What it does is reflects a complete misunderstanding of serious mental illness,” she said.

In order to impose death, jurors must find that aggravating circumstances, which make the crime especially heinous, outweigh mitigating factors that could be seen as diminishing his culpability. Those aggravating circumstances could include the vulnerability of Bowers’ elderly and disabled victims and his targeting of Jewish people.

Olshan played a composite of 911 calls made from inside the synagogue, including audio of people being shot and a survivor’s horrified screams.

He said Bowers had taken “11 people, 11 full lives, 11 people who loved their families, 11 people who loved their friends, 11 people who were loved. … How do you measure the impact of all of that loss?”

The prosecutor spoke about 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg’s care for her family and 65-year-old Richard Gottfried’s devotion to his faith. He said Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, had the ethos of a country doctor: “He loved delivering babies but he never delivered judgment.” David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, intellectually disabled brothers, “loved life,” Olshan said. “But maybe more than anything, they loved Tree of Life.”

The other deceased victims were Rose Mallinger, 97; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86; Dan Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 87; and Irving Younger, 69.

The attack also wounded seven people, including five responding police officers. Bowers was shot three times before surrendering when he ran out of ammunition.

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Residents grieve death of Irrawaddy dolphin found washed

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Residents of Naklua are deeply saddened by the death of an Irrawaddy Dolphin that washed ashore against the rocky beach behind Ban Sukhawadee.

Pattaya, Thailand – Residents of Naklua sub-district were deeply saddened when they discovered a lifeless Irrawaddy Dolphin washed ashore behind Ban Sukhawadee on July 29. The adult dolphin, measuring approximately 150 centimeters in length and weighing around 50-60 kilograms, was found by locals who stumbled upon its carcass.

Wutthipong Wong-in, Director of the Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Department in collaboration with veterinarians, led an investigative team to conduct a thorough examination of the dolphin’s body, to determine the time and cause of death. The gender of the deceased dolphin remains undetermined.

Evidence at the scene suggests that the dolphin’s body may have collided with rocks after being hit by waves, leading to its untimely demise. However, investigators want to uncover the exact circumstances surrounding the incident to shed light on the tragic event.

Pornthipha Wichaisorn, a 42-year-old som tam (papaya salad) vendor who was the first to come across the dolphin carcass, recalled spotting the lifeless creature floating in the water around 4 p.m. Intrigued but uncertain about the species, her curiosity led her closer to the scene, where the waves eventually washed the dolphin ashore.

The local community fondly remembers a pair of Irrawaddy Dolphins playfully swimming in the same waters around five years ago. Tragically, one of the pair had succumbed to a similar fate five years earlier, adding to the sorrow of the current incident.

Pattaya residents are deeply saddened by the loss of the magnificent creatures that once brought vibrancy to the area. They now hope that the ongoing investigation will bring clarity to the cause of death, providing closure to this unfortunate event.

Pornthipha Wichaisorn a som tam vendor was the first to spot the lifeless creature floating in the water around 4 p.m. on July 29.

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Environmentalists challenge lead bullet exemption for West

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The groups fear a reversal by the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the use of lead ammunition and tackle at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge could have a domino effect in other states and parks.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A group of environmental activist organizations sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a decision to continue allowing the use of lead ammunition by hunters in a West Virginia wildlife refuge, a reversal of a 2022 decision to phase out the toxic rounds.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Blackwater and the National Wildlife Refuge Association claim the agency’s decision will lead to avoidable lead poisoning of countless animals throughout the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 

The groups want a federal judge to deem the decision illegal and order a new rule that complies with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, such as requiring the agency to resume its phaseout plans. 

According to a 2013 report published by a group of scientists with expertise in lead and environmental health, lead-based ammunition poses risks to both humans and wildlife. Traces of lead have been found in hunters’ digestive systems after eating meat shot with lead bullets, as well as in processed meat derived from wild game.  

Scavenger birds like the California condor and the bald eagle who feed on carcasses are also at particular risk of lead poisoning because the bullet fragments into hundreds of tiny pieces when it strikes an animal. 

The National Park Service has identified lead poisoning as the biggest threat to the critically endangered California condor. Semiannual tests conducted by the service show that some of the free-flying condors at Pinnacles National Park in California have had enough lead in their blood to kill a human.  

By the time the condors in the park reach breeding age, nearly all have received emergency treatment for lead poisoning. 

“As a lifelong hunter and conservationist, I know the severe impact that use of lead ammunition is having on non-targeted wildlife, as well as how easy it is to switch to non-toxic alternatives,” said Dan Ashe, board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plaintiffs also detail how fragments of lead bullets are also ingested by birds who use small pebbles to help digest their food, which can cause fatal lead poisoning.

“The use of non-lead ammunition helps to protect vulnerable wildlife from lead poisoning and enables hunters and their families to safely eat the game they’ve killed,” Ashe said in a statement on Monday.

The suit is the latest step in a six-year effort to end the use of toxic ammunition and lead tackle. In 2017 Ashe, as director of the agency, initiated a gradual phaseout to be completed in 2022. His decision was overturned by the administration of former president Donald Trump, then revived under President Joe Biden in June 2022. 

The Biden administration’s plan took aim at nine other wildlife refuges throughout the country besides the Canaan Valley, including the Pakota River, Blackwater, Chincoteague, Erie, Wallops Island and more. The proposal has a deadline of fall 2026.

According to the suit, the only explanation the agency provided for the reversal was that the West Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources expressed concern about the phaseout and requested that the proposal be withdrawn.  The agency did not elaborate on what the state’s concerns were, other than a worry that non-lead ammunition was incompatible with some firearms and could lead to a decline in hunting and deer harvesting. 

The environmental groups expressed concern in the lawsuit that the agency’s accommodation of West Virginia’s concern may have provided a blueprint for other states to ask for similar exemptions, effectively neutering the policy.

The agency did not respond to a request for comment. 

Categories:Courts, Environment

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The winners of the 2023 iPhone Photography Awards

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The winners of the 16th annual iPhone Photography Awards, the original iPhone photography competition, have been announced in New York.

Chosen from thousands of submissions from every corner of the world, many of this year’s winning shots celebrate photography’s power to capture “the joy of what comes next, whether a frond preparing to unfurl, a morning mist hovering over a sleepy farm, or a flock of gulls heading to their next destination”, the organisers said.

Thea Mihu from Germany won a top award for Soy Sauce Village, which she took in the Hung Yen province of Vietnam, while Barry Mayes from the UK came third in the portrait category with a photograph taken on an iPhone 7.

The Grand Prize winner was Ivan Silva

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PETA Remembers Paul Reubens’ Compassion for Animals

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For Immediate Release:
July 31, 2023

Contact:
Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Los Angeles – Below, please find a statement from PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange on the death of Paul Reubens:

Just as Pee-wee raced into a burning building to rescue dozens of animals in his Big Adventure, Paul Reubens was a real-life friend to individuals of all species. From auctioning off his time in support of PETA’s lifesaving work to starring in a PETA campaign celebrating Pee-wee’s favorite vegan candies, he used his inimitable talents to promote compassion to animals as only he could. He was our friend and our favorite rebel, and the world will be a little less joyful without him.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.




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Sun Bears in China Zoo Suspected to be Fake Following

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Sun Bears in China Zoo Suspected to be Fake Following Previous Similar Accusations

(Photo : Sakurai Midori / Wikimedia Commons)
Visitors are accusing a zoo in China of displaying fake sun bears.

A Chinese zoo was accused of dressing up people to look like fake sun bears. Similar claims have previously been made against some other Chinese zoos.

Suspicion as China Zoo Seemed to Have Fake Animals

Following the viral release of a video clip showing a bear rising on its hind legs, a zoo in eastern China has refuted claims that some of its bears may be humans disguised in costumes.

The first image that comes to mind when thinking of bears is one of a massive figure with incredible strength, but not all bears are colossal and danger personified, according to zookeepers at the Hangzhou Zoo. They continued to explain that Malayan bears are relatively small and that they are known as the smallest bear species in the world.

Social media users noticed that a video of a sun bear rising on its hind legs seemed human, with its delicate legs and folds of fur giving the impression that the bear was being played by a human.

Hangzhou Zoo responded to the video by claiming that the public lacks understanding of the species, according to BBC News.

A zoo representative claimed the animal in question was real and claimed that such deceit would not take place at a state-run facility in an audio clip that has been making the rounds on WeChat. He also pointed out that a human wearing a fur bear costume would not survive more than a few minutes in the 104°F summer heat.

A zoo employee claimed that on Monday, encounters with the bears were planned for journalists.

Other Chinese zoos were also accused of trying to pass off donkeys painted to resemble zebras and dogs colored to resemble wolves or African cats, The Guardian reports.

Sun Bears

The Sun Bear is the tiniest, least popular, and one of the rarest bear species. It is additionally referred to as the honey bear due to its love of honey. A white or yellowish spot on the chest clearly distinguishes the sun bear from other bear species.

The zoo stated that sun bears are roughly the size of large dogs and can stand up to 50 inches tall on their hind legs, in contrast to grizzlies and other species which can reach heights of up to 110 inches.

Sun bears are known to be adept climbers and spend a significant amount of time in trees. Their diet consists of termites, other insects, birds, and small rodents, as well as various sweet and other types of fruits.

In the past, the lowland forests of South East Asia were home to many Sun Bears. However, it has largely vanished from the majority of its historical ranges in recent decades. However, Sun Bear can still be seen in large numbers in a few protected places, like Virachey National Park in the Mondolkiri province of Cambodia. Over the past 30 years, it is estimated that the population has decreased by more than 30%.

Also Read: Grizzly Bear Sightings Increase as Population Expands Across More Spots in Montana 

Threats

The gallbladders along with other body parts of Sun bears, like those of other bears in Asia, are hunted for applications in traditional Chinese medicine that have been disproven by science.

Sometimes, nursing female sun bears are killed, and their cubs are taken away and sold as pets.

Another significant hazard to the limited surviving critical population of the species in question is habitat damage brought on by clearing land for agricultural development and illegal logging, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature WWF.

Related Article: Japanese Man Toco Pays $14k to Become Collie Dog, Refuses to Reveal Real Face 


© 2023 NatureWorldNews.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.



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Senate plans to tackle gun safety in the fall

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The Senate plans to produce and tackle its own gun safety bill in the fall after lawmakers return from their August recess, Senate President Karen Spilka told the Herald on Monday.

A House omnibus gun bill has found itself jammed up in a procedural dispute with the Senate since it was first introduced in late June. And with House Speaker Ronald Mariano backing off a push to get that bill passed before August, Spilka said her branch “will be working over the summer and into the fall on a Senate version of a gun safety bill.”

“[We] plan on doing that in the fall. We had planned on that in the beginning and we continue to plan on that,” Spilka said in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to having hearings on all the gun bills and working with the senators on putting together a very strong gun safety bill.”

The Ashland Democrat said she is “proud” of Massachusetts’ gun laws.

“But I believe that we can improve and it’s important for us to stay ahead and be a leader in the nation on gun safety,” she said.

Spilka did not say what a Senate gun safety proposal could look like but the House bill bans carrying firearms in most public places without express permission and targets the rise of ghost guns.

The House bill also establishes an “enhanced tracing system” to track guns used during a crime, modernizes firearms registration systems, and makes firearms data available to academics and policymakers, among other things.

Spilka also pointed to early education and care reform as a topic the Senate could cover once lawmakers are back from their month-long break.

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Vegetarian men ‘50pc more likely to break a hip than

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Men who adopt a vegetarian diet are 50 per cent more likely to break a hip than their meat-eating peers, a study has found.

Women have long been known to suffer some frailty problems if they adopt a meat-free diet, but the link has never been seen in men before.

A University of Leeds study of UK Biobank data of more than 400,000 people found less than one in 100 of the middle-aged participants suffered a hip fracture.

But despite the absolute risk being low, the data found a large discrepancy between regular meat-eaters and vegetarians.

Pescetarians and occasional meat-eaters – less than five times a week – were no more likely to suffer breaks than vegetarians, the data show.

“Hip fractures are a growing problem in an ageing society and can trigger debilitating health conditions and a loss of quality of life,” James Webster, a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds who led the study, said.

“This study shows that whilst vegetarians face a greater risk of hip fracture than meat-eaters – at 50 per cent –  this translates to just three more hip fractures per 1,000 people over 10 years.”

Benefits may still outweigh risks

The study found that about a quarter of the increased risk afforded to vegetarian men and women was because of a lower BMI among vegetarians.

Mr Webster added that while there is a small increase in overall risk caused by following a plant-based diet, it is still possible that there is a net benefit to being vegetarian.

“The health benefits of a largely vegetarian diet, including a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, may still outweigh any increases in hip fracture risk,” he said.

“Important messages from our study are that vegetarians need to ensure they are getting a balanced diet with enough protein and maintain a healthy BMI. This will help vegetarians to maintain healthy bones and muscles.”

Prof Janet Cade, who leads the Nutritional Epidemiology Group at the University of Leeds and supervised the research, said: “Hip fracture is a major health issue, and diet may have a part to play in affecting risk.

“This research, using the large UK Biobank, confirms our previous work, showing that a vegetarian diet increases risk of hip fracture compared to regular meat eaters, in both men and women.

“Whilst vegetarian diets have health benefits, understanding diet quality and the balance of key nutrients may help to reduce risk and improve future bone health.”

The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.

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York County sexual assault suspects face new animal sexual

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YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Two people recently charged in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl in York County are facing new animal sex abuse charges.

Pennsylvania State Police say during the initial sexual assault investigation, they reviewed home surveillance footage that allegedly showed Ryan Peters, Jadzia Martin and Britney Martin “engaged in a course of conduct involving sexual intercourse with an animal.”

According to court documents, video evidence shows Peters, Jadzia Martin, and Britney Martin “were engaging in a course of conduct involving sexual intercourse with the dog” on July 9.

Court documents allege Peters and Britney Martin “engaged in sexual intercourse with the dog” while Jadzia Martin allegedly conspired in the course of conduct.

Peters was charged with produce/present/direct an obscene performance, sexual intercourse with an animal, and cruelty to animals, while Britney Martin was charged with sexual intercourse with an animal and cruelty to animals.

Jadzia Martin was charged with produce/present/direct an obscene performance, conspiracy to commit sexual intercourse with an animal, and cruelty to animals

Peters is also facing charges of sexual assault, indecent assault without consent, corruption of minors (relating to sexual offenses), corruption of minors (relating to alcohol consumption), and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Jadzia Martin is also facing charges of conspiracy to commit sexual assault, indecent assault, corruption of minors, and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Police say the new charges were filed in York County District Court on July 31.

abc27 will update you as more information becomes available.

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