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Folly Beach, South Carolina: Endangered Right Whale Sighting Confirmed

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Folly Beach, South Carolina: Endangered Right Whale Sighting Confirmed

Chiminea wasn’t lolling. The young right whale was swimming north, apparently at good speed, when it was spotted earlier this month just off the Stono inlet. It was the first confirmed sighting of the perilously endangered species in nearly three years along the South Carolina coast.

That’s more alarming than it sounds. No whales had been sighted because the survey flight that spotted Chiminea hasn’t been flown here since grant funding cutbacks curtailed it in 2013. The only reason the Georgia-based crew flew up this way is that so few mother-and-calf pairs have been spotted farther south they decided to go looking for signs of them here.

“Each of the survey teams has had a handful of sightings, but many of them have been resightings of the same animals. It’s still early in the season, so we’re hoping things will pick up, but water temperatures are above average, which has been correlated with lower right whale sightings,” said Cynthia Taylor, Sea to Shore Alliance research scientist.

Right whales are the rarest of the large whales, 40-ton creatures whose curious two-plume breathing spray and the lack of a dorsal fin distinguish them from other whales. They are so massive and supple that one boater who has seen them described the moment as heart-stopping.

The whales were all but wiped out by commercial whaling. They have turned the corner toward potential recovery from a low of fewer than 300 to more than 400, thanks to awareness and conservation efforts. But calving numbers have dropped in recent years, and the whales remain so imperiled that every one alive is considered vital to the survival of the species.

Ship strikes, line entanglements and noise pollution are among the biggest threats. The dark color, the lack of a fin piercing the surface and a tendency to swim slowly along the surface make them hard to spot and easy to strike. They navigate and communicate by vocal echoes.

They now migrate across major shipping channels, through waters that might be opened up to oil and natural gas seismic testing and drilling and across an area the U.S. Navy uses for sonar and other training.

For years, the whales were thought to linger and calve only in waters off southern Georgia and Florida. But individual sightings and then survey flights confirmed mothers with new calves in South Carolina waters. In the past two years, just as the survey flights that warned shipping interests ended, NOAA included the offshore as part of those critical breeding grounds.

Sightings off South Carolina now depend on private reports and often can’t be verified. A fishing guide spotted what he believed was a right whale off Georgetown in October — early for the migration season — but no one was in place to confirm it.

An individual right whale can be identified by the distinct pattern of different-colored flesh on its head. Chiminea is a 6-year-old whale of undetermined sex. Just three days before the sighting earlier in January, about five miles out from Folly Beach, the whale had been spotted off Jacksonville, Fla., headed north.

Researchers have determined that a number of juvenile right whales will accompany pregnant females on the winter migration.

“The question, even for us, is why do they come down here in the first place,” said Melanie White, the Sea to Shore Georgia survey flight leader. They might be following the adults out of curiosity or just to roam. They might be on scouting trips to learn the route for future migrations.

But they don’t appear to stay long. The type of plankton they feed on isn’t nearly as abundant off the Southeast as it is off the Northeast, where they spend the rest of the year. In fact, the pregnant females aren’t thought to feed much or at all while calving.

After four years of increasing numbers of mother-and-calf pair sightings, only 11 were spotted in 2013-2014 — a number so alarmingly low that the 14 pairs spotted in 2014-2015 whales was something of a relief for researchers.

This year, the Georgia survey team had flown 16 flights before the South Carolina flight and spotted only three mother and calf pairs. As a comparison, 17 distinct pairs were spotted in total from December to March.

“With three more months of potential sightings for us here on the calving grounds, I highly suspect more sightings will move in,” White said. “We shall see.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

disney-world

McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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