OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A tiger cub who was rejected by her mother at the Philadelphia Zoo can be seen bonding with her adoptive mother and brothers in Oklahoma via live-streaming video.
The Oklahoma City Zoo launched the “Tiger Cub Cam ” Thursday, showing Zoya with her new mother Lola and brothers Eko, Ramah and Gusti playing, feeding and sleeping indoors. The cubs are expected to move outdoors in mid-September.
Lola gave birth July 8 and Zoya was born July 9.
Zoya is an Amur, also known as a Siberian tiger, while Lola and her cubs are Sumatran tigers. Zoya was sent to Oklahoma City because the two tiger subspecies are similar.
Amur and Sumatran tigers are endangered, with fewer than 500 of each believed to be living in the wild.
KILN, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi administrator’s tirade to students whose parents complained about a hot school bus was caught on video and has been posted online.
The Sun Herald reports the video shows Hancock County Transportation Director Michael Ladner addressing Hancock Middle School students on a school bus Wednesday.
Ladner told the students in the video that it will only get worse if students told their parents. He goes on to say they’re in south Mississippi and if the students don’t want to live in hot weather, they should move north.
Superintendent Alan Dedeaux says he has received several complaints about the heat on that particular bus and is working on solutions.
Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said Thursday he wants a meeting with President Donald Trump — the same man he ridicules as a crass imperial magnate and blasts for U.S. sanctions against officials in his socialist administration.
In a lengthy address to the 545 members of a new, all-powerful constitutional assembly, Maduro instructed Venezuela’s foreign minister to approach the United States about arranging a telephone conversation or meeting with Trump.
“Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand,” the socialist president said, adding that he wants as strong a relationship with the U.S. as he has with Russia.
The remarks came shortly after Maduro forcefully warned the U.S. president that Venezuela “will never give in.”
The Trump administration has called Maduro a “dictator” and issued sanctions against him and more than two dozen other former and current officials, accusing Maduro’s government of violating human rights and undermining the country’s democracy amid an escalating political and financial crisis.
On Thursday, Credit Suisse bank banned the trading and use of Venezuelan bonds, citing “recent developments and the political climate” in the country.
The bank will no longer trade, nor accept as collateral, two specific types of Venezuelan securities as well as any bonds the country issued from June 1 going forward, according to a company spokeswoman who was not authorized to give her name. Further, any businesses who wish to do business with Venezuela and deal in any assets there will have to go through additional screening.
Venezuela is facing mounting international criticism over a crackdown on opponents and moves to consolidate power, including the selection of the all-powerful assembly controlled by Maduro.
It is also in the midst of a severe economic downturn caused by low oil prices and poor government policies. The country’s bonds are one of the few ways the current government is able to raise money to support its collapsing economy.
But as the country’s political crisis has worsened, the bonds issued by the government as well as the state-owned oil company PDVSA have become a point of contention and concern for investors who increasingly worry they are supporting an oppressive regime as well as a country that is a great risk of defaulting on its debts. Goldman Sachs came under political pressure earlier this year for buying a reported $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds on the open market at a significant discount.
National Assembly President Julio Borges, leader of the country’s opposition, has sent more than a dozen letters to leading global banks warning them of the risk to their reputations and bottom line if they throw a lifeline to Maduro.
On Wednesday, a fifth opposition mayor in Venezuela was removed from his post, part of what the opposition is calling a campaign to illegally remove anti-government mayors from their elected posts.
A small group of young people set up barricades of strewn metal objects in the eastern Caracas district of El Hatillo on Thursday to protest the Supreme Court decision to order Mayor David Smolansky imprisoned for 15 months for not obeying orders to shut down the protests.
We can’t allow “the dictatorship to hunt down, imprison and treat our mayors like criminals,” said Andres Paez, a lawyer who joined the protest.
Smolansky issued a video from an undisclosed location in which he called on residents of the El Hatillo to take to the streets to uphold their right to representation against what he called the government’s “political firing squad.”
“My commitment to restoring freedom in Venezuela remains intact,” Smolansky said.
His arrest was ordered by the government-stacked Supreme Court less than 48 hours after it levied a similar sentence against Ramon Muchacho, another Caracas-area mayor.
Opposition leaders decried both rulings. According to their figures, about a third of the nation’s opposition mayors have been removed from office or jailed or are under threat of arrest.
Gerardo Blyde, an opposition mayor of Baruta, a city of more than 350,000 near the capital, equated it to a sort of “Russian roulette.”
“This is a continued coup against municipal public authority,” he said.
Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman in Caracas, Christine Armario in Miami and Ken Sweet in New York contributed to this report.
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook envisions its new Watch feature as TV designed for social media, a place where users comment, like and interact with show creators, stars and each other — and never leave.
It’s a potential threat to Twitter, YouTube, Netflix and other services for watching video, including old-fashioned TV. Yet its success is far from guaranteed.
While people watch a lot of videos on Facebook, these are mostly shared by their friends, seen as users scroll down their main news feed.
Getting people to see Facebook as a video service is like Walmart trying to sell high fashion, or McDonald’s peddling high-end food, said Joel Espelien, senior analyst with The Diffusion Group, a video research firm.
Sure, it’s possible, but something is off.
“It’s very difficult to change people’s core perception of what your brand is,” he said.
Facebook has already had a special video section, but it mainly shows a random concoction of “suggested” videos. The new Watch section replaces this. Some U.S. users got Watch on Thursday; others will get it over time.
The idea behind Watch is to let people find videos and series they like, keep up with them as new episodes appear, and interact with the show’s stars, creators and other fans. People’s own tastes, as well as those of their friends, will be used to recommend videos.
Daniel Danker, a product director for video at Facebook, said the most successful shows will be the ones that get people interacting with each other.
“Live does that better than almost anything,” he said.
Facebook wants to feature a broad range of shows on Watch, including some exclusive to Facebook. Users who already follow certain outlets, say, BuzzFeed, will get recommended shows from those pages.
But Espelien wonders whether Facebook users will tap (or click) the Watch tab when with another tap of the finger they can “click over to Hulu or Netflix or whatever.”
Though Facebook might want you to think otherwise, Espelien said there’s no boundary keeping you from straying.
Advertising details are still being hashed out, but typically the shows will have five to 15-second ad breaks. Facebook said show creators will decide where the ads go, so they can be inserted during natural breaks.
But it might be a tough sell for advertisers used to a predictable, reliable audience that television has had, Forrester Research analyst Jim Nail said in an email. Facebook’s big challenge, he said, will be to train users “to establish a Watch habit.”
Department store chains see key sales figures fall again
NEW YORK (AP) — Department store chains saw key sales figures fall again in the latest quarter as customers increasingly move online. At Macy’s the decrease wasn’t as bad as Wall Street expected and Kohl’s managed to keep the decline to just 0.4 percent. Shares in the stores fell.
Postal Service: More red ink, missed payments as mail slumps
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service is warning that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year. It is citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery. The post office said it expected cash balances to run low by October. Postmaster General Megan Brennan says the Postal Service needs to be given wide flexibility to raise stamp rates to keep financially afloat.
Beware at the pump: Black market fuel is making millions
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — There is a black market for fuel in the United States, and it has rapidly become a lucrative, widespread organized crime venture syphoning millions of dollars from gas stations. Authorities are taking notice as thieves make counterfeit cards with stolen account information and use them to fill large tanks hidden in pickup trucks and vans. The criminals can take in $1,000 or more a day reselling the stolen fuel at construction sites, to truckers or to unscrupulous gas stations.
Study says Trump moves trigger health premium jumps for 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — Trump administration moves are triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies purchased by many people. That’s according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report says mixed signals from President Donald Trump have created uncertainty “far outside the norm” and led insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case. Premiums are going up 10 percent or more in 15 of 21 major metropolitan areas studied.
Snapchat’s not-growing pains are a boom for Instagram
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook’s Instagram Stories, a clear Snapchat clone, has more daily users than Snapchat itself — and Snap Inc. should be very worried. Both companies’ Stories feature lets people share videos and snapshots in a continuous 24-hour loop. It has proven to be a hit at Instagram, such that daily use of that feature is more than all of Snapchat. Snap’s latest earnings report isn’t helping, as the company says second-quarter growth was a paltry 4 percent.
Clipped: Foreign funds that ‘hedge’ against currencies lag
NEW YORK (AP) — Foreign-stock funds that protect investors by ‘hedging’ against swings in currencies were supposed to be big winners this year, if expectations that the dollar would keep rising proved true. That hasn’t happened.
Trump administration urged to avoid salmon protection rules
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A group that represents farmers says saving imperiled salmon in the largest river system in the Pacific Northwest is too costly and is turning to the Trump administration. The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association wants the government to convene a Cabinet-level committee known as the “God Squad” with the power to allow exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. It sees hope in a series of pro-industry environmental decisions by President Donald Trump.
Blue Apron revenue beats forecast, but hurt by plant delays
NEW YORK (AP) — Blue Apron has reported strong second-quarter revenue growth, but the meal-kit seller is having unexpected delays at a new plant. It also provided a weak revenue forecast for the second half of the year. The company reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.
Facebook steps up video ambitions with Watch
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is launching a new section dedicated to live and recorded video. The idea is to have fans commenting and interacting with the videos. The new Watch section is a potential threat to Twitter, YouTube, Netflix and other services for watching video.
Politicians blocking people on social media ignites debate
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Politicians at all levels are embracing social media to discuss government business, and their ability to block people from their accounts has led to debate about whether that violates free speech rights. The American Civil Liberties Union sent warning letters to Utah’s congressional delegation and sued the governor of Maine this week. Others, including President Donald Trump, have been targeted, and many of them say they only block people who post abusive content.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 35.81 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,438.21. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 204.69 points, or 0.9 percent, to 21,844.01, just shy of its low point for the day. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite bore the brunt of the sell-off, losing 135.46 points, or 2.1 percent, to 6,216.87.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 97 cents, or 2 percent, to $48.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 80 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $51.90. Wholesale gasoline dropped 2 cents to $1.60 a gallon, while heating oil shed 2 cents to $1.63 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 10 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $2.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.
ALAMO, Texas (AP) — While the economy in Texas has boomed over the last 20 years, along the border with Mexico about a half million people live in clusters of cinderblock dwellings, home-built shacks, dilapidated trailers and small houses.
Texas has more than 2,300 of these communities known as colonias, the Spanish word for “colony.” For decades, the villages have sprung up around cities as a home for poor Hispanic immigrant families. Some are shantytowns with neither drinkable water nor waste disposal, and since the 1990s, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve the worst and stop new ones from forming.
But that commitment is now being questioned. In the last few months, Texas lawmakers cut university budgets that help give immunizations and health checkups to children and others in the colonias. They did not renew a key program that provides running water and sewer service. And this summer, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott abruptly shuttered the office that since 1999 has coordinated the work of various agencies in the communities.
Lawmakers who represent the border area, and groups that provide help for indigent people there, are worried that concern about the living conditions and health risks in the colonias is flagging in a state government now taking a tougher stance toward immigrants.
To some, “it all feels like the colonias are no longer a problem. That’s not true,” said Nick Mitchell-Bennett, executive director of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, which helps residents of the colonias obtain sturdier housing. “We’re approaching going back to the ’70s and ’80s,” when conditions were at their worst.
Since the 1950s, Mexican migrants and families priced out of cities have jerry-built houses on cheap border scrubland from Texas to California, buying illegally subdivided lots from developers beyond the reach of utilities and building codes. Some shanties are made from scraps of plywood, with old campaign yard signs for siding and truck tires used as weights to hold down tarp roofs. Other houses are more substantial and could blend into a normal suburb. Most of the residents are in the U.S. legally, but some not.
Before her dad built a two-room house in an area known as Little Mexico, Eva Carranza’s family lived in one half of a rundown trailer after coming across the border illegally from Reynosa. Another family lived in the trailer’s other rooms.
“The bathroom was outside. We had to go outside for everything because the water wasn’t connected to the trailer,” Carranza said.
Residents work in nearby cities. Carranza makes around $350 a month babysitting and cleaning homes.
The conservative Republicans who controlled Texas government in recent decades opposed illegal immigration but launched a bevy of programs to curb the sanitation problems. Public agencies extended some water and sewer lines, paved roads and looked out for illegal septic tanks and disease-breeding stagnant water.
Abbott’s office said that the state isn’t pulling back.
“It is widely acknowledged in border communities that no governor in recent years has traveled to the border and worked with local border officials more than Governor Abbott,” spokesman John Wittman said.
Exactly how much Texas is spending on the colonias is hard to determine with so much federal and state funding filtering through different agencies and counties. But some groups working in the colonias say they feel the support waning.
Doctors and medical school students at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley who provide vaccinations and free health screenings in about a dozen colonias say there will be fewer visits after losing $7 million as part of higher education budget cuts. Already, said Dr. Eron Manusov, a physician at the university’s medical school and a former military doctor who has been deployed overseas, he sees more diseases than he did in the Philippines.
“Overall, they’re going to suffer,” Manusov said of the residents. “It’s going to do great harm to the colonias.”
According to a 2014 Texas state count, the last available, more than 37,000 people lived in high-risk colonias without potable water or functional sewage. Another 126,000 residents lived in places posing an “intermediate” health risk. Last year, the rate of tuberculosis in Hidalgo County, where there are more than 900 colonias around McAllen and other border towns, was double the statewide average.
Cynthia Alonso, 28, said she has already noticed less help coming into her colonia called South Tower. “We used to have some trailers that would come with free medical help for the people. Free checkups. That no longer happens,” she said.
This year, the Legislature did not renew a cornerstone of Texas’ help for the colonias, the Economically Distressed Areas Program. The last $50 million in the fund, which connects homes with clean water and replaces open septic tanks, will likely run out in the next year, said Amanda Lavin, deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board.
Another $175 million effort launched in 2001 to pave flood-prone dirt roads is all but dried up. Federal dollars that go toward programs for rehabilitating and building homes has also fallen since 2010, said Mark Loeffler a spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Abbott’s decision in June to close the Colonias Initiative Program, the coordinating office for projects, surprised immigrant advocates and was viewed as a loss in the state’s attorney general’s office, which works to head off new settlements by going after illegal land developers.
“It was a great resource,” Audon Gutierrez, head of the colonia prevention unit, said of the eight-member staff. “They were folks on top of the local situation.”
Wittman called the program redundant and said money should go directly to colonias instead of funding a “bigger government bureaucracy.”
Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state’s office, said, officials “expect there to be no diminishment of tangible benefits to colonias residents.”
Democratic state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who represents more than 250 colonias around El Paso, said the office’s demise reflected a tough anti-immigrant tone of this year’s legislative session, in which Abbott signed a measure that authorizes police to ask people during routine stops if they are in the country legally.
“I feel there was no political loss to go through” for cutting it, she said, because “they attacked border communities all session anyway.”
Watch a 360-video of the colonias here: https://youtu.be/UDLZFCh8N3Y .
Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber .