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Eurovision Song Contest defends itself after Israeli band dropped out to avoid singing on the Sabbath

The Eurovision Song Contest is answering for itself after an Israeli band dropped out of the competition because it learned its members would be forced to work on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Shalva group says Wednesday it’s quitting Israel’s qualifying competition after the Eurovision organizers said it would make no exceptions for Israel’s ultimate winner. The competition is held on a Saturday night and the compulsory rehearsal falls on the Sabbath.

“All broadcasters commit to abide by the Contest’s rules when agreeing to participate. The rules state that each broadcaster will undertake to enter a national song and a Contestant that complies with the present rules. These rules include obligation of attendance across all rehearsals and live shows, for delegation members and contestants,” a spokesperson for Eurovision Singing Contest told Fox News in a statement.

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST FINALLY GETS A US TV HOME AT LOGO

The spokesperson explained that any application by a broadcaster to waive these rules under mitigating circumstances must be run through the contest’s governing body and changes would be made at its discretion based on its impact on the other contestants.

“In this instance a change to the rules to exempt a Contestant from performing in both the Jury Final and the Grand Final dress rehearsal would involve disruption to the production schedule and compromise the fairness of the competition. It would also deny audiences in Tel Aviv the chance to see the home country’s participant perform in both shows,” the statement read. “For these reasons, the Reference Group felt that it would not be possible to grant KAN’s request.”

NETANYAHU DOES CHICKEN DANCE WITH NETTA BARZILAI TO CELEBRATE ISRAELI SINGER’S EUROVISION WIN

Shalva, which has several members who are blind or have Down syndrome, has become a fan favorite and serious contender to sing Israel’s entry. Israeli critics say the Eurovision seems tolerant of all besides Orthodox Jews.

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The Eurovision final is on May 18. Israel earned the right to host the competition thanks to Netta Barzilai’s win last year with “Toy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sleeping man spotted in Tesla as it apparently drives itself

For the second time this month, a video has surfaced that apparently shows a Tesla driver asleep or passed out behind the wheel while the car is operating in its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

The video posted to Jalopnik was allegedly shot somewhere outside Las Vegas. In it, a man can be seen resting his head on the seatback with his eyes closed as the car speeds up and slows down within a lane.

Any other vehicles on the road are out of frame during the short, 18-second clip, so there is no telling how heavy the traffic was at the time of the incident, but no reports have surfaced of anyone being involved in an accident in the area under similar circumstances.

Just 10 days earlier, a video of another driver in the same condition on a Southern California highway was posted to Facebook. According to Electrek, the photographer wrote in the since-deleted post that he observed the car riding along by itself for miles.

AAA this week urged the automotive industry to come up with standardized names for active driver assist systems, because it thinks brand names like Autopilot and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist give a false impression of their limited capabilities.

Tesla would not comment on the videos, but cautions drivers to stay alert when using Autopilot. If it detects that a driver is not paying attention, through sensors in the steering wheel, it is supposed to warn them with lights and sounds before slowly deactivating itself. In the Southern California video, the driver’s hand does appear to be on the wheel.

These sorts of reports have come up several times before. In December, a driver was cited for drunk driving after highway patrol officers spotted him passed out in the driver’s seat, followed his car for about seven miles and then pulled in front of it and slowed down hoping it was in Autopilot mode and would come to a stop to avoid a collision. It did, but it was not immediately clear why it hadn’t already deactivated on its own. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted at the time that he was “looking into what happened here,” but never made an announcement on his findings.

Maroon 5 letting Super Bowl show speak for itself

(CNN)With epic past performances by artists like Prince, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, the halftime show is a big reason to watch the Super Bowl for some viewers.

But what was once considered a coveted gig has more recently been tainted by controversy.
This year’s halftime performers — pop band Maroon 5, rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi — have received some criticism for agreeing to perform, despite the NFL’s stance toward former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem.
Other artists, including Rihanna and Cardi B, reportedly turned down the gig in support of Kaepernick.
    Perhaps in an effort to avoid critics, the NFL canceled a press conference with the musicians that had been scheduled for Thursday.
    “Maroon 5 has been working hard on a Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show that will meet and exceed the standards of this event,” the NFL said in a statement Tuesday about the decision. “As it is about music, the artists will let their show do the talking as they prepare to take the stage this Sunday. “
    As is tradition, speculation about the halftime entertainment is running high. Some have theorized that rocker Mick Jagger will join Maroon 5 to perform the hit 2011 single, “Moves Like Jagger.” (The Rolling Stones performed at the 2006 Super Bowl.) Others are hoping for a surprise duet with the song’s featured artist, Christina Aguilera.
    In this time of political polarization, Sunday’s halftime lineup appears to be seeking neutral ground.
    Maroon 5, joined by the NFL and Interscope Records, announced a $ 500,000 donation to Big Brothers and Sisters of America in advance of their performance. The move matches Scott’s donation to Dreams Corp, a social justice non-profit, two weeks ago.
      By avoiding politics, holograms and wardrobe malfunctions, the artists should survive halftime unscathed.
      Take a look at the gallery above for some of the most memorable (and forgettable) Super Bowl performances.

      Nixon Foundation distances itself from Roger Stone after Mueller indictment

      Roger Stone exits court with Nixonian salute

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      Roger Stone exits court with Nixonian salute 02:27

      (CNN)On the day of his indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller, former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone seems to have lost the support of one of his greatest heroes, former President Richard Nixon — or at least Nixon’s foundation.

      The Nixon Foundation sought to distance itself Friday from Stone after the political provocateur emerged from a Florida federal courthouse flashing the signature double V hand signal, usually used to symbolize “victory” or “peace,” that Nixon made when he departed the White House after his resignation. Stone, who has a tattoo of the former president on his back, has long cited Nixon as a key political icon and influence.
      “This morning’s widely-circulated characterization of Roger Stone as a Nixon campaign aide or adviser is a gross misstatement. Mr. Stone was 16 years old during the Nixon presidential campaign of 1968 and 20 years old during the reelection campaign of 1972,” the Nixon Foundation tweeted.
      The foundation added, “Mr. Stone, during his time as a student at George Washington University, was a junior scheduler on the Nixon reelection committee. Mr. Stone was not a campaign aide or adviser. Nowhere in the Presidential Daily Diaries from 1972 to 1974 does the name ‘Roger Stone’ appear.”
        The FBI arrested Stone early Friday morning after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges brought by Mueller, who alleges that the longtime Trump associate sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump’s opponents while in coordination with senior Trump campaign officials. The indictment indicates that several unnamed Trump advisers knew of Stone’s attempts.
          In texts to his alleged WikiLeaks back channel, radio host Randy Credico, Stone said, ” ‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ … Richard Nixon,” according to prosecutors.
          Nixon isn’t the only Oval Office resident avoiding associations with Stone. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Friday, “This has nothing to do with the President and certainly nothing to do with the White house. This is something that has to do solely with that individual, and not something that affects us here in (the White House).”

          Can the Congo save itself, and its mythical okapi, from destruction?

          (CNN)A nudge above the equator in one of the most biodiverse places in Africa lives an almost-mythical mammal that few people have ever seen.

          The striped okapi is often described as half-zebra, half-giraffe, as if it were a hybrid creature from a Greek legend. So rare is the okapi, that it was unknown to the western world until the turn of the 20th century.
          While the okapi is virtually unheard of in the West, its image pervades life in the Democratic Republic of Congo — the only country in the world where it is found living in the wild — gracing cigarette packets, plastic water bottles, and even the back of rumpled Congolese Francs. The okapi is to the Congo what the giant panda is to China or the kangaroo to Australia.

          Clockwise from top: A 50 cent Congolese Franc note with the okapi; the Okapi on a government ranger's uniform; the okapi gives its name to many local businesses.

          Clockwise from top: A 50 cent Congolese Franc note with the okapi; the Okapi on a government ranger's uniform; the okapi gives its name to many local businesses.

          But decades of misrule under a succession of dictators has seen much of the Congo’s natural resources spin out of the government’s control, and okapi numbers fall by 50% since 1995.
            Today, only 10,000 remain.
            Three decades ago, an American scientist made it his life mission to protect this rare mammal by co-managing the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in eastern Congo. The reserve is roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, in the United States, but that’s where the similarities end.
            The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is among the most dangerous places on earth to visit.

            Armed militia stalk the dirt roads, illegal gold and diamond mines operate with near impunity and ivory poachers are rife. Compounding matters, the region is currently battling the country’s worst Ebola outbreak to date.
            This week, as the country accepts opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi as winner of a disputed landmark election, the nation stands on a precipice.
            The okapi’s fate, once again, rides on the country’s next move.

            Welcome to Zaire

            When 37-year-old John Lukas touched down in the capital of Kinshasa aboard a rickety cargo plane in the late 1980s, the Congo was a very different place to the one he navigates today.
            This vast nation that spans two time zones had not a single road joining east to west. But under military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, the flamboyant leader famed for his leopard-print hats, life was relatively stable, says Lukas. After independence from Belgium in 1960, hope was in the air.
            “Under Mobutu, any person in the Congo could go anywhere safely,” he says. “You never felt threatened.”
            Mobutu Sese Seko sporting his signature headgear.

            Mobutu Sese Seko sporting his signature headgear.

            A Florida-based zoology graduate, Lukas had been leading Big Game safaris in eastern and southern Africa for years, but there was one strange animal he had seen in American zoos and longed to admire in the wild.
            About the size of a horse, the okapi is a close relative of the lanky and long-necked yellow giraffes we know today. “It is amazing biology,” says Lukas. The okapi can lick the back of its own neck with its 18-inch tongue, and its glossy coat feels like velvet. Most newborns of any species defecate within 12 hours of birth, says Lukas, but okapis hold their first stool for 60 days, to avoid giving leopards a scent to hunt. An okapi can twitch each ear independently.
            Lukas was smitten.
            In 1987, he arrived in Epulu — a seven-day overland journey from Goma, a city in the east — with a group of talented conservationists. In the 1980s, the Congo had an active Ministry of Environment serious about protecting the country’s natural bounty, and Lukas’ group worked with ministers to promote the country’s national animal. In 1992, the Okapi Reserve was officially recognized by the government.
            Under Mobutu, this part of the Ituri Rainforest had been earmarked as a mineral reserve, to protect future mining opportunities. As a result, it was virtually free of development, providing the ideal habitat for the reclusive okapi.

            Mbuti pygmies village have been living in the Ituri rainforest for thousands of years. The Okapi Reserve supports their nomadic lifestyle, providing healthcare and financial assistance.

            Mbuti pygmies village have been living in the Ituri rainforest for thousands of years. The Okapi Reserve supports their nomadic lifestyle, providing healthcare and financial assistance.

            “Our mission from the government was to … make Epulu known for the okapi. To let people see the animal,” says Lukas.
            Felly Mwamba, a trader who was born and grew up in Kinshasa, explains that while everyone in the Congo knows what an okapi is, most people have never seen one in real life. “Many years ago, I saw one in Kinshasa Zoo,” Mwamba says. “But they aren’t there any more.”
            Joining Lukas were Congolese conservationist Jean N’lamba, Swiss zoologist Karl Ruf and his wife, former office worker Rosmarie Ruf, who had followed her husband to Africa, as well as officials from the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN).
            It was not a life-threatening mission. The okapi was not an endangered animal.
            That all came later.

            An African donkey, I presume

            The West got its first whiff of the okapi in 1890 when Welsh journalist Henry Morton Stanley had puzzled over a strange “African donkey” in his book. After greeting missing Victorian missionary David Livingstone with the words “Dr Livingstone, I presume,” in Tanganyika in 1871, the writer was already famous.
            But Stanley’s real legacy was the role he played in Europe’s colonization of Africa.
            After the British government declined to fund his exploration of the Congo, Stanley was approached by King Leopold II of Belgium, who was eager to exploit Africa’s wealth. Using forced labor, Stanley oversaw the backbreaking construction of roads, entirely by hand, across the Congo and helped Leopold claim the territory as a private fiefdom.
            Congo was 76 times the size of Belgium, and Leopold got rich off its ivory and vast rubber reserves without ever stepping foot there.
            Scant investment was made in the Congo or its people, and by the time the Belgian government took control from Leopold in 1908, millions of Congolese had died or been mutilated: One particularly barbaric act saw locals who failed to meet their rubber quotas punished by having their hands chopped off.

            An okapi hide; Welsh writer Henry Morton Stanley’s book; and the author.

            In the early 20th century, the roads that rapacious colonization had built now ferried a trickle of adventurous visitors from the West across the territory. One such tropical tourist was Harvard-educated Patrick Putman, who in 1933 alighted in the eastern Congo and opened a small hotel and a roadside zoo in Epulu, where he lived with a succession of American and African wives. It was the first time okapis had been domesticated in Epulu.

            An okapi’s tongue can be 18-inches long.

            An okapi with a ranger at the reserve.

            “They were a novelty to Western people,” says Lukas.
            Previously, it was believed the Opaki was a new species of zebra. It was only later, when okapi skeleton was analyzed, did naturalists realize they had a giraffe on their hands.
            Putman died in 1953 and seven years later the Congo gained independence, sparking a civil war that overran the area. All 26 okapis at the base wandered back into the Ituri rainforest.

            A remote paradise

            In the early 1990s, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve was a little nook of paradise. Slim sunbeams filtered through the canopy beaming patches of light onto the forest floor. Tree pangolins scaled giant trunks, forest elephants trundled safely along, tropical birdsong wafted on the breeze.
            “Once you were in, there was no communication with the outside world,” says Lukas. “You would write letters home and hopefully somebody wrote back.” Everything in the camp, from wire fencing to microscopes, had to be flown in to Epulu, a village located inside the rainforest but just outside the reserve.

            Top: John Lukas at the reserve in the early years. Below: With an okapi, when they were still kept at the Epulu station.

            Top: John Lukas at the reserve in the early years. Below: With an okapi, when they were still kept at the Epulu station.

            In the first half of the 20th century, the Belgians had airlifted animals from Epulu to Antwerp Zoo, where in 1957 the first okapi was born in captivity, enabling other foreign zoos to take stock. By the 1990s, the gene pool of the global zoo population was slim and failing. Now Lukas’ group dug pits along okapi trails to capture animals to breed at the base, and three babies were born: One female and two males. “We sent those calves around the world,” Lukas says. “They had lots of offspring.” The roughly 200 okapis in zoos in New York, Chicago, Dublin, and Tokyo today are largely descend from that trio.

            A wild okapi caught on a forest camera in the Congo.

            Lukas split his time between Congo and Florida, where he drummed up dollars for the reserve and conducted ground-breaking scientific research. Using NASA-provided sound-boosting technology, his team gathered data that helped prove okapis communicate via infrasonic noises imperceptible to humans. “It’s quite dinosaur-like,” Lukas says.
            But as the team’s work thrived, the Congo was becoming a shadow of a state.
            After rising to power, Mobutu had renamed the Congo Zaire, cloaked himself in leopard skin and drained the country’s coffers, buying off his enemies to maintain stability. His sleepy birth town of Gbadolite in the north, was turned into a lavish city, nickednamed the “Versailles of the Jungle.” Replete with Western-style malls, supermarkets and a five-star hotel, it also featured three opulent palaces with Louis XIV furniture, Italian marble and illuminated fountains. In 1985, Gaston Lenôtre, then the world’s leading pastry chef, was flown in to Gbadolite aboard Concorde with a birthday cake for Mobutu.
            A soldier steps across an overgrown fountain in front of one of the late Mobutu Sesse Seko's palaces September 15, 2000 in Gbadolite, Congo. All three of the elaborate palaces in Gbadolite have long been looted.

            A soldier steps across an overgrown fountain in front of one of the late Mobutu Sesse Seko's palaces September 15, 2000 in Gbadolite, Congo. All three of the elaborate palaces in Gbadolite have long been looted.

            The country had, once again, been robbed.
            In 1997, while Mobutu was getting cancer treatment in Europe, Laurent Kabila marched into Kinshasa and took over the country. The coup divided the region.
            Kabila had used Rwandan-backed soldiers to win power, on the condition that Hutu rebels, who had committed Rwanda’s genocide and were now hiding in the Congo, would be returned home to face justice once he assumed power. Kabila defaulted on that promise, and sparked the bloody conflict that came to be called Africa’s First World War.
            Rwanda and Uganda sent anti-Kabila soldiers into the Congo, while Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe propped up the government. Millions of lives were lost, mostly from disease and hunger, and infrastructure in the east of the country was decimated.
            Laurent Kabila (left) and his son Joseph Kabila (right).

            Laurent Kabila (left) and his son Joseph Kabila (right).

            Kabila was shot dead by his body guard half way through the war, and his son Joseph Kabila took power.
            “The bad governance Joseph Kabila inherited from Mobutu, he sophisticated and adapted to a more globalized world,” says Kris Berwouts, a Belgian Kinshasa-based author of several books about Central Africa. From 1999 to 2002 alone, the Kabila regime transferred ownership of at least $ 5 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies under its control, according to the United Nations.
            When the war ended in 2003, on a local level the state evaporated, says Berwouts. Hospitals were places people went to die, the state provided no education. “The state simply does not exist anymore,” he says. “Which leaves the field to armed actors.”

            Guns, gold and grit

            During those warring years, Lukas became something of a diplomat. “There were several rebel groups, as well as the Rwandan and Ugandan armies, and the Congolese government, fighting back and forth over territories in the eastern Congo,” Lukas says. “We’d be negotiating with whoever was in control for the safe passage for our workers.”
            In 2003, Karl Ruf, N’lamba and Kambale Saambile, a rising star in the okapi project, had just struck such a deal with notorious war lord Jean-Pierre Bemba. On the drive home from the successful meeting, an out-of-control bus collided with their car on a mountain pass.
            Rosmarie and Karl Ruf feeding an okapi.

            Rosmarie and Karl Ruf feeding an okapi.

            “In one blow, we lost our three top people,” says Lukas. Karl’s wife Rosmarie was in Switzerland. “It was a disaster,” she says. Rosmarie decided to take over her husband’s legacy and manage the reserve. “I knew I could not stop doing it,” she says. “My husband would be not happy if I left the Congo and gave up.”
            More trouble was ahead.
            As state institutions collapsed, the Congo’s population had boomed. There are an estimated 80 million people in the country, but the last census was in 1986. Today, the number is surely higher. Ruf says people increasingly began moving onto the reserve, either to practice slash-and-burn agriculture, poach or mine, putting okapis under threat.
            The government deployed rangers to protect the area, and Lukas topped up their salary of $ 43 a month with bonuses for each collected snare or completed patrol.
            Jean Paul Monga, 40, has been a ranger at the reserve since 2001. Ten years ago, he says, rangers might have encountered small groups of four or five poachers. “Today, you’ll find gangs of 30 or 40 people hunting inside the reserve,” he says. “They are determined. They want to get ivory and, if you come across them, they will open fire.”

            A mine on the Okapi Reserve, as seen from aerial survey.

            Gold (left) panned from an illegal mine in Ituri.

            Closing down mines and poachers, however, is a delicate matter in an impoverished country where employment opportunities are virtually non-existent.
            Neighboring Rwanda, now considered a beacon of African stability, has turned its mountain gorilla population into lucrative tourism dollars. A trek with a mountain gorilla in Rwanda costs $ 1,500, and tourism accounts for 13% of the country’s GDP, providing Rwandans with an incentive to support conservation. Congo also has mountain gorillas in Virunga Park, just south of the Okapi Reserve, but after two British tourists were kidnapped there last year, the region is considered too dangerous for a viable tourism industry. “We get one or two tourists coming through,” Lukas says. “I don’t know if they’re brave or stupid.”
            The thundering Afarama Waterfall inside the Okapi Reserve.

            The thundering Afarama Waterfall inside the Okapi Reserve.

            In 2012, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve experienced its worst attack, when armed rebels stormed the Epulu station. All 14 domestic okapi at the base died, buildings were torched and 100 people were kidnapped, the men used as porters, the women taken as wives.
            The rebels thought the reserve was finished, says Rosmarie, but her team persisted.
            The ICCN headquarters at Epulu looted and burned after 2012 attack.

            The ICCN headquarters at Epulu looted and burned after 2012 attack.

            “The beautiful places are now filled with armed groups who live beyond state control and only have that for feeding themselves,” Berwouts says.
            Okapis have not been kept at the Epulu station since.

            Democracy delayed

            On December 30, 2018, Congo went to the polls. The national constitution stipulates a two-term presidential limit, and having overstayed by two years, Kabila was finally getting out the way of democracy. It was set to be the country’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power.
            Lukas and Ruf waited out the drama from Florida and Switzerland, respectively. It was a landmark moment for the Congo. And it went awry.
            Health workers inside a new MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Ebola treatment center in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

            Health workers inside a new MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Ebola treatment center in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

            The country’s influential Catholic church’s 40,000 election observers found that Martin Faylul won. But opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner amid widespread irregularities and allegations of rigging.
            “Kabila is very smart and he knows how to work the system,” says Lukas. “He wants to run again in 2023, and he wanted to keep the party in control.”
            On January 19, the Constitutional Court validated the results of the election, despite requests from the African Union to delay swearing in a new president while they investigated. In Epulu, the internet has been turned off for weeks — a government move to stem unrest — and Ebola remains about 200 kilometers from the reserve, having now claimed more than 400 lives.
            Lukas is determined to hold the line, waiting for an upturn in the Congo’s fortunes that has proved to be as elusive as the okapi.
            A bongo antelope.

            A bongo antelope.

              He is plotting to expand his project to Maiko National Park to the south, where rebels are winning over conservation. “It’s a spectacular place with bongo antelope, okapis and gorillas,” he says. “Nobody can go there, it needs our help. I don’t have much time left, so I’m going to spend every moment making a difference.”
              Meanwhile, the 50 cent note that okapis so gracefully decorate is now so worth so little in the Congo’s devalued currency system that it is out of circulation.

              Asian tick that clones itself could spread fast and far in the US, study says

              What makes the tick lady tick?

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              (CNN)The Asian longhorned tick most likely began invading the United States years ago. Now found in nine states, the tick may soon occupy a large swath of eastern North America as well as coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest, according to research published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

              “This tick can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife,” said Ilia Rochlin, author of the study and an entomologist and researcher associated with the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology.
              Until recently, this species was found only in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia as well as in parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. Then, in 2017, the first established Asian longhorned tick population was discovered in New Jersey, followed by detections in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arkansas.
              Although the tick is capable of causing infectious disease, no cases of illness, either in humans or in animals, have been reported in the United States.
                “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” Rochlin said. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.”

                Unusual reproductive abilities

                Dina M. Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology, a Rutgers professor of entomology and co-author of a previous report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained the Asian longhorned tick’s strange capacity to reproduce asexually.
                “These ticks are parthenogenetic, which means that females create diploid eggs (with a full set of the mother’s DNA) that develop into adults without needing the DNA of a male,” she wrote in an email. (Fonseca did not contribute to the new study.)
                Of nearly 700 species of “hard” ticks — of which the Asian longhorned tick is one — only a handful are known to be parthenogenetic. “So it is a rare ability but not exceptional,” said Fonseca. This unusual method of creating clones means it is possible for the tick to cause “massive” infestations of its hosts. “We have seen very large numbers on livestock as well as on dogs.”
                One of the diseases Asian longhorned ticks can transmit is severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a hemorrhagic illness that has recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan, according to the previous CDC report.
                This syndrome, which also causes nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain, results in hospitalization for most patients and leads to death for up to nearly a third of those infected. This possibility is a concern because a close relative of the illness, the Heartland virus, circulates in Midwestern and Southern states, Rochlin noted.
                Two Asian longhorned ticks: a nymph or immature tick at left and an adult female.

                Two Asian longhorned ticks: a nymph or immature tick at left and an adult female.

                The tick can also carry other pathogens, including viruses that cause Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, Rochlin said. Each of these illnesses can lead to severe disability.
                In Australia and New Zealand, the Asian longhorned tick has transmitted theileriosis to cattle. Also called “bovine anemia,” the illness causes lethargy, lack of appetite and, in pregnant cows, spontaneous abortion or stillbirth. “In some regions of New Zealand and Australia, this tick can reduce production in dairy cattle by 25%,” the CDC report says.

                ‘Where could it go or where could it be?’

                Because the tick has been found in widely separate regions of the United States, Rochlin believes that it “has been present in the United States for a number of years” and is likely to gain additional ground. For his new study, he modeled likely habitats in North America.
                He looked at climate data from Asia, Australia and New Zealand where the tick is established and then compared that with climate reports for North America.
                The most suitable habitat for the tick included coastal areas as far north as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to as far south as Virginia and North Carolina, Rochlin found. On the West Coast, the coastal area where the tick is likely to survive ranged from southern British Columbia to Northern California.
                Large inland swaths might also become home to this tick: from northern Louisiana to Wisconsin and into southern Ontario and Quebec, as well as westward into Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, his study showed.
                Asian longhorned ticks can become “very abundant” in favorable habitats, Rochlin said. “Coupled with the aggressive biting behavior of this species and its potential for carrying human and animal pathogens, this species represents a significant public health concern.”

                Putting the Asian longhorned tick in perspective

                Erika Machtinger, an assistant professor of entomology in Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agriculture, said what’s “wonderful” about the new study is that it gives the “information everybody’s wanting to know: Where could it go, or where could it be?”
                Machtinger, who was not involved in the new research, said she likes to “put these scary new things in perspective. The Zika virus was one of those.”
                “When you think about the native pathogens that we have here that are a problem, Zika virus was a blip on the radar,” Machtinger said of Zika concerns in mainland United States during 2016. The native pathogen of Lyme disease infects about 320,000 people every year and “can cause mortality. It can cause serious debilitating affects,” she said. “That’s a problem. This [tick] is something we need to be aware of and continue to monitor, but people don’t need to be afraid of this.”
                Because there have been few instances of this tick feeding on humans, the bigger concern may be cows and other veterinary issues, Machtinger said. Still, she did not downplay the threat entirely because this is the first introduction of an invasive tick that the United States has seen in 80 years, she said.
                Very similar to the rabbit rick, the bird tick and other native species, the Asian longhorned tick was “overlooked for quite a few years,” said Machtinger, who believes that it may have been here since 2010 or even earlier. “That’s the important piece: It’s here, but it’s been here,” she said. “And it’s not going to take over the northeast or eastern part of the US quickly if it does build up numbers.”
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                Although its ability to clone itself means a tick can easily produce a couple thousand eggs, “so can our native black-legged ticks,” Matchinger said. Ultimately, she said, the Asian longhorned tick may be no more scary than some native species.
                Rochlin said this tick species infiltration of the United States “strengthens the need to develop a comprehensive strategy for tick control and tick-borne disease prevention.” He added the best defense for those who are worried is to practice “the usual precautions against tick bites recommended by the CDC,” such as treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin and checking your body for ticks after being outdoors.
                  Machtinger advised, “be diligent in protecting yourself and your animals.” And, if you happen to find a tick you’ve never seen before, bring it to a veterinarian or a university and ask for help.
                  “We rely on our community scientists,” she said. “We rely on folks who are out there and find weird things on their animals that they haven’t seen before to bring it [in] and say, ‘Where can I get this identified? Can you help me?’ “

                  Facebook is in trouble with users — Here’s how it can save itself

                  Facing increasing scrutiny, Facebook recently announced its new “Blueprint for Content Governance and Enforcement,” outlining how the company wants to change its approach to moderating speech and working with regulators.

                  Documents released this week by U.K. lawmakers, which describe various ways Facebook has wielded customer data or contemplated using it to increase profits, have only added to mounting criticisms. The growing list includes its alleged mishandling of users’ sensitive data, its struggles to combat misinformation – particularly during the 2016 elections – and its contribution to increasing political polarization.

                  If Facebook is really intent on addressing the growing distrust among users, it is essential that it commits to transparency and viewpoint inclusion. The question is: does the new blueprint chart a path that can succeed in doing this?

                  For many of those concerned about free expression online, the answer is unclear. In fact, this new blueprint includes several potentially troubling items. Among them: using artificial intelligence (AI) more “proactively” to remove harmful content, reducing the reach of “borderline” content, and inviting regulators across the globe to develop a new regulatory framework for social media (starting with Europe).

                  The plan also outlines the creation of an independent governance and oversight committee, slated to kick off in 2019, that could play a massive role in setting the platform’s policies.

                  While details on the committee are scarce, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it would need to balance “uphold[ing] the principle of giving people a voice while also recognizing the reality of keeping people safe.” Zuckerberg said he envisions this new committee as a “Supreme Court” for content moderation, selecting controversial content decisions to adjudicate according to published “community standards.”

                  Following years of controversies that are both real and imagined, conservatives are particularly distrustful of Facebook. As Facebook’s new blueprint is implemented, it should make sure the concerns of conservatives are heard.

                  This decision promises to shift power (and blame) away from internal company teams to an external body beholden to the interests of the broader Facebook community. Facebook now seems ready to admit that it should not be the sole arbiter of what users can and cannot express on its platform – perhaps recognizing that it hasn’t been very good at it.

                  While Facebook’s recognition of the limitations of centralized governance is a positive step, it must address important questions surrounding this committee. How will its membership’s will be decided? How will its independence be secured? And most importantly, how will it seek out a variety of voices which accurately reflect the Facebook community’s religious, political and cultural makeup?

                  Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, though imperfect, can serve as a model for Facebook to follow. Formed in 2016, the Council consists of dozens of publicly listed groups including “safety advocates, academics, and researchers; grassroots advocacy organizations that rely on Twitter to build movements; and community groups working to prevent abuse.” Each entity advises the company on its safety products and policies.

                  Facebook should follow Twitter’s lead by publicly listing the organizations involved; but it should also go a step further by enumerating its powers and making viewpoint inclusion central to its mission.

                  Twitter, although transparent about the Council’s members, does not specify the Council’s power to influence content moderation policies. In contrast, Zuckerberg has claimed that Facebook’s new committee’s decisions on content moderation will be “transparent and binding.” It is vital that he keep this promise if he wants to earn long-term confidence in the committee.

                  Twitter also fails to include all relevant voices in its Council, particularly its “Hateful Conduct and Harassment Partners.” While the organization claims to stand for “freedom of expression for everyone,” its partners in policing offensive speech include prominent left-leaning groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center – but no conservative or right-leaning organizations.

                  For content moderation decisions to truly represent Facebook’s U.S. market, where more people self-identify as “conservative” than “liberal” by nine percentage points, Facebook must do better than Twitter at including conservative and other right-leaning viewpoints. Facebook’s new committee cannot define and police offensive speech based solely on Silicon Valley’s liberal bias.

                  Following years of controversies that are both real and imagined, conservatives are particularly distrustful of Facebook. As Facebook’s new blueprint is implemented, it should make sure the concerns of conservatives are heard. In practice, this means making sure right-leaning groups are included in the new community governance process.

                  Facebook should seize this opportunity to make itself welcoming for a plurality of voices, fulfilling its mission to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

                  Paris shutters itself in fear of worsening protest violence

                  Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas locked down Saturday and tens of thousands of police took position around France, fearing worsening violence in a new round of anti-government protests.

                  President Emmanuel Macron’s government has warned that Saturday’s “yellow vest” protests in Paris will be hijacked by “radicalized and rebellious” crowds and become the most dangerous yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

                  The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum shut down Saturday along with hundreds of stores and businesses, fearing damage after rioting and looting last Saturday that saw 130 people injured and the worst urban unrest in Paris in decades.

                  A few dozen demonstrators wearing the movement’s signature neon vests gathered before dawn Saturday near the Arc de Triomphe, which was damaged in last week’s rioting. Others lined up for police searches and bag checks at Porte Maillot, a major entryway to western Paris and the famed Champs-Elysees. Police installed special reinforced barricades in the posh streets around the presidential Elysee palace.

                  Authorities are deploying barricade-busting armored vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone; nationwide, some 89,000 security forces fanned out to deter or confront troublemakers expected at multiple protests.

                  The grassroots movement began as resistance against a rise in taxes for diesel and gasoline, but quickly expanded to encompass frustration at stagnant incomes and the growing cost of living. Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, but that hasn’t defused the anger, embodied by the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

                  Many members of the protest movement are calling for calm, and some struck a conciliatory tone after meeting the prime minister Friday night, in a last-minute bid to cool tempers.

                  But the movement has no clear leaders, and past protests have attracted extremists who hurled projectiles at police.

                  “According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference Friday. “Some ultra-violent people want to take part.”

                  Macron himself, the target of much of the protesters’ ire, has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters. Out of the media spotlight, Macron met Friday night with riot police being deployed in Paris Saturday.

                  Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began Nov. 17. Christmas markets, national soccer matches and countless other events have been canceled or hurt by the protests.

                  Parts of Paris looked like they were bracing for a hurricane, with boards on windows covering up the Christmas decorations. Police removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons, especially at construction sites in high-risk areas.

                  “It’s with an immense sadness that we’ll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority,” said Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people.”

                  Gap’s plan to save itself: Shrink

                  New York (CNN Business)Gap finally realized it's not the 1990s anymore.

                  The Gap was the coolest brand in retail two decades ago. It rode the mall boom in the back-half of the 20th century and won over everyone from teens to moms to celebrities like Sharon Stone.
                  But Gap (GPS) has been adrift for years, punctuated Tuesday by a 7% sales drop during its latest quarter compared to the same time last year.
                    Gap built its status on selling logoed sweatshirts, turtlenecks, and fashion basics for premium prices, yet that model is under threat with more choices in the market than ever before.
                    "They operated in the day when the chief merchant was king, and only a select few people had the right to dictate fashion," said Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at Nomura Securities. "Now, anyone with an Instagram handle has the right to opine on fashion."
                    Gap chief executive Art Peck admitted on a conference call with analysts Tuesday that the company thought it could solve its problems by adding more selection to its stores, entering new markets, and growing sales. "We have at times kind of crossed our fingers and hope to grow our way of the problem," he said.
                    Not anymore. Gap understands it's too big and will never be what it once was.
                    The company outlined a new plan to aggressively close under-performing stores on Tuesday. Ripping off the Band-Aid could mark a turning point for Gap and prevent it from fading away entirely.

                    Retail's worst performer

                    Gap's slump last quarter, which was even worse than JCPenney (JCP) or Victoria's Secret's (LB) results, comes at a time when retailers are taking advantage of a strong US economy and Americans spending more on everything from clothes to new televisions.
                    The Gap brand's issues contrast with bright spots in other areas of the company, too.
                    Sales at Old Navy, Gap's largest brand, grew 4% last quarter. Old Navy is building new stores and will reach $ 10 billion in sales in the coming years. Gap's women's athleisure chain Athleta is expanding too, and the company expects it to hit $ 1 billion in sales.
                    The company has also successfully revitalized Banana Republic under new leadership in part by closing weaker stores. Banana Republic has reported four straight quarters of same-sales growth.
                    Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic combine for close to 70% of the company's nearly $ 16 billion in sales, and they're in strong shape.
                    "Old Navy is a machine," Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said in a research note Wednesday. "Athleta is a major long-term growth vehicle."
                    But years of missteps and a changing retail landscape have caught up to Gap's core brand.

                    Missed opportunities

                    "Management lost track of its shoppers and competition," said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail.
                    Gap fell out of touch with Baby Boomers that grew up on the brand and failed to attract Millennials that drive fashion trends today. At the same time, retailers such as Levi's, Target (TGT), and fast-fashion sellers H&M and Zara lured away Gap's denim shoppers with cheaper prices and trendier styles.
                    "They even cannibalized themselves, selling so many of the same styles at Old Navy and Banana Republic," she said.
                    Sales plunged at Gap last quarter, the result of overexpansion and years of fashion missteps.

                    Gap is having trouble clearing out inventory.
                    It is carrying too much stuff, including three times as many tops as bottoms, and its prices were too high. Gap's merchandising and pricing mistakes weigh on its profitability since Gap has to resort to deep discounts to sell them.
                    "Gap's brand image is still lackluster and it is not bringing anything new or exciting to the market," said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. "Products are still samey and boring."
                    In addition, Gap lacked the right plan to capitalize on the huge opportunity in the shift to athleisure. Despite success with Athleta, Gap did little to solve the problem in its main business. Earlier this year, Gap finally introduced an active line for men.
                    Jeff Kirwan, the CEO of the Gap brand, resigned earlier this year. Gap replaced Kirwan with Neil Fiske, a former Billabong executive who helped turn around Bath & Body Works.

                    Shrinking to grow

                    Half of Gap's sales come from online channels and outlet stores. Both of those divisions are growing and profitable.
                    But more than 1,000 flagship stores around the world— many of them in near empty-malls— account for the other half of the business. At the beginning of November, Gap had nearly 800 stores in North America.
                    Peck believes Gap's current store count is unprofitable, and he sketched out plans to quickly close hundreds of them Tuesday. Taking actions, which he called "overdue," could save Gap up to $ 100 million in profit and boost healthier stores.
                    "We have had a lot of stores that are in the bottom half of the fleet that have continued to deteriorate over time," he said. "It's my strong belief that we've kicked the can down the road on this and offered a deteriorating customer experience, and it does have a negative effect on the health of the brand."
                    Gap recognizes it overextended and revenue has peaked. Analysts argue the plan to shut doors could help it become a sustainable business in the long run.
                    "Not only should the closure of weak stores eliminate significant losses, but it should also elevate the brand position and allow management to focus on stronger performers," Konik said.
                    A similar strategy has worked for chains like Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. The two drastically shrunk their inventory, but that paid off because fewer clothes led to higher prices, Siegel said.
                      "The largest brands realize you can be healthier if you're smaller," he added. "Profits can go up if sales go down."
                      Wall Street liked the sound of a new, smaller Gap. Gap's stock price rose 5% on Wednesday.