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Kittens Recovering After Photographer Rescued Them From Brush Fire

Talk about being saved by a whisker.

A pair of kittens is on the mend after they became trapped inside a pile of burning brush in North Dakota, only to be saved by a passing photographer who heard them crying.

“My first thought was, I am going to have to watch this cat pass away,” Carlos Pacheco, who was photographing the controlled fire earlier this month, told Valley News Live.

Pacheco said he had been snapping photos for about five minutes at the blaze near Grandin, about 30 miles north of Fargo, before he heard their cries.

Pacheco told the outlet he saw one cat trapped beneath the flames and the other resting nearby, breathing in heavy smoke.

“It was too hot for me to even get close to it, which is why I was surprised that the cat was even in it. I had to shield myself with my jacket to even attempt to grab her,” he said. 

Once he pulled away the cats and placed them in a cardboard box, he brought them to Fargo’s Cat’s Cradle Shelter. Both kittens arrived “in shock,” according to the shelter.

“All four of her paws are burned and blistered and her fur and whiskers are singed,” the shelter wrote of one of the cats in an Oct. 15 Facebook post. “Her brother has no outward signs of injury, however he is in worse shape due to smoke inhalation.”

“We thought we were going to lose him,” the shelter’s executive director, Gail Adams-Ventzle, told The Huffington Post Sunday, speaking of the little boy kitten since named Manni.

Though Manni suffered the least visible injuries, he had extreme smoke inhalation. Later tests also revealed that he had a heart murmur, Adams-Ventzle said. “We don’t know if it had anything to do with the fire or not.”

As for the little female, since named Pyro, Adams-Ventzle said she suffered what appeared to be third-degree burns to her feet.

Fortunately, the two cats have begun to heal nicely.

“They are doing GREAT!!!” the rescue group wrote on Facebook Thursday with photos showing Pyro’s little paws wrapped up in bandages.

Once the kittens are fully healed they’ll be up for adoption, though it likely won’t take long for them to find a forever home. Adams-Ventzle said that Pacheco told the shelter he may once again offer the kittens his protection and care ― this time permanently.

“Either way, we’re not splitting them up,” she added. “They’ve been through so much together.”

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Gorilla Escapes Zoo Enclosure, Celebrates Brief Freedom Chugging Sugary Syrup

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When 400-pound gorilla Kumbuka escaped from his enclosure at the London Zoo on Oct. 13, we can only imagine how scared some people were. The zoo was put on lockdown and armed officials showed up, ready to contend with any mayhem.

But Kumbuka wasn’t looking for any trouble. Apparently, he was looking for delicious fruity syrup, according to a Wednesday blog post by the institution’s zoological director David Field.

“Staff raised the alarm that triggered our standard escape response, while Kumbuka briefly explored the zookeeper area next door to his den, where he opened and drank five litres of undiluted blackcurrant squash,” Field wrote. (“Squash” is British English for a type of water-diluted fruit concentrate.)

This is a gorilla after our own hearts. In fact, fellow primate and Huffington Post reporter Andy Campbell can recount a similar experience from his own childhood.

“My mom was really strict about the sweets so I snuck downstairs one night and chugged half a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s,” he said. “Never did it again.”

Field’s blog post also served to clear up some of the details of Kumbuka’s escape. Much-publicized footage showed Kumbuka banging against the glass around his enclosure in response to rude zoo visitors who were taunting him. The Daily Mail reported that Kumbuka smashed through that glass to escape. But Field wrote that’s not what actually happened:

Kumbuka was called into his private night quarters for his dinner at around 5.10 p.m. on Thursday 13th October. As a big silverback male with a matching appetite, he eats separately from the females – otherwise they wouldn’t get a look in.

Unfortunately the door to his den had not been properly secured and a secondary security door had not yet been locked.

We’ve since established that Kumbuka made an opportunistic escape from his unlocked den into the staff-only service corridor where a zookeeper was working.

Thanks to the incredibly close bond and relationship shared by the zookeeper and Kumbuka, the zookeeper was able to continually reassure Kumbuka, talking to him calmly and in the same light-hearted tone he would always use, as he removed himself from the area.

Zoo staff contained Kumbuka in the staff-only corridor, which is where the primate partook of his fruity indulgence, according to Field. They then tranquilized him and transported him back to his den.

The amount of concentrated syrup Kumbuka consumed could have potentially caused some serious digestive troubles, primatologist Phyllis Lee told the BBC. Field, however, made no mention of the silverback experiencing any ill effects, and Lee told the BBC that a gorilla would likely spill a lot of the syrup in the process.

But while Kumbuka’s escape was apparently not the terrifying chaos that some outlets reported, the video of zoo-goers apparently harassing Kumbuka has raised real criticisms of the way humans treat animals in captivity.

Animal advocacy group Born Free said the footage of visitors “shrieking and shouting” at Kumbuka served to show how little “educational” value zoos actually have.

And renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough condemned the visitors in a Monday interview with Piers Morgan, saying that animals like great apes should not be subjected to the total lack of privacy that zoos force upon them.

“If the people were respectful that would be something,” he said, “but sometimes visitors to zoos aren’t respectful and they start shrieking or waving their arms in order to get the poor gorilla to do something and you may think, ‘Oh they’re just animals.’ They are not just animals, they are related to us.” 

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Mountaintop Removal Never Ended: Coal River Mountaineers Fight On

Standing in solidarity with the water protectors on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, Coal River Mountain residents already fending off seven square miles of devastating mountaintop removal mining permits are planning a protest on Monday at the Department of Environmental Protection in Charleston, West Virginia against pending permits for a possible expansion of operations by formerly bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources.

Yes, Virginia, in 2016 formerly bankrupt coal companies continue to blast away historic Coal River Mountain and adjacent communities.

Let’s call it morally bankrupt.

And while the presidential campaigns trade “war on coal” slogans, no candidate and few reporters have made a single mention of one of the most egregious environmental crimes and civil right violations in our lifetimes: The enduring health crisis of residents living amid the fallout of mountaintop removal operations.

Mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has never ended–despite decades of local campaigns and a historic petition last year of 200,000 signatures for a moratorium until the federal government could carry out a basic health assessment.

Sure, mining has declined, due to natural gas competition, but mountaintop removal mining has never ended–despite the documented health crisis and cancer link from millions of pounds of strip mining explosives, silica dust, and contamination of waterways from pulverized heavy metals.

And Coal River mountaineers living in the toxic ruins of the coal industry, with few resources, continue to fight harder and finish off the outlaw ranks of Big Coal, in the words of Goldman Prize recipient Judy Bonds, until they bring an end to this “war on Appalachia.”

“From the mountains of Appalachia to the plains of Lakota country to the western ports and pipelines, from Black Mesa to the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, extreme extraction industries jeopardize the health, water, air, and land of local communities,” said Vernon Haltom, with Coal River Mountain Watch. “It’s all one water, one atmosphere, and one Earth on which we all depend and for which we all must fight.”

“People need to stop saying mountaintop removal is over,” said Goldman Prize recipient Maria Gunnoe, who lives under a mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia. “It is not over! We are seeing new permits weekly. We have educated thousands of people on mountaintop removal. Most of them have left and moved on and are now fighting other issues with more funding I don’t understand why they didn’t complete the job and end mountaintop removal.”

Edwight 9/23 from Junior Walk on Vimeo.

Sure, there have been some glimmers of hope–after years of denial and hand-wringing as the coal industry openly carried out violation-ridden mines, the feds have agreed to conduct an independent assessment of existing research on the health impacts of mountaintop removal, but still allow mining to continue; the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection recently halted the devastating KD#2 mine near the Kanawha State Forest; and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is serving a prison sentence for conspiring to violate mine safety measures.

But, here are four points to remember:

1) Mountaintop removal, like all strip mining, should have been abolished in 1971, as US Rep. Ken Hechler from West Virginia proposed to the Congress–not regulated, given the century-long rap sheet of an outlaw coal industry that has openly flaunted rules in a constant state of violation, exploited loopholes and a corrupt state and federal system that tolerates regulatory manslaughter.

2) Mountaintop removal is a human rights and civil rights issue, not just an environmental issue, which has resulted in forced removals, the desecration of churches and burial grounds, the poisoning of waterways and air, and the toxic contamination of pregnant mothers, child and the elderly.

“”We didn’t formally know in the 1990s what we know now,” said Bob Kincaid, with Coal River Mountain Watch, “that mountaintop removal steals innocent lives. Any acceptance of the practice now carries with it a tolerance, an acquiescence to homicide.”

3) Mountaintop removal has endured because our country still accepts the reality of “sacrifice zones,” where the health of certain regions and people is considered as disposable as our natural resources.

Appalachia, like 25 other states that mine or have mined coal, will be living with the toxic fallout of coal mines and coal slurry for generations.

4) Mountaintop removal is a climate change issue. The refusal to address mountaintop removal over the last half century–and during President Obama’s administration–despite the fact that it only provides 5% of our national coal production, reflects our denial to take the urgent action necessary to combat climate change. The abolition of mountaintop removal would have offered such a chance to end a disastrous coal policy and make Appalachia the front-line showcase for our nation’s clean energy agenda, not the backwoods of denial.

“Mountaintop removal is not an accident,” said Bo Webb, a long-time activist in West Virginia, whose family lived under a mountaintop removal operations. “It is done with purpose knowing that water, air, and soil are all being poisoned and knowing that elevated rates of cancer, heart and lung disease, and birth defects in surrounding communities are directly attributed to this specific form of coal mining. It is time for President Obama to speak to the heartache of living near mountaintop removal. It is also time for the Sierra Club and other large organizations to fully support the ACHE Act and end mountaintop removal.”

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Air Pollution Is Yet Another Issue That Disproportionately Impacts Minority And Low-Income Communities

First responders are trained to give people immediate life-saving care and get people out of dangerous situations. When a patient is suffering an asthma attack that’s caused by air pollution in their community, we can administer drugs to calm the attack, but we know it is only a temporary fix. To reduce the risk over the long term, we must improve the quality of the air in our communities.

This month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will begin to review the Clean Power Plan. The plan, created by President Obama to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, will decrease other harmful emissions as well. In communities already bearing the burden of pollution from nearby coal plants, we see many health impacts from the pollution ranging from increased rates of asthma and respiratory disease to lower life expectancy. These ailments are especially prevalent in the low-income and minority communities where coal plants are often sited.

Coal-fired power plants contribute to dangerous soot and smog, which compromises air quality for us all, but especially for anyone who lives nearby. In the U.S., these plants disproportionately harm African-American and Latino communities. A startling 71 percent of African-Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards and 68 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Hispanics are also 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of power plant pollution than non-Latino whites and nearly 2 in 5 Latinos live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant.

An estimated 24 million Americans suffer from asthma, and minority communities are particularly at risk. African-American children are 4 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and 7.1 times more likely to die from asthma than white children. Hispanics are 60 percent more likely to visit the hospital for asthma compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Emissions from coal power plants are not only connected with near-term suffering and sickness, they also contribute to climate change. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of climate-changing carbon emissions in the U.S. Physicians in vulnerable communities today are already seeing their patients’ health worsened by climate change and the harmful emissions from coal power plants. For example, climate change increases the risk of extreme heat events and extreme heat stroke, among other health impacts. Many cities, including St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cincinnati, have seen large increases in death rates during heat waves in recent years.

African-American children are 4 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and 7.1 times more likely to die from asthma than white children.

Just as we use seat belts to reduce the risk of injury in a car crash, we can prevent or lessen health threats from climate change. By putting the U.S. on a new track to clean energy, the Clean Power Plan is expected to prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 missed work and school days every year by 2030. It will also produce an estimated $54 billion in public health and climate benefits per year by 2030 – benefits we will lose if the Clean Power Plan is not implemented. By 2030, the Clean Power Plan is projected to reduce carbon pollution by 870 million tons – an amount that will reduce health impacts and help uphold America’s share of the Paris Agreement.

The health impacts of coal power plants are unequivocal and the Clean Power Plan presents an important path forward. As the debate unfolds in the courts, medical and public health practitioners will continue to assist vulnerable communities threatened by poor air quality and climate change.

We hope the courts uphold the Clean Power Plan. It’s a smart intervention that will protect our communities and keep everyone healthy.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, is executive director of the American Public Health Association

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Photos Show Hurricane Matthew’s Force As It Lashes U.S. Coast

Hurricane Matthew ripped through rural Haiti this week, claiming at least 842 lives and leaving millions of Americans living along the southern Atlantic Coast scrambling to escape its path.

“I want to emphasize to the public that this is a serious storm,” President Barack Obama warned Wednesday as the hurricane barreled north. The White House announced a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, prompting mass evacuations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is working on the ground in all four states to assist those affected.

The U.S. saw its first storm-related death on Friday morning in St. Lucie County, Florida, where a woman suffered a cardiac arrest. Hurricane Matthew has already cut power to some 827,000 homes across the state. More than 22,000 people are seeking refuge in shelters, and traffic tolls have been suspended to enable easy movement, according to a Florida state press release.

Although damage reported in the U.S. has been relatively minimal so far, officials warn the storm could strengthen or surge as it continues up the coast. It is expected to reach Georgia on Friday night and South Carolina by Saturday morning.

Take a look at the damage Hurricane Matthew has caused in the U.S. so far.

Read more:

How To Help Haiti Recover From Hurricane Matthew

Here’s How Much Damage To Expect From A Storm Like Hurricane Matthew

Airbnb Users Are Offering Free Rooms To Hurricane Matthew Evacuees

Hurricane Matthew May Make Haiti’s Nightmare Cholera Epidemic Even Worse

Fox News’ Shep Smith Issues The Most Chilling Warning About Hurricane Matthew

Matt Drudge’s Hurricane Theory Takes Conspiracies To A Dangerous Level

Horrifying Face Spotted In Hurricane Matthew Satellite Image

Rush Limbaugh Thinks Hurricanes Are Part Of A Left-Wing Conspiracy

New Photos Show Hurricane Matthew’s Path Of Destruction In Haiti

‘Evil Sodomites’ Now Being Blamed For Hurricane Matthew

To support the American Red Cross’s efforts with Hurricane Matthew, please donate via the CrowdRise widget below.

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Landscaping for Life


After five years of watching the drought in California get worse and worse, I like everyone else, have given up hope of rain. This has prompted me to take on the project of re-landscaping my home to make it drought tolerant.

In order to prepare for the uncertain future, it required me to rethink how and what was planted in my yard so as to maximize what little rainfall there is. Rainwater harvesting should be the first thought, not an afterthought.

While I know enough about water conservation and sustainability to know the importance of the choices of shrubbery and how everything is supposed to be laid out, I was feeling overwhelmed and knew I needed help. So, I reached out to my good friend Scout who is a landscape designer and owner of Lush Leaf Landscape Design and is now pursuing her dream and degree in Environmental Horticulture at Santa Barbara City College.

Scout is the type of woman who can handle anything with ease and grace all the while looking like she just stepped out of the pages of a New York fashion magazine. Her trademark style is unmistakable and effortlessly executed whether it’s a dinner she’s cooking or designing a garden.

Within an hour of walking around our yard, she had me looking at the project much differently and convinced me it was indeed possible to transform the gray hard-packed soil of our property into something that was once again beautiful as well as environmentally friendly. She recommended that we build the yard landscape around rain water.

The first step was to bring in Fred Hunter from Dreamscape, a landscape design, installation, and maintenance company that specializes in green landscape design and sustainable, organic gardening.

Fred received his degree in Environment, Population and Organismic Biology from the University of Colorado in Boulder. He told me that it was in learning to garden in the severe drought of the eighties that his passion was born that inspired him to study permaculture design at Santa Barbara City College later. It was there he decided that the focus of Dreamscape would be on greywater and rainwater harvesting. Today he is one of the founders of the Sweetwater Collaborative, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of water-wise landscaping practices and is considered one of the leading experts in drought tolerant landscapes.

Fred began to educate me as to how to create water beds in the garden that store rainwater and release it as it is needed. While some trees need supplemental water, if the infrastructure is created a mature tree can capture rainwater in the aquifer. Shaded landscapes retain soil moisture, so trees with greater canopies are better choices. Some like the Silver Dollar Gum Eucalyptus are more resilient and use less water.

A water-wise rain garden can stimulate beneficial insect populations through habitat and plant biodiversity. Rain gardens that include an artfully constructed creek bed can move water from gutter downspouts into rainwater infiltration systems. By leveraging our personal watersheds around the home such as rooftops, a meager annual rainfall can sustain a drought tolerant garden. The result is aesthetically pleasing at the same time as it facilitates biodiversity and habitat creation. As Andy Lipkis, President and Founder of Tree People suggest, we need to take actions that work with nature both in the short term and long term.

Going through this process has taught me more than how to design a green and sustainable landscape. In the conversations with Fred and Scout and in my research, I realized that the way we were talking about designing in the garden was really a metaphor for life.

We live on a planet with almost 7.5 billion people. We have limited land that can be used to farm. We have limited access to water we can drink and have pushed the boundaries of clean air. It is imperative that we learn to work with the resources that we have and develop new technologies to maximize and value their efficiencies so that we can not only sustain ourselves, but thrive as a planet and together grow our community of green hearts.


Scout and I taking a hike😉

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Poachers Are Gunning Down Giraffes Just To Cut Off Their Tails

In Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, poachers are slaughtering an extremely rare subspecies of Kordofan giraffe not for their meat or hide, but for a tiny section of their tails, National Geographic reports.

Killing a majestic creature that can grow to 18 feet tall and weigh some 3,000 pounds for a single body part is depressing, and the main reason it’s happening is for cultural pre-wedding practices.

Congolese men “use that tail as a dowry to the bride’s father if they want to ask for the hand of a bride,” Leon Lamprecht, joint operations director for African Parks, told NatGeo documentary filmmaker David Hamlin

Additionally, the long black hairs at the end of the tail are desired for good-luck bracelets, fly whisks and thread, according to the American Wildlife Foundation. 

As he explains in the NatGeo video below, Hamlin was flying over Garamba National Park in June when he spotted three of the park’s critically endangered giraffes in a clearing. At the time, Garamba was home to just 40 Kordofan giraffes ― the only remaining population in the Congo. 

Shortly after Hamlin’s sighting, a park ranger reportedly heard a series of gunshots. The following morning, rangers found three dead, bullet-riddled giraffes, missing nothing but the ends of their tails. 

“It was awful,” Hamlin said of the experience. “Because of their size and exquisite form, they take a particularly grotesque appearance when they are lying down, contorted on the ground.” 

As the national park notes on its website, Garamba is “on the front lines of the poaching crisis,” with populations of elephants and giraffes plummeting as a result. The northern white rhino, which once roamed the park, is already believed to be extinct in the wild. The last few survivors of the subspecies are being kept in captivity at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

In the video below, Hamlin shows the aftermath of the recent poaching and how conservationists and law enforcement officials are fighting to protect Garamba’s endangered species. 

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