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PETA calls on Texas, Georgia to end live mascot use after Sugar Bowl incident

Bevo the longhorn cheers on the University of Texas as they take on the University of Georgia at the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2018, in New Orleans. (Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for Allstate)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called on the University of Texas and the University of Georgia to end the use of live mascots after an incident before their Sugar Bowl matchup on Tuesday.

Bevo, the Texas Longhorns’ steer mascot, charged Uga, the Georgia Bulldogs’ dog mascot, before the game, creating a brief moment of chaos for the people around the animals. The pre-game kerfuffle caught the attention of the animal rights organization.

“It’s indefensible to subject animals to the stress of being packed up, carted from state to state, and paraded in front of a stadium full of screaming fans, PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s no surprise that a skittish steer would react to a perceived threat by charging, and PETA is calling on the University of Texas and the University of Georgia to learn from this dangerous incident, retire their live-animal mascots, and stick to the talented costumed mascots who can lead cheers, react to the crowd, and pump up the team”


Uga the bulldog cheers on the University of Georgia as they take on the University of Texas at the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in New Orleans. (Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for Allstate)

In letters sent to both schools, PETA officials expressed their disappointment that live animals would still be dragged to sporting events.

“Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, screaming fans, and frightening noises is stressful—even terrifying—for sensitive, intelligent animals like longhorns, and this stress could cause Bevo to react in ways that might result in injury to himself or others, as we saw this week,” Neel Parekh, a PETA official and University of Texas alumnus wrote to the school.

“Dogs deserve better than to be shuffled from game to game as if they were sporting equipment. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, screaming fans, and frightening noises is stressful—even terrifying—for sensitive animals like dogs, who would much rather be at home with their loving guardians,” Emily R. Trunnell, a PETA official and University of Georgia alumnus wrote to the school.

Neither universities have responded to PETA’s request.

Oklahoma University, the University of Colorado and the University of Tennessee are among the schools who still use live mascots.

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Palm Beach is ready for Trump — if he comes

West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)A government shutdown may force President Trump to spend Christmas in Washington — but in sunny South Florida, his Mar-a-Lago estate beckons.

It may all be for naught if Trump and lawmakers cannot reach a compromise on funding the government past midnight. The White House says Trump will not travel to Florida if the partial government shutdown takes effect.
After meeting Senate Republicans at the White House on Friday morning, Trump did not offer any new plan that might garner enough support for passage. That made a shutdown appear more likely.
    But it did not stop preparations for Trump’s potential arrival in Florida.
    The security perimeter that surrounds Mar-a-Lago when the President is in residence has already been established, with traffic diverted along Ocean Boulevard away from the resort. Dozens of Secret Service agents and officers are already on the grounds, using dogs to screen vehicles and guests entering the club.
    The Secret Service falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is among the nine agencies and departments whose funding will expire at midnight Friday. In contingency plans submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, the Secret Service said nearly 6,000 of its employees are considered essential, meaning they would still need to report to work in a shutdown.
    But until Congress and Trump approve new spending, those employees would go unpaid.
    Some White House staffers have also traveled down ahead of the President, but are increasingly doubtful he will arrive here on Friday — if at all.

    Protectively preparing

      House passes bill with border wall spending

    At the White House, aides have protectively been preparing for a departure in case a deal can be struck. The President and first lady’s suitcases have been packed, according to a person familiar with the matter, and some of the staffers who were supposed to travel with Trump also arrived to the White House Friday prepared to fly in the afternoon, just in case.
    At Palm Beach International Airport, preparations for Air Force One’s arrival had begun, including lining up dozens of yellow school buses to create a security barrier.
    A billboard on the route from the airport to Mar-a-Lago has also been erected. From far away it looks like an official Trump sign, but when the words come into view, it becomes clear it’s not: “Impeachment Now: Make America America Again.” It’s paid for by the liberal Mad Dog PAC.
    The black, red and gold Trump-branded Boeing 757 is parked on the tarmac, and some of Trump’s family is already here.
    Donald Trump Jr. spoke on Thursday evening alongside his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle at Mar-a-Lago, which was hosting a gala event for Turning Point USA, the group for young conservatives. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and the activists Charlie Kirk and Candice Owens also spoke.
      Mar-a-Lago employees have been told to prepare for any contingency, a person familiar with the instructions said. Planning had been underway for a Christmas Eve dinner followed by midnight mass at nearby Bethesda by the Sea church, along with Christmas dinner and a black tie New Year’s Eve party. On January 5, Trump has also been expected to attend the Policeman’s Ball at the club.
      At Trump International Golf Course, across the bridge in West Palm Beach, police officers have already set up positions around the exterior where cameras have sometimes captured a glimpse of the President golfing. New signs have been posted along the fence warning “No Trespassing” in both English and Spanish.

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      5 heartwarming moments in politics, even in 2018

      Washington (CNN)2018 has been a tumultuous year in Washington we’ve seen unprecedented turnover in the White House, the passings of two political statesmen, and indictments of several Trump associates as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which still continues full speed ahead).

      1. Michelle Obama and George W. Bush’s friendship

        Michelle Obama, Bush share sweet moment

      Since President Barack Obama took office, protocol has placed these two next to each other during official events. Former first lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush have been spotted hugging, joining hands and just seeming to enjoy one another’s company over the years, but their friendship went on full display earlier this year at the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral. The two shared a sweet moment (and social media virality) when Bush handed Obama a cough drop in their row of former presidents and first ladies. At his own father’s funeral later in the year, Bush repeated the gesture, handing Obama another small item from his pocket when he greeted her.
        In an interview in November, Obama said that her friendship with 43 “reminds us that we can get there with the right leadership and with the right tone setting and with each of us giving one another the benefit of the doubt.”
        “I’d love if we as a country could get back to the place where we didn’t demonize people who disagreed with us,” she added.

        2. Tammy Duckworth’s baby on the Senate floor

          Sen. Duckworth brings baby to vote in Senate

        In April, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl, making her the first US senator ever to give birth while in office.
        Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt worked together to change the longstanding rules to members to bring babies onto the Senate floor. Duckworth’s daughter, Maile Pearl, joined her for votes on the Senate floor, to applause — and cooing — from her mother’s colleagues.
        “It feels great,” Duckworth told reporters. “It is about time, huh?”

        3. Pete Davidson and Dan Crenshaw’s ‘SNL’ reconciliation

          Crenshaw trolls ‘SNL’ comedian after controversy

        After “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson mocked incoming Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s eyepatch — a result of an injury he suffered while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan — the two ultimately reconciled on the late-night comedy show.
        Davidson offered an apology and said Crenshaw was a “war hero.”
        “I mean this from the bottom of my heart. It was a poor choice of words. The man is a war hero, and he deserves all the respect in the world,” Davidson said. “And if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something.”
        Crenshaw accepted the apology and also paid tribute to Davidson’s father, a firefighter who was killed on 9/11.
        Weeks later, after Davidson shared a troubling Instagram post indicating he may have been feeling suicidal, Crenshaw reached out.
        “I told him everyone had a purpose in this world,” Crenshaw said. “God put you here for a reason. It’s your job to find that purpose. And you should live that way.”

        4. New pups on the block

        Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren may both throw their hats in the ring for 2020 — but what’s an adventure without a best friend?
        Biden adopted Major, a German shepherd, in November from the Delaware Humane Association after fostering him. Biden has another German shepherd named Champ whom he picked up from a breeder in 2008. That same year, Biden was promised a post-election dog by his wife Jill, who would tape pictures of dogs to the seat in front of him on the campaign plane.
        On Elizabeth Warren’s 38th wedding anniversary, her husband Bruce brought home a golden retriever named Bailey. Her previous golden retriever, Otis, died of cancer five days before she was elected to the Senate in 2012.
        “A few weeks ago, Bruce said, ‘We’re getting a dog,'” the senator wrote on Instagram. “And now we have Bailey who chews, piddles, and makes my heart happy.”
        View this post on Instagram

        It made no sense for Bruce and me to get a puppy. After all, I’m traveling back and forth to Washington nearly every week, and Bruce has a full-time job. We have no kids at home to help out. And a puppy is a bother — chewing everything, piddling on the floor, crying in the middle of the night. You know what the don’t-do-this list looks like. But Otis, our big, solid golden retriever had gotten me through my first Senate campaign. When all the decisions and demands crowded in, Bruce and I would walk Otis around Fresh Pond. If I really felt aggravated by some Republican attack, I’d brush Otis. And every evening, Bruce, Otis and I would settle on the couch for an hour of television. Otis died of cancer just five days before the 2012 election. And once he was gone, I couldn’t do it again. From time to time, Bruce and I would talk about it, but a new puppy made no sense. The fights in Washington have gotten more intense. The stakes have gotten higher. The losses have mounted up. A few weeks ago, Bruce said, “We’re getting a dog.” I started to recite the list, and Bruce just smiled. “The heart wants what the heart wants.” And now we have Bailey who chews, piddles, and makes my heart happy. Today is our anniversary, and I’m reminded of one more reason I love Bruce: He knows about the things my heart wants. Happy anniversary. I love you, sweetie.

        A post shared by Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethwarren) on

        Bailey has been featured cleaning off plates in the dishwasher, rooting for the Red Sox and dressing up for Halloween on Warren’s Instagram.
        And in June, the late former President George H.W. Bush enlisted the help of a new family member in his final months — a yellow Labrador service dog named Sully. Sully was trained by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, a nonprofit that provides service dogs at no cost to veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities. Sully even got his own Instagram account.
        When Bush died in early December, Jim McGrath, Bush’s spokesman, posted a photo of Sully sitting directly in front of Bush’s casket at a Texas funeral home.
        Sully was set to go back into service to help other veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to a post on Instagram by former President George W. Bush.
        View this post on Instagram

        As much as our family is going to miss this dog, we’re comforted to know he’ll bring the same joy to his new home, Walter Reed, that he brought to 41.

        A post shared by George W. Bush (@georgewbush) on

        5. High Election Day turnout

        Voters turned out in record numbers this year, with an estimated 118 million people turning out to cast their ballots in the 2018 midterms.
          In the last midterm elections in 2014, just 36.7% of the eligible voting population cast ballots. In 2018, the number jumped to an estimated 50.1% turnout of the voting eligible population.
          “With Trump likely to be on the ballot in 2020, don’t be surprised if that election also features high turnout,” CNN’s Harry Enten wrote about the high turnout. “Like for 2018, it’s not clear who high turnout might benefit in 2020. It’s really a matter of who turns out.”

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          The very important reason these tiny robots are taking pictures of cats

          San Francisco (CNN Business)At a photo shoot inside a cozy San Francisco coffee shop, models struck playful poses. Some sprawled out on shaggy pillows, limbs unfurling languidly.

          Photographers captured their moves, clicking quickly from different directions and vantage points. The photos were sultry, moody, and, occasionally, featured furry paws.
          This wasn’t an ordinary photo shoot. The subjects were cats with names like Passion, Shiloh, Buffy, and Blinx, who live at a café called KitTea, where visitors can pay to sip drinks and eat snacks while hanging out with resident and adoptable felines.
            The photographers were engineers from consumer robotics company Anki, who captured these fuzzy critters on a trio of tiny Vector robots set up especially for this task.
            The mission was to take as many pictures as possible to help Vector learn to detect the felines that live in people’s homes.
            Data — like, say, cute cat photos — is crucial to building artificial intelligence. The collection process is becoming increasingly important as we rely on AI to do an ever-increasing number of things, from helping self-driving cars navigate streets to getting virtual assistants like Alexa to respond to voices. That’s because in order for AI to work well, it generally needs to be trained first on a lot of data — and not just any kind of data, but information that reflects the kinds of tasks the AI will be working on.
            But it’s not always easy to gather that data. One might even say the process can be like, well, herding cats.

            The robot

            Vector, which costs $250 and began shipping in October, is a cross between a companion and a pint-sized helper. It can give you a weather update, answer questions, take a picture of you, and play with the small, light-up cube that comes with it. It’s the latest model of robot from Anki, which has sold 2 million robots thus far.
            Vector looks like a tiny black bulldozer with an itty-bitty lift, and brightly colored, slightly askew eyes. The robot — its creators invariably refer to it as a “he” — chitters and chatters, whether or not anyone is playing with it, and sounds like a cross between WALL-E, a guinea pig and a fart.
            Vector relies on data to figure out how to do all kinds of things. That includes using its front-facing camera to recognize people and avoid bumping into objects, or its microphones to listen to human commands that start with the words “Hey Vector” and then respond appropriately.
            One thing Vector can’t do right now is spot pets. Andrew Stein, Anki’s lead computer vision engineer and a cat owner himself, sees this as a problem for a robot that’s meant to engage with the world around it, which in many homes will include cats or dogs.
            “If he’s smart about his environment and responds to a cat differently than a coffee mug sitting on his table, then he knows what a cat is, and that feels different,” Stein said as, nearby, a Vector photographed cats lounging on a rug.
            Anki’s engineers are using artificial intelligence to teach Vector how to do this. A key (and sometimes tricky) part of making this work involves collecting data — in this case, that data includes photos of cats sitting, swiping, scratching and sniffing.
            The company, which is also working on dog detection, hopes to roll out a feature that lets Vector perceive cats and dogs early next year. At first, Stein said, Vector will simply be able to detect a cat or a dog in the home, and the company is considering a range of simple reactions it could have, like taking an image owners can view in an accompanying smartphone app, or somehow interacting with the pet.

            Cool cats

            But getting Vector to notice a cat roving around your living room is not as simple as just showing the robot thousands of pictures of cats from existing online databases. Anki engineers have already used tens of thousands of these pictures to train a neural network — a kind of machine-learning algorithm loosely modeled after the way neurons function in the brain — on basic cat detection.
            But Stein said the images in these databases are quite different from what cats look like from Vector’s viewpoint, which could be high above an animal or right in front of its paws, and most likely indoors.
            “The key is getting data that is representative of what he will actually see when we deploy him into people’s homes,” he said.
            Stein believes these images will “tune” Anki’s neural network, which Vector can then use to better spot detect furry friends.
            The approach makes a lot of sense to Jason Corso, an associate professor at the University of Michigan who studies computer vision and video understanding. If Anki only used existing data sets on the web, or YouTube videos or Flickr photos of cats, its data would have all the biases of how humans typically take photos of their cats, he said.
            For instance, if Corso took a photo of his cat, a tuxedo named Harry Potter, it would be from Corso’s height of about 5’6″. Chances are Vector won’t typically be looking at cats from that high up.
            “Indeed, the robot needs to understand what a cat is from its own perspective,” he said.
            To shoot the photos at KitTea, Anki employees placed Vectors on the floor, on tables and on a skinny wall-mounted catwalk. They pressed a button on Vector’s back, which captured five images in succession. A tiny, front-facing display showed the cat what the robot was shooting.
            Over several hours, the team gathered more than 1,500 photos of the cats at the cafe.
            Anki wants Vector to recognize that an animal is nearby without necessarily seeing the animal’s face, similar to how the robot can currently determine that a person is nearby by just seeing part of their body.
              Eventually, Stein aims to have Vector identifying specific pets rather than just determining that a cat or dog is nearby. Then, perhaps, it could react differently to different animals — which would make sense, since some animals may want to look at it while others may be more skittish or just disinterested.
              This was true of the cats at the cafe. Some stared quizzically at the robot, while a few pawed, pounced on, or shoved it. Many of them didn’t seem to notice the robot at all; they just wanted to snooze on shaggy round pillows or sit in a kitty-sized replica of the Golden Gate Bridge and stare wistfully out the window.

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              ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Recap: The Annual Birthday Meltdown Betches

              Hi friends! I’m taking over the Vanderpump Rules recap for two weeks while Sgt. Olivia Betchson is out living her best life. I’m so excited to be writing these recaps, but I have to be honest and say that I’m a recent VPR convert. After resisting for many years, I finally binged the show this summer, and realized just what I had been missing. And now I ask anyone who has gone remotely near LA if they’ve been to SUR. It’s cost me a lot of friends, but I do not regret it.

              As a reminder, last week James Kennedy got fired from SUR yet again, Jax, Brittany, and their limited knowledge of business-ownership tried to start a beer cheese company, and Stassi and Ariana planned their first-ever joint birthday party where definitely nothing will go wrong and zero lives will be torn apart. Let’s begin!

              We kick off the episode at Vanderpump Dogs aka my actual Heaven, where Lisa is enjoying a delicious dog biscuit with her tea. Rich people are weird, y’all. Our crew has all shown up to take pictures with their dogs to post on Instagram, which will somehow stop the torture of dogs in another country. A noble cause, and also how very smart of Lisa. All she had to do was whisper the words “more Instagram followers” in a dark corner of Villa Rosa and her staffers came running to support her.

              Jax is telling everyone that James got fired, while barely managing to contain his glee. Dude, didn’t I just see you get fired last season? Talk about the ‘roided up pot calling the alcoholic kettle black, no?

              Kristen upon hearing this news:

              Then, “Official Vanderpump Rules Cast Member” Raquel (What? That’s what it says on her IG) and James walk in. Man, this guy has no shame. I am literally a walking ball of shame at all times for like, saying hi a weird way, and these people will just saunter into the place of business of the woman who recently fired their *ss. It takes balls, I’ll give him that.

              Lisa calls James over to talk and tells him that she’s going to tell his mommy he has a drinking problem. That statement made me feel like I want to throw up, and she’s not even tattling on me. I’m so nervous.

              Ariana and Stassi sit down to talk about their birthday party, and call James over to disinvite him from it. Yet again, he claims that Katie is the one who got him fired! I cannot even find the words to say how pissed off this makes me! As my therapist would say, you are responsible for you, James, so stop acting like a b*tch baby. Okay, that last part is my own personal embellishment. After what is essentially the Red Wedding of West Hollywood, James decides to spare himself any more humiliation and leaves.

              Next, we move on to Lala and Brittany getting a butt facial. Damn. I don’t even have enough money to get an actual facial, let alone one on my butt. In fact, I think I have exactly enough money for a pinky toe facial. Do they offer those? Side note: I do have to say that while Lala’s makeup is still bonkers and I hate it, I’m really feeling the brown hair on her.

              Anddddd I immediately take that compliment back and remember why I often wish Lala would would disappear back to whatever plastic surgery clinic she crawled out of. Her “man” is, “an *ss man. A vagina man. A tit man. He’s just a man.”


              Seriously though, why does she speak like this?

              Stassi has Beau over for date night and they drink Aperol spritzes and eat meats and cheeses and talk about Italy. Okay wait, this might be my actual Heaven. No, I take it back. Put this date inside Vanderpump Dogs and now you have it!

              Okay, this whole situation with Scheana and Adam is making me incredibly uncomfortable. Is she sexually harassing him? Is he interested in her at all? Is he stringing her along so that he can be on this show and make mad money promoting Flat Tummy Tea on Instagram for the rest of his life? WHO CAN SAY.

              Cut to TomTom. Lisa is meeting James’ mom at an actual construction site. How lovely. It’s basically like, “Your son is an alcoholic and I fired him. Sorry you just sat on a nail. Will you be a dear and get me a cup of tea?”

              Kidding! What actually happens is Lisa tells Jackie that she fired James because he has displayed a pattern of mistreating and demeaning women. Jackie tells Lisa that she’s all for  “the movement of women,” unless her son is the one treating women like sh*t, and then that’s totally fine. She then tells Lisa she was a bad mom and begs her to give James his Tuesday night gig back. No! I am shocked!! A woman who produced a misogynistic, alcoholic, reality star was a bad mom?! Say it isn’t so! I won’t believe it!

              Tom and Tom head over to Lisa’s house to be her man servants, and they find her in the backyard clutching a tiny bird like she’s Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Fly away little bird! Fly away before you end up in her pocket!

              While there, Lisa asks Sandoval to look out for James, which I’m sure will work out for everyone involved. I know they say you can’t see an ego, but I swear I just saw Sandoval’s inflate ten times when Lisa asked for his help. I’m basically like one of those apps that will tell you how large your gestating baby is, except for with egos.  “Congratulations, Tom Sandoval! Your ego is now officially the size of a cantaloupe. Soon you will reach watermelon status!”

              Lisa gave Schwartzie ONE JOB and he used that opportunity to prove he doesn’t know how to count. Schwartz is lucky he is so loveable, because I’m pretty sure without that quality he would be playing video games in his mom’s basement right now. Hey Lisa, I can count and I’m willing to change my name to Tom! Wanna go in on a bar?

              What do you guys think of this makeup right now? I know Stassi thinks they are beautiful ice queens, but to me they look like that guy in Union Square that’s painted silver and dressed like a robot and calls me a f*cking b*tch when I don’t throw money in his hat.

              Brittany pulls Jax aside during the makeup session to tell him that Lala told her while they were getting their butt facials that Tom and Ariana don’t think Jax really changed. It was a very revealing moment. Get it? Because their butts were out. Sorry, I hate me too. Jax says that they’re just trying to tear him down because he’s doing better in life than them. Yes, that’s definitely it. A guy opening a bar named after him with Lisa Vanderpump is most definitely jealous of a nearly 40-year-old serial cheater who can’t make a drink more difficult than a glass of rosé. You hit the nail on the head, Jax.

              Cut to James’ apartment, where Lisa shows up on his doorstep. He must have had warning she was coming, right? I don’t believe for one second his apartment is always that clean, I say as I stare at my exploded suitcase from Christmas break. Lisa speaks for all of us when she tells James that when he drinks he is a “rude, aggressive little prick.” PREACH, GIRL! You should see his Twitter, Lisa.

              Party time. Is Schwartz dressed as Peter Pan? Personally I can think of no fictional character more perfect for Schwartz to be dressed as, and I’m ashamed I haven’t thought to call him Peter earlier. Oh wait, they’re saying he’s an elf on bath salts. Whatever. Tomato, tomahto, am I right?

              WTF is on Sandoval’s head?!?!?!? This guy is more extra than anyone I ever met. And his contacts! Stop. Stassi actually does a butt shot this year (the cause of last year’s meltdown), and I’m feeling like this episode is very butt-centric. What part of the body will we focus on next week? I’m waiting with bated breath.

              Lol of course Lala is dressed all in black. You always need a devil at a party with people dressed like ice angels. Official Vanderpump Rules Cast Member Raquel shows up, and Kristen immediately smells blood and starts circling her in the water.

              Jax pulls over Tom of House Sandoval, Queen in the North and confronts him about the earlier sh*t talking he and Ariana did. I have no idea what is said in this conversation, because I’m pretty sure I just figured out that Tom’s eyes are the monsters in Bird Box. They are freaking me OUT.  Jax is lucky he escaped with his life. I think they hug it out and everything is fine, but I can’t be sure because I had to blindfold myself.

              Official Vanderpump Rules Cast Member Raquel comes over and immediately starts problems. She’s praising James for not drinking since Pride, which happened about a minute ago. Bravo! Do they give out a chip for that, or just a pat on the back? Stassi starts getting heated and now I think we all know where this is going.

              Shockingly, we are all spared a meltdown, despite the fact that practically everyone in this scene is double fisting.

              Oh boy. I spoke too soon. At 1:49 AM Stassi decides it’s time to go to bed, and Beau is still at the party. Stassi immediately turns from ice angel into that woman that texted her ex 159,000 times and told him she’d make sushi out of his kidneys. Wait, was that actually Stassi? When she gets no answer, Stassi smashes her phone, and along with it all her hopes and dreams of a healthy relationship.

              And that’s all! Tune in next week to see if Beau escapes with his balls!

              Images: Bravo; Giphy (4)

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              South Korea turning away from dog meat trade

              Seoul, South Korea (CNN)Tori, a five-year-old black mongrel with an expressive, happy face, has enjoyed a rags-to-riches change of fortune.

              Tori was taken in by the newly elected President Moon Jae-in. Adopting a dog had been one of Moon’s campaign promises, aimed at raising awareness of abandoned dogs and animal rights.
              The dog now enjoys the manicured gardens of the Presidential Blue House where he’s since been joined by two Korean hunting dogs, a gift to Moon from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
                Tori’s story is emblematic of a shift in attitudes across South Korean society as dogs go from the dinner table to treasured companions.

                Changing industry

                For decades, South Korea has faced criticism over its treatment of animals and the country’s ongoing custom of consuming dog meat.
                International animal rights groups have worked to rescue dogs from farms in South Korea and relocate them overseas, including in the US, UK and Canada. According to Humane Society International (HSI), nearly 1,600 dogs have been rescued from 13 farms in South Korea since 2015, the year the organization began the campaign.
                The number of South Koreans who eat dog meat has been declining in recent years, while the number of households keeping dogs as pets has increased exponentially. South Korean animal rights activistshave been at the forefront of shutting down the dog meat trade.
                In Seoul, official statistics show the number of restaurants serving dog fell by 40% between 2005 and 2014, due mainly to reduced demand. Two bills have been proposed at the National Assembly to exclude dogs from the livestock category so they cannot be raised for meat, and to ban the feeding of dogs on food waste, a practice that is common on dog farms. If these bills pass, the already shrinking dog meat industry may nearly collapse.
                Last month, authorities in Seongnam, a satellite city of Seoul, shut down Taepyeong, the country’s largest dog slaughterhouse, where hundreds of thousands of dogs were killed each year by electrocution before being sold for meat, according to HSI.
                “This really feels like a landmark moment in the demise of the dog meat industry in South Korea and sends a clear message that the dog meat industry is increasingly unwelcome in Korean society,” said HSI’s Nara Kim at the scene of the closure.
                Kim is one of a group of activists working with dog farmers who want to move away from the industry, providing them with financial support.
                “We have worked with 13 farmers and all of them came to us and asked for help because they admit that this industry is dying,” Kim said.

                Rising popularity

                According to a survey by Gallup Korea in June 2018, about 70% of South Koreans said they would not eat dog meat in future — up from 44% in 2015.
                South Koreans’ changing perception of dogs can be attributed to multiple factors, but several experts stressed the need for companionship in an increasingly competitive and atomized society.
                “Increasing single-household numbers and a relatively high level of stress experienced from interacting with people in South Korea might have contributed to this change,” said Suh Eun-kook, a professor of psychology at Seoul’s Yonsei University.
                “People judge people but dogs don’t judge people. Instead, dogs give us unconditional satisfaction. This unconditional love from dogs seems to have contributed to a growing popularity of keeping dogs as pets.”
                One in four South Korean adults now keeps a pet, and the average owner spends about $90 every month on them, according to research by the KB Financial Group.
                As pet ownership has grown, businesses offering goods and services such as insurance, day care centers and grooming shops have proliferated.
                According to NongHyup, the National Agriculture Cooperative Federation, South Korea’s pet industry was worth $1.14 billion in 2013, but quickly increased to $3.4 billion by 2017. It is expected to reach $5.4 billion by 2020.

                Doggie day care

                On the streets of Seoul today, it’s not hard to spot pampered pooches dressed in the latest fashion. Department stores carry organic pet food, dog beds featuring Egyptian cotton and strollers imported from France.
                Every month, Ahn Da-som takes her small brown poodle, Angum, to a doggie spa located in relentlessly trendy Cheongdam-dong, part of Seoul’s Gangnam district.
                “She’s really like a member of my family so I want her to look very good all the time. I want her to be clean all the time because she’s just like me,” Ahn said.
                The spa includes a day care hotel, grooming salon, cafe and an events space that can host birthday parties. The whole building has a top-of-the-line ventilation system to keep interiors free of Seoul’s pervasive air pollution.
                When CNN visited, Angum was booked for a teddy bear haircut. She started with a relaxing bath, before beginning a three-hour grooming session with regular breaks for pampering and de-stressing. The session costs around $100.
                “It used to be the young generation who were interested in having dogs as pets — but now it feels it’s not only for the younger generation,” said Ahn, 29. “The change has been dramatic.”
                At the day care center downstairs, four trainers were looking after two dozen mostly small dogs. In densely populated Seoul, where most people live in high-rise apartments, taking dogs for outings to parks or elsewhere can require advance planning or a car journey. Day care centers provide a place for dogs to socialize and get their daily exercise.
                “I like the spa here the most… here my dog gets good massages and gets to play with other puppy friends,” said Lee Soo-ah, who takes her bichon frise to the center four times a week.
                  After her bath and grooming session, Angum emerges a new dog. She then poses for a beauty shot wearing a red bow, seated on a white furry carpet in front of a photo wall decorated in a Christmas theme.
                  While not all dogs get such luxurious treatment, the transformation of their status in South Korea seems clear. While some dog farmers are clinging onto the trade as part of of the country’s culinary tradition, today a dog is much more likely to appear in a family’s photo album than on their dinner table.

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                  Seeing Eye Dog Sneakily Guides Mom Into His Favorite Pet Store At The Mall

                  Four years ago, Danielle Sykora was assigned her service dog, Thai. Since then, he’s helped a lot with her visual impairment — and making her laugh.

                  You see, Thai has needs, too. And sometimes, those needs have to come before Sykora’s, especially regarding toys and treats from his favorite place in the mall.

                  On weekends, Sykora and Thai travel from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where she is currently a student, to her home in New Jersey. During these visits, Sykora and her sister, Michele, enjoy shopping at the mall. On one outing, Sykora was joined by her dad, who made an interesting (and hilarious) observation about Thai. The pup seemed to like visiting one store in particular — a pet supply store called Cool Dog Gear.

                  “The first time my sister ever went to this mall, she was with my dad and Thai just veered right into the store without her knowing,” Michele told The Dodo. “The second time we went back there, I wanted to witness it for myself, so we walked in the direction of the pet store and of course he walked right in there again!”

                  That time, she had her phone ready and recorded the pup’s sneaky move. Like I said, Thai has needs.

                  But Sykora’s family all agree that because he’s such a good boy, he deserves to spoil himself. “Thai and Danielle have a relationship only a person with a service dog could ever understand. He is her eyes. He goes with her absolutely everywhere,” Michele said. “Even when Thai isn’t working and we are home, if she leaves the room he will get up and follow her everywhere.”

                  “The foundation my sister got him from, the Guide Dog Foundation, selects dogs for you based off their personality,” Michele added. “Thankfully, they stuck her with Thai because not only is he her service dog, but he is definitely our family’s entertainment as well.”

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                  The government shutdown and overflowing toilets force Joshua Tree National Park to close

                  (CNN)California’s Joshua Tree National Park on Wednesday becomes the latest casualty of the federal government’s partial shutdown, with campgrounds closing due to health and safety concerns over near-capacity pit toilets.

                  Unlike some previous government shutdowns, in which national parks closed entirely, gates have remained opened under the Trump administration, though parks are severely understaffed.
                  Joshua Tree, which covers more than 792,000 acres of national park from Palm Springs north to the town of Joshua Tree, will remain open during the shutdown. But its popular campgrounds will close at noon Wednesday, according to the National Park Service.
                    “The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.”
                    Signs at Joshua Tree informed campers this week that the grounds would close “for the safety of visitors and park resources” due to a “lapse in federal appropriations.”
                    Handwritten signs urged visitors: “Pack out your trash. There are no trash services at this time.”
                    “It’s impacted (our lives) for fun, but it’s impacted people’s livelihoods and people’s jobs, and it’s disappointing because, you know, is a wall really that important?” visiting Texan Lori Neblett said, referring to President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to back off a demand for $5 billion for his long-promised border wall. The figure remains a nonstarter for Democrats, leaving Congress at an impasse that triggered the partial shutdown.
                    “I think that we don’t need the wall,” Neblett said. “Maybe a little more border security but not a wall. We could use people coming from Mexico to help, you know, with jobs, and they help fuel the economy as well.”

                    People can enter ‘at the visitor’s sole risk’

                    The shutdown has also prevented the park service from making staff available to “provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response,” the department said.
                    “Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk,” the park service said this week.
                    Trash collection has stopped, along with road and walkway maintenance.
                    Rattlesnake Canyon will close to reduce the number of potential search-and-rescue events for rangers already spread thin because of the shutdown, the park service said.
                    The shutdown has also left a stinking mess at Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in eastern California.
                    Yosemite, the nation’s third most-visited national park, remains open but various campgrounds, as well as snow play areas, are “closed due to human waste issues and lack of staffing,” according to its website.
                    On the Yosemite Twitter account, officials said Sunday a “lack of the restrooms and resulting impacts from human waste” forced campgrounds to close.
                    “People entering closed areas are being cited,” the tweet said.
                    The visitor center and museum at Yosemite have closed, and emergency response times may increase during the shutdown, officials said.

                    Communities and wildlife also harmed

                    The shutdown not only hurts the parks but also surrounding communities that rely on an estimated $18 million a day from tourism, said Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association.
                    “It’s really a big deal for Joshua Tree,” she said of the campground closings. “This is a very popular season for people that come there.”
                    Staff shortages have created a sense of “lawlessness” in the parks, Brengel said.
                    “People are bringing in dogs and drones, and there are instances where people aren’t following the rules, and it is not good for the wildlife and the environment,” she said.
                    Joshua Tree Superintendent David Smith, in a statement, thanked the “local businesses, volunteer groups, and tribal members” who have stepped up to collect trash and maintain grounds during the shutdown.
                    “This is a reflection on their efforts and the park is very fortunate to have a community that exhibits the kind of care and concern witnessed over the last week,” he said.
                    But volunteer efforts can’t supplant the work of the park service, said David Lamfrom, director of the California Desert and National Wildlife Programs of the National Parks Conservation Association.
                      “People are walking off trails, bringing their dogs,” he said. “People are trampling and destroying the things they want to preserve without knowing it. … People are camping where they want or showing up really early or late at certain watering holes so animals like bighorn sheep won’t come down to drink.”
                      Key parts of the federal government have been impacted since December 22 by the shutdown, including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Interior, State and Housing and Urban Development.

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                      Shelter Takes In Dog Found With Heartbreaking Note Saying Owner Couldn’t Feed Her

                      An animal shelter in Wilmington, Delaware, has welcomed a sweet, skinny dog found wandering the property with a heartbreaking letter.

                      “Please take care of Sky,” reads the handwritten note, seen in a photo posted to Facebook by the Delaware Humane Association on Thursday. “She is 6 years old and friendly. I couldn’t take care of her. I became homeless and couldn’t feed her. She is not sick, just hungry. Very friendly. Please find her a home please.”

                      Stephanie Gomez/Delaware Humane Association
                      Sky and the note found inside a bag she was wearing while wandering the property of the Delaware Humane Association.

                      The note was inside a bag that Sky was wearing when shelter workers found her.

                      “She really is super sweet, but quite shy at times,” Delaware Humane development and marketing director Greg Munson told HuffPost in an email. He added that Sky has been “very interested” in other dogs she’s encountered.

                      Director of animal care Kerry Flanagan Bruni told Delaware Online that despite being underweight and having fleas, Sky is “doing great” and awaiting lab results testing for possible parasites.

                      The shelter urged people in its Facebook post to avoid negative comments about the person who left Sky at the shelter, noting, “We can’t imagine this was easy for her former owner.”

                      Stephanie Gomez/Delaware Humane Association
                      Sky has been described as sweet and friendly, but sometimes shy.

                      Munson told HuffPost that the shelter doesn’t have any idea at this point who the owner might have been, though it put some “feelers” out at local homeless shelters.

                      He added that if the owner had spoken with shelter staff, it’s possible they would have been able to help, noting the organization has a program in place geared at helping people keep their pets.

                      The shelter said in a Facebook post on Saturday that if staff hears from the owner, they “would be willing to work with them to reunite them, but it would depend on the situation and the owner’s circumstances.”

                      Sky is now on a five-day hold at the shelter, required by law for animals that show up as strays or with no clear owner. DHA also reported her as “found” to Delaware Animal Services on the off-chance she was a stolen dog. 

                      After the hold period is up on Monday, Sky will be taken in by a foster family. The shelter is accepting adoption applications for Sky, but Munson noted that she’ll have to “gain about 20 pounds” before she can be spayed and officially adopted. That said, the shelter has numerous other animals up for adoption, including several cats that have been in the organization’s care for more than a year.

                      Luckily for Sky, it sounds like she’ll have no trouble ultimately finding a home.

                      “There’s a lot of interest for sure,” Munson said.

                      Stephanie Gomez/Delaware Humane Association
                      Good luck, Sky!

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                      Scientists Call For Ban On Cancer-Risk Nitrates In Processed Meats Like Bacon

                      On World Bacon Day, December 30, a panel of leading scientists and politicians called for tough government action to pull nitrates from bacon and other processed meats, citing “a growing consensus of scientific opinion” that cooking and eating nitrate-cured meat produces a carcinogen known as nitrosamine.

                      “The meat industry must act fast, act now – or be condemned to a similar reputational blow to that dealt to tobacco,” said Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist who helped lead the initiative, according to Sky News

                      Also led by Professor Chris Elliott of the Queen’s University Belfast Institute for Global Food Safety, the call for action was also backed by a number of nutritionists, food scientists, cancer NGOs, and prominent politicians involved in public health, the environment, and food safety in the UK.

                      Their push comes three years after the World Health Organization evaluated evidence on the links between nitrates in bacon and other processed meats with cancer. They concluded that processed meats should be categorized under “Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans” alongside other unsavory characters like alcohol, tobacco, asbestos, and soot.

                      Nitrite-free bacon is available in most supermarkets, however, the preservative chemicals are found in most bacon products and many other forms of processed meat such as sausages, ham, hot dogs, salami, etc.

                      It’s worth considering that less than 5 percent of the nitrates we consume day-to-day comes from food additives. Dietary nitrate can also be found in various leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, as well as drinking water. Nevertheless, the experts are now arguing that we need to reassess whether its worth actively adding this potentially dangerous preservative agent to our dinner plate.

                      “The vast majority of bacon on sale today still contains these dangerous carcinogens,” said Dr Malhotra.

                      “Not only this, reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s stance in the 1990s, some of those in the business of making and regulating food continue to claim that health risks from nitrite-cured meat are negligible. The evidence says otherwise.”

                      Bear in mind, they are not added to food for any sinister reason. On top of enhancing flavor, nitrates are used to fight off botulism, an especially nasty form of food poisoning caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Therefore, big producers are arguing that the anti-bacterial properties of nitrate cannot be ignored while assessing the many risks and factors involved in the debate on food safety.

                      “The industry is constantly looking at the levels of nitrites and nitrates, but reductions have to be balanced against the food safety issues and minimizing waste,” a spokesperson for the British Meat Processors Association told BBC News.

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