Patrolling Robot Plotzed

 

Robot VIDEO  A security robot patrols Washington Harbour in Washington, D.C..     Its predecessor drowned in a fountain.

 

Robot said to target the homeless is terminated
(Marvin Joseph/Washington Post )  Chicago Tribune  112.28.17
By Peter Holley The Washington Post
Like so many classic Western anti-heroes before him, he rolled (literally) into town with a singular goal in mind: cleaning up the streets, which had become a gritty hotbed of harassment, vandalism, break-ins and grift.
The only difference was that he was a slow-moving, 400-pound robot with a penchant for snapping hundreds of photos a minute without people’s permission, and this was San Francisco’s Mission District in 2017.
What could go wrong? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
In the last month, his first on the job, “K-9” — a 5-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide K5 Autonomous Data Machine that can be rented for $6 an hour from Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope — was battered with barbecue sauce, allegedly smeared with feces, covered by a tarp and nearly toppled by an attacker.
As if those incidents weren’t bad enough, K-9 was also accused of discriminating against homeless people who had taken up refuge on the sidewalks he was assigned to patrol. It was those troubling allegations, which went viral last week, that sparked public outrage and prompted K-9’s employers — the San Francisco chapter of the animal rescue group SPCA — to pull the plug on their newly minted robot security pilot program.
“Effective immediately, the San Francisco SPCA has suspended its security robot pilot program,” Jennifer Scarlett, the organization’s president, wrote in a statement emailed to the Washington Post last week. “We piloted the robot program in an effort to improve the security around our campus and to create a safe atmosphere for staff, volunteers, clients and animals. Clearly, it backfired.”
SPCA officials said the robot was rented to patrol the parking lot and sidewalk outside the animal shelter after the building had been broken into twice and employees had become fed up with harassment and catcalls.
The backlash began after an animal shelter spokeswoman, in an interview with the San Francisco Business Times last week, seemed to suggest that the robot was an effective tool for eliminating the homeless encampments outside the SPCA, leading to a sudden reduction in crime. SPCA officials now say they didn’t mean to imply that they wanted to be rid of the homeless and have pointed out that they partner with several local organizations to provide veterinary care for homeless pet owners.
Nevertheless, a public outcry, complete with calls for the robot’s destruction, quickly ensued.
A flurry of headlines implied that the robot was specifically employed to target the homeless.
“Robot wages war on the homeless,” a particularly inflammatory Newsweek headline read.
SPCA officials said, they’ve received hundreds of messages encouraging people to seek retribution against the animal shelter. So far, officials said, the facility has experienced two acts of vandalism.
“The SF SPCA was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus — like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti — not to disrupt homeless people,” Scarlett’s statement said.
“We are a nonprofit that is extremely sensitive to the issues of homelessness,” the statement added.
In a statement, Knightscope referred to accusations that its robot was hired to target homeless people as “sensationalized reports.”
“The SPCA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal,” the statement said. “The SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”
K-9 is not the first Knightscope machine to have a short-lived security career. In July, a K5 robot patrolling Washington Harbour in Washington, D.C., ended up in a fountain, its cone-shaped body halfway submerged.

Living With Wild Animals

Last week, a cairn terrier was out of her Northfield home for less than a minute when a coyote attacked and wounded her. Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor, after viewing a home surveillance video of the attack, described it as a defensive attack, with the coyote defending territory during its reproductive season.

Image result for coyote photos

Coexisting with coyotes (and wolves and bears and …) Tribune 2.21.17

I heard a note in the radio news about a woman who’d had a house built on a wooded mountainside in Colorado without much fore-thought.  When a coyote took her little dog, she called the sheriff and asked him to send a deputy to shoot the coyote.  When he refused, she called the Colorado DNR who also refused.  She couldn’t understand that she had planted her home among coyotes, lions, and bears and had to live with them. In a way, haven’t we all done the same thing?  Hey Joe, how do you feel about those skunks?  RJN.

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When unfamiliar residents move into your neighborhood, they may raise concerns, fear and even hostility among those already there. This is particularly true if the new arrivals are of a different species. Coyotes found this out a long time ago when human settlers began taking over much of their habitat. Now, people are finding out the same thing about coyotes.
Last week, a cairn terrier was out of her Northfield home for less than a minute when a coyote attacked and wounded her. Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor, after viewing a home surveillance video of the attack, described it as a defensive attack, with the coyote defending territory during its reproductive season.
Fine, and we accept Anchor’s point that there’s never been a documented case of a coyote biting a person in Cook County. But how should we humans react to increasingly frequent encounters with wildlife in this sprawling metropolis?
In Grayslake, police Chief Phil Perlini was confronted with two separate attacks on small dogs by coyotes near the village. This fall, he posted on Facebook that he was in the market for trappers “to control and/or curb the coyote population.”
But like these animals, people are adaptable. “When I posted that very first Facebook post, I didn’t know anything about coyotes,” he told the Daily Herald. “The thought of humanely trapping the coyotes and humanely relocating them was a possibility in my head.”
Give the chief credit for trying to address the problem without bloodshed. But he learned from wildlife experts that catching and moving the critters wouldn’t solve anything. Remove one coyote from a livable area, and another one will jump at the vacancy.
Those relocated stand a good chance of being killed by other coyotes guarding their territory. Some will be hit by cars trying to get back to where they were caught. Killing campaigns don’t work, either, because the surviving coyotes adapt: They tend to breed at younger ages and bear larger litters in response.
“There is no eliminating this problem,” Perlini concluded. “There’s only coexisting.”
There is a lot more coexisting than there used to be. Coyotes have greatly expanded their range and numbers in recent years, making them a frequent sight in many suburbs and also in Chicago, which is believed to have an established population of at least 2,000. They’ve found that residential areas offer plenty of food and sufficient cover to avoid detection.
Living in such places does present them the risk of unwanted encounters, most often involving dogs or cats, though actual attacks by coyotes are rare. Trying to protect pets by getting rid of coyotes, though, is a futile endeavor. It’s much more feasible to take simple precautions — such as not leaving pets outside unattended, not walking dogs without a leash, and not leaving pet food or garbage in places where it might attract coyotes. There are even ways to “coyote-proof” fences.
As wildlife goes, this type is not exceptionally frightening. People in the Southwest have to contend with rattlesnakes, whose bites can be fatal. People in Montana and Wyoming know the deadly capacity of grizzly bears. In Maine, hundreds of cars collide each year with moose, sometimes killing motorists. In recent years, northern Illinois has had occasional visits from mountain lions, wolves and black bears — animals whose ancestors freely roamed these lands.
Humans, who once took for granted their right to exterminate any creatures that pose a danger, increasingly accept their presence as a sensible accommodation with nature. Anyone leery of coyotes might consider that if these small-brained creatures can learn to coexist, we should be able to do the same.

Tiny New Dyno !

 

Odd-duck dino was mix of duck, croc, ostrich, swan
By Seth Borenstein Associated Press WASHINGTON —  source
 With a bill like a duck but teeth like a crocodile’s, a swanlike neck and killer claws, a new dinosaur speciesHalszkaraptor escuilliei.jpg uncovered by scientists looks like something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up.
It also had flippers like a penguin, and while it walked like an ostrich it could also swim.
That’s the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur.
The tiny creature, only about 18 inches tall, roamed 75 million years ago in what is now Mongolia. Its full curled-up skeleton was found in a sandstone rock.
“It’s such a peculiar animal,” said Dennis Voeten, a paleontology researcher at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. “It combines different parts we knew from other groups into this one small animal.”
In a study released last week by the journal Nature, Voeten and co-authors named it Halszkaraptor escuilliei or “Halszka” after the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.
Paleontologist Kristi Curry Rogers of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., who didn’t participate in the study, called it “a pretty crazy chimera: a swan neck and dinosaur body, but with a mouthful of tiny teeth and hands and feet that look like they might be good for swimming.”

Skull of the holotype
Its mashup body let it run and hunt on the ground and fish in water, said study co-author Paul Tafforeau.
He’s a paleontologist at the ESRF, known as the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, a powerful X-ray generator where numerous tests were made on the fossil.
Lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy, said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil’s authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia.
Researchers used the Synchrotron to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal.
Even though the creature wasn’t dreamed up by Dr.
Seuss, it got a blessing from aDr.Sues.
Hans Sues, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution who wasn’t part of the research, praised the work and said it “shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were.”

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Whales in Trouble

 

Image result for right whale photos
Only about 450 right whales are left, and 17 of them have died in 2017, NOAA says. ( Stephan Savoia/AP 2008)
By Patrick Whittle Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine — Officials with the federal government say it’s time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.
North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died in 2017.
The situation is so dire that U.S. and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The year of high mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.
“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”
Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.
The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths. “The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” he said.
The animals give birth in temperate southern waters and then head to New England and Canada every spring and summer to feed. All of this year’s deaths were off of New England and Canada.
Some recent scientific studies have shed some light on why whale deaths have ticked up. One, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, stated that the whales move around much more than previously thought. Some scientists have posited that whales might be venturing outside of protected areas in search of food, putting themselves in harm’s way.
In another study, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined right whale feces and found whales that suffer long entanglements in fishing gear produce hormone levels that indicate high stress. The stress negatively impacts their ability to reproduce even when they survive entanglement, scientists said.
“My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish, but not entangle whales,” said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
A five-year NOAA review of right whales that was released in October said the animals should remain on the endangered list. It also included recommendations to protect the species. They included developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use, and studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales.

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