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August 26, 2015

Virginia reporter, cameraman killed on live TV, alleged shooter commits suicide

Virginia reporter, cameraman killed on live TV, alleged shooter commits suicide

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Crime and law
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Two members of a news crew for Roanoke, Virginia station WDBJ were shot and killed on live television this morning. The suspect, a former reporter for the news station, later shot himself after a manhunt of several hours, authorities said.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were conducting an interview at a local outdoor shopping mall when a gunman opened fire at approximately 6:45 AM local time (1045 UTC). Around fifteen shots were reported fired. Parker and Ward were killed, while the interviewee, Vicki Gardner, was transported to hospital and underwent surgery for her injuries, later listed in stable condition.

The gunman, later identified as 41 year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II, fled the scene. A brief police chase ensued several hours later when law enforcement attempted unsuccessfully to pull Flanagan over on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County. Shortly after, Flanagan pulled off the road and shot himself. He was pronounced dead at a Fairfax-area hospital around 1:30 PM local time (1730 UTC).

Flanagan, who reported under the alias “Bryce Williams”, was fired by the station in 2013. According to WDBJ president and general manager Jeffrey Marks, speaking to CBS News, Flanagan was “an unhappy man” and “difficult to work with”. “Eventually after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. He did not take that well”.

A video of the shooting, which appeared to have been captured from the point of view of the shooter, was posted on Bryce Williams’ Twitter and Facebook pages several hours afterwards.



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April 1, 2015

Small plane with one pilot crashes near Virginia airport

Small plane with one pilot crashes near Virginia airport

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Aviation

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N911PS, a Piper similar to the accident aircraft

Image: Robert J. La Verghetta

A small plane, piloted by sixteen-year-old Ryan McCall, crashed near Orange County Airport in Virginia, at about 9:45 a.m. local time Sunday morning, police said. He was killed in the accident.

The boy, Ryan McCall, a sophomore at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, was alone on the plane. The plane, a 1974 Piper, model PA28140, crashed in a field just east of the airport. The plane belonged to Springfield, Virginia resident William Rushing III.

Flying instructors suggested birds might have contributed to the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are continuing their investigation as to what actually happened. Sixteen-year-old pilots are common, according to Virginia Aviation Board President Johnny Meza. He said a sixteen-year-old flying either alone or with a certified pilot is allowed. The NTSB predicted five to ten business days for a preliminary report.

The Spotsylvania County school district sent out a memorandum saying the school’s administration is working with counsellors to help students cope with the loss of their classmate. The statement said in part, “We were very saddened to hear the news about the death of Riverbend High Sophomore Ryan McCall.” Grief counsellors were available at the school to provide support to students.

The boy’s remains were sent to a medical examiner’s office for autopsy.



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December 31, 2014

Jim Webb campaign addresses first 2016 presidential election controversy

Jim Webb campaign addresses first 2016 presidential election controversy

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2016 United States Presidential Election
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2016 U.S. Presidential Election stories
  • 6 January 2015: Wikinews interviews Christopher Hill, U.S. Republican Party presidential candidate
  • 31 December 2014: Jim Webb campaign addresses first 2016 presidential election controversy
  • 27 December 2014: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to announce presidential ambitions by March
  • 5 July 2012: On the campaign trail, June 2012
  • 19 January 2012: Rick Perry withdraws from U.S. presidential race, endorses Gingrich

Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb
Image: United States Congress.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, a potential 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate, attacked the Business Insider for its report Monday that Webb’s Political Action Committee (PAC) paid nearly US$100,000 (about 80,000) to Webb’s wife and daughter over the course of the past six years. Ashleigh Owens, who represents Webb’s Born Fighting PAC, accused the Business Insider of “[a]dding up numbers across several years [to create] a sensational headline”. The controversy marks the first for Webb since he became the first major candidate to open an exploratory committee last month.

Claiming the Webb family “has made quite a bit of money from [Jim Webb’s] political career”, the Business Insider reported that of US$961,515.34 raised, Webb’s PAC paid a total of US$91,999.91 to his wife Hong Le Webb and daughter Amy Webb Hogan, with US$14,834.34 and US$24,412.20 disbursed, respectively, in 2014, years after fundraising ceased.

“This story as written misrepresents reasonable compensation for real and provable work done”, said Owens in a press release. “The activities of the PAC increased in 2014 when Jim Webb decided to re-enter the political discussions of our country.”

According to Owens, in 2014, Hong Le Webb, who works as an attorney, was paid for “vetting design consultants, negotiating contracts and content management” relating to the exploratory committee website. Hogan was compensated for her work in the “administration, management and design” of websites as well as the “handling of FEC [Federal Election Commission] compliance matters”.

Webb, a 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran, served as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He was elected to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate in 2006 and served one term. Webb favors less US intervention abroad, fewer free trade agreements, and supports gun rights.

According to National Interest editor Jacob Heilbrunn, Webb’s views on foreign policy and social issues may attract “anti-war progressives as well as conservative-minded Southern white men.” The Nation labeled him the “worst nightmare” of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

U.S. News & World Report reported at least one Clinton operative pitched unflattering stories about Webb to media outlets since late last month.



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October 30, 2014

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Space
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Image: Wallops Flight Facility.

A launch failure occurred at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday.

The failure occurred when Orbital Sciences Corporation‘s Antares rocket, which was carrying the Cygnus vehicle with cargo of 5,000 pounds (about 2,300 kg), exploded after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. local time (2222 UTC), creating a massive fireball in the sky. Nobody was reported injured during the explosion, but the rocket was destroyed. The cargo was supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). Despite the explosion, the astronauts working on the ISS will not run out of food or supplies, according to a NASA statement released on Tuesday.

Orbital’s vice president Frank Culbertson said the contractor’s spacecraft will not fly until the cause of the failure is determined. NASA plans to continue the mission of delivering supplies to astronauts once it fully understands how this happened.

The rocket was to launch on Monday night, but a boat entered the hazard area, delaying the launch until the following night.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by NASA and Orbital Sciences. NASA said the National Transportation Safety Board is monitoring the investigation.



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April 12, 2014

GWAR announce Dave Brockie arts foundation

GWAR announce Dave Brockie arts foundation

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Music
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Brockie as Oderus Urungus in 2004.
Image: Mark Marek.

The surviving members of satirical metal band GWAR yesterday announced a charitable arts foundation in the name of Dave Brockie. Brockie, 50, died last month.

Founding frontman and singer Brockie spent 30 years leading “Earth’s only openly extra-terrestrial rock band”, which actually hailed from Richmond, Virginia. Their obscene lyrics and theatrical live shows brought fame to Brockie, who went by stage name Oderus Urungus, and the fellow Virginia Commonwealth University art students that made up the band.

GWAR unveiled the foundation in a video statement yesterday. Amongst the stated aims are providing support to artists who cannot acquire funds via traditional routes and “the advancement of music, images, letters and performances in the arts”. The foundation is also to preserve Brockie’s body of work and promote his legacy.

“We would like to thank fans and friends for their outpouring of love”, the band said.

A public memorial for Brockie is scheduled for August 15, and the annual GWAR-B-Q is to go ahead the next day. Drawing a line between the stage persona and the man who played it, the band add “Just face it — Oderus would order you to be present and pay tribute to Dave Murray Brockie, his own personal slave!”

Donations can be made at the GWAR-B-Q and via GWAR’s website. The rubber-costumed band remains to publicly decide if they will continue to perform and record. They say the foundation’s first task will be to fund and erect a monument “to provide the world with a place to pay respects to the memory of a very cherished man”.



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  • “GWAR frontman Dave Brockie aka Oderus Urungus dies at age 50” — Wikinews, March 25, 2014

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March 25, 2014

GWAR frontman Dave Brockie aka Oderus Urungus dies at age 50

GWAR frontman Dave Brockie aka Oderus Urungus dies at age 50

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Music
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  • English actor Christopher Lee dies aged 93
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  • Taylor Swift breaks Vevo record

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Brockie as Oderus Urungus onstage in 2010.
Image: Stuart Sevastos.

Dave Brockie of rubber-costumed metal act GWAR was found dead in his Richmond, Virginia home late on Sunday. Better known by stage name Oderus Urungus, Brockie was 50.

Founder, singer, leader, and occasional bassist of GWAR, Brockie’s career stretches back to 1984. He and fellow Virginia Commonwealth University art students formed what they dubbed “Earth’s only openly extra-terrestrial rock band”, growing famous for satirical and obscene lyrical themes, and live shows featuring the defilement of effigies and plenty of fake blood.

Fellow founding member Don Drakulich, who still makes props and costumes for the rockers, said he was “very sad” and “shocked”. He said Brockie’s roommate found the corpse. GWAR members changed frequently and the band recovered from the sudden death of guitarist Cory “Flattus Maximus” Smoot during a 2011 tour, but the New York Daily News notes “it’s hard to envision their saga going further” after Brockie’s death.

The band ran with the backstory of crashing to “the most insignificant planet in the universe” 43 million years ago before creating humans by having sex with apes. Becoming encased with ice, the legend ran that upon thawing out in 1984 the members decided to form a band.

Cquote1.svg I am one of the blessed people that gets to do what I love to do for a living Cquote2.svg

—Brockie in 2009

Manager Jack Flanagan announced the death via GWAR’s website, adding a post-mortem will be conducted. “My main focus right now is to look after my band mates and his family” he said. Flanagan said another GWAR member found the body.

Brockie said in 2009 “I am one of the blessed people that gets to do what I love to do for a living.” GWAR received a Grammy nomination in 1993, with Phallus in Wonderland up for Best Longform Music Video.

Fellow Virginia rocker Randy Blythe, vocalist for Lamb of God, paid tribute online, writing on Instagram “When someone dies, a lot of the time people will say ‘Oh, he was a unique person, really one of a kind, a true original’ […] I can’t think of ANYONE even remotely like him.”

Cquote1.svg He never put much stock in ‘limits’ Cquote2.svg

—Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe

Blythe also took to Facebook. “Right now, if I were to truly honor Dave in the way HE would do it if it were ME that had died, I would make a completely tasteless joke about his death. But I do not have the stomach for that — Dave would, but not me. He never put much stock in ‘limits’.”

Ex-GWAR guitarist Steve Douglas said on Facebook “I have had a few bad days in my life but this one truly ranks right up there. […] you are gone and it is hurting very badly!” “I wish it was a joke” said another ex-member, Chris Bopst. “Everyone is in shock.”

Former bassist Mike Bishop paid tribute in an interview with Style Weekly. “Dave was one of the funniest, smartest, most creative and energetic persons I’ve known,” he said. “He was brash sometimes, always crass, irreverent, he was hilarious in every way. But he was also deeply intelligent and interested in life, history, politics and art.”



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October 30, 2013

Jeff Gordon wins the 2013 Goody\’s Headache Relief Shot 500

Jeff Gordon wins the 2013 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NASCAR
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NASCAR on Wikinews

Jeff Gordon in 2012
Image: jez s.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2013 Goody’s Headache Relief 500 on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Gordon started the race in ninth, and eventually won his first race of 2013 and snapping a 32-race winless streak. The race, contested over 500 laps, featured a season-high 17 caution flags for 111 laps and involving 21 drivers, and 15 different race leaders.

The race was primarily dominated by championship contenders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, who led 123 and 202 laps, respectively. However, Johnson fell behind after a caution on lap 218, and dropped back further into the field after another caution on lap 229. Kenseth relinquished the lead on lap 237 to Clint Bowyer, and was out of the top ten afterwards. Gordon took the lead from Bowyer on lap 282, which he held for 57 laps. Johnson and Kenseth eventually caught up to the top ten, while Gordon lost positions due to a pit stop, but he reached second place with 80 laps to go. On lap 479, Gordon passed Kenseth entering turns one and two, and led for the remainder of the race. Kenseth finished second, followed by Clint Bowyer, 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, and Johnson closed out the top five. Kevin Harvick, pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle and last week’s race winner Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten.

After winning, Gordon stated:

Cquote1.svg “It’s hard to top what it feels like to win, especially when you’ve been through what this team has been through. I’m so proud of them for never giving up. We’ve shown it all year long; we’ve been through a lot, but this makes it all worth it. It means a lot to all of us to get a huge win here for points, for the Manufacturers’ Championship, for the Rick Hendrick family and for those we lost several years ago [in a plane crash near the track]. We’ve left so many racetracks looking at each other going, ‘what do we need to do?’ Today, it all came together.” Cquote2.svg

In the points race, Gordon moved up to third, 27 points behind Johnson and Kenseth, who were both tied for the lead with 2,294. The remaining ten drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup were: Harvick (2,266), Kyle Busch (2,258), Bowyer (2,239), Earnhardt (2,238), Biffle (2,236), Kurt Busch (2,219), Carl Edwards (2,218), Joey Logano (2209), Ryan Newman (2,188) and Kasey Kahne (2,170).

The win was Gordon’s eighth at Martinsville, tying him with Johnson for the most among active drivers at the track. The win also clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship for Chevrolet, the eleventh consecutive title for the American-based manufacturer.

The next race of the season is to be the 2013 AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, to air on ESPN on November 3, 2013.

Official Top-10 Race Results for the 2013 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500
Position Car Number Team Driver
1 24 Hendrick Motorsports Jeff Gordon
2 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Matt Kenseth
3 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Clint Bowyer
4 2 Penske Racing Brad Keselowski
5 48 Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson
6 29 Richard Childress Racing Kevin Harvick
7 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Denny Hamlin
8 88 Hendrick Motorsports Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
9 16 Roush Fenway Racing Greg Biffle
10 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Jamie McMurray



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October 19, 2013

Wikinews interviews Robert Sarvis, Libertarian Party nominee for Governor of Virginia

Wikinews interviews Robert Sarvis, Libertarian Party nominee for Governor of Virginia

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Robert Sarvis.
Image: Sarvis for Governor.

Attorney Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for Governor of Virginia, answered five questions submitted via e-mail by accredited Wikinews reporter William Saturn.

Virginia, highlighted in red.
Image: Huebi.

Sarvis has garnered double digits in opinion polls for the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election, an unusual feat for a third party candidate. The latest Newsmax/Zogby poll from late September placed him at 13 percent, 14 points behind Republican Party nominee Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Attorney General, and 19 points behind Democratic Party nominee Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, with 24 percent undecided. Whoever wins election on November 5, 2013, would replace outgoing governor Bob McDonnell.

On his campaign website, Sarvis notes he favors parental school choice through student vouchers, simplification of Virginia’s Tax Code, US Second Amendmentgun — rights, same-sex marriage, and reform of the state’s drug laws. With Wikinews, Sarvis discusses his background, views on McDonnell’s tenure, keys to campaign success, plan to implement his agenda, and the former Virginia governor he most admires.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam SaturnWikinews waves Right.png What is the most important aspect of your background that voters should know about?

Robert Sarvis: I am the only candidate born and raised in Virginia, but also the only candidate who embodies both physically and philosophically the growing diversity of the commonwealth. (I am mixed-race (half-Chinese) and in an interracial marriage.) I am the only candidate who has studied both economics and law, and the only candidate with a background in technology entrepreneurship. Because of my academic and professional background, I understand the issues and challenges facing Virginia much better than the other candidates, and I am offering real solutions that can be appreciated across the political spectrum. I am the only candidate who believes in both economic freedom and personal liberty and the only candidate who stands on principle against cronyism and corporatism and in favor of the rule of law.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png What are your thoughts on the job Bob McDonnell has done as Governor of Virginia? What would you have done differently than him?

Sarvis: McDonnell did well early in his term pushing back against Senate Democrats who wanted huge tax increases in response to major revenue shortfalls during the recession. Those early budget efforts are his highest achievement as Governor. More recently, he erred in accepting a transportation bill that had huge flaws and huge tax increases, rather than prioritizing spending and seeking more rational, efficient, decentralized transportation decision-making. He could have shown much greater leadership in pushing for tax reform, regulatory reform, and school choice. Of course, he showed ethical lapses in judgment.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png Compared to previous third party candidates at the gubernatorial level, you have done exceptionally well in opinion polling. What do you attribute that success to?

Sarvis: Voters see the two-party system for the sham it has become. They are sick of the partisanship and nonsense and the total lack of substance in modern campaigns. Voters see the two major party nominees as exemplifying what is worst about their respective parties, and they want something better. Voters who meet me and hear me speak know that I am sincere, know that I understand the issues deeply and have workable solutions, and know that I stand on principle against cronyism and corporatism and in favor of the rule of law and the public interest. People like the fact that I stand for a Virginia that is both Open-minded and Open for Business.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png If elected governor, how will you be able to implement your agenda while dealing with a hostile legislature?

Sarvis: There are precedents of independent governors dealing effectively with the legislature, and indeed a wise third-party governor can have greater effectiveness than a major party governor. Libertarians share many policy positions with each of the major parties. Working together with both Republicans and Democrats, we can get the good aspects of each party while rejecting the bad parts of both. Moreover, electing a third-party governor represents a repudiation of politics as usual, and the major party legislators will face changed constraints and incentives, meaning that much more is possible than many people assume, especially with strong leadership.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.png Which previous Virginia Governor(s) do you most admire and why?

Sarvis: Thomas Jefferson. He was incredibly learned and was a strong advocate for freedom and the rule of law. He would be a Libertarian today.



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March 29, 2013

Wikinews interviews American zoologists about pirate perches\’ chemical camouflage

Wikinews interviews American zoologists about pirate perches’ chemical camouflage

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Friday, March 29, 2013

William Resetarits and a pool
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Christopher A. Binkley collecting beetles
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Pools for studying beetle colonization
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A pirate perch
Image: Resetarits Lab.

American zoologists, William Resetarits and Christopher Binckley, have discovered chemical camouflage in pirate perches. The researchers experimented with common predatory fish victims, such as tree frogs and aquatic beetles, which avoid places where fishes live. However these victims didn’t avoid pirate perches. On March 7, the American Naturalist published the researchers’ paper.

Today, Wikinews interviewed one of the researchers, William J Resetarits, about the study.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in Pirate perches?

William J Resetarits: Pirate perch are quite common at our field site in Virginia and we were looking to include as much breadth of diversity as possible in our experiments to see whether the avoidance response we were seeing was a generalized response to fish. So, we used fish that were both phylogenetically and ecologically diverse. Pirate perch are in their own taxonomic family, and represent a different taxonomic order, which includes the Amblyopsid cavefish. So, they have some unique aspects to their morphology and life history, but they are generalist predators and so should have be avoided like all the other fish tested.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you have a photo of a Pirate perch, and of the environment you conducted experiments in (the pools)? What lab were the experiments carried out in?

WJR: We don’t have a great photo ourselves, but there are several available in the public domain. We do have photos of the pools, which I will send.
WJR: All of the experiments (11 in total) were carried out in the field, rather than in the lab, with natural populations of colonizing organisms. Work was conducted at several sites over the years, including the Duke Zoology Field Station, University of Illinois Experimental Pond Facility, Grice Marine Lab (College of Charleston), Naval Security Activity Northwest (Virginia) and Tyson Research Center (Washington University in St. Louis).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As far as I could see from the news and Abstract, the prey species avoided pirate perches. What prey species did you test?

WJR: Over the 11 experiments we have used three species of treefrogs (gray treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis, squirrel treefrogs, H. squirrella, and pine woods treefrogs, H. femoralis), as well as a total of about 45 species of Dytiscid and Hydrophilid beetles – the two largest families of aquatic beetles. Quite a diverse group, and obviously the shared ancestor of treefrogs and beetles is quite far back in evolutionary history, so these groups have separately evolved avoidance responses to fish.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What makes you confident that the camouflage has a chemical nature?

WJR: Well, just to clarify a bit, we use the term camouflage, because it is readily understandable, but what we really are dealing with is some form of “chemical deception”. The actual mechanism may be camouflage, which makes an organism difficult to detect, mimicry, which make an organism difficult to correctly identify, or cloaking, in which the organism simply does not produce a signal detectable to the receiver. We are all familiar with visual camouflage, chameleons being a great example, or a deer fawn in the underbrush. Mimicry, flies that look like bees, or harmless snakes that look like highly venomous ones, is also familiar and common. But an organism can’t evolve practical invisibility, like Harry Potter‘s invisibility cloak, or the Romulan cloaking device. However, an organism COULD conceivably be chemically “invisible”, either by not producing a signal or producing a second chemical that masks the signal. So, the general term “chemical deception” applies until we tease out the specific mechanism.
WJR: Because fish cues appear highly volatile, lasting only a few days if the fish are removed, and colonization/oviposition is highly unpredictable in time, we really couldn’t simply use fish conditioned water. So, in our early experiments, we went to considerable pains to isolate the fish in terms of visual and movement cues, so that only chemical cues were available. Sound production is rare in fishes, and none of the fish tested are known to produce sounds. We placed fish inside 115 opaque plastic trash cans with opaque lids and each can had two 25×50 cm sections on opposite sides (and entirely below water-level) removed and replaced with one layer of 99% shade cloth over one layer of no-see-um netting ( 1 mm x 1mm mesh). When submerged in larger tanks light penetration was essentially zero and motion cues were eliminated, but water (and chemical cues) were exchanged.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment was used during the study? Do you have photos?

WJR: This is pretty simple stuff, from the perspective of equipment. Not much fancy “science gear” involved. We use cattle tanks or kiddie wading pools, window screen, aquarium nets and turkey basters to collect beetles and eggs, and then dissecting microscopes to identify beetles. The “rocket science” part of it comes in the careful experimental design, the meticulous set up of the experiments and data collection, and then the analysis. Of course, our current work trying to identify the active compound(s) in fish kairomones (odor) uses much more sophisticated analytical equipment.

An array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A block of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A second array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A third array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

WJR: Across the entire 11 experiments, Chris and I did the bulk of the work, along with help from a variety of field assistants and grad students along the way, particularly Joe Rieger and Dave Chalcraft, who also contributed data to the paper.
WJR: This is VERY tedious work. Setup of the experiments is tough physically, and quite elaborate and time consuming, but the toughest part was collecting the frog eggs and beetles, which involves long hours bending over tanks in the hot sun. Counting eggs also takes considerable time, but the most time consuming aspect was sorting and identifying beetles, which was done by Chris and Joe with help from folks at the Smithsonian.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do you plan to investigate the chemistry of the phenomenon? How would you like to check what exactly happens?

WJR: We are using an approach developed by my current post doc, Alon Silberbush, who identified and characterized the kairomone produced by a predatory insect Notonecta. This process involves chemical analysis using gas chromatography. We have an advantage over others who have tried unsuccessfully to identify fish kairomones because we essentially have a control – a fish (pirate perch) that does everything a fish does, but does not “smell” like a fish. So, we can use chemical differences between pirate perch and other fish to guide us in identifying the active compounds in fish kairomones, as well as the mechanism of chemical deception in pirate perch.
WJR: Once we have identified candidate compounds, we then take it back to the field to test with the same organisms which alerted us to the phenomenon originally, treefrogs and beetles, as well as other organisms known to respond to fish chemical cues, such as mosquitoes and water fleas (Daphnia). This allows us to iteratively verify that we have the right compound(s), as well as further test the generality of the response to fish and the chemical deception of pirate perch. We will also test whether this chemical deception works against the pirate perch’s own predators.
WJR: Of course, other critical questions that we are working on include just how much advantage in terms of prey acquisition do pirate perch gain as a result of chemical deception, does this phenomenon occur in closely related species, like the cavefish, and are there prey species that have found a way around the chemical deception? There is lots to do and I think we have just scratched the surface.



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March 26, 2013

United States Supreme Court contemplates gay marriage issue

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Supreme Court on Capitol Hill
Image: Ken Hammond.

This week, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to address two cases before them on the issue of same-sex marriage. The federal Defense of Marriage Act case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday. The other case involves California’s Proposition 8. A ruling is unlikely to be made until June.

The federal case involves the denial of privileges afforded to heterosexual married couples on the federal level, and the legality of states to opt out of recognizing legal marriages performed in other states in the union and to deny state benefits for those couples.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, potential swing vote on the Supreme Court
Image: Steve Petteway.

John Eastman, law professor at Chapman University and chairman of National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, believes the eventual ruling will be a close one, with Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy likely to be the key swing vote. Eastman is quoted by U.S. News and World Report as saying of Kennedy, “All eyes are on Justice Kennedy and he’s obviously written the two major gay rights decisions in the past decade and a half and that means that people rightly think that he’s kind of open to taking this step, but he has studiously avoided taking that step in prior cases.” Other court watchers agree with this sentiment.

In the lead up to the hearings, a number of high profile politicians have expressed their support for same-sex marriage including Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Earlier this month, 40 United States senators signed a legal brief arguing against the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was submitted to the Supreme Court.

High visibility companies have also indicated support for legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, including Starbucks where CEO Howard Schultz gave company support at a share-holder meeting last week. After share-holder Tom Strobhar implied at the meeting that Starbuck’s historical position of supporting same-sex marriage, which included open support of the same-sex marriage legalization efforts in the state of Washington last year, hurt the company’s bottom line, Schultz responded by saying, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company.” The company’s position is predicated on respecting diversity, even if it potentially did impact Starbucks earnings.

Goldman Sachs has also supported the push for same-sex marriage arguing that the lack of equality hurts businesses. Goldman Sachs, Marriott International and Thomson Reuters have all signed a legal brief condemning the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Protesters gathered inside the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota, to protest against the upcoming vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives to put an anti-same-sex marriage amendment on the 2012 election ballot.
Image: Fibonacci Blue.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published last week showed support for same-sex marriage in the United States was at an all time high at 58%, an increase of 21% since 2003. A recent Gallup poll showed similar results, with 54% of Americans supporting federal benefits for gay and lesbian couples, an increase of 27% since 1996 when the federal Defense of Marriage Act became law. Last week, a poll published by Reuters/Ipso found 63% of Americans supported same-sex marriage or civil unions. Despite this, social conservatives argue that this support may be over-stated by as much as 7% when voters are asked to voice their opinion on the issue at the ballot box. They cite a 2010 study by New York University political science professor Patrick J. Egan. Social conservatives also argue that people lie to pollsters as they do not want to appear intolerant. 2000 Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer said on Fox News Sunday, “I’m not worried about [same-sex marriage], because the polls are skewed. Just this past November, four states, very liberal states, voted on this issue and my side lost all four of those votes. But my side had 45, 46 percent of the vote in all four of those liberal states.” Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, also argues that misleading polling questions over-count support for same-sex marriage in the United States.

Despite the potential for skewed polling, the four most recent ballot initiatives regarding same-sex marriage in the United States on a state level resulted in citizens voting to support same-sex marriage in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington and Maine. It also comes at a time when the most recent election cycle in the United States saw opponents of same-sex marriage outspent 3 to 1.



Related news

  • Voters in Maine and Maryland vote for marriage equality” — Wikinews, November 7, 2012
  • “California’s same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional; appeal expected” — Wikinews, August 4, 2010
  • “California Supreme Court defers ruling on same-sex marriage ban” — Wikinews, March 5, 2009
  • “California Supreme Court strikes down ban on gay marriage” — Wikinews, May 16, 2008

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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