CHICAGO — Weeks before the official start of the winter season, Great Lakes surface temperatures are still trending above average, following summer and fall evenings that didn’t cool down — a feature of climate change in Illinois. “What was kind of jarring was the consistency of the warmer-than-normal conditions,” said state climatologist Trent Ford. “And the lack of cool nights.” Above-average temperatures warmed the Great Lakes basin through summer. Minnesota and Wisconsin recorded their third-hottest June on record; parts of New York, including Syracuse, experienced one of their hottest summ...
During an appearance of indicted Steve Bannon's podcast, embattled MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell revealed that his bank recently contacted him and asked him to close his accounts with them because they fear their association with him will cause "reputational damage."
According to the report from Newsweek, Lindell -- who is already facing a billion-dollar civil lawsuit filed against him by Dominion Voting Sytems for defamation -- played a recording he purports came from a bank officer at Heartland Financial and Minnesota Bank and Trust who gave him 30 days to close his accounts and take his business elsewhere.
In the recording, Lindell was told the bank fears the FBI may subpoena his bank records and want no part of being associated with him, admitting any link to him is "... more of a reputation risk."
With that, the bedding executive and Donald Trump booster claimed the bank is going to have to kick him out because he is not leaving, telling Bannon and his listeners, "I said, 'I am not being part of this. I'm not leaving. So you're going to have to throw me out of your bank.'"
According to Newsweek, Bannon then "put the phone numbers and contact information of top officials at the institutions onscreen—urging supporters to call and complain."
You can read more here.
Jan 6th planners should be panicking after DOJ makes 'pivotal' decision to file sedition charges: legal experts
In a column for MSNBC, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut make the case that the decision by the Justice Department to indict eleven members of the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy related to the Jan 6th attack on the Capitol should be a game-changer for anyone involved in the planning of activities that day.
Getting right to the point, the two wrote, "We’ve reached a turning point on the road to accountability for those who led the Jan. 6 insurrection, whether they stormed the physical congressional barricades or not."
As they note, just because someone didn't storm the Capitol building and cause lawmakers to flee for their lives, doesn't mean that they can't be indicted for sedition.
Explaining, "That crime is, in effect, treason’s sibling. Under 18 USC §2384, seditious conspiracy is an attempt “'o overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or... by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.' It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison," they added, "This historic indictment creates an enormous incentive for the defendants to cooperate with the government and help fulfill Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Jan. 5 commitment to hold 'all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.' Four other Oath Keepers (at least) are already cooperating."
According to the two legal scholars, sedition charges could be in store for some Republicans who attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results -- even at a distance.
"As we have written elsewhere, the efforts by Republican politicians, lawyers and operatives to find corrupt but nonviolent ways to overturn the election results were 'Plan A.' Its failure required 'Plan B' — the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — as the fallback option to keep Trump in power," they wrote. "In recent days, multiple media outlets have added to the evidence of just such a Plan A by reporting on forged electoral slate certificates — almost identically worded and formatted — purporting to name Trump electors in seven states that he lost. The fraudulent documents were actually submitted to the National Archives in December 2020, but without the support of state governors or secretaries of state, they were ignored."
Adding, "It appears that some Republicans hatched that unsuccessful national plan so that Pence might recognize 'alternate slates' as a basis for disrupting or delaying the Jan. 6 certification. On Jan. 13, Michigan’s attorney general referred her state’s fake elector documents to the United States attorney, a referral likely bound soon for [Merrick] Garland’s desk," the applauded the work of the DOJ and wrote, "We continue to hope that the Justice Department will promptly and exhaustively investigate the pre-Jan. 6 coup attempt that came perilously close to ending America’s constitutional world — not with a bang but with a whimper"
You can read more here.
It's no secret that the internet has been captivated by Bunny the Talking Dog.
In case you've been on a digital detox over the last couple of years, Bunny is TikTok's beloved "talking" Sheepadoodle who uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate with her human parent. As Salon has reported, Bunny has stunned her followers by seemingly asking existential questions, recalling her dreams, and wondering about Uni, the cat she lived with who went missing. Indeed, it's not just Bunny anymore. There's also Billi, a 13-year-old domestic cat in Florida, who's captured the internet's attention by pressing buttons to communicate.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Both animals are enrolled in a project called TheyCanTalk, which is seeking to better understand if animals can use AAC systems to communicate with humans. The project consists of dogs, cats, a small cohort of horses, and one peahen. In the study, participants receive instructions on how to set up their AAC buttons. They usually start with easy words like "outside" and "play" linked to their buttons. Pet parents set up cameras to constantly monitor the animals when they're in front of their boards, data which is sent to the lab where researchers examine what they say.
As popularity continues to rise by way of social media and these talking animals, some might be wondering: can any animal species learn how to talk using an AAC device?
"Certainly when we got started on this, my expectation was that we would see that dogs would do surprisingly well, but I didn't expect we would see that much in the way of a great performance from non-dogs," said Leo Trottier, cognitive scientist and founder of How.TheyCanTalk Research and developer of the FluentPet's system that Bunny and Billi use. "Dogs have famously evolved with us for thousands of years. We've engaged in aggressive selective breeding with them. Their behaviors are obvious; they are very interested in us, they look into our eyes routinely when we're talking to them, they can famously recognize pointing gestures that's been shown last, so I was surprised to see how cats ended up performing."
Indeed, as Salon has previously reported, Billi speaks up to 50 words. And while there are some anecdotal differences between how cats and dogs use the buttons, the fact that a non-dog species is succeeding with them gives Trottier confidence that perhaps any animal can use them.
"We have birds which are using them. The evidence for the birds is pretty limited, but I'm not gonna write them off, but I think the evidence for cats using the buttons inherently or in a way that's contextually appropriate is stronger than for birds," Trottier said. "But it does seem like it's surprisingly the case that many non-dog species seem to be able to do this better than expected."
While Trottier admits he's not very "optimistic about reptiles," the surprising fact that a non-dog species appears to be doing better with the buttons than expected raises new questions around animals, language and communication. The reason why animals don't speak like humans is in part an issue of vocal anatomy: they might lack the tongue flexibility to speak, vocal cords or mouth musculature. According to a 2018 study published Frontiers in Neuroscience brain power puts humans at an advantage to being able to speak, too. But that doesn't mean animals don't communicate in their own ways, or have the ability to mimic human speech. A study published in 2018 found that orca whales can mimic the words such as"hello" and "bye." A 2016 showed an orangutan was able to copy the pitch and tone of sounds made by researchers.
AAC devices were created to help people who faced difficulties in expressing natural speech. If animals face difficulties, could it be possible that animals could use an AAC to express themselves, too? Indeed, this is precisely what inspired Christina Hunger, a speech-language pathologist, who famously taught her dog Stella how to use an AAC device. There have been some clues that non-canines and felines would succeed at using an AAC — like a bottleneck nose dolphin pressing a paddle to singal "yes."
Trottier said seeing cats succeed using an AAC device has "refined" the questions: "What has the impact been of co-evolution? And what are the things that get in the way of language use by non-human animals?"
The buttons, Trottier said, being similar to each other yet slightly different could be a means of being something that is "language friendly."
"Because that's kind of the way words are, words are these things that we share with each other that are both very similar, they're all just sounds, made by our lips, at each other, but they're also slightly different, right?" Trottier said. "And so it might be the case that the major impediment to language use in non-human animals is – well, obviously, there's going to be general intelligence – but it could be the case that the language ability is somewhat independent, and depends on some kind of unique set of kind of cognitive capabilities that maybe buttons enable."