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The Free Press WV

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The Free Press WV

In Outdoors….

The Free Press WV

►  ‘Not Sure What’s Going to Happen’ After Part of Everest Collapses

Mount Everest’s iconic Hillary Step, a nearly vertical 39-foot slab of rock that stood as the final challenge to the summit, has collapsed, reports the BBC. The step was likely the victim of the 2015 earthquake that closed the mountain; pictures from last May appeared to show a change in shape, but it was covered in snow so its demise couldn’t be verified at the time. British climber Tim Mosedale reached the summit on Tuesday and confirms what had been suspected via Facebook.

“It’s official - The Hillary Step is no more,“ he wrote. “Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be tricky to negotiate.“ It’s unclear whether the newly created terrain will be easier to scale as there won’t be a vertical face to conquer, or will create dangerous bottlenecks due to what could be “limited paths up the section,“ the Guardian reports. If it’s the latter, climbers would be forced to spend extra time essentially immobile in the cold and at high altitude. The Hillary Step was named for the first man to climb it: Sir Edmund Hillary managed the feat in 1953.


►  Now Hot on Car Lots: VW Diesels?

When the feds busted Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in 2015 and told it to stop selling affected cars, the automaker had about 11,000 on US car lots. Now, as the Detroit Free Press reports, those vehicles are something of an unlikely hot commodity. With its emissions fix in place, Volkswagen is now unloading those modified “new” 2015 models—and they’re the last diesels VW will sell in the US, as it pivots to electric vehicles. “ We had phones ringing off the hook,” says a sales manager in Troy, Mich. “People love their diesels. I did the only fair thing and sold them on a first-come, first-served basis.” Dealers are also benefitting from steep incentives. But as VW moves out of the diesel market, other automakers are looking to get in. “ There is demand for diesels,” says an analyst. “Chevrolet and Mazda have the opportunity to capture some of VW’s buyers. It’s wise of them to test the market.“

In Outdoors….

The Free Press WV

►  Meet ‘Uncle Fat,‘ Thailand’s Morbidly Obese Monkey

A morbidly obese wild monkey in Thailand who gorged himself on junk food and soda left behind by tourists has been rescued and placed on a strict diet of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, the AP reports. Wildlife officials caught the chunky monkey—nicknamed “Uncle Fat” by locals—after photos of the animal started circulating on social media last month. Wild monkeys roam free in many parts of Thailand, attracting tourists who feed and play with the animals. Most of the monkeys are macaques like Uncle Fat, and they typically weigh around 20 pounds. Uncle Fat weighs three times that.

The Free Press WV

“After he ate food given by humans for a while, he developed a fat mass, which became a type of benign tumor,“ said Supakarn Kaewchot, a veterinarian in charge of the monkey’s diet. “He is now in critical condition where there is a high risk of heart disease and diabetes.“ Uncle Fat is believed to be between 10 and 15 years old. To help him lose weight, his new diet is limited to 400 grams worth of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables twice a day. Supakarn said she hopes that within a few months they can consider releasing him to the wild. She said Uncle Fat is an example of why people shouldn’t feed wild monkeys unhealthy food.


►  Father, Son Allegedly Smuggled $17M of Sea Cucumbers to U.S.

Charges against a father-son partnership for allegedly smuggling more than $17 million worth of sea cucumbers to the US and exporting them to Asia sheds light on a growing and lucrative illegal cross-border trade, the AP reports. David Mayorquin and his father, Ramon Torres Mayorquin, are accused of a scheme to buy the illegally harvested animals from poachers in Mexico, pay for them under fake names, and underestimate their weight and value to inspectors at the border. They allegedly shipped the product to Asia, where they are delicacies in Chinese dishes, prized for medicinal value, and considered an aphrodisiac. Authorities say they sell for $300 to $500 a kilogram in Asia, helping explain the draw for poachers and smugglers.

The Free Press WV

Border inspectors have spotted smuggled Mexican sea cucumbers for years, but the charges against the Mayorquins are striking for the multi-ton shipments. David Mayorquin allegedly bought $13 million worth of sea cucumbers, knowing they were harvested without a permit or out of season, and they sold for $17.5 million. Investigators found emails that allegedly show the family communicating with others about the illegal purchases, Homeland Security Investigations said. The defendants also bribed Mexican officials, prosecutors say. One email listed in the indictment shows Marroquin being asked to contribute $32,000 for payoffs. Harvesting sea cucumbers is permitted in the US and many parts of the world, but with limited quantities and only during high season.


►  New LAX Offering Allows the Rich to Avoid the Riff-Raff

“First class is what’s wrong,“ complained Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. “It used to be a better meal, now it’s a better life.“ Life just got a little better for A-listers currently forced to mingle with the riffraff at Los Angeles International Airport: The airport to the stars and prime TMZ hunting grounds this week opened what it’s calling the Private Suite, essentially a very high-end terminal for celebrities and others with the financial means and desire to avoid paparazzi and the 99%, reports CBS-LA. While the Private Suite’s website estimates that mere mortals are forced to endure about 2,200 steps from their cars to their plane seats, “for members ... it’s 70 footsteps. And they are all peaceful footsteps.“

  • What you get: Private driveway to the terminal; an eight-person team to handle your luggage and your whims; 13 suites with full-service bars, WiFi, daybeds, snacks, kids’ toys, prayer mats, and Korans; one-on-one TSA screening; and a ride in a silver BMW from the terminal to the tarmac, where you’ll board the same-old plane the rest of us will ride.
  • What you pay: $7,500 annual membership, plus $2,700 per domestic flight or $3,000 per international flight.

Perhaps that’ll be enough to change the mind of Trump, who compared LAX to a third-world facility earlier this year, notes RT. Of course, not everyone’s impressed, with Katie Serena writing at Salon that “it’s hard not to think about the short shrift and sometimes brutal treatment carriers offer those who aren’t members of the 1%.“


►  Federal Committee Examining Health Risks From Surface Mines

A federal science committee studying the health risks for people living near surface coal mines has scheduled a public meeting this week in southern West Virginia.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee plans to hear from state health and environmental officials, coal operators and environmental groups at a panel discussion Tuesday in Logan.

A Town Hall session is scheduled later Tuesday.

The panel is examining four states in central Appalachia, also including Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and planned to visit a mine site Monday.

Citizens groups that oppose the large surface mines, sometimes called mountaintop removal coal mining, say they’re urging members to speak up at the Tuesday session.


►  West Virginia University Receives $402K to Help Rural Areas

The federal government has awarded more than $400,000 to West Virginia University to improve sustainable agriculture and help rural communities thrive.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced the $402,890 award in a news release this month.

Manchin said the university, through its Extension Services program, invests in rural communities across the state, creating a great benefit for West Virginia.

Capito said the resources will allow the university to continue its work assisting rural West Virginia.

The funding is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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