Sea otter pup found alone in Alaska has a new home at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (AP) — An 8-week-old arrival from Alaska chirps loudly before devouring ice chips in the nursery at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.

He is Pup EL2306 — proper name to be determined — a northern sea otter who was found alone and malnourished in the remote town of Seldovia in October and taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

Shedd, one of only a few facilities in the United States with the resources to care for rescued otters, was contacted by the SeaLife Center and the aquarium’s otter team made the cross-country journey with the fluffy brown marine mammal who arrived in Chicago at the end of November.

“Caring for a little otter pup is just like caring for an infant,” including round-the-clock feeding, said Lana Gonzalez, a manager of penguins and otter at Shedd. “He also needs to get groomed. Sea otters have a very dense coat — there’s anywhere from a 700,000 to a million hairs per square inch, and that’s what they use to keep themselves warm. They don’t have a thick layer of blubber or fat like other marine mammals do, so taking care of that coat is very important.”

An otter mother would typically teach her offspring to groom. The aquarium team acts in her place to encourage the pup’s healthy development.

On Wednesday, otter supervisor Tracy Deakins entered the pup’s enclosure with clean white towels and encouraged him to leave the water. Deakins pointed to different spots on his fur and the pup responded by licking or rubbing it with his paws.

The pup will remain in Shedd’s Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery for a few months, building bonds with the staff, and he will eventually be introduced to the otter habitat and the five other otters at the aquarium.

Part of the growth process is moving pups from formula and small bits of clam to other solid foods. Gonzalez mentions the clam is “restaurant quality” and sustainably sourced.

Rescued pups are usually designated by the federal government as non-releasable and the Shedd experts said pups need their mothers for the first year of life.

“Once we bring him into our care he won’t be released back out into the natural environment, they’re just too used to people. But the good news is that he’ll be able to be an ambassador for his species here at the aquarium, so we’re really happy about that,” said Gonzalez.

Asteroid will pass in front of bright star Betelgeuse to produce a rare eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — One of the biggest and brightest stars in the night sky will momentarily vanish as an asteroid passes in front of it to produce a one-of-a-kind eclipse.

The rare and fleeting spectacle, late Monday into early Tuesday, should be visible to millions of people along a narrow path stretching from central Asia’s Tajikistan and Armenia, across Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain, to Miami and the Florida Keys and finally, to parts of Mexico.

The star is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation Orion. The asteroid is Leona, a slowly rotating, oblong space rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers hope to learn more about Betelgeuse and Leona through the eclipse, which is expected to last no more than 15 seconds. By observing an eclipse of a much dimmer star by Leona in September, a Spanish-led team recently estimated the asteroid to be about 34 miles wide and 50 miles long (55 kilometers wide and 80 kilometers long).

There are lingering uncertainties over those predictions as well as the size of the star and its expansive atmosphere. It’s unclear if the asteroid will obscure the entire star, producing a total eclipse. Rather, the result could be a “ring of fire” eclipse with a miniscule blazing border around the star. If it’s a total eclipse, astronomers aren’t sure how many seconds the star will disappear completely, perhaps up to 10 seconds.

“Which scenario we will see is uncertain, making the event even more intriguing,” said astronomer Gianluca Masa, founder of the Virtual Telescope Project, which will provide a live webcast from Italy.

An estimated 700 light-years away, Betelgeuse is visible with the naked eye. Binoculars and small telescopes will enhance the view. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.

Betelgeuse is thousands of times brighter than our sun and some 700 times bigger. It’s so huge that if it replaced our sun, it would stretch beyond Jupiter, according to NASA.

At just 10 million years old, Betelgeuse is considerably younger than the 4.6 billion-year-old sun. Scientists expect Betelgeuse to be short-lived, given its mass and the speed at which it’s burning through its material.

After countless centuries of varying brightness, Betelgeuse dimmed dramatically in 2019 when a huge bunch of surface material was ejected into space. The resulting dust cloud temporarily blocked the starlight, NASA said, and within a half year, Betelgeuse was as bright as before.

Scientists expect Betelgeuse to go supernova in a violent explosion within 100,000 years.

‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’ will feature Janelle Monáe, Green Day, and more in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ryan Seacrest will usher in 2024 on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” from New York City’s Times Square on December 31, alongside his host Rita Ora.

There will once again be satellite locations in Los Angeles — hosted by Jeannie Mai — and a Spanish language countdown with host Dayanara Torres live from San Juan’s Puerto Rico Convention Center.

The Los Angeles party boasts of a star-studded lineup: R&B up-and-comer Coco Jones, “What It Is” singer Doechii, pop belter Ellie Goulding, pop-punks Green Day and 2024 Grammy album of the year nominee Janelle Monáe.

Loud Luxury x Two Friends Feat. Bebe Rexha, Ludacris, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Paul Russell, Reneé Rapp and Thirty Seconds to Mars will also take the stage to usher in 2024.

In a year where “Barbie” ruled everything in pop culture, the Danish-Norwegian Europop band Aqua will revisit their best-known hit, 1997’s “Barbie Girl.” Fans of the “Barbie” movie and its soundtrack will recall that Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice gave the song a 2023 facelift with their collaboration, “Barbie World.”

Aqua will also perform “Doctor Jones” from their 1997 album “Aquarium.” Doechii will tackle “What It Is” and “Persuasive,” and Green Day will perform “Basket Case,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Holiday,” and make the live debut of their new track, “Dilemma,” from their forthcoming album “Saviors,” out in January 2024.

Reneé Rapp will perform “Talk Too Much” as well as “Tummy Hurts” alongside best new artist Grammy nominee Coco Jones. Ludacris will launch into a multi-song medley of some of his most recognizable hits; Nile Rodgers and CHIC will perform “Le Freak,” “Everybody Dance,” “Good Times,” and cover Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Seacrest inherited ABC’s legendary “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” from Dick Clark and has been involved with the show since 2006. Last year, his “New Year’s Rock Eve” reached 13.8 million viewers in 2023.

“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2024” will begin on ABC at 8 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 31.

Kevin McCarthy endorses Trump for president; considers serving in his Cabinet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retiring Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the ousted former House speaker, said he is endorsing Donald Trump for president and would consider serving in his Cabinet if the GOP front-runner were to win back the White House.

McCarthy had a rocky relationship with the former president, notably when he declined to publicly support Trump’s bid for a second term, despite being one of his earliest and most loyal allies. But they always seem to patch things up, and as McCarthy prepares to leave Congress he gave his nod.

“I will support the president. I will support President Trump,” McCarthy said in excerpts of an interview to air this weekend on “CBS News Sunday Morning.”

McCarthy has not disclosed his post-Congress plans, but asked if he would willing to serve in a Trump cabinet, he said, “In the right position, look, if, if I’m the best person for the job, yes.”

“Look, I worked with President Trump on a lot of policies. I, we, worked together to win the majority,” he told CBS’ Robert Costa in the interview, his first to air on TV since announcing he will leave Congress. “But we also have a relationship where we’re very honest with one another.”

GOP lawmakers, even those who have opposed Trump strongly at times, are swiftly falling in line behind the party’s presumed nominee, as they brush past and ignore some of his more alarming authoritarian rhetoric.

McCarthy, as he led the House’s slim GOP majority, had withheld his support for Trump as tried to keep a more neutral air and fundraise from wealthy donors, some of whom have soured on the former president.

Also mindful that a number of rank-and-file lawmakers come from congressional districts that President Joe Biden won, McCarthy held back his endorsement so as not to put them in a political bind.

But McCarthy, who depended on Trump’s backing to become speaker after a grueling 15-vote spectacle in January, has often made his way back to Trump.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, McCarthy at first called it one of the saddest days he had experienced in Congress, putting the blame on the former president — only to dash to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida weeks later to mend the relationship.

McCarthy was ousted as House speaker in October by his hard-right detractors, including some of Trump’s most loyal allies among the House GOP.

Amazon asks federal judge to dismiss the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit

(AP) Attorneys for Amazon on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against the e-commerce giant, arguing the agency is attacking policies that benefit consumers and competition.

Amazon’s response came more than two months after the FTC — joined by 17 states — filed the historic complaint against the Seattle-based company, alleging it inflates prices and stifles competition in what the agency calls the “online superstore market” and in the field of “online marketplace services.”

In its 31-page filing made in a federal court in Washington state, Amazon pushed back, arguing the conduct that the FTC has labeled anti-competitive consists of common retail practices that benefit consumers.

The FTC’s complaint, filed in September, accused the company of engaging in anti-competitive practices through measures that deter third-party sellers from offering lower prices for products on non-Amazon sites.

The agency said Amazon buried listings offered at lower prices on other sites. Simultaneously, it noted Amazon was charging merchants increasingly higher fees and driving up prices for products on its own site. It also alleged Amazon kept sellers dependent on services, such as its logistics and delivery service, which have allowed it to collect billions in revenue every year.

In its request for a dismissal, Amazon said the lawsuit faults Amazon for featuring competitive prices and declining to feature uncompetitive ones.

“Amazon promptly matches rivals’ discounts, features competitively priced deals rather than overpriced ones, and ensures best-in-class delivery for its Prime subscribers,” the company wrote in the filing. “Those practices — the targets of this antitrust Complaint— benefit consumers and are the essence of competition.”

Amazon also pushed back against allegations it conditions Prime eligibility on products — which denotes fast shipping — on whether sellers use its fulfillment service, Fulfillment by Amazon.

An unredacted version of the FTC’s lawsuit unveiled in November alleged Amazon used a tool — codenamed “Project Nessie” — to predict where it can raise prices and have other shopping sites follow suit. The agency said Amazon used the algorithm to raise prices on some products and kept the new elevated prices in place after other sites followed its lead.

In its filing Friday, Amazon said it experimented with the “automated pricing system” Nessie years ago. It posited Nessie was intended to “match to the second-lowest competitor instead of the absolute lowest” for “limited products and duration.” The company also said it stopped the experiments in 2019, and matches its prices to the lowest prices today.

Amazon also pushed back on the agency’s allegations that the company is a monopoly. It said in its filing that it faces competition from small retailers to large online and brick-and-mortar businesses like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Apple, among others.

▶️ Mt. Bachelor re-opens to large crowds with stronger base, softer snow

To the delight of many skiers and snowboarders, Mt. Bachelor is once again open, and they hope to stay open this time for the season.

“It’s something I dream about and means everything to me,” Erik Needleman said. “I’ve been waiting all summer to go skiing again. An opening day last weekend, a little bit of disappointment, but we’re back out here having fun.”

Friday conditions were better than many expected.

“Surprisingly good… just fun to get back on the snow,” JD Sareault said. “Pretty soft, pretty fluffy, definitely a couple of sharks you got to watch out for.”

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The mountain staff are thrilled too, with more than a foot of snow at the base in the last 48 hours.

“The change in cold temps, the snowmaking that we have going, the foot or two of snow that we’ve gotten, it all points to a really positive direction,” Mt Bachelor’s Lauren Burke said. “We were able to have two lifts open this morning and are looking forward to expanding to rain in the upcoming week.”

Pine Marten Express is set to open on Saturday, and Mt Bachelor says they are working toward opening the Outback and Cloudchaser lifts soon.

That’s all good news if you plan on celebrating the season of your leaving responsibilities at a lower elevation.

“My girlfriend’s coming up here in a little bit, so she had to get out of work to come up here,” Needleman said. “It seems like everybody’s doing that today, too.”

Alpenglow, Early Riser and Red Chair are all on track to open next Friday. The new Skyliner Express 6-pack is on track to open before Christmas.

▶️ Redmond church seeks property owners interested in safe parking sites

Deschutes County commissioners voted 2-1 this week to approve allowing safe parking sites on county land between Bend and Redmond. 

Commissioners Phil Chang and Patti Adair voted in approval.

Commissioner Tony DeBone did not.

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Safe parking allows houseless people living out of their vehicles a place to park overnight without the worry of being towed. 

Those living in the sites are provided with a case manager who helps them find stable housing.

Executive Director of Mountain View Community Development and pastor Rick Russell says safe parking lots also make the surrounding area safer.

“Before safe parking, a lot of our locations had people coming in late at night. Maybe drinking on site, you know, they weren’t supposed to be there. But once you get the presence of people and security, that activity disappears.”

Russell says the county’s decision will help open new safe parking locations for those in need. Still, the challenge of finding willing property owners interested in providing those locations will remain. 

“One of the bottlenecks for us is finding locations. So we’re gonna try to reach out to property owners who might be interested in safe parking, and I would encourage property owners to reach out to us as well and open this program to more participants,” Russell said.

For Teresa Sherman, safe parking helped her navigate a life-changing experience.  

“There’s a lot of people who are homeless because of the choices they’ve made. And there’s people who don’t have a choice,” Sherman said.

Sherman was diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago.

Soon after, she was left with nothing. She even lost her children.

“I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have money for means. I didn’t have housing. I lost everything. With being in this program, I was able to move from the dirt, go from not having my children, to being able to move into a house with my kids and make dinner for them every night. It’s amazing what these people have done for my family,” Sherman said.

Russell says half of their safe parking residents are employed, while the other half are primarily elderly or disabled.

▶️ Prineville posts new Bend billboard, but makes fun of its ‘Prinevelle’ typo

Remember that sign along Highway 97 in Bend to promote tourism in Prineville, but it misspelled the name of the city? A corrected ad is now up, but the city is still poking fun at itself for the error.

The new sign reads “Prinevelle,” but with that word scribbled out. Then it says “Prineville: Eat, shop & play just 35 miles away.”

About a month ago, the billboard read “Explore Prinevelle” before people realized that the letter “i” was replaced with an “e.” If you didn’t take a close look, it was pretty easy to miss.

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RELATED: ‘Explore Prinevelle’ billboard typo may be tourism blessing in disguise

The City of Prineville partnered with businesses to buy the original ad. A lot of people had to approve it before it was placed along the busy highway.

“It was approved and moved forward, but I think what happened when the company moved it forward to the printer they sent the wrong file that was of a previous one that had not been accepted. Therefore, the spelling mishap was overlooked completely,” Prineville Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Jeff Fox told Central Oregon Daily News on Nov. 13.

Fox said then that the typo may be a blessing in disguise because of the attention it was getting online.

“I wish we could take credit for it being on purpose because sometimes, these are favorable mistakes to have,” Fox said.

The ad was replaced with a Smokey Bear ad later that day. But it appears the city decided it wanted to keep having fun with the typo.

▶️ Little Did I Know: The story of Central Oregon ski legend Virginia Meissner

Before coming to Bend, I forecasted the weather in Alaska. That’s where I developed a passion (ok, obsession) for cross-country skiing.

As soon as I got into town, I was told by a friend to “Visit Virginia Meissner.” To a non-local, that was a confusing recommendation. But when I looked into the story a little more deeply, little did I know that Virginia Meisner is quite a legend in these here parts — including having a popular sno-park named after her.

“My mom was born in Salem and she was an only child and her dad really liked to fish,” said Virginia’s daughter, Jane. “So he would be, you know, out there chopping across the fields and because he didn’t have a son. Once she got big enough, he just took her along.”

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Virginia went off to college and continued her passion for the outdoors. That’s where she met a handsome ski instructor and they got married.

“Now, after my parents got married, they were both teaching skiing at Willamette Pass,” Jane said. “But my mom, she was always a little timid of alpine skiing. So cross-country was kind of more her favorite. And then when Mount Bachelor opened in 1958, they got to talking to somebody and found out that they could make more money teaching at Mount Bachelor than they could at Willamette Pass. And they did that for quite a long time. But about the mid-60s, the college approached my mom about teaching cross-country classes.”

Meisnner 2


Virginia built up quite a fan base of students that she would take out on the forest roads in the area and guide them through her favorite spots.

“She approached the Forest Service and said, you know, we need to to mark some of these trails, clear some of the trees out of the way that are on some of them, mark some of the trails,” Jane said. “And about that time, because she had enough of her students that were followers that would ski with her every winter, they decided to talk to the Oregon Nordic Club, which was out of Portland in the Mt. Hood area and see about starting a chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club and called it the Central Oregon Nordic Club.”

The first baby steps of what was to come began taking form.

“They ended up marking a whole lot of trails and they also worked with the first service and the Oregon National Guard to build the first shelters that we had. The very first shelter that was built was the Swampy Lake Shelter,” Jane said.

Sadly, Virginia was diagnosed with cancer in the 1980s. But, that didn’t stop her from working to continue to see her vision through.

“So all of the trails, you know, up until the time that she passed away in 1988, all of the trails were in conjunction with the Forest Service and the Central Oregon Nordic Club,” Jane said. “Under her guidance of kind of, you know, ‘Where’s the best trail? Where’s the best place to mark these trails and to clear the debris that there might be across the trail?'”

Virginia Meissner Sno-park


And though she remained an active advisor and teacher until the end, sadly, Virginia never did see the fullness of her vision completed.

“Well, they were just starting to lay out the trails. They were starting to decide where to build the shelter. They put the sno-park in when she died. So the Forest Service came to me that summer and said, ‘Can we name it the sno-park after your mom?'” Jane said.

And that sno-park has had a massive impact thousands of people throughout the decades. And while Virginia may not be with us in body anymore, her spirit remains in the sights, sounds and souls that will be using the park for decades to come.

“It really is just amazing to me what she did and it’s such a great honor that they decided to name that sno-park after her,” Jane said.

▶️ Lawsuit calls for Oregon secretary of state to kick Trump off primary ballot

An advocacy group is suing Oregon’s secretary of state after her announcement that former President Donald Trump will remain on the 2024 primary ballot.

Free Speech For People filed the lawsuit Wednesday, on behalf of voters, against Secretary of State of Oregon LaVonne Griffin-Valade. They are asking her to issue a temporary rule that Trump is ineligible to appear on the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Enacted in the wake of the Civil War, Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment disqualifies from public office, regardless of a prior criminal conviction, any individual who has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and then engages in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or gives aid or comfort to its enemies,” the group said in a statement.

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RELATED: Trump won’t be removed from Oregon primary ballot, secretary of state says

Free Speech For People says Trump’s actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which aimed to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s election, disqualifies Trump under that definition. They want him removed from any future ballot for federal office.

Griffin-Valade announced on Nov. 30 that she does not have the legal authority to remove Trump from the primary ballot. Citing the Oregon Department of Justice, Griffin-Valade said a presidential primary is not a case of someone being elected. Instead, it’s a chance for voters to tell their party who they prefer to be the nominee. Delegates at the national convention ultimately decide who that nominee will be.

She also said her decision affects the primary election, not the general election next November. She said, “When the general election comes, we’ll follow the law and be completely transparent with our reasoning.”

Similar challenges have been filed in Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado. So far, none have barred Trump from the ballot.