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Outside the Circle News

Panda cub dies

Tragedy struck the Smithsonian Nation Zoo in Washington, D.C., Sunday morning. The giant panda cub, who was only six days old, was found dead in her cage. Only minutes before, she had been heard grunting playfully. Zoo officials say that a full necropsy will not be available for another week or so, but preliminary tests show that the baby panda had uneven coloring and hardness in her liver.

The zoo was distressed to hear of the cub’s passing, as it had spent millions of dollars in hopes of increasing the population of this endangered species. Pamela Baker-Masson, associate director of communications, commented on the death saying, “Conservation is a life and death business. This one was particularly devastating for us.”

The cub was found by zoo officials early on Sept. 23 when Mei Xiang, the cub’s mother, sounded calls of distress. Until that point, the cub had seemed perfectly healthy. Patrons of the zoo were concerned that Mei Xiang, weighing in at 217 pounds, had crushed the four ounce cub. However, Suzan Murray, the chief veterinarian of the zoo, assured the patrons that the preliminary necropsy showed no signs of trauma.

Murray also said the cub’s liver, which was about the size of a lima bean, had several hard spots. There was also some liquid found in the baby panda’s abdomen, which could indicate liver malfunction.

Breeding pandas is challenging because of how little is known about their behavior in the wild. Because of this, zoos that try to breed this species do not know what to expect from a baby panda cub. They have learned to expect that the survival rate of giant pandas is not very high in the wild, let alone in a zoo setting. Mei Xiang has only had one cub in over 10 years of trying to conceive. Ling-Ling, the other panda at the zoo, has had five cubs, but all of them have died.


Professor goes to jail

Former professor Amy Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday. She only narrowly avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty to a shooting rampage in 2010. The jury deliberated for only 20 minutes before returning the verdict.

Bishop, a biologist who attended Harvard University, used to be a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The shooting occurred on Feb. 12 at a University of Alabama biology department meeting, killing three of Bishop’s colleagues and wounding three others.

Gopi Padila, the biology department chair, along with fellow professors, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson, were killed in the shooting. Professor Joseph Leahy, staff aide Stephanie Monticciolo, and assistant professor Luis Cruz-Vera were wounded.

Even though Bishop denied having any connection to the killing rampage, Charlie Gray, an investigator on the case, said that police believe Bishop was angry about being denied tenure.

Debra Moriarity, the chairman of biological sciences, was one of the only witnesses of the shooting.

Moriarty said that Bishop was strangely quiet throughout the hour-long faculty meeting. The meeting took place in a small room, with people crowded around a conference table. According to USA Today, as she looked down at a paper on the table, Moriarty heard a loud bang.

More shots were quickly fired, and Moriarty attempted to dive under the table and grab Bishop’s legs, but she was unsuccessful. “Stop, Amy, stop. Don’t do this. I’ve helped you before, I’ll help you again,” Moriarty said to Bishop. In response, Bishop turned the gun to Moriarty and attempted to fire, but the gun was supposedly jammed.

Bishop could also face a trial in Massachusetts, where she was accused of killing her 18-year-old brother in 1986. Seth Bishop’s death had been deemed an accident because Amy Bishop said that she accidentally shot him while trying to unload her father’s gun. However, with these new charges in Alabama, the investigation is being reopened.


Discover pays hefty sum

Millions of Discover card users will be sharing $214 million in compensation for marketing strategies that were unfair and deceptive, according to federal regulators. The amount will average about $57 per cardholder. The money will be given specifically to those who were charged for products like “Payment Protection” and “Wallet Protection.”

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, commented, “Many customers did not realize that their accounts were actually charged for these products.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also agreed to pay $14 million in penalties in order to settle the case, according to the Inquirer.

The case covers December 2007 to August 2011, during which time approximately 4.7 million customers were billed for these unknown services. In addition to those, over one million cardholders will not be receiving compensation because of various reasons.

Some of these reasons are that their purchases did not include telemarketing, they already were given refunds, or they were on the Payment Protection plan.

Discover’s chairman and CEO, David Nelms, announced that the company had “worked hard to earn the loyalty of our card members, and we are committed to marketing our products responsibly.” However, Discover will not be getting rid of the add-on products. Jon Drummond, a Discover spokesperson, said that Discover plans to continue offering and marketing them.


Begging dolphin dies

Beggar, a famous dolphin in Florida known for his behavior of approaching boaters and asking for food, was found dead this past Monday. He was found in the Intracoastal Waterway in Sarasota, Fla.

Beggar’s body was partially decomposed, making the cause of death difficult to determine. However, his digestive tract contained fishing hooks, squid beaks, and ulcers. These items indicate that human actions may have contributed to his untimely death.

The Mote Marine Laboratory said that Beggar has been known to inhabit the area in which he was found for the past 20 years, begging for food. In 2011, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program observed Beggar for a total of 100 hours. During this time, the dolphin interacted with people over 3600 times.

The study also found that on 169 of those occasions, people tried to feed Beggar over 520 different kinds of food, including hot dogs and beer. During 121 of the interactions, people tried to pet Beggar, and nine of them were bitten in the attempt.

Mote Marine Laboratory reprimanded those who attempted to feed Beggar because this action put the dolphin at an increased risk of being hit by a boat, and other dolphins seemed to be mimicking his behavior. In addition, the Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it illegal to feed or pet wild dolphins. Violators can serve up to a year in jail or be served a fine of up to $100,000.

In the necropsy, the Sarasota County Marine Patrol found that Beggar had been hit by multiple boats in the past. He had many scars on his dorsal fin along with many puncture wounds, several broken ribs, and a few broken vertebrae.

Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, said, “We can’t say which of these many injuries was the ultimate cause of death for Beggar. But all of our findings indicate that he was in poor health for a long time and that his interactions with humans played a role.”

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