Whales and dolphins lead ‘human-like lives’ thanks to big brains, says study

The cultural brain hypothesis of human development could also explain cetaceans forming friendships and even gossiping

Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play.

That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species brain, the more complex indeed, the more human-like their lives are likely to be.

This suggests that the cultural brain hypothesis the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans.

Writing in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers claim that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animals brains a process known as encephalisation.

The researchers gathered records of dolphins playing with humpback whales, helping fishermen with their catches, and even producing signature whistles for dolphins that are absent suggesting the animals may even gossip.

Another common behaviour was adult animals raising unrelated young. There is the saying that it takes a village to raise a child [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans, said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics.

Dolphins
Dolphins off the coast of South Africa. Photograph: Rainer Schimpf/Barcroft Media

Like humans, the cetaceans, a group made up of dolphins, whales and porpoises, are thought to do most of their learning socially rather than individually, which could explain why some species learn more complex behaviours than others. Those predominantly found alone or in small groups had the smallest brains, the researchers led by Susanne Shultz at the University of Manchester wrote.

Luke Rendell, a biologist at the University of St Andrews who was not involved in the study, but has done work on sperm whales and their distinctive dialects, warned against anthropomorphising and making animals appear to be like humans.

There is a risk of sounding like there is a single train line, with humans at the final station and other animals on their way of getting there. The truth is that every animal responds to their own evolutionary pressures, he said.

There is definitely a danger in comparing other animals to humans, especially with the data available. But what we can say for sure, is that this cultural-brain hypothesis we tested is present in primates and in cetaceans, Muthukrishna said.

There was still much more to learn, though, he added. Studies with underwater mammals are difficult and vastly underfunded, so there is so much we dont know about these fascinating animals, he said.

The fascination, however, should not only be interesting for people studying animals. We dont have to look at other planets to look for aliens, because we know that underwater there are these amazing species with so many parallels to us in their complex behaviours, said Muthukrishna.

Studying evolutionarily distinct animals such as cetaceans could act as a control group for studying intelligence in general, and so help the understanding of our own intellect.

It is interesting to think that whale and human brains are different in their structure but have brought us to the same patterns in behaviour, Rendell said. The extent of how this is close to humans can educate us about evolutionary forces in general.

However, Muthukrishna points out that intelligence is always driven by the environment an animal finds itself in. Each environment presents a different set of challenges for an animal. When you are above water, you learn how to tackle fire, for example, he said. As smart as whales are, they will never learn to light a spark.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The truth about cats and Trump’s dogs: civil discourse needed

Digested week: When Trump called Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked

Monday

The question of how to cover the revelations of Omarosa Manigault Newman, a woman who sorely tests the principle of my enemys enemy is my friend, twisted US journalists into caveat-issuing pretzels this week. She is an unreliable witness with a huge axe to grind; she is, as those who watched her on The Apprentice may recall, highly vindictive. She was also prepared to tolerate Donald Trumps sexism and racism as long as he was paying her salary.

And yet. Watching her this week, it has been hard not to be impressed at some level. Those Trump has savaged have spoken of the sheer terror of being attacked from the worlds most powerful office. The vast majority of them Megyn Kelly, Mika Brzezinski, Khizr Khan didnt go looking for a fight, at least not one that went beyond the boundaries of ordinary political discourse.

Thus, there is something breathtaking about her sheer cheek, not only for bringing the fight but pursuing it to a second and third round. Her actions may be rooted in psychopathic self-interest, but still, you have to hand it to the woman secretly recording John Kelly (and, as it turned out later, Lara Trump), then throwing the recordings in the presidents face, takes much greater nerve than, say, Michael Wolffs humid lurking. It also demonstrates precisely why Manigault Newman should never have been in the Situation Room. The line she pushed in her book, Trumps use of the n-word which if true comes as no surprise; the man could goose-step down Pennsylvania Avenue at this stage and it wouldnt unnerve his base was in some ways the weakest. The real story is the sheer lunacy of a president who would hire someone like her.

Tuesday

Still, when Trump fought back, calling Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked, possibly because unlike other women he has called dogs, he once professed to be fond of her, and because it reads as a racial slur.

In one of those out-of-body experiences that suggest this administration hasnt been entirely normalised, Sarah Sanders clarified from the briefing room that when the president used dog to describe his ex-staffer, this has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with the president calling out someones lack of integrity the fact is the presidents an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it.

In this, at least, Sanders may for once have been speaking the truth. When Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist, poked fun at Trumps wealth (she called him a thousandaire) he sent her a note observing she was a dog and a liar with a face like a pig. He called Kristen Stewart a dog when offering commentary on her relationship with Robert Pattinson (she cheated on him like a dog), and of Arianna Huffington he once said: She is a dog who wrongfully comments on me. He has also called men dogs, among them Mitt Romney (choked like a dog) and NBCs Chuck Todd (fired like a dog). That insults can mean different things depending on to whom they are said bitch falls differently when it is directed at a gay man than at a woman is one of the few subtleties one imagines Trump understands well.

Wednesday

A new subcategory of degree course has sprung up across US universities, in what the Wall Street Journal summarised mid-week as civil discourse the art of talking to people with different political opinions, without either demonising them or taking mortal offence. Courses named argument and inquiry and studies into polarisation are proliferating, not just as an effort to address Trump, but also to heal divisions and bridge ideological divides. The paper quoted a 2017 Knight Foundation survey, which found 61% of students said their place of learning clamped down on what might be regarded as offensive speech, up from 54% the previous year. The new courses also seek to coach students in when to engage and when to walk away from opinions they find offensive. Theres no course in existence that gives counsel on what to do when theres a buffoon at the top.

Thursday

Celebrations of Madonnas 60th were a shaft of joy in the weeks news. Madge has more than a whiff of Vivienne Westwood about her these days, and her raging against ageism is a reminder of why we loved her in the first place. It was also a reminder of what we talk about when we talk about Madonna. Like most people who have been famous for so long, Madonna is, I often find myself saying, more than likely completely insane. This might very well be true but thats not the point. The point is its an assessment one never makes about Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart.

Friday

You can call a woman a dog from the White House, but in the world of childrens publishing, the words one uses to describe women are subject to severe review. I sat down with my daughters to read a new edition of Cinderella this week to find that the ugly sisters have become the bossy sisters because, of course, it is wrong to equate beauty with moral virtue. Sadly, the production team hadnt received the memo that Sheryl Sandberg (among others) has launched a war against the word bossy for discouraging female leadership. Im not sure where that leaves us. I suppose Horrible Sisters might work, but then again, given the entire point of Cinderella is to get married to a prince and settle down for a life of indolent castle-dwelling, the whole female respect thing is a bit like deckchairs on the Titanic.

Digested week, digested

The enemy of my enemy is still probably a weasel

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Margaret Atwood: women will bear brunt of dystopian climate future

Booker prize-winning author predicts climate reality will not be far from scenarios imagined in her post-apocalyptic fiction

Climate change will bring a dystopian future reminiscent of one of her speculative fictions, with women bearing the brunt of brutal repression, hunger and war, the Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood is to warn.

This isnt climate change its everything change, she will tell an audience at the British Library this week. Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.

The author, whose landmark novel The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series depicting a dystopian future in which women are deprived of all rights and turned into breeding machines for men, predicts conflict, hardship and an increasing struggle for survival for women as climate change takes hold.

More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food, she explained before the event. Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.

The results she predicts bear a strong similarity to some of the futures she imagines in her fiction, including the post-apocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, in which the treatment of women in conflict-ridden societies is a strong theme. She went on: [Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars worse than in peacetime.

The
The Handmaids Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series. Photograph: MGM/Hulu

Under Her Eye the title is taken from The Handmaids Tale will bring together prominent figures from the arts, politics and science in a two-day festival devoted to exploring womens futures under climate change and environmental damage, and proposals for avoiding the worst effects of global warming, some of which are already locked in because of our failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as scientists have advised.

Alice Sharp, director of the arts and science organisation Invisible Dust, which is curating the festival, told the Guardian she hoped the event would be the first of many. We think this is the first time that the arts, sciences and politics of climate change have been brought together under one roof with a focus on women, she said. Womens voices are too rarely heard in discussions of climate change.

One of the leading women speaking at the conference is Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, who oversaw the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. She said: Climate change remains one of the greatest threats to achieving sustainable development and its effects fall hardest on women.

But she sounded a note of hope, acknowledging the activism of women on environmental issues. Countering this reality is the gritty determination, boundless energy and unwavering spirit of women across the world, whose knowledge, skills and leadership are being harnessed in delivering solutions. Climate change is one area in which women have decisively contributed to the progress we are making.

The two-day event will take place on Friday and Saturday at the British Library, as part of the 2018 centenary of womens suffrage, and will feature screenings, performances, talks and debates. Among the 40 speakers will be Prof Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute, one of the worlds leading centres on climate policy and science; former Nasa science editor Laura Tenenbaum; Kate Raworth, self-styled renegade economist and author of Doughnut Economics; and New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands.

Womens lives, particularly in developing countries, are likely to be more affected by climate change than those of men, because they are so reliant on agriculture, and bear the burden of work such as fetching scarce water and firewood, and have fewer options than men, who tend to be more mobile. Women and children are also worst affected by indoor air pollution, caused by smoky cooking fires.

Yet the annual meetings on climate change held by the UN have few forums for discussing the particular problems faced by women, and women make up only a minority of the delegates.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the UKs Green party, who will also take part, said: We know that women in the arts give a unique perspective when it comes to climate change, and that they will have an important role to play in the future. There is a rich history of women guarding our environment, which is why they should be front and central to efforts aiming to counteract climate change.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Queen makes dogs’ dinner of corgi hierarchy

Animal psychologist reveals Queens feeding rituals for favourite pets, including homeopathic and herbal remedies

The Queens corgis, which have been described as a moving carpet preceding her as she walks round her royal residences, have become almost as emblematic of the British crown as their famous owner.

So few will be surprised to learn that Her Majesty likes to treat them like royalty, dispensing succulent dishes of steak, rabbit or chicken from individual menus and served from silver and porcelain borne by a liveried servant.

A stickler for protocol, she employs a rigid pecking order, with each receiving their dishes in order of seniority.

The fascinating secrets of her corgis daily dinner ritual is revealed by animal psychologist Dr Roger Mugford in a forthcoming special edition of Town & Country, dedicated to the Queens 90th birthday on 21 April. Having worked for the royal household for decades, Mugford has long observed the sovereign and her cherished pets at close quarters.

At feeding times, each dog had an individually designed menu, including an array of homeopathic and herbal remedies. Their food was served by a butler in an eclectic collection of battered silver and porcelain dishes, he writes.

As I watched, the Queen got the corgis to sit in a semi-circle around her, and then fed them one by one, in order of seniority. The others just sat and patiently waited their turn.

She has owned about 30 of the dogs during her long reign, breeding them from her first, Susan, given to her as an 18th birthday present by her father, George VI, and mother, Queen Elizabeth. They have since become a non-negotiable part of her life, though Prince Philip has been heard to exclaim: Bloody dogs. Why do you have so many?

When young princesses, she and sister Margaret, invented the dorgi, by cross breeding her corgi, Tiny, with Margarets dachshund, Pipkin. At the time, the Kennel Club snootily observed: The dachshund was evolved to chase badgers down holes, and the corgis to round up cattle. If anyone loses a herd of cattle down a badger hole, then these are just the dogs to get them out.

Princess

Princess Elizabeth with her first pet corgi, Susan, at Windsor Castle in 1944. Photograph: Getty

The corgis have featured in portraits, official photographs and on a golden jubilee Royal Mint crown. They have their own Wikipedia page, and the question What are the names of the Queens corgis? consistently ranks among the top 10 most asked questions on the British monarchys official website.

When Monty, 13, died shortly after starring in the James Bond/Daniel Craig sketch of a parachuting Queen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, obituaries praised his on-screen tummy roll.

The Queen made a decision to stop breeding her dogs in recent years, so their numbers have declined. She now has just two corgis, Willow and Holly, and two dorgis, Candy and Vulcan.

Mugford told how the monarch showed deep compassion for her pets and was dismayed by any cruelty to animals, and took a dim view of US President Lyndon Johnson, who picked his dogs up by the ears.

When shes talking about her dogs or her horses, you see a completely different side to her: she relaxes. Dogs are great levellers, and theyre not influenced by social status, which must be a great relief to her. No wonder she enjoys being around them, he writes in the spring issue of Town & Country, which goes on sale on Thursday.

Royal staff have been known to take a less indulgent view of the dogs as they frequently tripped over them while forced to roam her palaces and castles armed with blotting paper and a soda siphon to clear up any little accidents. A few have also been on the receiving end of a sharp nip to the ankles.

One footman, in revenge, was once reportedly said to have spiked the dogs food with gin and whisky then watched them teetering tipsily around the palace gardens before his crime was discovered and he was dismissed.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Lenin the cat lover: rare photos of Soviet leader go on show in Oxford

Exhibition coinciding with centenary of October revolution includes image of revolutionary in wig and makeup, and stroking a cat

Rare and largely unseen images of Lenin from a vast British archive which for nearly a century has been promoting cultural relations between the UK and Russia are to go on display in Oxford.

The photographs include Lenin in disguise, almost unrecognisable in makeup, wig and clean shaven, and show a less well-known side to the ruthless revolutionary leader: Lenin the cat lover.

The photographs are all drawn from the archives of the British Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies (SCRSS), which was set up in 1924 to foster good artistic and scientific links, in a exhibition timed to coincide with the centenary of the revolution that brought Lenin to power.

Its main early supporters were from the Bloomsbury set people such as John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster and George Bernard Shaw.

The Soviet Union may have gone but the society, based in Brixton, south London, continues today. Russia and the Soviet Union continue to fascinate people, said Ralph Gibson, honorary secretary of the SCRSS. Every aspect of its history, culture and language has been a key part of the 20th century.

Most of the photographs are being shown publicly for the first time and while some images will be familiar to experts, for the vast majority of people they will be something new, they wont have seen them in an exhibition context, Gibson said.

There are many striking images, including the photograph of Lenin without his familiar bald head and manicured goatee, produced for his fake ID card when he needed to flee Petrograd in 1917 and cross the border to Finland.

An
An ID card issued in the name of KP Ivanov, used by Lenin while in hiding in 1917. Photograph: SCRSS/TopFoto

A photograph taken by Lenins sister Maria in 1922 shows him stroking a cat at his residence in the village of Gorki, near Moscow.

The exhibition at the North Wall arts centre in Oxford marks the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution and aims to explore the lives of ordinary people in the years after the uprising.

They range from Georgian mothers being taught to write for the first time, to a photograph of smiling babies in tin saltwater baths at Nursery No 5 of the 8th Tobacco factory in Moscow a reflection of the revolutionary zeal to properly look after and educate Russian children.

Lenin: Leader of the Russian Revolution is at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, from 8 to 18 November 2017.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Savage trade in underage and illegal puppies highlighted by UK charity

The Dog Trust has evidence of hundreds of designer dogs smuggled in appalling conditions into the UK from eastern Europe

Thousands of designer puppies are being smuggled into the UK every year as part of a 100m black market that could expand further because of pressure on border controls, a leading dog welfare charity has warned.

Dachshunds, chow-chows, pugs and French and English bulldogs are regularly being brought illegally into the UK from central and eastern Europe with falsified pet passport data and fake vaccination records boosting the risk of foreign canine diseases spreading to the UK dog population according to the charity Dogs Trust.

The puppies typically underage are transported in inhumane conditions in cars, vans and minibuses for thousands of miles to be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting consumers in the UK. The majority are brought from breeding farms in Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, smuggled into Britain via Eurotunnel shuttle trains (arriving in Folkestone) and ferries (arriving in Dover) in the small hours of the morning.

Figures from the Dogs Trust reveal that one in every 10 puppies smuggled into the UK will die within their first three weeks here. The charity first highlighted the influx of puppies from central and eastern Europe in 2014, following a relaxation of the rules of the then pet travel scheme in 2012 for the purposes of EU harmonisation. Over six months 382 illegally imported puppies were seized at Dover and Folkestone although no prosecutions ensued but the trust says this is the tip of the iceberg.

Since December 2015, the trust the UKs largest dog welfare charity, which cares for nearly 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year has also provided care and support for illegally imported puppies through their time in quarantine. The RSPCA is supporting the trusts new campaign launched on Thursday to make consumers aware of the issue.

Dogs Trust says its investigations have revealed the lack of resources available to the agencies based at the ports. It fears many puppies are entering the country only because there is not sufficient funding to provide adequate staffing at the ports or for the costs of quarantine.

Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision, said Runa Hanaghan, the charitys deputy veterinary director. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Chloe the missing cat reunited with owner after six years

Tabby and white cat went missing in 2010 after jumping from a pet carrier when Rebecca Lee took her to a vet in Caerphilly

A missing cat has finally returned home six years after it vanished.

Chloe, a tabby and white cat, went missing in 2010 after she jumped from a pet carrier when her owner Rebecca Lee was taking her to the vet in Caerphilly, south Wales.

After living as a stray and being cared for by an elderly woman just over a mile away from her owners home, Chloe was eventually handed into Cats Protections adoption centre in Bridgend, where a routine scan of her microchip meant she could finally be reunited with her owner.

Lee, who thought Chloe had died in a road accident, said she was overjoyed to be able to have her back.

It was a real shock, but lovely news to hear that Chloe had been found and was alive and well after so many years, she said.

Chloe had jumped from the pet carrier in the car park and we never saw her again.

I put up posters and placed adverts and shortly after got a call to say a cat matching her description had been found dead by the roadside.

I was devastated but came to terms with her death. Unbeknown to me at the time, it seems she had wandered as a stray before eventually finding an elderly lady who had taken her in.

Molly Hughes, the deputy manager at the Bridgend adoption centre, said Chloe had been brought in by the family of the elderly woman, who had become too frail to care for her.

We scanned Chloe, which is routine for all cats coming into our care, and our receptionist noticed she was registered to a different owner and address, she said.

We managed to get hold of Rebecca, Chloes original owner, who was shocked to hear from us that Chloe was in our care.

Chloe was nervous with us but she was very happy to see Rebecca and started rolling over and purring when she saw her.

Its great to have been able to reunite Chloe with her family, and it was touching to see them together.

Chloes story goes to show why microchipping is so important and how effective it is. However, just as important as having your cat microchipped is keeping the details up to date.

We often have microchipped cats come into our care and are sadly unable to reunite them with their owners because the contact details on the database are incorrect.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.

Dylan,

Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Paddington Bear author Michael Bond dies aged 91

Creator of marmalade-loving bear from Peru, whose last story was published in April, has died after a short illness

Michael Bond, the creator of the beloved childrens character Paddington Bear, has died aged 91.

Bond, who published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, about the marmalade-loving bear from deepest, darkest Peru, in 1958, died at home after a short illness.

The author, born in Newbury, Berkshire, in 1926, kept writing until his death. His most recent Paddington story, Paddingtons Finest Hour, was published in April.

His daughter, Karen Jankel, told the Guardian the whole world was lucky to have had her father, whose legacy would live on for ever through his creation.

A statement from publisher HarperCollins said: It is with great sadness that we announce that Michael Bond, CBE, the creator of one of Britains best-loved childrens characters, Paddington, died at home yesterday aged 91 following a short illness.

Jankel said: Its a shock to everybody. For me, he was the most wonderful father you can imagine, so obviously our loss is personal. But its wonderful that hes left the legacy of his books and Paddington that will live on for ever, which is really very special.

The whole world is lucky to have had him Paddington himself is so real to all of us. Hes still a part of our family and were very lucky.

Jankel said it was incredible that her father was still writing up until his death.

For him, writing was his life. It was wonderful he could continue writing until the end, she said. Because Paddington and his other characters were so real to him, he became alive to everybody else.

You can tell just by reading his books what a lovely person he was. I never came across anybody who disliked my father. He was one of those people that people instinctively warmed to and he was as funny as a person and delightful as he was in his writing and as a father.

Tributes poured in from figures in the literary and entertainment industry.

Hugh Bonneville, who plays Mr Brown in the film adaptation and its sequel, set for release later this year, said in a statement: It seems particularly poignant that we should learn of dear Michael Bonds death on the last day of shooting our second film about his unique, loveable creation.

In Paddington, Michael created a character whose enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations.

Michael will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and especially by his wife, Sue, his family and of course by his beloved guinea pigs. He leaves a special legacy: long live the bear from darkest Peru.

Presenter and writer Stephen Fry tweeted: So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed. He was as kindly, dignified, charming & lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us.

Childrens author and comedian David Walliams wrote: I had the great pleasure of spending time with #MichaelBond A dazzling wit & perfect gentleman.

On meeting him I realised he was #Paddington.

Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry series, said: Michael Bond created that infinitely rare thing: an iconic, utterly original, instantly recognisable and memorable character. He was one of the greats.

The novelist Matt Haig, who worked on the Paddington film, said: Michael Bond created an icon of childrens fiction. The Peruvian immigrant bear is one of the quirkiest but somehow most emotionally real childrens characters, both fantastical and domestic. We should all have a marmalade sandwich in honour of his creator.

As well as Paddington, Bond created characters including Olga da Polgaand A Mouse Called Thursday along with a series of novels for adults, featuring the detective Monsieur Pamplemousse.

More than 35m Paddington books have been sold worldwide, spawning toys, TV programmes and most recently the films.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, HarperCollinss executive publisher of childrens books, said: I feel privileged to have been Michael Bonds publisher he was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers.

He will be for ever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffel coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations. My thoughts and love are with his wife, Sue, and his children, Karen and Anthony.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Sergei Skripal’s cat and guinea pigs die after police seal house

Two guinea pigs found dead at Salisbury home of ex-spy while a cat needed to be put down

Two guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a distressed cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripals home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital more than a month after the attack on 4 March. In its latest update, NHS England said the former Russian spys condition was critical but stable.

On Thursday, Yulia Skripal released a statement through the Metropolitan police in which said she was getting stronger by the day.

A war of words has continued between Britain and Russia over claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack using the nerve agent novichok.

Play Video
0:26

Russia tells Britain ‘you’ll be sorry’ at UN meeting – video

On Thursday, in heated exchanges at the UN security council, Russias UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissing the allegation that Russia was behind the poisoning as absurd, questioned what had happened to Sergei Skripals two cats and two guinea pigs.

What happened to these animals? Why doesnt anyone mention them? Their condition is also an important piece of evidence, he said.

The highest concentration of novichok was found on the front door of Skripals home.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, had also raised the fate of the pets. Where are the animals? What state are they in? she asked on Wednesday.

Why has the British side not mentioned this fact? We are talking about living organisms, and if toxic agents were used then living organisms must have suffered.

After Defra, released a statement about the deaths of the animals, Zakharova continued to suggest that an alleged cover-up by the British authorities also extended to Skripals pets. Is that normal practice? she asked in a Facebook post, claiming the guinea pigs and cat could have been important evidence in this poisoning case. She also remarked that Porton Down, the government research facility nearby, had experimented on guinea pigs over the years. The more we know, the worse the picture looks, she wrote.

The Russian embassy in London also released a statement on Friday, claiming: This is however the sort of answer that brings about still more questions.

Claiming that it is said unofficially that the cats were incinerated at Porton Down, it demanded to know if the animals had been tested for toxic substances and added that it believed there was a second cat that was unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of the second one are still unknown, the statement said. The Embassy continues to request answers to these questions, however inconvenient they may seem. And we demand full cooperation.

The Sun reported that Skripals black cat, Nash Van Drake, was put down after being tested at Porton Down, where he was found to be severely malnourished.

A Defra spokeswoman said a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the cat to alleviate its suffering, and that it was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.

She did not mention the second cat referred to by Nebenzia.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, youre as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and theres an off-leash park also open to the public where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues pun intended. Its tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice, she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs
Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazons headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: Shes made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someones feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the worlds first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours people seem to be more friendly and approachable.

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a real morale booster. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. Shell sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while Im working; visit colleagues she knows wholl give her a treat.

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and its great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

Its beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because theyre walking their dog is much less.

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they cant be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie
Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerrys and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference and many more just like dogs.

Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. Im dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Litter of seven puppies are first born through IVF

Nineteen embryos, seven pregnancies, one female beagle … scientists say procedure could save endangered species and prevent genetic disorders

From the paint on their toes and the tips of their tails, the puppies stand out as unusual. But the litter of seven will go down in history for more than the colours that tell them apart. Now five months old and doing well, the dogs are the first to be born through IVF.

The healthy delivery of the dogs by caesarean section on 10 July marks a success that has eluded scientists for 40 years since efforts began in the mid-1970s. The procedure could transform attempts to save endangered dog species, and potentially help prevent the genetic disorders that afflict so many breeds.

Born to the same beagle mother, the puppies included two produced from a different beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, and five from two other pairings of beagles. The seven pregnancies came after 19 IVF embryos were transferred to the mother, according to a report in Plos One.

We had people lined up, each with a towel, to grab a puppy and rub them and warm them up, said Alex Travis, a specialist in reproductive biology at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. When you hear that first cry and they start wriggling a bit, its pure happiness. Youre ecstatic that theyre all healthy and alive and doing well.

The team used small daubs of coloured nail varnish to tell the dogs apart. Since they were born, all but one has been adopted. Their names are Ivy, Cannon, Beaker, Buddy, Nelly, Red and Green. Travis gave a home to Red and Green, and while Reds name honours the informal name for the Cornell sports teams, Travis says Green has yet to be renamed because his children cannot reach a consensus. Nelly will be homed after she has had her own litter of puppies.

The struggle to make IVF work in dogs is down to the curiosities of the canine reproductive system. Dogs ovulate only once or twice a year and the eggs they release are very immature. They are also unhelpfully dark, thanks to fatty molecules inside them, making them hard to work with under a microscope. The list of problems goes on.

The seven puppies have three sets of biological parents and are said to be healthy and doing well. Photograph: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine/PA

Travis and his colleagues first worked out how to obtain eggs that were mature enough to fertilise. The solution turned out to be leaving the eggs in the dogs oviducts the canine equivalent of human fallopian tubes for a day longer than usual, allowing them to reach a later stage of natural development.

The next hurdle was mimicking the effect of the female reproductive tract, which prepares incoming sperm for fertilisation. Jennifer Nagashima and Skylar Sylvester, researchers in Traviss lab, found that adding magnesium to the sperm culture did the job. With those two changes, the scientists achieved fertilisation rates of better than 80%.

The final part of the process was to freeze the embryos, so they can be stored until the surrogate mother is at the right stage in her reproductive cycle. Travis had worked out how to do this before, and in 2013 oversaw the birth of the first dog, named Klondike, from a frozen embryo.

Travis said the breakthrough could help conserve threatened and endangered species of dogs in captivity. If you are managing a species such as the African painted dog, and a male dies, you can collect sperm. And if a female dies, you can collect ovarian follicles from the ovaries and try to mature oocytes in vitro. But then what? To be able to use these resources, you need IVF to be able to produce an embryo from the sperm and eggs, he said.

Travis added: Because dogs share so many genetic traits and diseases with people over 350, which is vastly more than any other species this technique also gives us new opportunities both to study genetic disease, and with gene editing, potentially prevent it from happening. This will have important implications for both veterinary and human medicine.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Royal Mail threatens to halt deliveries to home of mail-snatching cat

Couple receive letter telling them to restrain Bella, who has been putting postmans fingers at risk of injury

A couple have been told to restrain their cat or face having their mail deliveries suspended.

Matthew Sampson said he was notified by the Royal Mail last week of a potential hazard at his home in Patchway, near Bristol, which was affecting deliveries. According to a letter sent to Sampson by the Royal Mail, four-year-old Bella was a threat to staff.

In the letter, the Royal Mail said it had been experiencing difficulties in delivering mail to Sampsons home because of the actions of a cat. The postman had reported that when he pushed mail through the letterbox, a black and white cat snatches the mail and puts his fingers at risk of injury.

The couple have been advised to restrain their cat at all times or provide an alternative safe post box, or deliveries would be suspended.

Sampson told the BBC: Weve noticed over the last couple of days that the postman is very hesitant at putting the letters in, and Bella thinks its a game that hes trying to play.

I havent seen her put her paws all the way through, but I think its fair what theyre saying its just how theyve worded the letter. As to restraining the cat, Id no way dare.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: If we feel that there is a risk from a dog, or any other animal, at an individual address, we are committed to working with the customer to agree simple steps to ensure we can continue to deliver the mail safely.

In this case we have appealed to the owner to keep their pet under control when the postman calls and we have invited the customer to contact the delivery office manager to discuss this in more detail.

This could be done just by making sure the pet is kept safely away from the letterbox, or by installing a cage inside the letterbox to reduce the risk of fingers being bitten or scratched.

Our postmen and women also use posting pegs which they use to deliver mail safely to properties where there are animals present.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The fat cats have got their claws into our universities, and will eat them up | Aditya Chakrabortty

Academias unfolding tale of greed goes beyond vice-chancellors salaries: its about how decisions about their pay are made, says Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty

Scandals arent meant to happen in British universities. Parliament, tabloid newsrooms, the City those we expect to spew out sleaze. Not the gown-wearing, exam-sitting, quiet-in-the-library surrounds of higher education.

Yet we should all be scandalised by what is happening in academia. It is a tale of vast greed and of vandalism and it is being committed right at the top, by the very people who are meant to be custodians of these institutions. If it continues, it will wreck one of the few world-beating industries Britain has left.

Big claims, I know, but easily supportable. Let me start with greed. You may have heard of Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell. As vice-chancellor of Bath University, her salary went up this year by 17,500 which is to say, she got more in just one pay rise than some of her staff earn in a year. Her annual salary and benefits now total over 468,000, not including an interest-free car loan of 31,000. Then theres the 20,000 in expenses she claimed last year, with almost 5,000 for the gas bill and 2 for biscuits. I knew there had to be a reason they call them rich tea.

Breakwell is now the lightning rod for Westminsters fury over vice-chancellor pay. As the best paid in Britain, shes the vice-chancellor that Tony Blairs former education minister, Andrew Adonis, tweets angrily about. Shes the focus of a regulators report that slams both her and the university. Shes already had to apologise to staff and students for a lack of transparency in the universitys pay processes and may even be forced out this week.

But shes not the only one. The sectoris peppered with other vice-chancellors on the make. At Bangor University, John Hughes gets 245,000 a year and lives in a grace-and-favour country house that cost his university almost 750,000, including 700-worth of Laura Ashley cushions. Two years ago, the University of Bolton gave its head, George Holmes, a 960,000 loan to buy a mansion close by. The owner of both a yacht and a Bentley, Holmes enjoys asking such questions as: Do you want to be successful or a failure? Yet as the Times Higher Education observed recently, he counts as a failure, having overseen a drop last year in student numbers, even while being awarded an 11.5% pay rise.

Compare these fortunes to that of rank-and-file university teachers, who have seen only a 1% rise in their basic pay in the last year. Or consider that on the sectors own statistics, most academics are on some form of casual contract, including being paid by the hour for marking and teaching. It is not uncommon in English and Welsh universities for students to pay 9,000 a year to be taught by an academic who isnt earning that much. Reporting last year, I met one lecturer at a Russell Group university who had until recently worked a total of five jobs a week, including as a binman.

Bring up such examples and the universities will spin you a version of what Rick Trainor, former principal of Kings College London, once said: If you want the best, you have to pay the best. What they wont mention is the finding of the University and College Union that more than seven out of 10 vice-chancellors are either members of the committees that set their pay, or can sit on them as Baths Breakwell did.

If this were just about individual greed, we could sling out a few bad apples and carry on. But whats rotten inuniversities is the rules observed by the people at the top. And whats at riskis the reputation of our entire highereducation system.

Let us revisit Bath. Like nearly all British universities, it is a charity that is committed to serving the public good, as recognised by the public with tax exemptions. As with most charities, the buck stops not with its vice-chancellor but with the trustees or, as they are termed at Bath, the council. These are the people the public rely on to challenge management and uphold the institutions values. Bath has 26 councillors, including the vice-chancellor and a smattering of representatives from faculties and students.

By far the biggest number 14 comefrom outside the university, and whats striking about them is how many are from finance or business: the CVs burst with names including Rothschild Asset Management. Councillors from the auditing giant PwC alone outnumber student representatives. The committee that sets Breakwells pay is chaired by a commercial lawyer, with two otherpositions held by someone from PwC, along with the head of a construction company.

These arent people who will argue with a vice-chancellor getting half a million pounds. They wont bat an eye over jacking up rents for students, even though Bath is already making millions out of its accommodation. I wouldnt expect such a narrow club to raise questions over the universitys use of zero-hours contracts. Nor are they representative of Bath, where there is a serious housing shortage and growing resentment over local inequalities. Directors of an accountancy? Sure. But not guarding the values of a charitable enterprise and a place of intellectual enquiry.

Ten years ago, British finance was held up to the rest of the world as a joke full of flyboys paying themselves truckloads of money and running some fine old institutions into the ground. The result was a crash, a bailout and an economic slump that still drags on.

Yet the people running our universities are now busy importing that failed model, along with all its business bullshit. If they succeed, they will trash our higher education system. At Manchester University, half the outside trustees come from business and finance. There is no major non-profit figure, nor a housing association representative (which would make sense, given the university provides a lot of student housing).

There is, however, a lot of AstraZeneca, where the universitys vice-chancellor Nancy Rothwell has served as a non-executive director: two members of her leadership team come from the pharmaceutical firm, while three trustees are either current or former employees. The university justifies this as just deserts for a big, local employer. What they couldnt tell me was why they didnt offer such representation to the Bishop of Manchester (as the university used to do) or to a major trade unionist. When the university managers launched a plan to make 140 academics redundant, they didnt even bother to consult the senior academic body of the senate. Rothwell also sat on her universitys pay committee, according to the UCU, as did Hughes and Holmes.

They talk about making the university world-class while threatening its world-class school of languages with swingeing cuts. The result has been extraordinary: just as happened at Bath, staff at the school of languages have passed a vote of no confidence in their universitys management. Some have left; others have simply lost the goodwill that traditionally underpins academia.

Our universities, the NHS and the BBC: three things that the rest of the world admires about Britain. It is no coincidence that all of them derive their values and ethics from outside the marketplace. If we want to ruin them, the quickest way is to bring in the values of finance and business of profiteering from students, sweating academics and handing riches to the management.

Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.

Dylan,

Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Savage trade in underage and illegal puppies highlighted by UK charity

The Dog Trust has evidence of hundreds of designer dogs smuggled in appalling conditions into the UK from eastern Europe

Thousands of designer puppies are being smuggled into the UK every year as part of a 100m black market that could expand further because of pressure on border controls, a leading dog welfare charity has warned.

Dachshunds, chow-chows, pugs and French and English bulldogs are regularly being brought illegally into the UK from central and eastern Europe with falsified pet passport data and fake vaccination records boosting the risk of foreign canine diseases spreading to the UK dog population according to the charity Dogs Trust.

The puppies typically underage are transported in inhumane conditions in cars, vans and minibuses for thousands of miles to be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting consumers in the UK. The majority are brought from breeding farms in Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, smuggled into Britain via Eurotunnel shuttle trains (arriving in Folkestone) and ferries (arriving in Dover) in the small hours of the morning.

Figures from the Dogs Trust reveal that one in every 10 puppies smuggled into the UK will die within their first three weeks here. The charity first highlighted the influx of puppies from central and eastern Europe in 2014, following a relaxation of the rules of the then pet travel scheme in 2012 for the purposes of EU harmonisation. Over six months 382 illegally imported puppies were seized at Dover and Folkestone although no prosecutions ensued but the trust says this is the tip of the iceberg.

Since December 2015, the trust the UKs largest dog welfare charity, which cares for nearly 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year has also provided care and support for illegally imported puppies through their time in quarantine. The RSPCA is supporting the trusts new campaign launched on Thursday to make consumers aware of the issue.

Dogs Trust says its investigations have revealed the lack of resources available to the agencies based at the ports. It fears many puppies are entering the country only because there is not sufficient funding to provide adequate staffing at the ports or for the costs of quarantine.

Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision, said Runa Hanaghan, the charitys deputy veterinary director. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Sergei Skripal’s cat and guinea pigs die after police seal house

Two guinea pigs found dead at Salisbury home of ex-spy while a cat needed to be put down

Two guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a distressed cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripals home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital more than a month after the attack on 4 March. In its latest update, NHS England said the former Russian spys condition was critical but stable.

On Thursday, Yulia Skripal released a statement through the Metropolitan police in which said she was getting stronger by the day.

A war of words has continued between Britain and Russia over claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack using the nerve agent novichok.

Play Video
0:26

Russia tells Britain ‘you’ll be sorry’ at UN meeting – video

On Thursday, in heated exchanges at the UN security council, Russias UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissing the allegation that Russia was behind the poisoning as absurd, questioned what had happened to Sergei Skripals two cats and two guinea pigs.

What happened to these animals? Why doesnt anyone mention them? Their condition is also an important piece of evidence, he said.

The highest concentration of novichok was found on the front door of Skripals home.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, had also raised the fate of the pets. Where are the animals? What state are they in? she asked on Wednesday.

Why has the British side not mentioned this fact? We are talking about living organisms, and if toxic agents were used then living organisms must have suffered.

After Defra, released a statement about the deaths of the animals, Zakharova continued to suggest that an alleged cover-up by the British authorities also extended to Skripals pets. Is that normal practice? she asked in a Facebook post, claiming the guinea pigs and cat could have been important evidence in this poisoning case. She also remarked that Porton Down, the government research facility nearby, had experimented on guinea pigs over the years. The more we know, the worse the picture looks, she wrote.

The Russian embassy in London also released a statement on Friday, claiming: This is however the sort of answer that brings about still more questions.

Claiming that it is said unofficially that the cats were incinerated at Porton Down, it demanded to know if the animals had been tested for toxic substances and added that it believed there was a second cat that was unaccounted for.

The whereabouts of the second one are still unknown, the statement said. The Embassy continues to request answers to these questions, however inconvenient they may seem. And we demand full cooperation.

The Sun reported that Skripals black cat, Nash Van Drake, was put down after being tested at Porton Down, where he was found to be severely malnourished.

A Defra spokeswoman said a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the cat to alleviate its suffering, and that it was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.

She did not mention the second cat referred to by Nebenzia.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Litter of seven puppies are first born through IVF

Nineteen embryos, seven pregnancies, one female beagle … scientists say procedure could save endangered species and prevent genetic disorders

From the paint on their toes and the tips of their tails, the puppies stand out as unusual. But the litter of seven will go down in history for more than the colours that tell them apart. Now five months old and doing well, the dogs are the first to be born through IVF.

The healthy delivery of the dogs by caesarean section on 10 July marks a success that has eluded scientists for 40 years since efforts began in the mid-1970s. The procedure could transform attempts to save endangered dog species, and potentially help prevent the genetic disorders that afflict so many breeds.

Born to the same beagle mother, the puppies included two produced from a different beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, and five from two other pairings of beagles. The seven pregnancies came after 19 IVF embryos were transferred to the mother, according to a report in Plos One.

We had people lined up, each with a towel, to grab a puppy and rub them and warm them up, said Alex Travis, a specialist in reproductive biology at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. When you hear that first cry and they start wriggling a bit, its pure happiness. Youre ecstatic that theyre all healthy and alive and doing well.

The team used small daubs of coloured nail varnish to tell the dogs apart. Since they were born, all but one has been adopted. Their names are Ivy, Cannon, Beaker, Buddy, Nelly, Red and Green. Travis gave a home to Red and Green, and while Reds name honours the informal name for the Cornell sports teams, Travis says Green has yet to be renamed because his children cannot reach a consensus. Nelly will be homed after she has had her own litter of puppies.

The struggle to make IVF work in dogs is down to the curiosities of the canine reproductive system. Dogs ovulate only once or twice a year and the eggs they release are very immature. They are also unhelpfully dark, thanks to fatty molecules inside them, making them hard to work with under a microscope. The list of problems goes on.

The seven puppies have three sets of biological parents and are said to be healthy and doing well. Photograph: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine/PA

Travis and his colleagues first worked out how to obtain eggs that were mature enough to fertilise. The solution turned out to be leaving the eggs in the dogs oviducts the canine equivalent of human fallopian tubes for a day longer than usual, allowing them to reach a later stage of natural development.

The next hurdle was mimicking the effect of the female reproductive tract, which prepares incoming sperm for fertilisation. Jennifer Nagashima and Skylar Sylvester, researchers in Traviss lab, found that adding magnesium to the sperm culture did the job. With those two changes, the scientists achieved fertilisation rates of better than 80%.

The final part of the process was to freeze the embryos, so they can be stored until the surrogate mother is at the right stage in her reproductive cycle. Travis had worked out how to do this before, and in 2013 oversaw the birth of the first dog, named Klondike, from a frozen embryo.

Travis said the breakthrough could help conserve threatened and endangered species of dogs in captivity. If you are managing a species such as the African painted dog, and a male dies, you can collect sperm. And if a female dies, you can collect ovarian follicles from the ovaries and try to mature oocytes in vitro. But then what? To be able to use these resources, you need IVF to be able to produce an embryo from the sperm and eggs, he said.

Travis added: Because dogs share so many genetic traits and diseases with people over 350, which is vastly more than any other species this technique also gives us new opportunities both to study genetic disease, and with gene editing, potentially prevent it from happening. This will have important implications for both veterinary and human medicine.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

‘World’s saddest’ polar bear offered new home in UK

Bear made headlines after footage was released showing its cramped living conditions in a Chinese shopping centre

A polar bear dubbed the worlds saddest because of its cramped living conditions in a Chinese shopping centre has been offered a new home at a UK wildlife park, an animal welfare charity has said.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has made an offer to remove Pizza the polar bear from the Grandview Aquarium, in Guangzhou, Animals Asia said.

Animals Asia, which seeks to end cruelty to animals in Asia, has collected more than half a million signatures in a campaign to close the aquarium.

It released footage of the animal earlier this year, which made headlines around the world and led to Pizza being described as the worlds saddest polar bear.

Dave Neale, Animals Asias animal welfare director, said: The good news now for Grandview is that they now have the chance to put their mistake right.

Pizza
Pizza the polar bear in the Grandview Aquarium, in Guangzhou, China. Photograph: VCG via Getty Images

Thanks to this incredible offer from Yorkshire Wildlife Park, there can be a happy ending and the negative publicity they have suffered can yet be turned into a positive news story.

From talking to them I know they know that mistakes have been made in terms of their animal facilities and ongoing care.

As an organisation that works with animal carers to provide the best possible environment for animals, we have to say that we would be delighted to see Pizza end up at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

There he would not only enjoy incredible facilities, he would also be part of a community of bears.

The charity said the offer has been made on condition of Grandview agreeing not to replace Pizza with another animal and that no payment has been offered for the bear.

If the offer is accepted, the cost of transferring the polar bear will be raised and it will be up to both Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Grandview to arrange and secure the transfer in the shortest possible time.

If Pizza moves to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, he will live in a specially created habitat for polar bears with 10 acres and two lakes.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Paddington Bear author Michael Bond dies aged 91

Creator of marmalade-loving bear from Peru, whose last story was published in April, has died after a short illness

Michael Bond, the creator of the beloved childrens character Paddington Bear, has died aged 91.

Bond, who published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, about the marmalade-loving bear from deepest, darkest Peru, in 1958, died at home after a short illness.

The author, born in Newbury, Berkshire, in 1926, kept writing until his death. His most recent Paddington story, Paddingtons Finest Hour, was published in April.

His daughter, Karen Jankel, told the Guardian the whole world was lucky to have had her father, whose legacy would live on for ever through his creation.

A statement from publisher HarperCollins said: It is with great sadness that we announce that Michael Bond, CBE, the creator of one of Britains best-loved childrens characters, Paddington, died at home yesterday aged 91 following a short illness.

Jankel said: Its a shock to everybody. For me, he was the most wonderful father you can imagine, so obviously our loss is personal. But its wonderful that hes left the legacy of his books and Paddington that will live on for ever, which is really very special.

The whole world is lucky to have had him Paddington himself is so real to all of us. Hes still a part of our family and were very lucky.

Jankel said it was incredible that her father was still writing up until his death.

For him, writing was his life. It was wonderful he could continue writing until the end, she said. Because Paddington and his other characters were so real to him, he became alive to everybody else.

You can tell just by reading his books what a lovely person he was. I never came across anybody who disliked my father. He was one of those people that people instinctively warmed to and he was as funny as a person and delightful as he was in his writing and as a father.

Tributes poured in from figures in the literary and entertainment industry.

Hugh Bonneville, who plays Mr Brown in the film adaptation and its sequel, set for release later this year, said in a statement: It seems particularly poignant that we should learn of dear Michael Bonds death on the last day of shooting our second film about his unique, loveable creation.

In Paddington, Michael created a character whose enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations.

Michael will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and especially by his wife, Sue, his family and of course by his beloved guinea pigs. He leaves a special legacy: long live the bear from darkest Peru.

Presenter and writer Stephen Fry tweeted: So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed. He was as kindly, dignified, charming & lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us.

Childrens author and comedian David Walliams wrote: I had the great pleasure of spending time with #MichaelBond A dazzling wit & perfect gentleman.

On meeting him I realised he was #Paddington.

Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry series, said: Michael Bond created that infinitely rare thing: an iconic, utterly original, instantly recognisable and memorable character. He was one of the greats.

The novelist Matt Haig, who worked on the Paddington film, said: Michael Bond created an icon of childrens fiction. The Peruvian immigrant bear is one of the quirkiest but somehow most emotionally real childrens characters, both fantastical and domestic. We should all have a marmalade sandwich in honour of his creator.

As well as Paddington, Bond created characters including Olga da Polgaand A Mouse Called Thursday along with a series of novels for adults, featuring the detective Monsieur Pamplemousse.

More than 35m Paddington books have been sold worldwide, spawning toys, TV programmes and most recently the films.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, HarperCollinss executive publisher of childrens books, said: I feel privileged to have been Michael Bonds publisher he was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers.

He will be for ever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffel coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations. My thoughts and love are with his wife, Sue, and his children, Karen and Anthony.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Dogs have pet facial expressions to use on humans, study finds

Showing tongues and puppy eyes, and facial movement in general, was more likely when scientists faced the animals, suggesting conscious communication

Dogs really do turn on the puppy eyes when humans look at them, according to researchers studying canine facial expressions.

Scientists have discovered that dogs produce more facial movements when a human is paying attention to them including raising their eyebrows, making their eyes appear bigger than when they are being ignored or presented with a tasty morsel.

The research pushes back against the belief that animal facial expressions are largely unconscious movements, that reflect internal sentiments, rather than a way to communicate.

Facial expression is often seen as something that is very emotionally driven and is very fixed, and so it isnt something that animals can change depending on their circumstances, said Bridget Waller, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Portsmouth, and an author of the study.

The research joins a number of studies probing the extraordinary relationship between humans and their canine companions, including work suggesting dogs understand both the words and the tone of human speech.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study involved researchers using a video camera to record the facial movements of 24 dogs over a series of experiments in which a human either faced the animal, or faced away, and presented the dog with a tidbit, or did not.

The recordings were then examined by the team frame by frame to determine changes in the facial muscles of the canines.

The results reveal that the pooches produced far more facial expressions when the human was facing the dog, than when they turned away in particular, the animals were more likely to show their tongues and raise their inner eyebrows.

But the presence of food had no impact on the animals expressions. That suggested canine facial expressions were not just down to excitement, and cast doubt over whether dogs use their facial expressions to twist their owners around their paws, said Waller.

We wanted to see if dogs would produce the most facial expressions when they saw the face and the food, because that might then tell us they are trying to intentionally manipulate the human in order to get the food and we didnt see that, said Waller.

The study suggested doggy expressions were not simply the result of internal emotions, but could be a mechanism of communication. The team noted their work didnt show whether dogs simply learn to pull faces when a human pays attention to them, or whether it reflect a deeper connection. But, they said, it was notable that the animals tended to make their eyes appear bigger a trait humans are known to find cute.

[The research] tells us that their facial expressions are probably responsive to humans not just to other dogs, said Waller. [That] tells us something about how domestication has shaped [dogs], and that it has changed them in order to be more communicative with humans, in a sense.

However, the team stressed the research does not shed light on what the dogs might be trying to communicate, or whether the movements are intentional.

I think this adds to a growing body of evidence that dogs are sensitive to our attention, said Juliane Kaminski, another author of the study, also from the University of Portsmouth. Which is not necessarily something that a dog owner would be surprised about.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The fat cats have got their claws into our universities, and will eat them up | Aditya Chakrabortty

Academias unfolding tale of greed goes beyond vice-chancellors salaries: its about how decisions about their pay are made, says Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty

Scandals arent meant to happen in British universities. Parliament, tabloid newsrooms, the City those we expect to spew out sleaze. Not the gown-wearing, exam-sitting, quiet-in-the-library surrounds of higher education.

Yet we should all be scandalised by what is happening in academia. It is a tale of vast greed and of vandalism and it is being committed right at the top, by the very people who are meant to be custodians of these institutions. If it continues, it will wreck one of the few world-beating industries Britain has left.

Big claims, I know, but easily supportable. Let me start with greed. You may have heard of Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell. As vice-chancellor of Bath University, her salary went up this year by 17,500 which is to say, she got more in just one pay rise than some of her staff earn in a year. Her annual salary and benefits now total over 468,000, not including an interest-free car loan of 31,000. Then theres the 20,000 in expenses she claimed last year, with almost 5,000 for the gas bill and 2 for biscuits. I knew there had to be a reason they call them rich tea.

Breakwell is now the lightning rod for Westminsters fury over vice-chancellor pay. As the best paid in Britain, shes the vice-chancellor that Tony Blairs former education minister, Andrew Adonis, tweets angrily about. Shes the focus of a regulators report that slams both her and the university. Shes already had to apologise to staff and students for a lack of transparency in the universitys pay processes and may even be forced out this week.

But shes not the only one. The sectoris peppered with other vice-chancellors on the make. At Bangor University, John Hughes gets 245,000 a year and lives in a grace-and-favour country house that cost his university almost 750,000, including 700-worth of Laura Ashley cushions. Two years ago, the University of Bolton gave its head, George Holmes, a 960,000 loan to buy a mansion close by. The owner of both a yacht and a Bentley, Holmes enjoys asking such questions as: Do you want to be successful or a failure? Yet as the Times Higher Education observed recently, he counts as a failure, having overseen a drop last year in student numbers, even while being awarded an 11.5% pay rise.

Compare these fortunes to that of rank-and-file university teachers, who have seen only a 1% rise in their basic pay in the last year. Or consider that on the sectors own statistics, most academics are on some form of casual contract, including being paid by the hour for marking and teaching. It is not uncommon in English and Welsh universities for students to pay 9,000 a year to be taught by an academic who isnt earning that much. Reporting last year, I met one lecturer at a Russell Group university who had until recently worked a total of five jobs a week, including as a binman.

Bring up such examples and the universities will spin you a version of what Rick Trainor, former principal of Kings College London, once said: If you want the best, you have to pay the best. What they wont mention is the finding of the University and College Union that more than seven out of 10 vice-chancellors are either members of the committees that set their pay, or can sit on them as Baths Breakwell did.

If this were just about individual greed, we could sling out a few bad apples and carry on. But whats rotten inuniversities is the rules observed by the people at the top. And whats at riskis the reputation of our entire highereducation system.

Let us revisit Bath. Like nearly all British universities, it is a charity that is committed to serving the public good, as recognised by the public with tax exemptions. As with most charities, the buck stops not with its vice-chancellor but with the trustees or, as they are termed at Bath, the council. These are the people the public rely on to challenge management and uphold the institutions values. Bath has 26 councillors, including the vice-chancellor and a smattering of representatives from faculties and students.

By far the biggest number 14 comefrom outside the university, and whats striking about them is how many are from finance or business: the CVs burst with names including Rothschild Asset Management. Councillors from the auditing giant PwC alone outnumber student representatives. The committee that sets Breakwells pay is chaired by a commercial lawyer, with two otherpositions held by someone from PwC, along with the head of a construction company.

These arent people who will argue with a vice-chancellor getting half a million pounds. They wont bat an eye over jacking up rents for students, even though Bath is already making millions out of its accommodation. I wouldnt expect such a narrow club to raise questions over the universitys use of zero-hours contracts. Nor are they representative of Bath, where there is a serious housing shortage and growing resentment over local inequalities. Directors of an accountancy? Sure. But not guarding the values of a charitable enterprise and a place of intellectual enquiry.

Ten years ago, British finance was held up to the rest of the world as a joke full of flyboys paying themselves truckloads of money and running some fine old institutions into the ground. The result was a crash, a bailout and an economic slump that still drags on.

Yet the people running our universities are now busy importing that failed model, along with all its business bullshit. If they succeed, they will trash our higher education system. At Manchester University, half the outside trustees come from business and finance. There is no major non-profit figure, nor a housing association representative (which would make sense, given the university provides a lot of student housing).

There is, however, a lot of AstraZeneca, where the universitys vice-chancellor Nancy Rothwell has served as a non-executive director: two members of her leadership team come from the pharmaceutical firm, while three trustees are either current or former employees. The university justifies this as just deserts for a big, local employer. What they couldnt tell me was why they didnt offer such representation to the Bishop of Manchester (as the university used to do) or to a major trade unionist. When the university managers launched a plan to make 140 academics redundant, they didnt even bother to consult the senior academic body of the senate. Rothwell also sat on her universitys pay committee, according to the UCU, as did Hughes and Holmes.

They talk about making the university world-class while threatening its world-class school of languages with swingeing cuts. The result has been extraordinary: just as happened at Bath, staff at the school of languages have passed a vote of no confidence in their universitys management. Some have left; others have simply lost the goodwill that traditionally underpins academia.

Our universities, the NHS and the BBC: three things that the rest of the world admires about Britain. It is no coincidence that all of them derive their values and ethics from outside the marketplace. If we want to ruin them, the quickest way is to bring in the values of finance and business of profiteering from students, sweating academics and handing riches to the management.

Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Savage trade in underage and illegal puppies highlighted by UK charity

The Dog Trust has evidence of hundreds of designer dogs smuggled in appalling conditions into the UK from eastern Europe

Thousands of designer puppies are being smuggled into the UK every year as part of a 100m black market that could expand further because of pressure on border controls, a leading dog welfare charity has warned.

Dachshunds, chow-chows, pugs and French and English bulldogs are regularly being brought illegally into the UK from central and eastern Europe with falsified pet passport data and fake vaccination records boosting the risk of foreign canine diseases spreading to the UK dog population according to the charity Dogs Trust.

The puppies typically underage are transported in inhumane conditions in cars, vans and minibuses for thousands of miles to be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting consumers in the UK. The majority are brought from breeding farms in Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, smuggled into Britain via Eurotunnel shuttle trains (arriving in Folkestone) and ferries (arriving in Dover) in the small hours of the morning.

Figures from the Dogs Trust reveal that one in every 10 puppies smuggled into the UK will die within their first three weeks here. The charity first highlighted the influx of puppies from central and eastern Europe in 2014, following a relaxation of the rules of the then pet travel scheme in 2012 for the purposes of EU harmonisation. Over six months 382 illegally imported puppies were seized at Dover and Folkestone although no prosecutions ensued but the trust says this is the tip of the iceberg.

Since December 2015, the trust the UKs largest dog welfare charity, which cares for nearly 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year has also provided care and support for illegally imported puppies through their time in quarantine. The RSPCA is supporting the trusts new campaign launched on Thursday to make consumers aware of the issue.

Dogs Trust says its investigations have revealed the lack of resources available to the agencies based at the ports. It fears many puppies are entering the country only because there is not sufficient funding to provide adequate staffing at the ports or for the costs of quarantine.

Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision, said Runa Hanaghan, the charitys deputy veterinary director. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Whales and dolphins lead ‘human-like lives’ thanks to big brains, says study

The cultural brain hypothesis of human development could also explain cetaceans forming friendships and even gossiping

Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play.

That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species brain, the more complex indeed, the more human-like their lives are likely to be.

This suggests that the cultural brain hypothesis the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans.

Writing in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers claim that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animals brains a process known as encephalisation.

The researchers gathered records of dolphins playing with humpback whales, helping fishermen with their catches, and even producing signature whistles for dolphins that are absent suggesting the animals may even gossip.

Another common behaviour was adult animals raising unrelated young. There is the saying that it takes a village to raise a child [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans, said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics.

Dolphins
Dolphins off the coast of South Africa. Photograph: Rainer Schimpf/Barcroft Media

Like humans, the cetaceans, a group made up of dolphins, whales and porpoises, are thought to do most of their learning socially rather than individually, which could explain why some species learn more complex behaviours than others. Those predominantly found alone or in small groups had the smallest brains, the researchers led by Susanne Shultz at the University of Manchester wrote.

Luke Rendell, a biologist at the University of St Andrews who was not involved in the study, but has done work on sperm whales and their distinctive dialects, warned against anthropomorphising and making animals appear to be like humans.

There is a risk of sounding like there is a single train line, with humans at the final station and other animals on their way of getting there. The truth is that every animal responds to their own evolutionary pressures, he said.

There is definitely a danger in comparing other animals to humans, especially with the data available. But what we can say for sure, is that this cultural-brain hypothesis we tested is present in primates and in cetaceans, Muthukrishna said.

There was still much more to learn, though, he added. Studies with underwater mammals are difficult and vastly underfunded, so there is so much we dont know about these fascinating animals, he said.

The fascination, however, should not only be interesting for people studying animals. We dont have to look at other planets to look for aliens, because we know that underwater there are these amazing species with so many parallels to us in their complex behaviours, said Muthukrishna.

Studying evolutionarily distinct animals such as cetaceans could act as a control group for studying intelligence in general, and so help the understanding of our own intellect.

It is interesting to think that whale and human brains are different in their structure but have brought us to the same patterns in behaviour, Rendell said. The extent of how this is close to humans can educate us about evolutionary forces in general.

However, Muthukrishna points out that intelligence is always driven by the environment an animal finds itself in. Each environment presents a different set of challenges for an animal. When you are above water, you learn how to tackle fire, for example, he said. As smart as whales are, they will never learn to light a spark.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Royal Mail threatens to halt deliveries to home of mail-snatching cat

Couple receive letter telling them to restrain Bella, who has been putting postmans fingers at risk of injury

A couple have been told to restrain their cat or face having their mail deliveries suspended.

Matthew Sampson said he was notified by the Royal Mail last week of a potential hazard at his home in Patchway, near Bristol, which was affecting deliveries. According to a letter sent to Sampson by the Royal Mail, four-year-old Bella was a threat to staff.

In the letter, the Royal Mail said it had been experiencing difficulties in delivering mail to Sampsons home because of the actions of a cat. The postman had reported that when he pushed mail through the letterbox, a black and white cat snatches the mail and puts his fingers at risk of injury.

The couple have been advised to restrain their cat at all times or provide an alternative safe post box, or deliveries would be suspended.

Sampson told the BBC: Weve noticed over the last couple of days that the postman is very hesitant at putting the letters in, and Bella thinks its a game that hes trying to play.

I havent seen her put her paws all the way through, but I think its fair what theyre saying its just how theyve worded the letter. As to restraining the cat, Id no way dare.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: If we feel that there is a risk from a dog, or any other animal, at an individual address, we are committed to working with the customer to agree simple steps to ensure we can continue to deliver the mail safely.

In this case we have appealed to the owner to keep their pet under control when the postman calls and we have invited the customer to contact the delivery office manager to discuss this in more detail.

This could be done just by making sure the pet is kept safely away from the letterbox, or by installing a cage inside the letterbox to reduce the risk of fingers being bitten or scratched.

Our postmen and women also use posting pegs which they use to deliver mail safely to properties where there are animals present.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

British couple celebrate after birth of first cloned puppy of its kind

West Yorkshire couple Laura Jacques and Richard Remde enlisted South Korean firm offering dog-cloning service for £67,000

A British couple have made history after a surrogate dog gave birth to the first cloned puppy of its kind on Boxing Day.

In the first case of its kind, the boxer puppy was cloned from the couples dead dog, Dylan, almost two weeks after it died. The previous limit for dog cloning was five days after death.

Laura Jacques, 29, and Richard Remde 43, from West Yorkshire, were grief stricken after their boxer died at the age of eight in June, having been diagnosed earlier this year with a brain tumour.

The pair decided to try to clone Dylan and enlisted the services of the controversial Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers a commercial dog-cloning service for $100,000 (67,000) per procedure. It is the only laboratory of its kind in the world. They have hailed the birth as a miracle.

The male puppy has been named Chance, after a character in Jacques favourite film, Disneys Homeward Bound. He is expected to be joined in three days time by a second cloned puppy this one will be named Shadow after another character in the film.

Jacques said she and Remde were overwhelmed after witnessing the birth by caesarean section on Saturday in the operating theatre at Sooam.

Dylan,

Dylan, who died in June this year. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The whole thing just feels surreal, she said. I lost all sense of time. I have no idea how long everything took, the whole thing made me feel very disoriented. I was just clinging on to Richard for about an hour and a half after Chance was born.

After they got him out I still couldnt quite believe it had happened. But once he started making noises I knew it was real. Even as a puppy of just a few minutes old I cant believe how much he looks like Dylan. All the colourings and patterns on his body are in exactly the same places as Dylan had them.

Remde said: I was much more overwhelmed with emotion at the birth than I expected to be.

The couple said the puppy was feeding well from his mother. Im trying to get my head round the fact that this puppy has 100% of the same DNA as Dylan, said Jacques. Its quite confusing but Im telling myself that Chance is just like one of Dylans puppies.

I had had Dylan since he was a puppy, she said. I mothered him so much, he was my baby, my child, my entire world.

Sooam, the leading laboratory in the world for dog cloning, has produced more than 700 dogs for commercial customers. The technique involves implanting DNA into a blank dog egg that has had the nucleus removed.

Jacques heard about dog cloning from a documentary about a competition Sooam ran for one UK dog owner to have their dog cloned free of charge. Rebecca Smith was the winner and her dachshund, Winnie, who is still alive, was successfully cloned.

David Kim, a scientist at Sooam, said the birth of the two cloned dogs was exciting for the laboratory because samples were taken from Dylan 12 days after he died. This is the first case we have had where cells have been taken from a dead dog after a very long time, he said. Hopefully it will allow us to extend the time after death that we can take cells for cloning.

There are no regulations on the cloning of pets, although the cloning of human beings is illegal, and in August the European parliament voted to outlaw the cloning of farm animals.

Hwang Woo-suk, one of the leading researchers at the Sooam laboratory, is a controversial figure. In 2004, he led a research group at Seoul University, in South Korea, which claimed to have created a cloned human embryo in a test tube. An independent scientific committee found no evidence of this and in January 2006 the journal Science, which had originally published the research, retracted it. He was part of the team delivering the cloned puppy on Boxing Day.

The RSPCA expressed concern about dog cloning. A spokesperson said: There are serious ethical and welfare concerns relating to the application of cloning technology to animals. Cloning animals requires procedures that cause pain and distress, with extremely high failure and mortality rates. There is also a body of evidence that cloned animals frequently suffer physical ailments such as tumours, pneumonia and abnormal growth patterns.

Jacques, a dog walker, and Remde, who runs a building company, Heritage Masonry & Conservation, had to take two sets of samples from their dead dog after the first set of samples did not grow in the laboratory. Remde made two trips in quick succession to South Korea to deliver the cell samples. They are now waiting for the birth of the second puppy and are hoping to adopt the puppies two surrogate mothers and bring four dogs back to the UK next July after the quarantine period has ended.

Key dates in the cloning of Dylan

11 June: Couple told their eight-year-old boxer dog Dylan has an inoperable brain tumour. They were told he might live for up to 18 months with treatment.

30 June: Dylan dies after a cardiac arrest.

1 & 2 July: Vet allows the couple to keep Dylan with them for a few days before burying him. Jacques starts researching the possibilities of cloning a dead dog.

2 July: Dylan is refrigerated in a funeral parlour. Couple purchase medical equipment from Boots to take a skin sample from Dylan to send to Sooam in South Korea in the hope that they can clone him.

4 July: Remde flies to South Korea with the samples, delivers them to laboratory staff waiting at the airport and immediately gets on a plane back to the UK.

5 July: Dylans remains are frozen until a date is fixed for his burial.

6 July: Sooam says it does not think the samples Remde has flown to South Korea could be used to create a cloned puppy.

7 July: Sooam asks whether the couple still have the dog and if so whether they want to try to extract more samples for cloning.

10 July: The couple struggle to take samples from Dylan, whose body remains frozen before burial. A small sample of cells is finally secured around midnight.

11 July: Remde flies to South Korea again to deliver the samples. Sooam receives the cells having never attempted to clone a dog 12 days after its death.

21t October: Sooam confirms the cells have grown to a sufficient degree that the cloning process could start.

23 November: Sooam says a pregnancy has been verified.

24 November: Sooam says a second pregnancy has been verified.

26 December: First boxer puppy is born on Boxing Day.

29 December: Second puppy due.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, youre as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and theres an off-leash park also open to the public where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues pun intended. Its tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice, she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs
Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazons headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: Shes made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someones feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the worlds first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours people seem to be more friendly and approachable.

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a real morale booster. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. Shell sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while Im working; visit colleagues she knows wholl give her a treat.

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and its great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

Its beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because theyre walking their dog is much less.

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they cant be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie
Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerrys and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference and many more just like dogs.

Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. Im dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pet dogs are the new must-have accessory at the smarter office

Companies are using animal magnetism to reduce stress in the workplace and hang on to staff

After a half-hour walk to work each morning, Joy likes to grab a drink and head to her desk where she promptly curls up underneath it and has a nap.

Joy is an eight-month-old golden retriever and she goes to the office with her owner, Carol DuPuis. These days, especially at tech companies, youre as likely to find a dog in the office as you are a pot plant or watercooler. For startups particularly, allowing dogs is an easy, cheap way of attracting and retaining millennials, on top of the free snacks, pinball machines and gym membership.

The Google code of conduct states affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. At Amazon, around 2,000 employees have registered their pets at its headquarters in Seattle so they can take them in reception desks are stocked with biscuits, some water fountains are set at dog height, and theres an off-leash park also open to the public where staff can exercise their pets.

DuPuis is a partnerships manager at ReachNow, a US car-sharing app. My favourite part about bringing Joy into the office is the joy she brings to my colleagues pun intended. Its tough not to love the puppy energy, it just feels so nice, she said. Joy spends part of her day sleeping, but she also joins DuPuis for meetings and likes to sniff around for bits of peanut butter pretzel that have fallen on the floor.

Gemma Huckle, head of content and culture at London brands agency Rooster Punk, knows all about the pleasure dogs can bring. Her French bulldog, Amelie, has changed the mood in the office since her arrival two years ago.

Dogs
Dogs in the canine play areas at Amazons headquarters in Seattle. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Huckle said: Shes made it feel like a home from home: the atmosphere is warmer and more sociable. If someones feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed out, they usually come and see the dog. Just five minutes pampering or playing with her seems to perk everyone up. Having the dog is also great for our physical health, as it gives everyone an excuse to get out of the office and get some air.

Amelie was crowned StartPup 2016 after Rooster Punk shot a video of her in the office and entered her in the worlds first competition to find the best dog belonging to a startup. Huckle recommends having dogs at work. It helps staff bond and I think it reinforces positive work behaviours people seem to be more friendly and approachable.

Around 8% of US and UK employers allow dogs at work. A 2016 survey by Banfield pet hospital found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies, 88% think pets at work improve morale and 86% say they reduce stress.

Laura Wolf, global content manager at digital creative agency Possible, based in Seattle, said her chihuahua-dachshund mix, Boomer, is a real morale booster. She also helps break the ice with new colleagues. You get to know people through your dog, people stop to cuddle her. Shell sit on my lap during meetings; sleep next to my desk while Im working; visit colleagues she knows wholl give her a treat.

Being able to take dogs to work was a major perk, Wolf said. Younger people are getting married way later and choosing to have a pet instead of a child early on. Doggy daycare is expensive and its great to have that flexibility of being able to take your dog around with you.

Its beneficial to the company as well. The likelihood of people having to leave to get home to their dog or come in late because theyre walking their dog is much less.

Companies have rules to ensure workplaces are safe, especially for staff or clients with allergies. At Possible, for example, dogs must be vaccinated, they cant be aggressive or run around off-leash, and they are asked not to return if they foul the office more than three times.

Amelie
Amelie the French bulldog at London digital agency Rooster Punk.

In the UK, dogs have long been going into offices in the pet sector, such as Pets at Home, Mars Petcare and the charity Blue Cross, and they are becoming welcome at other types of businesses too, for example model agency Next Management and online retailer Firebox.

In the US firms such as Ben & Jerrys and Build-a-Bear Workshop allow dogs, and the idea is spreading to the public sector. The department of the interior is to trial take-your-dog-to-work days, the first federal government office to do so. Dogs are also becoming more common in places such as dental surgeries, boutiques and hair salons.

Dentist Cameron Garrett and his wife Debra, a hygienist, take their elderly rescue dog, Karma, to their practice in Corte Madera, California. Debra said: Some of our patients are dental-phobic and say that having Karma on their lap makes all the difference and many more just like dogs.

Karma keeps me calm too and makes my day feel that much nicer. Im dental-phobic myself. I needed a filling recently and bought Karma with me and it does help. I know from both sides of the chair.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/06/pet-dogs-are-the-new-must-have-accessory-at-the-smarter-office

This is the polar bear capital of the world, but the snow has gone

Canadas Hudson Bay is as ice-free in November as on a summers day and polar bears could be extinct here by mid-century. If the bears are in trouble, so are we

Churchill, on the banks of the Hudson Bay in Canada, is known as the polar bear capital of the world. Hundreds of bears gather there each year before the sea freezes over in October and November so they can hunt seals again from the ice for the first time since the summer.

I first went there 12 years ago at this time of year. The place was white, the temperature was -20C, and the bears were out feeding.

This year I came back to make a film for Danish TV and set up live feeds of the bears. It was so different. In mid-November there was no snow or sea ice or ice; the land was green or brown and the temperature was 2C. The bears were walking around on the land waiting for the ice to form. It was like summer.

October had seen unprecedented temperatures all around the Arctic leading to a record-breaking slowdown of sea ice formation. Local people told me they had never seen it like this before.

With Geoff York, director of conservation at Polar Bears International, we pored over satellite maps every day. It was shocking. The whole 470,000 sq mile bay was completely ice-free.

This is the southernmost colony of polar bears in the world and in the past about 1,000 bears would be there. But studies have shown that in the last 20 years the surface temperature of Hudson Bay has warmed by about 3C.

Sea ice extent

This has had a massive effect on the bear. The western Hudson Bay population has declined by more than 20% in 30 years. Its the same elsewhere. New analysis of data from the southern Beaufort Sea in north-west Canada and Alaska suggest even greater population declines there.

We saw about 20 bears around Churchill in the 10 days I was there. Thats actually a few more than I saw last time, when I was there 12 years ago, but that was because most of the bears were out on the ice then. The ones we did see this year appeared thin, restless and hungry, and were starting to be more aggressive.

There was a mum and a cub and it was very emotional because it looked pretty certain that the cub would not survive much longer. The days of bears in this region having triplets seem to be over. The declining sea ice has decreased hunting opportunities, so the bears are smaller and fewer cubs are being born in this area.

Every year, York told us, the bears spend one day more on land and one day less on the ice. That does not sound much, but its one day less hunting, and over 30 years they are getting one months less food.

Lars
Lars Ostenfeld and a polar bear in Churchill, Hudson Bay, Canada, November 2016. Photograph: Simon Gee

The ice is getting thinner; its melting earlier and its coming later. New studies suggest that polar bears can only survive for about 180 days on shore.

York was clear: If sea ice loss continues at the same pace or faster than we have seen here over the last 30 years, this is definitely not sustainable and researchers predict polar bears could become regionally extinct by mid- to end of this century.

The polar bear is an icon of climate change. What is happening near Churchill is a clear sign that change is taking place now. When I returned to Europe, the frost finally came. It should have been one month earlier. This is about much more than polar bears. If an animal that is designed to survive here cant make it, we are in trouble. Its really about us.

Lars Ostenfeld was talking to John Vidal

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/20/churchill-canada-hudson-bay-no-snow-sea-ice-polar-bear

Careless whisker: Universal to release album for cats

David Teie from University of Maryland creates Music for Cats featuring purring, suckling noises and cello to calm felines

They are a particularly tough audience picky, moody, often impossible to please but cats represent an untapped music market, according to one of the worlds biggest record labels.

Universal Music has announced it will be the first major label to release an album that is not for human consumption although, until cats get bank accounts, humans will have to pay for it.

David Teie, an American cellist and music researcher based at the University of Maryland, has created Music for Cats, saying it is an absolutely serious undertaking . He said: It is the biggest challenge with this, people think it is silly. But I think it is the way the brain works . If I look at a door and say thats a fish, you are going to say thats a door . Everybody knows what music is and animals are not included. If you really look into it, whats silly is the idea that only one species could have music available for it.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/03/music-for-cats-david-teie-universal-purring-cello-university-of-maryland

Canines in court: therapy dogs making the wait for a verdict ‘more human’

Unique in the UK, Chelmsford county court hosts therapy dogs each week, to reduce stress and make court less intimidating

David is waiting to find out if his children are going to be taken away from him. He paces the court waiting room and appears to be nearing the end of his tether. Other people instinctively give him a wide berth.

But Tina Jullings from Canine Concern approaches David with a small dog. Would you like to stroke Bushy? she asks brightly, offering up the chaotically hairy yorkshire terrier-chihuahua mix. He pauses, smiles, then laughs. Whats a dog doing in a court? he asks, touching Bushy gently on his head. Thats crazy.

It was January when Judge Lynn Roberts, the designated family judge for Essex and Suffolk, decided to brings dogs into Chelmsford county court. Volunteers from Pets as Therapy and Canine Concern, who usually take their therapy dogs into care homes and special schools, agreed to bring their pets into the court building to visit everyone from the judges and staff to the court users and their families. Roberts also arranges bespoke visits by the dogs if a child will be at court on a day when the animals are not due to visit.

Dogs bring calm to family court.

Chelmsford is the only court in the country to welcome therapy dogs, but six months into the scheme, Roberts regards it as such a success that she is planning to introduce it to Ipswich county and family court.

For many people, coming to court is the most stressful experience in their lives, says Roberts, stroking the sleek head of Ella, a black, flat-haired retriever, who is visiting the judge in her retiring room before the official day begins. Its easy for us who work in the system to lose touch with how stressful it is but litigants are here because the future of their children is being determined, or their marriage, or where theyre going to live.

In the US, they bring llamas and alpacas into care homes but Im not going to attempt to bring in anything larger than a dog. She pauses and gazes at Ella, who stares back with total canine devotion: Having said that, I would love to bring in a donkey. I love donkeys too. But no, I think I will stop at dogs.

So-called courthouse facility dogs are common in America, Canada and Chile, where they help children in all legal settings, as well as crime victims and witnesses, and those appearing in front of the drug and mental health courts.

But Roberts admits there is no tangible evidence as to the schemes impact. I dont think anybody could say if theres any concrete result, she said. There was a suggestion from Cafcass [the body which represents children in family court cases] that we should assess the scheme but I dont want to do that: I dont want to make it all scientific. Its working for us and it doesnt cost the courts a penny.

No ones pretending its a cure-all, she adds, reluctantly waving Ella goodbye and turning back to her case preparations. It just releases a bit of stress and tension.

The dogs have a schedule to keep to at Chelmsford: first they visit the judges, then the court staff and then the court users in the waiting rooms.

Judge
Judge Lynn Roberts with Ella. Photograph: Guardian video

The circuit judge David Vavrecka is a fan of the scheme: My initial, immediate reaction was that it was a fantastic idea, he said. A dog will not change the outcome of a court case but in a very bleak and conflicted situation, it can make the experience less intimidating and more human. And if, only in a very small way, we can improve the experience for our litigants, that seems to be very important.

The circuit judge Catriona Murfitt agreed: All the 101 things whirling around in my brain, about the cases Im going to hear that day, stop whirring for those five minutes when the dogs come round, she said. But its probably most helpful for litigants in person, who come to court with no lawyers and are often entirely alone, knowing very little about whats going to happen in the courtroom.

Stephen Hodges, another district judge, is, however, less enthusiastic. I just about tolerate the interruption to my morning when the dogs come round, he said. But I have two concerns. One is that certain cultures dont traditionally feel the same way about dogs as British people tend to feel, and it could be quite off-putting for them to be approached by a dog at a moment of great stress.

The other is that serious business happens in court. When the dogs visit the judges between 9am and 10am were doing very serious preparation for the cases were hearing that day. I personally find it an unwelcome distraction and I suspect the litigants feel the same if theyre talking to their representatives.

An hour later, however, when Ella trots into his courtroom as he sits surrounded by paperwork, even Hodges appears won over by her canine charm. Hello, he croons quietly, tickling her under the ear. You go all dreamy when I do this, dont you?

His concern that some litigants will find the dogs offensive or intrusive is countered by Kate Miller, a family law barrister at Chelmsford: I have heard judges and lawyers voice concern that litigants who are facing the potential for losing their children dont want to pat a dog or that certain cultures wont appreciate it, she said. But I have myself observed the contrary: lots of people do want to pat a dog, and often exactly at moments of their greatest stress.

In the court waiting room, the dogs are welcomed by some but waved away by others.

Angela has been waiting for two and a half hours to hear whether she will be able to keep her children. Visibly shaking and teary, she bends over Bushy and hugs him tightly.

My little boy loves dogs, she murmurs. Bringing dogs in is such a good idea. It distracts me: I can push whats happening to me to the back of my mind, just for a second.

A woman standing at the edge of the waiting room is taking a break from giving evidence. When she spots Ella emerging from the lift, her distraught expression changes. She gives a brief laugh of surprise and smiles. Then the moment passes and she turns away.

The names of people in court have been changed.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/28/canines-in-court-therapy-dogs-making-the-wait-for-a-verdict-more-human

Savage trade in underage and illegal puppies highlighted by UK charity

The Dog Trust has evidence of hundreds of designer dogs smuggled in appalling conditions into the UK from eastern Europe

Thousands of designer puppies are being smuggled into the UK every year as part of a 100m black market that could expand further because of pressure on border controls, a leading dog welfare charity has warned.

Dachshunds, chow-chows, pugs and French and English bulldogs are regularly being brought illegally into the UK from central and eastern Europe with falsified pet passport data and fake vaccination records boosting the risk of foreign canine diseases spreading to the UK dog population according to the charity Dogs Trust.

The puppies typically underage are transported in inhumane conditions in cars, vans and minibuses for thousands of miles to be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting consumers in the UK. The majority are brought from breeding farms in Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, smuggled into Britain via Eurotunnel shuttle trains (arriving in Folkestone) and ferries (arriving in Dover) in the small hours of the morning.

Figures from the Dogs Trust reveal that one in every 10 puppies smuggled into the UK will die within their first three weeks here. The charity first highlighted the influx of puppies from central and eastern Europe in 2014, following a relaxation of the rules of the then pet travel scheme in 2012 for the purposes of EU harmonisation. Over six months 382 illegally imported puppies were seized at Dover and Folkestone although no prosecutions ensued but the trust says this is the tip of the iceberg.

Since December 2015, the trust the UKs largest dog welfare charity, which cares for nearly 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year has also provided care and support for illegally imported puppies through their time in quarantine. The RSPCA is supporting the trusts new campaign launched on Thursday to make consumers aware of the issue.

Dogs Trust says its investigations have revealed the lack of resources available to the agencies based at the ports. It fears many puppies are entering the country only because there is not sufficient funding to provide adequate staffing at the ports or for the costs of quarantine.

Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision, said Runa Hanaghan, the charitys deputy veterinary director. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/04/savage-trade-in-underage-and-illegal-puppies-highlighted-by-charity

Litter of seven puppies are first born through IVF

Nineteen embryos, seven pregnancies, one female beagle … scientists say procedure could save endangered species and prevent genetic disorders

From the paint on their toes and the tips of their tails, the puppies stand out as unusual. But the litter of seven will go down in history for more than the colours that tell them apart. Now five months old and doing well, the dogs are the first to be born through IVF.

The healthy delivery of the dogs by caesarean section on 10 July marks a success that has eluded scientists for 40 years since efforts began in the mid-1970s. The procedure could transform attempts to save endangered dog species, and potentially help prevent the genetic disorders that afflict so many breeds.

Born to the same beagle mother, the puppies included two produced from a different beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, and five from two other pairings of beagles. The seven pregnancies came after 19 IVF embryos were transferred to the mother, according to a report in Plos One.

We had people lined up, each with a towel, to grab a puppy and rub them and warm them up, said Alex Travis, a specialist in reproductive biology at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. When you hear that first cry and they start wriggling a bit, its pure happiness. Youre ecstatic that theyre all healthy and alive and doing well.

The team used small daubs of coloured nail varnish to tell the dogs apart. Since they were born, all but one has been adopted. Their names are Ivy, Cannon, Beaker, Buddy, Nelly, Red and Green. Travis gave a home to Red and Green, and while Reds name honours the informal name for the Cornell sports teams, Travis says Green has yet to be renamed because his children cannot reach a consensus. Nelly will be homed after she has had her own litter of puppies.

The struggle to make IVF work in dogs is down to the curiosities of the canine reproductive system. Dogs ovulate only once or twice a year and the eggs they release are very immature. They are also unhelpfully dark, thanks to fatty molecules inside them, making them hard to work with under a microscope. The list of problems goes on.

The seven puppies have three sets of biological parents and are said to be healthy and doing well. Photograph: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine/PA

Travis and his colleagues first worked out how to obtain eggs that were mature enough to fertilise. The solution turned out to be leaving the eggs in the dogs oviducts the canine equivalent of human fallopian tubes for a day longer than usual, allowing them to reach a later stage of natural development.

The next hurdle was mimicking the effect of the female reproductive tract, which prepares incoming sperm for fertilisation. Jennifer Nagashima and Skylar Sylvester, researchers in Traviss lab, found that adding magnesium to the sperm culture did the job. With those two changes, the scientists achieved fertilisation rates of better than 80%.

The final part of the process was to freeze the embryos, so they can be stored until the surrogate mother is at the right stage in her reproductive cycle. Travis had worked out how to do this before, and in 2013 oversaw the birth of the first dog, named Klondike, from a frozen embryo.

Travis said the breakthrough could help conserve threatened and endangered species of dogs in captivity. If you are managing a species such as the African painted dog, and a male dies, you can collect sperm. And if a female dies, you can collect ovarian follicles from the ovaries and try to mature oocytes in vitro. But then what? To be able to use these resources, you need IVF to be able to produce an embryo from the sperm and eggs, he said.

Travis added: Because dogs share so many genetic traits and diseases with people over 350, which is vastly more than any other species this technique also gives us new opportunities both to study genetic disease, and with gene editing, potentially prevent it from happening. This will have important implications for both veterinary and human medicine.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/09/seven-puppies-first-born-through-ivf

Whale CSI: why sperm whales are washing up dead on British shores

Scientists from the UKs Cetacean Strandings Investigation team are trying to determine the cause of the biggest mass stranding in a century

Slicing cleanly through two inches of skin and blubber, Rob Deaville considers the possible causes of death of the sea mammal on his dissecting table. Its a female, juvenile, stranded in north Devon, he says. No signs of parasite infestation. It looks healthy. It may have just come too close to shore.

This porpoise, in the process of being dismembered with small parts of its vital organs tested for disease and pollutants, is one of hundreds that come to the labs in the Zoological Society of London each year, awaiting a post-mortem a necropsy, in the scientific term that will help to establish how the animal lived and why it died.

In recent weeks the teams expertise has been called on to investigate a highly unusual series of events. A mass stranding of sperm whales has puzzled scientists, with a total count of six now having washed up on British beaches, the biggest in the century since Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has been making a count, and taking custody of the bodies.

This is part of a much bigger event, as at least 29 have now been found on the coasts of the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. It is impossible to tell whether all the whales were members of the same pod, or a clutch of pods, but it seems likely that the strandings are related. Sperm whales tend to live in groups of females with their young, while adult males roam further afield singly.

Deaville, project manager of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation programme CSI for whales, dolphins and their relatives if you like is reluctant to make guesses as to what the cause of the deaths may be. While people naturally want to have answers as soon as possible, the need for close examination and the inherent caution of the scientific method mean this is not realistic. We just do not know yet, and I dont want to speculate without the data, he says.

Several potential explanations have been put forward. Disease may be a factor, or changes related to climate change, or the overfishing of some of the sea areas where the whales tend to gather. Most recently, concerns have been raised over the lingering effects of now-banned chemicals, called PCBs, polluting European waters.

PCBs are lipophilic, notes Deaville, meaning that they are found in concentration in the animals thick layer of blubber, which is why extensive samples of it are taken in the labs. The liver is also a key source of samples, as it will reveal the levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury that the creature has absorbed, mostly from its fish diet.

These are the early warning systems of the seas. Heavy metals are now so concentrated in fish that pregnant women and small children are advised to eat no more than two portions of affected fish in a week.

Another likely cause of death is that the whales simply got lost. The North Sea is one of the shallowest in the world, so much so that archaeologists are only now discovering the remains of human settlements buried on the seabed from the last Ice Age, when Doggerland was above sea level and inhabited.

For whales, which navigate by echo-location in a similar way to bats, shallow water is a trap, as it confounds their ability to use sound. When out of the breeding grounds of their usual prey, such as squid, they can quickly become starved and dehydrated, because they obtain their water from their food. Once in shallow water, the enormous weight of their bodies is no longer so buoyant, and can crush them. The recently found dead whales may simply have strayed too far from their usual haunts and been unable to find a way out. Whether climate change, which has caused cold water species to move north and brought normally tropical fish to UK waters, has played a role is still unclear.

Counterintuitively, the strandings may actually be good news for the species. While it is hard to count marine populations accurately, strandings can be a proxy says Deaville. The bigger the population, the more likely it is that some will be stranded, he explains.

The whales, and any more that are found, will be extensively examined in the ZSL labs and definitive results, with any clear conclusions that can be drawn from them, are likely to become available in the next few months. However, even those findings may still leave the mystery unsolved. We dont know whether we will find an answer, says Deaville.

Sperm

Cetaceans Strandings Investigation team inspects inspects the carcass of a sperm whale on the beach in Hunstanton in Norfolk, England. The whale is the 29th to get stranded in Europe in in recent weeks. Photograph: Alan Walter/Reuters

Cetacean Strandings Investigation programme in brief

The CSIP has a curious history. Under a 13th-century law enacted by Edward II, all whales, sturgeon and porpoises are regarded as royal fish, so that when caught by UK fishermen or stranded around the coast they are the property of the crown. The Queen no longer exercises her right to have this bounty hauled on to her dinner table or cut up to make corsets, but the CSIP fills in, building on work done at London zoo since 1913 when formal records of strandings began.

The information gleaned from investigating the circumstances of strandings and performing necropsies on the corpses helps to inform conservation efforts, and acts as an early warning system in case of emerging diseases or other hazards for marine mammals.

Based at the ZSL, next to London zoo, the CSIP recently celebrated its 25th birthday, and in that time Deaville has examined more than 3,500 specimens, adding greatly to our knowledge of the wildlife that dominate the UKs seas.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/15/whale-csi-why-sperm-whales-are-washing-up-dead-on-british-shores