Researchers from Britain have taught an 11-year-old orangutan named Rocky at the Indianapolis Zoo to imitate human speech in a conversational context. This is the first time an ape has demonstrated such ability, and the scientists involved say Rocky's skills could offer important insight into the development of human language.
"This opens up the potential for us to learn more about the vocal capacities of early hominids that lived before the split between the orangutan and human lineages," said lead researcher Adriano Lameria. While it was previously assumed great apes could not intentionally modulate their sounds, Lameria said, this "research proves that orangutans have the potential capacity to control the action of their voices."
Watch a video of Rocky "talking" below, but don't expect Shakespeare: His vocabulary appears to be limited to one word, "hi," and it sounds more like "huh." Bonnie Kristian
Nearly 4,300 firefighters on central California's Big Sur coast continue to battle the Soberanes Wildfire, a raging blaze that has spread to cover about 50 square miles (or 32,000 acres).
The fire began last Friday and is mostly located in the drought-ridden Los Padres National Forest, but it has destroyed 57 homes and caused multiple parks to close. As of Saturday, the fire is just 15 percent contained as "high temperatures [and] rugged, steep terrain" make firefighters' work difficult.
Watch a time-lapse video of the Soberanes Wildfire's spread below. Bonnie Kristian
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) July 29, 2016
Representatives of billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch continue to turn down meeting requests from major fundraisers of the Donald Trump campaign, even after Trump formally claimed the Republican nomination for president.
A pro-Trump cadre reportedly lobbied for a conversation between the brothers and their candidate on Friday, when all three happened to be in Colorado Springs at once, but the Kochs firmly declined. Their disinterest is not surprising, as an unnamed senior Koch official predicted in February that should the election come down to Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, the Kochs might well sit this one out.
Indeed, the brothers have been consistently critical of Trump's candidacy, with Charles in April calling Trump's Muslim registry proposal "reminiscent of Nazi Germany," "monstrous," and "frightening." He has also described choosing between Trump and Clinton as picking "cancer or a heart attack" and labeled Trump's principles "antithetical" to his own. Bonnie Kristian
Republican Donald Trump took a six-point national lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in at least two polls, from CNN and The Los Angeles Times, immediately following his nomination at his party's convention in Cleveland last week. But that polling bump has since evaporated, as a new Reuters survey finds Clinton is now six points ahead after her own convention.
Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics average of multiple recent polls puts Trump and Clinton in a dead heat — each claiming 44.3 percent national support — as of Friday. It likewise records the disappearance of Trump's brief lead, which marked only the second time he has ever pulled into first place throughout the whole election cycle per that calculation. See the history of their matchup below. Bonnie Kristian
Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Friday night "an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by our campaign and a number of other entities was accessed as part of the DNC hack," but insisted experts "have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cannot say the same. The DCCC acknowledged evidence of hacking Friday, a breach which follows the recent news that the Democratic National Committee was hacked. After the hackers leaked thousands of internal DNC emails last week — some showing evidence of bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary process — DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned her post. Bonnie Kristian
Courts in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas issued rulings Friday against Republican-backed rules for voting procedure.
A federal appeals court struck down North Carolina's photo identification law, holding in a unanimous decision that it was "passed with racially discriminatory intent." The decision also rejected other restrictions like a ban on same-day registration, and the resultant changes could substantially alter electoral outcomes in the swing state this fall.
In Wisconsin, a federal judge left a photo ID requirement intact but much modified while rejecting a host of other voting limitations. And in Kansas, a county judge ruled the state could not ignore the votes of those who failed to provide proof of U.S. citizenship while registering, a decision that will affect up to 50,000 votes in November. Bonnie Kristian
A Florida elementary school teacher who does not speak Spanish is suing the local school board after she was denied a job teaching recent immigrants in both English and Spanish, The Guardian reports. Tracy Rosner claims that she is "otherwise fully qualified for the job," and that not hiring her amounts to "employment discrimination on the basis of race and national origin."
In a story by New York's Gabriel Sherman published Friday, former Fox News employee Laurie Luhn detailed alleged harassment by former network chief Roger Ailes over a span of more than two decades. The explosive account chronicles Luhn's experience of alleged harassment at Ailes' hands beginning in the summer of 1988 and running through 2011, when she signed a settlement with Fox News that included "extensive nondisclosure provisions," Sherman writes.
By Luhn's account, the first instance of outright harassment by Ailes occurred Jan. 16, 1991:
Luhn put on the black garter and stockings she said Ailes had instructed her to buy; he called it her uniform. Ailes sat on a couch. "Go over there. Dance for me," she recalled him saying. [...] When she had finished dancing, Ailes told her to get down on her knees in front of him, she said, and put his hands on her temples. As she recalled, he began speaking to her slowly and authoritatively, as if he were some kind of Svengali: "Tell me you will do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. At any time, at any place when I call. No matter where I call you, no matter where you are. Do you understand? You will follow orders. If I tell you to put on your uniform, what are you gonna do, Laurie? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, LAURIE?" [...] Ailes asked her to perform oral sex, she said. [New York]
Luhn told Sherman that Ailes demanded phone sex and regular hotel-room meet-ups, though "it was always the on-my-knees, hold-my-temples routine. There was no affair, no sex, no love." Luhn also said several Fox employees deduced she was sexually involved with Ailes, especially as she began moving up in the company. Several Fox employees were implicated in Luhn's account — some by name and some anonymously — and while many declined to comment, several confirmed certain parts of Luhn's telling of events.
As Sherman notes, "so far, most of the women who have spoken publicly about harassment by Ailes ... had said no to Ailes' sexual advances. ... This is the account of a woman who chose to go along with what Roger Ailes wanted." Ailes has denied all allegations against him, and last week resigned from the network. Read Luhn's entire story, synthesized by Sherman, at New York. Kimberly Alters