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May 8, 2014

Rangers at the Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California are so concerned about poaching of the ancient trees that they are restricting access to part of the scenic highway that runs through the (legally) protected old growth giant redwoods. The poachers, who rangers say appear to be largely unemployed and/or drug addicts, don't cut down the entire tree but just carve out the burls, which can fetch hundreds or thousands of dollars. Here's what a redwood burl looks like:

(CC by: Derek Wolfgram)

And here's what a giant redwood looks like with its burl poached:

The burl poaching doesn't kill the trees, some of which have already survived 2,000 years, but it does weaken their defenses so that disease or fire could destroy them. Cruelest of all, the burl is the redwood's primary method of propagation: The burl sprouts a clone of its tree, giving it a type of immortality. This is where the tree got its formal Latin name, Sequoia simper vierens (forever-living sequoia), park interpretation supervisor Jeff Denny tells The Associated Press.

"Originally there were 2 million acres of old growth forest that spanned the coast of Northern California from Oregon to Monterey," Denny says. "Over the past 150 years, 95 percent of that original forest has been cut." Now the remaining 5 percent is threatened by people with chainsaws and all-terrain vehicles. And for what? Burls have beautiful patterns that make for great surfaces on which to put your cup of coffee (or coffee table book) or pint of beer. Peter Weber

12:35 a.m. ET
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As "nuts" as it was, it's anyone's guess how the altercation between Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs will affect Thursday's special election in Montana, University of Montana political science professor Robert Saldin said Wednesday night.

Several voters have already cast their ballots, Saldin told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and some anti-media Republicans might be sympathetic to Gianforte, who has used strong rhetoric against journalists in previous campaign speeches. Jacobs tweeted Wednesday evening that Gianforte body slammed him when he was asking a question during a campaign event, an account supported by a team from Fox News. The Guardian has released audio of the incident, and Gianforte's campaign released a statement at odds with what's heard on the recording and reported by Fox News. Jacobs walked into a room without permission and "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face," the Gianforte campaign said, insisting that the candidate merely "attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground."

In a news conference Wednesday night, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said because authorities are investigating the altercation, he couldn't provide much information beyond that Gianforte and Jacobs will both be interviewed. Tina Olechowski, a spokeswoman for Democratic candidate Rob Quist, declined to comment about the incident when asked by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and said Quist was on his way to Missoula when he heard about what happened. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law said the Republican Party should publicly speak out against what Gianforte allegedly did. Catherine Garcia

May 24, 2017

In December, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe joined Stephen Colbert to reluctantly ring out 2016 with a list of terrible things that happened last year, while still feeling fine. On Wednesday's Late Show, it was Paul Simon's turn for a duet on the emotional duality of these times we live in. Colbert asked Simon whey he didn't play "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" anymore. "Oh, I loathe that song," Simon said. "It just feels naive, you know, just doesn't feel like 2017." "What do you mean naive?" Colbert asked. "Wrong mood," Simon said. Colbert suggested some changes, starting with: "Hello lamppost, nice to see ya / We might get bombed by North Korea." But don't worry, they're still feelin' groovy (or at least Colbert is). Watch and sing along below. Peter Weber

May 24, 2017
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A trio of Fox News employees is backing up journalist Ben Jacobs' account of what happened Wednesday evening between him and Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's vacant U.S. House seat.

The Guardian's Jacobs tweeted that during a campaign event in Bozeman, Gianforte "body slammed me and broke my glasses," and later, audio was released of the incident in which Gianforte can be heard yelling, "I'm sick and tired of you guys!" Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna was in the room when the altercation took place, along with field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey. In a firsthand account posted to the Fox News website, Acuna wrote that Jacobs, whose name she didn't know at the time, walked into the room with a voice recorder and "put it up to Gianforte's face and began asking him if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon."

Then, Gianforte "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," Acuna wrote. She said the Fox News crew "watched in disbelief" as Gianforte then "began punching the man, as he moved on top of the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of 'I'm sick and tired of this!'" Jacobs got up and asked Acuna, Mangan, and Railey for their names, Acuna said, but "in shock, we did not answer." After Jacobs left the room, "Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized." Acuna said "To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies."

In a statement, Scanlon referred to Jacobs as a "liberal journalist," and claimed that Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower his recorder and when Jacobs didn't, "Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground." Catherine Garcia

May 24, 2017
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On Wednesday, several companies that regularly air commercials during Sean Hannity's Fox News show pulled their ads in the wake of his coverage of the 2016 murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer.

Hannity had been pushing a conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was murdered because he gave DNC files to WikiLeaks; police say there is no evidence of this, and that Rich was likely shot and killed during a botched robbery. On Tuesday, Fox News retracted the story it published about Rich earlier this month, but Hannity initially refused to let it go. On his show Tuesday night, he said he would stop discussing his Rich theory "for now," but later tweeted that he was "not stopping" because he is "closer to the TRUTH than ever."

The companies who have pulled their ads include Peloton, Ring, and Cars.com, which told BuzzFeed News its media buy strategies "are designed to reach as many consumers as possible across a wide spectrum of media channels," but they've been "watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity." Several companies contacted by BuzzFeed News said that just because they air commercials during Hannity, it doesn't mean they endorse what he has to say; Mercedes-Benz, for example, said its "rule of thumb is that we do not pull our ads based on editorial content. Our feeling is that a variety of viewpoints is part of the natural discourse that takes place in a free media." Before he departed the network amid accusations of sexual harassment, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly saw companies pull their ads from airing during his program, then the highest-rated cable news show. Catherine Garcia

May 24, 2017
Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

The father of Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old man believed to have been behind the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester, said he last spoke to his son about five days ago and "everything was normal."

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 22 people dead and dozens injured, but Ramadan Abedi told Reuters his son "doesn't belong to any organization. The family is a bit confused because Salman doesn't have this ideology, he doesn't hold these beliefs." Ramadan Abedi said Salman told his family he was planning on going to Mecca on a pilgrimage, and he looked at his son's passports and "he didn't travel to Syria."

Ramadan Abedi's son Hashem was detained Tuesday in Tripoli on suspicion of having links to ISIS, Libyan authorities said, and while Reuters was interviewing Ramadan, counterterrorism forces stormed his home in the Tripoli suburb of Ayn Zara and arrested him. Before the interview's abrupt ending, Ramadan Abedi told Reuters he thinks there are "hidden hands" behind the Manchester attack, and "we condemn these terrorist acts on civilians, innocent people." Catherine Garcia

May 24, 2017

The Republican candidate for an open House seat in Montana, Greg Gianforte, allegedly assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event Wednesday night. Jacobs described the situation on Twitter:

BuzzFeed News reporter Alexis Levinson was directly outside the room in question, and she described "angry yelling" and a "giant crash." The Guardian posted audio of the encounter, where Gianforte can be heard shouting angrily, "I'm sick and tired of you guys!"

Gianforte's campaign put out a response accusing Jacobs of having "grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground." This account is rather divergent from the recorded one, not least because it says Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower his recorder and he refused, which cannot be heard in the posted audio.

Jacobs wrote an article detailing Gianforte's ties to sanctioned Russian companies last month. The election is tomorrow. Ryan Cooper

May 24, 2017
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Good news, poor people — Ben Carson is here to explain why you aren't a millionaire.

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," the retired neurosurgeon, former presidential candidate, current Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and not an economic adviser said during a SiriusXM town hall recorded Tuesday night and released Wednesday. "You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back to the bottom."

Carson has been vocal about being poor growing up, and said that while he does believe the government is able to give a "helping hand" to people trying to lift themselves out of poverty, there are too many programs that are "sustaining them in a position of poverty. That's not helpful." HUD provides affordable housing and rental assistance to low-income families, and under President Trump's proposed budget released Tuesday, the department's budget would be cut by $6 billion. Catherine Garcia

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