Los Angeles, Jul 31 (AP/UNB) — A conservation organization in San Diego says it has achieved the first successful artificial insemination birth of a southern white rhino in North America, an important step in saving another rhino species from extinction.
San Diego Zoo Global announced that mother Victoria gave birth Sunday to a healthy southern white rhino male calf in the barn at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after 30 minutes of labor.
"All of us at San Diego Zoo Global are elated with the arrival of this special rhino calf," said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive science at San Diego Zoo Global.
Victoria was artificially inseminated with frozen semen from southern white rhino Maoto in March 2018 following hormone-induced ovulation. Victoria carried her calf for over a year — 493 days. Mother and calf will remain off exhibit to the public to allow them time to bond for now.
The calf will eventually be introduced to the other five female rhinos at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center — including Amani, another rhino pregnant through artificial insemination due to give birth in September or October.
"Not only are we thankful for a healthy calf, but this birth is significant, as it also represents a critical step in our effort to save the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction," Durrant said.
The northern white rhino is a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino. Only two northern white rhinos currently remain on Earth — both female.
Scientists say the southern white rhinos will be serving as surrogates for northern white rhino embryos. The reproductive system of rhinos is very complex, but researchers are optimistic that a northern white rhino calf could be born from these processes within 10 to 20 years.
In May, scientists at the Polish zoo Chorzow successfully completed a procedure where they transferred a northern rhino test tube embryo back into a female southern white rhino whose eggs were fertilized in vitro. However, the embryo transferred at Chorzow zoo is smaller than expected. It remains to be seen whether it will implant in the mother's uterine lining and result in a pregnancy.
"There are a lot of technical problems that will be solved, but it will take time," Cesare Galli, whose company specializes in artificial reproduction of horses, told The Associated Press in June .
The last male northern white rhino, named Sudan, died in March 2018. Scientists had preserved frozen sperm samples from several males they are hoping to use to revive the species.
Rhinos have long been from poached because of their horns, and several sub-species are at risk of extinction. Southern rhinos are classified as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
Conservationists say rhinos are important for the survival of many other species because of the role they play in landscaping their native habitat.
St. Petersburg, Jul 30 (AP/UNB) — Russia's second city mixes ornate magnificence and cruel poverty. Vyacheslav Rasner straddles the extremes — becoming an unexpectedly popular tour guide after surviving a decade of homelessness.
With his full white beard and head of messy hair, the 68-year-old Rasner looks like he could have stepped from one of Dostoevsky's accounts of St. Petersburg's lower depths. But his erudition and affection for the city shine through.
Each day, Rasner takes up his post outside the Admiralteiskaya subway station at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m., waiting for clients who want him to lead them around part of the city's main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt. Sometimes he gets as many as 30 people for a single tour.
Rasner's excursion mainly covers the detailed histories of about 15 lesser-known buildings next to each other along the avenue. It's a good education for visitors who have already seen the city's more-renowned sights. But many tourists who join Rasner's tours are mainly excited about his personal story.
Alexander Kazhayev, 28, who traveled to St. Petersburg from Penza, about 800 kilometers away, said he came to see the man whose trajectory has become well known to Russians via the internet.
"I am proud of that man, who is already a legend now, because he is not begging with an outstretched hand but instead makes his living while sharing his valuable knowledge with other people. All this tour experience is so unusual and emotional," Kazhayev said.
"Many people work as city guides, but this man really comes from underground. He is special, and it is obvious that he likes what he does," said another visitor, Viktoria Volosnova.
Rasner used to work as a geography and biology teacher, and freelanced on weekends as a city guide. Then, at age 57, he lost his space in a communal apartment due to a real estate scheme. For about 10 years after that, he lived at a deserted construction site in central St. Petersburg, also taking care of stray dogs and cats.
He said the most difficult part of that life was the long, cold winters and chilly springs. He didn't suffer much from hunger, because he says there were always kind people who helped with food.
At some point, Rasner decided to get back to his city-guide work experience, changing his situation both financially and socially.
"My idea is that I should share the knowledge about my city with other people," he told The Associated Press. "When people are in a hard situation, like they lose their home, they should still stay optimistic and they should act. Acting is life. They should invent something to change the situation."
Rasner's popularity as a guide grew after a volunteer at a private charity for the homeless, Nochlezhka (Night Shelter), created a social-media group about him on Vkontakte, Russia's popular analogue to Facebook.
About a year ago, a woman whom Rasner called his "fan" helped him find a home at a social services building.
Some habits from his homeless years seem to have lingered. Although he now has a spacious two-bedroom apartment that he shares with a neighbor and two cats, it is messy and malodorous.
At the same time, he seems almost obsessively punctual, sticking to a daily routine, including visits to the place where two kind women used to feed him for years, and still do.
Alexander Voronov, a social work expert at Nochlezhka, said Rasner's case helps counter negative stereotypes about the homeless.
"Usually, people think that homeless people are lazy, addicted to alcohol or drugs, have no education and are non-cultural. However, Rasner practices the creative work of a tourist guide, and has a lot of knowledge about the city and its architecture," Voronov said, adding that Nochlezhka's clients have also included former opera singers, writers, marketing experts and business executives.
People often can't imagine how vulnerable they are to the up and downs of fate, Voronov said.
"There are situations when everything collapses at one moment: People lose their job, lose their real estate property due to some deceit, lose their social ties. Their return to normal life is a matter of their psychological strength, ability to adapt and preferably help from outside," Voronov said.
Dhaka, Jul 30 (AP/UNB) - It’s no wonder salmon is one of the most popular fish. Its flesh is rich-tasting, thanks to high levels of heart-healthy oils, and it takes well to many treatments. The key is to avoid overcooking it, especially wild salmon, which is leaner than farmed.
Our hybrid roasting method solved this by heating the oven to 500 F before dropping the temperature to 275 F. The initial blast of heat firmed the exterior and rendered some fat while the fish gently cooked.
Salmon is often roasted in butter, but we wanted a healthier approach that would contrast with the fish’s richness. So we made a bright tangerine relish perked up with spicy ginger.
Skin-on salmon fillets hold together better during cooking. If you can’t find tangerines, you can use oranges. If your salmon is less than 1 inch thick, start checking for doneness early. If using farmed salmon, cook until thickest part of fillet registers 125 F.
OVEN-ROASTED SALMON WITH TANGERINE AND GINGER RELISH
Start to finish: 35 minutes
4 (4- to 6 ounce) skin-on wild-caught salmon fillets, 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 tangerines, rind and pith removed and segments cut into 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup)
1 scallion, sliced thin
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
Salt and pepper
For the relish: Place tangerines in fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl and drain for 15 minutes.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon tangerine juice from bowl. Whisk in scallion, lemon juice, oil, and ginger. Stir in tangerines and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the salmon: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 F. Pat salmon dry with paper towels, rub with oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Once oven reaches 500 F, reduce oven temperature to 275 F. Remove sheet from oven and carefully place salmon, skin-side down, on hot sheet. Roast until center is still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 120 F (for medium-rare), 4 to 6 minutes.
Slide fish spatula along underside of fillets and transfer to individual plates or serving platter, leaving skin behind; discard skin. Top with relish and serve.
Westphalia, Jul 30 (AP/UNB) — A historic rural Roman Catholic church that had served its surrounding Central Texas farming community for more than a century has burned to the ground.
Photos posted on the Austin Catholic diocesan Facebook page show the Church of the Visitation in Westphalia fully involved in flames Monday morning, being reduced to nothing more than ashes.
The parish has served the faithful of southwestern Falls County, many of them immigrants from the northwest German region of Westphalia, since 1883. The church building dated to 1895 and was said to be the largest all-wood church in the state. Its stained-glass windows, more than 20 in all, were shipped to Westphalia from Germany.
No injuries were reported. A statement from the diocese says the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
Westphalia is a community of about 190 residents about 70 miles northeast of Austin. The Church of the Visitation has 244 members.
Mexico City, Jul 29 (AP/UNB) — The contestants in the beauty pageant sashayed in red bathing suits, paraded across the stage in evening gowns with plunging necklines and answered questions about climate change and human rights.
After four hours, and a brief protest onstage by a losing contestant, a brunette from the western Mexico state of Colima took the crown. Ivanna Cázares flashed a smile as the announcer declared her Miss Trans Beauty Mexico 2019.
It was the second edition of the pageant, which was begun as part of an effort to make transgender women more visible and accepted in Mexican society. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for transgender people: 261 transgender women were killed from 2013 to 2018, according to a local LGBT rights group, Letra S.
The weekend event was full of glamour and glitz, with contestants sporting elaborate regional costumes and heavy makeup. Miss Colima modeled an indigenous-themed costume with leopard print and feathers, while Miss Baja California's costume featured grapes, inspired by her state's wine vineyards.
In all, 21 transgender beauty queens representing different Mexican states participated in the three-part competition. They were judged on bikini wear, regional dress and formal wear.
Cázares, 27, beat second-place Miss Baja California and third-place Miss Mexico City to win the crown.
Cázares said the most difficult part of her transition that began three years ago was gaining acceptance from others, although she always counted on support from her family. She has a communications degree and owns a beauty salon.
Now, with the pageant title, she sees herself as a spokeswoman for the transgender community.
"We want to bring a message to society of respect for the trans girls of Mexico," Cázares told The Associated Press while struggling to keep the towering crown on her head.