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National

    Residents are getting their first chance to weigh in on changes to a California measure that would give state public health officials oversight of doctors who grant a high number of medical exemptions for vaccinations and schools with vaccination rates less than 95%. The Assembly Health Committee's hearing is expected to draw hundreds of people against vaccines to the Capitol, as have prior hearings on the topic. Critics shouted 'we will not comply' inside the Senate chambers last month as lawmakers voted on the measure. They will likely be countered once again by dozens of white-coated medical professionals and students voicing support for the bill. The hearing comes just days after Sen. Richard Pan, the bill's author, announced major changes to the legislation designed to win support from Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Democratic governor had expressed concern with requiring state health officials to sign off on every exemption, as the bill had initially required. Now, the public health department will only scrutinize doctors who grant more than five medical exemptions in a year and schools with vaccination rates of less than 95%, the threshold that officials say is needed to provide 'community immunity' and prevent the spread of measles cases, which reached a 25-year high in the U.S. earlier this year. Newsom said he will sign the revised version if it reaches his desk. The California bill is aimed at stopping some doctors from selling immunization exemptions, which supporters of the bill said has become a growing problem since the state ended non-medical exemptions in 2016. New immunization figures show the rate of kindergartners with permanent medical exemptions has quadrupled since the state banned personal exemptions, and more than 100 schools have medical exemption rates exceeding 10%. Lawmakers in other states have also been considering changes to confront the nation's highest number of measles cases in decades. Maine eliminated religious and philosophical exemptions, while New York legislators ended a religious exemption. Washington state ended most exemptions for the measles vaccine, though legislators in Oregon defeated a bill that would have made it harder for families to opt out. Among provisions in the amended California bill: — Doctors would be barred from charging for filling out a medical exemption form or conducting a related medical examination. They would have to sign the forms under penalty of perjury. — California Department of Public Health doctors or registered nurses would review exemptions issued by local medical providers who issue five or more a year, or at schools with high exemption rates. — The state public health officer, who is a doctor, could revoke any that don't meet national guidelines. — Parents could appeal to an independent panel of doctors. — In addition to immunization guidelines issued by federal medical authorities, officials could consider families' medical histories in allowing exemptions. Supporters said the bill would permit exemptions for the less than 1% of students who should avoid vaccinations because they have a severe allergic reaction or impaired immunity from a liver problem, HIV virus, chemotherapy or other conditions.
  • Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts, scientific research and using robots to explore the cosmos over sending humans back to the moon or on to Mars, a new poll shows. The poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, released Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, lists asteroid and comet monitoring as the No. 1 desired objective for the U.S. space program. About two-thirds of Americans call that very or extremely important, and about a combined 9 in 10 call it at least moderately important. The poll comes as the White House pushes to get astronauts back on the moon, but only about a quarter of Americans said moon or Mars exploration by astronauts should be among the space program's highest priorities. About another third called each of those moderately important. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, became the first humans to walk on another celestial body. In all, 12 NASA astronauts stepped on the moon. Jan Dizard, 78, a retired environmental studies professor living in Chico, California, acknowledges there's more to learn on the moon and it would be 'miraculous' to send astronauts to Mars. But now's not the time, he stressed. 'There are all kinds of other things, not the least of which is climate change, that deserve our attention,' Dizard told the AP. 'This other stuff can wait.' After asteroid and comet monitoring, scientific research to expand knowledge of Earth and the rest of the solar system and universe came next on the list of Americans' space priorities — about 6 in 10 said that was very or extremely important. Close to half said the same about sending robotic probes, rather than astronauts, to explore space, and about 4 in 10 said the same about continued funding of the International Space Station. Searching for life on other planets came in fifth with 34% rating it at least very important, followed by 27% for human Mars expeditions and 23% for crewed moonshots. In a dead heat for last place among the nine listed goals: setting up permanent human residences on other planets, with 21% ranking it as a very high priority, and establishing a U.S. military presence in space with 19%. While other goals were considered at least moderately important by majorities of Americans, about half called a military presence and space colonies unimportant. Toni Dewey, 71, a retired clerical worker in Wilmington, North Carolina, said space exploration should benefit life on Earth and the explorers should be machines versus humans. 'It would cost a lot of money to send somebody to Mars,' she said, 'and we have roads and bridges that need repaired here.' As for the moon, Dewey noted, 'We've been there.' But Alan Curtis, 47, of Pocatello, Idaho, considers moon and Mars trips a top priority, especially if the U.S. is to remain a world leader in space. Compared with its feats of the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. space program is now a second thought, he said. 'It's pretty bad that we have to rent a spot on a Russian spacecraft to get to the space station,' said Curtis, a store cashier who says he's an occasional bounty hunter. He pointed to the first-ever landing by a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, by China in January. Abdul Lotiff, 28, a retail security company manager in Mason City, Iowa, also favors a return to the moon. He sees economic benefits there, with the resulting new tech spilling into areas outside the space business. In addition, he said, if and when Earth becomes overpopulated, the moon could serve as a springboard for humanity's expansion into space. The survey asked Americans to directly choose between the moon and Mars for exploration by U.S. astronaut. The red planet was the winner by about double: 37% compared with 18%. However, 43% said neither destination was a priority. For Americans under 45 — born after NASA's Apollo moonshots — Mars came out on top by an even larger margin: 50% prefer a Mars trip, versus 17% for the moon. A third said neither should be a priority. For those 45 and older, 52% said neither Mars nor the moon should be a priority as a human destination. Of that age bracket, 26% preferred sending astronauts to Mars and 19% to the moon. As for the White House's deadline of returning astronauts to the moon within five years — NASA is aiming for the water ice-rich lunar south pole by 2024 — about 4 in 10 Americans favored the plan, versus 2 in 10 against. The remainder had no strong opinion either way. The good news, at least for NASA and its contractors, is that 60% of Americans believe the benefits of the space program have justified the cost. In 1979 — on the 10th anniversary of the first manned moon landing — 41% of Americans said the benefits were worth the cost, according to an AP-NBC News poll. If given an opportunity to experience space travel themselves, about half of Americans said they would orbit the Earth, while about 4 in 10 would fly to the moon and about 3 in 10 would go to Mars. Among those willing to travel to the red planet, about half — or 15% of all Americans — said they would move to a Mars colony, even if it meant never returning to Earth. Men were more likely than women to want to travel to any space destination: Earth orbit, moon and Mars. Curtis contends the U.S. might have a colony on the moon by now 'if we had put our money in the right places.' 'We haven't been there in so long,' he said. 'Is the flag even still there?' U.S. flags were planted on the moon during each of the Apollo landings through 1972. The first was knocked over by engine exhaust when Apollo 11's Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off the moon. ___ Swanson reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jeremy Rehm in New York contributed to this report. ___ The AP-NORC poll of 1,137 adults was conducted May 17-20 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. ___ Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/
  • When Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called for the Legislature's next special session to be held in Wasilla, some agreed with him that a change of venue would be good for lawmakers struggling to finish their work after a drawn-out five months at the state capital. Others called it a means of intimidation or cited security and logistical concerns. Now, the wait is on to see if the House and Senate heed Dunleavy's call to do business July 8 in his conservative hometown. It would be the first time an Alaska special session has convened outside the capital, Juneau, or the state's largest city, Anchorage, where a few have been held. Nationally, it's rare for special sessions to be held outside state capitals, though committee hearings sometimes take place elsewhere. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, pitching it as a way to make government more accessible, gave most of his State of the State speeches outside of that state's capital, after his first address at the Statehouse was marred by protests. Alaska's Republican governor called the session so lawmakers can finalize this year's payout to residents from the state's oil wealth fund. The checks have been smaller for the past three years as political leaders struggling with a budget deficit strayed from a formula in state law for calculating them. If the law is followed as Dunleavy wants, this year's check will be about $3,000. The House, controlled by a bipartisan majority composed largely of Democrats, rejected a full payout during the first special session of the year, in Juneau, while the Republican-led Senate was more closely divided in not advancing a full payout. Dunleavy warned of a change of venue if lawmakers didn't complete their business during that session, suggesting as a potential site the Matanuska-Susitna region, where Wasilla is nestled about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Anchorage. Wasilla made headlines more than a decade ago as the hometown of then-Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, said he sees Dunleavy choosing Wasilla as a way to intimidate legislators. He said the governor had an opportunity to work with legislators on a location that logistically made sense. Begich's brother, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, lost last year's governor's race to Dunleavy. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent from the southwest Alaska fishing community of Dillingham, has cited logistical concerns with meeting in Wasilla, along with security worries. Edgmon said he has received threatening calls and 'angry, vitriolic' emails from people frustrated with lawmakers for not approving what they consider a 'birthright' — a $3,000 dividend check. Many emails have come from the Matanuska-Susitna region, he said. 'It could be a very volatile environment,' Edgmon said. Dunleavy's administration has tried to allay concerns. While the governor's office has singled out some legislators for their position on the dividend and encouraged Alaskans to weigh in, Dunleavy has asked them to do so civilly. Deputy chief of staff Jeremy Price gave reporters a tour last week of Dunleavy's recommended venue for the special session, Wasilla Middle School, showing off two gymnasiums with room for spectators that he said could accommodate concurrent House and Senate floor sessions. Self-locking doors were touted as security measures. Cost estimates for holding a special session in Wasilla haven't been publicly released. 'Juneau has a lot of costs all their own, and a whole lot fewer fast-food options,' said Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, where the state's first Sonic drive-in restaurant is set to open in September. Juneau's downtown restaurant options, within walking distance of the Capitol, include a Subway sandwich shop. Wasilla residents and officials see the special session as an opportunity for the region to flex its political clout. The fast-growing Matanuska-Susitna Borough has a population of more than 100,000. 'We're really progressing, but the rest of Alaska wants to ignore that or pretend it's not happening,' borough manager John Moosey said. 'We're growing. Anchorage is not.' Dunleavy touted the location as a selling point, saying it is within a five-hour drive of a large majority of the state's more than 730,000 residents. Juneau and the surrounding area, home to about 32,000 people, are not on the main road system. People have to fly or take a boat, like a state-run ferry, to get there. There have been periodic efforts to move the capital or Legislature. Jan Engan, who moved to Wasilla in 2014 to be closer to family, cited cost concerns with traveling to Juneau and said people in other states have easier access to their lawmakers. Engan used to work for state government in North Dakota. Some in the region, sometimes referred to as the Mat-Su Valley, see the special session as a chance to shake off the 'valley trash' slight used years ago by former state Sen. Ben Stevens, a Republican who is now a Dunleavy adviser. A 2004 editorial in the local newspaper said Stevens used the term in response to an email from an individual criticizing him. Stevens didn't respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment for this story. The Bearpaw River Brewing Co. recently resurrected the 'Valley Trash' imperial blonde ale, using the recipe from the original brewery that closed. The beer is sold in cans. 'The label is ironically classy, with cursive lettering,' owner and operations manager Jake Wade said. Jessica Viera with the Wasilla chamber said too many people see the city as a place you pass through on your way somewhere else and don't see its expansion. 'So, to have this kind of growth and then just be like, 'Oh, well. Who cares about Wasilla?' Well, we care about Wasilla because we love living here, playing here, working here. You can do everything.' It remains unclear whether lawmakers will legislate there. Legislative leaders have been discussing their options.
  • Georgia is preparing to execute a man convicted in the killing of an off-duty prison guard more than two decades ago. Marion Wilson Jr. is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday. Wilson and Robert Earl Butts Jr. were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the March 1996 slaying of Donovan Corey Parks. Butts was executed in May 2018. Authorities have said Butts and Wilson asked Parks for a ride outside a Walmart store in Milledgeville and then fatally shot him a short distance away. The pair then stole Parks' car. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles held a clemency hearing Wednesday and said it would release its decision Thursday. The board is the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence.
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti didn't create the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, but he owns it. The two-term Democrat who not long ago flirted with a presidential run has been besieged by complaints about homeless encampments that have gotten so widespread he's facing a potential recall campaign. The low-key mayor who in 2016 helped convince voters to borrow $1.2 billion to construct housing for the homeless has found himself in an awkward position — explaining why the problems have only gotten worse. Figures released earlier this month showed a 16% jump in Los Angeles' homeless population over the last year, pegging it at 36,300 — the size of a small city. That's no surprise to anyone who lives or works downtown, where tents crowd sidewalks within sight of City Hall and the stench of urine fills the air. The homeless crisis has become 'a state of emergency,' said Alexandra Datig, who is leading the recall effort. Getting a recall question before voters is something of a longshot. The threshold to reach the ballot requires over 300,000 petition signatures. The effort to do so nonetheless represents at least a symbolic statement about public unrest over the problem. Garcetti talked at length Wednesday about the issue that is testing the limits of what the city can do. Asked about the recall effort, he said he wouldn't be distracted by 'political games.' The mayor also announced new funding to boost cleanups around homeless encampments while providing mobile restrooms and showers. The city could also employ homeless people to clean up around encampments. While housing for the homeless is expanding, the challenge has been a flood of new people landing on the streets. 'It's a crisis unlike anything we've seen before,' he told reporters. 'We are spending every waking moment to confront this crisis.' Last year Garcetti was traveling the country as a potential presidential candidate, visiting Iowa and other key 2020 states and talking up Los Angeles as an ascendant city booming with jobs, development and new rail lines. He announced in January he wouldn't run, saying he wanted to stay in L.A., 'where we have so much exciting work to finish.' As a possible candidate, homelessness was seen as an issue that he would have had a hard time explaining away. Freeway overpasses are lined with tents, and it's a common sight to see someone pushing a shopping cart filled with belongings through downtown streets. While once largely confined to the notorious Skid Row neighborhood, encampments have spread citywide. Datig is listed online as publisher of a political issues website who supported President Donald Trump in 2016. Garcetti said more help was needed from the state and federal governments. A widening economic gap has left many behind as the stock market climbs. And soaring rents have shut out lower-income people. 'I feel very strongly about the mission that I'm on,' the mayor said. 'We are housing more homeless people than ever before and ... we are going to redouble our efforts.' 'This isn't just for a mayor to solve,' he added. 'This requires all of us.
  • With a name that sounds like futuristic fiction, Rapid DNA machines roughly the size of an office printer have helped solve rape cases in Kentucky, identified California wildfire victims and verified family connections of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Now a state board in Texas has asked a growing government provider of the DNA equipment used in those high-profile projects to halt work amid concerns of potentially jeopardized criminal cases, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press. Texas is not the only place where the company, Longmont, Colorado-based ANDE, has come under scrutiny. Utah officials say they will likely no longer use Rapid DNA machines for sexual assault investigations, citing a higher degree of technical analysis required, but one case raised concerns about swabs taken from a victim. And when the Arizona Legislature this year considered creating a new statewide DNA database, ANDE helped draft the bill that included language excluding its only U.S. competitor, giving some lawmakers discomfort. 'Prosecutors are saying, 'You're screwing up our cases,'' said Lynn Garcia, general counsel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. On Monday, the governor-appointed board sent a letter asking ANDE to 'cease any project in Texas involving the use of its Rapid DNA technology' unless it goes through an accredited lab familiar with handling criminal evidence. The commission says ANDE embarked on projects with police and a hospital in Houston without input from prosecutors, leaving them in the dark about evidence they're required to disclose to criminal suspects. That sent prosecutors scrambling to comply with a 2013 Texas law named after a man who wrongfully spent 25 years in prison after significant evidence in his case was withheld. ANDE spokeswoman Annette Mattern disputed the accusations, saying law enforcement agencies bear the responsibility for evidence handling. She said no issues have been raised regarding ANDE's equipment. Started in 2004, ANDE is becoming synonymous with Rapid DNA thanks to a run of high-profile projects, including a pilot program on the border with the U.S. government that ended in May. Voluntary cheek swabs were taken from some migrant adults and children to confirm family connections, amid worries by the Trump administration that some migrants were fraudulently posing as parents. Mattern said the company's technology is 'challenging norms' and suggested that some might be struggling to adjust. 'If there are procedural issues within the agencies, I'm not surprised because this is new,' she said. 'If there is confusion because one group says it has a protocol and another says, 'Well, it should be different,' those are good conversations to have. Make it better.' It has left ANDE facing criticism as the company — one of just two manufacturers of Rapid DNA machines in the U.S. — makes an aggressive push into police stations and labs nationwide. Officials in Texas say they fear the company's actions are setting back a promising technology that has gotten a boost under President Donald Trump, who in 2017 signed the Rapid DNA Act that allows police stations to link machines to the nation's DNA database. The technology is gaining traction. Although Rapid DNA results aren't used for courtroom evidence, investigators are embracing a tool that can give them results in a couple hours rather than waiting days or weeks, allowing them to zero in on suspects and solve cases faster. In Texas, the commission said the company's arrival in Houston has jeopardized the integrity of ongoing criminal cases, although the board did not cite any that had been derailed because of ANDE. Peter Stout, chief executive of the Houston Forensic Science Center, said at least one swab taken from a sexual assault victim was lost in the mail. Mattern said she had no information about a lost sample, but the commission noted other concerns related to the integrity of samples 'sent out of state.' Stout rejected ANDE's assertion that it had no responsibility in how evidence was handled. 'It's a little disingenuous on ANDE's part because they are so aggressive in marketing this to the officers that this is an investigative tool. And they certainly don't take the opportunity to explain and point out that you guys need to make sure you're giving everybody the information,' Stout said. Utah Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes, who purchased two ANDE machines, raves about the technology on his website in a video that includes about 90 seconds of ANDE promotional footage. The machines were purchased for low-priority property and gun crimes but in one case ran evidence from a sexual assault investigation, said Nate Mutter, the office's assistant chief of investigations. He said technical assistance was needed from ANDE to help analyze the sample. Mutter said it was 'very possible' that the Utah law enforcement agency that obtained the swab, which he would not disclose, did not get consent from the victim for a rapid DNA analysis. He acknowledged concerns were raised, but said his office's reluctance to use the machine again in sexual assault cases is because the analysis requires more technical proficiency. 'I would just find it hard to believe that they wouldn't consent to extra swabs if that meant their case got adjudicated faster, and their rape suspect got held accountable faster,' Mutter said. In Arizona, Mattern defended the company asking for 'performance parameters' in the proposed DNA database bill that excluded the company's chief rival, Thermo Fischer Scientific, saying it wouldn't have prevented competitors from ultimately meeting the same requirements. Mattern said ANDE later asked to kill the legislation. During a February hearing, Mattern was other ANDE representatives testified in support of the proposal. Some senators questioned whether there were other advocates besides the company. 'Limiting that to just one company, or two companies, that can make a lot of money on this makes me uncomfortable,' Arizona Democratic Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai said at the hearing. ____ Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber
  • Police in Marietta, Georgia, used an interesting tactic Wednesday to catch more than 100 drivers violating the Hands Free Georgia Act that prohibits texting or holding cell phones while driving. >> Read more trending news  Three Marietta officers dressed as city utility workers fanned out across the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road near the Big Chicken and watched for motorists violating the hands-free law or not wearing their seat belts. When they spotted violators, the undercover cops radioed the vehicle descriptions to uniformed officers waiting in nearby parking lots, who then pulled over the vehicles. The operation was coordinated by Marietta police with the help of the Cobb County Police Department and Georgia State Patrol. Marietta officer Jake Rakestraw said Wednesday’s operation began around 9:30 a.m. and ran until around 11:45 a.m. Georgia state troopers wrote 29 tickets, and Marietta and Cobb police wrote 141 tickets and made three arrests. Two of the arrests were related to driver’s license issues and one was a person wanted for an earlier crime. Sgt. Wayne Delk, spokesman with Cobb County police, said the traffic detail was done to remind drivers that the state’s hands-free law is still in effect and to reduce the number of collisions caused by distracted driving. >> Trending: Cosmetics injuries send more than 4,000 kids to the ER each year Georgia’s hands-free law went into effect July 1, 2018, and while it got lots of publicity at the time, some drivers may have returned to bad habits. “People assume that if they are not getting pulled over for this law that it’s still OK to slip back into that habit of using their phone while they are driving,” Chuck McPhilamy, spokesman for Marietta police, said. “We’re asking the public to realize that the law is in effect for a reason. It’s there to protect you from an accident as well as save lives.” McPhilamy added the 15 states that have passed similar laws have collectively experienced a 16% drop in traffic accidents in the two years after their laws went into effect. Georgia’s law prohibits drivers from using their hands or parts of their body to hold or support a cell phone or other mobile device. Drivers are also banned from writing, sending or reading any text messages, emails or instant messages; browsing the web or using smart phone applications; watching a video or movie unrelated to GPS navigation; or recording a video. Drivers are allowed to make and receive calls using hands-free technology such as a Bluetooth device or headset. Exceptions are also in place for when a driver is reporting a traffic crash or medical emergency; public safety and first responders who are performing their jobs; utility service employees or contractors acting within the scope of their duties; and when a vehicle is lawfully parked. For the first hands-free offense, a driver is fined $50 and gets one point on their driver’s license. The second conviction will bring a $100 fine and add two points to a driver’s license. The third and subsequent convictions cost $150 and three points to that person’s license. >> Related: Study: Georgia cellphone law reduced distracted driving Wednesday’s traffic detail was another example of law enforcement agencies working together to remind drivers about the importance of obeying the hands-free law, Delk said. “This is just one concerted effort to remind people that the law exists for a reason and we do want people to be safe,” he said. “We are as law enforcement officers are bound to enforce the law. This is not something we pick and choose.”
  • The former girlfriend of an ex-doctoral student charged with slaying a scholar from China who was visiting the University of Illinois testified Wednesday in federal court that she was scared and conflicted about wearing an FBI wire to record him. Terra Bullis said she truly cared about Brendt Christensen, but also 'cared about this missing person' Yingying Zhang. 'And it's incredibly painful,' Bullis said. Christensen, 29, is on trial in federal court in the death of Zhang, who he's accused of luring into his car in 2017 and later killing at his apartment. Prosecutors allege she was raped, choked and stabbed before being pummeled with a baseball bat and decapitated. Her body hasn't been found. Bullis recorded nine conversations she had with Christensen in person and on the phone for the FBI. During one talk, Christensen told her investigators had found blood in his bedroom and on a baseball bat, and that he led them to believe it was Bullis' blood. 'I made you bleed once on your face,' Christensen said to Bullis on the recording. 'Do you remember that?' A prosecutor asked her why she didn't confront her then-boyfriend about what he said. 'I was scared,' Bullis testified. 'And I wanted to know why he was lying.' Bullis said she became 'conflicted' about her relationship with Christensen in May 2017, when he messaged her about his desire to seek notoriety. She said he was a man she had become attached to emotionally, even though his sentiments weren't representative of someone she would prefer to be attached to. Bullis testified that she and Christensen met on a dating website. She described their first date at a bookstore cafe as 'whimsical.' Christensen was married at the time. Defense attorneys seeking to spare Christensen a death sentence have told jurors he did kill the 26-year-old Zhang. But they dispute some details about how and why he did it. Bullis will resume her testimony Thursday.
  • Wildlife officials discovered a potentially new species of cat prowling around remote areas on the French island of Corsica and, so far, scientists have counted 16 of the golden-striped felines. >> Read more trending news  Called a cat-fox, it resembles a domestic house cat at first, but it also shares some features with more aggressive animals, according to the Agence France-Presse. “We believe that it’s a wild natural species which was known but not scientifically identified because it’s an extremely inconspicuous animal with nocturnal habits,” Pierre Benedetti, the chief environmental technician with the National Hunting and Wildlife Office, told the AFP. The cats are bigger than a normal house cat, measuring about 35 inches long from head to tail when fully grown. They have bushy ringed tails, usually with a black tip, sharp, highly developed canine teeth, very wide ears and short whiskers, Benedetti said. Other distinguishing features, according to the AFP, include stripes on the from legs, very dark hind legs and a russet stomach. >>Trending: Stunning photo shows sled dogs traveling on water above melting Greenland sea ice Benedetti said islanders started calling the animal a cat-fox because of its size and its bushy tail. Cat-foxes were first captured in 2016 for study and tagging, but stories about the animals have made the rounds on Corsica for generations. Wildlife officials hope to get the animal recognized and protected in the next few years.  
  • Iran’s news agency, Fars News is claiming that a U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has been shot down over Iran’s Hormozgan province. >> Read more trending news The U.S. military has declined to comment, according to The Associated Press. Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, declined to comment when asked if an American drone was shot down. However, he told The Associated Press, “There was no drone over Iranian territory.” The reported shoot down comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. It takes root in President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to withdraw America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The unmanned aircraft that Fars News claimed was shot down is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. With a wingspan of around 130 feet, the Global Hawk is one of the largest remotely piloted surveillance aircraft in use by the U.S. military. The aircraft has a range of 12,300 nautical miles and can remain in flight for up to 34 hours. The Associated Press contributed to this report.